New Delhi: Meeting the Millennium Development Goals target of reducing 1990 levels of extreme poverty by half, the percentage of people living on just $1.25 a day in East and South-East Asia fell from 56% in 1990 to 18% only 15 years later, according to a United Nations progress report released today.
In India, poverty decreased from 52 to 41% between 1990 and 2005, however, the number of people living in extreme poverty rose by 20 million during this period.
For bringing down poverty, full and productive employment is needed for all but in South Asia, 83% of employed women and 73% of employed men are classified as “vulnerable”.
The report also notes that in South-East and East Asia almost two-thirds of women and over half of men hold insecure jobs.
Child malnutrition is a key indicator of hunger and poverty and the rate remains high in South-East Asia at 25%. The exception is represented by East Asia, which managed to bring malnutrition levels down to 7% in 2005 – the second best performance among all developing regions, after North Africa.
Primary education and gender equality
Some progress has been made in making primary education more accessible in the Asian developing countries, with maximum students enrolling in South Asia region.
The South region also made most progress in gender parity - from 77 girls per 100 boys in 1991 to 95 girls per 100 boys enrolled in 2006.
Progress was also uneven with regard to gender equality. South Asia emerges as the sub-region where the percentage of paid jobs held by women is the lowest at 19% in 2006 among all developing regions.
In terms of political decision-making, the region’s women made wide gains, with their proportion of parliamentary seats almost doubling between 2000 and 2008 and their participation rose from 9.7% to 17.4%. Meanwhile, in East Asia there has been no progress in this regard and the percentage of seats held by women has actually dropped slightly since 1990.
Poor record on reproductive health
The report has recorded South Asia as the poorest in providing adequate reproductive health services to women. Poor attention during maternity time is reflected in the high number of maternal deaths and has placed it’s ranking as second only to sub-Saharan Africa in high maternal mortality ratios.
Child mortality also remains unacceptably high in South Asia. The number of child deaths per 1000 live births in 2006 was less than half its level in 1990.
Poor environmental record
The Asian region also has a poor environmental record according to the report.
Economic growth increased carbon dioxide emissions in East Asia, from 2.9 billion metric tons in 1990 to 6.1 billion in 2005 making it the largest CO2 emitting region compared to other regions of the world.
Emissions also doubled in South Asia from 1 to 2 billion metric tons and tripled in South-East Asia, from 0.4 to 1.2 billion metric tons.
Also South Asia and South-East Asia hold the second and third lowest proportion of environmentally protected land and marine areas in the world.