Despite decline in extreme poverty, broader measures show billions still struggle to meet basic needs
Economic advances around the world mean that while fewer people live in extreme poverty, almost half the world’s population — 3.4 billion people — still struggles to meet basic needs, the World Bank said.
Living on less than $3.20 per day reflects poverty lines in lower-middle-income countries, while $5.50 a day reflects standards in upper-middle-income countries, the World Bank said in its biennial Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report, “Piecing Together the Poverty Puzzle.”
The World Bank remains committed to achieving the goal of ending extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.90 a day, by 2030. The share of the world’s population living in extreme poverty fell to 10 percent in 2015, but the pace of extreme poverty reduction has slowed, the Bank warned on Sept. 19.
However, given that economic growth means that a much greater proportion of the world’s poor now live in wealthier countries, additional poverty lines and a broader understanding of poverty are crucial to fully fighting it, the report says.
“Ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity are our goals, and we remain committed to them,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “At the same time, we can take a broader view of poverty at different levels and dimensions around the world. This view reveals that poverty is more widespread and entrenched, underlining the importance of investing in people.”
While rates of extreme poverty have declined substantially, falling from 36 percent in 1990, the report’s expanded examination of the nature of poverty demonstrates the magnitude of the challenge in eradicating it.
Over 1.9 billion people, or 26.2 per cent of the world’s population, were living on less than $3.20 per day in 2015. Close to 46 percent of the world’s population was living on less than $5.50 a day.
The report also goes beyond monetary measures of poverty to understand how access to adequate water and sanitation, education, or electricity affect a family’s well-being. And since the burdens of poverty often fall most heavily on women and children, the report analyzes how poverty can vary within a household.
The report finds that the incomes of the poorest 40 per cent grew in 70 of the 91 economies monitored. In more than half of the economies, their incomes grew faster than the average, meaning they were getting a bigger share of the economic pie.
However, progress in sharing prosperity lagged in some regions of the world. The report also warns that data needed to assess shared prosperity is weakest in the very countries that most need it to improve.
Only one in four low-income countries and four of the 35 recognised fragile and conflict-affected states have data on shared prosperity data over time.
The new measures allow the World Bank to better monitor poverty in all countries, in multiple aspects of life, and for all individuals in every household.