The nation’s Global MPI value has plummeted over nearly eight years, reducing by more than half the number of citizens living in poverty
Cambodia has reduced its poverty level by more than half in just 7½ years, according to a stunning report from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Since 2016, one in five Cambodians has moved out of poverty, according to the 2023 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) Report. The Global MPI asserts that (as of 23 July 2023) only 16.6 percent of Cambodians now live in poverty, less than half the percentage (36.7 percent) of 2016. In pure numbers, the country now has 2.8 million living in poverty; children in the poorest regions are amongst those experiencing the fastest progress.
Published by the UNDP and the University of Oxford, the Global MPI registered this decline in poverty rates and a plummet in Cambodia’s Global MPI value, from 0.168 in 2014 to 0.070 in 2021/2022.
The Global MPI is an internationally comparable poverty index that measures poverty beyond income level. Published yearly, it is based upon health, education and standard of living, as well as 10 “deprivation indicators”.
“Nine out of 10 indicators improved by more than 21 percentage points, namely for access to electricity, sanitation and cooking fuel, by 11.6 percentage points for nutrition, and by 11 percentage points for years of schooling,” said UNDP Cambodia in an email correspondence with Focus Cambodia.
Data from the Cambodian Demographic and Health Surveys of 2010, 2014 and 2021/2022 revealed that Kratie, Preah Vihear and Stung Treng provinces — the country’s poorest and most rural regions – showed the most rapid reduction in Global MPI values. The latter two provinces, taken as one region in the report, reduced their incidence of poverty from 64.3 percent to 34.6 percent. This suggests that, along with the ịmplementation of specific programmes, far-reaching national development initiatives are helping to close regional disparities.
The only indicator for which deprivation did not significantly decline was school attendance.
In general, the number of children identified as poor who do not attend school had a slight decline, from 10.7 percent in 2014 to 9.8 percent in 2021/2022, said UNDP Cambodia. For urban areas, this same indicator increased from 3.8 to 6.7 percent.
The UNDP acknowledged that the data collected on the number of children attending school in 2021/2022 came during COVID-19 lockdowns. With this in mind, the pandemic may be a lingering contributing factor to the dwindling school attendance in urban areas.
In 2014, 12.7 percent of impoverished Cambodians lived with a child who was not attending school. In 2021/2022 this percentage had mushroomed to 23 percent, according to the report.
Despite the concern for school attendance in urban areas, Cambodia has achieved a milestone with regard to its commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) “target 1.2” – that is, halving the number of people living in poverty. “Cambodia halved multidimensional poverty not in 15 years, as the target demands, but … in half the time,” said UNDP Cambodia.
The UNDP attributes Cambodia’s impressive progress to pre-pandemic economic growth; investment in infrastructure (including social infrastructure), education and health; and the rapid expansion of social protection measures during the pandemic, including the IDPoor cash transfer programme.
“The old model of centred economic growth gave good results in improving a number of socioeconomic indicators,” the agency said. “But … with time it will be harder and harder to achieve progress.”.