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CIVICS FORM THREE TOPIC 3: POVERTY

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Indicators of Poverty

Meaning of Poverty
Define poverty
Poverty
refers to a situation where a person cannot attain the minimum level of
well-being. The concept of well-being can be applied to different
dimensions like consumption, income, education and other basic needs.
  • Poverty
    is characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including
    food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter,
    education and information.
  • Poverty is also characterized by lack
    of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods,
    hunger and malnutrition, ill health, limited or lack of access to
    education and other basic services. Poverty also includes homelessness
    and inadequate housing, social discrimination and exclusion.
  • It is also characterized by lack of participation in decision making and civil, social and cultural life.
The
main poverty line used in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) and the European Union is based on “economic
distance” – a level of income set at 60% of the median household income.
This states as follows:
  1. In 1985, a poverty line set as US $ 14.40 a day per person. This was suggested for industrialized countries like the USA.
  2. By 1987, a poverty line set at US $ 2 a day per person. This was suggested for Middle East and North African countries.
  3. In 1990, a poverty line set as US $ 4 a day per person. This was suggested for Latin America.
  4. In
    1990, a poverty line set as US $ 4 a day per person. This was suggested
    for Eastern Europe and Commonwealth independent countries.
  5. In 2008, a poverty line set at US $ 1.25 a day per person. This was suggested for sub-Saharan African countries.
The International Poverty Line gives us a convenient way of understanding the state of poverty. However, it is a very blunt instrument for measuring a complex phenomenon. This is because:
  1. It
    does not take into account the cost of living differentials within
    countries. US $ 1 will buy different amounts of goods in urban and rural
    areas. For instance, food may cost more in urban areas.
  2. It does show who lives in permanent poverty and who lives in temporary poverty.
  3. It does not consider the distribution of income within the household. Distribution of income is sometimes affected by gender.
  4. It
    only values goods which are delivered in the market. In many poor
    countries people grow and rear food and animals respectively for their
    own consumption.
Different Levels and Types of Poverty
Point out different levels and types of poverty
Levels of poverty
The
assessment of levels and trends of poverty is complicated by the lack
of consistent information and absence of officially recognized poverty
lines. This problem has forced some studies to develop and usetheir own
lines. Thus, the lower lines donate basic food needs based on specific
assumptions about eating habits, nutritional requirements and cost,
while the upper lines cover in addition to such food requirements, and
other essential needs such as clothing, housing, water and health. A
poverty line of US $ 1 per day in real terms has been used by the World
Bank to facilitate comparison with other countries.
The
situation and level of poverty varies among community members and can
be grouped into three categories depending on the degree of dependency
and possession of valuable assets.
  1. The first group consists of those who have no money or possessions and have lost hope.
    They do not have enough food and in most cases depend on charity for
    survival. They are unable to sustain themselves. Most of these people
    are either too old or young and handicapped to work. Within this group
    also is a small fraction of the less poor who consist of few families –
    mainly single parents, widows and women married to irresponsible
    alcoholic husbands. They have inadequate standards of living and are
    often the most vulnerable in society. For those families, meeting the
    most basic needs is a daily struggle. These people are the source of
    cheap labour in communities.
  2. The second group consists of people who can meet their basic needs but do not have sufficient income
    to have any surplus income. This group comprises of many workers who
    are being paid low or insufficient salaries – asalary whichenablesthemto
    meet onlytheirbasic needs.
  3. The third group consists of the rich.
    At a village level, a rich person has all the material necessities of
    life such asadequate food to feed their children properly and live in
    good houses made of bricks and roofed with corrugated iron sheets. They
    are able to assist others or hire their labour. They have a reliable
    source of income either from livestock or agriculture. They produce in
    surplusandpossess valuable assets such as radios, television, bicycles,
    and motorcycles, and have money to purchase basic essentials like
    clothes.
The
World Bank has set the International Poverty Line at an expenditure
level of $ 1 for every person a day. This figure represents the minimal
amount on which a person is considered to be living in absolute poverty,
if his or her income falls below this line. By this measure, at the
present time about 1.2 billion people are living below this line
calculated using purchasing power abilities which take into account
difference in prices of goods in different countries, and allows us to
compare poverty levels internationally. However, if someone is below the
poverty line it is probably the person is living in a community without
access to clean water, but this is not always the case and some
countries have managed to reduce elements of human poverty than income
poverty.
A
developing country is a nation where the average income is much lower
than in industrial nations; where the economy relies on a few export
crops, and where farming is conducted throughprimitive methods.
Types of poverty
  1. Absolute and relative poverty.
    Absolute (extreme) poverty refers to a set standard which is consistent
    over time and between countries. The World Bank defines extreme
    (absolute) poverty as living on less than US $1.25 per day, and moderate
    poverty as less than US $ 2 a day. It estimates that in 2001, 1.1
    billion people had consumption levels below US $ 1 a day and 2.7 billion
    lived on less than US $ 2 a day.
  2. Relative poverty
    views poverty as socially defined and dependent on social context,
    hence relative poverty is a measure of income inequality. Usually,
    relative poverty is measured as the percentage of population with income
    less than some fixed proportion of median income. Relative poverty
    measures income inequality rather than material deprivation or
    hardships. The measurements are usually based on a person‟s yearly
    income and frequently take no account of total wealth.
Indicators of Poverty
Identify indicators of poverty
The
indicators of poverty include high rates of morbidity and mortality,
prevalence of malnutrition, illiteracy, high infant and maternal
mortality rates, low life expectancy, poor quality housing, inadequate
clothing, low per capital income and expenditure, as well aspoor
infrastructure. Others include high fertility rates, lack of access to
basic services such as safe water, food insecurity and poor technology.
These features can be used to identify poor and non-poor individuals,
households or communities. An individual, household or community found
to be characterized by some or all of these features can be identified
as being poor.
Most
elements of indicators of poverty are mainly based on economic
considerations. Consequently, many of these indicators are quantifiable.
Recently, the definition of poverty has been further broadened. The new
definitions incorporate problems of self-esteem, vulnerability to
internal and external risks, exclusion from the development process and
lack of social capital. The new definition of poverty captures the
qualitative aspect of socio-economic well-being. A combination of the
quantitative and qualitative definitions of poverty are utilized to
identify who the poor are and the extent of their poverty, where they
live and what they do for a living. These definitions also influence the
design of pro-poor policies for economic growth, public expenditure,
safety net programmes and tools for assessing the impact of programmes
and projects on poverty reduction.
Generally
poverty is a result of many and often mutually reinforcing factors
including lack of productive resources to generate material wealth,
illiteracy, prevalence of diseases, natural calamities such as floods
and drought, and man-made calamities such as wars.
At
the international level, an unequal economic and political partnership,
as reflected in unfavourable terms of trade and other transactions for
developing countries, is also a major cause of poverty in these
countries. Some causes of poverty are not direct, for example traditions
and norms which hinder effective resource utilization and participation
in income –generating activities.
Poverty is one of the global problems that have hindered socio-economic and political development of many societies.
Different Indicators of Poverty to the Tanzanian Situation
Relate different indicators of poverty to the Tanzanian situation
The
Tanzanian economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, which accounts
for about 50 percent of the gross Domestic Product (GDP). Agriculture
provides 85 percent of exports, and is by far the largest employer. Lack
of technical know-how, agricultural input, capital, unpredictable
climate and unreliable markets contribute to low levels of output.
Lack
of clean and safe water in a community is one of the major indicators
of poverty. Tanzanian statistics show that by 1993, this service was
provided to 75 percent of urban dwellers compared to only 46.4 percent
of those living in the rural areas. As discussed earlier, more than 70
percent of Tanzanians reside in rural areas; therefore the majority of
the population has no access to clean and safe water. Women and children
are the most affected citizens. Traditionally, women have the role of
fetching water for the family; they have to walk many kilometers looking
for water. Currently, community members rely on swamps and other dirty
water sources, which are mostly used by cattle and wild animals.
It
is estimated that up to 1977, 73 percent of Tanzanians had basic
literacy skills. However, this has been declining year after year. For
example, in 1993 it had declined to 63 percent, while only 68 percent of
all children of school going age were enrolled in primary schools.
The
main reason for the decline is the introduction of the cost-sharing
system in the 1990s whereby every family was required to pay school fees
and other school-related costs, which were previously covered by the
government. As a result of the poverty in the country, many rural
families found it difficult to meet the costs. Thispartly contributed to
the increased number of illiterate cases and school dropouts in the
country.
The
per capita income of Tanzania is estimated at about $ 250 per year.
Through experience the $ 250 would not last for more than three months
in a normal Tanzanian family which in most cases includes children and
members of the extended family.
The
situation of family income, particularly in rural communities, is
probably worse today because most families are heavily dependent on
agriculture which in turn isaffected by unpredictable rainfall, lack of
capital, agricultural inputs and unreliable market. This has led toa
higher rate of poverty among rural communities, and distorted the
traditional Tanzanian support system.
There
is a common belief that traditionally, the extended family in Tanzanian
societites provides social and economic support for its family members
in times of need. This has shown a high degree of self-reliance in the
past in coping with other social disasters including famine, drought and
economic hardships. Under this system, majority of the family members
spend their resources supporting and caring for a person in need.
However, as result of poverty, members of the extended family find it
difficult to meet the traditional obligations for all members of their
extended family and in some cases, even their children.
Inadequate
health services are another sign of poverty in the country. Most
illness are associated with poverty. In Tanzania, poor health services
have been responsible for the prevalence of infectious diseases such as
diarrhea, malaria, and tuberculosis. For example, according to Health
Statistical Abstract (1977) there was one hospital bed per one thousand
people.
A
high mortality rate is another sign of poverty. According to the Health
Statistical Abstract (1977), the average life expectancy at birth in
Tanzania is 50 years compared to life expectancy of 77 years in
developed countries. The infant mortality rate is 96 per 1 000 live
births compared to 7 in developed countries.
Women–to-women
marriages are another classic example of poverty situations in rural
communities. This behavior is common in the northern part of the
country, in areas including Tarime and Serengeti districts in
particular. Through this, rich women choose young women from poor
families and pay their bride price in terms of cash or materials, such
as land, cows or crops, to their parents. The rich women later identify
any man of their choice to be boyfriends of the chosen young women so
that they can reproduce. The offspring then belong to the husband, who
in this case are the rich woman. The poor families, including their
married daughters, get involved in this system because of the economic
hardship they experience. This puts poor women at risk of being infected
with HIV and AIDS.
Activity 1
Critically examine the types and levels of poverty in Tanzania.
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