South Asia Extreme Poverty Falls, but Challenges Remain

October 15, 2015

WASHINGTON, October 15, 2015 – The number of people living in extreme poverty in the South Asia Region is likely to have fallen to 13.5 percent of the region’s population in 2015, according to new World Bank forecasts, giving fresh evidence that South Asia has been an important contributor to the quarter-century-long sustained global reduction in poverty.

Globally, according to Bank estimates released earlier this month, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty will likely fall to 9.6 percent this year. The update comes ahead of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17. The Bank is mobilizing around the day with partners because achieving its goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity will require an extraordinary collective effort that must be accompanied by improved data on poor people everywhere.

“While there has been impressive progress made towards reducing poverty due to strong growth and resilience in South Asian countries, the region is still home to a very large number of the poor,” said Annette Dixon, World Bank South Asia Region Vice President. “Across the world, jobs are the main avenue out of poverty.  Vibrant urbanization and private sector development can support faster job creation. Investments in quality education, healthcare, and social protection can lead to better jobs.”

The World Bank is using an updated international poverty line of $1.90 a day, which incorporates new information on differences in the cost of living across countries. The new line preserves the real purchasing power of the previous line (of $1.25 a day in 2005 prices) in developing countries. Using this new line (as well as new country-level data on living standards), the World Bank projects that extreme poverty in South Asia would fall to 13.5 percent in 2015, compared to 18.8 percent in 2012.

The updated global poverty line and rate are based on newly-available price data from across the world- impacting not only where the global poverty line is drawn, but the cost of basic food, clothing, and shelter needs of the poorest around the world. However, this global measure is only one of many important measures to track in order to better reach the poor and vulnerable. In an effort to improve data quality, as part of the Bank’s End Poverty campaign efforts this week, the Bank is launching an initiative to expand data collection for the poorest countries in the world.

“South Asian countries show potential for accelerated growth in the short to medium term and this should translate into continued poverty reduction.” World Bank South Asia Chief Economist Martin Rama said. “But the region may also experience an increase in inequality, which calls for increased efforts to attend to the needs of the vulnerable, especially those in the bottom 40 percent.”   

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