For more than two decades, extreme poverty has been steadily declining. Now, for the first time in a generation, the fight against poverty has suffered its worst setback. The report provides new data and analysis on the causes and consequences of this reversal and identifies policy principles that countries can use to counter it. It also presents new estimates of the impacts of COVID-19 on global poverty and inequality.

Using new data from frontline surveys and economic simulations, it shows that the job losses and deprivations associated with the pandemic worldwide are hitting already poor and vulnerable people hard, while partly changing the profile of global poverty by creating millions of 'new poor'.

In addition, the report breaks new ground by jointly analyzing three factors whose convergence is causing the current crisis and will extend its impact into the future: the HIV-19 pandemic, armed conflict and climate change.

Read more about the different dimensions of poverty

How to measure the well-being of a society?

Professors Jean-Marie Baland, Guilhem Cassan and Benoît Decerf from the Institute for Development Finance & Public Policies (DeFIPP) at UNAMUR have been looking into this question.

As underlined by many popular expressions such as "Money does not make you happy" or "It is better to be poor and healthy than rich and sick", well-being is, in essence, complex and multi-dimensional.  One can be deprived in one dimension (e.g. income poverty) but not in another (e.g. good health).

How then can this state be measured in a simple and reliable way? Much work has been done on this issue. Researchers propose to measure human well-being using Poverty-Adjusted Life-Expectancy (PALE), a synthetic index that aggregates the welfare losses resulting from poverty and mortality over a given period. Poverty and mortality are arguably the two main sources of welfare loss: poverty reduces the quality of life while mortality reduces the quantity of life.

This indicator has several advantages: it solves some of the theoretical problems of other previously proposed measures, it is easy to implement and it is very easy to interpret. These last points are important because they imply that this measure can be both widely used and also widely commented upon in the mainstream media.

The researchers' publications