Eradicating extreme poverty

Of the world’s population, 35 percent— 1.8 billion­—­lived in extreme poverty in 1990. Half were in East Asia and Pacific, where the extreme poverty rate was 60 percent, making it the poorest region at that time (figure 1a). While all regions have made progress, the most significant was in East Asia and Pacific, which recorded an extreme poverty rate of just 3.5 percent in 2013, a dramatic fall driven largely by China. In South Asia extreme poverty also fell sharply, to a third of its 1990 level (from 45 percent to 15 percent). Even with substantial progress, considerable challenges remain: despite a decline in the extreme poverty rate in Sub-­Saharan Africa, to 41 percent, the region’s population growth means that 389 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day in 2013, 113 million more than in 1990. Sub-­Saharan Africa now accounts for half the world’s extreme poor (figure 1b).

1a The extreme poverty rate and the number of people living in extreme poverty have fallen in almost every region
Number and share of population living on less than $1.90 a day (2011 purchasing power parity or PPP) (%), 1990 and 2013
Note: For this indicator, regional aggregates exclude certain high income countries (World Bank Group. Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016: Taking on Inequality. Washington, DC: World Bank., p. 49). 2013 estimates for Middle East and North Africa are not shown because survey coverage is too low.
1b The number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen in most countries but has risen in many Sub‑Saharan African countries
People living on less than $1.90 a day (2011 PPP), 1990 and 2013
*Uzbekistan (1990) based on 1998 rate because of quality issues with earlier survey data.
Source: World Bank PovcalNet; WDI (SI.POV.DDAY).

Reducing poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions

The target of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 uses a globally comparable poverty line as a benchmark. Goal 1 also looks to halve the share of the population living in poverty as defined by national authorities (target 1.2). National poverty lines typically reflect a threshold below which a person's minimum nutrition, clothing, and shelter needs cannot be met, consistent with the country's economic and social circumstances. So, richer countries tend to have higher poverty lines than poorer ones (figure 1c), and in some cases a richer country may have a higher national poverty rate than a poorer country.

1c Richer countries tend to have higher national poverty lines
National per capita per day poverty line, 2000–12 (2011 PPP $)
Source: Jolliffe, D. M., and E. B. Prydz. 2016, Estimating International Poverty Lines from Comparable National Thresholds, Policy Research Working Paper WPS 7606, Washington, DC: World Bank Group.

Countries define monetary poverty lines using either income or consumption. In the years measured up to 2013 (over 9–15 year intervals), 17 of 45 countries with data reduced their poverty rates by more than half. Another 4 countries were on track to halve their poverty in 15 years if reduction trends continued. In the remainder, poverty rate declines were smaller, and indeed the rate increased in a few countries (figure 1d).

1d Undernourishment is most widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and East Asia and Pacific
Prevalence of undernourishment, 2015 (% of population)
Map 2c
a. Based on average compound annual growth rate.
Source: WDI (SI.POV.NAHC).

In general, countries maintain the same national poverty lines over time, adjusting them for inflation to remain constant in real terms. But some European countries (such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland) use a relative poverty line, usually setting their thresholds at 60 percent of the country's median income or consumption. In such cases, measured poverty may not decline, even if incomes are rising, and halving poverty would be possible only by drastically reducing inequality. Some countries­—­such as Bhutan, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Mexico­—­have adopted measures that aim to capture the multidimensional nature of poverty by assessing how households are deprived in different ways (in health, education, housing, and labor market opportunities).

Expanding social protection for those most in need

Social protection programs, which can increase the resilience of poor and vulnerable people and the opportunities available to them (target 1.3), are essential to ending poverty. Programs include social assistance (such as cash and in-kind transfers), social insurance (such as pensions and unemployment insurance), and active labor market programs (such as skills training and wage subsidies). They reduce poverty by ensuring adequate protection against different types of shocks; by redistributing incomes to promote a more equitable society; and by reducing perceived risk, thereby promoting the accumulation of human capital and productive investment opportunities.

Few poor people, however, are covered by social protection programs. Social assistance coverage in many low-­income countries remains especially limited; in Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo fewer than one in 10 people in the poorest quintile receives any social assistance (figure 1e). Social insurance coverage is even narrower, with fewer than one in 20 people in the poorest quintile benefiting in low-­income countries. Coverage in some lower-­middle-­income countries is also restricted, with only a few countries, such as the Kyrgyz Republic and Ukraine, extending social insurance to half the people in the poorest quintile.

1e Social protection coverage among the poorest quintile tends to be lower in low-­income countries
Coverage of social assistance and social insurance, poorest quintile, most recent year available during 2010–14 (%)
Note: Excludes countries with a population of fewer than 5 million.
Source: World Bank ASPIRE database.

To be effective in reducing poverty, social protection benefits must reach the poor and vulnerable. But in low-­income countries the opposite is true: the richest quintile receives a much higher share of social assistance benefits than the poorest quintile (figure 1f). In Rwanda the richest quintile receives around seven times more in benefits than the poorest quintile. For social assistance to be pro-poor, the poorest quintile's share of benefits needs to be higher than 20 percent.

1f In many countries the poorest get a smaller share of social assistance benefits than the richest
Benefit incidence of social assistance and social insurance, by income quintile, most recent year available during 2010–14 (%)
Note: Excludes countries with a population of fewer than 5 million.
Source: World Bank ASPIRE database.

Securing land rights

Tenure security is crucial for encouraging productive investment, sustainable land management, and access to finance (target 1.4). Clear land rights help reduce conflict, increase transparency, and generate revenues for public services through property taxes. Recognizing rights is vital both for indigenous communities and for women, bolstering their bargaining power, household welfare, and equality of opportunity through asset ownership. Data on tenure security and on the mapping and registering of private plots come from administrative records of national land registries and cadasters and from census and multitopic household surveys by national statistical agencies (figure 1g).

1g Mapping and registering private plots countrywide are less likely in Latin America and the Caribbean and Sub-­Saharan Africa
Share of countries that have the majority of private plots in the country (or main city) registered or mapped, 2016 (%)
Note: Regional data exclude OECD member countries.
Source: World Bank Doing Business 2016.

Around 65 percent of Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development countries register most private plots across the country. But fewer than 5 percent of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and Sub-­Saharan Africa do. The registration of plots in main cities is higher across all regions.

A functional land registration system tends to be strongly linked to women's rights to land and to policies supporting women's rights. Registering women's rights to land prevents these rights from being lost, through inheritance or divorce, and allows individuals to advocate for enforcing rights that are guaranteed on paper but not elsewhere.

In Rwanda, where 97 percent of households report having documented rights to land, nearly 77 percent of women in those households say they held documented rights, either individually or jointly. In Colombia just over half of households are registered, but only 11 percent of women have documented land rights.