Multidimensional Poverty in Sri Lanka

A Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) creates a comprehensive picture of poverty. It reveals who the poor are and how they are poor by focusing on a set of interlinked deprivations that poor people experience.


In 2021, in close consultation with various Ministries, the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) developed the first official National MPI for Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan MPI is an official permanent statistic of multidimensional poverty that will be updated and published regularly, reported as SDG indicator 1.2.2, and used to complement the monetary poverty measure.

A key population of interest for poverty is young children, whose deprivations in nutrition and cognitive development have lifelong effects. To further probe and support child poverty policies, DCS crafted an individual Child MPI for children aged 0-4, which includes exactly the same indicators as the National MPI, plus undernutrition and early childhood development. Sri Lanka’s CMPI is pioneering in being the first official measure of child poverty that links directly and precisely with the National MPI.

The National MPI and the Child MPI are both based on data from the Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2019 (HIES 2019). The HIES 2019 has now been modified to include key MPI indicators, and will do so in future, permitting updates of both MPIs.

The MPI is not just a statistic. It is a policy tool. It provides relevant information to accelerate poverty reduction with limited resources – by informing high impact budget allocation, focused interventions, policy design and coordination, and poverty monitoring.

This briefing presents the main findings of the National MPI (NMPI) and the Child MPI (CMPI) and the policy implications of these findings. The policy implications come from the fact that the MPI is built from an information platform that shows the level of poverty and its composition by indicator both nationally as well as by subnational groups such as districts, age cohorts, and estates or rural/urban areas.

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Department of Census and Statistics (DCS), UNICEF Sri Lanka, Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI)
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