Employment is a key factor in self-sufficiency. On average, almost 60% of the population over age 15 were employed in Asia/Pacific (58.5%) and OECD countries (55.9%) in 2020 (Figure 3.3). In that year, employment rates were in excess of 75% in Cambodia, Korea DPR and Lao PDR, while employment rates were below 40% in Samoa and Tajikistan.

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the upward trend in employment rates over the past decade came to a halt in many countries in the Asia/Pacific region. Employment rates in 2020 were below those recorded in 2011 in about three-quarters of Asia/Pacific countries. The largest decrease in employment between 2011 and 2020 – above 7.0 percentage points, were recorded for mostly low-employment rate countries such as Armenia, India, Kyrgyzstan and Tonga.

People in high-income economies are more likely to work in the non-agricultural sector compared with those in low-income economies (Figure 3.4). Over 80% of people employed Macau, China, Hong Kong, China, and Singapore are engaged in the service-sector with less than 0.5% of all employed in the agricultural sector. By contrast, the largest share of employed people in Lao PDR and Nepal – over 60%, are in the agricultural sector.

Informal employment prevails in Asia/Pacific economies (Figure 3.5). More than 80% workers in the non-agricultural sector are engaged in informal employment in Cambodia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Nepal and Pakistan. Gender gaps in informal employment are small. Women in countries in South Asia such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India are more likely to be in informal employment in the non-agricultural sector than men, but men are more likely to be involved in informal employment in countries that were part of the former Soviet Union, such as Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia.


[4] International Labor Organization (2021), The Contribution of Social Dialogue to Gender Equality, https://labordoc.ilo.org/permalink/41ILO_INST/j3q9on/alma995111793202676.

[2] International Labor Organization (2020), ILOSTAT, Employment by sex and economic activity -- ILO modelled estimates, Nov. 2020 (thousands), https://www.ilo.org/ilostat-files/Documents/Excel/INDICATOR/EMP_2EMP_SEX_ECO_NB_A_EN.xlsx.

[3] International Labour Organization (2018), Women and men in the informal economy: a statistical picture (third edition), https://www.ilo.org/global/publications/books/WCMS_626831/lang--en/index.htm.

[1] OECD (2020), OECD Labour Force Statistics 2020, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5842cc7f-en.

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2022

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at https://www.oecd.org/termsandconditions.