Building natural disaster response capacity: Sound workforce strategies for recovery and reconstruction (2013)

APEC Human Resources Development Working Group

Report prepared by Alice Yan Chang-Richards, Erica Seville, Suzanne Wilkinson, Bernard Walker   December 2013

Executive Summary

This report examines and compares case studies of labour market policy responses in APEC economies to natural disasters. It first reviews the policies and practice within APEC economies and internationally in managing the labour market effects of natural disasters. By using comparative case studies, the report then compares recent disaster events in the Asia-Pacific region, including:the June 2013 Southern Alberta floods in Canada;

 the 2010 and 2011 Queensland floods in Australia;
 the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes in New Zealand;
 the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan; and
 the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in China.

A disaster differs from other shocks and disturbances to a local economy and workforce. This report identifies patterns of impact that disasters have on the workforce, and labour market issues that emerge during recovery. Common disaster effects on labour markets included: job and worker displacement; loss of income; disruptions to workers’ livelihoods; and creating additional participation barriers, particularly for females, youth, and individuals with lower skill sets. Comparison of different disaster events reveals insights into how disasters can change labour market structures post-disaster. General economic conditions, sectoral structure, as well as business and individual coping mechanisms all influence the outcomes for an affected labour market. Other factors, such as institutional arrangements, networks, administrative capacity, and fiscal space, impact the ability of individual economies to deliver assistance. Case study economies responded to disaster in different ways. Scale of the event, demographics of affected labour force and availability of resources were key considerations for the scope, form and duration of their labour market response. Well-established employment and social measures enabled some economies to respond quickly with existing programmes, while others relied on discretionary labour market policy measures.

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