Poverty and Well-being in Mozambique
Read the full report, Poverty and well-being in Mozambique: Fourth National Poverty Assessment (in Portugese), or the executive summary (in English).
This report provides a comprehensive analysis of poverty and well-being, including temporal trends, in Mozambique. It is based on the 2014/15 household budget survey data (Inquérito aos Agregados Familiares sobre Orçamento Familiar (IOF) 2014/15), conducted by the National Statistics Institute (Instituto Nacional de Estatística, INE). Results from this latest survey are compared to those obtained in previous survey rounds (2008/09, 2002/03 and 1996/97).
We consider poverty and well-being across an array of dimensions and using two principal approaches. The first approach focuses on consumption allowing assessment of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. The second principal approach relies on multidimensional methods for assessing poverty and well-being. The indicators employed are drawn from the four household budget surveys. They relate to education, health, housing, and possession of durable goods.
Progress has been made
Across all approaches, a coherent story emerges. At the national level, welfare levels have improved compared with the prior survey undertaken in 2008/09. Looking further back in time by comparing 2014/15 levels with the very low welfare levels observed in 1996/97, the gains in well-being have been substantial. Gains were rapid between 1996/97 and 2002/03 but slowed between 2002/03 and 2008/09. Gains reasserted themselves in the most recent period. Relative to 1996/97, substantial gains have been registered in both rural and urban zones and in every province.
These gains have not, however, contributed to a convergence in welfare levels between rural and urban zones or by geographical region. Very substantial differences in welfare levels persist. The gap between rural and urban zones is large and at best persistent (if not aggravating). Living conditions in the South are much better than those in the North and the Center across almost all welfare dimensions considered and all methods (partly due to a higher level of urbanization in the South compared with the North and Center). In addition, inequality of consumption has been increasing since 1996/97. The rate of increase also spiked in the most recent period.
Before continuing, some discussion of data issues is required. As emphasized in the Third National Poverty Assessment, there is a strong likelihood of undercounting of food consumption in both the 2002/03 and 2008/09 surveys, particularly in urban zones and in the South. This conclusion was arrived at because estimated calorie consumption often fell well below accepted norms for adequate nutrition in these areas. Despite efforts to better capture food consumption in 2014/15, particularly in urban zones, the problem does not appear to have gone away. Instead, it has more likely worsened spreading into rural zones where most of the population and an even larger share of poor people reside.
Issues with data make estimates of consumption poverty less precise than desired. Using the official data (no correction for undercounting of consumption in any year), poverty declines by more than five percentage points compared with 2008/09.
The regional perspective
From a regional perspective, poverty reduction was rapid in the southern provinces, where the rate fell by about 18 percentage points, led by Maputo province. Reductions were significant but less rapid in the Center where rates fell by about 11 percentage points. These reductions are distributed quite evenly across the four central provinces. These gains were offset by an increase of an estimated ten percentage points in the North, with the greatest increases occurring in Niassa province.
For 2014-15, three different adjustment scenarios were employed. These adjustments place national poverty rates in the range of about 41 to 45 percent of the population (reflecting between 10.5 and 11.3 million absolutely poor people). As stated in the Third National Assessment, “One of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for Mozambique is to reach an absolute consumption poverty rate of 40% by 2015, down from an estimated 80% in 1990.” The results from the 2014/15 budget survey indicate that Mozambique is quite close to this target.
Essentially all of the principal trends identified in the consumption poverty analysis are also reflected in the multidimensional analyses. This is important because the multidimensional indicators of welfare are much easier to observe than consumption levels and are also a lot less volatile. For example, education levels of household members are relatively easy to obtain and typically remain constant throughout an individual's adult life. Both methods employed for multidimensional analysis point to strong gains from 2008-09 and very strong gains from 1996-97. As noted, these gains are generally not succeeding in reducing disparities between rural and urban zones and between regions/provinces. Living conditions are notably better in urban zones and in the Southern provinces.
In sum, the Fourth National Poverty Assessment confirms that significant development progress has been realized in Mozambique over the past two decades. The report also reflects that large differences in well-being (and trends over time) remain between different socio-economic income groups and geographic areas. Inequality and spatial differences have increased. This implies that balanced, spatial, economic, infrastructure and social policies are becoming increasingly critical from both welfare and political economy perspectives.