Myths about global poverty and hunger provided by The Borgen Project.

Social Safety Nets in Asia
Regardless of its title—alms, gifts, handouts, welfare, aid—the true meaning of social safety nets is not universally accepted in the developing world. As a useful form of poverty reduction, there are several purported reasons as to why “charity” is regarded as wasteful spending. One is the belief that social assistance programs diminish incentives to work and create dependency on the program’s benefits into the foreseeable future.

The Issues with Social Safety Nets in Asia

The myth of “crutch economies” being the bane of current work ethic and the cause of further, more established and resilient poverty, appears to be losing its already slippery empirical footing. Recent studies conducted by the World Bank in countries such as Mexico, Indonesia and the Philippines have found no evidence that workers who receive assistance go on to work less. Instead, social safety nets routinely form a stable barrier for further slides into economic degradation in developing countries.

But spending on them still appears to be minimal. Although the levels of spending as a percentage of GDP varies across countries, spending on social safety nets in Asia, South and East Asia especially, is relatively low. The developing world on average spends 1.5 percent of its GDP on some form of welfare programs. South Asia, meanwhile, spends only 0.9 percent of GDP on social safety nets.

In lieu of more conventional welfare programs, the region has relied instead on more customary and time-tested economic assistance programs. A mix of ample growth, a youthful population and a devoted and helping family has filled the void of official government social safety nets in Asia.

While an admirable economic support system, there are more modern social safety net programs that do not become victim to the “crutch economy” fears. A unique pension plan in Mexico is disproving both the myth of diminishing work ethic and future drags on the economy due to dependency.

The Older Adults Program in Mexico

Pension plans provide better well-being later in life, as they allow people to project their current earnings into the future. But the regency of informal labor in developing countries has made large-scale worker contribution plans rather toothless in practice. Instead, Latin American countries are trying a pension program that targets age and income and does not rely on the contributions of workers. This form of social security could encourage Asian countries to provide a more substantial safety net at home.

Removing the fear of falling into abject poverty, or burdening close relatives once workers are removed from the labor market, is the goal of the Older Adults Program (OAP) in Mexico. The OAP is a noncontributory universal pension system for elderly Mexicans living in small towns. Initiated in 2007, the program took only four years to cover 2.1 million elderly people in 76,000 communities in Mexico. A recent study of the OAP by the International Development Bank (IDB) helps dispel the myth of crutch economies.

One concern of social safety nets in Asia is that they instill a sense of complacency in the younger population. Expecting to receive future income from the program’s benefits, the pension warps the savings and work ethic of the younger generations. The IDB’s study, however, found no evidence of such dependence. These “anticipation effects” that are widely feared and cited by critics of social safety nets were not backed up with any empirical findings. Negative labor supply effects of working age citizens was not a side effect of the pension plan for the elderly.

Work ethic among the elderly was not negatively affected either. Although beneficiaries working for pay in the official labor force dropped, this was more than compensated for by the rise in informal, unpaid family business employment. Rather than sapping their willingness to work, the pension program transferred those efforts to where families deemed most urgent.

The Coming of Age in Asia

But despite the lack of spending, there is hope that social safety nets in Asia will soon grow in usage and acceptance. This is already the case in Indonesia and the Philippines, even if they are outliers in the region.

A cash-transfer scheme in the Philippines, having covered four percent of the population in 2009, increased coverage to 20 percent in 2015. A similar scheme in Indonesia has grown in coverage from two percent of the population in 2009 to nine percent in 2016 with help from the World Bank.

In Indonesia, the payments from the Family Hope Program provide benefits to those in the bottom 10 percent of income distribution. Benefits are available to households with a pregnant mother or a child between the ages of zero to 18. Assistance focuses on promoting education and health of the family. The cash payments are made only if beneficiary households keep children enrolled in school and respond to health issues by taking children to clinics.

As promising as the Family Hope Program is, other countries in Asia have yet to adequately address welfare programs relative to other regions of the world. A fear of diminishing labor supply motivation and perpetual dependency on benefits should not deter the acceptance and administration of social safety nets.

Other than evidence-based research, there is one persuasive reason for adopting more widespread social safety nets in Asia: human kindness. Harry Truman, commenting in 1946, said, “The word ‘charity’ has regained its old, true meaning—that of goodwill toward one’s fellowman; of brotherhood, of mutual help, of love.” Until that is realized, the world will have to rely on empirical arguments to persuade decision makers that social safety nets are necessary.

– Nathan Ghelli
Photo: Flickr

Overpopulation and Poverty
There has been a longstanding notion that overpopulation and poverty are related. The belief is that overpopulation causes poverty. While it is true that many of the poor nations around the world are overpopulated, research has shown that overpopulation is not the prime reason for poverty.

Experts believe that blaming overpopulation for the financial struggle of a nation could be an oversimplification of the problem. Here are the three main myths when it comes to overpopulation and poverty.

Three Myths About OverPopulation and Poverty

  1. Improving healthcare in poor nations contributes to overpopulation: Couples in poor nations on an average have four children, double the average of their counterparts in a developed nation. It is not a coincidence that the same nations also have the highest infant mortality rate and the worst healthcare facilities in the world. The reason for this is that parents are hoping to make sure that at least two of their children live long enough to take care of them when they are old.When medical facilities are improved, the infant mortality rate drops. As a result, children are less affected by fatal diseases and live longer healthier lives. Gradually, parents start to have smaller families due to a confidence that their existing offspring shall live and thrive and the overall population growth rate starts to drop.Therefore, poor health care conditions are actually what contribute to overpopulation and poverty. Conversely, improving healthcare facilities helps reduce the population.
  2. Foreign aid to poor countries leads to overpopulation: The U.S. contributes less than one percent of its GDP toward foreign aid. The funding reaches the poorest of nations around the world, helping them fulfill the basic needs of their populations like providing grains at subsidized rates, providing clean drinking water and building toilets, among others. This, in turn, reduces the risk of fatal diseases like typhoid and diarrhoea.Foreign aid also supports education, specifically girls’ education. Educating a female child is still considered an unnecessary financial burden or even taboo in many societies. Girls’ education is often discontinued to fund their brothers’ education.Girls’ education is a key factor to resolve overpopulation and poverty. Research and data in the past decades have shown that improving girls’ education has a direct and profound impact on population control. Therefore, foreign aid does not cause overpopulation; rather, it helps uplift nations out of poverty, giving them basic amenities and education.
  3. Overpopulation cannot be solved in this lifetime: Controlling the constantly rising population is a daunting task. Based on the current population growth rate, the world population is projected to swell to 11 billion people in the year 2100. Nevertheless, by reaping the benefits of persistent efforts toward improving global medical facilities, equality in education and birth control awareness overpopulation and poverty can be resolved. More importantly, it is possible in this lifetime.By bringing down the average number of children per couple to 1.5, total world population would decline to about six billion by 2100–less than half the projected rise! Fewer people means more resources, subsequently leading to a greater number of self-sufficient and prosperous nations.

These myths about overpopulation and poverty have persisted for years and still continue to stand in the way of poverty eradication. If the world is to move toward a brighter, healthier, more equal future for all, these myths must be eradicated as well.

– Himja Sethi
Photo: Flickr

How to Solve Poverty in 10 Steps
The fight against global poverty can be a discouraging one. The number of people suffering is hard to imagine for most middle-class families. While there is a multitude of poverty-stricken individuals, things are not entirely bleak. Poverty rates have been falling in recent years, and the word is getting out. People can make a difference in this fight with the right approach. There are answers on how to solve poverty, and time is showing us just how effective they are.

  1. Improve the training of farmers
    It is so important for developing countries that their agriculture is not only thriving but is sustainable. Teaching sustainable techniques to farmers is one of the ways that demonstrates how to solve poverty, because when a country’s natural resources are at their top potential, so is its economy. Teaching methods to sustain agriculture, investing in proper equipment and instructing farmers on more efficient practices will also improve the quality of life for the farmers themselves.
  2. Establish gender equality
    When asking how to solve poverty globally, a trend keeps popping up: many poverty-stricken countries lack gender equality. The fact is that when women are allowed to participate in the economy through new laws, social acceptance and proper child care for their family, the country thrives. Since roughly half of any country’s population is made up of women, it is not only arguably a moral obligation, but a practical solution for how to solve poverty. Gender equality can mean getting religious leaders involved, spreading awareness through the country’s media with women depicted as capable and even educating the women themselves on their rights.
  3. Ensure clean water
    Having access to clean water is a huge factor in a country’s welfare. Not only does it need to be safe to drink, but it needs to be closer to people’s homes. While most middle-class citizens can just turn on a tap for clean water to pour out of, many poor families spend hours just trying to find water, and it is not always entirely clean. Investing in clean wells and water systems can not only ensure the safety of a country’s citizens but can free up their time, allowing them to better participate in the economy
  4. Reinstate good healthcare
    When a person is healthy, they can go to work, participate in community events (like voting or meetings) and can better contribute to society. Making sure a country has good healthcare is essential to alleviating poverty. This involves widespread vaccinations, investing in better hospitals and resources, training medical professionals and improving hygiene on a national level.
  5. Make education a priority
    A huge factor in how to solve poverty involves education. Lifting a country out of poverty means educating its citizens not only on basics like math and science, but on proper hygiene, gender equality, educating females equally, economic factors and investing in resources for schools. To better the school system in developing nations, not only do the resources and school building need to be improved, but the teachers need to be trained properly and paid. Encouraging school attendance and teacher certification will create a more conscious society, more jobs and better-equipped citizens in the fight against poverty.
  6. Make international aid a bigger part of legislation
    Not all countries can lift themselves out of poverty without help. Most will need aid from wealthier nations. Making that happen through legislation will ensure that funds go towards the struggle against poverty and will improve the global quality of life.
  7. Involve all sectors of the government in the developing country
    When it comes down to it, a nation struggling with poverty needs all hands on deck to resolve it. They need to have educators, businessmen and lawmakers all involved. This will help identify problems in a range of areas and will ensure that as much support as possible is being given.
  8. People abroad and domestically need to speak up
    People in struggling countries need to vote if they can for initiatives to help solve poverty (things like education funding and gender equality laws), and those abroad need to vote to make poverty a focal point of legislation. The government looks to the people for what is important, and if enough people vote on something such as international aid, then it will become a focus.
  9. Direct aid needs to be given
    Throwing money at a problem will never solve anything. Funds need to go to a direct cause. Rather than giving a foreign government money for clean water, fund a well-building project. Rather than giving money to a country to hire more teachers, send teachers in to train some. Do not give money for a solution; give them the solution. This helps sidestep corruption and delay.
  10. Keep the national market open to trade
    Ensure that the governments abroad are staying open to trade with developing countries. This will help fuel the struggling nation’s economy and create more jobs for that country. In the end, the wealthy country gains a new trading partner, and the developing country gains a sustainable way to grow its economy.

While the questions revolving around how to solve poverty are complex and face dead ends at times, there are solutions to the problem. Making sure that a solution is not only effective but sustainable is a priority that always needs to be met. The fight continues and will continue to be fought until all necessary steps are taken.

– Emily Degn

Photo: Flickr

Myths About Developing CountriesIt’s easy to make assumptions about a “developing” country from the comfort and privilege of a “developed” one. It’s hard to truly understand what it might actually be like to live in a country without everything a developed country is used to. Treading the murky waters of stereotypes, assumptions and clichés, here are some common misconceptions and myths about developing countries:

  1. Africa is a country/is the entire developing world
    Africa is a continent with many countries of different backgrounds and diverse cultures. However, Africa is often the subject of sweeping generalizations and assumptions; for example, every person in Africa is poor and living in a rural area. This disregards the 54 nations in Africa with different histories, cultures and traditions, as well as countries on every other continent that might struggle with poverty.
  2. Developed nations spend a lot of their budgets on foreign aid
    The Borgen Project works specifically to debunk this particular misconception, as the United States spends less than 1% of its federal budget on foreign aid. Norway, the most generous nation, spends 3%. Everyone can do better.
  3. Developing countries are technologically backward
    Not only is this untrue, it disregards all of the middle-class working citizens who have found success in developing countries. The rise of technology use includes the rise of accessibility. Nigeria, for example, is one of many African countries that has embraced new technology and encouraged its spread with a Smart Cities Initiative.
  4. Developing countries are corrupt
    The cause-effect relationship in this misconception is backwards. In terms of myths about developing countries, this one disregards all the corruption present in developed countries. It assumes that corrupt policies and practices are inherently rampant in developing countries, continuing to limit them. However, corruption happens everywhere; it is simply highlighted in developing nations. Furthermore, foreign aid makes developing countries less vulnerable to corruption, not more corrupt.
  5. People are poor because they have too many kids they can’t afford
    “Too many” is a matter of opinion, and the opinion in developed countries is not inherently superior. Because of poverty, families do not have access to sex education or contraception, meaning the decision to have more kids is not really a decision.

These are just a few of the common misconceptions surrounding the developing world. However, all of them are due to be changed.

Ellen Ray

Photo: Flickr

myths_about_foreign_aid
The fact is that some 795 million people in the world do not get enough food to lead healthy, productive lives, and the vast majority of the world’s hungry live in developing countries. The following are three myths about foreign aid:

1. We shouldn’t bother. Our small contributions won’t make a difference in such an enormous problem as global poverty. When it comes to world hunger, the “one person can’t make a difference” myth can be easily dispelled.

Here in the U.S., mosquitoes are aggravating little pests; however, in Africa, mosquitoes are deadly. In 2005, the Against Malaria foundation was founded; it implements practical, cost-efficient, insecticide-treated bed nets to fight this preventable disease.

Over the past 15 years, approximately 663 million cases have been prevented in Africa — roughly 68 percent of that reduction is contributed to the distribution of a billion bed nets. Each bed net costs around $5, lasts for three to four years and protects two people. So, yes, as little as five bucks can make a difference in a global problem, and this, of course, is just one example.

2. We have no idea where our money really goes. Those fundraisers are scams. Unfortunately, the existence of corruption persists all over the world, and that isn’t a myth. Along with the endless benefits the internet provides there are also the ceaseless hoaxes, which are often in the disguise of charitable organizations.

To some extent, it seems as if charities and even the word “donate” tend to act as repellents, triggering apprehension and uneasiness. Fortunately, programs, such as the Millennium Challenge Account, and laws, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, monitor and help safeguard aid. And when in doubt, research the organization before providing any type of aid. Consumer Affairs is one helpful website.

3. Taking care of others in developing countries implies that we are failing to “take care of ourselves.” On the contrary, the more independent others become, the more consumers we acquire. Actually, our nation’s safety strengthens as we lift others out of poverty.

Three major myths about foreign aid busted and many more to be exposed. The following are three ways we can effectively help eradicate global poverty and hunger:

  1. Research the organization before providing aid.
  2. Get active and lobby for the world’s poor. Call and/or email Congress in support of poverty reduction. The Borgen Project provides an efficient, simple method to contact Congress.
  3. Believe that you can make a difference in a global epidemic. The very act of providing aid to another is itself a gift.

Dana McLemore

Sources: Against Malaria, DTIC, FAO, KFF
Photo: Flickr

books about poverty
Despite tremendous progress over the past few decades in eradicating global poverty, nearly a fifth of the world still lives on less than $1.25 a day. In recent years, a number of economists, academics, and political analysts have published books providing insight into the causes, effects, and solutions to global poverty. Here are some top books about global poverty that particularly stand out:

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It (2007)

By Paul Collier

“Economist and Africa expert Collier analyzes why a group of 50 nations, home to the poorest one billion people, are failing. Considering issues such as civil war, dependence on extractive industries, and bad governance, he argues that the strongest industrialized countries must enact a plan to help with international policies and standards.” – Amy Lockwood, Stanford Social Innovation Review

Creating a World Without Poverty (2007)

By Muhammad Yunus

“As founder of Grameen Bank, Yunus pioneered microcredit, the innovative banking program that provides poor people mainly women with small loans they use to launch businesses and lift their families out of poverty. Now, in Creating a World Without Poverty, Yunus goes beyond microcredit to pioneer the idea of social business – a completely new way to use the creative vibrancy of business to tackle social problems from poverty and pollution to inadequate health care and lack of education.” – Yunus Centre

The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey into How the World’s Poorest People Are Educating Themselves (2009)

By James Tooley

The Beautiful Tree “tells the remarkable story of author James Tooley’s travels travels from Africa to Asia, and of the children, parents, teachers, and others who showed him how the poor are building their own schools and learning to save themselves.” –The Cato Institute

The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time (2006)

By Jeffrey Sachs

“Sachs outlines a detailed plan to help the poorest of the poor reach the first rung on the ladder of economic development. By increasing aid significantly to provide the basic infrastructure and human capital for markets to work effectively, Sachs argues such investment is not only economically sound but a moral imperative.” – Amy Lockwood, Stanford Social Innovation Review

The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (2006)

By William Easterly

“Easterly, a celebrated economist, presents one side in what has become an ongoing debate with fellow star-economist Jeffrey Sachs about the role of international aid in global poverty. Easterly argues that existing aid strategies have not and will not reduce poverty, because they don’t seriously take into account feedback from those who need the aid and because they perpetuate western colonial tendencies.” – Amy Lockwood, Stanford Social Innovation Review

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (1998)

By David Landes

“The Wealth and Poverty of Nations is David S. Landes’s acclaimed, best-selling exploration of one of the most contentious and hotly debated questions of our time: Why do some nations achieve economic success while others remain mired in poverty? The answer, as Landes definitively illustrates, is a complex interplay of cultural mores and historical circumstance.” – W.W. Norton & Company, Inc

Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (2006)

By C.K Pralahad

“Explaining that the world’s five billion poor make up the the fastest growing market in the world, Prahalad shows how this segment has vast untapped buying power, and represents an enormous potential for companies who learn how to serve this market by providing the poor with that they need.” – Amazon

Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail (2009)

By Paul Polak

“Polak, a psychiatrist, has applied a behavioral and anthropological approach to alleviating poverty, developed by studying people in their natural surroundings. He argues that there are three mythic solutions to poverty eradication: donations, national economic growth, and big businesses. Instead, he advocates helping the poor earn money through their own efforts of developing low-cost tools that are effective and profitable.” – Amy Lockwood, Stanford Social Innovation Review

Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa (2009)

By Dambisa Moyo

“Moyo, a Zambia-born economist, asserts that aid is not only ineffective—it’s harmful. Her argument packs a strong punch because she was born and raised in Africa. Moyo believes aid money promotes the corruption of governments and the dependence of citizens, and advocates that an investment approach will do more to help reduce poverty than aid ever could.” – Amy Lockwood, Stanford Social Innovation Review

– Katrina Beedy

Sources: Stanford Social Innovation Review, Flavor Wire, Muhammad Yunus, WW Norton, Amazon
Photo: Cheryl Ann Skolnicki

global_poverty\

In the beginning of 2014, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation published its annual letter. This year, the letter reported three common global poverty myths that the world needs to better understand in order to inspire change. Through the report, the duo explain why the myths are false and, ultimately, why U.S. foreign aid and outreach are extremely positive and worthwhile.

The reports on the first two myths were written by Bill Gates. The first explains the inaccuracy of the claim that poor countries will remain poor forever. The second attacks the idea that foreign aid is a waste of time and money.

Melinda Gates has made falsifying the third myth her mission, as her section of the annual letter identifies and clarifies the common misconception that overpopulation will result from saving too many lives.

The Foundation encourages their readers to share the ideas of the letter. In order to promote awareness of the truth about foreign assistance, the hashtag #stopthemyth has been developed. Using the “#” symbol, a popular search tool on social media sites, supporters can effectively share information on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

The following is a list of three informative YouTube videos with the #stopthemyth label.

1. “Top 5 Myths About Global Poverty… Debunked”

Global Citizens responded positively to the #stopthemyth campaign. In this video, the organization presents five false thoughts about poverty in Africa and illustrates the truth in a creative way.

The video is a testament to the power of the #stopthemyth label. By tagging their video with this slogan, creative minds at Global Citizen can pair with the Gates Foundation to spread ideas. Visit their channel here.

2. “You Decide: Save the People or Save the Planet #StopTheMyth”

Melinda Gates narrates a video that discusses her personal project in the 2014 report. The footage of children in the video is inspirational, and the information is clear and succinct. Added visuals also contribute to its effectiveness.

The video is a product of the Gates Foundation’s YouTube channel, which has produced many more short, yet informative, clips with reasons to “stop the myth.”

3. “Bill Nye, Science Guy, Dispels Poverty Myths”

A large percentage of the American population recognizes Bill Nye the Science Guy as a trustworthy source of information. This video is no exception. In a creation of The Gates Notes channel (the YouTube account for Bill Gates’ blog gatesnotes.com) the popular science educator and television personality highlights truths about foreign aid’s place in the national budget. He also describes its potential effect on children of impoverished nations.

—Emily Walthouse

Sources: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 1, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 2, YouTube
Photo: Blogspot