SEATTLE, Washington — Over the last several decades, global poverty levels have been dropping. According to World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, over a billion people have escaped impoverishment since the 1990s. The amount of people living on less than $1.90 a day decreased by 68 million between 2013 and 2015. However, COVID-19 impacts global poverty inextricably, especially for those vulnerable to slipping back into or already living in extreme poverty.
Previous Predictions Now Obsolete
Estimates made for future poverty rates as of last year are now inaccurate, and pre-coronavirus predictions for a steady decline in global poverty over the next decade are unreliable. Previously, predictions for 2021 extreme global poverty levels were 7.6% of the global population. Projections for 2030 were as low as 6.3%. This 2% decrease in global poverty would have accounted for an estimated 40 million people globally.
However, global poverty rates have increased since 2019 due to the pandemic, now resting around 9.9% in 2020. Rates this high have not been seen since 2015. New projections for 2021 global poverty rates are at 9.3% and at about 7% for 2030. While this is only a 0.7% increase from previous estimates, it is still a sizable difference for a decade-long period.
The impact of this growth in global poverty will have the most permanent effects in nations with highly vulnerable populations. This includes countries with high populations that have only recently escaped poverty or who have been living just above the extreme poverty line. Malnutrition, lack of education and other implications of poverty will become more apparent. Nations like India, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo may experience the most lasting ramifications.
How Countries Can Reverse Setbacks
The coronavirus pandemic has been a major historical event and the current economic climate is no longer what many consider normal. However, to overcome the resulting setbacks in global poverty levels countries will need to adapt to an altogether different economy following the pandemic. Capital, labor and skills must be allowed to move into new sectors to fuel economic growth.
As COVID-19 impacts global poverty, addressing the cycle of poverty is the first step in getting predictions of economic growth back on track. For an individual to escape poverty, they need access to education, sanitation and financial and mental support. Without these elements, a person will find it nearly impossible to escape poverty on their own. Increasing funding for such elements and providing vulnerable communities with greater access to basic necessities would allow for increased self-sufficiency. As a result, these populations could redirect economic growth and decrease poverty rates through their own actions.
The United Nations estimates that the required yearly cost of eradicating extreme poverty worldwide would be about $175 billion, which is less than 1% of the combined incomes of all the richest nations. With adequate financial support, these countries could eradicate poverty in developing regions, creating a more unified and cohesive world. In fact, it is in these nations’ best interest to do so. There are unavoidable benefits that drastically reducing extreme poverty would have on international safety and security along with commercial and intellectual innovation.
The average individual can help reduce global poverty through engagement in policymaking that impacts communities internationally, such as legislation that increases funding for key poverty-reducing sectors. Education and awareness are powerful tools in fighting global poverty. The more people are aware of how COVID-19 impacts global poverty rates and the facts behind the rates in general, the more people will be dedicated to reducing these rates.
– Natasha Cornelissen