- Indicators measuring different dimensions of poverty (e.g. access to education or personal security) are a policy option worth considering in defining post-2015 development goals.
- Care should be taken not to put too many dimensions of poverty into an index.
- A universal index for all countries may not be the way forward as different countries may have different poverty-related priority issues to deal with.
- The OECD’s 2013 development cooperation report will be launched in London next week.
Many people who have escaped poverty as defined by MDG 1a are still poor according to different thresholds of income poverty, or when measuring poverty according to its many other dimensions. Multidimensional poverty measurement, which takes into account other indicators, such as access to education, could be used to complement more conventional income poverty measures (according to which for instance people should earn at least US$ 1.50 per day).
Via multidimensional poverty measurement, policymakers can achieve multiple goals - e.g. by addressing more than one deprivation at the same time - and break the ‘silo approach’ whereby individual government departments focus only on their policy area.
The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) has developed a multidimensional poverty measurement index based around three areas (health, education and living standards) and ten indicators. These include whether anyone in the house is malnourished, if a child is not attending school up until the age of eight or if a household does not have electricity or a clean floor.
‘You might be malnourished because you are a fashion model, uneducated but a self-made millionaire. That is why you need to have different ones together,’ said Sabina Alkire, Director of OPHI.
The index helps to measure both the incidence and intensity of multidimensional poverty. Potential uses include helping a regional governor assess progress in their area compared to others, or a local governor to look at information based on ethnic or religious groups. The index is based on demographic and health survey data. Some areas that were missing from the data (e.g. security, employment or gender data) could be added via a small survey instrument that the OPHI is suggesting, said Alkire.
Tanya Cox, Senior Advocacy and Campaigns Manager for Plan International and Chair of the Beyond 2015 European Task Force, which aims at developing a European position on the post-2015 global agenda, focused on future goals. She questioned the usefulness of having only one goal on poverty as it runs the risk of being purely income-related. An alternative would be to measure multidimensional poverty via a composite indicator including aspects such as education and personal security.
She argued that factors such as lack of access to land, preventing violence, education and health need to sit somewhere in the post-2015 framework. ‘The whole framework needs to be geared to reducing poverty. You can’t incorporate what you need to do on poverty with one goal,’ she said. Her organisation’s proposal is a well-being index looking at areas such as access to basic services, living standards, personal security (crime on the streets) and environmental issues (there can be no well-being without access to clean water or if the air is polluted). The data also need to be broken down into categories such as by gender and by age.
Tanya Cox, Chair of the Beyond 2015 European Task Force, warned against piling too many dimensions into an index and to focus on the most important means to reduce poverty. A universal index for all countries may not be necessary, she added. The important thing is to monitor progress over time in the same country, rather than to compare progress across countries.