Although Pacific Asia understandably has a reputation for its urban industrial development, it is nevertheless the case that most people in the region still live and work in rural areas (Figure 4.1). More people are classified as rural than work in agriculture (or fisheries), however. This is mainly due to employment in rural non-farm occupations; but in the more urbanized countries it is also a symptom of rural commuting to urban areas and the advance of suburbanization. There is, of course, substantial variation within Pacific Asia in the importance of the rural sector and this cuts across political affiliations. Thus there are both capitalist and socialist countries that are still predominantly rural.
It is, perhaps, not surprising that in view of the levels and density of rural populations, and in the light of colonial and post-colonial emphasis on primary exports, that rural production levels in Pacific Asia are high in comparison to the rest of the Third World and continue to rise at a rapid rate, despite the shift of population into the urban areas. As Figure 4.2 implies, there is a distinction to be made between food and non-food production, but within the former there is another distinction to be made between subsistence and commercial food production. It is an unfortunate fact of life that many agriculturally rich countries produce primarily for export, so that many poor rural dwellers still suffer undernutrition and poverty in the midst of plenty.