Absolute poverty likely to fall under 10 percent of world population in 2015: World Bank

Nevine Kamel, Lima, Peru , Monday 5 Oct 2015

'This is the best story in the world today’ says World Bank president

File photo: A woman and her child stand in a shack in al-Gayyara slum next to Old Cairo in December 2010 (Photo: Reuters)

The percentage of the world’s population living in absolute poverty is likely to drop below 10 percent this year according to World Bank projections released today, giving fresh evidence that a quarter-century-long push to end global poverty by 2030 might succeed.

The Bank uses an updated international poverty line of $1.90 a day, which incorporates new information on differences in living costs across countries (PPP exchange rates). The new line preserves the real purchasing power of the previous line ($1.25 a day in 2005 prices) in the world’s poorest countries.

Using this new line and new national-level data on living standards, the World Bank projects that global poverty will fall from 12.8 percent of the population (902 million people) in 2012 to 9.6 per cent (702 million people) this year.

Actual poverty data from low income countries comes with a considerable lag. The World Bank released the information on the eve of its annual meeting in Lima, Peru, based on the latest available data.

Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank’s president, said the continued substantial reductions in poverty are thanks to strong growth rates in developing countries in recent years, investment in education, health and social safety nets that help keep people from falling back into poverty.

Kim did, however, caution that with global economic growth slowing and many of the world’s poor living in fragile and conflict-affected states, and considering the depth and breadth of the remaining poverty, the goal of eradicating extreme poverty remains highly ambitious.

“This is the best story in the world today - these projections show us that we are the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty,” Kim said.

“This new forecast of poverty falling into the single digits should give us new momentum and help us focus even more clearly on the most effective strategies to end extreme poverty. It will be extraordinarily hard, especially in a period of slower global growth, volatile financial markets, conflicts, high youth unemployment, and the growing impact of climate change. But it remains within our grasp, as long as our high aspirations are matched by country-led plans that help the still millions of people living in extreme poverty.”

In April 2013, nine months after Kim became president of the World Bank Group, its Board of Governors endorsed two goals: to end extreme poverty by 2030 and to boost shared prosperity by raising the incomes of the bottom 40 percent globally.

Kim said that further reductions in poverty rates would come from evidence-based approaches including: broad-based growth that generates sufficient income-earning opportunities; investing in people’s development prospects through improving the coverage and quality of education, health, sanitation; protecting the poor and vulnerable against the risk of sudden unemployment, hunger, illness, drought and other calamities.

These measures, Kim said, would also greatly boost shared prosperity, improving the welfare of the least well-off in every country.

“With these strategies in place, the world stands a vastly better chance of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and raising the life prospects of low-income families,” said Kim.

Poverty remains concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia

For the last several decades, three regions - East Asia and Pacific, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa - have accounted for some 95 percent of global poverty. Yet the composition of poverty across these three regions has shifted dramatically. 

In 1990 East Asia accounted for half of the world’s poor, and some 15 percent lived in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2015 these figures are reversed, with Sub-Saharan Africa thought to house half the world’s poor, with some 12 percent living in East Asia.

Poverty is declining in all regions but it is becoming deeper and more entrenched in countries that are either conflict-ridden or overly dependent on exports.

The increasing concentration of poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa is of great concern. While some countries there have seen significant successes in reducing poverty, the region as a whole lags behind the rest of the world in reducing poverty.

Sub-Saharan poverty fell from an estimated 56 percent in 1990 to a projected 35 percent in 2015. Rapid population growth remains a key factor blunting progress in many countries—as this year’s World Bank Global Monitoring Report, to be launched on 8 October, shows.

In its regional forecasts for 2015, the World Bank said that poverty in East Asia and Pacific would fall to 4.1 percent of the population, down from 7.2 per cent in 2012. In Latin America and the Caribbean it will fall to 5.6 percent down from 6.2 in 2012. South Asia would see a fall to 13.5 percent in 2015, compared to 18.8 percent in 2012.

Sub-Saharan Africa comes down to 35.2 percent compared to 42.6 per cent in 2012.

Reliable up-to-date poverty data is not available for the Middle East and North Africa because of conflict and fragility in key countries.

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