Inclusive and sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific is threatened by cascading and compounding risks emanating from global complex shocks, including the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the global cost of living crisis. An additional 165 million people are projected to have fallen into poverty globally using the $3.65-a-day poverty line, living exclusively in low and low-middle income countries. The region is in the midst of a rapid demographic transition, and one out of every four persons in the region are projected to be over sixty years or older by 2050. The region is not well prepared to provide peace and prosperity to its people as about half of the region’s population has no social protection coverage, and almost 70 per cent of all workers are in informal employment, mostly outside the legal framework of contributory schemes. Many of them are women, as their labor supply decisions are negatively affected by the disproportionate burden of unpaid domestic and care work relative to men.
Achieving inclusive and sustainable development will become even more challenging as the impacts of climate change manifest themselves across Asia and the Pacific. It is estimated that even under the 1.5°C global warming scenario, 85 per cent of Asia-Pacific's population will be exposed to multi-hazard risks. Climate change and rising socioeconomic inequalities are inextricably linked, with severe negative effects on the lives and livelihoods of marginalized people in vulnerable situations who lack the capacity and resources to cope with complex shocks.
The cost of inaction today is rising with severe impacts disproportionally falling on unprotected individuals in vulnerable situations, particularly in intensifying and emerging hotspots of multi-hazard risk. In the absence of universal social protection, they have not been able to recover from the recent shocks and are becoming chronically vulnerable to future shocks. Millions will be left behind.
In this context and despite fiscal and debt sustainability pressures, stronger and more flexible social protection systems are needed to support transformative adaptation and just transition and build resilience for all. Particular efforts are required to mitigate intersecting vulnerabilities among the poor and people in vulnerable situations. Reconceptualization and enhancements are needed to strengthen social protection systems and align them with climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.
Against this background, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is dedicating its upcoming flagship publication, Social Outlook for Asia and the Pacific 2024, to future proofing social protection. The Report is expected to (i) review key social development trends, (ii) assess the latest status of social protections systems across the region, (iii) build forward-looking scenarios to future proof social protection in the face of demographic transition, climate change and digitalization (iv) explore cost of requisite action and potential financing mechanisms, and (v) and provide policy recommendations at national and regional levels. The Report will be based on a variety of empirical methods that analyze publicly available and internationally comparable data along with a forward-looking approach based on strategic foresight tools.
The primary objective of this Expert Group Meeting (EGM) was to identify and deliberate on critical issues that will impact social protection systems in the future, given the rapid transitions taking place amid global complex shocks and megatrends. Since the issues at hand are multisectoral in nature, the EGM brought together experts from different fields including climate change, demography, digital technologies and serve as a forward-looking and future-oriented platform to develop scenarios and identify solutions with a view to build inclusive and resilience social protection systems across Asia and the Pacific. The ensuing discussions would be directly featured in ESCAP’s flagship publication in 2024 entitled “Social Outlook for Asia and the Pacific: Future Proofing Social Protection”.
3. Organization and Participation
The EGM drew participation from experts in academia, think-thanks, research institution, the United Nations system entities and governments. It was organized in-person from 21 to 22 November 2023 at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok. The meeting was conducted in English. The EGM was facilitated by a strategic foresight expert and include a variety of tools and practices in groups to elicit requisite information from all participants in support of drafting of Social Outlook.
The programme for each session is provided on the Programme tab.