The World Bank Group’s mission is carved in stone at our Washington headquarters: “Our Dream is a World Free of Poverty.” This mission underpins all of our analytical, operational, and convening work in more than 145 client countries, and is bolstered by our goals of ending extreme poverty within a generation and promoting shared prosperity in a sustainable manner across the globe.
There has been marked progress on reducing poverty over the past decades. The world attained the first Millennium Development Goal target—to cut the 1990 poverty rate in half by 2015—five years ahead of schedule, in 2010. Despite this progress, the number of people living in extreme poverty globally remains unacceptably high.
- According to the most recent estimates, in 2011, 17 percent of people in the developing world lived at or below $1.25 a day. That’s down from 43 percent in 1990 and 52 percent in 1981.
- This means that, in 2011, just over one billion people lived on less than $1.25 a day, compared with 1.91 billion in 1990, and 1.93 billion in 1981.
- Progress has been slower at higher poverty lines. In all, 2.2 billion people lived on less than US $2 a day in 2011, the average poverty line in developing countries and another common measurement of deep deprivation. That is only a slight decline from 2.59 billion in 1981.
Moreover, while poverty rates have declined in all regions, progress has been uneven:
- East Asia saw the most dramatic reduction in extreme poverty, from 78 percent in 1981 to 8 percent in 2011. In South Asia, the share of the population living in extreme poverty is now the lowest since 1981, dropping from 61 percent in 1981 to 25 percent in 2011. Sub-Saharan Africa reduced its extreme poverty rate from 53 percent in 1981 to 47 percent in 2011.
- China alone accounted for most of the decline in extreme poverty over the past three decades. Between 1981 and 2011, 753 million people moved above the $1.25-a-day threshold. During the same time, the developing world as a whole saw a reduction in poverty of 942 million.
- In 2011, just over 80 percent of the extremely poor lived in South Asia (399 million) and Sub-Saharan Africa (415 million). In addition, 161 million lived in East Asia and Pacific.
- Fewer than 50 million of the extremely poor lived in Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia combined.
The work is far from over, and a number of challenges remain. It is becoming even more difficult to reach those remaining in extreme poverty, who often live in fragile contexts and remote areas. Access to good schools, healthcare, electricity, safe water and other critical services remains elusive for many people, often determined by socioeconomic status, gender, ethnicity, and geography. Moreover, for those who have been able to move out of poverty, progress is often temporary: economic shocks, food insecurity and climate change threaten to rob them of their hard-won gains and force them back into poverty. It will be critical to find ways to tackle these issues as we make progress toward 2030.
Last Updated: Apr 06, 2015