Social Development and Poverty in Asia and the Pacific: Your Questions Answered
Wendy Walker, Chief of ADB’s Social Development Thematic Group, discusses social development and poverty challenges in developing Asia and how ADB is helping through financing and knowledge sharing.
Why does ADB have specific social development strategies, surely as the region growths wealthier social indicators improve in tandem?
While the tide of economic growth is generally expected to lift all boats, in real life it often leaves behind people who are poor and vulnerable. Hence, there is a need for social development strategies that specifically target economic and social integration of disadvantaged groups.
What are the three most cost-effective ways of reducing severe poverty?
The three most cost-effective ways of reducing severe poverty are investments in human capital (health and education), skills and life-long learning, and social protection. This includes social assistance programs specifically targeting extreme poor and vulnerable. A good example of this type of support is the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Project (4Ps) in the Philippines.
What has been the impact of COVID-19 on poverty rates in Asia and the Pacific?
The COVID-19 pandemic has set back the fight against poverty in Asia and the Pacific by at least two years. Many people in the region will find it harder than before to escape poverty, according to a recent ADB report.
Many economies begun recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022, but progress is uneven. New challenges, such as elevated inflation and increased food insecurity regionally and globally, could further undermine progress to reduce poverty in the Asia Pacific region.
ADB will provide at least $14 billion over 2022–2025 in a comprehensive program of support to ease the worsening food crisis in Asia and the Pacific. The financing will also help improve long-term food security by strengthening food systems against the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss.
How does ADB promote social protection in the Philippines and what successes has the bank had in this area?
ADB has been supporting the Philippines’s conditional cash transfer or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) through its Social Protection Support Project (SPSP) and Expanded Social Assistance Project (ESAP). For more than a decade, ADB has helped the 4Ps program pay cash grants to more than four million households (15% of households in the country). The 4Ps program has led to reduced hunger, increased use of health services, more children enrolling in school, and better health.
Strong growth and social development have led to the region rapidly aging, with important economic and social consequences.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed around 78 million people back into extreme poverty and created 168 million newly poor people, particularly in South Asia.
The region is rapidly aging. How should social protection measures adapt to deal with this reality?
Population aging is closely correlated to social and economic development, so increased longevity is to be celebrated. But the rapid increase in the numbers of older people in Asia and the Pacific means health and care systems need to adapt. This includes an increased focus on disease prevention and management. Better management of geriatric medical conditions and investment in quality care services are also important.
Social protection systems need to be strengthened to ensure income security in later life and to encourage people to save for old age. Looking wider, improving infrastructure access for the elderly including them in economic and social development helps maximize their contribution to society. Supporting and including the elderly are important for sustainable development.
The other huge challenge is climate change, how does its effects impact on poverty reduction and social development?
The increasing frequency, intensity, and scale of disasters resulting from climate change has disproportionately made life more difficult for those already living in poverty with limited financial resources to cope with shortages in basic goods and services (during and after disasters).
Climate change also impacts those who largely depend on climate and natural resources for food and income. Strengthening community resilience is critical and requires integrated intervention in various policy areas. These include social protection, disaster risk management, public health, livelihoods, housing, community infrastructure, urban planning and a just energy transition.
How close are countries in the region to achieving their Sustainable Development Goals by 2030?
According to the UNESCAP 2022 Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report the region is not on track to achieve any of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). COVID-19 and climate change have slowed progress, and there has been regression in some of the targets, specifically SDG 13 on climate action.
Overall for SDG 1 on poverty eradication, among ADB developing member countries, progress is only halfway towards the 2021 target. While specific targets on international poverty and national poverty were exceeded in 2021 (targets 1.1.1 and 1.2.1), progress on social protection remains poor. ADB’s key indicators database provides information on how specific countries perform against the SDG indicators.
As AI and robotics reduce the number of workers required in manufacturing, in the future, where are the tens of millions of jobs going to come from to boost income and reduce poverty?
According to a Pew Research Center study, almost half of experts consulted envision a future in which robots have displaced significant numbers of workers. However, others in the study expect that technology will not displace more jobs than it creates.
Moreover, it is increasingly argued that climate change mitigation and adaptation measures can create many new jobs and protect workers and income. A recent joint ADB and LinkedIn report indicates that renewable energy and smart cities will generate substantial demand for people with digital skills.