Beyond bright lights and skyscrapers, how can East Asia and Pacific cities expand opportunities for all?

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Cities in East Asia and the Pacific can be vibrant, exciting, and filled with opportunities. Yet we are always struck by their dichotomies: there are the bright lights, modern skyscrapers, air-conditioned malls, and the hustle and bustle of people coming and going to offices and shops.

And there are also neighborhoods with no safe drinking water, sanitation, or waste collection; where houses flood every time it rains; and where families spend long hours trying to earn enough to feed themselves and keep their children in school.  

With an estimated 250 million people living in slums across the East Asia and Pacific region, and much more urbanization to come, prioritizing the delivery of basic services and ensuring opportunities for the urban poor presents an urgent call for action.

Our latest report, East Asia and Pacific Cities: Expanding Opportunities for the Urban Poor, looks at the multidimensional aspects of urban poverty and inequality in the region. It aims to inform and inspire policymakers and practitioners at the city and country levels on all that can and needs to be done. 

One does not have to look far to see what is possible:

  • Countries like Singapore, Korea, Japan, and Malaysia demonstrate how urban poverty and inequality have been tackled;
  • Current programs in Indonesia and Vietnam provide models for upgrading slums;
  • China has effectively used rental subsidies to provide housing for low-income residents; and
  • The Philippines has a successful conditional cash transfer program that helps the urban poor.

Across many regions and countries, however, challenges persist, and the numbers of people affected are enormous. If left unaddressed, these issues will put further pressure on future growth, stability, and social cohesion.

If we tackle these problems now, there is great potential for creating more inclusive, resilient, and livable cities where everyone can benefit from the continued opportunities cities can bring.   

We invite you to read our report, East Asia and Pacific Cities: Expanding Opportunities for the Urban Poor, share it on social media using the hashtag #EAPCities, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.




Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez

Former Regional Director, Africa, Sustainable Development Practice Group

Judy Baker

Lead Economist, Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience & Land Global Practice

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