Eradicating poverty: thinking beyond income


A rural woman in Peru.Many countries have already started taking an important step towards a new way of thinking about poverty. Photo: UNDP Peru.

Today, the 17th of October 2014, marks 21 years since for the first time the International Day for the Eradication of Extreme Poverty was celebrated. Notable progress has been made since then.

According to World Bank data, among the 115 low-income countries of the world, the proportion of people in extreme poverty (i.e. an income per person per day of US$1.25, adjusted for purchasing power parity) declined from 43.4 percent in 1990 to 17 percent in 2011; i.e. 912 million people were lifted out of extreme poverty over the past two decades.

This drop was mainly concentrated in East Asia and the Pacific, where the incidence of extreme poverty was reduced from 57 to 7.9 percent during the same period (i.e. 750 million people). In Southeast Asia, it dropped from 54.1 to 24.5 percent (221.5 million people).

In Latin America and the Caribbean, between 1990 and 2011, the incidence of extreme poverty dropped from 12.2 to 4.6 percent, i.e. 25.5 million Latin Americans no longer live in this extreme condition.

Two decades ago, poverty was defined in monetary terms, based on a consensus around the concept that income was an adequate measure to represent wellbeing.

Today, it is more readily acknowledged that well-being is something that must be seen within a much wider perspective, and therefore poverty must be understood by identifying deprivations in factors that go beyond personal income.

In the international arena, perhaps the most significant progress made in this regard has been the increased use of the notion of multidimensional poverty. With more or less detail, it is often measured based on nutrition and infant mortality, years of schooling and school attendance, type of housing and access to the basic supplies that this entails, as well as ownership of basic assets.

In September of next year, the member states at the United Nations will decide on the new global agenda for development. At the moment, the proposal that is most likely to be accepted on poverty includes the goal that, by 2030, extreme poverty as set by poverty-line income threshold of US$1.25 per day will be completely eliminated, and the proportion of people living in poverty – in all its dimensions according to the different definitions used in each country – will be halved.

From an optimistic perspective, this proposal implies that many countries have already started taking an important step towards a new way of thinking and furthering the wellbeing of individuals, and that many other countries will also do so in the near future.

Tell us – beyond income, what other material dimensions of well-being should also be considered?








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