Asia-Pacific labour market insights

More than one in four workers in South-East Asia employed in global supply chains

International Labour Organization Working Paper highlights scale of South-East Asian labour market engagement in global supply chains as well as need for strengthened policy and enhanced skills development to maximise decent work benefits.

News | Bangkok, Thailand | 27 June 2023
Female workers make plastic components of electronic devices at a factory in Vinh Phuc Province, Viet Nam. © ILO
BANGKOK, Thailand (ILO News) - South-East Asia has become a key player in global supply chains (GSCs) in recent decades. Over time, the region has become increasingly dependent on GSCs for employment, despite some short periods of sharp volatility and setbacks.

A new ILO working paper Jobs and global supply chains in South-East Asia analyzes the effects of changes in GSCs on employment and labour markets in South-East Asia over the past two decades. The paper highlights new estimates of GSC-related employment, and the results of an econometric analysis, finding that the region’s increased GSC participation was correlated with mixed progress in improving job quality. It also examines regional, country, and sector-specific trends, highlighting  the variation in dependence on GSC employment between different countries in the region. The paper concludes with suggestions for policy development that could further strengthen the link between GSCs and decent work.


  • As of 2021, an estimated 75 million workers were employed in GSCs. This is more than one in four workers in the region.
  • Manufacturing accounted for the largest share of GSC employment. Agricultural jobs also account for an increasing share.
  • Some countries such as Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam were more dependent on GSC employment than others such as Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic or the Philippines.
  • While deeper GSC integration in labour markets was associated with a decrease in working poverty and an increase in labour productivity, the relationship between increased GSC participation and greater wage employment and high-skill employment varied by sector.
  • While GSCs provide millions of jobs for women, some results indicate the connection between the increase in female employment and higher engagement in GSCs only existed in sectors where jobs are typically less skill-intensive and lower paid.

Conclusions and policy recommendations

  • Enhanced social protection and labour market policies would help to cushion the volatility of GSCs.
  • Greater investment in developing the workforce with a broad range of skills would allow countries to shift into higher value-added segments of supply chains.
  • Deep trade agreements, which increasingly include labour provisions, can help strengthen the link between increased GSC participation and decent work.

For further information please contact:

Phu Huynh
Employment and Decent Work Specialist
ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific