Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Extreme Poverty Falls, Even Amid Economic Recession

Boston Globe: Economic Downturn did not Harm Efforts at Reducing Extreme Poverty in Developing World
Business Standard: Extreme Poverty Drops Worldwide
World Bank: World Bank Sees Progress Against Extreme Poverty, But Flags Vulnerabilities

A new World Bank report finds that the number of people living in extreme poverty—defined as living on less than $1.25 a day—in the developing world has fallen every year between 2005 and 2008, the most recent year where complete data is available. Additionally, according to preliminary data from 2010, the recent global economic recession, which many experts thought would lead to an increase in extreme poverty, instead has only slowed the rate of reduction.

Global attempts at reducing extreme poverty have been notable. In 1981, 1.94 billion people in the developing world lived below $1.25 per day. However, by 2008 that number dropped to 1.29 billion, a reduction of over 600 million people. Poverty reduction has been so rapid that the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme poverty in half from its 1990 level has already been achieved, well before the 2015 deadline.

Progress has been especially dramatic in East Asia. In 1981, the region was the poorest in the world, with approximately 77% of the population living in extreme poverty. By 2008, the percentage had dropped to only 14%. In South Asia, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty dropped from 61% to 36% between 1981 and 2008. In Latin American and the Caribbean, the population living in extreme poverty remained relatively constant at 12% between 1981 and 2002. However, since 2002, extreme poverty has been declining rapidly. In 2005 extreme poverty fell to 9% and by 2008 the number had fallen further to 6%.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region of the world that has made the least progress since data collection began in 1981. In 1981, 51% of Sub-Saharan Africa lived in extreme poverty, but that percentage rose to 59% in 1993. Some progress has since been made, as the percentage of people in extreme poverty fell from 56% to 52% between 2002 and 2005. In 2008, the population living in extreme poverty was 48%—the first time in the region’s history that less than half of the population was not living in extreme poverty.

Despite the significant reduction in poverty, the World Bank believes additional progress needs to be made. At the current rate of progress, over one billion people will still live in extreme poverty by 2015. Additionally, while many people have escaped extreme poverty, these people remain extremely poor by middle- and high-income country standards. For example, many of those who have escaped extreme poverty now live on less than $2 a day, as evidenced by another recent study showing there has been only a 5% reduction in the number of people living on less than $2 a day between 1981 and 2008 (from 2.59 to 2.47 billion in 1981 and 2008 respectively). This data suggests that while 600 million people have escaped extreme poverty between 1981 and 2008, many of those people remain in dire financial positions. In total, 22% of the developing world still lives in extreme poverty and 43% lives on less than $2 a day. The World Bank hopes that the current trends will continue and world poverty will continue to decline.

No comments: