Latest ESCAP Statistical Yearbook reminds that progress in reducing development gaps in Asia-Pacific has been impressive but uneven

Asia and the Pacific has made impressive gains in improving the living conditions of its people and promoting economic growth but faces wide development gaps, particularly in basic health care and gender equality.

According to the Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific published by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the region had the lowest unemployment rate of 4.6 per cent in 2010 compared to 9.7 per cent for Europe, 9.5 per cent for North America, 8.1 per cent for Africa and 7.2 per cent for Latin America and the Caribbean..

The region also reduced by more than half, the number of people living in extreme poverty – defined as those living on less than PPP $1.25 per day – from about 1.7 billion in 1990 to 0.8 billion in 2010. The Asia-Pacific share in global extreme poverty declined from 71 to 57 per cent over this period.

The region has also made significant progress in child survival over the past two decades, reducing under-five mortality from 83 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 42 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011, slashing infant mortality from 61 deaths per 1,000 live births to 33 over the same period. Likewise, maternal mortality levels were more than halved from 379 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 146 per 1,000 live births in 2010.

However, there are wide disparities in social and economic development within Asia-Pacific.

In 2011, Afghanistan, followed by Pakistan, Tajikistan, Myanmar, India, Timor-Leste and Bhutan had the highest under-five mortality rates ranging from 101 to 54 per 1,000 live births.

The region accounts for 37 per cent of total world maternal deaths, with its maternal mortality ratio ranging from 260 maternal deaths per 1,000 live births in the low-income countries to just 8 in the high-income countries.

Despite increased access to basic amenities, some 380 million people in the region lacked access to improved water sources and 1.74 billion lacked access to improved sanitation in 2010.

Relative female participation in the work force in the region also fell from 65 employed women per 100 employed men in 1991 to 62 employed women per 100 employed men in 2010. The report also notes the “very limited” access by women to land in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Fiji, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Lao PDR, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste.

The ESCAP regional statistics publication reports that Asia-Pacific greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase but at a lower rate. The annual growth rate of regional CO2 emissions fell from 4.1 per cent in 2008 to 2.6 per cent in 2009. China was the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter in 2009, releasing an estimated 6.8 billion tonnes of CO2, 1.1 billion tonnes more than all of North America. However, per capita emission in North America was three times that of China.

North and Central Asia had the highest carbon intensity with 824 grams of CO2 emissions per 1000 dollars GDP while South-East Asia had the lowest carbon intensity with 391 grams of CO2 per 1000 dollars GDP.

Although the Asia-Pacific region as a whole has increased its forest area by nearly 90,000 sq km over the past decade, South-East Asia lost about 332,000 sq km, an area about the size of Viet Nam. On the other hand, East and North-East Asia added an estimated 454,284 sq km of forest, an area larger than Uzbekistan.

The ESCAP statistics report also provides the latest Asia-Pacific demographic, trade and foreign direct investment profiles and reports on progress in promoting regional connectivity.

The Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific also comprises an online statistical database letting users formulate their own queries to generate tables, charts and maps; and a presentation of statistical information as concise country profiles offering a set of key indicators presented as charts highlighting changes over the last 20 years and comparison of individual member with regional and World averages.