Social Outlook 2022



The Workforce We Need

The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is the most inclusive intergovernmental platform in the Asia-Pacific region. The Commission promotes cooperation among its 53 member States and 9 associate members in pursuit of solutions to sustainable development challenges. ESCAP is one of the five regional commissions of the United Nations. The ESCAP secretariat supports inclusive, resilient and sustainable development in the region by generating action-oriented knowledge, and by providing technical assistance and capacity-building services in support of national development objectives, regional agreements and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Chapter 1

A healthy, protected and productive workforce built around people-centred development

Chapter 2

The need for more and better jobs

Chapter 3

The need for Universal Health Coverage

Chapter 4

The need for social protection

Chapter 5

Policy recommendations for a healthy, protected and productive workforce


The protection we want : social outlook for Asia and the Pacific

UNESCAP 01 January 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for well-functioning social protection systems in the region as never before. A new UN report reveals that despite their rapid socioeconomic ascent, most countries in the Asia-Pacific region have weak social protection systems riddled with gaps.

The Social Outlook 2020 report reveals that despite their rapid socioeconomic ascent, most countries in the Asia-Pacific region have weak social protection systems riddled with gaps.

The report outlines the situation regarding social protection in the region and provides a series of recommendations for how its scope and reach can be enhanced.

Social outlook for Asia and the Pacific : poorly protected

UNESCAP 26 November 2018

The Social Outlook for Asia and the Pacific lays out new arguments and evidence for the critical and urgent need to increase investment in people, particularly in social protection.

Developing countries in Asia and the Pacific only spend about 3.7 per cent of GDP on social protection, compared to the world average of 11.2 per cent. This under investment is the reason why 60 per cent of the population in the Asia-Pacific region has no protection if they fall ill, have a disability, become unemployed, pregnant or old. With 1.2 billion people living on less than $3.20 per day, of which 400 million live on less than $1.9 per day, social protection is an essential strategy to tackle poverty and deprivation.

The evidence for increasing the level of investment in people in Asia and the Pacific is overwhelming: around 328 million people would be lifted out of moderate poverty and 52 million would move out of extreme poverty, if countries in the region matched the global averages of spending on education, health and social protection. Countries in the region do not have to wait to become rich to start investing in people. Even low income and lower-middle income countries can boost social spending, as evidenced by some first movers across the region.

Sustainable social development in Asia and the Pacific : toward a people-centered transformation

UNESCAP 15 May 2017

The Asia-Pacific region’s impressive economic growth and remarkable achievements in poverty reduction have not succeeded in closing gaps in income between the rich and poor, nor the unequal access to, for example, health care and education among other basic services. These gaps disproportionately affect women and the most vulnerable segments of society. They also hamper inclusive growth, undermine social cohesion and contribute to unsustainable production and consumption patterns. In short, these social development gaps undermine efforts to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Sustainable Social Development in Asia and the Pacific summarizes the social development gaps as countries in the region take steps to achieve the SDGs, and sketches out a broad regional agenda for a people-centred transformation, outlining some of the key priorities and resources needed. The policy simulations reported here clearly indicate that acceleration of economic growth alone would not address the remaining development gaps. Changing the development paradigm to ensure more decent jobs, complemented by broadened coverage of social protection and universal education and health care is critical for eliminating extreme poverty from the region and achieving the other SDGs. Asia and the Pacific is already the most dynamic region in the world. By harnessing the potential of its people, the region can also be at the forefront of a global social transformation for a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable future for all.

Time for equality : the role of social protection in reducing inequality in Asia and the Pacific

UNESCAP 31 December 2015

Social protection is central to ESCAP’s vision of a resilient Asia and the Pacific founded on the principles of shared prosperity, social equity and sustainability. Since its establishment in 1947, ESCAP has promoted social protection as part of an overall strategy of reducing inequality, particularly addressing the exclusion of the most vulnerable groups, and offering a path out of poverty and dependence.

This report explores the linkages between inequality and social protection. Overall, it argues that inequality, in its multiple forms, is on the rise in Asia and the Pacific, and that this is having an adverse impact on sustainable development. The report provides evidence that social protection is an effective instrument to reduce inequalities, and, by so doing, contributes to the integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. While countries in the region are increasingly.

Recognizing the importance of social protection, important coverage gaps still remain. It is encouraging, nevertheless, that substantial steps are being taken to ensure that all individuals have access to income security and health care along the life-course.