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SIB: 35.7% of Belizeans are 'MPI poor'

Just over 35.7 percent of Belizeans (approximately 134,000 persons) are Multi-Dimensionally poor, the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB)'s customized poverty index informs.

The SIB's customized version of the MPI—which uses 17 instead of the ten sub-indicators previously reported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)—covers four dimensions of poverty: Health, Education, Employment, and Living Standards. The UNDP's report covered health, education, and standard of living.

While the UNDP's report had placed Belize's Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) headcount at 4.3 percent, the SIB's conspicuously higher figure is likely due to customizations made to reflect more accurately the idiosyncratic conditions of life in Belize. The differences in methodologies are likely to make them incomparable.

Notwithstanding any methodological modification, the MPI is, according to the SIB, "a complementary measure to monetary poverty, measuring poverty as an accumulation of concurrent deprivations across various dimensions of well-being, including Health, Education, Employment, and Living Standards – and within these four dimensions, a total of 17 indicators are used to measure deprivation."

Some of the basic needs measured were unemployment, asset ownership, food security, and years of schooling.

The MPI shows both the "incidence" and the "intensity" of multidimensional poverty, described as "what percent of the population is multidimensionally poor" and "what percent of the 17 indicators poor households were deprived in," respectively. For Belize, while the headcount is found to be 35.7%, the intensity of poverty is reported by the SIB at 39%.

The product of these two percentages is the national Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). Consequently, Belize’s MPI is 0.1392 (or about 13.9%), which (while acknowledging the aforementioned incomparability) was 0.017 (or 1.7%) in the UNDP's report, which relied on 2015/16 data.

The MPI is different from but complementary to monetary measures of poverty, which using Belize's 2018 data, the SIB had reported at 52% of the population. "One tells you about the household's access and command over money resources, and the other one tells you about whether or not these basic needs are being met on the ground in practice," SIB's Director General Diana Castillo Trejo explained.

The index highlights that across the districts, the highest levels of multidimensional poverty were seen in the Toledo district, while the Belize district had the lowest.

This disparity demonstrated the probability that persons living in rural communities were more likely to be multi-dimensionally poor than those in urban areas. The incidence of multidimensional poverty in rural communities was double that of urban ones.

SIB's data also found multidimensional poverty more prevalent amongst male-headed households than households headed by females.

Additionally, the country's younger population, larger households, households with children, households with a head who was either unemployed or underemployed, and households with a head who had completed only up to a primary level of education or none at all were more likely to be multidimensionally poor.

The data for measuring multidimensional poverty in Belize will be collected each year as part of the September round of the Labour Force Survey. These estimates will be compiled annually.

The entirety of SIB's MPI study will be released officially in the coming weeks.

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