The pandemic is upending more than two decades of progress on reducing extreme poverty around the globe — and estimates of how many people will be affected continue to escalate.
An additional 88 to 115 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.90 a day, in 2020 because of the pandemic and resulting economic recession, according to a report from the World Bank released Wednesday.
That estimate is up sharply from the bank’s May report, when it projected that an additional 60 million people would likely be pushed into extreme poverty in 2020.
And the total number of people added to the world’s extreme poor as a result of the pandemic could grow to 150 million by next year.
The report underscores economists’ growing concern about the scale of the crisis and countries’ ability to recover quickly, and it comes at a time when many areas of the world are bracing for a possible second wave of Covid-19 coinciding with flu season. Its results indicate that the goal of ending world poverty by 2030 could now be out of reach “without swift, significant and substantial policy action,” the World Bank said.
“Global extreme poverty is expected to rise in 2020 for the first time in over 20 years as the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic compounds the forces of conflict and climate change, which were already slowing poverty reduction progress,” the report added.
The group now expects extreme poverty to affect between 9.1% and 9.4% of the world’s population this year. Prior to the outbreak of coronavirus, the poverty rate was expected to drop to 7.9% in 2020.
The World Bank aims to help vulnerable communities by providing grants and loans to both individuals and businesses, as well as suspending debt payments for some of the world’s poorest countries. The bank has pledged more than $160 billion in financing to help countries manage “health, economic and social shocks” from the pandemic.
About eight in 10 of those who will be pushed into extreme poverty this year live in what the World Bank calls “middle-income” countries: developing nations such as Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa that already have high poverty rates.
The report also notes that growing numbers of people in urban areas are likely to fall into extreme poverty, an issue that has traditionally affected mostly people in rural areas.
And while stock market gains in a number of countries may be spurring some optimism about recovery, the World Bank said the coronavirus crisis has diminished what it calls “shared prosperity” — the ability of a country’s poorest to benefit from economic growth.
That means the pandemic could increase income inequality and lower social mobility among the poor, unless governments enact significant policy interventions, according to the report.
“The deceleration in economic activity intensified by the pandemic is likely to hit the poorest people especially hard,” the report states. “The prospect of less inclusive growth is a clear reversal from previous trends.”