We are closer than ever before to ending global poverty. In a little more than two decades, from 1990 to today, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty (surviving on less than $1.25 per day) has fallen from 40 to 20 percent around the world. During that period, more than 700 million people lifted themselves above that threshold.
We are on the right track, but we need to do more. Poverty is falling, but it is not falling fast enough. Moreover, in certain fast-growing developing countries, income inequality has widened considerably in recent years. As a result, the World Bank Group has adopted two new goals: end extreme poverty by 2030 and boost shared prosperity by maximizing income growth for the poorest 40 percent in every country. Two key groups can play a central role to help achieve these goals: the private sector and civil society.
The private sector has an essential role to play if we are to end poverty by 2030. Over the past two decades, poverty reduction has been driven by the creation of millions of new jobs -- and 90 percent of new jobs come from the private sector. We also need the private sector to meet emerging economies' demand for infrastructure investment. Total foreign assistance for all countries stands at $125 billion a year, a substantial sum but still far short of what is needed. Over the next five years, for example, India has a $1 trillion gap in infrastructure financing, meaning that all the foreign assistance in the world couldn't meet its infrastructure needs.
That means we must leverage precious aid dollars to spur new private investment in the developing world. The potential is enormous. There are trillions of dollars invested in low-yielding assets in high-income countries, such as U.S. Treasuries or German Bunds. Imagine what could be achieved if even a small portion of that money were instead invested in developing countries, where potential rates of return are far higher, and where partnerships between the public and private sectors could bring crucial infrastructure and other goods and services to those who need them most.
The World Bank Group is helping governments improve their business climates and attract higher levels of private investment. Last year, our private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, invested a record $20.4 billion in 103 developing countries, supporting 2.5 million jobs. Returns on these investments have been impressive: The average annual return on IFC's equity investments around the world over the last 15 years has been 20 percent.
My message to private sector leaders is this: Take your money off the sidelines. Use it to earn good returns in developing countries, while lifting millions out of poverty. The World Bank Group can help.
In building a movement to end global poverty, the other key component is civil society. Civil society plays a vital role not only in delivering services to the poor but also in building movements.