A new report released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative reveals good news where global poverty alleviation is concerned.

According to the 2018 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), 271 million Indians moved out of poverty between 2005-06 and 2015-16. “The poverty rate here [India] has nearly halved, falling from around 55% to around 28% over the 10-year period,” the report added. In fact, India is the first country for which progress over time has been estimated.

According to UNDP, the MPI looks beyond income to understand how people experience poverty in multiple and simultaneous ways. It identifies how people are being left behind across three key dimensions: Health, education and living standards. Those who are deprived in at least a third of the MPI’s components are defined as multidimensionally poor.

Among the South Asian countries, only Maldives boasts lower MPI of 0.007 than India (0.121). Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan and Afghanistan all boast higher incidences of multidimensional poverty.

“The Multidimensional Poverty Index gives insights that are vital for understanding the many ways in which people experience poverty, and it provides a new perspective on the scale and nature of global poverty while reminding us that eliminating it in all its forms is far from impossible,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner, adding, “Although the level of poverty – particularly in children – is staggering, so is the progress that can be made in tackling it.”

The global MPI covers 105 countries in total, home to 75% of the world’s population, or 5.7 billion people. Of this proportion, 1.3 billion are identified as multidimensionally poor, and half of them are younger than 18 years old. Predictably, 83% of the world’s poor live in South Asia and Africa. The latest data further reveals the vast majority of the multidimensional poor – 1.1 billion people – live in rural areas around the world, where poverty rates are four times higher than among those living in urban areas.

Here’s more bad news: According to the report, India still has the largest number of people living in multidimensional poverty (364 million people). Keeping us company are Nigeria (97 million), Ethiopia (86 million), Pakistan (85 million) and Bangladesh (67 million).

The report added that although India’s traditionally disadvantaged groups such as rural dweller, lowers castes/tribes, Muslims and children were still the poorest in 2015-16, they showed the biggest reductions in MPI in the 10-year study period, showing that they have been “catching up”.

“Across nearly every state, poor nutrition is the largest contributor to multidimensional poverty. Not having a household member with at least six years of education is the second largest contributor. Insufficient access to clean water and child mortality contribute least,” read the report, adding, “Relatively fewer people living in poverty experience deprivations in school attendance – a significant gain.”

Despite the district-level data for the country showing “deep pockets of poverty” – Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh accounted for more than half of the country’s poor – improved MPI was largely the leitmotif.

While the MPI’s core data look at those who are poor, and the subset who are severely poor, the numbers also look at those very close to becoming poor. These people are living precariously and struggling to remain above the poverty line. Approximately 880 million people across the world are at risk of being categorised as multidimensionally poor.

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