Asia leads world with sharp drop in poverty, UN report says

08:31, June 24, 2010      

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The sharpest reductions in poverty worldwide continue to be recorded in East and Southeastern Asian, where the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target of halving extreme poverty has already been met, while most of Southern is in danger of missing the target, a UN report said on Wednesday.

The UN progress report, entitled "The Millennium Development Goals Report 2010," which was released here Wednesday, said that the percentage of people living on less than 1.25 U.S. dollars a day in Eastern Asia dropped from 60 percent in 1990 to just 16 percent in 2005, and from 39 to 19 percent in Southeastern Asia.

Poverty rates in China are expected to fall to around 5 percent by 2015, the report said.

While India is expected to reduce its poverty rate from 51 percent in 1990 to 24 percent in 2015 -- slashing its number of extremely poor by 188 million -- progress in the rest of Southern Asia was slow and not sufficient to cut poverty in half by the 2015 target date, the report said.

Southern Asia also has a large percentage of people in so- called vulnerable employment, characterized by inadequate earnings, substandard working conditions and a lack of formal work arrangements and benefits, it said.

With 77 percent of people employed as either own-account or unpaid family workers, Southern Asia has the second largest rate of vulnerable employment among all regions, next to sub-Saharan Africa, the report said.


In Eastern Asia, after a striking in the prevalence of hunger in the 1990s, the rate of malnourishment has stalled at 10 percent between 2000 and 2007. Southeastern Asia, which has already close to the target for cutting the hunger rate in half against 1990 levels, made additional progress -- but not as rapid as its rate of poverty reduction, said the report.

In Southern Asia, the prevalence of hunger actually increased between 2000-2002 and 2005-2007, from 20 percent to 21 percent, it said.

Southern Asia has the highest rate of child malnutrition in the world, according to the report, with 46 percent of children younger than five years underweight in 2008, down a negligible 5 percent points from 51 percent in 1990.

Malnutrition in children is often linked to both a lack of quality food and inadequate water and sanitation services, which led to frequent diarrhea diseases. In Southern Asia, feeding practices are poor, the report said, and nearly two-thirds of the population lack access to improved sanitation, such as toilets or latrines, with almost half practicing open defecation -- the highest rate among all regions.

In Eastern Asia, child malnutrition was reduced to 7 percent of children in 2008 -- well below half of its 1990 level -- and Southeastern Asia is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals target by 2015, the report said.

A different picture emerges for children mortality, where, despite some progress in all three sub-regions, Asia is not on track to meet the target by 2015. Most progress was made in Southern Asia, where the number of child deaths per 1,000 live births dropped from 121 in 1990 to 74 in 2008.


Southern Asia also made strong progress on access to primary education, according to the report. The sub-region reached 90 percent enrollment in 2008, up from 79 percent in 1999, and is on track to meet the target of universal primary education by 2015.

In Eastern and Southeastern Asia, however, although school enrollment has always been relatively high, there was little progress since 1999 and, if trends continue, the two sub-regions will not meet the target by 2015, said the report.

With regard to gender equality, progress has also been uneven. According to the report, girls in Southern Asia have been catching up in primary education, but still lag behind boys in secondary and tertiary education, with 87 and 67 girls per 100 boys enrolled, respectively, in 2008.

In Eastern and Southeastern Asia, the gender gap has been closed at all three levels, with as many as girls as boys enrolled in school.

In Southern Asia, gender inequality in education is mirrored by inequality in the labor market, the report noted. Only 20 percent of those employed outside agriculture are women. And only 9 percent of senior or managerial positions are held by women -- the lowest percentage among all regions.

Progress was made in political participation, with the proportion of parliamentary seats held by women reaching 18 percent in 2010, up from only 7 percent in 2000 in Southern Asia, the report said.

Source: Xinhua


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