16 October 2023 – Every year on 17 October, the world marks the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, also known as End Poverty Day. This year the day’s theme puts a spotlight on decent work and social protection, putting dignity in practice for all.
Ending poverty remains a major global challenge. Today, almost 700 million people around the world live in extreme poverty, subsisting on less than $2.15 per day. After decades of sustained poverty reduction, a period of overlapping shocks and crises resulted in around three years of lost progress between 2020 and 2022.
At current rates of progress, the world will not meet the global goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, with estimates indicating that nearly 600 million people will still be struggling with extreme poverty then.
Extreme poverty is concentrated in places where it will be hardest to eradicate— among the least developed countries, in conflict-affected areas, and in remote, rural areas. The outlook is also grim for the nearly 50 percent of the world’s population who live on less than $6.85 a day – the measure used for upper-middle-income countries.
The impacts of poverty are felt most strongly by the most vulnerable. A recent World Bank-UNICEF report found that children are more than twice as likely as adults to live in extreme poverty. They comprise more than half of those living in extreme poverty, yet their share of the total population is just 31 percent.
“Ending poverty is a challenge that requires a multifaceted approach,” says Luis-Felipe Lopez-Calva, World Bank Global Director for Poverty & Equity. “Countries cannot adequately address poverty and inequality without also improving people’s well-being, including through more equitable access to health, education and basic infrastructure. Empowering women, girls and youth will maximize impact across communities and generations. Policy makers must intensify efforts to grow their economies while protecting the most vulnerable people and families. This includes strengthening investments in social protection systems.”
In the long term, jobs and employment are the surest way to reduce poverty and inequality.
Regular employment provides individuals and families with an essential source of income and allows them to move up the economic ladder, build wealth, and invest in education, health and nutrition that help to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. It also provides them with the dignity of work.
Yet most working-age people in developing countries work in informal, low-productivity, low-paying, and insecure jobs; women, girls, and the elderly are overrepresented in these jobs. With nearly 4 million young people expected to reach working age every month globally until 2030, countries need to focus on creating good, quality jobs in the formal sector, which often come with benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and social security coverage. Expanding access to better educational opportunities for children and youth can equip them with the skills they need to compete for good jobs in the future.
But creating this enabling environment at the country level will also call for concerted efforts for a more supportive global environment. A great finance divide and growing debt burdens are severely limiting the capacities of many developing countries to provide the services that their people need.
“Too many people are being left behind in the journey to a more prosperous future. Much of this is linked to strained economies and limited fiscal space in the countries where they live,” says Under-Secretary-General Li Junhua, Head of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. “The international community needs to do a better job of creating the space for developing countries to better support the needs of their citizens.”
Poverty is also deeply intertwined with the existential threat of climate change. Millions of people living in poverty reside in areas that are highly exposed to floods, cyclones, drought, extreme heat, or other extreme weather events.
“The consequences of climate change are threatening lives and livelihoods all over the world,” says Under-Secretary-General Li. “Unless we better recognize and address this link in our policy and planning, the promise of ending poverty will never be realized.”
“Policy makers should prioritize policies to improve the livelihoods of the poor today, reduce their vulnerability to climate risks tomorrow, and help mitigate climate hazards in the future. Climate action can also provide an opportunity for inclusive growth, including through the creation of high-quality jobs in the green economy,” says Lopez Calva.
This End Poverty Day, join us online using #EndPoverty and share your thoughts on what it will take to create a world free of poverty on a livable planet.