The World Bank released some seemingly depressing news last week: nearly half the global population live on less than $5.50 a day.
That means that, for all the economic growth we have enjoyed in recent decades, 3.4bn people continue to struggle to meet basic needs.
Also last week, you may have caught an old Teen Vogue article doing the rounds on social media, lambasting capitalism as “an inhuman, anti-democratic, unsustainable, deeply exploitative system that must be dismantled”.
To those youngsters who agree with the author, news like this proves that they are right: they believe capitalism is to blame for global poverty. No economic system that leaves half the world struggling can be morally justifiable.
We can only hope such publications are responsible enough to present the counter-argument, supported by a wealth of historic data. Yes, economic vulnerability remains widespread – but it is going down, not up.
That same World Bank data shows that the percentage of the world’s population living below the extreme poverty line – on less than $1.90 – has fallen from 36 per cent in 1990 to just 10 per cent in 2015.
And it’s not just about the very poorest either. Last month, the Brookings Institution released some staggering but widely overlooked news: half the world is now middle class or richer.
Obviously “middle class” means very different things depending on where in the world you are. Brookings defines it as those with “some discretionary income” and who “are reasonably confident that they and their family can weather an economic shock… without falling back into extreme poverty”.
And we have reached a tipping point: for the first time in 10,000 years, there are more people who are not vulnerable to falling into extreme poverty than those who are.
The Brookings report adds: “About one person escapes extreme poverty every second; but five people a second are entering the middle class.”
Projections show the picture continuing to radically improve in the decade ahead. By strengthening our commitment to free trade, property rights and the rule of law, we can make the World Bank’s updates less and less depressing by the year – and maybe even restore young Westerners’ faith in capitalism.