Bhutan, Mexico

Measuring Poverty in the Post 2015 Agenda

photo credit: United Nations Photo
photo credit: United Nations Photo

Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals held the final session on July 14 – 19 and released the final outcome. The report proposes 17 goals and 169 targets, which would be reduced during following diplomatic negotiations by the Autumn next year.

A week after the session, I had a chance to attend a follow-up workshop for country representatives to learn the technical aspects of post-2015: how to reduce proposed goals and targets; and how to measure them. Academics, practitioners and diplomats exchanged views on measurement. As a nature of closed event, I cannot go into details but here is my brief summary. Personally my biggest surprise was that multidimensional poverty measurement has become popular in practice; in particular, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) has greatly contributed to the established global multidimensional poverty index (MPI), based on the Alkire & Foster method (2011).

How to Reduce Goals and Targets?

  • On the currently proposed report on July 19, there are over a hundred targets. SDGs and MDGs deal with totally different challenges and concepts. That is why measurement discussion seriously benefits the discussion to reduce and combine goals.
  • Linking poverty eradication and sustainable development would be one solution; some of them are interconnected.

– Nutrition and agricultural products: Climate change hits farmers back into and out of poverty. Climate change comes into both issues of social/economic inclusion and environment sustainability.
– Urbanisation: Half of world populations now live in cities and two-third will be by 2050. Goals on sustainable city planning, access to public space, and access to basic services have important link among urban areas.

Issues around what and how to measure inclusive development

  • Data: Timing of updated data is the most important issue. Annual review is crucial to monitor the progress. Need to see poverty data timely every year. Annually updated data need to measure the targets.
  • Remittance for development: Is separation of family to remit income back to children in their own countries a good thing? Children need to have parents to grow up.
  • Employment: Without skills, we will not have decent employment. Not only macroeconomic management but also job sharing institutions or active labour market policies should be seriously considered to put in place.


Multidimensional Measurement of Poverty

  • OPHI created Global MPI combining health, education and living standard indicators. The method is based on Alkire-Foster (2011), which is applied for human development report 2012 onward.
  • MPI adds values: e.g. human development indicators take long time to affect income poverty indicators but MPI can capture it immediately.
  • Poverty data for MPI can be taken from widely available Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), updated every 5.88 years on average.
  • MPI is useful in policy levels. MPI is multilevel accountability technology. Each ministry takes responsibility to work on poverty from different approach. If MPI is bad because of health indicators, Ministry of Health would need to take responsibility.
  • Bhutan takes MPI as a target of national development plan. MPI is indexed with 13 indicators of health, education and living standard. Poverty headcounts based on MPI and income poverty were 12.7% and 12% in 2012, respectively; and only 3% were overwrapped.
  • Mexico also sets MPI as a target of national development plan 2013-18.


Introduction to the Proposal of The Open Working Group for Sustainable Development Goals (PDF)
Alkire & Foster (2011) Counting and multidimensional poverty measurement

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