Global Estimate of Children in Monetary Poverty: An Update – World Bank Group

Poverty :: Children

Global Estimate of Children in Monetary Poverty: An Update
World Bank Group 2020/10/20 :: 11 pages
Authors: Silwal,Ani Rudra, Engilbertsdottir,Solrun, Cuesta Leiva,Jose Antonio, Newhouse,David Locke, Stewart,David

This note builds on previous collaboration between the World Bank Group and UNICEF to estimate the global extent of child poverty. We estimate that in 2017, 17.5 percent of children in the world (or 356 million) younger than 18 years lived on less than 1.90 Dollars PPP per day, as opposed to 7.9 percent of adults ages 18 and above. The poverty rate of children at the 3.20 Dollars and 5.50 Dollars lines were 41.5 and 66.7 percent, respectively. The number of children living in extreme poverty declined by approximately 29 million between 2013 and 2017. In 2017, Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for two thirds of extremely poor children, and South Asia another 18 percent. These estimates are based on the Global Monitoring Database (GMD) of household surveys compiled in Spring 2020 and consists of surveys from 149 countries that are also used for the official World Bank poverty estimates. Because the estimates pertain to 2017, they do not consider the adverse economic impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.


Press Release
1 in 6 children lives in extreme poverty, World Bank-UNICEF analysis shows
The pre-COVID-19 analysis reveals that 356 million children struggle to survive on less than $1.90 a day, two-thirds of them in sub-Saharan Africa

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON D.C., 20 October 2020 – An estimated 1 in 6 children – or 356 million globally – lived in extreme poverty before the pandemic, and this is set to worsen significantly, according to a new World Bank Group-UNICEF analysis released today.

Global Estimate of Children in Monetary Poverty: An Update notes that sub-Saharan Africa – with limited social safety nets – accounts for two-thirds of children living in households that struggle to survive on an average of $1.90 a day or less per person – the international measure for extreme poverty. South Asia accounts for nearly a fifth of these children.

The analysis shows that the number of children living in extreme poverty decreased moderately by 29 million between 2013 and 2017. However, UNICEF and the World Bank Group warn that any progress made in recent years is concerningly slow-paced, unequally distributed, and at risk due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“1 in 6 children living in extreme poverty is 1 in 6 children struggling to survive,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF Director of Programmes. “These numbers alone should shock anyone. And the scale and depth of what we know about the financial hardships brought on by the pandemic are only set to make matters far worse. Governments urgently need a children’s recovery plan to prevent countless more children and their families from reaching levels of poverty unseen for many, many years.”

…Extreme poverty among children has not fallen as much as it has for adults; a larger share of the global poor were children in 2017, compared with that in 2013. All regions of the world experienced varying levels of decline in extreme poverty among children, apart from Sub-Saharan Africa, which saw a 64 million increase in the absolute number of children struggling to survive on $1.90 a day, from 170 million in 2013 to 234 million in 2017.

Child poverty is more prevalent in fragile and conflict-affected countries, where more than 40 per cent of children live in extremely poor households, compared to nearly 15 per cent of children in other countries, the analysis says. The analysis also notes that more than 70 per cent of children in extreme poverty live in a household where the head of the house works in agriculture.

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis will continue to disproportionately impact children, women and girls, threatening to reverse hard-won gains towards gender equality. Social protection measures have a crucial role to play to mitigate coping mechanisms by the poor and vulnerable in both the immediate COVID-19 response as well as the longer-term recovery.

World Bank and UNICEF data suggest that most countries have responded to the crisis by expanding social protection programmes, particularly cash transfers. Cash transfers provide a platform for longer-term investments in human capital. Particularly when combined with other child development measures and coupled with high-quality social service provision, cash transfers have been shown to address both monetary and multidimensional poverty and improve children’s health, nutrition, cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes.

However, many of the responses are short-term and not adequate to respond to the size and expected long-term nature of the recovery. It is more important than ever for governments to scale up and adjust their social protection systems and programmes to prepare for future shocks. This includes innovations for financial sustainability, strengthening legal and institutional frameworks, protecting human capital, expanding child and family benefits for the long term as well as investing in family-friendly policies, such as paid parental leave and quality child care for all.