One third of Maldivians multidimensionally poor, new study finds

Almost one third of the Maldives population is multidimensionally poor, a joint study has found.

The first ever Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) of the Maldives, released Thursday, showed that 28 per cent of the country’s population was multidimensionally poor — meaning they lack access to health care, education, proper nutrition, or adequate housing — in 2016.

A regional comparison revealed that 10 per cent of the population in capital was multidimensionally poor whereas 40 per cent of the population is poor in the atolls.

Even though only 61 per cent of the population lived in the atolls, 87 per cent of the Maldives’ poor population lived in the atolls. Only about 13 per cent of the country’s multidimensionally poor lived in the capital, disproportionately less than the city’s population share.

“This implies that in order to improve the condition of the poor, better targeted poverty reduction programmes need to be carried out for the population living in the atolls,” the joint study by the National Bureau of Statistics, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and UNICEF read.

The new findings are a stark contrast from traditional poverty indexes which are based on monetary indicators and uses data from household income surveys.

According to income poverty, only eight per cent of the population was poor. Close to 13 per cent of the population was poor in the atolls and less than three per cent were poor in Male.

“The large difference between the two measures illustrates the vital importance of using both measures to inform policy and planning, as they convey information about people who are poor in different ways and thus inform different policy interventions,” the report said.

According to the study, children in the Maldives have a higher likelihood of being multidimensionally poor than any other age group; 34 per cent of 0-17 year olds live in multidimensionally poor households. Among the youth, aged 18-35, this rate is around 22 per cent.

But the good news is that the study did not find any major difference in the level of multidimensional poverty between male and female headed households.

Multidimensional poverty has also reduced significantly. Between 2009 and 2017, the index has decreased to one third of its original value – from 0.425 to 0.145.

“Over the 8 years, education and living standard dimension showed the most visible improvement,” the report read.

“Eighty percent of the indicators have shown improvement over the years, immediate action is needed to improve the health condition of the population given that health indicators remained without much improvement.”

The study follows a decision by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in February to adopt the MPI as the assessment tool for poverty in the Maldives.

The MPI, which covers over 100 developing countries, complements traditional monetary-based poverty measures by capturing the acute deprivations that each person faces in education, health and living standards.

Photo: Corporate Maldives

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