Between 2006 and 2016, 271 million Indians were lifted out of poverty, the most rapid improvement of living conditions since China helped lift 500 million people out of extreme poverty after 1981, according to a new report from the United Nations’ Development Program (UNDP).
There are, however, significant caveats.
Even though Nigeria leads the world in extreme poverty, which is marked as a person living on less than $1.90 per day, India still has the world’s largest population of people living in poverty, at 364 million. Of those, millions of children do not have access to clean water, sanitation, nutrition, education, health care and more, according to the German website Deutsche Welle (DW).
"It's not resulting in better health outcomes necessarily, it's not resulting in better quality of learning outcomes and it's certainly not resulting in better protection of children from violence," Bidisha Pillai, Save the Children India's director, told DW. "[While] many people have been lifted out of poverty, this has not translated into tackling some of the more difficult issues when it comes to children."
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This data comes from a larger report by the UNDP on the status of human welfare in developing countries. The Multidimensional Poverty Index reviewed 104 countries, covering 74% of the global population, across three broad categories — health, education, and living standards. The report paid special attention to the world’s children and found that they account for more than half of the world’s poor.
Within these countries, 1.3 billion live in poverty, including 662 million children, and 887 million people are at risk of falling into multidimensional poverty “due to conflict, sickness, drought, unemployment and other setbacks.”
Despite these massive numbers, the world has made significant progress over the past several years.
“Although the level of poverty – particularly in children – is staggering, so is the progress that can be made in tackling it,” UNDP chief Achim Steiner said in a press release.
A multidimensional assessment of poverty provides a better understanding of human welfare, according to the UN, because it looks beyond purely financial figures to determine if fundamental needs are being addressed.
“The Multidimensional Poverty Index gives insights that are vital for understanding the many ways in which people experience poverty, and it provides a new perspective on the scale and nature of global poverty while reminding us that eliminating it in all its forms is far from impossible,” Steiner said.
Some of the biggest global improvements include an increase in life expectancy across sub-Saharan Africa by seven years since 2006, and global rates of primary school enrollment that hover around 100%.
This report follows another recently released UNDP analysis that examines the scale of inequality around the world and its consequences. The inequality report found that countries with high rates of inequality lose around 11% of their human potential.
“Inequality in all its forms and dimensions, between and within countries, limits people’s choices and opportunities, withholding progress,” Selim Jahan, director of the Human Development Report Office at UNDP, said in a press release.