Essay On Causes Of Poverty

“Poverty is humiliation, the sense of being dependent on them, and of being forced to accept rudeness, insults, and indifference when we seek help.” —Latvia 1998

In the simplest term, poverty may be defined as a social condition where individuals do not have financial means to meet the most basic standards of life that is acceptable by the society. Individuals experiencing poverty do not have the means to pay for basic needs of daily life like food, clothes and shelter.


Poverty also staves people off from accessing much needed social tools of well-being like education and health requirements. The direct consequences stemming from this problem are hunger, malnutrition and susceptibility to diseases which have been identified as major problems across the world. It impacts individuals in a socio-psychological way with them not being able to afford simple recreational activities and getting progressively marginalized in the society.

The term poverty is interconnected with the notion of the poverty line/ threshold that may be defined as the minimum figure of income that is required in a particular country for maintaining the socially acceptable quality of life in terms of nutritional, clothing and sheltering needs. The World Bank has updated its international poverty line figures to 1.90 USD (Rs. 123.5) per day on October 2015 (based on prices of commodities in year 2011-2012), from 1.5 USD(Rs. 81) as a response to the changes in the cost of living across the world as per current economy. The organization estimates that – “Just over 900 million people globally lived under this line in 2012 (based on the latest available data), and we project that in 2015, just over 700 million are living in extreme poverty.”


Poverty is a worldwide cause of concern even in economically stable countries like the USA. Current statistics state that over half the populations in the world, about 3 billion people, are forced to live on less than 2.5 dollars per day. In India, as per 2014 government reports, monthly per capita consumption expenditure is Rs. 972 per person in rural areas and Rs. 1407 per person in urban areas. This data is currently being accepted as the poverty threshold of the country. As of 2015, 21.9% of the total population lives below the national poverty threshold, as per the data of Asian Development Bank, that’s a whopping 269.7 million individuals not having enough money.


Causes of Poverty in India

Factors contributing to the persistent problem of poverty in the country are many and they need to be identified in order to be addressed properly. They can be categorized under the following heads.

1. Demographic – the main factor that contributes to poverty-ridden state of the country from a demographical point of view is the problem of over population. The growth of population in the country has so far exceeded the growth in economy and the gross result is that the poverty figures have remained more or less consistent. In rural areas, size of the families is bigger and that translates into lowering the per capita income values and ultimately lowering of standard of living. Population growth spurt also leads to generation of unemployment and that means diluting out of wages for jobs further lowering income.


2. Economic –there are a host of economic reasons behind persistence of the poverty problems which are outlined hereunder:-

a. Poor Agricultural Infrastructure –Agriculture is the backbone of Indian economy. But outdated farming practices, lack of proper irrigation infrastructure and even lack of formal knowledge of crop handling has affected the productivity in this sector tremendously. As a consequence there is redundancy and sometimes complete lack of work leading to decreased wages that is insufficient for meeting daily needs of a labourer’s family plunging them into poverty.

b. Unequal distribution of assets – with the economy changing directions rapidly, the earning structure evolves differently in different economic income groups. Upper and middle income groups see a faster increase in earnings than lower income groups. Also assets like land, cattle as well as realty are distributed disproportionately among the population with certain people owning majority shares than other sectors of the society and their profits from these assets are also unequally distributed. In India it is said that 80% wealth in the country is controlled by just 20% of the population.

c. Unemployment – another major economic factor that is causative of poverty in the country is the rising unemployment rate. Unemployment rates is high in India and according to a 2015 survey data, at the all-India level, 77% of families do not have a regular source of income.

d. Inflation and Price hike – the term Inflation may be defined as an increase in prices of commodities coinciding with the fall in the purchasing value of money. As a direct consequence of inflation, effective price of food, clothing items as well as real estate rises. The salaries and wages do not rise as much in keeping up with the inflated prices of commodities leading to effective decrease of the per capita income.

e. Faulty economic liberalization – the LPG (Liberalization-Privatization-Globalization) attempts initiated by the Indian Government in 1991 were directed towards making the economy more suited to international market-trends to invite foreign investments. Successful to certain extent in reviving the economy, the economic reforms had detrimental effects on increasing the wealth distribution scenario. Rich became richer, while the poor remained poor.


3. Social – The various social issues plaguing the country that contributes towards poverty are:-

a. Education and illiteracy – Education, rather its lack thereof and poverty form a vicious cycle that plagues the nation. Not having enough resources to feed their children, the poor consider education to be frivolous, preferring children to start contributing to the family’s income rather than draining them. On the other hand, lack of education and illiteracy prevent individuals from getting better paying jobs and they get stuck at jobs offering minimum wages. Improvement of quality of life gets hindered and the cycle once again comes into action.

b. Outdated Social Customs – Social customs like the caste system cause segregation and marginalization of certain sections of the society. Certain castes are considered untouchables still and are not employed by upper caste, leaving very specific and low paying jobs that they can live off. Economist K. V. Verghese put forth the problem in a very lucid language, “Caste system acted as a spring­board for class exploitation with the result that the counterpart of the poverty of the many is the opulence of the few. The second is the cause of the first.”

c. Lack of skilled labour – lack of adequate vocational training makes the huge labour force available in India largely unskilled, which is unsuitable for offering maximum economic value. Lack of education, much less higher education, is also a contributing factor towards this.

d. Gender inequality–the weak status attached with women, deep-rooted social marginalization and long embedded perceptions of domesticity renders about 50% of the country’s population unable to work. As a result the women of the family add to the number of dependents that need to be fed instead of being able to contribute considerably in the family income which might assuage the poverty situation of the family.

e. Corruption – despite considerable efforts from the government in the forms of various schemes to mollify the poverty situation, allegedly only 30-35% actually reaches the beneficiaries due to wide-spread practices of corruption in the country. Wealthy people with privileged connection are able to acquire more wealth simply by bribing government officials to maximize their profits from such schemes while the poor remain in a state of neglect for not being able to assert such connections.


4. Individual – individual lack of efforts also contribute towards generating poverty. Some people are unwilling to work hard or even not willing to work altogether, leaving their families in the darkness of poverty. Personal demons like drinking and gambling also leads to draining of the family income inciting poverty.

5. Political – in India, socio-economic reform strategies has been largely directed by political interest and are implemented to serve a choice section of the society that is potentially a deciding factor in the elections. As a result, the issue is not addressed in its entirety leaving much scope of improvements.

6. Climatic – maximum portion of India experiences a tropical climate throughout the year that is not conducive to hard manual labour leading to lowering of productivity and the wages suffer consequently.


Effects of Poverty

The resounding effect of poverty echoes through various layers of an India citizen’s life. If we try to have a systematic look at them, we should proceed under the three following heads:-

1. Effect on Health – one of the most devastating effects that poverty has is on the overall health of the nation. The most prominent health issue stemming from poverty is malnutrition. The problem of malnutrition is widespread in all age-groups of the country but children are most adversely affected by this. Limited income in larger families leads to lack of access to sufficient nutritious food for their children. These children over time suffer from severe health problems like low body weight, mental, physical disabilities and a general poor state of immunity making them susceptible to diseases. Children from poor backgrounds are twice as susceptible to suffer from anemia, nutrient deficiencies, impaired vision, and even cardiac problems. Malnutrition is a gross contributor of infant mortality in the country and 38 out of every 1,000 babies born in India die before their first birthday. Malnutrition among adult also leads to poor health in adults that leaches their capacity for manual labour leading to a decrease in income due to weakness and diseases. Poverty also causes definite decline in the sanitary practices among poor who cannot afford proper bathrooms and disinfectants. As a result susceptibility to waterborne diseases peak among the poor. Lack of access to as well as means to procure appropriate treatment also affects overall mortality of the population which is lower in poor countries than developed nations like the USA.


2. Effects on Society – poverty exerts some gravely concerning effects over the overall societal health as well. These may be discussed along the following lines:-

a. Violence and crime rate – incidence of violence and crime have been found to be geographically coincident. In a backdrop of unemployment and marginalization, the poor resort to criminal activities to earn money. Coupled with lack of education and properly formed moral conscience, a poverty ridden society is more susceptible to violence by its people against its own people from a sense of deep-seated discontent and rage.

b. Homelessness – apart from a definite drop in the esthetic representation of the country, homelessness affects child health, women safety and overall increase in criminal tendencies.

c. Stress – lack of money is a major cause of stress among the middle-class and the poor and leads to decline in productivity of individuals.

d. Child labour – one of the hallmarks of a poverty-ridden society is the widespread practices of exploitation and the worst of it comes in the form of child labour. Large families fail to meet the monetary needs of the members and children as young as 5 years are made to start earning in order to contribute to the family income.

e. Terrorism – proclivity of youth towards terrorism stems from a combination of extreme poverty and lack of education making them susceptible to brainwashing. Terrorist organizations offer poverty-ridden families money in exchange for a member’s participation in their activities which induces a sense of accomplishment among the youth.

3. Effect on Economy –poverty is a direct index indicating success of the economy of the country. The number of people living under the poverty threshold indicates whether the economy is powerful enough to generate adequate jobs and amenities for its people. Schemes providing subsidies for the poor of the country again impose a drain on the economy.



The measures that should be taken to fight the demon of poverty in India are outlined below:-

1. Growth of population at the current rate should be checked by implementation of policies and awareness promoting birth control.

2. All efforts should be made to increase the employment opportunities in the country, either by inviting more foreign investments or by encouraging self-employment schemes.

3. Measures should be taken to bridge the immense gap that remains in distribution in wealth among different levels of the society.

4. Certain Indian states are more poverty stricken than others like Odhisha and the North East states. Government should seek to encourage investment in these states by offering special concessions on taxes.

5. Primary needs of people for attaining a satisfactory quality of life like food items, clean drinking water should be available more readily. Improvement of the Subsidy rates on commodities and Public Distribution system should be made. Free high school education and an increased number of functioning health centers should be provided by the government.

Development Studies Assignment 4 QUESTION Poverty is a multi-faceted concept that can be defined in various ways. Write an essay in which you: -outline this concept as well as distinguish between absolute and relative poverty. In your discussion, provide relevant examples to illustrate your understanding (2 pages) -discuss any three (3) causes of poverty in Third World countries using concrete examples (3pages) READING: Study Guide, Unit 4 Regan Chapter 19

Assessment evidence shows that you can: – define the overall concept of poverty using relevant examples – define and compare the concepts of absolute and relative poverty, using examples to help illustrate your answer – use Robert Chambers’ deprivation trap to explain how poverty is a multi faceted concept and how it has many causes and effects – discuss three factors which may cause poverty in the third world. ANSWER TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. Introduction 2. Outlining the concept of a multi-faceted poverty 3. Distinction between absolute and relative poverty 4. Discussing any 3 causes of poverty in the world 5. Conclusion 6. Bibliography

1. INTRODUCTION “Where poverty is extreme and unending, human rights are eroded; the natural resources base deteriorates; and human dignity too often gives way to despair. Breaking the cycle of poverty is an integral part of development in every nation” UNDP Annual Report, Source:Regan 2006:283. I am going to outline the multi faced poverty, discuss the causes of poverty in the Third World countries. Poverty has been stalling development in the poor countries and strategies have been developed to fight poverty against the Economic Growth. It is true that “poverty is like the heat. It can only be felt when one gets into it”, hence to explain poverty is a very difficult task especially to someone who has never experienced it.

2. OUTLINING THE CONCEPT OF A MULTI FACETED POVERTY Poverty is linked to lack of adequate food, shelter, education, health, life expectancy, sanitation and access to safe water. “People living in poverty are often exposed to ill treatment by governments and institutions of the state and society and are powerless to influence key decisions affecting their lives” Regan 2006:283. Despite the fact that many positive changes have happened in terms of technology, and mass communications, there seem to be still a gap between the rich and the poor.

The few rich are taking the biggest part of the riches while the biggest population of the poor is sharing the smaller percentage of the riches, for example, “In1960 the richest 20% of the world’s people shared between them 70% of the entire wealth of this planet. By the mid-90’s, this figure had increased to over 85%” Regan 2006:281. We see a big gap there, not talking about the current figures in the recent years. We’re there is poverty there is lack of money to go to school hence illiteracy leading to one failing to read information about the Economic growth. In that sense it becomes a cycle of poverty in which poverty refuses to escape. Population is also another factor. When these people continue giving birth under those same conditions. So it is important when looking at poverty to look at what really caused the poverty. A well known author of Development issues, Robert Chambers, wrote about what he named the “deprivation trap”.

In the households described by Chamber 1983:109, 110, he described the households that he named “clusters of disadvantage”. There is a house hold which is normally child headed after it has been affect by misfortunes like the death of the parents or maybe the parents died of HIV and AIDS. These children will be left on their own to fend for each other. The oldest child there will be left to take the siblings to school, fetch them water, and get them food to eat. The household altogether is affected by a combination of “parasites”, disease and malnutrition. The other family is that which lives very far away from a town, somewhere remote.

They don’t normally get enough information on the current happenings in the outside world. If they get to travel its only to go visit a relative to ask for money or food. Even if they attend meetings, they rarely participate and are not normally seen as important in any aspect except maybe in doing those difficult jobs for paltry payments. Giving an example of my rural area of Gutu in Masvingo Province, Zimbabwe, this scenario really counts when the people from my village normally just go for political or church gatherings

where they are just made to cook for people or just dance without any reasonable understanding. Schoolchildren from the schools surrounding my village normally are asked to do a lot of work for such functions unlike their peers in the urban areas or other bit developed areas. There is also a household that is vulnerable, less contingencies; there is also a household that is ignorant, with less or no knowledge. No legal expertise. It is always exploited probably by moneylenders, politicians. Giving an example of the Zimbabwean peasant person during the 2013 harmonized elections, they would just accept any regalia from any political party because they wanted to find something to wear not because they love the political party.

They would even take any food from any direction in a way of seeking a way to survive. There are also some areas like those people who were resettled in Zimbabwe after the land redistribution in 2000 where other families were resettled where there is no any form of communication i.e. radios, cell phones and even transport. Not mentioning schools, they are more than 10-15 kilometers from the house. At the end of the day these people have got not much entertainment therefore they end up bearing more and more children where there is no enough food to feed the children, which leads to them suffering from malnutrition and others failing to even go to school forever since there are no schools. They end up having large families of illiterate families who will be marrying the nearest family member. Their homes are precariously balanced. With this fourfold household description, Chambers compiled what he called a deprivation trap”. Hence summing all this up we learn that physical weakness, powerlessness, vulnerability, isolation and poverty do cause the cycle of poverty to never break.

3. DISTINCTION BETWEEN RELATIVE AND ABSOLUTE POVERTY According to Regan 2006:283, “Absolute poverty is characterized by some people in other parts of the world, normally the third world lives on a $1 per day. The population gets to 1.2billion. Those who live with $2 per day add up to 2.8 billion.” Relative poverty is normally when the country is deemed not to be living within the minimum requirements. For example in Zimbabwe it’s now deemed normal not to have electricity or water at a certain time (high load-shedding) of which it is poverty in the developed countries. Relative poverty therefore measures what percentage of population is poor when a minimum baseline “for that country” is used as a yardstick.

The world Bank describes poverty a series of deprivations that may include: – living without fundamental freedoms of action or choice – lack of adequate food and shelter, education and health – extreme vulnerability to ill-health, Ebonics dislocation and natural disasters – being exposed to ill-treatment by the state and society – powerlessness to influence key decisions

4. DISCUSSING ANY 3 CAUSES OF POVERTY IN THE WORLD There are a number of causes of poverty in the world which include dictatorship, lack of education, low wage rates, overpopulation, war, disease, floods, and natural disasters but here I am going to discuss about just 3 of them which are overpopulation, lack of education and war. a. Overpopulation Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the finest English Romantic Poets, “The rich grind the poor into abjectness and then complain that they are abject. They goad them to famine, and then hang them if they steal a sheep”. Overpopulation refers to when an organism’s number exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat?

The term usually refers to the relationship between human population and its environment, the earth. World population is currently growing by approximately 75million people per year according to the United Nations Reports and the net growth by mid-century is predicted by the United Nations medium variant to be about 33million, while the low is 13million. Overpopulation in the third world countries is one of the main causes of poverty which have failed to be tackled by experts in population issues. In a poverty reduction process it has become totally impossible to lower the population because human population tends to grow at a geometrical rate while the ability to produce subsistence increases at a merely arithmetical rate hence finding ourselves in an ever-deepening spiral of suffering caused by overpopulation.

The earth’s capacity ofcourse can absorb big numbers of people but the land is being used for other not very necessary things instead of growing food for the number of people that is growing every second. FAO reports that by 2020, 135 million people may lose their land as a result of soil degradation as well. The exhaustible resources are limited and cannot meet the demands of all the people; especially where the rich are getting into the habit of of having more resources than required. When there is overpopulation clean water will be limited, medical care normally will be scarce, unemployment rate increases because many habitants will be looking forward to getting jobs, shelter will be crowded. Money on its own will not be enough to sustain a certain household. Most of the land will be used to build more houses hence reducing land for agriculture to grow crops to feed the people. In a country like Zimbabwe, prior to Robert Mugabe’s seizure of the farmland, the farmers had been using irrigation to deal with drought but during the seizures, much of the irrigation equipment was either vandalized or looted. A 2006 BBC article about Mugabe’s land seizure states ” Critics say the reforms have devastated the economy and led to massive hunger.

Much of the formerly white-owned land is no longer being productively used-either because the beneficiaries have no experience of farming or they lack finance and tools. Many farms were wrecked when they were invaded by government supporters” Some argue that without religion, population will be reasonable in the sense that people will be allowed to abort for an instance. The issues of birth control have been religiously viewed in countries like China where overpopulation is also rife. However many children are being born to face malnutrition or preventable diseases as a result of lack of nutritious food and desirable medications. Hence high infant/child mortality rate There is also the issue of fresh water. If the population keeps increasing there is likely to

be less fresh water available in the world. Water deficit is also spurring grain imports in numerous smaller countries. The water tables are quickly getting exhausted because of the population growth.

b. Lack of Education Studies indicate that if one has little or no education, the chances of them wallowing in poverty are huge. Lack of education is another major cause of poverty in the world. Without education, one cannot go anywhere. Developing countries do have inadequate budgets when it comes to education which is affecting the majority-especially with the growing population. Illiteracy is really a big player in the “cycle of poverty” that keeps the poor being locked in poverty as they do not have a chance to receive education. In many rural set ups, education is not treated as an important aspect in life especially in the girl child. In many occasions, you find that most children are kept from schools because they are needed at home to support their families with additional income by working. This “cycle of poverty” goes this way: if one fails to receive education they cannot read or write, they can never listen to the radio and understand what will be talked about-such that its easier for any outsider to come and use them and abuse them because they do not have sufficient if any knowledge or information at all. Most black people do not normally think about the future, they just live on a life that is unplanned.

When one fails to be well educated, it is difficult to get a good job with good salary to eradicate poverty back in their home. They end up doing menial, lowest paying jobs of which sometimes these jobs are seasonal, meaning when they are not working they just stay at home and have nothing to feed their family with. In the current situation in the world, tertiary education is now what’s considered the best for one to get a good job. Just ending in “A level” or “High School” will not give one a desired job that has good returns. In the United States 73% of people who do not have a high school degree live in poverty. That is how bad it is. Here in Zimbabwe I can say that the lack of education is bleeding the economy to the last, it’s also causing too much poverty because in the country like this which has been under the leadership of one person/party.

There is too much corruption in the ruling government that they are offering top posts to uneducated people just because they just “went to war” Or maybe that they are related to so and so. They get into those offices and they start waging wars, and starving thousands while feeding their families only, failing to make their country prosperous. They start abusing the only resources that are there to help the majority of the country. Hence I can say that lack of education causes a lack of strong, prosperous leadership in the government and it causes a deficit of people who are willing to be well informed and willing to act on their own behalf of their own roles in all levels of government. c. War In the third world countries, they are normally characterized by wars normally fueled by civil unrests. War really causes and increases poverty in every other aspect. Not thinking only about the people who would have died during the war, there is a need to think about the families that would have been left by these people who would have died in the war.

What will they eat? And in a normal war situation infrastructure is destroyed i.e. schools, houses, hospitals, roads and even any other types of shelter. That means there are going to be homeless children, adults, no schools to learn in, increasing the poverty. There will be a need to get funds/money to build the infrastructure. Talking about clean and safe water as well, normally after the war the water will be polluted with the chemicals, if there is any water at all. War really affects the economy in a big way because the material and human destruction caused by it is a major development problem. Coming to give an example of Iraq, the only fight over oil caused the whole economy to crumble.

The roads became dilapidated, the health sector went down. There had to be help to be sent through the United Nations to start on the economy. In Zimbabwe in the post war era around 1980, there had to be pumped out money to start building, of which, in a poor country like Zimbabwe it is difficult to source funds. Some never recovered from that that they never even decided to go back to school again making it impossible to reduce poverty in their land.

5. CONCLUSION Poverty has got many causes in the world but according to what I have discussed above, there can never be total poverty reduction in the whole world. This poverty topic also makes it clear that it is difficult to separate causes, effects and characteristics of poverty. The are many ways of poverty reduction, like farming, building dams, creation of employment, prioritizing education. The biggest goal is to reduce poverty through development strategies. Having used the Human Poverty Index and other socio-economic indicators it explores critical features of wealth and poverty divide.

6. BIBLIOGRAPHY Regan 2006. 80:20, Development in an unequal world Percy Bhsseye Shelley, Romantic Poet United Nation Report Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) Essay on the Principle of Population Paul R. Ehrlich (1968) The Population Bomb

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