UN report: Myanmar’s middle class shrinking

Almost half of Myanmar’s population of roughly 55 million people is living below the poverty line – a figure that nearly doubled from 2017 to 2023, a UN report said.

Underscoring the erosion of the violence-wracked, junta-led nation’s middle class, the new report from the UN Development Program says 49.7% of Myanmar’s people are living on less than 1,590 kyats (RM3.55) a day.

That figure was 24.8% in 2017.

“The situation is likely to have deteriorated further by the time of this report’s release,” the UNDP darkly predicted.

“An additional 25% of the population were hanging by a thread as of October 2023, just above the poverty line.”

Since last autumn, clashes have escalated between the military and armed ethnic minority groups, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee, losing their sources of income.

Additionally, the South-East Asian country has been unable to recover from a 17.9% drop in gross domestic product in 2021, when leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s government was ousted from power by the military and the Covid pandemic was still a factor.

“A middle class that can buffer shocks and help a country recover faster is rapidly eroding, with a fall back into poverty,” the UNDP said.

“The new data shows that less than 25% of the population in Myanmar manage to secure steady incomes to live above the poverty line,” UNDP chief Achim Steiner said in a statement.

“Without immediate interventions to provide cash transfers, food security and access to basic services, vulnerability will keep growing, and impacts will be felt across generations,” Steiner warned.

The UNDP estimates that the country would need US$4bil (RM18.9bil) a year to address its poverty, via cash transfers and other means. — AFP

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