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The working poor are employed people who live in households that fall below an accepted poverty line. While poverty in the developed world is often associated with unemployment, the extreme poverty that exists throughout much of the developing world is largely a problem of employed persons in these societies. For these poor workers, the problem is typically one of employment quality. Reducing poverty in line with the SDGs therefore necessitates boosting the employment opportunities and incomes of the working poor – those people who are employed, but who are nevertheless unable to lift themselves and their families above the poverty threshold.
Discover the methods behind the ILO’s modelled estimates on labour force statistics (including the working poor), labour productivity, wage growth and labour migration.
This paper introduces a model for generating national estimates and projections of the distribution of the employed across five economic classes for 142 developing countries over the period 1991 to 2017. The national estimates are used to produce aggregate estimates of employment by economic class for eight developing regions and for the developing world as a whole. We estimate that 41.6 per cent of the developing world’s workers were middle class and above in 2011, more than double the share in 1991. Yet, regional figures show that widespread poverty and vulnerability to poverty persists in many developing regions. Further growth in the developing world’s middle class, which both reflects and supports broader economic development, will require increased productivity levels and an expansion in the number of quality jobs.
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This issue of ILOSTAT’s Spotlight on work statistics focuses on employed people living in extreme poverty around the world. Using ILO’s global estimates of employment by economic class, it shows the great progress achieved during the last few decades in reducing working poverty in the world, and how more effort is still needed to completely eradicate it, particularly considering the strong regional disparities.