Poverty, Inequality and Social Protection in Southeast Asia: An Introduction


Social protection programmes have expanded rapidly in the developing world in recent years. In Southeast Asia, the experience of the Asian Financial Crisis of the 1990s heightened awareness of vulnerability to poverty and the role of government in protecting households from a sudden loss of employment and income, or from contingencies such as ill-health and ageing. Most governments have expanded targeted social assistance programmes, although the quality and coverage of these programmes vary from place to place. Public support for basic health and education services is also uneven. Common challenges in the region include economic risks associated with financial globalization, rapid urbanization, high levels of informal employment, rising dependency ratios and a highly unequal gender division of labour.