February 2005

Poverty Dossier

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Poverty at a glance
Before trying to evolve any strategy to tackle the problem of poverty, it becomes necessary to form a holistic picture of poverty. A comprehensive picture of poverty is prerequisite in order to find an appropriate solution to the problem. We need to find answers to the questions like what is poverty? Who are poor? How poverty is measured?

What is poverty?
Although poverty is one of the most familiar and enduring conditions known to humanity, it is an extremely complicated concept to understand. There is no universally accepted definition of poverty. There are many people who talk and write about poverty around the globe, without forming a consensus on one single definition of poverty. Some researchers view it as a reaction to the stress of being poor, whereas others perceive it as a process of adapting to the condition of poverty. Historical definitions are numerous, but can be classified as relating to either lack of financial income or lower social status. Some define it as the state of having little or no money and few or no material possessions.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines poverty as: 'The condition of having little or no wealth or material possessions; indigence, destitution, want', and suggests its first use was in AD 1075. In recent years, research tapping the perspectives of poor people has recognised that poverty involves a wider set of deprivations, including vulnerability and exclusion from society, in addition to material destitution.

Absolute poverty, as a definition, is based on what human beings require as a minimum, to survive. This definition uses the arbitrary concept of “absolute poverty” to suggest that there are certain absolute standards that can be identified; the most frequently used absolute measurement is income. Personal or family income falling below a certain limit indicated as essential to maintain an appropriate standard of living can be taken to define poverty. Other forms of absolute measurements for poverty revolve around concepts of basic needs and evaluate whether the households and/or individuals are covering those needs or not.

Chronic Poverty
People in chronic poverty are those who have benefited least from economic growth and development. They, and their children, will make up the majority of the 900 million people who will still be in poverty in 2015, even if the Millennium Development Goals are met. The chronically poor people are multi-dimensionally deprived ie they experience deprivations of many kinds. According to an estimate, there are between 300 and 420 million people in 32 developing countries including India & China.

The other definition is relational in nature

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