Europe, Middle East and Africa
Economic initiatives to improve employment figures were announced in Africa, while several Middle Eastern countries saw declines in joblessness in May. In Europe, attention is focused on the Brexit and its economic implications on the eurozone as the British prepare to cast their votes on June 23.
In Tanzania, the fifth fastest-growing economy in Africa, President John Pombe Magufuli reiterated his support of the manufacturing industry at the recent President's Manufacturer of the Year Awards, reported Forbes. Magufuli said that his government would work to ensure that manufacturing represents 40 per cent of all new jobs and 15 per cent of the national gross domestic product by 2020.
Mohammed Dewji, head of major manufacturing conglomerate, the METL Group, also spoke at the event. The richest man in Tanzania, Dewji pledged to invest more than $500 million over the next four years and employ upward of 100,000 people across the continent by 2021, according to the source.
Industry analysts in South Africa are urging the government to invest greater funds in agriculture, which was the only sector besides government that showed job growth in the most recent employment report for the country, Bizcommunity explained. Agriculture employment has risen 4.5 per cent since March 2008, while manufacturing jobs declined by 22 per cent.
Unemployment also fell in Turkey, where the rate dropped to 10.1 per cent in March, its lowest figure in eight months and a 0.8-point drop from the month prior, noted Daily Sabah.
Egyptian businesses are looking to green technologies and innovation to boost employment figures in the country, Reuters reported. According to a report from the Middle East Strategy Task Force, 2,500 jobs are created for every 10 successful startups.
Spain saw favourable employment figures in May, with the lowest number of people out of work since November 2009, according to Euro Weekly News. Less than 4 million people were unemployed, with job seekers finding the most positions in the services sector.
As the U.K. geared up for the Brexit vote on June 23, news came that the national unemployment rate dropped to 5 per cent in the February-to-April period, its lowest level since 2005, reported the BBC. The unemployment rate held at 74.2 per cent, also a record high.
Employment is "a core issue" for many voters weighing the pros and cons of leaving the European Union, The Week explained, with trade, unions and the rights of foreign workers all likely affected by the move. According to the Guardian, the industries that are most likely to be impacted by Brexit are tourism, car manufacturing and financial services.
National governments are looking ahead to a stronger employment future as a number of new initiatives were rolled out across Asia-Pacific.
Malaysia is implementing a number of new initiatives designed to improve its employment situation. A committee was formed by the Kuching state government to increase public and private sector employment opportunities, The Borneo Post explained. Promoting gender equality and careers in the civil service will be the primary focuses of the committee.
Another program, created by the founder of automotive sales firm ACS AsiaPac Sdn Bhd and industry experts, will help recent graduates pursue careers in the auto industry, Carlist.my reported. The initiative, named the Unemployed Graduate Training Programme, seeks to reverse the finding that 25 per cent of the 200,000 graduates in Malaysia each year remain unemployed after six months.
The 25th World Economic Forum for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was held in Kuala Lumpur June 1, and was attended by more than 40 senior government figures as well as leading business influencers and academics. The forum was focused on exploring ways to improve employment in the region, particularly in light of developing technological innovations that will impact traditional business practices.
"We must concentrate on where we are now and provide tangible benefits to our people so we build the ASEAN community both in the minds and hearts of our people and also practical ways," said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in a speech at the forum.
In Japan, a record 97.3 per cent of university graduates were employed as of April 1, The Japan Times reported. The previous record was 96.9 per cent in 2008. In addition, 97.7 per cent of high school graduates seeking work found employment, with a significant rise in hiring in the manufacturing and construction sectors.
The national unemployment rate held at 3.2 per cent in April in Japan, while job availability reached its highest in 24 years, with 134 positions available for every 100 job seekers, the Nikkei Asian Review explained. The number of workers rose 0.3 per cent to 64 million, while the income of salaried households increased 1 per cent.
Recognizing the growing importance of software skills, the Japanese government has announced a new plan to make computer programming a compulsory class at all public elementary schools starting in 2020, The Japan Times reported. The initiative is part of a larger effort to train workers in the skills necessary to support the "fourth industrial revolution" which will heavily involve robotics and other advanced programs.
In Thailand, a new career training program is introducing youth to new opportunities. The first session of “Ton Kla on the Go” took place in March and was attended by more than 200 children and young adults from SOS Children’s Villages around the world, The Nation reported. The program includes mentoring, career guidance workshops and aptitude tests.
Several industries are also on the upswing in Thailand. The automotive industry showed signs of improvement in April, with sales increasing for the first time this year, rising 1.7 per cent from April 2015, according to Nasdaq. The Thai tourism industry is also having a good season, with a 13 per cent jump in visitors between January and June 2016.
Though an unpredicted drop in May job growth may have slightly altered the forecast of the U.S. economy, there are still a number of bright spots as consumer spending remains on the upswing and applications for unemployment have stayed low. Latin America is poised to feel its first back-to-back recession in three decades, bogged down by a shrinking Venezuelan economy.
When the U.S. economy added just 38,000 jobs in May, it came as a surprise to many, according to the Financial Times. Although it may have impacted the hope of a Federal Reserve rate hike for June, which was ultimately left unchanged, optimism for a strong labor market was led by the unemployment falling to its lowest rate since 2007. At a news conference in Washington following the decision not to raise interest rates, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that while uncertainty remains for where rates will go in the long term, they do expect job growth to strengthen.
The number of people in the U.S. receiving unemployment benefits has dropped 4 per cent since this time last year, now down to 2.15 million individuals, according to U.S. News & World Report. Applications have now remained under 300,000 for the 67th week straight, the longest stretch since 1973.
The weaker U.S. dollar is expected to help boost exports and manufacturing, noted the source. Continued growth among American consumers, as well as in the housing market is creating positive momentum for the near future.
Business leaders have however receded from their earlier GDP growth forecast for 2016, but only ever so slightly. In the recently released Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index, expectations dropped just 0.1 per cent to a 2.1 per cent predicted growth rate.
The report highlighted an opportunity for the economy to get out of the "one step forward, one step back" pattern, as Doug Oberhelman, chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Inc. and chairman of Business Roundtable expressed in a statement. He pressed for the continued need of healthy and sustainable growth.
Neighboring Latin America is headed for its first consecutive contraction in more than 30 years, reported Bloomberg. After a 0.7 per cent decline in 2015, the region as a whole is forecast to contract 1.3 per cent this year. In contrast to some of their struggling Latin American counterparts, Mexico and Columbia are showing signs of economic growth.
Global manufacturing in Latin America is still robust and Mexico in particular is becoming a powerhouse for the auto-industry, reported The Christian Science Monitor. BMW alone plans to invest $2.2 billion within the next four years, following the opening of a $1 billion plant in San Luis Potosî, which will create approximately 1,500 jobs.
In fact, over the past 10 years the employment situation in the Mexican auto industry has advanced by 40 per cent, according to the source. More than $7 billion from international companies has already been poured into the country and it’s expected that soon nearly every major manufacturer will be producing there. This includes General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Hyundai and Mazda.
The digital sector of Mexico is also expected to supply jobs in the near future. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Digital Economy 2016 Ministerial Meeting will be held in Mexico June 21 -23. One of the key intended outcomes of the meeting is to spur growth in this sector in an effort to provide more jobs for the country.
Last week, the World Economic Forum 2016 was held in Medellin, Colombia, a positive sign that the country is shedding its drug and warfare image and emerging as a leader in the region, reported KITV Honolulu.
"Colombia's contribution to the economic progress of Latin America will be the ending of the domestic armed conflict," President Juan Manuel Santos said June 16 at the WEF.
Moving toward an end to its civil war and improving ties with the U.S., Colombia is also strengthening its economy and everyone from auto manufacturers and Silicon Valley players are taking note. The International Monetary Fund predicts an economic upswing again next year, according to the source.