Imagine every human being on the planet standing shoulder to shoulder in one long line. It would be long enough to wrap around the Earth’s circumference 230 times. That’s a lot of people – and every one in ten currently lives in extreme poverty. In other words, they only have USD 1.90 a day for food, drink, clothing and all the other necessities. In Germany, for instance, that’s not enough to buy a burger, three scoops of ice cream or a bus ticket into the city to go shopping in the first place. Forget about school supplies or food, let alone a mobile phone. To make matters worse, most people who are extremely poor live in rural areas without access to functioning infrastructure. This is often especially hard on children. Standing in that human chain, you would quickly realize that any one of us could be that tenth person. Extreme proverty is not something far removed from your life. At most, it’s nine people away.
In 2019, about 15 percent of people living in Germany were classified as being at risk of falling into poverty. Poverty is especially hard on single parents who often have to single-handedly care for their children and still work at the same time. The prospect of poverty also looms larger for the unemployed, people with immigrant backgrounds as well as the sick and elderly. What’s more, one in five kids grows up in poverty. In a word, there’s a good chance that friends at kindergarten or school are poor.
In contrast to extreme poverty, the underprivileged in Germany have less than 60 percent of the median income. For a single person, that means you have to live off less than EUR 840 a month. To put that into context, 6.8 percent of those living in Germany in 2019 were unable to buy a balanced meal or pay their rent on time. They also did not have access to a washing machine or a car. Most of them could not even afford going away on one vacation a year. About 2.6 percent of German residents’ lives were severely impacted by the inability to make ends meet. Fortunately, these rates are well below the average in the European Union.
Poverty is consequently more than just insufficient income and resources to sustain life. It also takes the form of hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion, as well as being shut out of decision-making processes.
We need to stimulate inclusive economic growth in order to create sustainable jobs and promote equality. To alleviate suffering in disaster-prone countries and provide safety nets in the face of major economic risks, it is necessary to establish social protection systems. These systems not only serve as a buffer, protecting affected populations from unexpected economic losses in the wake of disasters, but also aim to ultimately eradicate extreme poverty in the most needy areas.
In the last 25 years, one billion people have escaped extreme poverty. And it is predicted that, by 2030, only one in 16 people will still trapped in extreme poverty. While global poverty rates have more than halved since 2000 and significant progress has been made in many countries in East and Southeast Asia, up to 42 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa still live below the poverty line. But the global community is striving for an even more ambitious goal – completely eliminating extreme poverty by the year 2030. To do it, we have to pull together.