A new study by the UK’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI) reports that the number of people globally living on less than $1.25 per day is likely to be far higher than the already staggering 1.2 billion estimated by the World Bank.
“There could be as many as a quarter more people living on less than $1.25 a day than current estimates suggest, because they have been missed out of surveys,” the report notes, suggesting that the total number of people living in extreme poverty could be undercounted by as much as 350 million.
If, as the report claims, global poverty figures are “understated by as much as a quarter,” then more than 2.5 billion people, or over a third of the world’s population, survive on less than $2 per day. The most deprived layers of society—people who are homeless, or are living in dangerous situations that researchers cannot access—are left uncounted by household surveys, which by design are incapable of covering them. Only 28 of 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa had a household income survey between 2006 and 2013. Botswana’s poverty estimates are based on a household survey from 1993. The ODI study notes that more than 100 countries do not have functioning systems to register births or deaths, making accurate counts of child mortality and maternal mortality impossible. Twenty-six countries have not collected data on child mortality since 2009.
In Thailand, the official national poverty line is $1.75 per day and the poverty rate is 1.81 percent. However, urban community groups have assessed the poverty line to be $4.74 per day, bumping the country’s poverty rate to nearly half the population at 41.64 percent.
The combined net worth of the world’s billionaires hit a new high in 2015 of $7.05 trillion. Since 2000, the total wealth of the world’s billionaires has increased eight-fold. The amount of wealth controlled by the top 1 percent of the population will exceed that owned by the bottom 99 percent by next year, according to Oxfam.
The vast sums of money spent on war dwarf those needed to significantly reduce social misery. The United States alone spent $496 billion on defense last year, while, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture organization, “the world only needs 30 billion dollars a year to eradicate the scourge of hunger.”
If one were to define poverty as living on less than $5 per day, over four billion people, that is, two-thirds of the human population, qualify as impoverished, according to World Bank estimates.