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UNDP Multi-Dimensional Poverty Report Reveals Wide Inequalities Among the Poor
© Mlondolozi Mbolo/Decent Work Regulation


11 July 2019: The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has released its 2019 report on multi-dimensional poverty, which uses ten indicators to assess the severity and nature of deprivation around the world. The report goes beyond income to consider indicators of health, education, threat of violence, quality of work and standard of living, thus providing a single “headline measure” of countries’ progress on at least seven different SDGs.


The report titled, 2019 Multidimensional Poverty Index: Illuminating Inequalities, was produced jointly by UNDP and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI). It draws on a study of 101 countries, of which 31 are low-income countries, 68 are middle-income, and two are high-income, covering more than three-quarters of the global population.


The report shows that 1.3 billion people are considered to be “multi-dimensionally poor” according to the ten indicators; a person is considered to be multi-dimensionally poor if they experience deprivation across one-third of these indicators. The report finds that the experience of poverty can differ within the same household, and that half of those considered to be multi-dimensionally poor are children and young people under the age of 18.


Deprivations declined the most in the poorest 40% of the population; in these cases, development did not leave the poorest behind.


Key findings from the report include that large variations persist within countries, and that two-thirds of the world’s multi-dimensional poor live in middle-income countries. The report provides further analysis on ten selected countries that have a total of two billion people; of these, India, Cambodia and Bangladesh had reduced their MPI values most quickly. Overall, deprivations in the ten countries declined most among the poorest 40% of the population, showing that development, in these cases, did not leave the poorest groups behind.


The report devotes a section to progress toward SDG 1 on ending poverty, in particular, SDG target 1.2 on ending poverty “in all its forms, everywhere.” The indicator for SDG target 1.2 is that countries will reduce “at least by half” the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.


The Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) replaces the Human Poverty Index (HPI) that UNDP previously applied to assess levels of poverty. The HPI reflected aggregate scores, whereas the MPI provides a scoring at the individual level, based on the kinds of deprivations that they face. An advantage of the MPI is that data can be disaggregated by indicator to show how the nature of poverty varies across different regions, ethnic groups, age cohorts and other defining features. OPHI explains that the MPI captures relevant goals and targets under SDG 1 on ending poverty, SDG 2 on food security, SDG 3 on health, SDG 4 on education, SDG 6 on water and sanitation, SDG 7 on energy, and SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities.


UNDP and OPHI will launch the findings of the report at a side event at the 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) on 17 July. The two organizations will also launch a handbook on 18 July, which explains how countries can build a national MPI and use it to inform their efforts toward the SDGs.