Where do we stand?

Proportion of employed people living below $1.25 (source: The Millennium Development Goals Report 2012)

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Quick facts

  • The proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 47 per cent in 1990 to 24 per cent in 2008—a reduction from over 2 billion to less than 1.4 billion.
  • Preliminary estimates indicate that the global poverty rate at $1.25 a day fell in 2010 to less than half the 1990 rate. If these results are confirmed, the first target of the MDGs— cutting the extreme poverty rate to half its 1990 level—will have been achieved at the global level well ahead of 2015.

Overall poverty rates

The world is on track to meet the MDG target of halving the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day. Overall poverty rates fell from 46 per cent in 1990 to 27 per cent in 2005 in developing regions, and progress in many developing countries is being sustained. This is despite setbacks caused by the 2008-09 economic downturn and the effects of the food and energy crises. However, even if these positive trends continue, in 2015, roughly 920 million people would still be living under the international poverty line of $1.25 a day, as adjusted by the World Bank in 2008.

Success in Asia

Achievements so far are largely the result of extraordinary success in Asia, mostly East Asia. Over a 25-year period, the poverty rate in East Asia fell from nearly 60 per cent to under 20 per cent. Poverty rates are expected to fall to around 5 per cent in China and 24 per cent in India by 2015.

Little Progress in sub-Saharan Africa

In contrast, little progress has been made in reducing extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, where the poverty rate has declined only slightly, from 58 to 51 per cent between 1990 and 2005. Sub-Saharan Africa, Western Asia and parts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia are the few regions not expected to achieve the MDG poverty reduction target.

Effects of the economic crisis

The World Bank estimates that the effects of the economic crisis will push an additional 64 million people into extreme poverty in 2010, and that poverty rates will be slightly higher in 2015 and beyond than they would have been without the crisis, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern and South-Eastern Asia.

Progress unsatisfactory

The proportion of people suffering from hunger is declining, but at an unsatisfactory pace. Even though the proportion of people worldwide suffering from malnutrition and hunger has fallen since the early 1990s, progress has stalled since 2000-2002. The estimate of the number of people who will suffer chronic hunger this year is 925 million, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN — down from 1.023 billion in 2009, but still more than the number of undernourished people in 1990 (about 815 million).

Undernourished children

Between 1990 and 2008, the proportion of underweight children under five declined from 31 per cent to 26 per cent in developing regions with particular success in Eastern Asia, notably China. Despite such improvements, progress is currently not fast enough to reach the MDG target, and particular focus is required in Southern Asia. This region alone accounts for almost half the world’s undernourished children. In all developing regions, children in rural areas are nearly twice as likely to be underweight as those in urban areas.

2015: Time for Global Action

Ensuring that leaders take ambitious decisions to reduce poverty and inequality and protect our planet this year is everyone’s responsibility.

Here’s how you can do your part...