Additional 4M People In Asia Could Fall To ‘Extreme Poverty’ Level This Year, Report Says

While approximately 17 million Asians fell into “extreme poverty” due to the global economic situation in 2009, another four million in the region “could this year slip into the same situation due to the effects of the slump,” according to a report released by representatives from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) in Manlia on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reports.

The projection “is on top of the 900 million people in Asia who are already living in extreme poverty, defined as living on less than 1.25 dollars a day,” according to the news service (2/17).

The report, which is “aimed at assessing progress in achieving targets set under the 2000 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) programme such as poverty eradication,” says government actions that add social protections to Asia’s stimulus programs could help, Reuters writes. Ajay Chhibber, UNDP’s regional director, said, “There’s been too much focus on just economic growth, and not enough on how that growth is being distributed and what are the other parts of society that need to be developed like health insurance, pension, social protection system.”

Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, vice president at ADB, noted that a majority of the stimulus measures do not focus on “social expenditures,” according to Reuters. Schaefer-Preuss added, “If we are to address the human impacts of the economic slowdown and achieve the MDGs, then social spending needs to be stepped up substantially.” Noeleen Heyzer, a U.N. undersecretary general, said that despite growing budget deficits, Asian countries could afford the spending required to achieve the MDGs, the news service reports (Serapio, 2/17).

Inter Press Service writes: “Among vulnerable populations in the region, women are among those likely to be hurt most by the impact of the crisis on poverty in the region. According to the report, this sector constitutes the majority of Asia’s low-skilled, low-salaried and temporary workers – part of the flexible workforce that can easily be left behind during economic downturns.”

The report said although women make up almost two-thirds of Asia’s migrant population, they have few protections. “In most Asian countries, less than 20 percent of female workers belong to labour unions. The loss of female income is likely to have a greater impact on welfare, as women tend to spend a greater proportion of their income on meeting the basic needs of household members,” IPS writes. Heyzer said, “A woman’s face remains the picture of poverty” (Mendoza, 2/17).

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