Poverty and Inequality

Challenges and opportunities

Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. Over the past decades, economic and social progress in Asia and the Pacific has been responsible for lifting millions of people out of poverty.

During recent years, however, there has been a slowdown in the pace of poverty reduction in the region. Economic growth has not translated into commensurate increases in much-needed decent jobs and social development in most countries.

Inequality also persists in the Asia-Pacific region, and has in some instances intensified. Recent data suggest that, in the last 20 years, the rich have got richer at the expense of the poor. In countries where income inequality did not rise, it remained at very high levels. Inequalities in opportunities also abound in the region with nearly 80 per cent of the region’s population excluded from affordable health care and as many as 18 million children out of school.
Growing disparities in income and wealth, as well as unequal opportunities, reinforce each other creating an “inequality trap” that disproportionately affects women and the most vulnerable members of society, including the poor, youth, persons with disabilities, older persons and migrants

Our response

ESCAP’s analytical work aims at identifying the most vulnerable populations and those at risk of falling into poverty, as mandated by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Through its capacity development work, ESCAP also supports member States in strengthening the evidence-base on successful poverty–reduction policies and programmes. ESCAP also develops innovative, interactive tools for policymakers to design and implement inclusive socioeconomic measures that reach relevant population groups.

Our work

To promote policies that reduce poverty and inequality, ESCAP advocates for a stronger focus on measuring inequality, including inequality of opportunity. ESCAP’s research on inequality of opportunity relies on innovative analytical tools to identify those that are left furthest behind in access to basic services, such as clean energy, water and sanitation and health care.

Our recent work also confirms persisting patterns of exclusion: educational attainment, for example, is significantly lower among rural communities and low-income groups. ESCAP’s work also highlights critical policy measures to ensure the region meets the equality-related targets set by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Interregional project on “Promoting Equality: Strengthening the capacity of selected developing countries to design and implement equality-oriented public policies and programmes”

This interregional project (2015-2018) aims to strengthen countries’ capacities in the analysis and measurement of inequality, as well as in the conceptualization, design and implementation of multidisciplinary public policies oriented towards greater socio-economic equality, including through employment, social protection and access to social services. The activities will focus on a combination of knowledge building, knowledge sharing and knowledge management, as well as through advisory services and training.

Under this project, ESCAP is currently working on a comprehensive analysis of inequality of opportunities in Asia and the Pacific, with a view to explore key dimensions and drivers as well as identify critical policy measures for the way forward.

Interregional project on “Reducing inequality in FEALAC Member Countries – innovative policymaking that leaves no one behind”

This interregional project (2018-2021) aims to strengthen the capacity of policymakers in Member Countries of the Forum for East Asia-Latin America Cooperation (FEALAC) to identify, prioritize and design effective policies to reduce inequality. While creating a shared understanding through intra-regional exchange of good practices and key challenges among policymakers in FEALAC Member Countries, this project will also develop new hands-on tools needed to measure multidimensional inequality and to identify the most marginalized groups (those at risk of being left behind). The project will also assess and uncover creative solutions and policies for eliminating inequality of opportunity.