The global economic crisis, its impact on women, children and the socially excluded in South Asia and new development paths

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Ponencia presentada por Gabriele Koehler (Directora del Departamento de Comunicación de la Secretaría General del UNCTAD: Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas para el Comercio y el Desarrollo), durante …

Ponencia presentada por Gabriele Koehler (Directora del Departamento de Comunicación de la Secretaría General del UNCTAD: Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas para el Comercio y el Desarrollo), durante las jornadas Infancia y Objetivos del Milenio: propuestas y retos para la cooperación internacional, organizadas por UNICEF España, Casa de América, Casa Asia y Casa África, los días 24 y 25 de marzo de 2010.

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  • Despite South Asia's resilience in the face of the world financial and economic crisis - internal risks remain very high. These risks relate to 1) economic insecurity in terms of lack of employment – a jobless recovery – and continuous low wages; 2) political risks due to socioeconomic polarisation and 3) climate related shocks. These risks are real for a vast majority of South Asia's population who are basically without formal protection. If there was a danger that inequality was increasing in the face of 'miraculous' South Asian growth rates through the last decade - then that danger is even higher now because the 'recovery' is being led by risk takers and financial regulation has not taken hold.  Some economists fear a double dip recession – i.e. a return of the economic crisis in the near future.
  • Steady growth at macro and per capita levels, India 5 th largest economy globally using PPP, and Maldives emerging as a middle income country
  • This is the “South Asian paradox” – higher than global growth rates coexisting with growing inequality and hunger. Global GDP is projected to decline by 1.3 percent in 2009, the GDP of advanced economies is expected to shrink by 4 percent and global trade is expected to contract by over 10 percent. Emerging market economies growth is projected at 1.6%. For South Asia, the GDP growth rate suggests relative insulation from the situation in developed countries and other developing regions. S. Asia expected to have among the highest growth rates in the world – averaging just over 5% during the recession and recovery. However, a sobering question is whether this growth is high enough for continued progress in reducing poverty and other MDGs Preliminary reviews for early 2009 show resilience at the macro-level in these export markets, this however has been at the cost of lower unit and monthly wages and more precarious working conditions However, South Asia is impacted by different transmission pathways. These macro-level impacts are via (a) balance of payments (good, capital and income flows, including aid and remittances); b) pass-through effect on domestic inflation; c) fiscal space and budgetary implications; and d) real GDP growth and other real sector risks. Many South Asian countries also faced disruptions in money, credit and stock markets as well. Countries most at risk are those who have low foreign exchange reserves and are heavily dependent on food and fuel imports.
  • Progress on the MDGs in South Asia is poorest in the areas of births attended, sanitation & water
  • This Figure relates the latest hunger estimates (as per cent of population) to the $1.25/person/day and $2/person/day `poverty’ lines calculated by the World Bank. The picture emerging is that although ‘hunger’ may be difficult to measure accurately, the scale of the problem in South Asia is large. The size of the population affected can range from 33 per cent estimated as visibly food insecure, to 74 per cent of the population living in households earning less than $2/day. These households typically spend 60-70% of their total expenditure on food and therefore are subject to considerable food insecurity when food prices rise. In countries with persistent and high inflation - such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka – almost the entire population earning less than $2/day faces food insecurity, as their household budgets are stressed beyond their means. When combined with the observation that for many South Asian countries per capita calorie consumption has remained stagnant, if not fallen, over the last fifteen years, despite rising per capita incomes, the challenge of hunger eradication in South Asia becomes significant; it is not only a matter of ‘access’ but also ‘adequacy’.
  • This new food insecurity overlays continuous malnutrition at extremely high levels by global standards and comparisons, and remains an outrage given the region’s economic prowess
  • The hunger count rose by more than 100m in 2 years – if the low end estimates are used (not incl. urban population in India). Including the urban population in India, the hunger count rose in South Asia by a huge 200m by the end of 2008 when compared to 2005/2006. Although no data for BTN and MDV are publicly available, about 1/3 rd of the population of BTN faces food insecurity. BTN imports its cereal requirements as does Maldives. GHI status – all countries “ALARMING”.
  • In addition to the direct consequences of the 3F crisis on the nutritional status of children and women, the crisis could have numerous additional effects linked to the detrimental coping mechanisms adopted by HH. This diagram (WFP 2009) shows a list of coping mechanisms linked to food shortages. It compares the situation in 2006, 7 and 8. We observe an increase in the intensity and severity of coping mechanisms. These coping mechanisms are not sustainable. The long term impact is that households are ultimately forced to decide whether they consume less now—increasing malnutrition and reducing health—or undertake strategies of coping which will ultimately leave them trapped in long term poverty. Education related coping: one in three families are regularly removing children from school. There are other coping mechanisms not shown on this diagram: School attendance may drop, children could be taken out of school and involved in labor, exposed to work-related risks. Early marriage and trafficking of children (both already high in Nepal) may also increase as households resort to more desperate coping mechanisms.
  • This shows the composition of government expenditure within social services.
  • Impact on the poorest households expected to be severe; overall numbers of affected people in South Asia could be staggering. Women and children, lacking control over assets to smoothen consumption in the face of price volatility, are especially vulnerable. All markets (financial and real) are adversely affected and domestic and international market access increasingly competitive. Unique moment for government intervention to smoothen socio-economic risk over the next few years of heightened vulnerability. A gender lens and awareness of risks of further increases in child labour in commodities and tail end of global value chains is needed, and can be built into public stimulus programmes. Paradigm shifts in the North an opportunity to introduce new efforts of governments and other players
  • The important point is that there are synergies between these areas. Risks however are considerable, in reference to social protection in particular: 1 - reduced contributions to social security (as a result of reducedr eturns on social security funds; declining employer contributions etc. due to the contagion effect) 2 - fiscal stimulus and incurring of high levels of debt to respond to the challenges 3 - reduced social spending (often across the board) to cut back on the debt that has accumulated during the fiscal stimulus period.


  • 1. The global economic crisis, its impact on women, children and the socially excluded in South Asia and new development paths Dr Aniruddha Bonnerjee, Kolkata Gabriele Köhler, UNICEF and UNCTAD UNICEF National Committee Spain: Children and the Millennium Development Goals Madrid, 24 -25 March 2010
  • 2.
    • South Asian economies – good macro performance; less crisis-affected than expected
    • Hunger and malnutrition – the silent South Asian crisis – magnified by the economic crisis and hitting the socially excluded the hardest
    • Households’ coping strategies with ad verse consequences for women and children and socially excluded groups
    • Expanded role of the state – global paradigm shift towards a developmental welfare state
    • Use e conomic stimulus packages to expedite MDG achievement and promote new development paths – for equitable development
    Main points
  • 3. South Asia Deaths per 1000 live births Total 2008 Source: UN_Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UNICEF, World Health Organization, United Nations Population Division and the World Bank)
  • 4.
    • South Asian economies – good macro performance; less affected by the economic crisis than initially anticipated but risks remain
  • 5.
    • South Asia as an economic powerhouse
      • International limelight on India and its neighbouring economies
      • But political violence and conflict in Afghanistan, Pakistan, parts of India, Nepal and Sri Lanka
      • Massive economic and social polarisation
      • MDGs not doing as well as they could
  • 6. South Asia: Per capita GDP in current US $
  • 7.  
  • 8. Progress on the MDGs: More red than green
  • 9. Source: Gordon The Distribution of Child Poverty in the Developing World. Report to UNICEF. Bristol, July 2003 South Asia lags behind the world
  • 10.
    • 2. Hunger and malnutrition – the silent South Asian crisis – magnified by the economic crisis and hitting the socially excluded the hardest
  • 11. Source: downloaded from
  • 12. Different faces of hunger and poverty (2005-2008) Source: Author calculations and World Bank Povcal data
  • 13. Child malnourishment in South Asia Source: State of the World’s Children, 2009. UNICEF
  • 14. Source: FAO database for 1970-2005/6. UN/WFP/UNICEF/Interagency mission reports and country specific DHS or HIES for 2007/8. Growing hunger in South Asia... Country 1970 1990 2005/6 2008 AFG 8-9 BGD 20.3 33.3 44.0 65 IND 218.3 261.3 209.5 230 - 350 NPL 6.7 7.7 4.4 6.5 - 10.5 PAK 16.9 23.6 37.5 80 - 88 LKA 2.7 3.0 4.2 5 - 10 South Asia 265+ 329+ 300+ 400 - 500+
  • 15. Social exclusion in South Asia
    • Based on class, caste, ethnicity, language, faith, location
    • Differences in human development outcomes
  • 16.  
  • 17.  
  • 18.  
  • 19.
    • 3. Households’ coping strategies with ad verse consequences for women and children and socially excluded groups
  • 20. Took children out of school (~32%) Coping with food shortages
  • 21. Coping strategies (example Pakistan)
  • 22.
    • Most vulnerable
    • persons under and around poverty line
    • women
    • socially excluded communities – caste, ethnic, minorities, disabled, people living with HIV/Aids,
    • children and the elderly
    • migrants - within country and cross border
    • internally displaced and refugee households
    • people in drought and conflict stricken areas
    • the informal sector
    • because of their precarious position in labour markets and in the household
  • 23.
    • 4. The South Asian developmental welfare state and the global paradigm shift
  • 24. Source: UNICEF ROSA, South Asia Fiscal Budget database , 2008
  • 25. South Asia and the policy horizon
    • Paradigm shift
      • Renewed interest in the public sector and the role of the state in the industrialized countries
      • Historical commitment to a developmental welfare state in South Asia
    • Ensure and accelerate MDG achievement
      • Address poverty, hunger and malnutrition (MDG 1)
      • Generate employment for the most vulnerable – Create decent work (MDG 1)
      • Ensure inclusive, high quality, universal social services (MDGs 2-7)
      • Support and enhance universal social protection ( supports MDGs 1-7 )
    South Asia and the policy horizon
  • 26.
    • 5. Use e conomic stimulus packages to expedite MDG achievement and promote new development paths – for equitable development
  • 27.
    • Additional financing for the most vulnerable
    • Food security
    • Trade – conclusion of Doha round and fighting protectionism
    • Green economy initiative
    • Global Jobs Pact
    • Social Protection Floor
    • Humanitarian security and social stability
    • Technology and innovation
    • Monitoring and analysis
  • 28. Fiscal Stimulus Plans Q4 2009-Q2 2010, %GDP
  • 29.
    • Fiscal stimuli: Counter-cyclical socio-economic policies
      • Creating decent work conditions and increasing incomes through employment schemes and social protection transfers
      • Raising domestic demand/expanding internal markets
      • Use stimuli to enhance social services delivery
      • Creating productive capacity
  • 30. A minimum set of actions
    • Urgently address the enormous problem of malnutrition in South Asia.
      • Begin or expand malnutrition prevention interventions before/during pregnancy;
      • Accelerate nutrition interventions to children under 2;
      • Ensure regular nutritional monitoring of children under 5 and pregnant women;
      • Rapidly scale-up supplementary and therapeutic feeding at community level to address severe acute malnutrition;
    • Rapidly expand inclusive access to basic and high-quality social services
      • Increase access to clean drinking water and improved sanitation;
      • Promote hand-washing with soap as one of the most effective public health actions;
      • Improve community empowerment to scale-up prevention and care;
      • Ensure inclusive, child-friendly, high-quality health and education, making sure primary health and education services are genuinely free, and involve communities.
    • Enhance publicly-financed employment and training schemes, particularly for youth.
      • Include child-relevant infrastructure improvements and staffing of schools, clinics, early childhood centers, in fiscal stimulus packages;
      • Expand protective services to address exploitation, violence and abuse;
      • Introduce or expand employment and training schemes, especially for youth, in manufacturing, the services industry, private entrepreneurship and government to address youth unemployment and disaffection.
    • Enhance and systematize social protection for all
      • Boost food and cash social transfers already in place to address food price hikes;
      • Consider the gradual introduction of a social protection floor, starting with a universal child benefit.
      • From UNICEF Regional Office South Asia June 2009 Matter of Magnitude
  • 31. Conclusion
        • Address hunger and malnutrition
        • Create employment – the decent work agenda
        • Ensure inclusive, high-quality, universal social services
        • Enhance social protection
        • Create productive capacity and finalise an equitable Doha development round
        • Promote new development paths – for equitable development