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Francesca Green

What is Poverty?

Indian child in poverty looking through barbed wire

Poverty is a global issue that affects many people. Across the world there is thought to be 734 million people who live on less that $1.90 a day1 (according to studies in 2015).

Poverty is the state of not having enough material possessions or income for a person’s basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion, as well as the lack of participation in decision making. Pre-pandemic, around 10% of the world population were living in extreme poverty and struggling to fulfil basic needs2, such as health, education and access to water and sanitation. It is a complex issue that may include social, economic, political and geographical elements. There is no single best measure of poverty, it does not mean the same thing for everyone.

In 2015, the United Nations Member States all agreed upon 17 Sustainable Development Goals to protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.

As part of the 15-year plan, the first goal is to end poverty3. The Sustainable Development Goals main reference to ending poverty is in target 1.A: “Ensure significant mobilisation of resources from a variety of sources, including through enhanced development cooperation, in order to provide adequate and predictable means for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, to implement programmes and policies to end poverty in all its dimensions.” Many charities, including Poverty Child, are working on this common goal. However, this is a large task and figures show that currently, we will not reach that target. The aftermath of the pandemic threatens to push a further 70 million people into extreme poverty4.

How do you measure poverty?

There is not one distinguished measure of poverty, it is a complex issue that has many dependents. Poverty can mean something different to a lot of people. The UK measures poverty in different ways, two commonly used measures5 are:

  • People in relative low income (living in households with income below 60% of the median that year).
  • People in absolute low income (living in households with income below 60% of (inflation-adjusted) median income in the same base year – usually 2010/11).

Absolute low income looks at whether living standards at the bottom of the distribution are improving over time. Income can be measured before or after housing costs are deducted (BHC or AHC). Poverty levels tend to be higher after housing costs as poorer households tend to spend a higher proportion of their income on housing.

According to a House of Commons Library report, 11 million people were living in relative low income BHC (UK) in 2018/19. This was 17% of the population. Of that, 2.8 million children were living in poverty6. Another measurement is destitution, this is where someone is not able to afford basics such as shelter, heating and clothing and is the lowest level of poverty.

What causes poverty?

There are many causes of poverty, these can vary across the world. Some of the major causes in the UK include:

  • Low pay.
    72% of children living in poverty have at least one parent in work7. However, the long-term effects of being in the lowest paid 20% of the UK labour market has been a major cause of enduring poverty in the UK. Often in the case of low paid jobs, there are not opportunities for promotion and the hours are unpredictable.
  • Worklessness.
    Since 2006, there has been a 60% rise in the number of people moving repeatedly between work and unemployment8.
    68% of children in families with no working adults are in poverty9. Often people want to work but they are not able to due to different barriers to work. This is heightened during the pandemic when many businesses are having to close and subsequently workers are being let go.
  • Inadequate benefits.
    Currently, in-work benefits are not sufficient to overcome labour market challenges and keep people out of poverty. Not only that but housing and childcare costs are constantly increasing, this increases families risks of poverty. The social security system should provide a safety net to prevent people falling into poverty – this is not the case for most.

There are many other causes for poverty, such as discrimination, abuse and trauma, and weak relationships. These causes could be a consequence of a random life event or moment, that then catches people in a trap and keeps them in a cycle that they cannot escape. This could simply be getting sick and not being able to work for a while.

The effects of poverty can be severe. They can lead to homelessness, health issues, family issues, drug or alcohol abuse and lower educational achievement, to name a few. It has a huge impact on the community and those surrounding it. Poverty affects more than one in four children in the UK today. Children who grow up in poverty miss out on what many of us take for granted, clothing, three meals a day, even a school trip. It is often found that students who are in poverty are less likely to be successful at school and then earn less as adults. This cycle is vicious but not inevitable. If we work together, it will be possible to have a stronger economy and a fairer society that will help everyone.

What does Poverty Child do?

Poverty Child is part of that movement to help the children who are living in poverty10. We are a charity that is dedicated to improving the life for street and slum connected children. Our mission is to empower them to achieve their true potential. Anyone could fall on hard times and find it difficult to make ends meet. It is important to be there to help everyone when they do.

Some of the work that we offer includes:

  • Mobile clinics.
    These provide basic healthcare to children in poorer areas.
  • Street schools
    A cordoned street that becomes a classroom for learning basic literacy and numeracy.
  • Day Centres
    A safe place for children to get a meal, wash, counselling and basic schooling.
  • Night Centres
    A safe place for a child to sleep at night.

This work is currently focused abroad.

Please look through our blog to see more information on ways you can help our charity. This can include donating directly or volunteering. It is also possible to recycle coins and currency, mobile phones, cameras and other gadgets, old jewellery, stamps and ink cartridges. Please visit our homepage for more information.

 

Bibliography

1,2,4

Nations, U., 2021. Ending Poverty | United Nations. [online] United Nations. Available at: <https://www.un.org/en/global-issues/ending-poverty> [Accessed 3 April 2021].

3

Nations, U., 2021. Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere. [online] United Nations Sustainable Development. Available at: <https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/poverty/> [Accessed 3 April 2021].

5, 6

Francis-Devine, B., 2021. Poverty in the UK: Statistics. [online] Commons Library. Available at: <https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn07096/> [Accessed 3 April 2021].

7,8,9

CPAG. 2021. Child Poverty. [online] Available at: <https://cpag.org.uk/child-poverty> [Accessed 3 April 2021].

10

Poverty Child. 2021. Poverty Child – empowering street and slum connected children. [online] Available at: <https://povertychild.org> [Accessed 3 April 2021].

Additional Resources:

JRF. 2021. What is poverty?. [online] Available at: <https://www.jrf.org.uk/our-work/what-is-poverty> [Accessed 3 April 2021].

United Nations Sustainable Development. 2021. Take Action for the Sustainable Development Goals. [online] Available at: <https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/> [Accessed 3 April 2021].