Publication Date



Using an absolute definition of poverty and the middle class, this paper presents trends and estimates of the poor, near poor and middle class working population in developing Asia and the Pacific. It finds that since 1991 working poverty has fallen remarkably while middle class jobs now account for nearly two-fifths of all employment in the region (671 million middle class workers). However, a sizeable share of workers (around 28 per cent or 497 million) still live just above the poverty line and remain highly vulnerable to falling into poverty. The paper also applies a class-based framework for assessing inequality in the labour market, with a special focus on Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Viet Nam. It provides empirical evidence that economic participation is inversely related to affluence, while educational attainment and access to better quality jobs both increase with higher economic class status. In addition, it presents sex- and age-disaggregated analysis to highlight particular gaps for poor women and youth and the measures that can help strengthen their position in the labour market.


Suggested Citation
Huynh, P. & Kapsos, S. (2013). Economic class and labour market inclusion: Poor and middle class workers in developing Asia and the Pacific (ILO Asia-Pacific Working Paper Series). Geneva: International Labor Organization.