There has been marked progress on reducing extreme poverty over the past two decades: the share of people living in extreme poverty – with incomes below USD 1.90 per day, has fallen from over 22% in 2000 to just below 5% in 2019 across the Asia/Pacific region on average (Figure 4.1). Much of the observed reduction was driven by remarkable progress in China, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Tajikistan and Viet Nam, where poverty rates decreased by more than 30 percentage points.

Despite progress, extreme poverty is still widespread in India and Timor-Leste, where more than 20% of the population have to get by with less than USD 1.90 per day. Among low- and middle-income countries, poverty levels are lowest in China, Fiji, Mongolia and Thailand, where less than 0.5% of the population experiences severe poverty.

Poverty rates are a measure of inability to satisfy subsistence needs, including nutritional needs and prevention of communicable diseases. The number of deaths attributable to communicable diseases, maternal and prenatal conditions, and undernourishment is generally correlated with the share of the population living under the USD 1.90 poverty line (Figure 4.2). However, in Pakistan and the Philippines, the share of deaths by these factors is well above what one would expect given poverty rates. Lao PDR, Nepal and Timor-Leste also recorded a quite high number of deaths. In these countries, social policies may take on a greater focus on food security and public health.

Poverty generally declined more rapidly in countries with the strongest GDP growth (Figure 4.3). The pace of both economic growth and poverty reduction was fastest in Armenia, China and Viet Nam over the 2000-19 period. In contrast, in Lao PDR and Georgia the share of the population under the poverty line did not decline as much as one would have expected given the pace of economic growth.


[1] World Bank (2021), World Development Indicators, https://databank.worldbank.org.

[2] World Bank (2020), Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2020, Reversals of Fortune, https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/34496/9781464816024.pdf.

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