Two-thirds of the poor live in middle-income countries, says report

Senior staff reporter

Monday, July 15, 2019

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THE United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), in a report released last Thursday, say new data shows that the traditional concepts of poverty are outdated.

According to the report, of the 1.3 billion people who are multidimensionally poor, more than 886 million, or two-thirds, live in middle-income countries, and that data now demonstrate more clearly than before that it “no longer makes sense to think of countries as being rich or poor”.

“To get a full picture of poverty we need to look at both its depth and breadth. Average rates tell us nothing about the different ways people experience poverty. The global MPI (Multidimensional Poverty Index) provides this analysis, looking both at the numbers of poor people and the intensity of their poverty,” the report said.

The 2019 global MPI examined poverty through an inequality lens “to see who is catching up and who is being left behind”. People living in multidimensional poverty are deprived in at least one-third of the weighted indicators in health, education, and living standards.

The MPI looked at 101 countries comprising 5.7 billion people, or about 76 per cent of the world's population, and “paints a detailed picture of poverty around the globe, going beyond simple monetary measures to look at how people experience poverty every day. For example, it considered whether people were healthy, had access to clean water, or had been to school”.

According to the key findings, poorer countries tend to have not just higher numbers of people living in multidimensional poverty but also at a higher intensity, with each person suffering poverty more intensely.

It also found that some countries have a similar incidence of poverty but with variations in intensity, as in the case of Malawi and Nigeria, where just more than half of the population are multidimensionally poor, but with different levels of poverty.

“Poverty has many faces. Countries like Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, and Haiti show high levels of inequality among the poor, meaning that there is greater heterogeneity here among those living in multidimensional poverty,” the report said.

Disaggregating the global MPI by age revealed inequality across groups, with a higher proportion of children than adults multidimensionally poor, and the youngest children bearing the greatest burden.

“Of the 1.3 billion people who are MPI poor, nearly half of them (a total of 663 million) are children and 32 per cent (428 million) are younger than 10. The poverty rate for children is twice as high as for adults; one in three children is multidimensionally poor, while for adults it is one in six. Children are more likely than adults to be multidimensionally poor and deprived in all indicators — that is they suffer poverty with a higher intensity,” according to the report.

It found, too, that despite progress in all the countries surveyed, rural areas were still poorer than urban areas and children remained poorer than adults, although there have been positive trends in reducing these gaps in Haiti, India and Peru, where poverty reduction in rural areas outpaced urban areas.

“Child poverty fell markedly faster than adult poverty in Bangladesh, Haiti, India, and Peru. However, in the other countries studied children either fell further behind, as in Ethiopia, or their progress stalled together with adults as in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan.”

The UNDP stressed that multiple lenses are needed to track poverty and inequality as poverty is complex, with little or no correlation between economic inequality and MPI.

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