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«Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch Indigenous Peoples in the World of Work in Asia and the Pacific A Status Report Rishabh Kumar Dhir Gender, ...»

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Indigenous Peoples in

the World of Work in Asia

and the Pacific

A Status Report

Rishabh Kumar Dhir



and Diversity


Indigenous Peoples in the World of Work

in Asia and the Pacific

A Status Report

Rishabh Kumar Dhir

Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch

International Labour Office • Geneva

Copyright © International Labour Organization 2015

First published 2015

Publications of the International Labour Office enjoy copyright under Protocol 2 of the Universal Copyright Convention. Nevertheless, short excerpts from them may be reproduced without authorization, on condition that the source is indicated. For rights of reproduction or translation, application should be made to ILO Publications (Rights and Licensing), International Labour Office, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland, or by email: rights@ilo.org. The International Labour Office welcomes such applications.

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Dhir, Rishabh Kumar

Indigenous peoples in the world of work in Asia and the Pacific: a status report / Rishabh Kumar Dhir ; International Labour Office – Geneva:

ILO, 2015 ISBN: 978-92-2-129994-3 (print) ISBN: 978-92-2-129995-0 (web pdf) International Labour Office indigenous peoples / indigenous worker / workers’ rights / human rights / social policy / social exclusion / equal employment opportunity / case study / Australia / Bangladesh / Cambodia / India / Indonesia / Lao PDR / Malaysia / Nepal / New Zealand / Pakistan / Philippines / Sri Lanka / Thailand / Viet Nam 14.08 ILO Cataloguing in Publication Data The designations employed in ILO publications, which are in conformity with United Nations practice, and the presentation of material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the International Labour Office concerning the legal status of any country, area or territory or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers.

The responsibility for opinions expressed in signed articles, studies and other contributions rests solely with their authors, and publication does not constitute an endorsement by the International Labour Office of the opinions expressed in them.

Reference to names of firms and commercial products and processes does not imply their endorsement by the International Labour Office, and any failure to mention a particular firm, commercial product or process is not a sign of disapproval.

ILO publications and digital products can be obtained through major booksellers and digital distribution platforms, or ordered directly from ilo@ turpin-distribution.com. For more information, visit our website: www.ilo.org/publns or contact ilopubs@ilo.org.

–  –  –

The World Bank has estimated that indigenous peoples constitute some 5 per cent of the world’s population, while accounting for 15 per cent of its poor. Even where economic growth has resulted in overall decreasing income inequality, indigenous and tribal peoples tend not to benefit from such progress; poverty among them is often increasing. This is also the case in Asia, where the majority of the world’s indigenous peoples live.

Concerns for indigenous peoples’ rights and well-being are an integral part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which seeks to tackle poverty and inequality by empowering groups experiencing socioeconomic vulnerability. Indeed, the 2030 Agenda forcefully calls for measures to ensure that no one is left behind.

The ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169), the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the outcome document of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples set out comprehensive guidance for transforming the new Sustainable Development Goals into effective national strategies, polices and action plans to bring about development that takes into account the rights, priorities and needs of indigenous peoples.

In this context, it is now essential to increase the knowledge base on the working and living conditions of indigenous and tribal peoples, as a starting point for strengthening and establishing appropriate legal and policy frameworks for rights-based and inclusive development. The present report compiles, systematizes and analyses information available from a range of sources on indigenous peoples in the world of work in 14 countries in Asia and the Pacific.1 It is intended as a tool for ILO constituents and development practitioners seeking initial information on these issues. The report was prepared by Rishabh Kumar Dhir and has benefitted from the contributions and guidance of Martin Oelz, Senior Specialist on Equality and Non-discrimination in the Gender, Equality, and Diversity Branch. We would also like to acknowledge the excellent editing work of Mary and Christopher English.

The report shows that indigenous women and men are active participants in the world of work and that appropriate measures are needed to ensure protection of their rights to land, access to education, including vocational training, decent work and social protection. In order to achieve and monitor progress, it will be necessary to track the situation of indigenous peoples in the world of work over time, as far as possible on the basis of disaggregated statistical data, as called for by the 2030 Agenda.

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AIPP Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact AMAN Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (Indigenous People’s Alliance – Indonesia) BPDM Local-level Village Community Empowerment Agency (Indonesia) BPS Badan Pusat Statistik (Central Statistics Agency – Indonesia) CEDAW Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women CERD Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination CHT Chittagong Hill Tracts (Bangladesh) COAC Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (Malaysia) DWCP Decent Work Country Programme ERT Equal Rights Trust FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FATA Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Pakistan) IASG Inter-Agency Support Group IFAD International Fund for Agricultural Development ILO International Labour Organization IPEC International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour IPU Inter-Parliamentary Union IRIN Integrated Regional Information Network IWGIA International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs JICA Japan International Cooperation Agency MGNREGA Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (India) NEET “Not in employment, education or training” (New Zealand) NTSFDC National Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation (India) REDD Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries RNIP Regional Network for Indigenous Peoples (Philippines) SDPI Sustainable Development Policy Institute (Pakistan) SUHAKAM Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Manusia (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia) TRIFED Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation (India)

–  –  –

viii Introduction I. Situating indigenous and tribal peoples in Asia “Emerging Asia” is a term frequently used to convey the economic success or the growth story of many Asian countries. Over the last two decades, growth in most Asian economies has indeed been robust and higher than those in other emerging regions1 and this has resulted in significant reductions in poverty. The past two decades have witnessed a rate of poverty reduction in Asia that is faster than in any other region in the world and at any other time in history.2 That said, however, Asia also remains the region which is home to the largest number of the world’s poor and one which is experiencing rising inequality. While inequality in Asia has historically been lower than in other developing regions, the past two decades have seen widespread increases in income inequality at the national level, and in both urban and rural areas.3 An Asian Development Bank report,4 taking into account numerous factors and vulnerabilities, estimates that, in 2010, 1,750 million Asians or

49.5 per cent of the continent’s population could be considered to be living in extreme poverty, despite all the economic growth of recent years. The report also stresses that poverty in Asia must remain a priority in development work over the coming decades.

Indigenous peoples, as a World Bank policy brief5 has observed, are “still among the poorest of the poor”. It is estimated that, although indigenous peoples constitute some 5 per cent of the world’s population, they account for 15 per cent of the world’s poor.6 These observations are of particular significance in the context of Asia as the majority of indigenous peoples are located in that continent. Of the estimated 370 million indigenous peoples in some 70 countries across the world,7 an estimated 70–80 per cent8 are concentrated in Asia and the Pacific. Although these figures are estimates and data on indigenous peoples in Asia are limited, they still draw attention to the extensive social and economic hardships to which indigenous and tribal peoples are exposed. Furthermore, the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs has noted that many indigenous peoples in Asia face an array of problems such as loss of control over land and natural resources, discrimination and marginalization, assimilation Balakrishnan, Ravi, Chad Steinberg, and Murtaza Syed. The Elusive Quest for Inclusive Growth: Growth, Poverty, and Inequality in Asia. IMF Working Paper. International Monetary Fund, June 2013.

Zhuang, Juzhong, Ravi Kanbur, and Changyong Rhee. Rising Inequality in Asia and Policy Implications. ADBI Working Paper 463. Asian Development Bank Institute, February 2014.

Inequality Matters: Report of the World Social Situation 2013. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, 2013.

Key Indicators for Asia and Pacific 2014, 45th Edition, Special Chapter, Poverty in Asia: A Deeper Look. Asian Development Bank, 2014.

Still among the Poorest of the Poor. Indigenous Peoples Policy Brief. World Bank, 2011.

Implementation of Operational Directive 4.20 on Indigenous Peoples: An Independent Desk Review. OEDCR, World Bank, 10 January 2003.

“Indigenous Peoples.” IFAD, http://www.ifad.org/english/indigenous/index_full.htm.

70 per cent is the figure provided by IFAD and 80 per cent is the figure provided by the World Bank Indigenous Peoples in the World of Work in Asia and the Pacific: A Status Report pressures and violent repression.9 It is therefore critical that focus should be placed on the indigenous peoples of “emerging Asia” on two fronts that essentially complement each other: first, that the human rights of the vast population of indigenous and tribal peoples located in Asia should be respected and, second, that their social and economic hardships and their potential exclusion, in particular as a consequence of poverty, should be addressed.

II. Who are the indigenous and tribal peoples of Asia?

There is no single universal definition of indigenous and tribal peoples, but the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169) provides a set of objective and subjective criteria that can be applied to identify such peoples in a given country.10 The Convention offers a practical and inclusive approach for the identification of the peoples concerned, while also emphasizing self-identification as one of the criteria. It uses the terms “indigenous” peoples and “tribal” peoples, giving both groups the same array of rights.

The ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169) sets out criteria

for identifying the peoples concerned, as defined in the following table:

–  –  –

“Asia.” IWGIA, http://www.iwgia.org/regions/asia.

For more details: Understanding the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169). Handbook for ILO Tripartite Constituents. ILO, 2013.

–  –  –

The present study primarily uses the term “indigenous peoples”, which is now the most commonly used term. This is also the case with regard to other international instruments, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 2007. Similar to the ILO Convention No. 169, the Declaration does not provide a single universal definition of the term “indigenous peoples” and underlines the significance of self-identification.11 In the context of Asia, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples has noted that, while the vast majority of the people in the countries of the Asian region may be considered, in a literal sense, indigenous to the region, there are particular groups that distinguish themselves from the broader populations and fall within the scope of the notion of indigenous peoples as it has developed throughout the United Nations system and, as such, are subjects of international concern.12 Such groups include those referred to as “tribal peoples”, “hill tribes”, “scheduled tribes”, “Adivasis” or “Janajatis”, among others. The characteristics, relative size compared to the national population, and situation of these groups vary greatly. They also share certain characteristics, however, such as their reliance on land and natural resources for their livelihoods or the practice of traditional livelihood activities and occupations that form an integral part of their distinct cultures.

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