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Global Poverty: Tendencies, Causes and Impacts


The world community struggles with various significant issues that require a long-term, valid approach and comprehensive support to be resolved or at least mitigated. One such problem, which concerns every country, especially developing ones, is poverty which generally implies the state of lacking enough material resources or income to secure sustainable livelihoods and an individual’s basic needs. Its manifestations comprise malnutrition and hunger, unemployment, confined access to healthcare, education, other humanitarian services, social discrimination, and low policymaking engagement. Therefore, this paper aims at examining poverty to a global extent, including definitions, related facts and tendencies, its causes and impacts, associated issues, and potential solutions.

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Problem Examination

Typically, poverty is divided into two main types, such as absolute poverty and relative poverty. The first, indicating the acute shortage of means required to satisfy basic personal needs, including shelter, food, and clothing, relate to people who live less than $1.90 per day. As of 2017, the extreme poverty rate accounted for over 700 million people, which is 9.2 percent of the world population (“Poverty,” 2020). The second occurs when people cannot afford minimum living standards, such as a safe home, quality food, and water, clean clothes, or TV, and its floor varies based on observed countries. Considering this level, over 43 percent of the population lived less than $5.50 a day in the same year (“Poverty,” 2020). Relative poverty is calculated as the percent of the population with income lower than the national fixed median income index regarded as the Poverty Line.

In addition to these types that are chiefly based on income measurement, scholars also consider other dimensions to provide a more accurate poverty assessment. Specifically, the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) has introduced the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) which defines the intensity and scope of poverty in 107 developing countries. The MPI comprises multiple deprivation indicators connected with destitute people, including inadequate living standards or quality of work, poor healthcare, lack of education, disempowerment, and the threats of wars, violence, and disasters. For example, according to OPHI, 22 percent, or 1.3 billion people, live in multidimensional poverty; half of them (644 million) are children (“The 2020 Global,” n.d.). Depending on the purposes of the evaluation and countries’ circumstances, various indicators can be selected to mirror the national needs, priorities, and conditions of its constituent provinces and regions.

High poverty rates are usually discovered in rural areas or regions with increased calamity risk, especially floods, and economies affected by military conflict, fragility, and violence. Around half of the deprived people reside in Southern Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, including Tanzania, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Madagascar, and other low-income countries (“Poverty,” 2020). Besides, this problem affects Southern Asia states, such as China, India, and Bangladesh. However, it is also worth noting that the poverty rate has steadily fallen since 1990 since nearly 1.9 billion individuals, 35 percent of the global population, lived under the poverty line (“What is Global Poverty?” n.d.). In this respect, China has made the most impressive leap, diminishing poverty from 66 percent to 0.5 percent between 1990 and 2016 (“Poverty headcount ratio,” 2016).

On the other hand, COVID-19 has placed a severe, burdensome imprint on the world economic situation, primarily striking developing nations. For instance, to address the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, the European Union has allocated about 40 billion euros to cover the short-term financial needs of small and medium-sized businesses (Clark, 2020). It is evident that low-income states, particularly in the African continent, do not possess adequate resources to relieve the aftermath of the global calamity. As a result, the pandemic’s effects are expected to produce an additional 100 million impoverished people, thereby undermining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) fulfillment to reach 3 percent (World Bank, 2020). In the most optimistic scenario, poverty may range from 4.5 percent to 6 percent by 2030 (World Bank, 2020). Thus, developed and industrialized countries should aid disadvantaged partners in overcoming these challenging times.

Causes of Poverty

Poverty and factors contributing to its escalation are mostly interrelated, thereby creating the solid poverty cycle operating at individual, local, national, and global levels. The primary root of indigence is connected with geographical conditions, namely, climate, soil fertility, the availability of lands, forests, and other natural, including fossil, resources. Specifically, such adverse phenomena as droughts, floods, storms, and others, are typical in Sub-Saharan African and Southern Asian countries, repeatedly inflicting immense and, sometimes, irreparable damage to harvest, infrastructure, and overall national livelihood. With the rapid global warming progress, these calamities acquire a broader and more frequent nature, causing food or water shortages or even hunger crises and massive migration.

Inadequate food provision and limited access to clean water, in its turn, are also significant reasons contributing to absolute and relative poverty. Presently, more than 800 million suffer from hunger, whereas over 2 billion people cannot afford constant access to clean water at home (Myers, 2018). When individuals do not have enough food and available clean water sources, they do not have the energy to work effectively and spend much time seeking these resources. This valuable time could be used to obtain an education and work to ensure a better life in the future. Moreover, poor nutrition and water quality lead to health deterioration and preventable diseases such as diarrhea, malaria, and respiratory infections widespread in African countries. Almost 300,000 children younger than five die from diarrhoeal diseases because of poor sanitation, unsafe drinking water, or poor hygiene each year (“11 facts,” n.d.). The absence of affordable quality healthcare services only complicates the situation because these treatable illnesses become more regular, prolonged, and even fatal. Childbirth and pregnancy may be a death sentence for many women.

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Finally, these indicated above factors immensely contribute to severe unemployment and poor education, which are also amplified by prevalent conflicts and overpopulation. As the World Bank states, currently, 260 million children do not attend schools, and 53 percent of children in developing countries cannot understand and read elementary stories when finishing primary school (“Learning Poverty,” 2019). Furthermore, the illiteracy level reaches 80 percent in poverty-stricken states (“Learning Poverty,” 2019). Miserably educated or illiterate individuals possess limited opportunities for a dynamic work environment, eventually fostering poverty. For instance, according to UNESCO, about 170 million people could escape extreme poverty if they at least left school with fundamental learning skills (Myers, 2018). In addition, joblessness also promotes the brain drain of qualified workers, especially healthcare and educational professionals. Consequently, emerging countries are in acute need of teachers, nurses, clinicians, and educated looking-forward policymakers.

Socio-economic Inequality and Marginalization

It is also worth discussing economic inequality apart, which is one of the most influential aspects of the poverty cycle. Inequality is generally associated with uneven distribution of wealth among the population and the steady social barriers that leave individuals without representation or voice in their communities. Marginalization based on race or sex affiliations and caste systems directly result from socio-economic inequalities that imply little or no access of a person to the necessary resources to lead a productive life. For example, in the latest report, Oxfam indicates that the wealth of 2,153 billionaires exceeds those of the 4.6 billion people who comprise 60 percent of the global population (“World’s billionaires,” 2020). Moreover, during a 25-year period of emissions increase, the richest 10 percent have produced carbon pollution that is over twice that 3 billion people, the necessitous half of humanity, have generated (“Carbon emissions,” 2020). Overall, unequal distribution significantly promotes malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, criminalization, and child mortality.

Potential Solutions

Specific poverty reduction actions should be primarily directed at ensuring basic human needs, including food, water, clothing, and shelter. Ceaseless clean water supply and adequate nutrition can realize much valuable time given to children’s education. Food shortages can be considerably reduced by utilizing advanced agricultural technologies, such as new irrigation methods and seed varieties, nitrogen fertilizers, and pesticides, ultimately boosting yields. Considering climate change, intensive natural resource exhaust, and that most destitute people live in rural regions, these innovative measures play a critical role in combating poverty. Besides, education strategies should address non-attendance because of malnutrition, anemia, and diseases and provide partial or complete payment for school meals. Moreover, eliminating educational obstacles involves supporting teachers holistically and delivering education to those who live in remote areas or fragile conditions.

The actions should also aim at mitigating unemployment, especially in vital sectors, to prevent or reverse brain drain, narrow the inequality gap, and ensure sustainable personal development. Oxfam notes that if the wealthiest one percent paid only 0.5 percent extra tax on their income for the following 10 years, it would generate 117 million jobs in education, childcare, and healthcare (“World’s billionaires,” 2020). It is recommended to broaden room for females and promote the participation of middle and low-income persons in decision- and policymaking. In addition, international organizations and local governments can strengthen cooperation concerning developing and realizing these strategies with adequate financial and evidence-based support that benefit them both. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the ongoing issue, invading almost all countries, namely, the coronavirus. According to Statista Research Department (2021), 50 percent of respondents believe that COVID-19 has become the most disturbing theme worldwide. Thus, the international collaboration between different governments and organizations, especially in the directions of vaccination and financial assistance, takes an important place in coordinated efforts to fight poverty.

In conclusion, the paper has examined the issue of global poverty, including related facts and statistics, its definitions, causes, and impacts, poverty-associated problems, and potential solutions. As of 2017, over 43 percent of the world population lived less than $5.50 a day, the overwhelming majority of which reside in rural areas and economies affected by military conflict, fragility, and violence. Geographical conditions, namely, climate and natural resources, inadequate food and healthcare provision, limited access to clean water, severe unemployment, and poor education are among the primary causes and effects of poverty. Moreover, socio-economic inequality and related marginalization based on race or gender affiliations play a critical role in poverty expansion by favoring malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, criminalization, and child mortality. To address this problem, poverty reduction actions should be directed at ensuring the basic human needs, increasing income, implementing relevant education strategies, and mitigating unemployment.


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World’s billionaires have more wealth than 4.6 billion people (2020). Oxfam International. Web.

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