Next week Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders will meet in Danang. They face a region divided as never between a few rich and the rest. After decades of leading the world in economic growth that benefited everyone, Asia today is rapidly becoming a fractured region with sharp economic and social divisions between the rich and the underdogs.
Babeth Ngọc Hân Lefur, Oxfam Director
The Danang summit should be a reflective moment for APEC political and business leaders to critically review their policies and growth paradigm which are failing to achieve shared prosperity and just helping a minority to increase their wealth while leaving millions of women, workers and peasants behind.
In Asia- Pacific, the population-weighted income Gini coefficient, based on household income estimates, increased from 0.37 to 0.48 between 1990 and 2014; an increase of almost 30% in less than 3 decades. In Indonesia, the four richest men have more wealth than the poorest 100 million people. In Vietnam, 210 of the country’s super rich individuals earn more than enough in one year to lift 3.2 million people out of poverty and end extreme poverty. Similarly, 1% of rich people in Thailand own 56% of national wealth, and half of the wealth in Indonesia is owned by just 1%.
Despite political pronouncements and inclusive growth mantras, why is exactly the opposite happening? There are four major causes. Firstly,
the economic growth model pursued in the region is sucking benefits upward from women, workers, fisherfolk, peasants and small producers. Instead of increasing access to land and other productive resources, the growth model has helped a few rich to capture resources.
, women’s work is not treated equally. Women are burdened with unpaid care work and low paid jobs exacerbating gender inequality. Low paid and unpaid care work by millions of women in Asia has anchored rapid economic growth, but the very system they support is leaving them behind.
, unjust fiscal systems, where rich corporations and individuals are not contributing their fair share to national revenue, are affecting public investment in essential services. Dwindling public services such as universal healthcare, quality education and social protection are shrinking the opportunities for future generations to break the poverty cycle.
people not only lack access to decent wages, productive resources and public services but they also lack voice and an ability to participate in policy and decision-making processes. Much of the economic decision making happens behind closed doors, with no mechanisms in place to ensure broad citizens’ participation.
APEC leaders agreed that inclusive growth should be at center stage in the coming leaders’ meeting. The Vietnamese Government, which hosts this year’s meeting, underscores the importance of promoting economic, financial and social inclusion as strategies to achieve inclusive growth.
In Oxfam’s new policy paper, Redefining inclusive growth in Asia- How APEC can achieve economies that leave no one behind
propose eight simple ideas to turn APEC’s inclusive growth aspiration into reality.
Poverty and extreme inequality are not destiny. They can be challenged and eliminated. APEC leaders are in a unique position to put an end to these long-standing problems by building a human economy, where no one is left behind and where we can build a better world for our children and grandchildren.