In its latest report on the Zimbabwe economy, the World Bank projects a 3.9% recovery for Zimbabwe’s economy. However, the report details how extreme poverty worsened over the past year, mainly due to two successive droughts and the impact of COVID-19, widening inequality.
Here, we list some of the report’s key findings on rising poverty and inequality in Zimbabwe.
Extreme poverty has risen to record highs
The pandemic added 1.3 million Zimbabweans to the extreme poor, according to the report. The number of people classified as “extreme poor” – people who earn less than US$29.80 per month – rose to 7.9 million in 2020, which is 49% of the population. This was due to job and income losses in urban areas, and a deterioration of social services in rural areas, the World Bank says.
The number of extreme poor has risen markedly from three million in 2011.
Zimbabwe now one of the most unequal societies in Africa
Inequality has increased sharply in Zimbabwe, to among the highest levels in Sub Saharan Africa. Zimbabwe’s score on the Gini Index, which measures the distribution of wealth across the population, increased from 45 in 2017 to 50 in April-May 2019.
The richest ten percent of Zimbabweans consume 20 times more than the poorest ten percent.
Between 2017 and April-May 2019, consumption expenditure dropped by about 25% for the poorest ten percent of the population, while for the richest 10%, it rose by 17%.
How COVID-19 hit jobs
COVID-19 cut jobs in urban areas and limited job opportunities in rural areas. A survey found that one of five people who had a job in March 2020 reported that they were no longer working in July 2020.
The July, nearly 500,000 households had one member who had lost a job since the outbreak started. The most common stated reason for losing a job in urban areas was business closure due to the lockdown (56 percent of those who lost their job), followed by being laid-off while business continued
The urban poor had it worse than the rural poor
Poverty is rising faster in urban areas than in rural communities.
According to the World Bank, inequality deepened in urban areas, the result of job losses accelerated by COVID-19. This saw urban people spending less. The rural population experienced much lower consumption losses, and appeared to be less affected by the downturn, “perhaps due to subsistence farming”, the report says.