Tsunami Responsible for Over One Million Lost Jobs

The International Labor Organization, ILO, reports more than one million people have lost their jobs in Indonesia and Sri Lanka due to Asia's Tsunami disaster.  The organization is urging immediate steps be taken to create new jobs in the affected areas.

Before the tsunami struck, unemployment in Banda Aceh was around seven percent.  The International Labor Organization estimates that rate has climbed to at least 30 percent.  And in Sri Lanka, the ILO says the unemployment rate has more than doubled to 20 percent since the tragedy occurred. 

ILO Spokesman, Stephen Pursey, says people are beginning to find temporary jobs.  But, this is not good enough.  He says to get the economies of tsunami affected areas moving again, it is crucial to help people find stable employment.

"The risk is that unless the recovery effort has a particular focus on helping people get back into employment, the short-term temporary employment could get fixed,” said Mr. Pursey.  “And that would have a severe impact on poverty in these regions. " 

More than 220,000 people around the Indian Ocean were killed by the tsunami's giant waves.  The ILO says the flooding has had a particularly severe impact on poor communities.

It says job losses in Banda Aceh are mainly in fishing, small scale and plantation agriculture and informal small businesses.  In Sri Lanka, it notes the majority of job losses occurred in the fisheries, hotel and tourism industry and in the informal economy.

If enough international aid is received and used effectively, the ILO says more than half of the people who have lost their jobs could be back at work within a year and that figure could reach 85 percent in two years. 

Mr. Pursey says a relatively small amount of international money, if used right, can go a long way in helping local economies rebound. 

"If you employ reasonably large numbers of people in road building, even if the wages are not so high, the people go back with money in their hand,” he added.  “They then go to the local market, will buy vegetables and food from a local producer who will perhaps be filling up his vehicle with some petrol so that the local petrol station gets moving again.  So, then if you do it right, you can help the local economy to rebound." 

Mr. Pursey says an ILO team is going to Aceh this weekend to start setting up the first Emergency Employment Services Center in Banda Aceh.    He says the team also will begin to develop a program to prevent child labor.

He says projects are needed to protect vulnerable groups, including widows and orphaned children who are exposed to the risk of being trafficked or exploited.

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