The most common definition of poverty is the lack of essential amenities such as food, shelter, quality education and medical care. Income levels required to meet these essentials are different from place to place and regardless of one’s income level if they cannot meet all their basic needs, then they are considered as being poor. However, there is no single cause of poverty because there are various types and for each category, there are factors that can be said to cause it. There are six categories of poverty:
Situational poverty is usually temporary and results from a crisis. For instance, when a family member has had health issues for too long, this may eat into the family’s savings and result in situational poverty. However, with time, the lost income is recovered. Generational poverty occurs where two or more generations have been born into poverty. Without the means to overcome the situation, there is a high likelihood that the vicious cycle may continue into the future generations. Absolute poverty results from lack of essential amenities such as food and shelter. Families living in absolute poverty tend to live from hand-to-mouth and rarely have any savings. Relative poverty occurs in families whose income does not match the society’s standards of living. Urban poverty occurs in urban areas where the poor have to cope with inadequate city services. Rural poverty occurs in rural areas with smaller populations, and more often than not, people have to deal with insufficient services and support programs (Jensen, 2009). Poverty is indeed a complex issue and results in a multitude of problems to those affected. Needy families usually have difficulties putting food on the table, paying bills, accessing health services, quality education and so many other stressors. One wonders whether to blame the government for the inequities, blame the poor for not working extra hard, blame the rich for not being more benevolent or just blame nobody at all. The complexity of the issue goes deeper than any single paper could exhaust.
Income inequality continues to remain high. It seems that the rich are still amassing more wealth while the poor continue to become even more miserable. The national pie is not and has never been shared equally among all citizens. In fact, instead of the gap closing, it continues to widen as the poor struggle to join the few wealthy individuals at the top. According to the Income Inequality Update for the year 2016, despite the continued economic recovery, the trend of income inequality has not changed. One wonders why this is so, majorly because, with economic improvements, unemployment reduces and as disposable income increases, one expects poverty levels to decrease as the income gap reduces. Conversely, economic recovery benefits the rich even more due to the capitalist tendencies of many economies. The rich continue to enjoy rising incomes as business profits increase. As a result, the income gap continues to widen as capital incomes increase (OECD, 2016).
There is no single solution to poverty. As mentioned earlier, there are different types of poverty and this complexity makes it difficult and almost impossible to eradicate it all at once. However, there are measures which can be taken to reduce the number of poor people. The first step would be creating more jobs both locally and abroad. There exists a direct relationship between unemployment and poverty. When people have no income, they are unable to meet their basic needs. Creating more jobs will ensure that people have a means to fend for themselves and will minimise the levels of poverty. On the same note, governments should set a reasonable minimum wage rate and ensure that all employers adhere to it. Some employers exploit the poor by paying them peanuts while they take in huge profits. By making sure that there is a minimum wage rate, the poor will be able to earn a reasonable income and be able to pay their bills more easily. Secondly, governments should increase funds set aside for services such as education. When health becomes affordable or even free to those living in abject poverty, the poor have one less reason to worry. Quality and free education will also go a long way in ensuring that every child goes to school and becomes empowered through education. Illiteracy denies one so many opportunities and doors that schooling does open. Promoting gender equality is also closely related to education. Some third world countries deny girls and women a chance to access education and fend for themselves. They become dependent on men and in families where only one parent is the breadwinner, poverty is usually nearby.
Jensen E. (2009). Teaching with Poverty in Mind. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/109074/chapters/Understanding-the-Nature-of-Poverty.aspx
OECD (2016). Income Inequality Update. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/social/OECD2016-Income-Inequality-Update.pdf