Overview

  • 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 the progress made in reducing poverty, the number of people living in extreme poverty globally remains unacceptably high. And given global growth forecasts poverty reduction may not be fast enough to reach the target of ending extreme poverty by 2030.

    •  According to the most recent estimates, in 2013, 10.7 percent of the world’s population lived on less than US$1.90 a day, compared to 12.4 percent in 2012. That’s down from 35 percent in 1990. 
    • Nearly 1.1 billion people have moved out of extreme poverty since 1990. In 2013, 767 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day, down from 1.85 billion in 1990. 

    While poverty rates have declined in all regions, progress has been uneven:

    • The reduction in extreme poverty between 2012 and 2013 was mainly driven by East Asia and Pacific (71 million fewer poor) –notably China and Indonesia—and South Asia (37 million fewer poor) –notably India. 
    • Half of the extreme poor live in Sub-Saharan Africa. The number of poor in the region fell only by 4 million with 389 million people living on less than US$1.90 a day in 2013, more than all the other regions combined. 
    • A vast majority of the global poor live in rural areas and are poorly educated, mostly employed in the agricultural sector, and over half are under 18 years of age. 

    The work to end extreme poverty 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 02, 2016

  • 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. The fact that there has been such progress in the world, however, tells us that a few things are working. Experience shows that in order to sustainably reduce poverty, countries need to:

    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.

    The World Bank Group’s 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, to invest in people’s health, education, nutrition, and sanitation, 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.

    This goal to end poverty works hand in hand with the World Bank Group’s goal to promote shared prosperity, focused on increasing the income growth among the bottom 40 percent in every country. Boosting shared prosperity broadly translates into improving the welfare of the least well-off in each country, and includes a strong emphasis on tackling persistent inequalities that keep people in poverty from generation to generation.

    Last Updated: Oct 02, 2016

  • 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:

    Grow

    • An agricultural project in the Enugu state of Nigeria is helping farmers, particularly female farmers, increase productivity for rice, cassava, and sorghum crops. Thanks to the project, farmers are able to pay for their children’s education and ensure their household’s food security. 
    • 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.

    Invest

    Insure

    • A rural electrification project in Mozambique supports the expansion of photovoltaic solar energy programs and contributed to building new transmission lines and distribution networks, expanding access to electricity.
    • To support the expansion of its social safety nets, Argentina increased the effectiveness of its income transfer programs for the unemployed and for families with children, benefitting 78,500 unemployed workers and more than 2.5 million children.
    • High-frequency data collection initiatives, such as Listening to Africa and Listening to Tajikistan can complement traditional household surveys and help identify urgent public needs.

    Last Updated: Oct 07, 2015

In Depth

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IDA: Our Fund for the Poorest

The International Development Association (IDA) aims to reduce poverty by providing funding for programs that boost economic growth.

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Ending Extreme Poverty and Sharing Prosperity: Progress and Policies

The policy note examines policies needed to accelerate progress toward achieving a world free of poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

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Systematic Country Diagnostics

The SCD looks at issues in countries and seeks to identify barriers and opportunities for sustainable poverty reduction.

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The Pulse of South Sudan

Through surveys, the initiative gathers data on poverty and also collects video testimonials from people on their living conditions.

Additional Resources

Contact

1818 H Street, NW Washington, DC 20433
Maura K. Leary
mleary@worldbank.org