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Heat stress can cut labour productivity in SE Asia by 25%
Oct '15
Courtesy: maplecroft
Courtesy: maplecroft
There is bad news for the manufacturing sector. Global manufacturing hubs in South-East Asia are likely to experience significant falls in productivity over the next 30 years due to rising temperatures and extreme heat stress impacting labour forces, according to new data from global risk analytics company Verisk Maplecroft.

The Heat Stress (Future Climate) Index, one of 20 new indices released this week by Verisk Maplecroft in its 2016 Climate Change and Environmental Risk Analytics, reveals that within a generation, economies including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines could be as much as a quarter less productive than they are today. The Bath, UK, based company, which produces the study annually to help business assess risks to operations, assets and supply chains, used the latest future climate projections to calculate the drop in labour capacity for each country based on the increasing occurrence of conditions that prompt heat stress, and reduce the ability of a workforce to undertake physical activity.

The findings follow predictions by climate scientists that 2015 will be the hottest year on record. Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have now occurred in the 21st Century and Verisk Maplecroft forecasts that by 2045 nearly half the world's population (47 per cent) will live in countries categorised as 'extreme risk' in the Heat Stress (Future Climate) Index.

It said South-East Asian labour forces are among most vulnerable to heat stress. Incremental rises in global temperature and humidity due to climate change are likely to increase the number of working days exceeding safe levels of heat stress, which can cause absenteeism through dizziness, fatigue and nausea and even death in extreme cases. Crops and livestock are also highly susceptible to heat stress, driving food shortages, poverty, and migration – factors that can increase the risk of conflict and instability. Risks are amplified in countries dependent on manufacturing, construction and agriculture.

Verisk Maplecroft estimates that South-East Asia could lose 16 per cent of current labour capacity due to rising heat stress over the next three decades – almost double the shortfall of the two next worst affected regions, the Caribbean and West Africa. Singapore and Malaysia are predicted to experience the heaviest toll, with 25 per cent and 24 per cent decreases from current levels, while Indonesia could see a 21 per cent drop and Cambodia and the Philippines 16 per cent. Thailand and Vietnam are also expected to experience 12 per cent decreases in labour productivity.

This reflects projections that by 2045 the number of heat stress days in both Singapore and Malaysia will rise to 364 (from 335 and 338 respectively), while Indonesia is set to experience an increase from 303 to 355 heat stress days and the Philippines 276 to 337 days.

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