Recent gains in millennium development goal 1 have seen the number of hungry people in the world decrease to fewer than 1 billion, though the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations believes that this number is still unacceptably high.
Millennium Development Goal 1 has three targets:
- To halve the proportion of people whose daily income is less than $1.25
- To achieve full and productive employment, as well as decent work for all, including young people and women
- To halve the proportion of individuals suffering from hunger in the period between 1990 and 2015.
Pioneering efforts have led to profound achievements including:
- A considerable reduction in extreme poverty over the last 25 years. In 1990, nearly 50 percent of the population in developing nations lived on less than $1.25 a day. As of 2015, that proportion has dropped to 14 percent.
- The number of people living in extreme poverty worldwide has reduced by more than 50 percent. In 1990, 1.9 billion people were said to be living in extreme poverty, compared to 836 million in 2015. Most progress was seen in the new millennium.
- The number of living on more than $4 a day – those in the working middle class – has nearly tripled between 1991 and 2015. In 1991, this group made only 18 percent of the population, and rose to 50 percent in 2015.
- The proportion of undernourished people in the developing world has dropped by almost 50 percent since 1990; from 23.3 percent in 1990 – ’92 to 12.9 percent in 2014 – ’16.
A closer look at the achievements of Millennium Development Goal 1 targets
Target #1: Extreme poverty reduction
The poverty rate in the developing world has plummeted from 47 percent to 14 percent in the period between 1990 and 2015 – a 70 percent drop!
The MDG target of reducing by half extreme global poverty was achieved by 2010 – 5 years before the 2015 deadline. Recent estimates show that the number of people surviving on less than $1.25 a day worldwide reduced from 36 percent to 15 percent between 1990 and 2011. As of 2015, the proportion has dropped further to 12 percent.
By 2011, all developing regions, with the exception of sub-Saharan Africa, had achieved the target of halving the number of people living in extreme poverty. The most populous countries in the world – China and India – played a major role in the worldwide reduction of poverty. The remarkable progress in China led to reduction in extreme poverty in Eastern Asia from 61 percent to 4 percent between 1990 and 2015. Southern Asia’s progress has also been impressive, with a decline from 52 to 17 percent within the same time period, but with accelerated reduction since 2008.
In contrast, the rate of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa did not change between 1990 and 2002. The rate of poverty decline has accelerated since, though more than 40 percent of sub-Saharan population continues to live extreme poverty in 2015. Worse still, extreme poverty in Western Asia was expected to increase between 2011 and 2015.
Target #2: Achieving full and productive employment
There has been mixed changes with regard to these changes as follows:
- The global economy is in a new era characterised by slower growth, greater inequalities, and turbulence, plus employment opportunities are not growing as fast as the increasing labour force. The employment-to-population ratio in the word, or the number of working-age people in employment, has dropped from 62 percent to 60 percent between 1991 and 2015, with a considerable downturn during the 2008/09 global crisis. In fact, the International Labour Organisation claims that there are more than 204 million unemployed people in 205, which is 34 million before the start of the 2008 economic crisis and 53 million more than in 1991.
- Employment opportunities have diminished in both developed and developing regions. The employment-to-population ratio in developed nations has fallen by 1 percent, while that in developing regions has reduced by 1 percent, with the largest declines in Eastern and Southern Asia. The employment situation in sub-Saharan Africa has improved slightly, though the livelihoods of residents have not improved much due to high under-employment and informal employments, combined with low labour productivity.
- Youth, especially young women are still disproportionately affected by unemployment and few employment opportunities. Only 4 in 10 youth (men and women aged 15-24) are employed in 2015 compared to 5 in 10 in 1991, indicating a 10 percent drop in employment. While this is partly due to staying longer in school, 74 million youth are looking for jobs in 2015 globally – three times higher than the adult number.
- The number of employees living in extreme poverty has reduced significantly over the past 25 years, despite the global financial crisis. In 1991, nearly 50 percent of workers in developing nations survived on a household income of less than $1.25 per person per day. In 2015, the rate has dropped to 11 percent, which translated to a two-thirds decline in the number of extremely poor workers, from 900 million to 300 million between 1991 and 2015.
- The number of people living on more than $4 a day (working middle class) has nearly tripled between 1991 and 2015, making up almost 50 percent of the workforce in developing countries – up from 18 percent in 1991.
Target #3: Halve the proportion of people suffering from hunger
Current estimates suggest that nearly 780 million people living in the developing regions are undernourished, which means that one in nine people do not have enough to eat. However, this translated to a 50 percent drop in the proportion of undernourished people in developing countries – from 23.3 to 12.9 percent between 1990-92 and 2014-16.
Progress in hunger reduction has been significant despite the challenging global environment over the last decade. Major challenges have included rising unemployment, higher food and energy prices, volatile commodity prices, economic recessions, frequent extreme weather events and natural disasters, and political instability and civil strife. These obstacles have slowed down progress in reducing extreme poverty and hunger in some of the most vulnerable nations of the world.
Even though the MDG targets have been met, it will be extremely difficult to eliminate the remaining extreme poverty and hunger.