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New Policy Approach Needed for East Asia and Pacific to Achieve Inclusive Growth

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The countries of developing East Asia and Pacific – among the most successful in the world in reducing poverty and improving living standards – need to adopt a new thinking if they are to achieve inclusive growth going forward.

Growth that is inclusive – one that reduces poverty while providing upward mobility and economic security for all – will require countries to go beyond its successful “growth with equity” model, reports Riding the Wave: An East Asian Miracle for the 21st Century. Prospects for upward mobility are seen as increasingly elusive, reflecting a sense that income and wealth are becoming more concentrated while access to basic social services remains limited and often of poor quality. Achieving economic security for all is more difficult, particularly as the region faces newer challenges: rapid aging, less certain growth prospects, and greater urbanization.

Inequality is a growing concern to citizens across the region. Over 90 percent in China and over half in the Philippines think that income differences in their countries are too large. In Indonesia, almost 90 percent of the population thinks it is urgent to address inequality, while eight in ten urban residents of Vietnam worry about disparities in living standards.

It’s a historic achievement that nearly a billion people in East Asia moved out of extreme poverty in just one generation,” said Victoria Kwakwa, World Bank Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific. “But for the region to sustain inclusive growth, countries will need to address the challenges of fully eliminating extreme poverty, enhancing the prospects for economic mobility, and assuring economic security for all.”

The region has transformed from being comprised of mostly poor countries in the 1980s to a group of middle-income countries made up of varying economic classes. By 2015, almost two-thirds of the region’s population were either economically secure or middle class – up from 20 percent in 2002.

The share of the extreme and moderate poor has fallen dramatically, from almost half the population in 2002 to less than an eighth in 2015. But the percentage of individuals vulnerable to falling back into poverty – those who live with US$3.10 to US$5.50 a day – has remained constant between 2002 and 2015, at about a quarter of the population.

Policies for inclusive growth need to recognize and address the varying constraints faced by different economic classes. Policies for the remaining extreme poor need to ease their barriers accessing economic opportunities, as well as sustain broad-based growth, so as to help them move up the income ladder.  Access to services such as healthcare and infrastructure, as well as mechanisms to manage risks, will need to be improved to help the economically vulnerable. The priority for the economically secure and the middle class is to improve the provision and quality of public services, such as housing, water and sanitation. 

Three pillars can underpin the policy agenda. The first – fostering economic mobility – requires closing gaps in access to jobs and services, improving the quality of jobs, and promoting financial inclusion. The second pillar — providing greater economic security — includes bolstering social assistance systems, expanding social insurance, and increasing resilience to shocks. Strengthening institutions is the third pillar, and includes progressive taxation policies to raise resources and improvements in the effectiveness of inclusive spending programs. Better management of rapid aging and urbanization as well as enhancing competition will also help.

“The policy agenda for inclusive growth can constitute a new social contract for governments across the region,” said Sudhir Shetty, World Bank Chief Economist for the East Asia and Pacific region. “Its elements would address the needs of each economic class while remaining fiscally responsible and raising revenues in an efficient and equitable manner.”

The report uses a five-part grouping of countries and recommends tailored policies for each. Malaysia, and Thailand – ‘Progressive Prosperity’ countries that have largely eliminated extreme poverty and fostered a large middle class – can prioritize meeting the growing aspirations of the middle classes while mobilizing and using resources to address remaining disparities. China and Vietnam – ‘Out-of-poverty-into-prosperity’ countries with large swaths of their populations now economically secure or middle class – should also address the aspirations of their middle classes as well as the needs of their vulnerable populations, while also preparing for rapid aging.

Indonesia, the Philippines, and Cambodia, are described as ‘Out-of-extreme-poverty’ countries which have low levels of extreme poverty but also still small middle classes; they can prioritize improving economic mobility and integrating social protection programs. ‘Lagging progress’ countries such as Lao PDR and Papua New Guinea, with still high levels of extreme poverty, can strive to reduce poverty more quickly by investing in basic education and promoting financial inclusion while also strengthening social assistance and resilience. The Pacific Island countries are distinct and will need to focus their policies on exploiting existing economic opportunities such as tourism and fishing, leveraging labor migration opportunities, and investing in disaster mitigation and prevention.

Developing East Asia has led the world in showing how rapid and broadly shared growth can lift millions out of poverty. With these policies, countries across the region can effectively confront the new challenges they now face and achieve inclusive growth.

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Women in leadership bring better business performance

MD Staff

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Businesses with genuine gender diversity, particularly at senior level, perform better, including seeing significant profit increases, according to a new report from the Bureau for Employers’ Activities  of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The report, Women in Business and Management: The business case for change , surveyed almost 13,000 enterprises in 70 countries. More than 57 per cent of respondents agreed that gender diversity initiatives improved business outcomes. Almost three-quarters of those companies that tracked gender diversity in their management reported profit increases of between 5 and 20 per cent, with the majority seeing increases of between 10 and 15 per cent.

Almost 57 per cent said it was easier to attract and retain talent. More than 54 per cent said they saw improvements in creativity, innovation and openness and a similar proportion said effective gender inclusivity enhanced their company’s reputation, while almost 37 per cent felt it enabled them to more effectively gauge customer sentiment.

The report also found that, at national level, an increase in female employment is positively associated with GDP growth. The finding is based on an analysis of data from 186 countries for the period 1991-2017.

“We expected to see a positive correlation between gender diversity and business success, but these results are eye-opening,” said Deborah France-Massin, Director of the ILO Bureau for Employers’ Activities. “When you consider the efforts companies make in other areas to get just an extra two or three per cent in profits, the significance is clear. Companies should look at gender balance as a bottom line issue, not just a human resource issue.”

Gender balance in senior management is defined as 40-60 per cent of either gender, the same as in the general workforce. The report says that the beneficial effects of gender diversity begin to accrue when women hold 30 per cent of senior management and leadership positions. However, almost 60 per cent of enterprises do not meet this target, meaning they struggle to reap the rewards. In addition, in almost half of companies surveyed, women account for less than one in three of their entry-level management recruits – meaning that the pipeline to senior management may not deliver the talent needed.

Almost three-quarters of the enterprises surveyed had equal opportunity or diversity and inclusion policies, however, the report says more specific actions are needed to ensure that women are visible and promoted to strategic areas of business.

Some key factors preventing women reaching decision-making positions were identified. Enterprise cultures that require “anytime, anywhere” availability disproportionately affect women, relative to their household and family responsibilities, while policies that support inclusivity and work-life balance (for both men and women), such as flexible working hours and paternity leave, need to be improved.

Another factor is the “leaky pipeline”, the tendency for the proportion of women to decline as the management grade rises. The “glass wall” describes the incidence of women managers in roles such as HR, finance and administration that are considered less strategic and less likely to lead to chief executive and boardroom positions. Fewer than a third of enterprises surveyed had achieved the critical mass of one third of women board members. Around one in eight reported they still had all-male boardrooms. More than 78 per cent of enterprises who responded had male CEO’s, and those with female CEO’s were more likely to be small enterprises.

“The business case for getting more women into management is compelling,” said France-Massin. “In an era of skill shortages, women represent a formidable talent pool that companies aren’t making enough of. Smart companies who want to be successful in the global economy should make genuine gender diversity a key ingredient of their business strategy. Representative business organizations and employer and business membership organizations must take a lead, promoting both effective policies and genuine implementation.”

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Advanced economies still have plenty of work to do to reach Sustainable Development Goals

MD Staff

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With only 11 years left to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, some of the most economically advanced countries have still not met targets in areas like poverty reduction, youth employment, education and training, gender equality and numerical literacy, according to a new OECD report.

Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets 2019: An Assessment of Where OECD Countries Stand finds that in most OECD countries there is widespread access to electricity, mobile networks and basic sanitation. Countries have met targets for maternal and infant mortality; and are making progress in reducing deaths from AIDS, TB, Hepatitis B, and road accidents. They are also cutting smoking and gradually adopting renewable energy sources. Yet, OECD countries are still leaving many people behind, and are struggling to reach the targets related to gender equality and to reducing inequality. Even more worrisome, some countries are moving in the wrong direction on some targets, with worsening performance since 2005.

In particular, medium-term GDP growth and productivity growth are on the wane in many countries. One in seven people in the OECD area live in poverty, and one in four 15-year-olds and adults lack basic numerical competency. Obesity and unemployment have been rising in one third of OECD countries since 2005, and in 13 countries vaccination coverage is dropping, risking outbreaks of diseases thought to have been eradicated. The number of threatened species is on the rise in two thirds of OECD countries.

“The SDGs and the 2030 Agenda objective of leaving no one behind are our promise and our responsibility to future generations. Unfortunately we are very far from being able to declare Mission Accomplished,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, launching the report at the start of the annual OECD Week. “We must all redouble our efforts, with countries working together to make sure that the goals are achieved within the deadline that the international community set four years ago. We owe it to our children and to our planet.”

The report uses a unique methodology that enables a comparison of countries’ progress and data gaps across the 17 SDG Goals and the specific targets that underpin them, using the UN Global List of 244 indicators as a starting point. It also finds that over half the 2030 targets involve a transboundary effect, meaning that achieving them in one country will have an impact in others or on global goods, such as climate.

Key findings in the report include:

  • Around 14% of the OECD population lives in relative poverty, far from the goal of halving poverty rates (half of the median rate in OECD countries is 5.5%).  
  • Across the OECD, 14% of youths are not in education, employment or training. Rates are above 20% in Italy and Turkey, and are at least 17% in Chile, Mexico and Spain.
  • Women hold fewer than one-third of seats in national parliaments on average in the OECD, with no country achieving the target level (i.e. equal representation).
  • Official development assistance (ODA) is still running at less than half the UN target of 0.7% of national income.
  • Some 6% of women across the OECD report having been subjected to violence by a partner in the last 12 months [and as high as 11% in some countries]. This is far from the target to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
  • Significant data gaps for the UN Global List of indicators mean that performance on more than one-third of the SDG targets cannot be assessed in OECD countries. Environment goals contain some of the biggest data gaps. 

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Data Collaboration for the Common Good

MD Staff

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Delivering on the promise of public-private data collaboration for the common good requires attention in five priority areas according to a new report, Data Collaboration for the Common Good, published by the World Economic Forum today.

The report, done in collaboration with McKinsey and Company, represents a year-long effort with business, government, civil society leaders, experts and practitioners to advance public-private data collaboration to address some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian and sustainable development challenges.

The linking, connecting and sharing of data has emerged as one of the primary factors shaping today’s digital economy. From 2017 to 2019, the number of companies forming data-related partnerships has risen from 21% to 40%. Against this backdrop, the report provides an evidence base of use cases of data collaboration for the common good as well as pragmatic tools for strengthening stakeholder trust.

“Having experienced the positive impact of public-private data collaboration in improving the epidemic readiness in South Korea myself, I sincerely believe in the promising future that public-private data collaboration will lead us into,” said Dr. Chang-Gyu Hwang, Chairman and CEO of KT. “I would like to encourage more world leaders and thinkers to join World Economic Forum’s effort to make lasting and fundamental changes for humanity with trustworthy data and data collaboration.”

The report provides a holistic governance framework designed to strengthen trust, balance competing interests and deliver impact. It offers insights to balance both the need to innovate in the use of data and the mandate to protect vulnerable populations against known and emerging harms.

“Data holds great promise as a transformative resource for social good,” notes JoAnn Stonier, Chief Data Officer, Mastercard.

The report identifies five key areas for action, across the data collaborative lifecycle:

Stakeholder alignment – Ensure stakeholders commit to intended outcomes by conducting rigorous due diligence to ensure commitment and resource availability

Responsible data governance – Build a secure, resilient and fit-for-purpose governance and technical infrastructure and invest in comprehensive data-impact assessments to identify and manage the risks to vulnerable populations and communities.

Insight generation and validation – Verify the provenance, completeness and accuracy of data inputs and establish effective governance processes on how packaged data products/services will be used to make decisions in the field.

Insight adoption – Invest in last-mile implementation capacities and the leadership to create a data culture within organizations with

Economic sustainability and scalability – Look beyond early stage data philanthropy and donor underwriting to create sustainable economic models.

Given the likelihood and severity of disease outbreaks and natural disasters resulting from climate change, the report calls for a greater focus on how private sector data can be used for epidemic readiness and natural disaster preparedness.

“Public-private data collaboration is foundational for building a shared digital future that is more inclusive, trustworthy and sustainable,” notes Derek O’Halloran, Head of the Future of Digital Economy and Society, World Economic Forum. “This new report provides pragmatic approaches for using private sector data to deliver faster decision-making during natural disasters, a better understanding for how to be ready for epidemics and new ways to measure progress on achieving the SDGs.”

Project advisors and participants include representatives from Bayer, Cloudera Foundation, Dharma AI, Digital Impact Alliance, Edelman, Facebook, Flowminder, Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, GovLab, Harvard University, Kaiser Permanente, KT Corporation, MIT, Mastercard, MERL Tech, NetHope Inc., New York Presbyterian, Nielsen, SAP, Sustainable Development Solutions Network, University of Washington, UN Global Pulse, UNOCHA Centre for Humanitarian Data, Verizon Communications, World Bank.

Key Priorities Across the Public-Private Data Collaboration Lifecycle

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