Half of the world’s poor live in just 5 countries


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Of the world’s 736 million extreme poor in 2015, 368 million—half of the total—lived in just 5 countries. The 5 countries with the highest number of extreme poor are (in descending order): India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh. They also happen to be the most populous countries of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the two regions that together account for 85 percent (629 million) of the world’s poor. Therefore, to make significant continued progress towards the global target of reducing extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.90 a day) to less than 3 percent by 2030, large reductions in poverty in these five countries will be crucial.

However, we mustn’t lose sight of the numerous other countries with high poverty rates. As poverty projections to 2030 for these five countries reveal, uneven outcomes are likely (see figure 2). When projections are based on countries growing in line with past growth rates (the regional average over the last ten years), extreme poverty in India and Bangladesh approaches zero by 2030 but extreme poverty in Nigeria, DRC, and Ethiopia remains quite elevated. The uneven progress across these 5 countries is indicative of the broader uneven progress globally. An outcome where extreme poverty is nearly eliminated throughout the world except in one region, sub-Saharan Africa, certainly does not portray a picture of a world free of poverty. As emphasized in the Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report 2018, we should go beyond the focus on reducing the global poverty rate to below 3 percent and strive to ensure that all countries and all people can share in the benefits of economic development.

To learn more, read the recently released Poverty and Shared Prosperity report 2018, “Piecing Together the Poverty Puzzle.”


Join the Conversation

January 09, 2019

Investment is sustainable project that can create jobs will be best goal of world bank

January 10, 2019

Interestingly some of these countries are the richest for having huge amount of natural wealth! Congo has natural resources estimated to worth over 24 trillion dollars! Nigeria, an oil producing country has significant oil reserves! If the political set up in these countries is stabilised, if the investment is made on projects for public-good, then about half the poverty will be easily eradicated. But where to start? Corruption and illegal business practices are just two areas needing attention to recover people's money stashed away in foreign banks.

Carlos da Maia
January 23, 2019

SS AAfrica, as usual, being left behind. Yet, it is a resource rich region. What a puzzle!
Congrats on the great piece Roy.

January 16, 2019

Well said these countries are the richest in certain types of natural resources, poverty, or absolute poverty is a created factor here so as to enable certain rich to exist.

January 17, 2019

The local corrupt leadership is the main challenge; equally multinational organisations are responsible for fuelling and giving recognition to these corrupt members of the government - so they can easily get attractive deals and preferences in those countries. Unless these two combination of challenges are removed, it will be difficult to see any improvement.

Ruth Corrigan
January 09, 2019

Very interesting

Asif Ur rahman
January 11, 2019

In my country pakistan 40% people's are living under vicious circle of poverty (vcp) and I think the main reason low investment, low productivity, money laundering, corrupt leadership,democratic failure etc etc

Zia-Ul-Haque Khan
January 14, 2019

Very useful information.

January 14, 2019

Living in Malawi (GNI per capita $340 per year) I see mnay people every day who'd be happy with $1.90!

Jose Flores Rodas
January 14, 2019

A very interesting point of view. There is a danger, however, that with these huge numbers, small countries (like Honduras, for example) tend to be totally ignored. Poverty is a huge problem for any country, regardless of how small, when investment in poverty reduction programs have been totally ineffective. There must be some aspects of poverty that need to break old paradigms that have classically characterized WB country strategies.

kinfe gebeyehu MD MPH
January 14, 2019

This is a valid, comparative prediction of the state of poverty in 2030 of some countries. If we look at a couple of the countries the discussion is based on, it will not be surprising that India will be a progressively better achiever in reducing poverty. There is no question in my mind that stability in government and fair governance that India has been enjoying despite limitations in the slowing of population growth is a strong factor. Ethiopia on the other hand has had bad luck in all these 3 factors, especially in the last 45 years. A more recent change in government that 2018 brought with it is determined to focus on these three factors as prerequisites and it would not be surprising therefore to see the 2030 predictive value will rather be showing much less poverty than the present prediction. As we know most that suffer the effects of poverty are women and children and the non direct causes of poverty mentioned should be taken seriously including internal displacements and tribal conflicts that happen to be negatively affecting more of mothers and children .

January 15, 2019

This is so insightful for economic planning

Franco Silver
January 17, 2019

I thought my country Uganda would be among the
Top five poor countries but the viscous cycle of poverty is mainly among farmers. But I think this little mechanization of Agriculture has helped Her .I think other countries in Africa should not focus on the governments alone because there are very many developmental sectors with limited government's interference such as the service sectors.

Niaz Hussain Ghumro
January 17, 2019

This article is really an eye opener for the world and very insightful for proper economic planning that paves way to eradicate the roots of poverty.

Kolawole Banwo
January 21, 2019

I some countries like Nigeria, aside from corruption, the structure of government contributes to the poverty. It makes distribution of wealth resulting in increased inequality with the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer. The cost of governance and lack of decentralization disallows deployment of resources to the local communities where the majority of the people are and to sectors that are critical to wealth creation, such as agriculture, especially for small holder women farmers. Hence the projection can only be reversed if the budgetary processes are attended to

Collins Apuoyo
February 03, 2019

Looked at from another perspective the stats show that almost two thirds of the world's poor live in SS Africa. That should also inform any strategy of the world bank and others on how to achieve poverty reduction goal. Reforming international institutions and rules of the game around trade in agric and natural resources, coupled with re alligning the terms of trade especially for Africa cannot be ignored.

Kolawole omoniyi omole
February 03, 2019

In Nigeria there is poverty, low investment, low production, corruption in country, lack of electricity and water supply,employment rate is very low,monetary fund is very low compare with some countries.Government should boost economy they should provide all what the country is lacking.

Stella Okot
February 06, 2019

Very interesting indeed. Ironically some of these countries have so much natural wealth! Some proper planning and action will really be useful to reverse this situation.

April 14, 2019

I am proud to see India using technology and potential of its talent to uplift millions from extreme poverty in limited time frame. Also it is important to note that India has a population base which is atleast 7-8 times than any of these countries plus geographic expanse is also significant which hamper speeding of efforts in this space. So as a % of total population, extreme poverty for India will be much lower number. It is also alarming that African nations despite lower population base have not stepped up the efforts.