My research focuses specifically on women from the region who live below the poverty line, which, for East Asia and the Pacific, the World Bank defines as living on less than US$3.20 a day.
In Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam – among the poorest Southeast Asian nations – between 13% and 47% of the population is living in poverty. The number is significantly lower in better-off Brunei and Singapore.
On the whole, women in these countries fare well enough compared to their peers in other developing regions in terms of literacy, employment, political participation and the right to organise. But this has not translated into greater gender equality. …
In poor families in Southeast Asia, up to 80% of household income is spent on food, yet undernutrition remains a huge problem in Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Indonesia and, to a lesser extent, in Vietnam.
If women were provided with sufficient income to feed their families, it would translate into better nutrition, health and general well-being for children and others entrusted in their care, and by extension, their communities.
There is evidence that giving women a specifically calibrated amount of money – regularly, and with no strings attached – could make a big difference in such settings.
After the NGO GiveDirectly first started its UBI program in a Kenyan village in 2016, it offered some residents US$22 a month The entire community quickly saw positive effects, according to a February 2017 assessment of the program in the New York Times. And residents hope that the experiment, which is scheduled to last for 12 years, will gradually lift them out of poverty.
Universal basic income could work in Southeast Asia — but only if it goes to women