To mark the 25th annual International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, also known as “Poverty Day,” we wanted to take a moment to review the success of international efforts to reduce extreme poverty by 2015—the original United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG1) objective—and provide a fresh look at MCC’s evolving role to eliminate poverty around the world.
In the push to end global poverty, the common refrain is that we have seen unprecedented momentum towards this end over the past two decades, but questions remain on whether progress is likely to continue or stall in the days ahead. The publication of 2015 PovcalNet data from the World Bank provides a new opportunity to evaluate progress at the global, regional and country levels—both over the long term and more recently.
At a global level, we have far exceeded the MDG1 target of halving the proportion of people living in poverty by 2015. Using the international poverty line of $1.90 a day, PovcalNet data showed that poverty in 2015 had dropped all the way to 10 percent, just over one third of where we were in 1999 (28.6 percent). While we should celebrate this progress to date, there are two other concerning trends worth highlighting.
First, poverty rates are not falling fast enough. The latest data shows that the global poverty rate declined from 11 percent in 2013 to 10 percent in 2015, a change of just one percentage point compared to the almost five percentage point drop between 2002 and 2005. At this rate, we will not meet the global goal of eliminating poverty by 2030.
Second, aggregating progress at a global level masks significant regional disparities. For example, Asian regions have seen economic advancement and sharp declines in poverty, due in large part to rapid growth in India and China. From 1999 to 2015, poverty in South Asia declined by over 60 percent—an outstanding achievement if this figure were not dwarfed by an almost 95 percent decrease in poverty in East Asia and the Pacific.