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Poverty

East Asia and Pacific countries can do better in labor regulation and social protection

Truman Packard's picture

Those unfamiliar with the fast growing emerging economies of East Asia are likely to think that governments in these countries let market forces and capitalism roam free, red in tooth and claw. That was certainly my impression before coming to work in the region, and generally that held at the outset of our work by the group of us that wrote a new World Bank report “East Asia Pacific At Work: Employment, Enterprise and Wellbeing” .

The report shows just how wrong we were. We could be forgiven this impression—many of us had come from assignments in Latin America and the Caribbean or in Europe and Central Asia, where the distortions and rigidities from labor regulation and poorly designed social protection are rife, and where policy makers cast envious looks at the stellar and sustained employment outcomes in East Asia.

Well, it turns out that although they came relatively late to labor regulation and social protection, many governments in the region have entered this arena with gusto. We were surprised to find that, going just by what is written in their labor codes, the average level of employment protection in East Asia is actually higher than the OECD average.

Why is ethnic minority poverty persistent in Vietnam?

Gabriel Demombynes's picture
Also available in: Tiếng Việt
What will it take to end poverty in Vietnam?



A few months ago, I journeyed to Lao Cai, a predominantly ethnic minority area in Vietnam’s Northern Mountains, to supervise a pilot survey. One older man I encountered—typical of many we saw—was a subsistence farmer with minimal education who spoke only his native language and had barely ventured beyond his village.

Members of ethnic minority groups make up 15 percent of the country’s population but account for 70 percent of the extreme poor (measured using a national extreme poverty line). During Vietnam’s two decades of rapid growth, members of ethnic minority groups in the country have experienced overall improvements in their standards of living, but their gains have lagged behind those of the Kinh majority.

Why is ethnic minority poverty persistent? This has been the subject of numerous studies, including a 2009 study on ethnicity and development in Vietnam as well as a chapter in our more recent Vietnam Poverty Assessment. This is also one piece of the research my team is currently pursuing.

Tại sao nhóm dân tộc thiểu số ở Việt Nam nghèo dai dẳng?

Gabriel Demombynes's picture
Also available in: English
Làm gì để xóa nghèo ở Việt Nam?



Vài tháng trước, tôi có chuyến đi Lào Cai - một khu vực có nhiều dân tộc thiểu số sinh sống ở miền núi phía Bắc Việt Nam- để giám sát một cuộc khảo sát thí điểm. Tôi đã tình cờ gặp một người đàn ông lớn tuổi - một người điển hình trong số rất nhiều người mà chúng tôi đã gặp – đó là một người nông dân chỉ vừa đủ sống, có trình độ học vấn tối thiểu chỉ biết nói tiếng dân tộc và hiếm khi ra khỏi bản làng.

Người dân tộc thiểu số chiếm 15% dân số của Việt Nam nhưng chiếm tới 70% nhóm đối tượng cực nghèo (được đo lường theo chuẩn cực nghèo quốc gia). Trong suốt hai thập kỷ tăng trưởng nhanh của Việt Nam, người dân tộc thiểu số ở quốc gia này đã có mức sống được cải thiện lên một cách toàn diện, song thành quả được hưởng của nhóm đối tượng này còn kém xa so với dân tộc chiếm đa số là người Kinh.

กรุงเทพฯ หลังน้ำท่วม 2554: คนยากจนเป็นอย่างไรบ้าง?

Zuzana Stanton-Geddes's picture

Also available in English

หน้าฝนมาเยือนเมืองไทยอีกแล้ว มาพร้อมกับความทรงจำถึงน้ำท่วมครั้งใหญ่ในปี 2554 ที่ส่งผลกระทบต่อผู้คนกว่า 13 ล้านคน มีผู้เสียชีวิต 680 ราย และสร้างความเสียหาย 46.5 พันล้านเหรียญสหรัฐฯ  ผลกระทบของน้ำท่วมที่มีต่อธุรกิจและห่วงโซ่อุปทานของโลกที่มีการบันทึกไว้เป็นอย่างละเอียด และเป็นข่าวพาดหัวตลอดทั้งปี 2555  แต่ว่าคนยากคนจนล่ะเป็นอย่างไรบ้าง?

น้ำท่วมคราวนั้นเปลี่ยนแปลงชีวิตชายและหญิงหลายแสนคน โดยเฉพาะผู้ที่อยู่ในสภาพง่อนแง่นไม่มั่นคงอยู่แล้ว  สองปีผ่านไปเกิดความเปลี่ยนแปลงอะไรขึ้นบ้าง?

จากการที่ได้ไปเยือนโครงการพัฒนายกระดับชุมชนแออัดสองแห่งในกรุงเทพฯ ตอนเหนือเมื่อเดือนก่อน ก็ได้พบเห็นเรื่องราวที่เป็นประเด็นสำหรับเมืองอื่นๆ ในเอเชียที่กำลังเผชิญกับการเพิ่มขึ้นของจำนวนประชากรอย่างรวดเร็ว พลังอำนาจของภัยธรรมชาติ และความแปรปรวนของสภาพภูมิอากาศ

Transforming villages with electricity in Laos

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
Villagers at Ban Nongbuakham, Thakek District, Khammouane Province, Lao PDR. Check out more photos here  

​You can see it in the smiles on the faces of villagers in Ban Nam Jing, two hours outside of Vientiane the capital of Lao PDR. People's lives are improving. In this village of 158 households incomes have increased thanks in part to the 'Power to the People' (P2P) project supported by the World Bank. The program targets the poor, especially female heads of household, with subsidies to pay for electrical connections.

The villagers I met say initially only wealthier families could pay to be connected. Poorer families were left behind unable to afford the cost with their incomes from producing rice, cassava and rubber. Now with lights at night they are also producing handicrafts and textiles to boost their incomes. There are other benefits, with refrigeration people say they can keep food longer, before it used to rot and they would have to eat it quickly. In addition, their children can now study at night and they have TV for entertainment and to learn more about the rest of the world.

Gender equality in Laos: first impressions can be deceptive

Helene Carlsson Rex's picture
Watch the video highlighting the report's findings.

My mother always told me that first impressions are deceptive. Turns out, this is true also when it comes to gender equality.

I lived in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, for six years, working in the World Bank’s country office on social development and gender issues. I still recall arriving in Vientiane, the sleepy city by the mighty Mekong river, and being taken by surprise of how empowered women seemed to be. I noticed women driving their motorbikes in the city, female shop owners serving delicious mango and papaya, and women in the latest business suits hurrying back to the office.

In a country where poverty has decreased by 25% since the 1990s, it was easy to get the impression that women are truly enjoying the benefits of development on equal terms with men. The laws are supportive of women as well. These have clear targets in place that promote women’s human development, economic opportunity, and participation.

Keeping the hope alive in Myanmar

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
Axel talks about his trip to Myanmar in a video below.

You can feel the energy in Myanmar today—from the streets of Yangon, in the offices of government ministries and in rural villages. Dramatic political and economic changes are sweeping the country.

Recipe for economic growth in the Philippines: invest in infrastructure, education, and job creation

Rogier van den Brink's picture
The report says that a highly-educated, healthier and skilled workforce will enhance productivity.

Economic news coming from the Philippines is surprisingly positive, and this has not gone unnoticed in international circles, judging by the number of inquiries we—the World Bank economic team in Manila that I am now leading—are getting. Our GDP growth forecast for 2012 (included in the new Philippines Quarterly Update report) is a solid 4.6 percent, while the first quarter saw an even more respectable growth rate of 6.4 percent. Other good news: foreign direct investment doubled in the first quarter, exports were up by 18 percent, and two ratings agencies upgraded their outlook on the Philippines.

However, the economy faces two challenges going forward: it will need to defend itself against a global slowdown, and it will also need to create a more inclusive growth pattern—one that creates more and better jobs, because performance on job creation has not been part of the positive news coming from the Philippines for quite a while now.

Empowering young people in Timor-Leste

Laura Keenan's picture

Timor-Leste has one of the youngest populations in the world, with more than three quarters under 30. Opening pathways for young people – allowing them to get an education, find employment and engage in public life – will be critical for building lasting peace and development.

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