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World Poverty,

a look at causes and solutions.

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Poor in a Rich World,
the extent of poverty worldwide.

There was a time when everybody in the world had to struggle hard to just survive, and everybody was poor. That was taken by all as being simply because nature is tough.

But progress in farming and industry production has created riches, which however are not equally distributed. Some countries are much poorer than other countries, and within one country some people are much poorer than other people. And even richer countries can have many poor.

Some of the rich may well have properly earned their wealth, and some of the poor may well have done little to deserve riches, but there is much to wealth distribution that is clearly not based on fairness and a number of different factors are helping to maintain poverty in different countries. A reasonable picture of the current extent of absolute poverty worldwide is given by the World Bank poverty maps below.

Child Mortality Map 2009-2018 (drag to move, doubleclick to enlarge) :
[some countries are blank as no data is available] Data from World Bank

Child Hunger Map 2009-2017 (drag to move, doubleclick to enlarge) :
[some countries are blank as no data is available, not as having no malnutrition] Data from World Bank

Poor countries
today commonly chiefly blame the governments and corporations of the richer stronger countries for enforcing unfair trading terms on them, that allow rich countries to unfairly profit from poor countries. The existence of rich-country organisations like NATO, G8 and others from which poor countries are excluded seems to confirm the inferior nation status of poor countries. G8 should maybe be agreeing fairer trade terms, and agreeing common progressive income taxation maybe going to 60% for incomes over £1,000,000 to help better fund aid and anti-poverty programs for the poorer countries ?

Of course in some cases the governments, religions or other factors in particular poor countries have also helped maintain their poverty. Hence even in some countries that have long had high oil earnings, we often see the majority of their people still remaining extremely poor. Knowledge of what is causing poverty most in different countries is clearly needed to help cut poverty in each country, and poverty maps by FAO and others can be of some help, with measures of hunger or of child health often being most useful as in the poverty map above.

In richer countries like the United States of America, it may be that up to 25% of people are relatively poor and another 2% or 3% absolutely poor. But in richer countries all of their poor are often treated as inferior citizens or social outcasts, and will often blame their middle-class governments for not helping fairly. Indeed this has often led to charities being set up with the intention of giving some help to at least some of these poor, though often run by the same class of people who run the unhelpful governments and who do not really understand all of the actual problems of the poor.
International aid for poorer countries.


1. Government aid

Most international aid has come as direct loan or grant aid from one government to another government, with richer governments like the US often being the bigger aid givers. But this aid has generally gone to 'friendly' governments, rather than to the countries in greater need. And it has often been military aid with political aims.


2. International Body aid

Other international direct loan or grant aid has come from two bodies established in the 1940's, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The World Bank has been the bigger donor of both aid loans and aid grants chiefly for redevelopment or reconstruction, while the IMF has mainly managed exchange rates and gives some aid loans. Both of these bodies have been substantially under US government control and of limited effect in reducing world poverty, but these bodies have recently been concentrating on increasing aid predictability to improve aid effectiveness. See International Monetary Fund


3. Charity aid

Charities of many kinds also give some aid in various forms, more often emergency or crisis aid but also a little longer-term aid.


Most of the little international aid going to poorer countries has been ineffective in reducing poverty in the longer term, though there have been a few real success cases. Notably poverty has been cut in China recently chiefly by deploying science and this can be done for all poor countries and make this a better world.


Aid for the poor in richer countries.


1. Government aid

Most aid for the poor in richer countries has come from their government, some in the form of universal benefits but more as means-tested benefits. But this poor aid has generally gone more to those viewed as 'deserving' poor, rather than to those in greater need. Some also involves non-poverty policy aims, as maybe recent UK government trials of free school meals. And poverty aid has often been aid of limited longer-term use.


2. Charity aid

Some richer-country charities also give some aid in various forms to some of their poor, more often emergency or crisis aid but also some longer-term aid as well. This aid is generally very limited and often also less effective than it could be.


With over 80 million people in the EU estimated to be living in relative poverty, the European Union made 2010 the European Year For Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. There were conferences and other events to raise public awareness, but no commitment to improved action by their governments - see EU 2010. 2016 saw the current UK government strongly reducing its help for UK poverty, though keeping up its foreign aid spending much of which however is not directed at any poverty. And science which should be best at helping everybody including the poor is generally controlled chiefly by and for the rich and the powerful and gets too little of the help given to charity.

In richer countries, governments trying to target their poor people can create so many problems that often poor people can be helped more by targeting them less - as discussed further in our Social Poverty section.
Clearly if you are poor in an entirely poor world, then you can simply say 'tough world'.
But if you are poor in a rich world, then you are going to be very concerned about fairness.

# For facts about individual countries, see NationMaster
© World Poverty, 2021