UN: 100 million more people could slip into poverty this year

The United Nations has warned that countries may grossly miss the deadline of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030, as 100 million more people could slip into destitution this year.

In a new policy brief issued by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), it has emerged that prospects for eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 now appear highly unlikely after COVID-19 and assorted factors took a toll on global economies and livelihoods.

The brief titled, “The long-term impact of the COVID-19 crisis on poverty,” was released as the world was preparing to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17.

It warned that the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing global economic crisis are on course to reverse years of gains in the reduction and alleviation of poverty, thus drastically undermining global efforts to meet the SDG deadline of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030.

“It is no longer unimaginable that the global number of people living in extreme poverty will continue to go up in the coming years,” read the report in part.

To back the grim outlook, UN DESA cited its previous mid-2020 update of the World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP), where it estimated that over 34 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty this year alone.

It noted however that this projection was more on the “optimistic” side, otherwise the worst was yet to come.

“The World Bank now predicts that between 71 million and 100 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty this year, erasing almost all progress made in the last five years in the fight against extreme poverty,” adds the agency.

Things are equally disheartening on the side of children action as the report indicates: “UNICEF and Save the Children warn that the pandemic could push 86 million children into poverty, an increase of 15 per cent relative to the baseline.”

Moreover, UN DESA fears that as the pandemic is spreading across developing countries, the eradication of extreme poverty —currently affecting around 680 million people— seems nearly utopian.

It noted that the time had come for “greatly accelerated global action” in many tangible forms.

“COVID-19 has reinforced the need for global cooperation and collaboration, both for immediate response and for longer-term recovery,” stated the report.

To achieve this, UN DESA has outlined a number of policy directions to be embraced by world leaders where it recommends they first have to start working on addressing high levels of inequality on all fronts.

“Including those inequalities in opportunities, consumption and wealth—should be the highest priority, as it has the advantage of directly lifting people out of poverty and boosting countries’ growth potential, while creating resilience against shocks, as the current crisis has made painfully clear,” said the agency.

Moreover, UN DESA said that the current crisis had highlighted the need to implement other far-reaching policies such as tax reforms, the strengthening of labour standards, and the expansion of the social protection systems and universal health coverage.

“The crisis should equally allow policymakers to consider other bold, inequality-reducing and growth inducing policies, such as affordable childcare, revamping public education and the promotion of innovative and green industries.”

Countries are also expected to give priority to policies such as those addressing systemic inequalities in access to the labour market, education, healthcare and essential services.

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