What is the poverty rate in southeast Asia?

The poverty rate in southeast Asia varies among the countries that comprise the region. Southeast Asia consists of 11 countries—Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. These countries are very diverse in religion, culture and history.

Here are the poverty rates in southeast Asia as compiled by World Population Review in 2021 and the World Bank:1


  • Burma (Myanmar) – 24.80%
  • Cambodia – 17.70%
  • Timor-Leste – 41.80%
  • Indonesia – 9.8%
  • Laos – 18.30%
  • Malaysia – 5.6%
  • Philippines – 21.60%
  • Thailand – 9.90%
  • Vietnam – 6.70%
  • Brunei – unavailable
  • Singapore – unavailable

The poverty rate in a country is the ratio of the number of people in a specific age group whose income falls below the poverty line. As a standard, the poverty line is living on $1.90 or less per day.

GFA World has been serving in Myanmar for many years, providing tangible help to the poorest of the poor. This country has a long history of conflict between ethnic groups. In fact, there are over 135 people groups in the country. Over the past 50 years, Myanmar’s economy, once prosperous, has plummeted. As you see above, the poverty rate is one of the highest in Southeast Asia. Natural disasters have contributed to this downturn. Cyclone Nargis in 2008, tsunamis, a drought, and a rat plague have destroyed much of the agriculture there. At present, rice paddies, sugarcane and peanut farming are common income-producing industries in Myanmar.

There are four regions in Myanmar:

The East Region: Bordering Laos and Thailand, this region is a beautiful area that includes Inle Lake. Income sources include mining, fishing, farming, honey, and poppies.

The West Region: Bordering India and Bangladesh, this region has sparsely populated areas and dense cities. The villagers breed cows, pigs, buffalo, chickens, and prawns. There is also a natural gas industry.

The North Region: This region is known for mining–jade, copper, gold, coal, sapphires, and rubies. Other industries include rice farming, fishing, and livestock.

The South Region: Fertile plains are scattered through this region and many people groups call it home. They work as fishermen, farmers, and ranchers.