Poverty: India worse than Africa

2010-07-13 21:31

London - More people are mired in poverty in eight Indian states than in the 26 poorest African countries, according to a new UN-backed measure of poverty out on Tuesday.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) looks beyond income at a wider range of household-level deprivation, including services, which could then be used to help target development resources.

Its findings throw up stark statistics compared to regular poverty measures.

The study found that half of the world's MPI poor people live in South Asia, and just over a quarter in Africa.

There are 421 million MPI poor people in eight Indian states alone - Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal - and 410 million in the 26 poorest African countries combined.

The researchers said that the extent of poverty in India had often been overlooked, by figures comparing percentages of poor people in countries as a whole rather than sheer numbers.

According to the index, 64.5% of people in sub-Saharan Africa are MPI poor. In South Asia, 55% of people are MPI poor.

Both figures are higher than the number considered extreme income poor - living on less than $1.25  per day.

"Multi-dimensional poverty"

The new index was created by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) at Oxford University in southern England, and the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

"Our measure identifies the most vulnerable households and groups and enables us to understand exactly which deprivations afflict their lives," said OPHI director Sabina Alkire.

"The new measure can help governments and development agencies wishing to target aid more effectively to those specific communities."

The MPI will be used in the forthcoming 20th anniversary edition of the UNDP Human Development Report. It supplants the Human Poverty Index, which has been used since 1997.

The index takes into account that people living in MPI poverty may not necessarily be income poor: only two-thirds of Niger's people are income poor, whereas 93% are poor by the MPI, it found.

It also showed that "multi-dimensional poverty" varies a lot within countries. In Delhi, 15% of people are MPI poor, compared to 81% in the northeastern Indian state of Bihar.