Meaning: Poverty can be defined as the lack of basic needs that are necessary for one to lead a relatively comfortable life. Such requirements may include shelter, clothing, food, education, and healthcare.
Poverty can either be relative or absolute because whereas other people may be comfortable with their lives, they may be deemed to be living in poverty when compared against those who are extremely wealthy.
A person can also be described to be living in poverty when he or she is unable to make ends meet. It can range from not being able to afford things like a good meal or running behind on bill payments and the inability to service existing debts.
To many people, a life of poverty is one where an individual lacks money or is without material possession. Poor people mostly live from hand to mouth and have to seek for assistance to make ends meet.
Life is always a struggle for people who are poor. They experience different hardships and are often deprived of the simple joys and pleasures that make life worth living. A person living in poverty on many occasions does not have peace of mind because of always worrying about what tomorrow will bring.
It is a life filled with inadequacies and insufficiencies. From the shortage of resources to the lack of basic needs, it is a constant struggle to get by through each day.
Causes of Poverty
There are different situations that may cause an individual to live in poverty. Some of these situations are unique to every person while others are universal. These are some of the causes of poverty:
- Over-population: When too many people live in a geographical location, they compete for the available resources. The chances are that the resources are not always going to be enough to support everyone. Those who miss out will have to struggle to make ends meet. Overpopulation can result in the unavailability of land which is an important factor of production. Even without formal employment, those who have land can cultivate crops for food and sale.
- Illiteracy: Lack of education can lead to poverty in different ways. When people go to school, they become equipped with skills and techniques that make them employable. They can thus earn good incomes and lead good lives. On the other hand, people who have not gone to school will either be employed as casual laborers with minimum wages or completely be without a means of getting income. Education opens a path to success even for people who are born into low-income families. Illiteracy also means that an individual lacks the intellectual capacity to make sound financial decisions. It can result in poor investment moves or bad spending habits that cause poverty.
- Casteism and Untouchability: Caste systems deny those who are considered as less worthy a fair shot at success. It condemns them to a mediocre kind of life even when they have the potential to be great and find success. It means that if one is born into the wrong caste, he or she will be confined to the living standards of it.
- Gender inequality: This is still a major problem in the 21st century. Even though there have been some remarkable improvements in addressing the issue of gender equality, a lot of challenges still exist. The phenomenon of unequal pay based on gender has caused more women than men to live in poverty. The failure to educate the girl child by several communities around the world condemns them to a life of poverty. They have to depend on men to provide for them and sometimes get married just to escape poverty. Some societies do not let the girl child inherit property such as land from a parent. They, therefore, have no means to generate income and make a good life for themselves.
- Economic inequality: Inequal distribution of wealth especially in countries where the ruling elite come from a certain region usually lives those who are not represented in government wallowing in poverty. They are denied basic infrastructures that are critical to the development and have to contend with the little resources available. This creates a cycle of poverty and many socio-economic problems.
- Natural Causes: Environmental and geographical factors may also cause poverty. Floods, earthquakes, and droughts can cause devastations and economic hardships as well as poverty. People may lose their businesses, sources of income, and houses as a result of natural disasters. Change in weather patterns and soil degradation can sometimes lead to poor agricultural harvests. If the community depends on farming for income, it will be left without a viable way to generate money.
- Labor exploitation: Unethical business practices like labor exploitation also result in poverty. There are business owners who in a bid to increase profit margins, pay workers very little amounts of wages. As they accumulate wealth, the poor people who break blood and sweat while earning them money live in very poor conditions.
- Resistance to change: This can cause poverty in many ways. When the people of a country refuse to usher in a new and visionary leadership that has good plans to bring socio-economic development, the nation is left lagging behind in development. A lot of countries have been plagued by bad leadership and this has caused economic hardships among the citizens. Resisting change such as the need to educate girls, opening up the country to foreign direct investment and a call to embrace new ways of doing business can also cause poverty.
- Unorganized Loans at higher interest rates in rural areas: Such loans that are paid at higher interest rates reduce profit margins and kill off small businesses. They also encourage consumerism, and this creates several financial problems especially for those living in rural areas. Unorganized loans can leave the borrower worse of than he or she was before taking the credit facility.
- Wastage of resources: Improper utilization of resources by government agencies and individuals can later lead to poverty. People who are initially rich can also become poor through wasteful expenditure. This is greatly driven by the culture of consumerism.
Effects of Poverty
Poverty has so many negative effects on both the individual and the society. These are some fo the reasons why poverty is not a good thing:
- Hinders economic prosperity of the nation: The economic growth of a country is mostly driven by the business ventures of its citizens. If many of them are poor, the country will be underdeveloped.
- Crimes: It has been established that crime rates are usually higher in areas or countries with high levels of poverty compared to those that are experiencing rapid economic growth and good amounts of income per household.
- Malnutrition: Insufficient food and the inability to afford a decent meal results in malnutrition. Many people who live in poverty forego several meals and sometimes when they eat, the food lacks essential nutrients necessary for good growth.
- Health problems: Many people living in poverty are unable to afford good healthcare. They are therefore plagued by different health problems since they cannot afford treatment. The poor living conditions may also cause diseases.
- Less liberty: They say money is not everything but nevertheless, it is important to have it. It can afford you the best things in life and give you different options to choose from. Poor people do not get to choose their professions because they have to make do with what is available. Many will get you a good education and make it possible to study the career of your choice.
- Moral and self-esteem: This is something that is easy to observe in a social setup. Those who live in poverty usually feel like they do not have the moral authority to demand better services or ask that they are treated fairly. Many of them also suffer from low self-esteem because they think that they are not good enough.
- Insufficient food and water: To eat, one has to have money to buy the food. That is one luxury that those who live in poverty do not have. Poor areas have insufficient food and lack clean water to use in the home.
- Lack of basic amenities: Important public amenities such as good drainage systems, piped water, schools, health centers, and personal amenities like heating are things that those who live in poverty lack.
- Stress: Increased social disturbances can cause stress. The mind will be at constant war thinking of where to get the next meal, what the future holds or how to overcome the different problems associated with poverty. A poor person rarely experiences peace of mind.
- Feminization of poverty: This is where the burdens of poverty are borne by women. They are left with the responsibility of taking care of the children and holding the family together.
Control Measures / Solutions
How can poverty be controlled? These are some of the ways in which it can be done:
- Free education: This opens up opportunities for many people and provides individuals as well as families with a means to escape poverty. It is the ideal way to break the cycle of poverty that has bedeviled several families.
- Government grants: These can be in the form of free mid-day meals or even scholarships. It eases the financial pressure on families and allows them to direct the little money that they have towards business ventures.
- Creation of job opportunities: A high rate of employment reduces the level of poverty in a country. When more people are employed, many households also earn incomes and live comfortably.
- Vocation and Technical training: This is skill based training meant to equip individuals within the society with technical skills to enable them become entrepreneurs or professionally employed even without higher education. Such a move would be key in uplifting the lives of people in rural areas and reducing poverty levels.
- Free medical care facilities: This would ensure that people living in poverty have good healthcare services. It would also help keep them healthy and strong to seek out money making opportunities. Staying healthy and active is very important in fighting poverty and improving living standards.
- Education about family planning: One interesting factor is that a lot of people living in poverty have very large families compared to those who are considered to be well off. Taking care of a big family requires resources. There is thus a need to carry out civic education about the necessity of family planning.
- Increase in earning capacity: Gradually and systematically increasing the minimum wage should be the objective of every government. This will increase the incomes earned and subsequently reduce poverty levels. There should also be laws that deter employees from paying workers less than they deserve.
- Casteism and untouchability need to be abolished: No one should be condemned to a life of poverty and mediocrity at birth. It hinders the utilization of talents and denies well-deserving people the chance to take a shot at their dreams. To borrow an example from capitalism, everyone should be free to pursue financial success and be rewarded according to efforts.
- Women empowerment: Gender inequality should be abolished if the society is to realize meaningful growth and development. Denying women the opportunity to pursue financial success does the community no good. If anything, it compounds the problems associated with poverty. Statistics has shown that regions with many economically empowered women are more developed than those with glaring gender disparities.
- Low-cost loans: Cheap credit facilities will encourage the growth of small businesses and provide people, especially those in rural areas, with a means to escape poverty. Low-cost loans are essential for spurring economic growth in the local community.
Everyone aspires to attain financial prosperity and live a comfortable life. To realize these aspirations, it is crucial to seek out reasonable opportunities and pursue them. One cannot succeed without working towards a goal. A life of poverty means that an individual is not able to enjoy some of the good things in life. It is, therefore, important to eliminate obstacles to prosperity by controlling poverty and creating an environment where everyone has a fair shot at success. Every individual is bestowed with certain gifts, and the fulfilment of potential can only be possible when the available conditions allow it.