China, a growth engine of the regional economy, is suffering from a shrinking external demand which has affected many of its export-dependent industries. The rural migrants workers, a main source of labor, have been the hardest hit so far.
As millions of the migrant workers across China returned to cities and manufacturing areas from Lunar New Year holidays this week, about 20 million others are estimated to be jobless.
Chen Xiwen, director of the office of China's central leading group on rural work, said 20 million, about 15.4 percent of the 130 million migrant workers, had returned home without jobs.
Meanwhile, China's urban unemployment rate, which excludes migrant workers, was estimated to hit 4.6 percent in 2009, up from4.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008.
A survey conducted by the China Economic Monitoring and Analysis Center said more than 90 percent of the 100 economists interviewed expressed their worries over the country's increasing unemployment rate, which they called "the biggest challenge for China's economy this year."
In one way or another, the pinch of the global economic downturn is being felt in other Asian economies.
In Bangladesh, Finance Minister AMA Muhith admitted that there has been a negative impact of the global recession on the country's sectors of jute, jute goods, knitwear, woven clothing and frozen food. The country's export earning in December 2008 dropped by over 10 percent due to declining demand and prices in global markets.
Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said the country's GDP in 2008 is estimated to have grown only by 1.2 percent, compared with 7.7 percent in 2007. The manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, transport and storage, information and communications, and financial services sectors registered further slowdowns in the fourth quarter of 2008.
Indonesia, the world's biggest palm oil producer and second biggest rubber maker, also saw its January overseas sales weakened by 11.59 percent compared to the same period last year.