- Half the world -- nearly three billion people -- live on less than two dollars a day. source 1
- The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the poorest 48 nations (i.e. a quarter of the world’s countries)
is less than the wealth of the world’s three richest people combined. source 2
- Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
- Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child
into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn't happen. 4
- 51 percent of the world’s 100 hundred wealthiest bodies are corporations. source 5
- The wealthiest nation on Earth has the widest gap between rich and poor of any industrialized nation.
- The poorer the country, the more likely it is that debt repayments are being extracted directly
from people who neither contracted the loans nor received any of the money. source 7
- 20% of the population in the developed nations, consume 86% of the world’s goods. source 8
- The top fifth of the world’s people in the richest countries enjoy 82% of the expanding
export trade and 68% of foreign direct investment — the bottom fifth, barely more than 1%. source 9
- In 1960, the 20% of the world’s people in the richest countries had 30 times the income of the
poorest 20% — in 1997, 74 times as much. source 10
- An analysis of long-term trends shows the distance between the richest and poorest countries
- 3 to 1 in 1820
- 11 to 1 in 1913
- 35 to 1 in 1950
- 44 to 1 in 1973
- 72 to 1 in 1992 source 11
- “The lives of 1.7 million children will be needlessly lost this year  because world governments
have failed to reduce poverty levels” source 12
- The developing world now spends $13 on debt repayment for every $1 it receives in grants.
- A few hundred millionaires now own as much wealth as the world’s poorest 2.5 billion people.
- “The 48 poorest countries account for less than 0.4 per cent of global exports.”
- “The combined wealth of the world’s 200 richest people hit $1 trillion in 1999; the combined
incomes of the 582 million people living in the 43 least developed countries is $146 billion.” source 16
- “Of all human rights failures today, those in economic and social areas affect by
far the larger number and are the most widespread across the world’s nations and large numbers of people.” source 17
- “Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished,
almost two-thirds of whom reside in Asia and the Pacific.” source 18
According to UNICEF, 30,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some
of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life
makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”
That is about 210,000 children each week, or just under 11 million children under five years of age,
each year. source 19
- For economic growth and almost all of the other indicators, the last 20 years [of the current form
of globalization, from 1980 - 2000] have shown a very clear decline in progress as compared with the previous two decades
[1960 - 1980]. For each indicator, countries were divided into five roughly equal groups, according to what level the countries
had achieved by the start of the period (1960 or 1980). Among the findings:
- Growth: The fall in economic growth rates was most pronounced and across the board for all groups
- Life Expectancy: Progress in life expectancy was also reduced for 4 out of the 5 groups of countries,
with the exception of the highest group (life expectancy 69-76 years).
- Infant and Child Mortality: Progress in reducing infant mortality was also considerably slower during
the period of globalization (1980-1998) than over the previous two decades.
- Education and literacy: Progress in education also slowed during the period of globalization.
- “Today, across the world, 1.3 billion people live on less than one dollar a day; 3
billion live on under two dollars a day; 1.3 billion have no access to clean water; 3 billion have no access to sanitation;
2 billion have no access to electricity.” source 21
- The richest 50 million people in Europe and North America have the same income as 2.7 billion poor
people. “The slice of the cake taken by 1% is the same size as that handed to the poorest 57%.” source 22
- The world’s 497 billionaires in 2001 registered a combined wealth of $1.54 trillion,
well over the combined gross national products of all the nations of sub-Saharan Africa ($929.3 billion) or those of the oil-rich
regions of the Middle East and North Africa ($1.34 trillion). It is also greater than the combined incomes of the poorest
half of humanity. source 23
- A mere 12 percent of the world’s population uses 85 percent of its water, and these 12 percent
do not live in the Third World. source 24
- Consider the global priorities in spending in 1998
Notes and Sources
1) This figure is based on purchasing power parity (PPP), which basically suggests that prices of goods in countries tend to equate under floating exchange rates
and therefore people would be able to purchase the same quantity of goods in any country for a given sum of money. That is,
the notion that a dollar should buy the same amount in all countries. Hence if a poor person in a poor country living on a
dollar a day moved to the U.S. with no changes to their income, they would still be living on a dollar a day. In addition,
see the following:
- Ignacio Ramonet, The politics of hunger, Le Monde diplomatique, November 1998
- The 9th International Anti-Corruption Conference Plenary Address by James Wolfensohn, August 2000
- March recognizes the billions living on less than two dollars a day, EarthTimes.org, October 24, 2000
- The poverty lines: population living with less than 2 dollars and less than 1 dollar a day from PovertyMap.net provides two maps showing the concentration of people living on less than 1 and 2
dollars per day, around the world.
- Also note that these numbers, from the World Bank, have been questioned and criticized.
- The World Bank has been criticized for almost arbitrarily coming up with a definition of a poverty line to mean one dollar per
day (of which they say there are about 1.3 billion people). That figure and how it has been chosen has been
much criticized by many, as shown by University of Ottawa Professor, Michel Chossudovsky in the previous link.
- In addition, in the United States for example, the poverty threshold for a family of four has been
estimated to be around eleven dollars per day. The one dollar a day definition then misses out much of humanity to understand
the impacts. Even the two dollars per day that I have pointed out here, while affecting half of humanity, also misses out
the numbers under three or four, or eleven dollars per day. These statistics are harder to find, and as I come across them,
I will post them here!
- More fundamental than that though, for example, is a critique from Columbia University, called How not to count the poor. The report describes an ill-defined poverty line, a misleading and inaccurate measure of purchasing
power equivalence, and false precision as the three main errors that may lead to “a large understatement
of the extent of global income poverty and to an incorrect inference that it has declined.” (Emphasis added). This allows
the World Bank to insist that the world is indeed “on the right track” in terms of poverty reduction strategy,
attributing this “success” to the design and implementation of “good” or “better policies”.
- But the statistic is not lost on some of the most prominent people in the world
- The New York Times in one of their email updates, in their Quote of the Day section,
for July 18, 2001 provided the following quote: “A world where some live in comfort and plenty, while half of the human
race lives on less than $2 a day, is neither just, nor stable.” — President Bush
- See also James Wolfenson, The Other Crisis, World Bank, October 1998 who said: “Today,
across the world, 1.3 billion people live on less than one dollar a day; 3 billion live on under two dollars a day; 1.3 billion
have no access to clean water; 3 billion have no access to sanitation; 2 billion have no access to electricity.” (See
also note 21 below.)
- Koffi Anan, UN Secretary General, in a speech on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, 17 October 2000, said “Almost half the
world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day, yet even this statistic fails to capture the humiliation, powerlessness
and brutal hardship that is the daily lot of the world’s poor.”
2) Ignacio Ramonet, The politics of hunger, Le Monde Diplomatique, November 1998
3) The State of the World’s Children, 1999, UNICEF
4) State of the World, Issue 287 - Feb 1997, New Internationalist
5) Holding Transnationals Accountable, IPS, August 11, 1998
6) The Corporate Planet, Corporate Watch, 1997
7) Debt - The facts, Issue 312 - May 1999, New Internationalist
8) 1998 Human Development Report, United Nations Development Programme
9) 1999 Human Development Report, United Nations Development Programme
12) Missing the Target; The price of empty promises, Oxfam, June 2000
13) Global Development Finance, World Bank, 1999
14) Economics forever; Building sustainability into economic policy PANOS Briefing 38, March 2000
15) Human Development Report 2000, p. 82, United Nations Development Programme
16) Ibid, p. 82
17) Ibid, p. 73
18) World Resources Institute Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems, February 2001, (in
the Food Feed and Fiber section). Note, that dispite the food production rate being better than population growth rate, there is still
so much hunger around the world.
19) Progress of Nations 2000, UNICEF, 2000.
Note that the statistic cited uses children as those under the age of five. If it was say 6, or 7,
the numbers would be even higher.
20) The Scorecard on Globalization 1980-2000: Twenty Years of Diminished Progress, by Mark Weisbrot, Dean Baker, Egor Kraev and Judy Chen, Center for Economic Policy and Research,
21) James Wolfenson, The Other Crisis, World Bank, October 1998, quoted from The
Reality of Aid 2000, (Earthscan Publications, 2000), p.10
22) Larry Elliott, A cure worse than the disease, The Guardian, January 21, 2002
23) John Cavanagh and Sarah Anderson , World’s Billionaires Take a Hit, But Still Soar, The Institute for Policy Studies, March 6, 2002
24) Maude Barlow, Water as Commodity - The Wrong Prescription, The Institute for Food and Development Policy, Backgrounder, Summer 2001, Vol. 7, No. 3