Ask anyone, be it your colleague, your house help or the neighbourhood vegetable vendor, whether the poor are indeed getting poorer as the adage goes and you will likely hear a resounding 'yes'. In fact, according to Our World In Data - an online project produced by the Oxford Martin Programme on Global Development at the University of Oxford - across the world, 52 per cent of people believe that the share of people in extreme poverty is rising.
But the opposite is true, according to a study. Citing World Bank data and older data culled by Bourguignon and Morrison in a 2002 paper, the portal notes that "The share of people living in extreme poverty across the world has been declining for two centuries and in the last 20 years this positive development has been faster than ever before". Note that the International Poverty Line, which identifies extreme poverty and corresponds to $1.90 per person per day, was set by the World Bank in 2015, so the older data uses the measure of 'one dollar per day'.
In fact, absolute poverty has dived nearly 90 per cent since 1820, which is even more remarkable when you factor in a 7-fold jump in global population in the same time frame. Significantly, while 55% of the world population was living in extreme poverty in 1950, the number dropped to 24% around 1990. The number of people living in absolute poverty has fallen more than 60 per cent in the past 28 years.
In 1990, there were 2 billion people living in extreme poverty, which dropped to 705 million in 2015. This means that on average, the number of people living in extreme poverty reduced by 137,000 every single day in that 25-year period. "Recently this decline got even faster and, in the seven years from 2008 to 2015, the headline could have been 'Number of people in extreme poverty fell by 217,000 since yesterday'," the report added.
Of course, there's no dearth of critics who say that the above picture on extreme global poverty is misleading because international institutions deliberately choose an absurdly low poverty line. But even if you assume higher poverty lines, the results remain impressive. According to the portal, if you think the poverty line should instead be $1,000 per year, in 2003, 48 per cent of the world population lived in extreme poverty. "And 10 years later, in 2013, 29 per cent was below this line. A decline of 20 percentage points in one decade relative to this higher poverty line!" Our World In Data added.
The World Bank took to Twitter to share similar data recently. "The fight against extreme #poverty is far from over, but let's not forget how far the world has come. Progress is possible!" tweeted Kristalina Georgieva, World Bank's CEO along with an infographic showing that since 2012-13, around 100 million people have been lifted from extreme poverty. In another tweeted infographic, it shared worrying statistics, like 44 per cent of those living in extreme poverty across the globe are 14 years old or younger.
The good news, according to the World Bank, is that in 2010, the world attained the first Millennium Development Goal target - to cut the 1990 poverty rate in half by 2015 - five years ahead of schedule. The bad news is that despite all these strides made in combating poverty, we are likely to miss the target of ending extreme poverty by 2030.
Edited By Sushmita Choudhury Agarwal
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