Transforming ideas into action – Understanding the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index

Mar 26, 2018

While poverty has traditionally been measured in terms of income – now classified by the World Bank as living on less than $1.90 a day – the Sustainable Development Goals define poverty as having multiple forms, with a target to reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions by 2030.

The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) developed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and first released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in the 2010 Human Development Report, provides a composite measure that can capture multiple forms of aspects of poverty. It is a robust measure for policy analysis, dialogue, and development monitoring. As a result, many countries are developing National MPIs, which are adapted to reflect their specific poverty priorities.

In the understanding that each country is different, the MPI can be tailored to the local context using country-specific data and indicators to provide a better understanding of country-level poverty. The governments of Colombia, Mexico, Bhutan, Chile, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Ecuador, Armenia, Mozambique, Panama, Nepal and the Dominican Republic, among others, have implemented and included nationally adapted multidimensional measures of poverty in their long-term social development strategies.

The Government of Pakistan, with technical support from Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP), also developed a nationally representative Multidimensional Poverty Index, composed of education, health, and living standards, and found 38.8% of the population to be multidimensionally poor. The Report released in 2016 provides an analytical tool to identify the most vulnerable people, show aspects in which they are deprived and, consequently, to target resources and design policies more efficiently. As MPI measures outcomes directly, it immediately reflects changes in indicators such as school attendance, whereas it can take time for this to affect income, thus may show results of effective policy interventions quickly.


To support continued research in the field of multidimensional poverty for improved policy making, UNDP has organized a training session on the MPI in collaboration with the Ministry of Planning Development and Reforms (MoPDR) and Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS). The five-day training is being delivered by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) to a group of participants from relevant ministries, provincial and regional line departments including Bureau of Statistics, UN Agencies, and selected public universities. Its purpose is to develop a critical mass of human capital that will support Ministry of Planning, Development & Reform in producing MPI estimates with updated data and through additional research in the field, improve policy design, allocate resources more efficiently, identify interconnections among deprivations, monitor the effectiveness of policies over time and target poor people as beneficiaries of targeted programs.

The opening ceremony of the training was attended by Mr. Syed Tariq Jaffri, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Planning, Development & Reform, Dr. Sajjad Akhtar, Chief Statistician, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics and Mr. Ignacio Artaza, Country Director, UNDP. Dr. Sajjad Akhtar referred to the MPI as a “barometer for structural reforms,” emphasizing on its importance to measure the effectiveness of reforms in the sectors of education, health, and others. The Joint Secretary, MoPDR also stressed upon the usefulness of MPI to measure the extent and depth of poverty and inequality in the country, while Mr. Ignacio Artaza referred to its importance for measuring progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, especially with relevance to Goal 1 – No Poverty.

The aim of the MPI training course is to provide a conceptual and technical introduction to multidimensional poverty measurement with a strong emphasis on the Alkire Foster methodology. The discussion will revolve around the implementation and use of multifaceted measures for policy purposes. The first day of the training course will generate a policy dialogue around multidimensional poverty while the remaining four days will be used for a technical session on multifaceted poverty applying the Alkire-Foster methodology in working groups.



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