Introduction: Inequality and Exclusion in Southeast Asia.

AuthorLee, Hwok-Aun

Inequality presents challenges to countries the world over. Persistent gaps in income, wealth and opportunity, and entrenchment of power and privilege resonate globally and regionally. Waves of popular discontent towards a system perceived or experienced as unfair serve notice to governments, and can influence the outcome of elections. Inequality is a flourishing subject of empirical study and policy advocacy. International agencies, notably the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), have given prominence to the problem, with attention to disparities within countries and between countries, regional trends, and changing distributional dynamics over time (UNDESA 2013; UNCTAD 2012).

Disparities in economic opportunity and entrenchment of privilege, mirrored in the concentration of wealth and influence in the top 1 per cent, have attracted particular interest in these times (Atkinson, Piketty and Saez 2011). Piketty (2014) has also shone light on the increasing share of income going to capital instead of labour, and the importance of analysing distributional issues jointly with economic growth and production, as interrelated and co-dependent phenomena. Milanovic (2011) argues that inequality is a problem in terms of sustained economic performance, social cohesion and political stability. Gallas et al. (2016) collate a set of country studies and thematic studies, striving to include more cases of inequality in the South and to provide a labour perspective.

The realization of inequality as a defining issue of our time, in both academic and political spaces, took a sharp turn after the Global Financial Crisis of 2008/2009. International non-government organizations (NGOs), the World Bank, and more recently the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have since joined the fray, commissioning more studies and policy papers on inequality. Oxfam, drawing on Credit Suisse data, has established itself as a voice of conscience--estimating global wealth concentration and advocating policy responses to broad, popular audiences (Oxfam 2017).

Inequality also resonates closer to the region of this journal's focus. The Asian Development Bank's 2012 Development Outlook, themed "Confronting Rising Inequality in Asia", and the recently published Demystifying Rising Inequality in Asia (Huang, Morgan and Yoshino 2019), have drawn attention to the phenomena in the continent. These...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT