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Who gets the biggest slice? UNECE supports measurement of poverty and inequality

There are enormous differences in the distribution of wealth between the world’s richest and the world’s poorest people. While the bottom half of adults collectively owns less than 1% of total wealth, the richest top 10% of adults owns 85% of global wealth, and the top percentile alone accounts for almost half of all household wealth (47%).

But what does it mean to be poor? Feelings of poverty are not simply a result of how much wealth we own. For many, what matters is how our situation compares to those around us– in our city, our neighbourhood, or even our own family. This has led to a growing interest in developing more nuanced measures of economic inequality, which focus on the individual alone as the unit of observation.

One of these measures refers to a person’s own share in the family pie: that is, the allocation of resources within the household. Intra-household inequality is especially important from the point of view of gender relations – the few studies on partners in a couple find that when differences in deprivation occur, they are somewhat more often to the disadvantage of women than of men– and relations between the generations, for instance in multi-family or multigenerational households.

Although the importance of intra-household inequality has long been recognized, there is little information available about income or consumption at the individual level. The primary source of data on poverty is household surveys, and with such surveys it is extremely difficult to record which family member owns a particular household asset or how the family’s income or consumption is shared between partners, children or extended family members.

This is just one of the many issues that will be discussed during the UNECE meetings on measuring poverty and inequality that will take place in Vienna on 28-30 November, bringing together more than 80 experts from statistical offices, research institutions and international organizations.

Statistical experts will also discuss concrete recommendations on disaggregated poverty measures proposed by a UNECE Task Force, designed to identify the most disadvantaged or marginalized members of the society who often experience the highest levels of poverty. This work is essential for operationalizing the commitment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to ‘leave no-one behind’, and to support member States in designing and implementing policies which seek to equalize living standards among their populations by eliminating all types of ethnic, gender, and social discrimination.

As part of the events, countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia will discuss their collective efforts to further harmonize poverty statistics and improve cross-country comparability, an important objective for monitoring progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Details of the meetings, including papers and presentation slides, can be found at: http://www.unece.org/stats/documents/2018.11.poverty.seminar.html