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Multidimensional poverty halved, but highest among children

Inaction would be dangerous cautions report  

Multidimensional poverty is highest among children between 0-9 years, the Bhutan Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) 2017 finds.

The report, which the National Statistic Bureau (NSB) released yesterday, states that among the 13 MPI indicators, the largest contributors to national poverty in are deprivations in years of education (32%), followed by child mortality (23%) and school attendance (13%).

“This finding indicates children are especially vulnerable and highlights the need to analyse child poverty further and invest explicitly in its reduction,” the report states.

A total of 8.4 percent of people who live in households where the head had no education are MPI poor compared with only 0.2% of people with heads having studied beyond grade IX.

However, multidimensional poverty has almost been halved in the last five years. The report states that MPI fell from 0.051 to 0.023 between 2012 and 2017. The MPI is the product of percentage of poor people and the average intensity of poverty.

Today, Bhutan’s multidimensional poverty rate is estimated at 5.8 percent of the population against 12.7 percent five years ago. This indicates that poor people in Bhutan experience 2.3 percent of the deprivations that would be experienced if all people were deprived in all indicators.

The Bhutan MPI monitors 13 indicators – food security, low education and inadequate sanitation, distributed across three dimensions: health, education and standard of living.

By area, the multidimensional urban poverty rate is 1.2 percent while rural poverty stands at 8.1 percent with 93 percent of Bhutanese poor living in rural areas.

Among dzongkhags, Gasa is likely the poorest Dzongkhag (29%) and Haa the next poorest dzongkhag (11%). Gasa, Haa, Dagana and Samtse have higher level of poverty than other 16 dzongkhags.

“Samtse houses the largest number of multidimensional poor (13.7%) followed by Chukha (12.5%),” the report states. “Pemagatshel has the lowest share of poor people in Bhutan (1.2%) and 8 percent of Bhutan’s poor people lives in Thimphu.”

Over 3.8 percent people are poor and live in households that cook with dung, wood, or charcoal.

In the multidimensional poverty and monetary poverty, 5.8 percent of the population is MPI poor and 8.2 population are income poor while one percent of the population experiences both kinds of poverty.

In terms of multidimensional poverty reduction between 2007 and 2017, MPI had a rapid and significant reduction from 0.160 to 0.019, the report states. Among dzongkhags, the highest reductions in the poverty rate occurred in Mongar, Wangduephodrang, Trongsa, and Chukha.

However, Bumthang, Haa, Sarpang, and Thimphu saw small increases in poverty.

NSB’s Senior Statistical Officer, Dorji Lethro, said although multidimensional poverty may have reduced by half, it is not completely certain given the margin of error as the report is based on a sample survey.

He said the current distribution of deprivations suggest that further rapid progress is possible.

“But inaction would be dangerous because 4.7 percent of the population are deprived in 3/13 indicators and 28.5 percent are deprived in 2/13 indicators,” Dorji Lethro said. “There is high risk of falling back into multidimensional poverty.”

He said there is also need for special attention to some groups such as children between 0-9 years, people living in households whose head has no education and those in Gasa or Haa and in rural area.

Director Chimmi Tshering said Bhutan’s MPI, based on the data from the Bhutan Living Standard Survey 2017 has become a strong instrument for resource allocation, targeting, and policy design, complementing Bhutan’s monetary poverty measure.

Health Minister Tandin Wangchuk who launched the report, said that target 1.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls all countries to cut their national MPI rates by half between 2015 and 2030.

“Bhutan’s track record in MPI reduction released today shows that this target is possible,” Lyonpo said, adding that going by the poverty reduction in the dzongkhags the  poorest areas are catching up with the less poor areas.

The report, which was financially supported by the UNICEF country office in Bhutan, is the first update of Bhutan’s national Multidimensional Poverty Index since 2012. The National Statistics Bureau and Oxford University’s leading centre on multidimensional poverty, Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) worked on the report.

Yangchen C Rinzin

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