Asia at a Crossroads

Why the region must address inequality now

Publication date: 22 January 2015
Author: Maria Dolores Bernabe (Policy and Research Coordinator), Jessica Hamer (Health Policy Adviser) and Mark Fried (Consultant)

Asia is at a Crossroads. Rising inequality poses a dire threat to continued prosperity in Asia, where an estimated 500 million people remain trapped in extreme poverty, most of them women and girls. The huge gap between rich and poor hinders economic growth, undermines democratic institutions and can trigger conflict. 

If Asia’s policymakers hold tight to yesterday’s truths, hoping against hope that growth and prosperity will trickle down to all, they will put everyone’s welfare at risk. But if there are courageous leaders, willing to tackle inequality head-on, they can ensure inclusive and sustainable development for all of Asia’s people.

Oxfam is calling on Asia’s governments to make a determined effort to combat discrimination and improve policies on taxation and social spending. This is needed now if the region is to secure a stable and prosperous future.

Key recommendations from the report

Oxfam recommends that Asian governments prioritize five concrete steps: 

  • Empowering people: Ensure that poor people, especially women, are able to actively participate in shaping institutions, policies and actions, so that these do not further widen the gap between rich and poor.
  • Fair access to essential services: Provide everyone with good quality, free public health services and education.
  • Fair access to land and other productive resources and assets: Strengthen poor people‟s right to land, and expand their access to resources and assets that are crucial to their livelihood and survival.
  • Fair wages: Guarantee equal pay for equal work and pay workers a living wage sufficient for families to thrive.
  • Fair taxation: Ensure that everyone pays their fair share and that tax measures do not unduly burden the poorer sections of society.