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 2012, 12.7 percent of the world’s population lived at or below $1.90 a day. That’s down from 37 percent in 1990 and 44 percent in 1981.
  • This means that, in 2012, 896 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day, compared with 1.95 billion in 1990, and 1.99 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 80 percent in 1981 to 7.2 percent in 2012. In South Asia, the share of the population living in extreme poverty is now the lowest since 1981, dropping from 58 percent in 1981 to 18.7 percent in 2012. Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa stood at42.6 percent in 2012.
  • 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 $1.90-a-day threshold. During the same time, the developing world as a whole saw a reduction in poverty of 1.1 billion. 
  • In 2012, just over 77.8 percent of the extremely poor lived in South Asia (309 million) and Sub-Saharan Africa (388.7 million). In addition, 147 million lived in East Asia and Pacific.
  • Fewer than 44 million of the extremely poor lived in Latin America and the Caribbean, 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: Oct 07, 2015

The World Bank Group’s first goal, to end extreme poverty within a generation, has the specific target of decreasing the global extreme poverty rate to no more than 3 percent by 2030, since a small amount of frictional poverty is likely to persist. This is possible but challenging, and business as usual will not be enough to reach that target going forward. It will be important to promote growth that is sustained and inclusive, to create more and better jobs, and to develop effective safety net programs to ensure that the most vulnerable can persevere in the face of shocks. While economic growth is vital, the quality of that growth also matters.

The second goal, to promote shared prosperity in every country, is measured by the growth in income among the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution in each country, but broadly translates into a focus on the welfare of the least well-off in each country. This goal works alongside the poverty goal, and includes a strong emphasis on tackling persistent inequalities that keep people in poverty from generation to generation.

There is no silver bullet to ending poverty, and strategies to reach the least well-off must be tailored to each country’s context, taking into account the latest data and analysis and the needs of the people. To succeed in reducing poverty, countries need to do three things:

  • Grow in an inclusive, labor-intensive way.
  • Invest in the human capital of people, especially those who are unable to benefit from basic services due to circumstances beyond their control.
  • Insure poor and vulnerable people against the shocks that can push them deeper into poverty- things such as severe weather, pandemics, food price variability, and economic crises. 

Last Updated: Oct 07, 2015

The World Bank Group works to end poverty in a number of ways- from funding projects that can have transformational impacts on communities, to collecting and analyzing the critical data and evidence needed to target these programs to reach the poorest and most vulnerable, to helping governments create more inclusive, effective policies that can benefit entire populations and lay the groundwork for prosperity for future generations.  Some examples:


  • large-scale rural roads project in India that helps connect rural families to urban markets, better schools, and cleaner water;
  • cross-cutting analytical report that helped set a new standard for measuring poverty in Haiti, and aids the government in better targeting programs and policies
  • Poverty and Social Impact Analysis—for example, on trade barriers in Africa–to help partner governments and other stakeholders understand what impact proposed policies and programs may have on poor people, and on inequality of income and opportunity.



  • rural electrification project in Bangladesh that uses solar power systems to keep the lights on for millions of families, tackling climate change and basic service delivery at the same time.
  • High-frequency data collection initiatives, such as in Liberia andSierra Leone during the Ebola crisis, to complement traditional household surveys and help identify urgent public needs.
  • A public finance reform program in the Dominican Republic, including Conditional Cash Transfers to improve social protection for the poor.

Last Updated: Oct 07, 2015