When looking at countries that are suffering from hunger, it is easy to equate the hunger with nationwide poverty. In the case of high-income countries, such as the U.S., such a generalization might lead one far astray from reality.
Liechtenstein is a small country bordering Switzerland on the west side and Austria on the east side. Its GDP is the highest in the world, with people living there making an equivalent average of about $139,100 per year.
Note that the cost of living in Liechtenstein is only 33 percent higher than in the United States, even though they make on average 2.4 times as much as American citizens do. It is unimaginable that poverty can exist in such a wealthy country. However, we must ask, does poverty– or even hunger– in Liechtenstein exist?
The answer is: essentially, no. It is not hunger in the traditional sense, where people are starving or going hungry. In the case of Liechtenstein, there are some people who are not making enough money to have “disposable” income.
In the U.S., this is taken for granted. There are an estimated 45 million Americans living under the poverty line (2013), with 58 million Americans working for minimum wage. However, Liechtenstein doesn’t seem to have any people living under the poverty line, mainly because it has strong social services that tackle the problems of poverty or hunger before they even arise.
A 2008 estimate of households living in conditions that are called “Einkommensschwach,” which literally translates to “weak income” (low-income), is at 11 percent. This is about 3,000 people out of its population of 37,000.
Note that “Einkommensschwach” does not mean “living under the poverty line,” it just means a low-income household. Thus, these numbers convey people’s income even after social services have come into effect. The limit to be considered “Einkommenschwach” is about the equivalent of $28,000 per year.
However, social services in Liechtenstein are so powerful, it basically eradicates all hunger in Liechtenstein, as well as true poverty. During a meeting, the social minister in Liechtenstein even asked the question “With such high incomes, can we really speak about poverty? Wouldn’t this even be unethical to make such a comparison with other countries?”
In other words, not only is hunger in Liechtenstein not a considerable issue, it is even questionable if one can talk about poverty in Liechtenstein at all.
– Michal Burgunder