Conference on Inequality and Exclusion in Southeast Asia

Inequality presents challenges to countries the world over, and captures substantial research and policy attention. Disparities in income, wealth and opportunity, and entrenchment of power and privilege, resonate globally and regionally as issues of economic, social and political import. Asia’s major economies, notably China, India and Japan, have recorded rising inequality since the 1990s. Southeast Asia shows a mix of trends. From the mid-1990s to the late 2000s, income or expenditure inequality grew in Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam, but dropped in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. The 2010s have seen more countries reduce income gaps, according to official data. Nonetheless, inequality levels remain high, and these macro snapshots, based on national survey data and aggregate indicators such as the Gini coefficient, only tell part of the story. Across the region, societies express discontent toward economic systems perceived to be leaving many in the lurch.

Southeast Asian nations have broadened access to education and health services, and maintained relatively low unemployment rates, but inclusion in the growth process for a majority of the population increasingly depends on the quality of education, skills and jobs, and access to social protection. Governments across the region are acutely mindful of social expectations that the economic system must deliver benefits to the lower and middle income segments, and improve the livelihoods of successive generations.

This conference presents eight Southeast Asian country cases. Each study provides an overview of inequality in income, wealth and opportunity, a discussion of salient features of inequality and exclusion, and a deeper dive into a country-specific issue under one of these overarching themes: elite power and meritocracy, spatial and inter-group disparity, structural change and informal economies. Drawing on the analysis of inequality patterns and underlying factors, the studies conclude by outlining policy implications and challenges.

Attendance to the Conference is free of charge but registration is required by 23 July 2019.

As seats are limited, please register early.  Admission to the Conference can only be taken as confirmed upon receiving the written acceptance from ISEAS.

For any queries, please feel free to e-mail

Best wishes

Dr Lee Hwok Aun and Mr Christopher Choong

You may download the programme and registration form below:

1) Programme

2) Registration Form


Jul 25 2019


9:30 am - 5:30 pm


ISEAS Seminar Room 1 & 2