A total of 415 million people moved out of poverty in India within just 15 years from 2005/2006 to 2019/2021, the UN said on Tuesday, highlighting the remarkable achievement by the world’s most populous nation.
The latest update of the global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) was released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) at the University of Oxford. It said that 25 countries, including India, successfully halved their global MPI values within 15 years, showing that rapid progress is attainable. These countries include Cambodia, China, Congo, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Serbia, and Vietnam.
In April, India surpassed China to become the world’s most populous nation with 142.86 crore people, according to UN data. “Notably, India saw a remarkable reduction in poverty, with 415 million people exiting poverty within a span of just 15 years (2005/6 19/21),” the report said. The report demonstrates that poverty reduction is achievable. However, the lack of comprehensive data during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic poses challenges in assessing immediate prospects, it said. In India, 415 million poor people moved out of poverty from 2005/2006 to 2019/2021, with incidence falling from 55.1 per cent in 2005/2006 to 16.4 per cent in 2019/2021.
In 2005/2006, about 645 million people were in multidimensional poverty in India, with this number declining to about 370 million in 2015/2016 and 230 million in 2019/2021. The report noted that deprivation in all indicators declined in India, and “the poorest states and groups, including children and people in disadvantaged caste groups, had the fastest absolute progress.” According to the report, people who are multidimensionally poor and deprived under the nutrition indicator in India declined from 44.3 per cent in 2005/2006 to 11.8 per cent in 2019/2021, and child mortality fell from 4.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent.
Those who are poor and deprived of cooking fuel fell from 52.9 per cent to 13.9 per cent, and those deprived of sanitation fell from 50.4 per cent in 2005/2006 to 11.3 per cent in 2019/2021, according to the report. In the drinking water indicator, the percentage of people who are multidimensionally poor and deprived fell from 16.4 to 2.7 during the period, electricity (from 29 per cent to 2.1 per cent) and housing from 44.9 per cent to 13.6 per cent. The report said that countries with different incidences of poverty also halved their global MPI value. While 17 countries that did so had an incidence under 25 per cent in the first period, India and Congo had a starting incidence above 50 per cent.
India was among the 19 countries that halved their global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) value during one period – for India it was 2005/2006 2015/2016. According to the 2023 release, 1.1 billion out of 6.1 billion people (just over 18 per cent) live in acute multidimensional poverty across 110 countries. Sub-Saharan Africa (534 million) and South Asia (389 million) are home to approximately five out of every six poor people. Nearly two-thirds of all poor people (730 million people) live in middle-income countries, making action in these countries vital for reducing global poverty. Although low-income countries constitute only 10 per cent of the population included in the MPI, these are where 35 per cent of all poor people reside.
Children under the age of 18 account for half of MPI-poor people (566 million). The poverty rate among children is 27.7 per cent, while among adults, it is 13.4 per cent. Poverty predominantly affects rural areas, with 84 per cent of all poor people living in rural areas. Rural areas are poorer than urban areas across all regions of the world. Countries halved their MPI in periods as short as four to 12 years, demonstrating the feasibility of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of halving poverty according to national definitions within 15 years. Thus, it is crucial to consider context-specific multidimensional poverty indices that reflect national definitions of poverty since the global MPI assesses multidimensional poverty with the same methodology, the report said.
The agencies, however, added that despite these encouraging trends, the lack of post-pandemic data for most of the 110 countries covered by the global MPI restricts the understanding of the pandemic’s effects on poverty. “As we reach the mid-point of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we can clearly see that there was steady progress in multidimensional poverty reduction before the pandemic,” the Director of the Human Development Report Office, Pedro Concei o, said. “However, the negative impacts of the pandemic in dimensions such as education are significant and can have long-lasting consequences. It is imperative that we intensify efforts to comprehend the dimensions most negatively affected, necessitating strengthened data collection and policy efforts to get poverty reduction back on track,” Concei o added.
A press release issued by the UNDP said that judging from the few countries where data were solely collected in 2021 or 2022 Mexico, Madagascar, Cambodia, Peru, and Nigeria momentum on poverty reduction may have persisted during the pandemic. Cambodia, Peru, and Nigeria showed significant reductions in their most recent periods, offering hope that progress is still possible. In Cambodia, the most encouraging case among these, the incidence of poverty fell from 36.7 per cent to 16.6 per cent, and the number of poor people halved, from 5.6 million to 2.8 million, all within 7.5 years, including the pandemic years (2014 2021/22).
However, the full impacts globally remain to be measured, it said. With a renewed emphasis on data collection, “we need to broaden the picture to include the impacts of the pandemic on children,” the press release said. “In over half the countries covered, there was either no statistically significant reduction in child poverty or the MPI value fell more slowly among children than among adults during at least one period. This suggests that child poverty will continue to be a pressing issue, particularly in relation to school attendance and undernutrition,” it said. Director of OPHI at the University of Oxford, Sabina Alkire, said the scarcity of data on multidimensional poverty is hard to comprehend, let alone justify.
“The world is reeling under a data deluge and gearing up for the next era of digital growth. Yet we do not have a post-pandemic line of sight for 1 billion of the 1.1 billion poor people,” Alkire said. “This problem is eminently solvable data on multidimensional poverty are faster to gather than most realise requiring just 5 per cent of questions in the surveys we use. We call on funders and data scientists to make a breakthrough on poverty data, so the interconnected deprivations that strike poor people in real-time can be tracked and intercepted,” she added.
The global MPI monitors poverty reduction and informs policy, showing how people experience poverty in different aspects of their daily lives from access to education and health to living standards such as housing, drinking water, sanitation, and electricity. The MPI as a poverty index can be pictured as a stacked tower of the interlinked deprivations experienced by poor individuals, with the aim of eliminating these deprivations.