The ADB seal at the Asian Development Bank building in the Philippines.

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating massive hurdles for the Asia and Pacific regions to reach their set targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In a report released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the pandemic pushed an estimated 75 million to 80 million more people in developing Asia into extreme poverty as of last year, compared with what would have happened without COVID-19, according to Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2021, released today. 

Assuming that the pandemic has increased inequality, the relative rise in extreme poverty—defined as living on less than $1.90 a day—may be even greater. Progress has also stalled in areas such as hunger, health, and education, where earlier achievements across the region had been significant, albeit uneven.

Key Indicators presents comprehensive economic, financial, social, and environmental statistics for ADB’s 49 regional members. According to the report, about 203 million people or 5.2% of developing Asia’s population lived in extreme poverty as of 2017. Without COVID-19, that number would have declined to an estimated 2.6% in 2020.

“Asia and the Pacific have made impressive strides, but COVID-19 has revealed social and economic fault lines that may weaken the region’s sustainable and inclusive development,” said ADB Chief Economist Yasuyuki Sawada. “To achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, decision-makers need to harness high-quality and timely data as a guide for actions to ensure that the recovery leaves no one behind—especially the poor and vulnerable.”

Asia and the Pacific’s economy has grown at a robust pace in recent years and contributed as much as 35% to global gross domestic product (GDP)—in current US dollars—in 2019. But COVID-19 took a toll just when weaker domestic investment and slowing global trade and economic activity were starting to challenge this momentum. Among reporting economies in Asia and the Pacific, only about 1 in 4 posted GDP growth last year. The region lost about 8% of work hours due to mobility restrictions, deeply affecting poorer households and workers in the informal economy.

The Key Indicators report includes a special supplement introducing a practical framework for measuring the digital economy and its growing role in modern life, which has been particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with the report launch, ADB has updated its Key Indicators Database, which offers access to statistical indicators going back to the year 2000, via a user-friendly and accessible interface.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.


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