Income Inequality and Inclusive Growth in Developing Asia

Article | 13 February 2013

Robust economic growth in the last 2 decades has lifted millions of Asians out of poverty. Yet, income disparities and unequal access to economic opportunities and social services remain an issue in Asia and the Pacific.

Figures from the Framework of Inclusive Growth Indicators 2012 (FIGI 2012), a special supplement to ADB's Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2012, show a mixed record of progress for the five regions of developing Asia (Central and West Asia, East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific).

7.3%: The annualized growth rate of GDP per capita for developing Asia in 2005-2010. The rate is higher than the 6.1% recorded in 2000-2005 and was achieved despite the impact of the 2007-2008 global financial crisis.

49.8%: The percentage of the population living below $2 a day (purchasing power parity or PPP) in developing Asia in 2008, down from 81% in 1990.

29.8%: The poverty rate [based on a $2 a day (PPP) threshold] in the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 2008, down from 84.6% in 1990 and the lowest in East Asia, which is outperforming the other regions in poverty reduction. Poverty is still highest in South Asia, with 72.2% of the population living below $2 a day (PPP) in 2008, though this dropped from 83.2% in 1990.

4 out of 5: Between the 1990s and 2000s income inequality worsened in four of the five most populous economies in the region (Bangladesh, the PRC, India, and Indonesia), which account for nearly 80% of the population of developing Asia.

More than 600: The number of women in vulnerable jobs for every 100 female wage and salary workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nepal, and Lao People's Democratic Republic. The corresponding numbers for male workers are much lower.

48: The weighted average of under-5 mortality in 2010 in developing Asia. This is just over half the 88 deaths per 1,000 live births recorded in 1990.

90%: The percentage of the population in developing Asia with access to improved drinking water sources in 2010. In the Pacific, however, the corresponding figure is around 52%.

0.99: The female-to-male gross enrollment ratio in primary education in 2010. In 2 decades, developing Asia has also almost closed the gender gap even in secondary education, with the female-to-male gross enrollment ratio standing at 0.97.

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