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Asia Pacific

Economic gains still unevenly distributed: UN ESCAP

The economic strength of Asia and the Pacific continues to grow. In 2012 it overtook Europe to become the world's largest trading region in merchandise, but for some people the opportunities resulting from economic growth have been far greater than for others, according to the ESCAP Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2013.

Released today, the yearbook showed that 90 per cent of the one billion people who escaped extreme poverty since 1990 were from Asia and the Pacific. Over a similar period the prevalence of undernourishment in the region has also decreased from 22 per cent to 13 per cent. On the other hand, 743 million people in Asia and the Pacific remain in extreme poverty, and almost one in six people in South and South-West Asia suffer from undernourishment.

The yearbook encompasses 32 topics covering eight themes: demographic trends, health, education and knowledge, poverty and insecurity, women's empowerment, environment, economy and connectivity.

The analyses in the report illustrate that in some cases the development opportunities in Asia and the Pacific remain highly dependent upon where people live and who they are - rich or poor, male or female, young or old. For instance, women are not benefiting equally from economic growth. Since the early 1990s, there have been only three women in employment for every five men, and the work women do is still more likely to be in sectors that are poorly paid and less secure.

With more students enrolling and completing school, Asia and the Pacific's population is better educated than ever before. However, there will need to be greater job opportunities when students leave school as one out of every 10 young person 15 to 24 years old is currently unemployed.

The impressive economic growth of the region over the last few decades has taken its toll on the environment. Asia and the Pacific now accounts for roughly half of all global greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming. Asia and the Pacific is also the most disaster prone region in the world. A person living in the region is 67 times more likely than a person in Europe to be affected by a natural disaster.

The Yearbook also points to the factthat, due to the lack of timely, reliable and relevant statistical information, many drivers and consequences of development are not fully understood. These include lack of statistics to assess household reactions to shocks and stresses so as to design interventions to help them become less vulnerable to chronic undernourishment. In addition, shortage of data on national disasters has hampered government efforts to integrate disaster risk reduction in national development plans.

Echoing the emphasis on the need for evidence and better statistics in discussions on the post-2015 development agenda thus far, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN ESCAP, Noeleen Heyzer, expressed support for substantial investments in statistical capacity-building so that the "data revolution" necessary for significantly improving the availability and the quality of development data can become a reality.

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