International Day for the Eradication of Poverty - 17 October 2023

October 16, 2023

Employment should be a vector to lift people out of poverty, but this is only true if job quality is sufficient, including adequate earnings, job security and safe working environments. Photo: UNDP Mali

Our global community’s efforts to provide people with the means to untether themselves from the scourge of poverty has led to remarkable inroads. For instance, the share of the world’s workers living in extreme poverty was cut in half: from 14.3% in 2010 to 7.1% in 2019. Yet for one out of five global workers, a job is no guarantee of decent living conditions: some 630 million people are still considered as ‘working poor’. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed recent positive trends, subsequently exacerbated by a devastating cost-of-living crisis that has tipped millions of people into poverty worldwide. If current projections hold, an estimated 7% of the global population will still be living in extreme poverty by the end of this decade. How then, can we actively shape alternative futures?  

-First, countries must set the conditions to create decent jobs in cooperation with the private sector that creates some 90% of jobs in developing countries. In particular, a focus on inclusive growth, jobs and poverty reduction must be reconciled with decarbonization and a just energy transition. That is amongst the key messages of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) new SDG Insights Reports that provide real-world examples of countries such as Iraq, which is diversifying its economy by boosting employment opportunities away from fossil fuels to pursue development in a greener, more inclusive manner. Women are also a focus of UNDP support. Whether it’s supporting alternative energy grids in sub-Saharan Africa or seabuckthorn berry harvesting in the Himalayas, UNDP is creating conditions to ensure that women have the skills and resources to build their own wealth. 

-Second, countries must have the means to extend vital support to people experiencing poverty. Analysis by UNDP found that some 165 million people fell into poverty between 2020 to 2023 as debt servicing crowded out expenditures in critical areas like social protection, health, and education. Low-income countries are likely, on average, to allocate more than twice as much funding to servicing net interest payments as they do to social assistance. Yet solutions such as UNDP’s proposal for a Debt-Poverty Pause could mitigate this surge of poverty and lift out of it the 165 million people living on less than $3.65 a day. The estimated cost is approximately $14 billion or a meagre 0.009% of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022. 

-Third, there is a need to go beyond GDP and design the metrics of the future if we are to truly tackle the root causes of poverty and advance progress across the Global Goals. We must leverage a range of data and not merely categorize people as ‘poor’ or ‘not poor’ dependent on whether they earn $2.15 per day. Rather, there is a need to examine the intersectionality of deprivations: recurring patterns of poverty that commonly impact the day-to-day lives of people globally to better tackle it. Indeed, beyond GDP is one of the central reform agenda items for the Summit of the Future in 2024  -- an area where the United Nations (UN) is advancing the global thinking, informed by the human development approach.  

As part of the UN family, UNDP is committed to push new boundaries to consign poverty to history. That is an approach rooted in dignity where people take more precedence over profit.  

Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 

The theme of this year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October 2023 is Decent Work and Social Protection: Putting dignity in practice for all. Read this new UNDP feature story on poverty.