According to Rwanda’s government, the share of poor people in the country's population has dropped from almost 77 per cent in 2001 to 55 per cent in 2017. The share of extremely poor people also declined significantly. Yet the momentum has slowed – figures have hardly improved since 2013.
More than one third of the population is chronically undernourished, children in rural areas are especially hard hit.
Rwanda’s social development was significantly set back by the COVID-19 pandemic. Measures that were taken early on to contain the pandemic have so far prevented the collapse of the health system. Yet the economic and social fallout is dramatic. According to World Bank estimates, more than 550,000 people have slipped back into poverty.
Poor and especially vulnerable groups have suffered worst from the measures. Social participation, for instance, has become much more difficult. Many children were unable to attend online classes. Business dried up during lockdowns for a large number of micro entrepreneurs.
Since the easing of COVID-19 measures many people have been returning to the labour market. According to official figures, unemployment fell from 23.8 per cent in November 2021 to 16.5 per cent in February 2022. Nevertheless, the government figure for the proportion of workers who are underemployed is still 53 per cent of all employees.
The sharp increase in food and fuel prices because of the war in Ukraine is a new existential challenge for Rwandans.
Education and health
Considerable progress has been made in the area of education in recent years. By introducing free schooling, for example, Rwanda has succeeded in boosting school enrolment rates considerably. Now 95 per cent of all school-age children are attending primary school. The duration of school attendance has also gone up visibly; 97 per cent of all children completed primary school in 2019 according to the World Bank (25 per cent in 2000). However, the quality of schooling is still extremely poor.
The mortality rate for under-fives dropped from 185 deaths per 1,000 children to 41 between 2000 and 2020. Maternal mortality rates, too, have been considerably reduced. In 2000, more than 1,100 women died per 100,000 live births; this number fell to just 248 women in 2017.
Life expectancy increased from 49 years in 2000 to 69 years in 2020.