Global poverty ‘as high as 1.5 billion’

Over one-fifth of the world's population – some 1.5 billion people – live in poverty according to national poverty measures, says a United Nations think-tank study. This is significantly higher than the extent of poverty arrived at using international poverty measures.

Key points

  • 22.5 per cent of the world's population live in 'poverty' as locally defined. This is about 16.6 per cent higher than the level measured by a $1.25 a day international poverty line, and around 60 per cent higher than using a $2 a day line (both measures used by the World Bank).
  • When analysed with an international poverty line, poverty is limited to middle-income and low-income countries. But if national poverty lines are considered instead, poverty is of a more global nature. Surprisingly perhaps, high-income countries host about 10 per cent of global 'poverty' as nationally defined.
  • A shift in emphasis towards national poverty lines might pave the way to addressing poverty reduction as a more domestic issue, involving national social contracts, rather than one purely about international aid.
  • All governments across the income spectrum need to strengthen domestic poverty-reducing efforts, and should be accountable for their performance. This may generate a virtuous circle at both global and national levels around achieving 'nationally defined global targets'.

Source: Ugo Gentilini and Andy Sumner, What Do National Poverty Lines Tell us about Global Poverty?, Working Paper 98, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (United Nations Development Programme)