A vantage point of history observes that most poor countries were vassals of the great colonial powers of the 19th and 20th centuries. The exit strategies pursued in granting independence cemented geographical boundaries that were inspired more by the politics of empire than the creation of new nation states.


Too many countries found themselves lacking a critical mass of natural resources or population, landlocked, or seething with irreconcilable ethnic division. A significant proportion of today’s global poverty exists in war-torn and post-conflict countries.

The newly independent countries were also denied fair representation in international negotiations, either by exclusion or by lack of capacity. Globalization has generated great wealth in recent decades but its governance is driven by economic power rather than democratic principles.



This has been most apparent in global trade rules which have obstructed developing countries from reproducing proven models of industrialization. Agriculture has been impeded by massive subsidies available to US and European farmers.

National control of domestic development strategies has also been hampered by conditions attached to concessionary loans and grants. Ideological rules imposed for macroeconomic rectitude, such as privatization of urban utilities, have been imposed with insufficient regard for the poor.



It must be said that many developing countries have been the architects of their own misfortunes. Self-perpetuating kleptomaniac governance has drained economic growth through corruption and clientele politics.

Weak democracy further perverts the allocation of resources. Relatively robust economic growth enjoyed by developing countries for much of the 1990-2005 periods has not delivered commensurate poverty reduction.

Population growth also places great demands on poverty reduction programs but is not an underlying cause of poverty. Rich countries have themselves emerged successfully from periods of high population growth that coincided with industrial development.



There are two philosophical platforms which justify our concern about global poverty. First is the abhorrence of extreme poverty on ethical grounds which for many springs from religious teaching.


This finds secular expression in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which asserts that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family.” The pursuit of poverty reduction as an obligation under human rights law is reflected in the mission statements of many UN agencies.

The second reason why we should care lies in self-interest. In a globalized world, countries large and small are interdependent.


Extreme poverty is the engine of international labor migration which the richer countries are notoriously reluctant to accommodate. The spread of disease is difficult to control if weak countries lack capacity to participate in an international response. Whilst the risk of terrorism is often complex in origin, extreme poverty is the ideal recruiting ground for its foot soldiers.

From a more positive perspective, neo-liberal capitalism thirsts for a larger world economy. A prosperous Africa would increase the slice of the cake for others. If India could eradicate its mass rural and urban poverty, the country would achieve the economic superpower status it craves.

These are lists of countries of the world by percentage of population living in poverty. “Poverty” defined as an economic condition of lacking both money and necessities needed to successfully live, such as food, water, education, healthcare, and shelter. There are many working definitions of “poverty,” with considerable debate on how to best define the term. Income security, economic stability, and the predictability of one is continued means to meet basic needs all serve as absolute indicators of poverty. Poverty may therefore also be defined as the economic condition of lacking predictable and stable means of meeting basic life needs.

The first table lists countries by the percentage of their population with an income of less than 1.25, and less than 2, US dollars per day. The sourced data refers to the most recent year available during the period 2000-2007.

The second table lists countries by the percentage of the population living below the national poverty line — the poverty line deemed appropriate for a country by its authorities. National estimates are based on population-weighted subgroup estimates from household surveys. Definitions of the poverty line may vary considerably among nations. For example, rich nations generally employ more generous standards of poverty than poor nations. Thus, the numbers are not strictly comparable among countries. Here is the link, you can visit to see the world database of extreme poverty