Q&A: Kenichi Yokoyama on Eradicating Extreme Poverty through Human Development in South Asia

Published date27 May 2022
Publication titleASEAN Tribune

27 May 2022 (Asian Development Bank) Under its Strategy 2030, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is addressing poverty and inequalities by increasing the emphasis on human development and social inclusion to address multidimensional aspects of poverty. ADB is supporting the developing member countries (DMCs) improve education and learning, achieve better health for all, and strengthen social protection systems and service delivery. It is helping facilitate quality job creation, including by small and medium-sized enterprises.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic revealed several gaps in the current social protection efforts and highlighted the need to strengthen them as essential means of building the resilience of the poor, supporting inclusive recovery, and working toward sustainable development. Post-pandemic dialogues with South Asian governments offer opportunities to broaden the scope of protection from mere poverty relief to more diversified responses to social and health needs and build back better.

Kenichi Yokoyama

Kenichi Yokoyama, Director General, South Asia Department, ADB

What are the major human development challenges in South Asia?

Despite remarkable progress in human development outcomes over time, the South Asia region faces several challenges ranging from remaining poverty, diverging inequality, insufficient quality of education, a workforce with poor market-relevant skills, fueled further by the learning crisis, high youth unemployment, and inadequate health systems leading to poor health outcomes.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, South Asia was home to almost half of the global poor.1 The pandemic has pushed millions more into poverty and decimated livelihoods. The pandemic also exacerbated the preexisting learning crisis in the region with some of the longest school closures. For example, Bangladesh, implemented the longest school closure in the world. This is likely to lead not only to learning losses but result in earning losses in the future, particularly for those from low-income households, and children in grades 1-3 whose foundation skills education has been severely affected. In developing Asia, the present value of learning losses is estimated to be $1.25 trillion, and the effect in South Asia is the most serious considering the prolonged school closure. Rising youth unemployment combined with lack of market-relevant skills is also a serious concern. This is even more so for women given their lower access to post-secondary...

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