UN Report: Steep Decline in Global Poverty


A new U.N. report shows a dramatic decline in global poverty since 1990.

A new U.N. report shows a dramatic decline in global poverty since 1990.

The 2013 Human Development Report — “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World” — says people living in extreme poverty fell from 43.1 percent in 1990 to 22.4 percent in 2008.  

“Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast,” the report says.

Sustained investment in education, healthcare, and social welfare coupled with more enlightened trade and economic policies has lifted millions out of poverty and into the middle class, according to the report.

As a result, the report says the first Millennium Development Goal, which seeks to halve the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day, has been met three years ahead of schedule. 

The report tracks countries’ progress in eliminating poverty by use of the Human Development Index (HDI), which scores countries according to their standard of living, healthcare, and access to education.

Countries with an index score greater than 0.796 are designated “Very High Human Development” countries. Those with scores of less than 0.536 are designated “Low Human Development” countries.

10 countries with highest index rankings:

1.    Norway  —  0.955    
2.    Australia  —  0.938
3.    United States  —  0.937
4.    Netherlands  —  0.921
5.    Germany  —  0.920
6.    New Zealand  —  0.919
7.    Ireland  —  0.916
8.    Sweden  —  0.916
9.    Switzerland  —  0.913
10.   Japan  —  0.912

10 countries with the lowest index rankings:

1.   Burundi*  —  0.355
2.   Guinea  —  0.355
3.   Central African Rep.  —  0.352
4.   Eritrea  —  0.351
5.   Mali*  —  0.344
6.   Burkina Faso  —  0.343    
7.   Chad*  —  0.340
8.   Mozambique*  —  0.327
9.   DRC*  —  0.304
10.  Niger*  —  0.304

Among countries not rated: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Somalia and South Sudan. 

The report says that since 2000, all rated countries have improved their HDI score. Some emerging economic powerhouses such as Brazil, China, and India have made spectacular gains, but impressive progress has also been made by smaller countries such as Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, Bangladesh, Laos, Tunisia, and Vietnam.

Education access has played an important part in the successes of countries such as South Korea, China, India, Bangladesh, and Ghana. According to the report, access to education, especially for women, is possibly the most critical contributor to progress in human development. It says educated mothers have fewer, healthier, and better-educated children, and a mother’s education is more important to child survival than household income.

* Denotes countries where World Vision works to reduce poverty.
Among countries not rated: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Somalia, and South Sudan

Written by James Addis

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