Time Is Now To Introduce Universal Social Services and Protection in Asia and the Pacific, Says 2014 Human Development Report on Vulnerability and Resilience

TOKYO, July 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Staggering rates of poverty, high inequality and frequent natural disasters and crises threaten the progress of human development in Asia and the Pacific. Addressing these challenges requires a host of initiatives, including universal provision of social services and a strong system of social security benefits, says the 2014 Human Development Report, released in Tokyo today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Report, entitled Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience, offers a fresh perspective on what makes people vulnerable, and proposes ways to strengthen resilience.

Across Asia and the Pacific, over a billion people live just above the extreme poverty line, on more than US$1.25 but less than US$2.50 a day. The report asserts that those who face multiple deprivations are especially at risk of falling back into poverty if a disaster or crisis should occur.

The Report introduces the idea of life cycle vulnerabilities, which arise from sensitive points in life where shocks can have greater impact. It stresses the importance of the first 1,000 days of life, and of the transitions from school to work, and from work to retirement.

The Report urges governments to commit to the universal provision of basic social services and social protection to build resilience, especially for the poor and other vulnerable groups. It argues that countries in Asia and the Pacific do not have to wait to become rich in order to provide adequate social protection or basic social services. It shows that Nordic countries, as well as countries such as Republic of Korea and Costa Rica, were able to provide universal basic social services when their per capita GDP was lower than that of India or Pakistan today.

Making the case that cohesive societies work better, the Report calls for strong social protections such as pensions and unemployment insurance for countries at all stages of development.

The Report also highlights that a lack of decent, well paid jobs – especially for youth – is a major challenge in Asia and the Pacific. In many countries of the region, youth unemployment is relatively high: 23 percent in Iran, 22 percent in Indonesia, 17 percent in Sri Lanka, 16 percent in Philippines and Samoa and 14 percent in Timor-Leste. The Report urges governments to fast-track education reform policies and to accelerate broad-based economic growth to create decent and well paid jobs that are essential to improving living standards.

In addition, food insecurity, violence against women, and civil conflict and disaster risks (such as landslides and rising sea levels) linked to climate change further threaten the security of millions of people.

"By addressing vulnerabilities, all people may share in development progress, and human development will become increasingly equitable and sustainable," UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said today.

Below are additional regional highlights of the Report.

South Asia

  • There is no country in the very high human development group from the region.
  • The average HDI value for the region, at 0.588, is below the world average of 0.702.

East Asia and the Pacific

  • There are six countries in the high human development group from the region, 11 in the medium and three in the low human development group.
  • The average HDI value for the region is 0.703, slightly above the world average of 0.702.

Additional information on the 2014 Human Development Report is available here.

For information about the Human Development Index, http://hdr.undp.org/en/2014-report