Goal 1: No Poverty

Measuring progress in the Nordic countries

Work in progress: This page is under active development.

Adopted in 2015 by all United Nations (UN) members, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a global agenda for making the world a better place by 2030. They are described by the UN as a ‘shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet‘, and goals are to be achieved by all countries, in global partnership, by 2030.

This data tracker uses the latest official data to look at how the Nordic countries are progressing towards achieving the 17 SDGs, with this page looking closer at Sustainable Development Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere. Data for the other goals can be access via this link.

Each target is presented by first looking at global trends, before zooming in on the Nordic countries and assessing their performance. The assessment is based on work by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in analysing the progress made toward the SDGs in all OECD countries.

Target 1.1

By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day.

Indicator:

1.1.1Proportion of the population living below the international poverty line

Global trends

Extreme poverty is defined as living below the international poverty line, currently set at $2.15 per person per day (in comparable international prices).

Over the past decades, the share of people living in extreme poverty has declined. In 2019 about 8% of the world’s population⁠—648 million people⁠—lived in extreme poverty, compared to almost 30% in 2000, according to the latest official data. This means that over 1.1 billion people have escaped extreme poverty over the past two decades.

The COVID-19 pandemic has, however, had a severe impact on the progress made in recent decades, and the World Bank estimates that extreme poverty rose for the first time in a generation in 2020.

Since then poverty reduction has resumed in 2021, but the outlook for 2022 is uncertain due to rising food and energy prices. According to the World Bank, this could cause 2022 to be the second-worst year for poverty reduction, after 2020, in the last 22 years.

It is now estimated that some 574 million people—7% of the global population—will live in extreme poverty in 2030, far off the global target set in the Sustainable Development Goals of reducing the extreme poverty rate to below 3% (255 million people).

Despite the overall global progress, over a third of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa lived in extreme poverty in 2019. The region accounts for 389 million⁠—60%— of the global population living in extreme poverty.

Note that the regional groupings used in the visualisation above (and all other visualisations on this page with regional data) follow the UN regional classification for the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Nordics

Extreme poverty is virtually non-existent in the Nordic countries, according to the UN data. This means all of the Nordic countries have already achieved the target for 2030.

Target 1.2

By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions

Indicators:

1.2.1Proportion of population living below the national poverty line
1.2.2Proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions

Global Trends

Whereas target 1.1 is concerned with extreme poverty, an absolute measure of poverty, target 1.2 is aimed at reducing poverty according to nationally set poverty lines. Such poverty lines will differ from country to country in terms of definition.

Overall, according to the latest UN data for 2020, only 27% of countries had managed to reach the target of halving the share of the population living below their nationally set poverty lines. In 52% of countries, poverty rates have declined by less than half, whereas in 22% of countries it increased. The regions where most progress has been made are Central Asia and Southern Asia as well as Eastern Asia and South-eastern Asia.

If current trends continue, the UN estimates that only 40% of countries will reach the target of halving poerty by 2030.

Note that this data only covers 68 countries with set national poverty lines and available data.

The Nordics

To ensure cross-country comparability, the OECD uses two indicators to assess progress in OECD-countries, including the Nordics, towards target 1.2:

  • a measure of relative income poverty
  • a measure of multidimensional poverty
Relative income poverty

The relative income poverty rate is defined as the share of people whose income falls below a poverty line set at half the median household income of the total population. The median household income is the income level falls exactly in the middle of all household incomes.

Data from the OECD shows that none of the Nordic countries have managed to make any significant progress towards reducing the relative income poverty rate over the past decades. The latest data shows that relative income poverty is most prevalent in Sweden and Norway at above 8%. Iceland has the lowest share, although the latest data is from 2017. Still, relative income poverty is less prevalent in the Nordic countries than other industrialised countries, with an average of 1 in 10 people living in OECD-countries considered poor, according to this definition of relative income poverty.

Multidimensional poverty

Measuring poverty only based on a person or household income, can risk overlooking other factors that can contribute poverty. The European statistical agency, Eurostat, publishes data for a measure of multidimensional poverty that covers people who are:

  • at risk of poverty
  • severely materially deprived
  • living in a household with a very low work intensity

Data for multidimensional poverty according to this definition shows that multidimensional poverty rates in most of the Nordic countries have remained relatively stable over the last decades. In total across, the EU, relative poverty affects over 21% of the population, over 95 million people.

Looking at the two measurements of target 1.2 combined, relative income poverty and multidimensional poverty, none of the Nordic countries are currently making enough progress to be able to halve the share of the population living in poverty in all its dimensions by 2030.

The above trend is in line with the situation in other OECD countries. As highlighted in the OECD's assessment: "no OECD country is expected to make enough progress to reach the target levels by 2030 on both indicators."

Target 1.3

Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable

Indicators:

1.3.1Proportion of population covered by social protection floors/systems

Global trends

This target recognises the vital role of social protection in preventing and reducing poverty. Social protection can come in many forms aimed at protecting peoples jobs, health and incomes.

Globally, 47% of the world population is covered by at least one social protection benefit in 2020. This means that around 4 billion people are unprotected worldwide, and thus can recieve no income security from social protection systems.

There are significant differences in social protecion coverage between regions. In Sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty is most prevalent, only 14% are covered, whereas over 8 out of 10 are covered in most high-income countries.

Although many countries implemented new social protection measures as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all of them (95%) were temporary according to the UN. This shows that there is a wide gap to be closed over the next decade to reach the 2030 target.

The Nordics

Measurement of social protection coverage at the national level includes the following indicators:

  • Proportion of population covered by at least one social protection cash benefit
  • Proportion of children covered by social protection benefits
  • Proportion of women giving birth covered by maternity benefits
  • Proportion of persons with disabilities receiving benefits
  • Proportion of unemployed receiving benefits
  • Proportion of workers covered in case of employment injury
  • Proportion of older persons receiving a pension
  • Proportion of vulnerable persons receiving benefits
  • Proportion of poor population receiving social assistance cash benefit

In addition to these, the OECD includes a measure of recipients of secondary out-of-work benefits (safety nets) as a percentage of the poor working-age population, when gauging progress made by OECD countries towards the 2030 targets.

The Nordic countries have a high level of social protection coverage compared to other countries. For most groups, coverage rates are at 100%. There are some important exceptions to this, notably for unemployment benefits and social assistance cash benefits to vulnerable groups. In addition, most Nordic countries, apart from Finland, have provided lower levels of out-of-work benefits to those who are not entitled to regular unemployment benefits.

When looking at the total coverage of the Nordic countries, the OECD pays weight to the above-mentioned coverage gaps, which for Norway, Iceland and Sweden entails a combined assessment of "No progress or moving away from the SDG target" by the OECD.

Target 1.4

By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance

Indicators:

1.4.1Proportion of population living in households with access to basic services
1.4.2Proportion of total adult population with secure tenure rights to land, (a) with legally recognized documentation, and (b) who perceive their rights to land as secure, by sex and type of tenure

Global trends

Access to basic services is a crucial part of efforts to alleviate poverty. The aspects of basic services covered by target 1.4 are the proportion of people using basic drinking water services and basic sanitation services. Significant progress has been made worldwide over the last decades in increasing access to such basic services.

Even though water access has increased, in 2020 some 771 million were without basic access to water services, half of which live in sub-Saharan Africa. A larger number, 1.7 billion, were without even basic sanitation. According to the UN, "achieving universal access to safely managed sanitation by 2030 will require a quadrupling of current rates of progress."

The target of access to basic services also encompasses peoples’ land and property rights. This is measured by the proportion of the total adult population with secure tenure rights to land, (a) with legally recognized documentation, and (b) who perceive their rights to land as secure, by sex and type of tenure. As of June 2021, 34 countries had reported data on this target, which is set to be further developed in 2022.

The Nordics

As with other high-income countries, access to basic services is well-developed and near-universal in the Nordic countries. The combined assessment by the OECD for this indicator is therefore that this target has already been achieved in all Nordic countries.

Target 1.5

By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters

Indicators:

1.5.1Number of deaths, missing persons and directly affected persons attributed to disasters per 100,000 population
1.5.2Direct economic loss attributed to disasters in relation to global gross domestic product (GDP)
1.5.3Number of countries that adopt and implement national disaster risk reduction strategies in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030
1.5.4Proportion of local governments that adopt and implement local disaster risk reduction strategies in line with national disaster risk reduction strategies

Global trends

The poorest are often the most vulnerable when facing shocks and disasters. Building resilience to such events is therefore an important part of the efforts to end poverty. A central aim of target 1.5 is therefore to build resilience through adoption of disaster risk reduction strategies at a national and local level.

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most severe disasters the world has experienced for decades, with devastating impact on societies worldwide. The pandemic has reversed the progress made from 2015 to 2019 in decreasing the number of deaths caused by disasters (disaster-mortality rate).

In 2020, a total of 80 countries reported nearly 300 000 deaths caused by disasters, of which the vast majority was related to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this figure is according to the UN, significantly underreporting deaths caused by the pandemic, with the World Health Organization estimating 4.5 million excess deaths caused by the pandemic at the end of 2020.

Only 33 countries have reported data on indicator 1.5.2 concerning economic losses, this indicator is therefore not discussed further.

In terms of indicators 1.5.3 and 1.5.4 concerning risk reduction strategies, 123 countries had implemented national disaster risk reduction strategies in 2021 in accordance with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This is an increase from 55 countries in 2015.

The Sendai Framework is part of the UNs effort to assist member countries take action to prevent the creation of new risk, reduce existing risk and increase resilience.

97 out of the 123 countries adoption national level strategies, had also done so at local government levels.

The Nordics

Data on the Nordic countries for this target is sparse. However, with regard to risk reduction strategies, only Finland and Norway have implemented such strategies in accordance with the Sendai Framework.

Norway has a score of 0.98 for its level of implementation, measured on a scale from 0 to 1, with 1 being highest. For comparison, Finland has a score of 0.75. In Finland, 100% of all local governments have implemented local strategies in line with the national strategy, with 98% of all local governments in Norway doing so.

Target 1.a

Ensure significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources, including through enhanced development cooperation, in order to provide adequate and predictable means for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, to implement programmes and policies to end poverty in all its dimensions

Indicators:

1.a.1Total official development assistance grants from all donors that focus on poverty reduction as a share of the recipient country’s gross national income
1.a.2Proportion of total government spending on essential services (education, health and social protection)

Global trends

This target has both a national and international component. At the national level, it looks at the proportion of total government spending going to essential services, including education, health and social protection.

At the international level, it looks at the share of development assistance that focuses on poverty reduction, as a share of the recipient country's gross national income.

Both aspects are difficult to measure progress on at the global level, and there are no set benchmarks set towards 2030.

The Nordics

Data on the Nordic countries exist on development assistance, however, the it is measured it against the donor country's gross national income (GNI), as opposed to the recipient.

Such data can nonetheless shed light on the size of the contribution earmarked for poverty reduction, as a share of a donor country's overall contribution to development assistance in other countries.

The data does not, however, give a clear picture in terms of trends over time for the Nordics. The latest data for 2020 shows that Norway had the highest contributions to poverty reduction out of the Nordics, with poverty reduction assistance making up 0.15% of Norway's gross national income, an increase from 0.03% in 2000. All the Nordic countries, except for Finland, had a higher share of grants to poverty reduction than the global average of 0.02%.

In terms of the domestic component, government spending on essential services, such spending make up around two-thirds of all government spending in the Nordics. The Nordics are thus more or less is in line with the OECD average (64% in 2019).

As there is no set target for 2030, no assessment of progress is given.

Target 1.b

Create sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies, to support accelerated investment in poverty eradication actions

Indicators:

1.b.1Pro-poor public social spending

As with target 1.a, there is no set benchmark to gauge the performance of this target. This target is set to be further developed by UNICEF. As such, no assessment of progress for the Nordic countries is given at this moment in time.

About the data

The data presented on global, regional, and national trends are from the UN SDG Global Database and the OECD unless otherwise stated.

The assessment of the Nordic countries is based on the findings from a recent OECD report, published in April 2022. The OECD uses a three-tier classification for each target:

  • Target is achieved or on track to being achieved
  • Progress has been made, but is insufficient to meet the target
  • No progress or moving away from the SDG target

In its assessment, the OECD looks at a country's current performance towards a target, and calculates a trend towards 2030 based on recent progress. As such, a country that is close to a target, but trending away from it, will be classified as having "No progress or moving away from the SDG target". Conversely, a country that is currently further away from the target, but trending towards it (and has a high likelihood of reaching it before 2030), will be classified as "Target is achieved or on track to being achieved".

Changelog

  • Pilot release May 2022
  • Layout update June 2022
  • Updated with new data on global extreme poverty October 2022

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