Cheapest labour in Asia: Not Myanmar, not Bangladesh

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Seamstresses at work inside Vladimir Foton's workshop. Bishkek. David Trilling
Kyrgyzstan garment workers

In the past years, there has been a notable shift of labour costs within Asia, and China is no longer leading the pack. The newly released research paper Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2013 by the United Nation’s regional development arm takes a closer look at the development.

So far, Myanmar and Bangladesh have been perceived as the countries with the lowest wage rates, but they have been topped by Kyrgyzstan, the small Central Asian nation whose economy largely depends on agriculture and mining and where monthly minimum wages are as low as $24.

The data also shows that countries such as Thailand and the Philippines have technically higher labour costs than, for example, Russia and China.

Wage growth in Asia and the Pacific has generally remained weak over the past five years despite relatively robust economic performance. Likewise, minimum wages have fallen into neglect in some countries and they are often insufficient to meet workers’ basic daily necessities, including health care.

With adjustments in minimum wages lagging behind rising GDP per capita, economic growth has not translated into higher wages, especially in relatively richer countries in Southeast Asia and South and Southwest Asia. Apart from these general observations, the level of minimum wage rates can be seen to vary considerably across countries, driven by differences in domestic economic environments and prevailing labour market institutions. Many countries in the region, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, have minimum wage rates set well below $100 per month.

Minimum wages Asia

Notes: Figures shown are monthly minimum wage rates in place as of January 1, 2013 both in current US dollars (top scale) and as per cent of per capita GDP (bottom scale). In countries where multiple minimum wage rates are set at the sectoral level, the rate for manufacturing or unskilled workers is applied. In cases where a national statutory minimum wage is not mandated, the minimum wage in place in the capital or major city is used. The (+) signs indicate that the minimum wage rates have been raised since the beginning of 2012.

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Kyrgyzstan garment workers

In the past years, there has been a notable shift of labour costs within Asia, and China is no longer leading the pack. The newly released research paper Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2013 by the United Nation’s regional development arm takes a closer look at the development.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Seamstresses at work inside Vladimir Foton's workshop. Bishkek. David Trilling
Kyrgyzstan garment workers

In the past years, there has been a notable shift of labour costs within Asia, and China is no longer leading the pack. The newly released research paper Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2013 by the United Nation’s regional development arm takes a closer look at the development.

So far, Myanmar and Bangladesh have been perceived as the countries with the lowest wage rates, but they have been topped by Kyrgyzstan, the small Central Asian nation whose economy largely depends on agriculture and mining and where monthly minimum wages are as low as $24.

The data also shows that countries such as Thailand and the Philippines have technically higher labour costs than, for example, Russia and China.

Wage growth in Asia and the Pacific has generally remained weak over the past five years despite relatively robust economic performance. Likewise, minimum wages have fallen into neglect in some countries and they are often insufficient to meet workers’ basic daily necessities, including health care.

With adjustments in minimum wages lagging behind rising GDP per capita, economic growth has not translated into higher wages, especially in relatively richer countries in Southeast Asia and South and Southwest Asia. Apart from these general observations, the level of minimum wage rates can be seen to vary considerably across countries, driven by differences in domestic economic environments and prevailing labour market institutions. Many countries in the region, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, have minimum wage rates set well below $100 per month.

Minimum wages Asia

Notes: Figures shown are monthly minimum wage rates in place as of January 1, 2013 both in current US dollars (top scale) and as per cent of per capita GDP (bottom scale). In countries where multiple minimum wage rates are set at the sectoral level, the rate for manufacturing or unskilled workers is applied. In cases where a national statutory minimum wage is not mandated, the minimum wage in place in the capital or major city is used. The (+) signs indicate that the minimum wage rates have been raised since the beginning of 2012.

 

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