SEATTLE —This year marks a significant turning point for the war on poverty. It is the end of work on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the initiation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030. As 2015 nears a close, now is a good time to reflect upon some of the results of the war on poverty.
The U.N. implemented a target goal to cut poverty rates in half between 1990 and 2015. They reached this goal in 2010, five years early. Now, only 22 percent of the global population lives below the poverty line. The number of undernourished people has also decreased by half.
In addition, education development and debt relief have allowed 57 million more children to attend school than in 2000.
The World Bank provides some interesting facts about poverty rates over this time period in various regions of the world. They include the following:
- According to the most recent estimates, in 2012, 12.7 percent of the world’s population lived at or below $1.90 a day. That’s down from 37 percent in 1990 and 44 percent in 1981.
- This means that, in 2012, 896 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day, compared with 1.95 billion in 1990, and 1.99 billion in 1981.
Moreover, while poverty rates have declined in all regions, progress has been uneven:
- East Asia saw the most dramatic reduction in extreme poverty, from 80 percent in 1981 to 7.2 percent in 2012. In South Asia, the share of the population living in extreme poverty is now the lowest since 1981, dropping from 58 percent in 1981 to 18.7 percent in 2012. Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa stood at 42.6 percent in 2012.
- China alone accounted for most of the decline in extreme poverty over the past three decades. Between 1981 and 2011, 753 million people moved above the $1.90-a-day threshold. During the same time, the developing world as a whole saw a reduction in poverty of 1.1 billion.
- In 2012, just over 77.8 percent of the extremely poor lived in South Asia (309 million) and Sub-Saharan Africa (388.7 million). In addition, 147 million lived in East Asia and Pacific.
- Fewer than 44 million of the extremely poor lived in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia combined.
The World Bank says that the work to relieve global poverty is far from over, and a number of challenges remain. “It is becoming even more difficult to reach those remaining in extreme poverty, who often live in fragile contexts and remote areas,” the organization says. “Access to good schools, healthcare, electricity, safe water and other critical services remains elusive for many people, often determined by socioeconomic status, gender, ethnicity, and geography.”
“Moreover, for those who have been able to move out of poverty, progress is often temporary: economic shocks, food insecurity and climate change threaten to rob them of their hard-won gains and force them back into poverty. It will be critical to find ways to tackle these issues as we make progress toward 2030.”
Sources: Borgen Project, World Bank 1, One, World Bank 2, UN, UNICEF, WFP, World Bank 3