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Ending poverty and reducing inequalities – knowing where we stand

The UNECE region has neither the high economic inequalities typical for the Latin American region nor the high extreme poverty rates faced by some African countries. Yet, poverty continues to be widespread, especially affecting vulnerable population groups, such as ethnic minorities, immigrants, single parents, the elderly and children.

During the week of 11-15 July, around 50 experts from statistical offices, research institutions and international organizations gathered in Geneva to discuss the challenging issue of poverty measurement. They addressed different approaches such as the traditional monetary measures of income and consumption poverty and the more recent concept of multidimensional poverty. People in poverty tend to be less healthy, live in more insecure areas, find it harder to get a job, and their children are likely to do worse at school. These are all different dimensions of poverty, not always measurable in monetary terms. According to the experts, there is a need to prioritize the inclusion of work conditions, health, living conditions, education and financial stability in such multidimensional measures.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets out in its Goal 1 to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” and in Goal 10 to “reduce inequality within and among countries”. In addition, poverty-related issues are present in several other goals. The global indicators adopted for monitoring the goals need further refinement for regional and national use, as some of them are defined in a general form, such as “Proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions”. Countries expressed the need for further methodological guidance on the indicators and other issues in poverty measurement.

Such guidance is forthcoming in the form of the Guide on Poverty Measurement, which was discussed among the experts. The team tasked with preparing the Guide will plan its work to meet countries’ expectations on practical guidance, and add concrete recommendations and examples to help countries learn from each other. The Guide is expected to be ready for a broad consultation by the beginning of next year.

Participants agreed that the need for exchanging experience and developing methodological guidance in measuring poverty and inequality is growing. To provide a platform for this, they proposed that UNECE establish an expert group on measuring poverty and inequality.

Details of the meetings, including papers and presentations, can be found at http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=41290# and http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=41285#.