Number of poor people in India fell by about 415 mn between 2005-06 and 2019-21: UN

The new Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) at the University of Oxford said that in India, 415 million people exited poverty, in a 15-year period, between 2005-06 and 2019-21.

Of the nearly 415 million people who exited poverty in India in the 15 years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly 275 million did so between 2005/2006 and 2015/2016 and 140 million did so between 2015/2016 and 2019/2021.

A “historic change” and a demonstration that the Sustainable Development Goal target of reducing at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty by 2030 is possible to achieve, even at a large scale, according to the UN.

The report said based on 2020 population data for India, it has by far the largest number of poor people worldwide (228.9 million), followed by Nigeria (96.7 million projected in 2020). There were still 97 million poor children in India in 2019/21 — more than the total number of poor people, children and adults combined, in any other country covered by the global MPI.

Despite progress, India’s population remains vulnerable to the mounting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and to rising food and energy prices. Integrated policies tackling the ongoing nutritional and energy crises should be a priority,” it said.

The poorest states and groups in India (children, lower castes and those living in rural areas) reduced poverty the fastest in absolute terms, although the data do not reflect post-Covid-19 pandemic changes, the report said.

While poverty among children fell faster in absolute terms, India still has the highest number of poor children in the world (97 million, or 21.8 per cent of children ages 0–17 in India), it said.

.The 2019-2021 data show that about 16.4 per cent of India’s population live in poverty, with an average intensity of 42 per cent.About 4.2 per cent of the population live in severe poverty. About 18.7 per cent of people, roughly the same proportion as in 2015-2016, are vulnerable to poverty because their deprivation score ranges from 20 per cent to 33 per cent. Two-thirds of these people live in a household in which at least one person is deprived in nutrition — a “worrying statistic”, it said.

The percentage of people who are poor is 21.2 per cent in rural areas compared with 5.5 per cent in urban areas. Rural areas account for nearly 90 per cent of poor people:

Bihar, the poorest state in 2015/2016, saw the fastest reduction in MPI value in absolute terms. The incidence of poverty there fell from 77.4 per cent in 2005/2006 to 52.4 per cent in 2015/2016 to 34.7 per cent in 2019/2021, the report said.Across states and union territories in India, the fastest reduction in relative terms was in Goa, followed by Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

In relative terms the poorest states have not caught up. Of the 10 poorest states in 2015/2016, only one (West Bengal) was not among the 10 poorest in 2019/2021. The rest — Bihar, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan — remain among the 10 poorest.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index looks at poverty in a holistic manner, rather than as a simple outcome of income levels. The MPI thus measures a person’s deprivations across 10 indicators in three dimensions — health, education, and standard of living. All the sections are equally weighted. The health indicator looks at nutrition and child mortality. The education indicator seeks to measure years of schooling and school attendance, while the standard of living indicator measures access to drinking water, sanitation, cooking gas, electricity, housing, and assets.


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