By Robert Tapfumaneyi
NEARLY 9 million Zimbabweans are poor with the majority of them among those living in rural areas.
This is according to recent ZimStats report focussing on Poverty, Income, Consumption and Expenditure Surveys (PICES) of 2017 and 2019.
The reports says extreme poverty rose from 30 percent in 2017 to 38 percent in April-May 2019 whereas general poverty (measured by the lower bound poverty line) rose from 43 percent to 51 percent during the same period.
“Although extreme poverty increased in both urban and rural areas, in relative terms, extreme poverty rose more in urban areas.
“In absolute terms, rural extreme poverty remained much higher than urban extreme poverty.
“The general poverty rate based on the lower bound poverty line remained high.
“It changed marginally for the rural population, but in urban areas, it rose sharply, from 16 percent to 24 percent during the same period.”
The report added, “The number of extremely poor people rose from 4.5 million in 2017 to 6 million during April-May 2019, but the number of poor people measured by the lower-bound poverty line rose from 8.0 million to 8.9 million during the same period.
“Furthermore, whereas the number of extremely poor people in urban areas increased by about 327,000, it rose by 1.1 million in rural areas.”
The increase in poverty rates and the number of extremely poor and poor people during the period under review can be attributed to high inflation coupled with the contraction of the economy and a poor 2018/19 rainfall season, ZimStats said.
“These negative changes in the economy are likely to have stressed the livelihoods of many Zimbabweans, thereby affecting households in urban areas more in relative terms compared to households in rural areas,” the report said.
“Consumption expenditure fell for all welfare groups except the richest 10 percent, or decile.
“The welfare groups in the lower end of the income distribution (lower deciles) had the largest proportional declines in consumption expenditure.”
Consequently, inequality rose as the Gini index increased from 44.7 in 2017 to 50.4 in 2019.
ZimStats went on to say that the increase in inequality was driven by a rise in inequality within urban and within rural areas rather than between urban and rural areas.
“The profile of the extreme poor changed slightly as their proportion that is engaged in income-generating activities other than working on their own farms rose by 10 percentage points,” it said.
“It increased from 21 percent of the extreme poor in 2017 to 31 percent in 2019.”
Some characteristics of the extreme poor did not change.
“They still live mostly in large households and tend to have low educational attainment.
“About one-third live in a female-headed household, similar to the population as a whole.”
Furthermore, children younger than 15 years old formed almost half of the poor and the extremely poor, but they only made up four-tenths of the population.