The number of people living in extreme poverty is likely to fall for the first time below 10% of the world’s population in 2015, the World Bank said on Sunday as it revised its benchmark for measuring the problem.
Extreme poverty has long been defined as living on or below $1.25 a day, but the World Bank’s adjustment now sets the poverty line at $1.90 a day.
The World Bank said the change reflects new data on differences in the cost of living across countries, while preserving the real purchasing power of the previous yardstick.
Using the new benchmark, the World Bank projects that 702 million people or 9.6% of the world’s population will be living in extreme poverty in 2015, down from 902 million people or 12.8% of the global population in 2012.
The global development lender attributed the continued fall in poverty to strong economic growth rates in emerging markets, particularly India, and investments in education, health, and social safety nets.
“… these projections show us that we are the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in a statement.
According to the Bank, around half of those living in extreme poverty by 2020 will hail from hard-to-reach fragile and conflict-affected states. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for some half of the global poor.
Expects said the prospect of emerging economies losing steam could challenge promises to eradicate extreme poverty.
“If economic growth of the developing world over the last 15 years was an anomaly, was a blip, then we’re in trouble,” said Laurence Chandy, a fellow at the Brookings Institution whose research focuses on global poverty.
“If instead it’s a kind new normal then we’ve got a good chance of getting close to this goal,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The World Bank first introduced a global poverty line in 1990, setting it at $1 a day. It was adjusted last in 2008, when the group raised it to $1.25 a day.
Across the planet, the number of people living in extreme poverty has dropped by more than half since 1990, when 1.9 billion people lived under $1.25 a day, compared to 836 million in 2015, according to the United Nations.