‘Rapid progress’ on global poverty

Rapid progress is being made in reducing poverty in developing countries, according to new analyses based on the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). A United Nations agency report says the growth of developing countries is reducing poverty on an 'unprecedented' scale. And a detailed study of 22 developing countries from Oxford University finds that 18 have reduced multi-dimensional poverty significantly.

The UN report examines the latest state of human development across the globe on the basis of health, education and income indicators – calculating poverty by reference to the MPI. A briefing from the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) looks at the recent performance of a sample of 22 countries in terms of reducing poverty.

Key findings

  • The rapid growth of developing countries, says the UN report, is reducing poverty on an unprecedented scale – greater than during the Industrial Revolution.
  • More than 40 developing countries have made bigger human development gains than experts had predicted. That contrasts with many developed countries, where austerity measures in the wake of the global economic crisis have meant cuts to social programmes.
  • Out of 22 developing countries examined over time in the OPHI study, 18 have reduced multi-dimensional poverty significantly – and most have reduced it faster than income poverty. The top-performing countries have reduced both the headcount and the intensity of multi-dimensional poverty, according to the MPI.
  • If the current pace of poverty reduction continues, the OPHI says, half the countries concerned will have eradicated multi-dimensional poverty within 20 years, and 18 out of 22 within 41 years. The remaining four would, however, still take another 95 years to achieve that goal.

A separate working paper from the OPHI describes the MPI in more detail. The MPI is a measure of acute poverty, understood as a person's inability to meet simultaneously minimum international standards in indicators related to the Millennium Development Goals and to core functionings. The paper analyses the scope and robustness of the index, focusing on the data challenges and methodological issues involved. The authors conclude that the MPI offers a reliable framework that can complement global income poverty estimates.

Sources: Khalid Malik, Human Development Report 2013: The Rise of the South - Human Progress in a Diverse World, United Nations Development Programme | Sabina Alkire and José Manuel Roche, How Multidimensional Poverty Went Down: Dynamics and Comparisons, Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative | Sabina Alkire and Maria Emma Santos, Measuring Acute Poverty in the Developing World: Robustness and Scope of the Multidimensional Poverty Index, Working Paper 59, Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative
LinksReport | UNDP press release | OPHI briefing | Oxford University press release | OPHI working paper | OPHI press release | Guardian report