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. In October 2015, the World Bank projected for the first-time, that the number of people living in extreme poverty was expected to have fallen below ten percent. 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.
- Progress has been slower at higher poverty lines. Over 2.1 billion people in the developing world lived on less than US $ 3.10 a day in 2012, compared with 2.9 billion in 1990- so even though the share of the population living under that threshold nearly halved, from 66 percent in 1990 to 35 percent in 2012, far too many people are living with far too little.
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: Apr 13, 2016