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In my post yesterday I mentioned the potential correlation between mean population weight and poverty.

While the graphic provided gave some idea of the spread of population weight (no pun intended) there was no data illustrating the prevalence of poverty, an omission this post seeks to address.

Again the figures are somewhat dated, but some data sourced from the Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2011 is provided below.


For those readers uncertain on interpreting the graph, the gap between the dark blue and light blue bars indicate the extent that the percentage of national population in poverty has shrunk over the period (Turkey appears the exception in poverty levels having increased).

In a Southeast Asian context the standout performer in reducing poverty appears to be Vietnam, but the overall picture is more complex and, as I mentioned here, not necessarily encouraging in leading to future political stability.

One figure that helps illustrate how wealth (or increased wealth) is distributed within a country is what is known as the Gini coefficient, an aggregate measure of inequality that takes into account the complete distribution of income. And, how fortunate, the same source as above has that data too.


On this measure Vietnam (like every other Southeast Asian state except Malaysia) hasn’t done so well, but I accept that judging increasing inequality as inherently undesirable is infused with personal values.

I will conclude by flagging that the above measures of inequality, being a few years old, may have hinted at the evolution of contemporary politics in the most unequal Southeast Asian countries.

Looking at the five most income unequal countries in the region (the Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia), the respective domestic political landscapes in late 2016 feature a strongman leader, a strongman leader, a strongman leader, structural suppression, and a nation that narrowly rejected a strongman leader just two years earlier.

This affinity for authoritarian political leadership amidst stubborn levels of inequality is possibly more than a correlation, and may in fact reflect an inherent tendancy in regional politics.