Measuring multi-dimensional poverty to inform policy

Crawford School of Public Policy | Executive course
Policy Essentials


To respond to poverty, policy must be informed by robust data that are fit for purpose. Currently, poverty data are in a state of flux as the limitations of traditional approaches are recognised. Household level data are insensitive to gender and other differences among household members. Income-based measures leave significant gaps in our understanding of poverty. As a result, the most marginalised groups often remain invisible.

The Sustainable Development Goals have prioritised eradicating poverty in all its forms and fostering gender equity. Yet, the means of measuring and responding to multi-dimensional poverty in a way that is sensitive to gender, age and disability remains elusive.
Focusing on developing contexts in the global South, this workshop will illuminate problems with household level data and the limits of income-based measures of poverty. It will introduce new approaches to defining and measuring poverty, focusing on the practical benefits for policies and interventions.

Course overview

Participants will have the opportunity to understand and critique assumptions on which mainstream measures of poverty are based, and the implications for policy. They will be introduced to tools to determine what kind of data they need to make informed policy decisions that are sensitive to gender, age and geographic location. They will have the opportunity to become familiar with the Individual Deprivation Measure (IDM), as an example of a gender-sensitive measure of multi-dimensional poverty, able to provide policy-relevant data to inform decision-making.

Core topics:

  • Understanding the nature and limitations of mainstream approaches to poverty
  • Key principles in gender and poverty analysis
  • Beyond the feminisation of poverty arguments
  • Recent debates and developments around poverty measurement and responses to poverty
  • The Individual Deprivation Measure (IDM), as a measure of multi-dimensional poverty that are sensitive to gender, age, geographic location and disability

The course will adopt an interactive workshop-based approach. A mix of learning activities will be employed, with the aim of drawing out and building on the existing knowledge of participants.

Learning outcomes

  1. Understanding of the value of multidimensional, individual and gender-sensitive approaches to poverty.

  2. Understanding of dominant global poverty measures.

  3. Ability to identify gaps in existing poverty data and understand why these gaps need to be filled.

  4. Ability to identify and understand the principles that inform gender sensitive policies on poverty.

  5. Understanding of the value of the IDM in providing gender-sensitive, policy-relevant data to inform policies.

Who should attend?

  • APS staff making decisions on what kind of data is needed to inform policy decisions
  • Consultants working in the development sector

While the course focuses on developing country contexts, the ideas and tools provided will be of interest and relevant to anyone working on issues of poverty.

Course presenter(s)

Professor Sharon Bessell

Sharon Bessell is Professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, where she is Director of Gender Equity and Diversity and heads the Poverty and Inequality Research Centre and the Children’s Policy Centre. She is editor of Policy Forum’s Poverty InFocus.

Sharon’s research focuses on the gendered and generational nature of poverty. She co-leads (with Associate Professor Janet Hunt), the ANU Individual Deprivation Measure (IDM) Program, which is a partnership between ANU, the International Women’s Development Agency and the Australian Government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Sharon was a member of the original research team that developed the IDM through an Australian Research Council Linkage grant, and was responsible for designing the three-phase participatory methodology that underpins the IDM. She is also currently leading research on childhood poverty in Indonesia, and has previously undertaken research on childhood poverty and disadvantage in Australia.

Sharon has provided professional development training and executive education on gender analysis and human rights for a range of organisations including, DFAT/AusAID, Save the Children Sweden, and UNICEF. In 2016 she was awarded the ANU College of Asia and Pacific Award for Teaching Excellence.

Sharon has undertaken research across a number of geographic regions, including Australia, Southeast Asia (particularly Indonesia and the Philippines), the Pacific (particularly Fiji) and Southern Africa. She has worked with government, non-government and international agencies in Australia, Asia and the Pacific.

Updated:  25 October 2021/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team