COVID-19 & Poverty

How Sustainable Development Goal One will be affected


The coronavirus COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated that a society is only as strong as its weakest link; this is true both for the health of its people and of its economy

The World Food Programme estimates that more than 265 million people face acute food insecurity in 2020. 

The International Labour Organization predicts that the pandemic will  trigger a 60 percent decline in earnings for 1.6 billion informal workers, while half of the world is trying to survive without any form of social protection.

This year the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is more important than ever. 

Ending Poverty

Ending poverty in all its forms is the foundation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Yet the World Bank estimates that we will see the first rise in poverty since 1998. UNDP estimates that human development will decline since we first began measuring it in 1990.

The new extreme poor will be concentrated in regions already struggling with a high burden of poverty, such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. 

The social, economic and political fallout, which has only just begun, will be part of our lives for years to come.

How we measure poverty

UNDP understands that poverty is a complex issue.

The Multidimensional
Poverty Index
recognizes how poverty robs families of the capability to live in dignity — from health, education and standard of living.

The coronavirus will prey on all these interstitial factors to create a new, bigger global underclass, with all the social and political upheaval that could imply. 

UN officials have warned that we could see an increase in unrest, conflict and starvation.

An industry on the edge 

Prior to the pandemic, the UN says tourism grew faster than the world economy for ten years. 

It generated seven percent of global trade and employed one in every ten people. Now, up to 120 million direct jobs are at risk. Many are in the informal economy.

Even places such as Vanuatu, with almost no cases of COVID-19, are suffering because they rely heavily on tourism to support their economy. 

Many rural African communities, guardians of endangered animals, depend entirely on eco- and wildlife tourism. 

Women and poverty

COVID-19 is making women poorer and less safe. 

UNDP’s Gender Tracker reports that most countries aren’t doing enough. It includes more than 2,500 measures in 206 countries, analyzed domestic violence, unpaid care, and women’s economic security. 

It found that one fifth of countries have no measures to help women and only 12 percent cover all three areas. 

New UN Women and UNDP data shows an extra 47 million women will be pushed into poverty.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has raised alarm about the “horrifying” surge in domestic violence, because of economic stress.

It’s time for big, bold ideas

We are at the tipping point that requires cohesive, immediate action.

UNDP has called for a Temporary Basic Income to protect the world’s poorest, particularly women, the disabled, and migrants. It would give families a financial cushion and slow the spread of the virus by enabling people to stay home. 

UNDP has assessed the effects of COVID-19 in more than 60 countries. We have estimated that it would cost US$199 billion a month to guarantee basic income to 2.8 billion people living on the poverty line in 132 countries. 

- UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner

“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented social and economic measures. Introducing a Temporary Basic Income for the world’s poorest people has emerged as one option. This might have seemed impossible just a few months ago,” 

Our joint initiative with the OECD, Tax Inspectors Without Borders is helping developing countries collect the taxes owed to them by multinational companies. Up until June we had recovered more than US$537 million.

Our partnership with The Lion’s Share is raising US$3 million for 40 communities who depend on wildlife and eco-tourism for their living. 

The Global Framework for Action will support 14 countries in five regions to improve their social safety nets via the Joint SDG Fund. 

Framework for Action

In close coordination with the RC, the UNCT, national partners and the donor community, UNDP is contributing to a COVID-19 socio-economic impact assessment with special focus on sectors and population groups most exposed to risk in order to buffer the effect of COVID-19 AND increase resilience of the economy and at-risk communities in the future.

Opportunity within crisis

As we enter a Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to aim for a redesign that will fully realize the vision of Agenda 2030.

UNDP’s COVID-19 crisis response is designed to help decision-makers make the right choices in governance, social protection, the green economy, and digital disruption.

The world needs to stem the socio-economic crisis, ensure that recovery is sustainable and moves decisively towards a green economy. 

Together, we have a chance to take a leap to an inclusive, peaceful, and resilient future, with the Sustainable Development Goals as our guide.

Photo Credits

pg1, Dech St/; 
pg2, Rusell Tate/
pg 3,  Thought Catalog/;
pg 4, Zerbor/; 
pg 5 & 6, UNDP India/Dhiraj Singh;
pg 8, @marjanblan/
pg 9, @photography_by_dumortier/ 
pg 10, CalypsoArt/; 
pg 12, L: UNDP Bangladesh/Mohammad Assad, R: ; 
pg 13, @matthearne/; 
pg 15, UNDP Afghanistan/Igor; 
pg 16, UNDP Vanuatu; 
pg 17, UNDP Angola; 
pg 18, UNDP Bangladesh/Fahad Kaizer; 
pg 19, Left: UNDP Lebanon/Rana Sweidan,
Pg 19, Right: UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/Aurélia Rusek⁠; 
pg 21, UNDP Guatemala/Caroline Trutmann; 
pg 22, UN Photo/Mark Garten; 
pg 24, UNDP DRC/Mariam Ouedraogo; 
pg 26, UNDP/Positive Mass Films; 
pg 27, @jontyson/ ; 
pg 28, Wild Shots Outreach; 
pg 29, UNDP Belarus/Sergei Gapon; 
pg 30, @matthew_t_rader/; 
pg 31 UNDP/Karin Schermbrucker for Slingshot;