The International Labour Organisation (ILO), reports ongoing challenges within the Pacific job market, despite resilient growth.

The Pacific Tripartite High-Level Dialogue on Decent Work and the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent meeting in Fiji last week saw the release of the Pacific Employment and Social Monitor for April 2024.

The report notes that unemployment rates have reverted to pre-pandemic levels, with nearly 800,000 individuals jobless in 2023, equating to a 3.6 percemt unemployment rate.

However, beyond larger economies like Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea, this figure climbs to 5.3 percent, nearing the global average.

“The disparities in wage levels and working conditions within the Pacific sub-region are considerable,” emphasised Martin Wandera, ILO Country Director for the Pacific Islands.

Highlighting common issues, the report reveals a significant presence of low-quality jobs characterised by informality and relatively meager wages in countries outside the larger economies.

This scenario has prompted labour migration as individuals seek improved economic prospects elsewhere.

“We must strive to create inclusive, decent, and attractive jobs in the national labour markets of Pacific Island countries while ensuring that the experiences of those who choose to migrate for work are positive,” stressed Wandera.

Despite steady job growth in many smaller Pacific Island nations, obstacles persist, particularly for marginalised groups. Women, although comprising a substantial portion of the workforce, continue to confront gender disparities, experiencing higher unemployment rates compared to men.

Additionally, youth unemployment remains a pressing concern, with substantial numbers categorised as Not in Education, Employment, or Training (NEET).

“Considerable differences exist across the region,” noted the report, with NEET rates ranging from nearly 50 percent in Kiribati to under 10 percent in the Solomon Islands. Young women consistently exhibit higher NEET rates than young men.

While the report indicates a slight decrease in informal employment, from 35.9 percent in 2010 to 34.7 percent in 2023, it remains alarmingly high, contributing to working poverty and job insecurity.

Excluding Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea, the informal employment rate hovers at 55.1 percent, closely mirroring the global rate.

“Entrepreneurship promotion, social protection measures, and adherence to labour standards are essential to creating decent jobs for all segments of society,” emphasised the report.