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 2015, 10 percent of the world’s population lived on less than US$1.90 a day, compared to 11 percent in 2013. That’s down from nearly 36 percent in 1990. 
    • Nearly 1.1 billion fewer people are living in extreme poverty than in 1990. In 2015, 736 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:

    • Two regions, East Asia and Pacific (47 million extreme poor) and Europe and Central Asia (7 million) have reduced extreme poverty to below 3 percent, achieving the 2030 target.
    • More than half of the extreme poor live in Sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, the number of poor in the region increased by 9 million, with 413 million people living on less than US$1.90 a day in 2015, more than all the other regions combined. If the trend continues, by 2030, nearly 9 out of 10 extreme poor will be in Sub-Saharan Africa.
    • The majority of the global poor live in rural areas, are poorly educated, employed in the agricultural sector, and under 18 years of age. 

    The work to end extreme poverty is far from over, and many challenges remain. In much of the world, growth rates are too slow, and investment is too subdued to increase median incomes. For many nations, poverty reduction has slowed or even reversed. The latest projections show that if we continue down a business-as-usual path, the world will not be able to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. That’s because it is becoming even more difficult to reach those remaining in extreme poverty, who often live in fragile countries and remote areas.

    Access to good schools, health care, electricity, safe water, and other critical services remains elusive for many people, often determined by socioeconomic status, gender, ethnicity, and geography. The multidimensional view—wherein other aspects such as education, access to basic utilities, health care, and security are included—reveals a world in which poverty is a much broader, more entrenched problem. The share of poor according to a multidimensional definition that includes consumption, education, and access to basic utilities is approximately 50 percent higher than when relying solely on monetary poverty.

    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, 2019

  • 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 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. Important national and global challenges are standing in the way of progress and are keeping large pockets of people trapped in poverty. Slow growth, macroeconomic imbalances, escalating trade tensions, high levels of inequality in income and opportunities, climate change, and increasing fragility and conflict pose obstacles to further poverty reduction and inclusive growth.

    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.

    With more than 60 percent of the world’s extreme poor living in middle-income countries, we cannot focus solely on low-income countries if we want to end extreme poverty by 2030. We need to focus on the poorest people, regardless of where they live, and work with countries at all income levels to invest in their well-being and their future.

    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.

    Our work at the World Bank Group is based on strong country-led programs to improve living conditions—to drive growth, raise median incomes, create jobs, fully incorporate women and young people into economies, address environmental and climate challenges, and support a stronger, more stable economy for everyone.

    This is no easy task, and the road ahead will not be simple or straightforward, but this is at the core of what we do every day at the World Bank Group, and we will continue to work closely with countries to help them find the best ways improve the lives of their least advantaged citizens.

    Last Updated: Oct 02, 2019

  • 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.
    • Mexico has experienced high income inequality and concentration of poverty in a few states. The World Bank Group has supported Mexico’s efforts to develop a more inclusive, effective, and integrated social protection system including relaunching a conditional cash transfer program to help improve access to higher education and formal employment.
    • In one of India’s poorest states, Bihar, a program financed by the World Bank has transformed livelihoods by mobilizing almost 10 million rural women into self-help groups and granting them access to finance and markets to start and expand their businesses.

    Invest

    • A pilot program in Ecuador used text messages to relay information and encouragement to caregivers in an impoverished region of the country and saw a significant improvement in the nutrition and health of children.
    • Balochistan, a province embroiled in conflict, had one of the worst education indicators among four provinces in Pakistan. An education project was designed to address a complex set of challenges arising from ethnic conflict, community disengagement, political interference and weak governance and management in the education sector. From 2015 to 2018, the project has helped to enroll 53,000 previously out-of-school children and has helped build new or renovate buildings in over 700 schools.
    • Even though real GDP growth increased marginally between 2015 and 2016, economic growth in Afghanistan has been slow. The World Bank Group’s support has been focused on helping Afghanistan build strong and accountable institutions, ensure inclusive growth, and deepen social inclusion. As part of this, one of the programs helped build over 1,100 schools and six teacher training colleges with almost 9 million children now enrolled. 
    • Findings from a World Bank report show that the prospects of too many people around the world are still too closely tied to their parents’ social status rather than their own potential. Low levels of upward mobility are particularly pronounced in the developing world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. The study points to three broad pathways—fostering equal opportunities for children, nurturing aspirations, and tailoring development interventions at the local-level—forward to increasing economic mobility from generation to generation.
    • In-depth maps in countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Croatia, Republic of Serbia, and Vietnam show where economic diversity and gaps in services exist within a country. This, as part of the poverty assessment process, helps policymakers better target policies and programs to reach and benefit the poor.

    Insure

    • Cash transfers are a small yet effective way to help women take charge of their lives and empower them to make financial decisions. Egypt’s ‘Takaful and Karama’ cash transfer program has covered 2.26 million households or approximately 10 percent of the population. The program is helping women have some financial-decision making power to improve their household consumption, quality of diet and meet their family needs.
    • Conflict-affected communities in Mindanao are among the poorest in the Philippines, suffering from poor infrastructure and lack of basic services. The World Bank along with other partners have aimed to enhance access to services and economic opportunities and build social cohesion. These projects have help build water systems, community centers, sanitation facilities, access roads, post-harvest facilities, and farming and fishing equipment, benefiting 650,000 people in 284 villages in a decade.
    • On April 25, 2015, Nepal experienced a 7.8-magnitude earthquake, followed by more than 460 aftershocks, which caused around 9,000 casualties. A post-disaster needs assessment underscored the importance of ensuring safer housing reconstruction for around 715,000 houses that were destroyed or severely damaged. The Nepal Earthquake Reconstruction Project relied extensively on technology solutions to assess post-earthquake housing damage to determine beneficiaries’ eligibility for receiving housing reconstruction grants. As of August 2019, 680,000 households have enrolled into the program of which approximately 397,000 houses have been fully reconstructed.
    • 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 02, 2019

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MULTIMEDIA

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VIDEO Oct 17, 2018

New ways of looking at poverty



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Additional Resources

Contact

1818 H Street, NW Washington, DC 20433
Elizabeth Howton
ehowton@worldbankgroup.org