LONDON -- The World Bank has warned that 150 million people could fall into “extreme poverty” by the end of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic and accompanying global recession with the levels of global poverty set to rise for the first time in 20 years.
In a new Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report, the organization said that between 9.1% and 9.4% would be affected by extreme poverty, which is defined by the group as living on under $1.90 a day. Had the pandemic not hit, the rate was forecast to fall to 7.9% this year.
“The pandemic and global recession may cause over 1.4% of the world’s population to fall into extreme poverty,” David Malpass, the World Bank Group President, said. “In order to reverse this serious setback to development progress and poverty reduction, countries will need to prepare for a different economy post-COVID, by allowing capital, labor, skills, and innovation to move into new businesses and sectors.”
While extreme poverty rates are rising, around a quarter of the global population live on less than $3.20 a day, and over 40% live on a daily rate of $5.50.
Overall, levels of extreme poverty have been steadily falling over the past quarter of a decade. 1.9 billion people lived in extreme poverty in 1990, compared to 689 million in 2017, according to the group. As well as COVID-19, the World Bank cites military conflict and climate change as two significant factors behind the recent reversal. Extreme poverty is usually most keenly felt in rural areas, but that is now spreading to urban hubs. Around 82% of the number falling into extreme poverty will be in middle income countries, according to the report.
The economic forecast comes as countries around the world, including those who dealt with the spread of coronavirus relatively well at the beginning of the pandemic, brace for a “second wave.”
According to a seven-day rolling average compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the number of daily reported cases is rising in eight out of 10 of the world's worst affected countries, including the U.S.
In a recent interview with ABC News, the WHO’s Margaret Harris said that framing the recent rise in cases as a “second wave” is not necessarily helpful, as we are “up to our necks already.”
“We have to try to find a way to live safely with this virus, but to live and function, keep society functioning, keep work going, keep the economy going,” she said. “We keep hearing [that] these health bullies are stopping the economy. Not at all. We are just saying manage a society in a way that prevents a virus like this destroying your most productive, cutting the heart out of your community.”
“It's not easy. That takes a lot of negotiation. That takes a lot of understanding. That takes a lot of working and a lot of commitment to change. But it can be done,” Harris added.