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Magnitude of Poverty Globally

Since the 60s, the international economic and social organisations, such as World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), World Health Organisation, UNICEF, International Labour Office, have been interested in the issue of poverty, its causes, where it prevails and the means of its alleviation. Poverty is a complex phenomenon with many facets that make it difficult to find a satisfactory definition which suits all societies. Different societies have different cultures and standards of living which make it difficult to define minimum basic needs of the individual. However, the World Development Report (1982) defined poverty as “a condition of life so characterised by malnutrition, illiteracy and disease as to be beneath any reasonable definition of human decency. Yet within a particular society at a particular time, poverty is often defined relative to average living standard.”

In order to quantify the line of poverty the World Bank in its 1990 report adopted a universal figure of $370 per person a year to meet the cost of minimum adequate caloric intakes and other basic necessities. Those whose income fall beyond this figure are poor and those who fall beyond $275 are extremely poor. The figures were estimated according to the prices of 1985 in some countries with low average incomes: Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco and Tanzania. Based on these figures the report mentions that there are 1,116 million people in the developing countries who fall under the poverty line and 633 million beyond the extreme poverty line. This means that 33 percent of the Third-World population are poor and 18 percent are extremely poor. The following table shows the distribution of poverty in various regions.


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Source: Poverty Alleviation in Pakistan: Present Scenario and Future Strategy, Mohibul Haq Sahibzada. Republished with permission.