More than 230 million people in India still experience poverty. This is the highest number among all emerging economies, according to a recent report by the UNDP.

The United Nations Development Project’s Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is an annual report that measures acute multidimensional poverty across more than 100 developing countries. It identifies multiple deprivations at the household and individual levels in health, education and standard of living. The index uses the most recent data available for each country.

Among 16 emerging economies, India’s population headcount in poverty stood at 230.73 million, followed by Pakistan (84.2 million), China (53.8 million), and Bangladesh (40.7 million). Other notable countries include Afghanistan (19.3 million), Brazil (7.8 million), and South Africa (3.5 million). 

Thailand (412,000), Bhutan (26,300) and Maldives (4,000) were at the bottom of the list.

Considering India’s population, however, this puts the country only in the middle of the list regarding the percentage of the population experiencing poverty. With 16.4 per cent, India has seen some stellar improvement over the years.

Notably, Afghanistan (55.9 per cent), Myanmar and Pakistan (38.3 per cent) had the highest percentage of the population in poverty, while Vietnam (1.9 per cent), Maldives (0.8 per cent), and Thailand (0.6 per cent) were among the lowest. The Philippines (5.8 per cent) and China (3.9 per cent) were in the middle rung.

Among BRICS countries, India had the highest population percentage in poverty, followed by South Africa (6.3 per cent), China (3.9 per cent) and Brazil (3.8 per cent). Russia’s MPI value was not available.

Domestic front

Around 4.2 per cent of India’s population experiences severe poverty, while 18.7 per cent are categorised as “vulnerable.” The 2022 report, however, did not fully capture the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on India’s poverty, as the most recent data available was from NFHS-5 (2019-21).

India’s MPI value was 0.069, a 0.053 reduction from 2015-16. According to the report, “Rural areas in India were the poorest and saw the fastest reduction in MPI value. The incidence of poverty fell from 36.6 per cent in 2015-16 to 21.2 per cent in 2019-21 in rural areas and from 9.0 per cent to 5.5 per cent in urban areas.”

Further, Bihar, the poorest state in 2015-16, saw the fastest reduction in MPI value in absolute terms. Its incidence of poverty fell from 77.4 per cent in 2005-06 to 52.4 per cent in 2015-16 to 34.7 per cent in 2019-21.