Sustainable Development Goals

The Nordic Countries and SDG 1: No Poverty

Tracking the progress of Nordic countries in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 1, using the latest data from the UN and OECD.

In 2015, all United Nations (UN) member states adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), establishing a global agenda to create a better world by 2030. Described by the UN as a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet,” these goals are to be achieved by all countries through global partnerships.

This data tracker examines the latest official data to assess the progress of Nordic countries in achieving the SDGs. In particular, this page focuses on SDG 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere, which comprises 7 distinct targets.

Each of the targets that are part of SDG 1 is presented by first examining global trends, then narrowing in on the Nordic countries to evaluate their performance. The assessment is based on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) analysis of progress made toward the SDGs across all OECD member countries.

Target 1.1

By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere.


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).

In recent decades, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has decreased. According to the latest official data, approximately 8.4% of the global population—648 million people—lived in extreme poverty in 2019, compared to nearly 30% in 2000. This means that over 1.1 billion people have escaped extreme poverty in the past two decades.

In many regions, significant progress has been made towards reducing the share of people living in extreme poverty.

  • Sub-Saharan Africa: Extreme poverty rates decreased from 57.0% in 2000 to 35.7% in 2019.
  • Eastern and South-Eastern Asia: This region experienced a significant decrease in extreme poverty, from 36.0% in 2000 to 1.0% in 2019.
  • Central and Southern Asia: Extreme poverty rates dropped from 38.6% in 2002 to 8.4% in 2019.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean: The rate of extreme poverty decreased from 13.5% in 2000 to 4.3% in 2019.

Despite progress, regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa are far away from being on track to reach the SDG target in 2030 of reducing extreme poverty to 3%. The region accounts for 389 million—60%—of the global population living in extreme poverty.

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the progress made in recent years, with the World Bank estimating that extreme poverty increased for the first time in a generation in 2020. Poverty reduction resumed in 2021, but the outlook for 2022 is uncertain due to rising food and energy prices. The World Bank predicts that 2022 could be the second-worst year for poverty reduction, after 2020, in the last 22 years.

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

The Nordics

Extreme poverty is virtually non-existent in the Nordic countries, with all countries at below the 3% target according to the latest UN data.

In summary, this means that all of the Nordic countries have already achieved the 2030 target.

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


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

While target 1.1 addresses extreme poverty, an absolute measure of poverty, target 1.2 aims to reduce poverty based on nationally established poverty lines. These poverty lines will differ between countries in terms of definition.

According to the latest UN data for 2020, only 27% of countries had achieved the target of halving the proportion of the population living below their nationally established poverty lines. In 52% of countries, poverty rates have declined by less than half, whereas they have increased in 22% of countries. The regions with the most progress are Central Asia and Southern Asia as well as Eastern Asia and South-eastern Asia. If current trends persist, the UN estimates that only 40% of countries will achieve the target of halving poverty 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 employs two indicators to evaluate progress in OECD countries, including the Nordics, towards target 1.2:

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

A. Relative income poverty

The relative income poverty rate is defined as the percentage 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 level that falls exactly in the middle of all household incomes.

OECD data reveals that none of the Nordic countries have made significant progress in reducing the relative income poverty rate over the past decades. The latest data indicates that relative income poverty is most prevalent in Sweden and Norway, at above 8%. Iceland has the lowest share, although the most recent data is from 2017. Nevertheless, relative income poverty is less prevalent in the Nordic countries compared to other industrialized nations, with an average of 1 in 10 people living in OECD countries considered poor according to this definition.

B. Multidimensional poverty

Measuring poverty based solely on a person’s or household’s income can risk overlooking other factors contributing to 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, as defined above, shows that multidimensional poverty rates in most Nordic countries have remained relatively stable over the last decades.

Considering both measures of target 1.2, relative income poverty and multidimensional poverty, none of the Nordic countries are currently making sufficient progress to halve the proportion of the population living in poverty in all its dimensions by 2030.

This trend aligns 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


1.3.1Proportion of population covered by social protection floors/systems

Global trends

This target highlights the crucial role of social protection in preventing and alleviating poverty. Social protection encompasses various measures aimed at safeguarding people’s jobs, health, and income.

In 2020, 47% of the global population was covered by at least one social protection benefit. This means that approximately 4 billion people worldwide lack protection and income security from social protection systems.

Significant disparities in social protection coverage exist between regions. In Sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty is most widespread, only 14% are covered, whereas more than 80% are covered in most high-income countries.

While many countries introduced new social protection measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN reports that nearly 95% of these were temporary. This highlights the considerable gap that needs to be closed over the next decade to achieve the 2030 target.

The Nordics

National-level measurements of social protection coverage include 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 incorporates a measure of recipients of secondary out-of-work benefits (safety nets) as a percentage of the poor working-age population when evaluating progress made by OECD countries toward the 2030 targets.

Compared to other countries, the Nordic countries have high levels of social protection coverage. For most groups, coverage rates reach 100%. However, there are notable exceptions, particularly concerning unemployment benefits and social assistance cash benefits for vulnerable groups. Moreover, most Nordic countries, except for Finland, have offered lower levels of out-of-work benefits to those not entitled to regular unemployment benefits.

Considering the total coverage of the Nordic countries, the OECD takes into account the aforementioned coverage gaps. For Norway, Iceland, and Sweden, this results in a combined assessment by the OECD as “No progress or moving away from the SDG target.”

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


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 vital for poverty alleviation efforts. Target 1.4 encompasses the proportion of people using basic drinking water services and basic sanitation services. Over the past few decades, significant progress has been made globally in enhancing access to these essential services.

Despite increased access to water, approximately 771 million people lacked basic access to water services in 2020, with half of them residing in sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, 1.7 billion people lacked access to basic sanitation. The UN states that “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

In the Nordic countries, as in other high-income nations, access to basic services is well-established and nearly universal. Consequently, the OECD’s combined assessment for this indicator indicates that all Nordic countries have already achieved this target.

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


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 to shocks and disasters. Therefore, building resilience against such events is a crucial aspect of efforts to end poverty. Target 1.5 aims to build resilience by adopting disaster risk reduction strategies at national and local levels.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most severe disasters in decades, with a devastating impact on societies worldwide. The pandemic reversed progress made from 2015 to 2019 in reducing disaster-related mortality rates.

In 2020, 80 countries reported nearly 300,000 disaster-related deaths, the vast majority of which were related to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, according to the UN, this figure significantly underreports pandemic-related deaths, as the World Health Organization estimated 4.5 million excess deaths during 2020 alone.

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

Regarding indicators 1.5.3 and 1.5.4 on risk reduction strategies, 123 countries had implemented national disaster risk reduction strategies in 2021 according to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This is an increase from 55 countries in 2015.

The Sendai Framework is part of the UN’s effort to help member countries prevent new risks, reduce existing risks, and increase resilience.

Out of the 123 countries adopting national-level strategies, 97 had also done so at local government levels.

The Nordics

Data on the Nordic countries for this target is limited. However, concerning 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 the highest. By 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, while 98% of all local governments in Norway have done so.

The OECD provides no assessment of progress for the Nordic countries on this target.

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


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 national and international components. Nationally, it examines the proportion of total government spending allocated to essential services, including education, health, and social protection. Internationally, it considers the share of development assistance focused on poverty reduction as a portion of the recipient country’s gross national income. It is challenging to measure progress globally for both aspects, and no specific benchmarks have been set for 2030.

The Nordics

Data on Nordic countries’ development assistance is available, but it is measured against the donor country’s gross national income (GNI) rather than the recipient’s. This data can still provide insight into the proportion of a donor country’s contribution to poverty reduction in comparison to their overall contribution to development assistance in other countries.

However, the data does not offer a clear picture of trends over time for the Nordics. The latest data from 2020 reveals that Norway had the highest contributions to poverty reduction among the Nordics, with poverty reduction assistance comprising 0.15% of Norway’s gross national income—an increase from 0.03% in 2000. All Nordic countries, except Finland, had a higher share of grants for poverty reduction than the global average of 0.02%.

Regarding the domestic component of government spending on essential services, such spending accounts for around two-thirds of all government spending in the Nordics. This is more or less in line with the OECD average (64% in 2019).

As no specific target has been set for 2030, no assessment of progress is provided.

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


1.b.1Pro-poor public social spending

Similar to Target 1.a, there is no established benchmark to evaluate progress for this target. This target is currently planned for further development by UNICEF. Consequently, no assessment of progress for the Nordic countries is provided at this point 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.

Note that the regional groupings used in the visualisations on this page with follow the UN regional classification for the Sustainable Development Goals.

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”.


  • First release May 2022
  • Updated with new data on global extreme poverty October 2022
  • Data and text update March 2023

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