The Asian Development Bank has joined calls for a rethink of the way poverty is measured, saying the number of poor in Asia would jump more than 1bn if more realistic criteria were used.

The development lender argued in a report released on Wednesday that while rapid economic growth had led to a dramatic improvement in living standards for many, existing “poverty lines” used by governments and multilateral organisations were far too low.

The ADB said measures of poverty failed to take account of food insecurity and vulnerability to economic shocks and natural disasters, which mean that many people move in and out of poverty from year to year. “A fuller understanding of poverty is needed to help policy makers develop effective approaches to address this daunting challenge,” said Shang-Jin Wei, the newly appointed chief economist of the ADB, on a visit to Jakarta.

The World Bank is considering increasing its poverty line and the new Indian government is also looking into a similar change as it struggles to work out how better to help the hundreds of millions of people who have hardly benefited from the economic growth of recent decades.

A Financial Times analysis of World Bank data this year showed that almost 1bn people in the developing world were at risk of slipping out of the ranks of the nascent middle class, underlining the fragility of the global march out of poverty of the past 30 years.