Global Issues of Poverty

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Poverty is a very relative term and can be rather difficult to define due to the great number of factors that influence it. It is not solely determined by the personal position held by an individual. It is a concept that also influences important policies and social services made both at national and international level. As a result, poverty is a multifactorial and multidimensional concept that not only affects the unique situation of the individual, nor the socio-economic organization of a nation, but the overall status of the development of humanity.

Now, we will take a minute to briefly recap some of the mechanisms that have been used over the years in the measurement to determine the situation of poverty being faced by the inhabitants of the planet according to these different indicators.

In 1997, the UNDP included the human poverty index (HPI) for the first time in their human development report to try to categorize the different characteristics of deprivations found in the quality of life with a composite index that could be used to judge the extent of poverty in a given community.

After 13 years of reporting using the poverty based system of the HPI, in 2010, UNDP, through its Office of Human Development Reports (HDR) along with the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI), the University of Oxford presented a new way of measuring poverty, the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). Bringing about “multidimensional” vision of people living in poverty, which according to its creators could be helpful in the allocation of developmental resources more effectively.

Results from the data which can be drawn from the MPI in its annual report in 2011, produced by the HDR, are rather alarming. By selecting the 5 countries with the highest number of inhabitants (China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh), with populations totaling nearly 3000 million inhabitants, we can see how more than 1.3 billion (44.8%) live under the threshold of multidimensional poverty. This meaning that at least 33% of the indicators reflect serious deprivations in health, education and standard of living. These statistics also show that largest emerging countries such as China or India, according to World Bank data, have an average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth over 10 years of a 10% and 7.5% respectively, and will not have reached the desirable result of equitable development of their populations that have a 18.7 and 70.2% respectively of multidimensional poverty population.

This data reveals that a country´s economic growth is not sign of progress towards equality of population since the monetary development continues to accumulate in a few hands and thus keeping the situations of inequality and poverty within the borders of the countries.

Of the 109 Countries analyzed in the MPI, all of them are developing; we find that 48 Nations that suffer multidimensional poverty in more than 50% of its population, becoming overwhelming that in 20 of these countries you will encounter that this negative quality exceeded 85% of its inhabitants. Except for East Timor and Somalia, the 18 remaining countries, belong to the region of Sub-Saharan Africa.

This statistic draw our particular attention because when crossing with the annual report Global Employment Trends 2012 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) we can see that the Sub-Saharan region is presented as the farmer of the world with 62% of its population being dedicated to that sector. On the other hand these regions are also the ones with the least dedication to industry with only 8.5% employed in this sector, thus creating the continuous need for imported industrial products with its inexorable consequence of national reductions in social spending within the country.

These indicators show us that agriculture and the rural world are still linked to poverty, perpetuate gaps in basic health services, in quality education and a high standard of living.

To overcome these hardships faced by multidimensional poverty populations, we will need to diversify the productive sectors in all regions of the world, or as an alternative, exercise a fair trade between all nations that respect and value the production of each of these regions. As well as promote dedication to avoid the current reality in which agricultural nations are equivalent to nation’s misery where most of its population suffer from severe deprivation that prevents them from enjoying a reasonable standard of living.

We discussed earlier that the MPI has been conducted in 109 developing countries, but the United States of America and the European Community are exempted from poverty? This is far from the reality. In the last decade, due in part to the global economic crisis that is taking place, these so called developed countries are watching how the number of its residents living in poverty is on the rise every year.

The Census held every year by the Government of the United States shows how in the last ten years its inhabitants in poverty have been rising from 11 to the current 15.1%, encompassing 46.2 million people, which is a considerable figure for a country that is shown as a culmination of freedom and individual rights.

Meanwhile, the European Community (EC), through its Parliament on 24 October 2011 presented its report on the European Platform Against Poverty and Social Exclusion which show the data on the situation in the EC. It shows that 116 millioninhabitants of the European Union are threatened by poverty and 42 million (8%) live in conditions of severe material deprivation and cannot cover a range of needs considered essential to live a dignified life in Europe.

Among the 116 million who are under threat of poverty in the EU are 20 million children. After analyzing the data, we can reflect that northern countries, (USA and EC) despite having some excellent material and productive infrastructures, have not made an attempt to establish a social justice within their borders that promotes equitable development among its inhabitants. This has consequently produced the gap of millions of people who are pushed into social exclusion through poverty.

Today that blatant lack of interest in social justice reflects the increasing number of unemployed in these regions, social wellbeing, health and educational services are suffering limitations due to the decrease of their economic budgets, depriving millions of people of those basic services for social development.

A quick overview of the annual ILO Global Employment Trends 2012 report helps us to understand the plight of billions of people around the world. There are 3,300 million workers, of which 900 million obtained a payment less than $2 a day, with 456 million earning less than $1.25 a day and apart from them we must not forget to add 200 million more are unemployed. Closely linked to this are the statistics of employment vulnerablility (I) found 1,520 million (49.1%) of workers, most of them located in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific, regions heavily dependent on agriculture, once again presenting more evidence in the relationship with the level of poverty in these regions.

The world is still an unfair place to live with unequal distribution of wealth, causing a disproportionate poverty rate among the majority of its population. It is evident in the annual List of the Richest People in the world by Forbes magazine, where it indicates that the 10 individuals with greatest fortunes on the planet possess greater accumulation of wealth than the joint of the 67 countries GDP poor of the planet; according to data extracted from the to the annual report of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The top of the list, Carlos Slim, has the personal wealth equivalent to the joint GDP of the 35 poorest countries in the world. This data around the world believe that they are the expression of the socio-economic organization in the most local dimensions, where, at all levels, a very small number of people always boast the economic wealth of the majority of workers who sustain the current production system with their daily work.

If all of us are born equal, with some inherent global human rights, how is that possible that a poverty of this extreme can exist, or better yet we need to ask ourselves how can we allow the existence of this tremendous inequality demonstrated by these statistics below?

There are 48 countries with more than 50% of its population living in multidimensional poverty.

There are 20 countries with more than 85% of its population living in multidimensional poverty. (Except 2,all of sub-Saharan Africa)

There are 1,520 million workers in vulnerable employment (49.1%)

Over 900 million people earn less than $2 a day (27.2%)

More than 456 million people earn less than $1.25 a day (13.8%)

US: 46 million poor people (15.1%).

EC: 116 million at risk of poverty, 42 million poor people (8%)

There are over 783 million people in the world without access to safe drinking water.

Over 868 million undernourished people. in the world.

Wealth 10 richest people in the world = 395.400 millionUSD

GDP of the 67 poorest countries in the world = 389.019 million USD.

There are 35 countries with a combined 66.406 million USD GDP – Carlos Slim 69,000 million USD.

(I)Vulnerablility: Defined as the sum of own-account workers and unpaid family workers. This indicator provides valuable insights into trends in overall employment quality, as a high share of workers in vulnerable employment indicates widespread of informal work arrangements, whereby workers typically lack adequate social protection and coverage by social dialogue arrangements. Vulnerable employment is also often characterized by low pay and difficult working conditions, in which workers’ fundamental rights may be undermined.

This article was published on October 17th: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty in Global Education Magazine

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