Coronavirus Could Push More Than 1 Billion People to Extreme Poverty

December 8, 2020 Topic: Health Region: Americas Blog Brand: Coronavirus Tags: CoronavirusPandemicStimulusEconomyPoverty

Coronavirus Could Push More Than 1 Billion People to Extreme Poverty

The researchers from Columbia University noted that although the federal Cares Act—which gave individuals a one-time stimulus check of $1,200 and unemployed workers an enhanced benefit of $600 each week—was largely successful in curbing rising poverty rates in the spring, the effects became more muted as fall arrived.  

 

Due to the severe long-term impact of the months-long coronavirus pandemic, an additional 207 million people worldwide could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030, raising the total number to more than a billion, according to a new study from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).  

The agency, however, did acknowledge that such a dire forecast can still be prevented. One way is a tighter focus on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which are the blueprint to address a variety of global challenges from inequality and climate change to environmental degradation.  

 

Such a concerted global effort has the potential to slow the rise of extreme poverty, especially among girls and women, by lifting 146 million people from its grip.  

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner asserted that the ongoing pandemic is a “tipping point” and the future of millions would depend on making keen decisions today.

“As this new poverty research highlights, the COVID-19 pandemic is a tipping point, and the choices leaders take now could take the world in very different directions,” he said in a news release.  

“We have an opportunity to invest in a decade of action that not only helps people recover from COVID-19, but that resets the development path of people and planet towards a fairer, resilient, and green future.” 

The proposed SDG interventions also place heavy focus on global collaboration for climate action, additional investments in pandemic recovery, and the need for improved broadband access for all.

UNDP’s results are consistent with another study in October that revealed that the number of Americans now living in poverty surged by eight million since May. 

The researchers from Columbia University noted that although the federal Cares Act—which gave individuals a one-time stimulus check of $1,200 and unemployed workers an enhanced benefit of $600 each week—was largely successful in curbing rising poverty rates in the spring, the effects became more muted as fall arrived.  

“We find that the monthly poverty rate increased from 15 percent to 16.7 percent from February to September 2020, even after taking the Cares Act’s income transfers into account,” the study’s researchers wrote. “Increases in monthly poverty rates have been particularly acute for Black and Hispanic people, as well as for children.” 

The federal stimulus package likely saved about eighteen million Americans from poverty in April, the researchers added, but as of September, that figure plummeted to four million.  

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.  

Image: Reuters