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Economy

More developing-world workers joining middle class

GENEVA -- More than half the workers in developing nations will reach middle-class or higher income levels by 2018, predicts the International Labor Organization.

     The United Nations agency said in its recently released global employment trends report that roughly 235 million developing-nation workers will attain middle-class or higher status between 2014 and 2018, with Asia contributing 75% of the increase.

     The organization defines workers from households living on $4 to $13 a day per head as "developing middle class" and those living on $13 or more as "developed middle class and above."

     Combined, these two groups comprise an estimated 1.23 billion people this year, or 45.4% of the developing world's total workforce. That share is already up sharply from the 27.4% in 2004 and is expected to rise to 51.2% in 2018.

     The middle class and above category in East Asia, including China, is seen growing by 109 million between 2014 and 2018. Of these, 78 million will belong to the developed middle class and above group, an acute departure from the trends predicted for other regions.

     In the Southeast Asian and Pacific regions, the middle class and above category is seen rising by 33 million.

     South Asian nations such as India and Bangladesh will see their middle class and above category increase by 35 million, but "near poor" workers living on $2 to $4 will also rise by 35 million, and the "moderately poor" group living on $1.25 to $2 will expand by 12 million. While there will be 34 million fewer "extremely poor" workers living on less than $1.25, the region will lag overall in terms of middle-class growth.

     The size of extremely poor worker populations will shrink steadily across the developing world, but the moderately poor group is seen falling just 3% by 2018, while the near poor group will remain relatively unchanged.

     This will leave about 1.4 billion workers locked out of the middle class. The trends are particularly salient in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

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