Phuket Gazette: Discouraging words in UN Forced labor report and US/EU employment trends

– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket”s international community

UN: More than 20 million forced laborers worldwide
Phuket Gazette / News Wires
PHUKET: More than 20 million people around the world are currently victims of forced labor, the United Nations (UN) said on Saturday, but progress has been made in a number of countries to establish or improve needed legislation to criminalize such practices.

According to new estimates released by the UN International Labor Organization (ILO), 20.9 million people are now trapped in jobs into which they were coerced or deceived and which they cannot leave.

In its 2012 Global Estimate of Forced Labor, the organization found that 11.7 million victims, or 56 percent of the global total, are in the Asia-Pacific region, followed by 3.7 million in Africa and 1.8 million in Latin America. It also found that 5.5 million forced laborers, that is 26 percent of the global total, are below the age of 18.

The ILO said forced labor takes many different forms, including debt bondage, trafficking and other forms of modern slavery. Women and young girls are often forced into prostitution, migrants are trapped in debt bondage, and sweatshop or farm workers are kept at their job through illegal tactics while being paid little or nothing at all.

In the new estimates, 18.7 million people – 90 percent of the total – are exploited in the private economy, by individuals or enterprises. Of these, 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation and 14.2 million are victims of forced labor exploitation in economic activities, such as agriculture, construction, domestic [household] work or manufacturing.

In addition, the report said another 2.2 million people are in state-imposed forms of forced labor, such as that in prisons under conditions which violate ILO standards, or in work imposed by the state military or rebel armed forces.

The head of the ILO’s Special Action Program to Combat Forced Labor, Beate Andrees, said good progress has been made in ensuring that most countries now have legislation which criminalizes forced labor, human trafficking and slavery-like practices. However, she noted that it is now necessary to focus on better identification and prosecution of forced labor and related offenses such as human trafficking.

“The successful prosecution of those few individuals who bring such misery to so many [people] remains inadequate – this needs to change,” Andrees said. “We must also ensure that the number of victims does not rise during the current economic crisis when people are increasingly vulnerable to these heinous practices.”

Weak jobs report pushes U.S. unemployment rate to 8.2 percent
Phuket Gazette / News Wires

PHUKET: The private sector in the United States added only 82,000 jobs last month, signaling that the economy’s recovering trend is halting, according to a report released by the U.S. Labor Department on Friday.

In its May 2012 Employment Situation report, the Labor Department showed that the country’s labor market added only 82,000 private sector jobs in the month of May, not even close to what economists had earlier predicted. The unemployment rate rose from 8.1 percent to 8.2 percent, the first increase since June 2011.

It is troubling news for U.S. President Barack Obama who is seeking re-election this year but, more importantly, it shows the economy’s recovery seems to be stalling. This is especially noticeable when comparing the May figures to the monthly job growth average of 252,000 between December 2011 and February.

Nonetheless, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis insisted that the labor market continues to recover. “We continue to add jobs to an economy that was once bleeding 800,000 a month under the previous administration,” she said, noting that the job market has added more than 4 million private sector jobs in the last 27 months, and for each of the past five months, the country has created an average of 169,000 jobs.

“This is a critical moment, and more must be done to put Americans back to work,” Solis stated. “This administration has put forward a number of efforts to support the unemployed and spur more economic growth. Specifically, President Obama has sent Congress a ‘to do’ list that includes rewarding companies that bring jobs back home from overseas, invest in tax credits for small businesses, create good jobs for veterans, invest in clean energy manufacturing and expand refinancing for responsible homeowners.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney heavily criticized Obama for Friday’s bad news. “[The] weak jobs report is devastating news for American workers and American families,” he said in a statement. “This week has seen a cascade of one bad piece of economic news after another. Slowing GDP growth, plunging consumer confidence, an increase in unemployment claims, and now another dismal jobs report, all stand as a harsh indictment of the President’s handling of the economy.”

But speaking in Minnesota, Obama said Americans are “still fighting our way back” from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. “The economy is growing again, but it’s not growing as fast as we want it to grow,” he said. “Our businesses have created almost 4.3 million new jobs over the last 27 months, but as we learned in today’s jobs report, we’re still not creating them as fast as we want.”
EU unemployment rate increases only slightly
Phuket Gazette / News Wires
PHUKET: Unemployment numbers in the 17-nation euro area (EA17) were unchanged in April, but a slight increase was seen in the wider 27-country region, the European Union (EU) said on Friday.

The EA17 seasonally-adjusted jobless rate stood at 11 percent in April, unchanged compared with March, although it is up from the 9.9 percent in April 2011. Meanwhile, the EU27 unemployment rate was 10.3 percent in April, showing a slight 0.1 percent increase compared to the previous month. It was 9.5 percent in April 2011.

The report was released by the EU’s statistical office, Eurostat, which estimated that approximately 102,000 people became unemployed in the EU27 last month, while those unemployed in the euro area increased by 110,000.

Overall, Eurostat estimated that 24.7 million men and women in the EU27, of whom 17.4 million were in the euro area, were unemployed last April. On a year-to-year basis, unemployment rose by 1.9 million in the EU27 and by 1.8 million in the euro area.

Among the EU Member States, the lowest unemployment rates were recorded in Austria (3.9 percent), Luxembourg and the Netherlands (both 5.2 percent) and Germany (5.4 percent). The highest rates were seen in Spain (24.3 percent), Greece (21.7 percent in February 2012), Latvia (15.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012) and Portugal (15.2 percent).

— Phuket Gazette Editors

World News

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