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Poverty in the world: definition, causes and types

Poverty is a socio-economic situation that unfortunately is very present in the 21st century and affects mostly the least developed countries. Regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America are among the most affected. The long-term objective is the eradication of poverty and marginality in the world.

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.

What is poverty?

By poverty We understand the situation or condition of a sector of the population that cannot access the minimum basic resources to cover their physical and psychological needs, which makes them have a inadequate standard of living.

According to United Nations (UN), the definition of poverty is as follows:

Poverty goes beyond the lack of income and resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion and lack of participation in decision-making.

The poorest and richest countries in the world

It should be borne in mind that poverty It is not equivalent to extreme poverty, and that the latter is a type that refers to the most serious state that can occur of this phenomenon, where those affected cannot cover their basic needs for living (drinking water, sanitation, roof …).

According to the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (DRAE), the term poverty It is defined as the "quality of being poor." Some synonyms are: shortage, shortage, lack, destitution or exiguity. With this in mind, the SAR defines the adjective poor as someone "in need, who doesn't have what it takes to live."

The World Health Organization (WHO) It defines the term bluntly: it is the "deadliest disease on the planet." From the WHO point of view, the vast majority of deaths are related to conditions of poverty and marginalization.

On the other hand, the philosopher and economist Amartya Sen, born in India in 1933, defines the concept of poverty not as lack of income, but as the deprivation of the individual's basic abilities. However, it recognizes that lack of income is one of the main causes.

Global poverty in figures

The latest poverty statistics published by the World Bank Group indicate the fulfillment of the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG), although there is still a long way to go. These are the current data:

  • The percentage of poverty in the world is 9.6%. This means that they survive on less than € 1.6 a day.
  • The poverty rate continues to reach 35.2% in sub-Saharan Africa, where the largest number of poor children in the world is concentrated.
  • The most unequal countries in Latin America are: Honduras, Colombia, Brazil, Guatemala, Panama and Chile.
Example of rural housing in Nicaragua, Central America
  • In recent years, poverty has also grown in Argentina, where it affects 28.7% of the population.
  • Chile and Uruguay are the two Latin American countries with the lowest poverty rate.
  • 13.5% of the population of South Asia lives in a situation of absolute poverty.
  • Moldova, Armenia, Ukraine, Georgia and Bosnia are the five poorest countries in Europe.

These data clash with the current classification of most developed countries of the world, with Norway, Australia and Switzerland in the lead. This list is prepared based on parameters such as GDP, level of industrialization, per capita income, birth rate, life expectancy, etc.

Authors such as P. Mizaél Donizetti Poggioli underline the relationship between poverty and social exclusion, and divide the world into two large blocks according to data from the Social Exclusion Index (HEI). Countries with the lowest HEI are concentrated in Europe, and include the United States, Canada and Japan, among others.

On the other hand, countries with a notable HEI are a total of 60, compared to 28 with the lowest index. Of these sixty, the vast majority corresponds to two continents (Africa and Oceania), while a total of ten are located in the Asian continent.

Extreme poverty rate in Jalapa, India

Origin and main causes

According to several authors, poverty and inequality are two concepts whose origin lies in the underdevelopment of the country or area where it is generated. There are three elements that are taken into account when describing a community or group of people as poor:

  • Education
  • Feeding
  • Health

The inaccessibility of one, several or all of the elements mentioned above is the main cause of world poverty. This leads to the emergence of problems at various levels, including child malnutrition, as well as the spread of epidemics and diseases, especially in rural areas.

Poverty and education: the case of African countries

The NGO Manos Unidas lists various causes that have led to current poverty, including colonialism, wars and slavery. Many of these causes make up the history of poverty, although others continue to take place in the 21st century. Other important factors are:

  • Indifference of developed countries towards the problems of the poorest countries
  • Use of cheap labor in the most disadvantaged countries by large multinationals
  • Unequal exchange between countries

A large number of authors suggest that it is necessary to find a Balance among the commercial relations that the richest countries in the world have with the most underdeveloped in order to avoid this unequal exchange, a situation that occurs when one country perceives more than it gives to the other.

Poorest countries in Latin America

What types of poverty exist?

Poverty as a general concept encompasses the lack of basic resources for the human being such as food, drinking water, housing, education, health and social integrity. However, it can be classified into several types according to the factors that cause it and the subjects affected.

Material poverty

It occurs in countries that have a lower social exclusion rate. Those affected are victims not only of poverty, but of a low level of schooling, income inequality, illiteracy, job insecurity … All this leads to a higher rate of social violence.

Rural poverty

Rural poverty occurs when the response to an improvement in the economic situation is not as positive in rural areas as in urban ones. This means that the favorable evolution of the economic indicators (eg per capita income and per capita income) has an unequal impact on the population as a whole.

Extreme poverty in rural areas

Urban poverty

Urban poverty usually takes place in those cities where there is a constant flow of country-city emigration. The homes of these immigrants tend to be lower income earners, hence the higher urban poverty rate and the development of greater social fragmentation.

Social poverty

Social poverty is measured according to the help received by low-income people within a society. In this sense, being poor is considered a category within a group of people and will be determined according to the level of social reaction that results from a concrete unfavorable situation.

Child poverty

The poverty of a community affects, above all, the growth, health and cognitive, emotional and behavioral development of children. Therefore, inequality among poor families often generates child poverty immediately, since its effects will be imposed from very early stages of life.

Child poverty in the world

Relative poverty

This class applies in those countries where there are parts in which there is precariousness and others in which there is no. It is not an absolute poverty, but it encompasses places that have been marginalized by the governments of the country or where the necessary measures to combat evil have not been taken.

Structural poverty

Structural poverty is one that affects the living conditions of a group of people within a society. It means that there are unequal social strata, that is, structured in a non-uniform way. The elements of this type of poverty are: social security / insecurity, political and social participation of individuals, chronic impoverishment, etc.

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