By  on January 20, 2005

GENEVA — The International Labor Organization estimates that one million people lost their jobs in Indonesia and Sri Lanka because of the tsunami last month.

The group suggested in a report released Wednesday that as many as 60 percent of them might be able to earn a living by the end of the year if sufficient aid and reconstruction funds are injected into the economies of the countries.

About 600,000 people may have lost their jobs in Indonesia’s Aceh province and on the islands of Nias, and more than 400,000 workers on Sri Lanka’s eastern, southern and western coasts, which were devastated, the ILO said.

As a result, the unemployment rate in Aceh could exceed 30 percent, up from 6.8 percent before the calamity, the report said. In Sri Lanka’s affected areas, ILO experts estimate the unemployment rate may be more then 20 percent, up from 9.2 percent before the disaster.

Stephen Pursey, senior adviser to the ILO director general, said the agency would work with partners in the relief and reconstruction effort to help with social and job-creating plans. He said the ILO intends to focus on programs to help small enterprises, including loans to help give people “a leg up.”

Sri Lanka and Indonesia are apparel-exporting nations, and in the aftermath of the tsunami, they have lobbied the U.S. and other rich nations to provide temporary better market access terms to assist them.

Pursey said that before the devastation, the ILO was active in both countries working on poverty-reduction programs and eradication of child labor. The ILO also had been advising local textile and apparel exporters on how to respond to the end of quotas among 148 World Trade Organization countries.

Almost 1.5 million children between the ages of 10 and 14 are working in Indonesia, with about 210,000 in the manufacturing sector, according to ILO field studies. The number of working children 10 to 14 in Sri Lanka is close to 400,000.

Last week, WTO director general Supachai Panitchpakdi called on the group’s members to respond to the tsunami, which killed more than 225,000 people. The U.N. Conference on Trade & Development said on Tuesday that immediate trade steps can help the affected economies to stabilize. UNCTAD said such measures could include temporary provision of duty-free treatment for imports and a suspension of antidumping actions.

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