Saturday 17th October saw the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Whilst the title isn’t that catchy, this UN observance day has been designated to promote awareness of the need to eradicate poverty and destitution in all countries. Poverty eradication is also at the heart of the new Global Goals, with Goal No. 1 aiming to end poverty in all its forms and for everyone by 2030.
This may seem like an impossible task but we are moving towards a world free from poverty. In 1990, 1.9 billion people lived in extreme poverty (living on less than $1.25, around 80p, a day). In 2015, this has dropped to 836 million. Furthermore, 25 years ago nearly half of the population (47%) in the developing world lived in extreme poverty. This is now 14%. Extreme Poverty has been cut in half in the past 20 years, and if we keep going at this current rate, we can bring it to ZERO by 2030.
Last week the World Bank made an important announcement- a change in the extreme poverty line from $1.25 to $1.90. The figure has been changed to reflect the increasing cost of living across countries around the world and how much each person needs to survive. The previous $1.25 was based on purchasing power parity based on 2005 figures and the new figure on the US dollar exchange rate of 2011.
The new figure will more adequately reflect the minimum amount you need to survive on a day to day basis. Many people would have argued $1.25 was far too low, even in the poorest countries to achieve even a basic standard of living. However, it is important to note that this figure will be understood differently in countries around the world as food, water, and essential services and provisions cost varying amounts dependent on location.
Consequently, with a change in the poverty line, the number of people living in extreme poverty will also change overnight. With a rising figure, you may expect the number of people living below the line to dramatically increase too, but, you would be wrong.
The World Bank estimates that the number of people living below the new extreme poverty line is likely to fall to under 10% of the global population by the end of 2015. A drop from 902 million in 2012 (12.8% of the global population) to 702 million by the end of 2015 (9.6%).
However, there is still work to be done. The number of people who live in extreme poverty may be reducing but there is evidence to suggest that poverty is becoming more entrenched and inequality is a rising, and dominant issue.
Poverty is also concentrated in certain parts of the world, and geographically this has changed considerably since 1990. Back 25 years ago, more than half of the global poor lived in East Asia, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for 15%. In 2015, this has almost completely reversed. Poverty levels in sub-Saharan Africa have not dropped at the speed as other countries and regions and it is ultimately lagging behind global progress; the extreme poverty rate in 2015 was 35.2% of the population, compared to single digit figures in East Asia and Latin America and 13.5% in South Asia.
Overall, we can be confident that the number of people living below the extreme poverty line is decreasing. This is something we should celebrate! We should also acknowledge the people, tools and organisations which have helped make this happen; from Government donors and independent funders, to global partnerships and civil society, and individual campaigners who continue to fight for the world they want to see.
However, we cannot give up yet. We will continue to create the public and political will to end poverty, will you join us?