Market volatility, fears of a double-dip, lack of investor confidence and social demonstrations from Wall Street to Main Streets around the world are just some of the headlines we face today.
For a time, it looked like the world was finally leaving behind the Great Recession that originated with the 2008 financial crisis in the U.S. and quickly spread to other major economies. At the core of the recovery: the developing world. While U.S. and euro zone GDP declined by 3.5 percent and 4.3 percent respectively in 2009, emerging and developing economies grew by 2.8 percent. One year later, that growth had accelerated to 7.3 percent, more than twice the growth of advanced economies.
Not only that. While unemployment in the U.S. climbed dramatically and is still around 9 percent, employment remained resilient in countries like Brazil and China. In fact, labor markets in East Asia largely escaped the crisis and employment indicators in Latin America had rapidly recovered by 2010 from the previous year's contraction.
That was then, though. Now the situation in the developing world is more worrisome. According to data released this week by the World Bank, labor market recovery from the financial crisis remains sluggish in some countries, with employment and earnings growth far below their pre-crisis rates. It's not only a question of jobs, but of earnings. We all want to have a job but also a decent income to provide for our families. Unfortunately, earnings in large developing economies haven't recovered to their pre-crisis levels.
According to Job Trends, a World Bank note examining labor markets of 136 developing countries, East Asia and Latin America were doing relatively well by 2010. Europe and Central Asia were the hardest hit regions by the crisis, with a very negative impact on jobs. In Africa and the Middle East, the fall of GDP was more contained and labor markets appeared to be more resilient.
But in 2011 things are changing and not necessarily for the better, as data from large developing countries shows. In the first two quarters, GDP growth started to slow in major emerging markets like China, Brazil, Mexico, Russia and South Africa. And there's been an uneven labor market recovery, with weak job creation and mixed earnings growth.
This is a dangerous situation -- not only for developing countries themselves, but for industrialized nations as well. If developing countries can't keep up their healthy growth of 2010 and create jobs, the global economy will lose the robust engine of growth it had counted on for the recovery.
At a time when the euro zone is struggling, and when the U.S. faces a domestic consumer contraction, the best thing that could happen to industrialized nations would be to rely on buoyant developing economies with good quality jobs.