Thukten Zangpo 

As 26,066 Bhutanese exited multidimensional poverty in 2022 since 2017, 16,181 Bhutanese still remained poor.

This is according to the National Statistics Bureau’s Moderate Multidimensional Poverty Index Report 2022 released recently.

This measure was derived from the original multidimensional poverty index which covers acute multidimensional poverty. Multidimensional poverty measures allow us to see how many households are experiencing deprivations at the same time.

The incidence of multidimensional poverty fell from more than halved to 2.1 percent from 5.8 percent five years ago in 2017. This was a reduction of 3.7 percentage points. 

“Bhutan had already met the sustainable development goal target 1.2 to reduce by half the incidence of national multidimensional poverty index by 2030,” the report stated. Bhutan’s multidimensional poverty index value fell from 0.023 to 0.008.

Among 13 indicators, there is a large improvement in cooking fuel and sanitation. The incidence of cooking fuel declined from 3.8 percent to 0.7 percent and deprivation in sanitation dropped from 1.8 percent to 0.3 percent.

Similarly, years of schooling and child mortality reduced from 4.4 percent to 1.8 percent and 3.1 percent from 1.2 percent. 

However, the deprivations in land and livestock ownership worsened by 4 percentage points to 21.2 percent and 3.2 percentage points to 28.9 percent respectively. This was because of livelihood adjustments among the non-poor in rural areas, as well as rural-urban migration. 

Across dzongkhags, Gasa shows the fastest absolute reduction in the multidimensional poverty index between 2017 and 2022 from 29 percent to 9.5 percent, followed by Haa and Dagana. 

Thimphu, which houses 23.1 percent of the total population has an incidence of 0.5 percent poverty.

Rural areas were poorest in both time periods, but had the fastest reduction, falling from 8.1 percent to 3.1 percent. 

Urban poverty, although lower, had no statistically significant change in MPI because, while incidence fell, intensity increased. Urban population share increased from 35.5 to 40.3 percent. 


New measure-moderate multidimensional poverty index

The moderate multidimensional poverty rate or incidence which is the proportion of people identified as multidimensionally poor was estimated at 17.8 percent or equivalent to 115, 965 Bhutanese.

The multidimensional poverty index, which is the product of the incidence of poor people and intensity of poverty was 0.076. This indicates that poor Bhutanese experience 7.6 percent of the deprivations that would be experienced if all people were deprived in all indicators. 

This is the first time the Bureau has developed and estimated a national moderate multidimensional poverty index in order to capture an accurate picture of poverty that considers individuals and households who may not be acutely poor but are still experiencing multiple deprivations.  

The average intensity of poverty, which reflects the share of deprivations that each poor person experiences on average, is 42.8 percent. This means each poor person is, on average, deprived in nearly half of the weighted indicators. 

The urban poverty rate was at 8.2 percent, while rural poverty stands at 23.9 percent—61.4 percent of Bhutanese poor live in rural areas. 

Among 13 indicators, deprivations in access to health contributed highest to the national poverty at 18 percent, followed by water and school attendance at 15.7 percent and female years of schooling at 15.3 percent. 

When aggregating by dimensions, the largest contributor is the education dimension at 45 percent.

Despite the indicators of dimensions of living standards and health were changed to reflect higher aspirations for the population, it contributes 21.3 percent and 33.6 percent respectively. 

The result show strong and significant and pro-poor reductions nationally from 5.8 percent to 2.1 percent. 

Across dzongkhags, Samtse houses the largest number of multidimensionally poor at 17.7 percent, followed by Thimphu at 8.5 percent and Chukha at 8.4 percent. 

Across age groups, multidimensional poverty is highest for children with 20.7 percent of all children living in poverty. 

Children aged 10-17 years are the poorest age group with 25 percent poor. This group being vulnerable, the report stated the need to analyse child poverty further and invest explicitly.

In the monetary multidimensional poverty index, 12.4 percent of the Bhutanese are monetary poor of which 17.8 percent are moderately poor. Only 4.7 percent of Bhutanese were both monetary and multidimensionally poor.