Rich and poor divide set to widen if pandemic impact runs unabated, new UN report says

Posted May 10, 2021


New York, 10 May 2021 – The COVID-19 pandemic will expand the divide between rich and poor around the world and reverse gains made towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to new analyses from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Pardee Centre for International Futures at the University of Denver. 

The analysis shows that eight out of ten people that could become poor by the end of this decade as a result of the pandemic will live in the world’s poorest countries and that an additional 41 million more people will live in extreme poverty in low and medium human development coun-tries by 2030. 

But the study also shows that strategic policy decisions made now could not only reverse the development losses caused by the pandemic, but bring countries closer to achieving the SDGs. 

“We are providing decision-makers with ambitious solutions to turn this trajectory from one of high damage, sending millions more into poverty in the poorest countries, to one that will not only address the harm caused by COVID-19 but put countries on a direct path towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator. “With this bold approach, investing in governance, social protection, green recovery and digitalization, we could see 100 million people in the poorest countries lifted out of poverty within this decade.”

On April 27 UNDP launched new cutting-edge research, which analyzes COVID impact on the SDGs by modelling three potential recovery scenarios for 2030 and 2050

The study assesses the multi-dimensional effects of the pandemic and pathways for SDG pro-gress, focusing on the 68 countries with low or medium human development (as per the 2020 Human Development Index).

This study can support governments and partners to practically plot evidence-based, high-impact policy choices for the long term. 

In Malawi, for example, which ranks 174th on the Human Development Index, extreme poverty could drop by about nine percentage points by 2030 by using the report’s accelerated pro-poor policy push. Timor Leste, with an HDI ranking of 141, could register a poverty drop by seven percentage points.