Asia is the largest and moust populous continent on earth and is notable for its fast-growing economy. However, it is also the continent in which over 40 percent of the 766 million people living on less than $1.90 a day reside, making it the second poorest continent after Africa.
Asia is a place of extreme poverty as well as top business ventures. While all Asian countries are not poor, the wide gap in economic condition of the eastern continent’s people in its different parts drives one to explore the causes of poverty in Asia.
The first and the foremost reason is Asia’s huge population. Almost 60 percent of the world’s population is in Asia. While density of population is not the same everywhere, the monumental growth of population compared to the scarcity of resources is one of the major causes of poverty in Asia.
- Food Security
According to a report by the Asian Development Bank, 67 percent of the world’s hungry lives in Asia. Since 2000, there has been an increase in basic food prices, causing food insecurity for the poor, who designate a large amount of their income for food. Various factors like urbanization, population growth, a decrease in agricultural land and poor policy making are responsible for the increasing food insecurity in Asia.
Lack of proper education also causes poverty. According to UNESCO, about 30 percent of adults in South and West Asia are illiterate, and about one-third of students in primary schools lack basic numeric and literary skills which are essential for further education. There is also a wide gender gap in education in South Asia, as only 62 percent of young women are literate compared to 77 percent of young men.
Malnutrition in women and children is also another factor. Almost 69 percent of children with acute malnutrition live in Asia, which causes low weight and stunted growth. Women are also vulnerable to the situation, as almost 80 percent of adolescent women have anemia. Poor health prevents them from having proper education and a normal life, ultimately increasing the impoverished situation.
According to the corruption perception index of 2015, 60 percent of Asian countries scored below 50, indicating a serious corruption problem. Poor governance and corruption in administration make financial power available only to the fortunate few, fueling poverty for the mass population.
- Natural Disasters
Asian countries are mostly dependent upon agriculture, forestry and tourism, which can all be affected by natural disasters. In 2015, half of the world’s natural disasters took place in the Asia-Pacific region like earthquakes, droughts, wild fires, storms, extreme temperatures and floods, causing significant economic losses.
- Global Recession
With a recession in the global market, a vast section of Asian workers or laborers working in America or Western Europe have lost their jobs, negatively affecting the economic conditions of their families.
- Social Discrimination
In some countries of South Asia, caste discrimination is prominent in different levels of the society. This prohibits equal opportunities among the mass population, making certain sections of the population poorer than others.
Most of the above causes of poverty in Asia are interrelated. An increase in population leads to a corrupt administration which, in turn, fails to provide quality education to all people, giving rise to unemployment, discrimination and food insecurity. Poor governance also fails to provide sufficient health and medical facilities, causing health issues and making people unfit for progress. It is clear that, before the people of Asia can rise up out of poverty, the lack of fair and uncorrupted governments throughout the continent must be addressed.
– Mahua Mitra