Inequality of Opportunity in Asia and the Pacific: Education

The ESCAP Inequality of Opportunity papers place men and women at the heart of sustainable and inclusive development. The papers do so by identifying seven areas where inequality jeopardizes a person’s prospects, namely: education; women’s access to health care; children’s nutrition; decent employment; basic water and sanitation; access to clean energy; and financial inclusion. Each of these opportunities are covered by specific commitments outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and addressed in a separate thematic paper covering 21 countries throughout Asia and the Pacific.

ESCAP first discussed inequality of opportunity in its 2015 report Time for Equality and established the distinction between inequality of outcome and inequality of opportunity. While the former depicts the consequences of unequally distributed income and wealth, the latter is concerned with access to key dimensions necessary for fulfilling one’s potential.

The present papers build on the work of many scholars and the findings from Time for Equality. It applies a novel approach to analysing household surveys with the aim of identifying the groups of individuals with the lowest access to the above-referenced opportunities. These groups are defined by common circumstances over which the individual has no direct control.

In addition to identifying the furthest behind, the Inequality of Opportunity papers also explore the gaps between in-country groups in accessing the key opportunities, as well as the extent to which these have narrowed or widened over time. These inequalities are then analysed to identify the impact and importance each key circumstance plays.

Ultimately, these findings are of direct use for generating discussion on transformations needed to reach the “furthest behind first” as pledged in the 2030 Agenda.

Inequality of Opportunity in Asia and the Pacific: Education