of the world’s population in 2015, the World Bank said on Sunday as it revised its benchmark for
measuring the problem.
Extreme poverty has long been defined as living on or below $1.25 a day, but the World Bank’s adjustment now sets the poverty line at $1.90 a day.
The Bank said the change reflects new data on differences in the cost of living across
countries, while preserving the real purchasing power of the previous yardstick.
Using the new benchmark, the World Bank projects that 702 million people or 9.6 percent of
the world’s population will be living in extreme poverty in 2015, down from 902 million
people or 12.8 percent of the global population in 2012.
The global development lender attributed the continued fall in poverty to strong economic
growth rates in emerging markets, particularly India, and investments in education, health,
and social safety nets.
“… these projections show us that we are the first generation in human history that can end
extreme poverty,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in a statement.
However, he warned that slower global growth, volatile financial markets, conflicts, high youth unemployment and the impact of climate change were obstacles to meeting a U.N. target
to end poverty by 2030, part of a new set of development goals adopted by 193 countries at the
United Nations last month.
“But it remains within our grasp, as long as our high aspirations are matched by country-led plans that help the still millions of people living in extreme poverty,” Kim added.
According to the Bank, around half of those living in extreme poverty by 2020 will hail from hard-to-reach fragile and conflict-affected states. Sub- Saharan Africa accounts for some
half of the global poor.
Expects said the prospect of emerging economies losing steam could challenge promises
to eradicate extreme poverty.
“If economic growth of the developing world over the last 15 years was an anomaly, was
a blip, then we’re in trouble,” said Laurence Chandy, a fellow at the Brookings Institution
whose research focuses on global poverty.
“If instead it’s a kind new normal then we’ve got a good chance of getting close to this goal,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The World Bank first introduced a global poverty line
in 1990, setting it at $1 a day. It was adjusted last in 2008, when the group raised it to $1.25 a day.
Across the planet, the number of people living in extreme poverty has dropped by more than half since 1990, when 1.9 billion people lived under $1.25 a day, compared to 836 million in 2015, according to the United Nations.
This follows the adoption in 2000 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which included the eradication of extreme poverty.