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The World Poverty Clock

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Measuring global poverty, and in particular the rate at which it is reduced, is tricky. At root are the questions of what measures to use, and how to use them. 

The World Poverty Clock, launched in May, uses as direct a measure as any: the rate at which people escape extreme poverty, every second. It compares these data with the rate required to meet the first of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDG 1): the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030.

So does the Clock do a good job? For starters, it provides a clear benchmark for success by linking the actual rate of reduction to what is required to meet SDG 1. By avoiding the use of gross national income (GNI) per capita* the Clock avoids some misleading statistics: as GNI is an average a small number of high earners can inflate GNI and produce a figure that suggests prosperity, but is not representative of the wider population.

Further, recording reduction rates for 187 countries (the authors claim to cover 99.7% of the world’s population) avoids the problem of defining success at the global level alone. A huge global reduction of poverty means little to you if, in your country, extreme poverty is actually rising. The website’s heat-mapping of countries by how their rates compare to the required SDG 1 reduction rate stresses this point, with some regions of the world standing-out for their rising rates of extreme poverty.  

The Clock is not a perfect tool: it relies a great deal on estimated data, and depends on forecasts for its predictions between now and 2030. But it might just become a useful resource for measuring more precisely how well the world is doing at ending global poverty over the next 12 years.

What do you think?

*GNI is the sum of value added by all producers resident in a country plus any product taxes (less subsidies) not included in the valuation of output plus net receipts of primary income (compensation of employees and property income) from other countries. To get the per capita figure, GNI is divided by the number of people in the population. (World Bank)