The latest Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) frames India as a success story, with newly analysed data revealing the country has made rapid progress on reducing poverty over the last decade.
Published for the first time in 2010 by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), the MPI measures three main dimensions of poverty—health, education and living standards—in 104 developing countries around the world. The report says around 75% of the world's people live in these countries, and one in four of them lives in poverty.
By looking at factors like malnutrition and access to energy, education and housing, the MPI aims to provide a fuller picture of how poverty impacts people than standard measures based purely on income.
Although India still has the largest number of people living in multidimensional poverty in the world, the new report says India has made considerable progress. Between 2005-06 and 2015-16, India nearly halved its poverty rate, from 55% to 28%. OPHI director Sabina Alkire says this represents a historic shift on par with China's rapid poverty reduction over the last few decades.
"We were able to look at changes over time and it's a surprisingly happy story," Alkire told DW. "Even considering population growth, we've seen a reduction in the number of poor people from 635 million to 364 million. So, 271 million people have moved out of poverty in India. That's massive."
OPHI reports that the fastest poverty reduction in India was among the country's most vulnerable, suggesting they are "catching up" with the rest of society.
But Alkire says the reasons behind these improvements remain unclear. "[The report] is a call to the people of India to tell us what went right and how that can be sustained," Alkire says.
"Now, the ongoing challenge for India is that those groups still remain the poorest, they haven't overtaken others. But if this positive trend can be continued from 2015/16 into the future that would be a fantastic accomplishment in terms of reducing the human suffering," she added
Still, despite progress, Save the Children India's director, Bidisha Pillai, says India's reduction in poverty doesn't guarantee children better access to rights and quality of life.
"It's not resulting in better health outcomes necessarily, it's not resulting in better quality of learning outcomes and it's certainly not resulting in better protection of children from violence," she told DW, adding that while "many people have been lifted out of poverty, this has not translated into tackling some of the more difficult issues when it comes to children."
While the report does not cover the entire global population, its authors estimate that half the world's poor are under the age of 18. One out of every three—or 662 million—children in the countries looked at in the study live in multidimensional poverty.
Alkire hopes policymakers will use the data collected for the latest MPI to inform measures to tackle poverty.
"[Governments] can really use it to get traction on the internal issues and to get monitoring which celebrates progress, making it very visible and politically salient," Alkire says.
The UNDP will also make MPI data publicly available online on World Poverty Day on October 17, allowing local academics to analyse their own countries' data.
"We want them to figure out what made change happen, [and ask] how can we make policies better," Alkire says. "Because it's their minds, their creativity and knowledge of the context that can do so much more than any one group from outside can do."
Save the Children India's Bidisha Pillai says the data is also useful for humanitarian and non-profit organisations.
"We find it extremely helpful," she told DW. "It allows us to make strategic choices in terms of what are the specific themes that we need to focus on, as well as where we should [target] our programs in order to reach the most marginalised."
Inputs by NH Web Desk