The COVID-19 pandemic last year pushed as many as 75 to 80 million people in Asia into extreme poverty – defined as living on less than $1.90 a day – according to a report released Tuesday.
The global pandemic is threatening the Asia and Pacific region’s progress toward critical targets under the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.
“Inequality has risen sharply due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, progress has also stalled in several areas such as hunger, health, and education,” the bank wrote in their Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2021 report.
The bank said that as of 2017, around 203 million people, or 5.2% of Asia’s population lived in extreme poverty.
“Without COVID-19, the number would have declined to an estimated 2.6% last year,” it reported.
Yasuyuki Sawada, the bank’s chief economist, said the progress in the Asia Pacific region is actually quite impressive. However, he added, the pandemic exposed social and economic fault lines that may weaken the region’s sustainable and inclusive development.
“To achieve the 2030 SDGs, decision-makers need to utilize high-quality and timely data to ensure that the recovery leaves no one behind, especially the poor and vulnerable,” he added.
According to the bank, the Asia Pacific region’s economy has grown at a rapid pace in recent years, and in 2019 contributed up to 35% of the global gross domestic product (GDP).
“Unfortunately, the pandemic took a toll on domestic investment and weakening global trade and economic activity,” Sawada explained.
Based on bank data, only one in four countries posted GDP growth last year.
“The region lost about 8% of working hours due to mobility restrictions, which severely affected poorer households and workers in the informal economy,” said the report.