How the world woke up poorer and why it’s not just a matter of statistics


It seems a pretty easy question: how many people in the world live in poverty?

In practice it is not.

Until a few days ago, the standard measure for defining absolute poverty was that of the World Bank: living with less than the equivalent of US $ 1.90 per day.

And it represented, according to the 2013 figures, 10.7% of the world population, or almost 770 million people.

Now the world, and possibly your country, woke up poorer.

Starting this month, the World Bank will adopt flexible poverty lines for different countries based on the different economic realities of these nations.

The US-based institution It determined two new levels to measure poverty US $ 20 and US $ 50 per day .

The new level of poverty

3,460 million

number of people living with less than US $ 5.5 per day, according to 2013 data.


of the world population.

  • US $ 1.90 per day limit used previously to define absolute poverty.
  • 767 million number of people living under that line, according to 2013 data.

According to Francisco Ferreira, a senior World Bank adviser, the new guidelines will more accurately measure poverty levels in relative terms. “Being poor in Malawi is different from being poor in Brazil or Poland,” he explains.

The bad news here is that the number of poor people on the planet marks a considerable leap under the new system .

According to the agency’s statistics, 48.4% of the world’s population, or 3.460 million people, managed with less than US $ 5.50 per day.

In more specific terms, it means that in a country like Brazil, the world ‘s seventh largest economy, the number of people in absolute poverty increased from 8.9 to 45.5 million an quint part of the population.

It is now in the group of countries with “high average income”, in which the poverty line stands at US $ 5.50 per day.

The increase in the poverty line also affects the richest nations. In Spain, the estimated percentage of people living on less than US $ 1.90 per day, which is 0.2% of the 46.5 million inhabitants.

If it is adjusted to the level of US $ 5.50, the proportion increases to almost 3%.

A Brazilian girl plays in an abandoned area.Copyright of theGETTY IMAGESimage
Image captionUnder the new measures, the percentage of the Brazilian population living in poverty is now 22%.

And this is not even taking into account the World Bank’s recommendation that high-income countries also measure themselves with an even higher poverty line: US $ 21.70 per day.

According to the institution, more than 20% of the people in the nations that conform to this classification (United States and the United Kingdom, for example) live below the highest threshold.

“It is not surprising that the richest countries tend to have higher poverty lines, while the poorer countries have lower poverty lines to reflect the differences in population.The monitoring of global poverty now presents a somewhat more menu. expanded “, adds Ferreira.

That explains why some nations will continue to be analyzed under the old measurement standard .

While in Brazil, for example, only 4.3% of the population lives on less than US $ 1.90 per day, the rate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reaches 77%.

A Syrian boy looks at the camera in a refugee camp.Copyright of theGETTY IMAGESimage
Image captionAbout 1 billion people live in poverty, according to figures from the United Nations.

In fact, Ferreira explains that the World Bank will not abandon the US $ 1 90 per day limit to define extreme global poverty, as part of the institution’s mission to end poverty by 2030.

The most recent studies show that between 1990 and 2013, the number of people living under this absolute poverty line was reduced by half.

In the same period, the number of people who lived on less than US $ 5.50 a day was reduced from 68.2% of the world population to the current 48.4%.

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