Inequality and poverty
Poverty and inequality are tearing our world apart. Whole countries in the First World live in comfort and prosperity, while those in the Third World barely get by, if they get by at all. The world is a horror. Famines. Endless wars. Ecological Collapse. We have to change the way we live. We have to live in a more equal and altruistic way or nobody will have a future. Either we learn to live as partners in this world or we perish together.
Global Equality is republishing this useful article by Anup Shaw of Global Issues to give our readers a real sense of the tremendous poverty and inequality that the vast majority of humanity endure each day:
- Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.Source 7
- Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.Source 8
- 640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3)
- 400 million with no access to safe water (1 in 5)
- 270 million with no access to health services (1 in 7)
Children out of education worldwide121 millionSurvival for childrenWorldwide,
- 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (same as children population in France, Germany, Greece and Italy)
- 1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation
Health of childrenWorldwide,
- 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized
- 15 million children orphaned due to HIV/AIDS (similar to the total children population in Germany or United Kingdom)
- 51 percent of the world’s 100 hundred wealthiest bodies are corporations.Source 23
- The wealthiest nation on Earth has the widest gap between rich and poor of any industrialized nation.Source 24
- The poorer the country, the more likely it is that debt repayments are being extracted directly from people who neither contracted the loans nor received any of the money.Source 25
- In 1960, the 20% of the world’s people in the richest countries had 30 times the income of the poorest 20% — in 1997, 74 times as much.Source 26
- An analysis of long-term trends shows the distance between the richest and poorest countries was about:
- 3 to 1 in 1820
- 11 to 1 in 1913
- 35 to 1 in 1950
- 44 to 1 in 1973
- 72 to 1 in 1992Source 27
- “Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished, almost two-thirds of whom reside in Asia and the Pacific.”Source 28
- For economic growth and almost all of the other indicators, the last 20 years [of the current form of globalization, from 1980 - 2000] have shown a very clear decline in progress as compared with the previous two decades [1960 - 1980]. For each indicator, countries were divided into five roughly equal groups, according to what level the countries had achieved by the start of the period (1960 or 1980). Among the findings:
- Growth: The fall in economic growth rates was most pronounced and across the board for all groups or countries.
- Life Expectancy: Progress in life expectancy was also reduced for 4 out of the 5 groups of countries, with the exception of the highest group (life expectancy 69-76 years).
- Infant and Child Mortality: Progress in reducing infant mortality was also considerably slower during the period of globalization (1980-1998) than over the previous two decades.
- Education and literacy: Progress in education also slowed during the period of globalization.Source 29
- A mere 12 percent of the world’s population uses 85 percent of its water, and these 12 percent do not live in the Third World.Source 30
Notes and Sources
- This figure is based on purchasing power parity (PPP), which basically suggests that prices of goods in countries tend to equate under floating exchange rates and therefore people would be able to purchase the same quantity of goods in any country for a given sum of money. That is, the notion that a dollar should buy the same amount in all countries. Hence if a poor person in a poor country living on a dollar a day moved to the U.S. with no changes to their income, they would still be living on a dollar a day.
The new figures from the World Bank therefore confirm concerns that poverty has not been reduced by as much as was hoped, although it certainly has dropped since 1981.
However, it appears that much of the poverty reduction in the last couple of decades almost exclusively comes from China:
- China’s poverty rate fell from 85% to 15.9%, or by over 600 million people
- China accounts for nearly all the world’s reduction in poverty
- Excluding China, poverty fell only by around 10%
The use of the poverty line of $1 a day had long come under criticism for seeming arbitrary and using poor quality and limited data thus risking an underestimate of poverty. The $1.25 a day level is accompanied with some additional explanations and reasoning, including that it is a common level found amongst the poorest countries, and that $2.50 represents a typical poverty level amongst many more developing countries.
The $10 dollar a day figure above is close to poverty levels in the US, so is provided here to give a more global perspective to these numbers, although the World Bank has felt it is not a meaningful number for the poorest because they are unfortunately unlikely to reach that level any time soon.
For further details on this (as well as some additional charts), see Poverty Around The World on this web site. back
- See Today, around 21,000 children died around the worldfrom this web site. (Note that the statistic cited uses children as those under the age of five. If it was say 6, or 7, the numbers would be even higher.)back
- The State of the World’s Children, 1999, UNICEFback
- State of the World, Issue 287 – Feb 1997, New Internationalistback
- 2006 United Nations Human Development Report, pp.6, 7, 35back
- See the following:
- Log cabin to White House? Not any more, The Observer, April 28, 2002back
- Debt – The facts, Issue 312 – May 1999, New Internationalistback
- 1999 Human Development Report, United Nations Development Programmeback
- World Resources Institute Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems, February 2001, (in the Food Feed and Fiber section). Note, that despite the food production rate being better than population growth rate, there is still so much hunger around the world.back
- The Scorecard on Globalization 1980-2000: Twenty Years of Diminished Progress, by Mark Weisbrot, Dean Baker, Egor Kraev and Judy Chen, Center for Economic Policy and Research, August 2001.back
- Maude Barlow, Water as Commodity – The Wrong Prescription, The Institute for Food and Development Policy, Backgrounder, Summer 2001, Vol. 7, No. 3back
- The state of human development, United Nations Human Development Report 1998, Chapter 1, p.37)back