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Absolute poverty: $2 a day

How do we measure poverty on an international scale? Watch Dan Horsfall explain...
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We’re now familiar with poverty levels, from Booth’s and Rowntree’s 21 shillings a week, to the UK’s approximately £18,000 a year. But these are relative measures. At the global level the debate is still more focused on those most basic of minimum needs such as food, clothing, shelter and clean water. Beyond the rich west or global north, the concept of living on a dollar a day found traction in the mid 1990s and, adjusted for inflation today represents $1.90 a day. This is seen as the international poverty line and reflects the average of the national poverty lines of the very poorest countries on Earth – countries such as Chad. What does $1.90 a day get you? Well, not much.
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The US Department of Agriculture calculates that in 2011 the very minimum necessary to buy sufficient food was $5.04 per day. And that’s not taking account of other requirements for survival, such as shelter and clothing. In India, children living at $1.90 still have a 60% chance of being malnourished. In Niger, infants living at $1.90 have a mortality rate three times higher the global average And yet 1 in 10 people live on less than $2 a day. Almost 720 million. Four out of five of these in rural areas and half are children. The majority are women.
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Combatting extreme poverty has been seen as one of the global community’s greatest victories, with a massively downward trend seeing the level drop from 43% in 1990 to close to 10% today – but the last lap is always the hardest. And the pandemic saw an increase for the first time in over 20 years. Moreover, as we saw, $1.90 doesn’t really get you much. Does the $1.90 line mean much for the world as a whole? Most of those below the $1.90 line live in sub-Saharan Africa and a limited number of countries overall. At a $1.90 line, 90% of the world doesn’t live in extreme poverty.
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But if we set a poverty line that also reflects extreme poverty within rich countries – at say a still difficult line of $20 a day almost four fifths of the world – nearly 6bn people - would be classed as living in poverty. This of course raises the question about the one fifth who wouldn’t be classed as in poverty. Who are they? Where do they live? And could, or should, they share a little? We look at that in detail when we explore inequality.

When we think of poverty we often think of hunger. While this persists in the UK, the poverty debate has evolved.

For much of the world though, the vary basics needed for survival still dominate, because far too many people don’t have them. In fact, over 700 million people live on less than $2-a-day.

Is there anything from Dan’s video that resonates above all else for you?

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Understanding and Solving Poverty and Inequality

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