The global coronavirus pandemic has erased some 9.3 million jobs in Southeast Asia, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The reason behind this is the pandemic induced lockdowns that bashed the region's traditional engines of growth such as hospitality and tourism, Bloomberg reported quoting an ADB report.
The job loss pushed 4.7 million people to extreme poverty last year, measured as living on less than $1.90 a day, said the ADB report published on Wednesday.
Besides, inequality in the region has also widened as a result of movement restrictions. Such restrictions hit hardest the retail and informal sectors, where women, young people and unskilled workers are typically employed.
"The pandemic's impact on poverty and unemployment will likely persist as inactive workers become de-skilled and poor people's access to opportunities further deteriorates," the ADB said. "When this happens, the deterioration in inequality could transfer across generations."
The report further noted that green shoots are emerging with close to 60% of Southeast Asia's population vaccinated and public mobility rebounding.
Meanwhile, gross domestic product is expected to grow 5.1% this year, though the omicron wave could slash this by as much as 0.8 percentage points.
Equipping small businesses with digital tools and providing skills training for displaced workers will ensure they're not left behind in the "new normal" of work, the ADB said.
"Increasing health spending to 5% of GDP, from 3% in 2021, will also improve disease surveillance and add 1.5 percentage points to growth."