UK Child Poverty-TBP

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, announced this past week that the U.K. government will be scrapping its Child Poverty Act. The act, which promised to end child poverty in the United Kingdom by 2020, is being terminated after a recent report stated that current child poverty levels are “unacceptably high.”

Smith has stated that the government will be replacing the act with new perspectives on how to view child poverty, chiefly by changing its definition altogether.

The original act defined child poverty as a child living in a household with an income below 60% of the country’s average. Smith has spoken out against this definition, calling it “deeply flawed” as well as “a poor test of whether children’s lives are genuinely improving.”

Duncan’s new plan defines child poverty by “levels of educational attainment, worklessness and addiction,” as opposed to “relative material disadvantage,” according to The Guardian.

This news prefaces a large cut in tax credits to be introduced in the July 8, 2015 budget as a means to reduce the welfare budget. These cuts make the original 2020 goal all the more unobtainable.

The commission that oversaw the act, the Child Poverty and Social Mobility Commission, will be renamed to simply the Social Mobility Commission.

“We want to eradicate child poverty. This is not a departure from that proposal,” Smith said. “What we want to do is to ensure, however, that we do this by changing the long-term life chances of those who live in the poorest families.”

– Alexander Jones

Sources: BBC, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2
Photo: The Guardian

The gap between Brazil’s rich and poor contributes to its stance in the developing world. Although Brazil is considered to be a rich nation, there are still millions of people living in extreme poverty.

The uneven distribution of wealth enables Brazil to be a wealthy country that has millions living in poverty. The wealthiest one percent of Brazil’s population controls approximately 50 percent of the nation’s income, while a substantial amount of the country’s population lives off of once percent of the country’s wealth.

Salvador de Bahia, the capital of Brazil, serves as an example of how this distribution of wealth creates poverty. The capital of Brazil is considered to be one of the most impoverished areas of the country, with approximately 2.4 million people living on less than $1 a day.

Brazil is one of the largest countries in world with an estimated population of 200 million people, according to the World Bank. Salvador de Bahia has a population of approximately 2.6 million people who survive on incomes supported by the tourism industry, agriculture and the oil refinery port in the capital.

With a relatively new chemical company opening in Salvador de Bahia, the capital has seen considerable growth in its economy, partly due to new employment opportunities and an increase in generated revenue. Although Salvador de Bahia has seen economic growth, it is still considered one of the poorest states with poverty rates as high as 50 percent in some towns.

There are several causes behind the extreme poverty in Brazil, and more specifically, Salvador de Bahia. Aside from economic situations that feed the great divide between the rich and poor, the increasing number of children falling into poverty serves as another factor. Although the number of adults lifting themselves out of poverty has increased over the past few years, there has also been an increase in the number of young people and children that have fallen into poverty. The cyclical nature of poverty results in stagnant poverty rates.

Malnutrition has also led to underdeveloped children and young people. In Brazil there are an estimated 200,000 to eight million children living on the streets. Unable to provide for their children, some poor families abandon their children, leaving them on the streets to fend for themselves. Additionally, AIDS, the death of family members, violence, drugs and/or alcohol result in high child poverty rates.

Often, street children cannot come back from this life and have a low life expectancy rate. Reforms that tackle child poverty in Brazil can help alleviate rates in the country and enable the state of Salvador de Bahia to move toward a more prosperous economic future. Reforms can help build orphanages, create education centered programs and build half-way houses as a solution to poverty rates.

– Nada Sewidan

Sources: Children of Bahia, SOS Children’s Villages, The World Bank
Photo: Global Health Equity Scholars Fellowship

child poverty
The Millennium Challenge Corps, or MCC, recently announced that the Philippines is eligible to receive another five-year extension on funding. The MCC is funded by the U.S. Congress and is meant to be an incentive for countries who actively reform policies to improve government functions.

This new five-year plan is intended to continue funding poverty alleviation projects within the Philippines. Washington recently announced the Philippines’ eligibility to continue the program.

“The selection of the Philippines for a second compact is a recognition of President Aquino’s commitment to good governance. I believe a smooth transition to a second compact will help the Philippines in further institutionalizing good governance policies and reforms,” said Ambassador Jose Cuisia, Jr.

The compact will aid the country in further deterrence of corruption. The Philippines’ government has operated under these regulations and is looking forward to reaping the benefits of continued funding.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation was founded in January 2004 by U.S. Congress. The MCC is an independent agency is committed to intelligently funding U.S. aid to countries in need of support. A part of its mission focuses on country-lead solutions that enable the countries to prioritize the areas of concern they find to be the most pertinent.

In addition, the chosen countries set up local MCC headquarters in order to monitor progress and work closely with the people and programs they are implementing. The MCC works in the world’s most severely impoverished countries in order to strengthen infrastructure to help lift people out of poverty.

The MCC operates on three main principles that are prerequisites for countries to be considered as eligible to receive funds: good governance, economic freedom and investments in their citizens. Although these requirements are loosely worded and give room to numerous interpretations, the MCC goes through a strict identification process to identify candidates for the long-term funds.

This will be the Philippines second compact. The first compact, awarded in 2010, comprised of $214.4 million to repair infrastructure and roads and another $120 million for poverty alleviation projects and community affairs.

In addition to the Philippines, Nepal and Mongolia were also selected by the Board of Directors to be eligible for funding and investment.

For the MCC to continue funding a country the country must show gradual improvement. One of methods of measurement the board uses to evaluate is per capita income level. The countries who receive compacts from the MCC have to show an increase from a Low Income Category to Low Middle Income Category.

Overall, the MCC was founded on principles that support international development through direct funding to areas the countries they decide to be the most pertinent to overcoming poverty. The MCC allows the countries to choose how they believe their country should best spend the money it has been given.

Maxine Gordon

Sources: Yahoo News, MCC
Photo: Wall Street Journal

child poverty
Increasing economic inequality between middle and upper economic classes has grown since the ’90s. Children living in urban centers remain the most affected by poverty and low income.

Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health released a statement based on a study showing that poverty increased dramatically after the recession in 2007. The report states, “Years after the end of the Great Recession, child poverty remains widespread in America’s largest cities. Nearly three children in five living in Detroit are poor, according to the most recent Census figures, a rate that has grown by 10 percentage points since the onset of the Great Recession in 2007. Most children in Cleveland and Buffalo also live in poverty, as do nearly half the children in Fresno, Cincinnati and Memphis.”

The way the U.S. defines poverty is different from the way many other countries define the issue. Most other countries measure poverty after a person has received the social service benefits. However, the U.S. Census measures a person who is below the poverty line before they receive government funded social services that could technically keep them out of poverty.

Children in poverty then, are measured without the benefits that have otherwise kept them out of poverty. Contributing writer, Tim Worstall, of Forbes Magazine writes, “It’s the number of children who would be in poverty if there wasn’t this system of government alleviation of poverty. When we do actually take into account what is done to alleviate child poverty we find that it’s really some two to three percent of U.S. children who live in poverty. Yes, that low: the U.S. welfare state is very much child orientated.”

The Center for American Progress Fund reported that over 45 million Americans are living in poverty. For a family of four this would mean making a combined income of $23,834 or less in a year. Poverty is concentrated disproportionally in the South. Mississippi, for example, is currently at the top of the list with an overwhelming 24.1 percent of the population living below the poverty line.

Some aspects that affect the structural reasons for poverty consist of low economic mobility, federal minimum wage and little to no healthcare coverage. Because children born into poverty start out with a smaller pool of resources to draw from, the cyclic nature of poverty continues generation after generation. Minimum wage is another factor in the conversation as states such as Louisiana, Alabama and South Carolina adhere to federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Healthcare is nearly impossible for families living below the poverty line to afford especially if they have jobs that do not provide benefits.

The concentrated collective poverty of certain demographics is reinforced by state and local governments. Concentrated collective poverty refers to a relatively affluent country that has destitute segments of the population living in long-term poverty. Although the rate of child poverty in the U.S. is skewed, there are still large demographics underserved with a lack of resources.

– Maxine Gordon

Sources: Forbes, Salon, Britannica
Photo: Century Times

Poverty In the UK
Child poverty in the UK? According to child protection and poverty charities, child poverty is rising in the United Kingdom, despite the government’s promise to eradicate it by 2020.

Bernado’s children’s charity and Child Poverty Action Group say that 3.5 million children live in poverty in Britain today. The government measures child poverty differently, not accounting for housing costs, and so they claim that the number is in fact 2.3 million.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions spoke to the BBC about the need for “better measures of child poverty that are not so heavily dependent on where we draw the poverty line.”

Child poverty charities also accuse the government of perusing a series of economic cuts, which have hit the poor hardest and caused an unprecedented number of children to be living under the poverty line, but actually living in working homes.

On their Website, The Child Poverty Action Group remarks about the increasing trend for children living in poverty being from working homes: “Work does not provide a guaranteed route out of poverty in the UK. Two-thirds [66 percent] of children growing up in poverty live in a family where at least one member works.”

They predict that the government will not fulfil its promise to eradicate child poverty in 2020 and claim that due to current government policies, 4.7 million children will be living in poverty in the UK by 2020.

Statistics released last year also reveal that child poverty is unevenly dispersed across England, with urban areas most affected and no rural areas featuring in the top 20 list of worst affected constituencies. Manchester Central reported that 47 percent of children lived in poverty where as a few miles north in the picturesque countryside constituency of Ribble Valley, child poverty is less that 7 percent.

In London Councils, the average child poverty rate is 21 percent; however the disparity between councils can easily be seen when considering that 57 percent of children who live in Tower Hamlets in East London live in poverty, compared to only 6 percent in Wimbledon.

Charles Bell

Sources: BBC 1, BBC 2, Child Poverty Action Group, Barnados
Photo: The Guardian

Poverty in Tokyo
Despite having the third-largest economy in the world, there is a growing issue with poverty in Japan. Of the total population, 15.7 percent of Japanese people live in poverty, a percentage greater than countries with less economic resources.

The country’s overall child poverty rate has also hit a record high of 16.3 percent, prompting questions as to whether the country is trying to fix these issues.

When people think of Tokyo, “poor” is a thought that seldom ever comes to mind. Walking in the streets of the capital, you do not see people begging for money; the homeless are all hiding amongst the shadows.

Yet when the story of the emaciated and hypothermia-struck bodies of an elderly man, his wife and 39-year-old son were found in their home after weeks of no one noticing, one cannot help but question the state of the one in six Japanese citizens living under the poverty line.

Living in a Single-Parent Household

In 2012, The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported that “significant poverty among single parents is a factor boosting the child poverty rate to 14 percent.” According to a Library of Congress article, there has been an increase in the number of welfare recipients, especially from single-parent households. In addition, the article states, “It is hard for single mothers to find jobs that pay enough to support a household in Japan.”

Child poverty in working, single-parent households stood at 50 percent, according to a 2014 TokyoWeekender article. The Abe administration is working on poverty alleviation methods, but not enough attention is paid to child poverty.

Due to the stagnant economy, the number of “freeters” is on a rise. “Freeters” refer to young people, who, after deciding to avoid Japanese corporate culture, live a freer lifestyle. But jumping from job to job in modern Japan is too difficult to properly survive on.

More than 1.23 million single mother households exist that earn only 40 percent of the average household income. One out of three unmarried women are considered poor, and many of these women fall into poverty due to divorce, single parenting, debts, domestic violence and family background.

The Elephant in the Room

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011, there have been many job losses for middle-aged workers.

At the national level, Japan has gone through three prime ministers since the Fukushima disaster, who ranged from anti-nuclear to cautiously pro-nuclear. Calls for removing nuclear plants completely swarmed the country due to the fact that 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes occur in Japan; danger of a repeat is high.

Only one or two of the 54 nuclear reactors in Japan are now active; the rest are substituted by imported coal and gas, which have caused other detrimental effects on the economy.

When it comes to the question of poverty in Tokyo, many people prefer to hide the truth. On a neighborhood level, people hide that they need two jobs to afford tuition. On the political level, the government hides the true poverty statistics from its international community.

According to an article describing the effects of the Fukushima disaster, the “government was afraid to face reality and did not set the poverty line at an appropriate value.” All of this was done in the effort to endure the misfortune in private.

Poverty is a topic that is emerging from the shadows, and the Japanese government is beginning to acknowledge and address its presence.

– Ashley Riley

Sources: Behind the Grids, Japan Sociology, Tokyo Weekender, Library of Congress, The Economist
Photo: Travel CNN

Before deciding to sponsor a child through World Vision, 23-year-old Charlotte Bleeker bought a latte everyday on her way to work, ate out three to four times a week, and had her nails done on a regular basis.

“It’s not that they’re bad things, they’re just unnecessary. I have a coffee pot at home, food in my pantry, and am fully capable of painting my own nails,” Bleeeker said.

In 2013, Bleeker attended a local Christmas concert in which representatives from an organization called World Vision were there with pictures of children from around the world who needed to be sponsored. Bleeker saw the picture that is now on her fridge of four-year-old Eva from Zambia, and could not resist becoming her sponsor. Sponsorship entailed a monthly payment of $40 to allow Eva to go to school and buy necessities.

Bleeker’s mom immediately questioned her decision, urging her to save money to pay off loans and invest in her future. “You need to be more stable financially before you start sponsoring a child,” her mom would say.

What Bleeker’s mom was unable to foresee was that sponsoring a child was the best possible decision for Bleeker in making wise financial decisions.

“All of a sudden I was questioning the things that I used to instinctively spend money on,” Bleeker stated. Eva, halfway across the globe, was teaching Bleeker to appreciate and save her money for the first time.

“My parents always stressed the importance of saving my money, but because I had never experienced a lack of money I didn’t necessarily value it,” Bleeker admitted. Now when contemplating whether or not to stop at Starbucks in the morning, Bleeker thinks of Eva and how much additional money beyond the $40 will help her and easily resists the latte.

Bleeker is also able to write letters to Eva on the World Vision website as often as she likes.

“Sometimes I won’t hear back from her for months, it’s a process for them to get the letters to her but they always do and she always replies, thanking me numerous times in every letter. I feel like I should be thanking her for opening my eyes,” Bleeker expressed.

In addition to letters from Eva, Bleeker also receives reports courtesy of World Vision describing Eva’s progress as well as development in her community. In these reports, sponsors also receive an updated photo of their sponsored child.

Along with Eva, World Vision assists 100 million people in 100 countries today. For Bleeker it was not a matter of not having enough money to sponsor Eva but rather whether or not she was willing to give certain things up. For Bleeker, it means less dining out and more cooking.

“Eva has inspired me to be a better cook!” Bleeker proclaimed. Sponsoring Eva has enriched Bleeker’s life and given her a greater sense of purpose.

Americans hear countless stories of how sponsored children progress and thrive because of organizations like World Vision, but must also acknowledge the progress and growth that occurs when we put others before ourselves.

-Heather Klosterman

Sources: World Vision
Photo: World Vision

The United Kingdom is the 6th largest economy in the world. Even though the country is developed, there are a large number of children living in poverty. The disparity between the country’s impoverished and wealthy is so sharp that doctors from the Medical Research Council said that the number of children who do not have proper access to food is a ‘public health emergency.’

Many people do not think that in a country with such a large and developed economy that child poverty would be such an issue, but the problem has actually grown worse in the last few years. Experts blame the rise in poverty on the spending cuts in social services such as welfare. Here are six facts that characterize what poverty in the United Kingdom looks like:

1. 1 in 5 children in the UK are living in relative poverty. Relative poverty is defined as a family’s net income that falls below 60% of median net disposable income, which is currently £250 or less per week.
2. 2.3 million UK children were living in poverty in 2011-12. The number of children living in poverty in 2012-13 rose by 300,000.
3. 66% of children living in poverty lived in a household with at least one employed person.
4. In 2009-10, single parent households in the United Kingdom are twice as likely to be living in poverty as two parent households.
5. Inadequate benefits leave people who do not make enough money at their job without a safety net. Ideally, benefits provided by employers and social services such as welfare will help people who are in low paying jobs or jobs with little potential for growth. Many new government policies have cut funding to social services leaving people worse off than before.
6. Under current government policies, child poverty is expected to dramatically increase by over 600,000 children by 2015.

-Colleen Eckvahl

Sources: Child Poverty Action Group, BBC News, The Independent
Photo: The Guardian

More than 2.5 million Australians, that is, 12.8% of the Australian population, live below the poverty line. Included in this figure are 575,000 children, meaning that 17.3% of all Australian children are living in poverty. As it stands, the rate of child poverty in Australia has risen by 15% since 2001.

Homelessness is also a huge problem in Australia, with there being currently over 100,000 homeless individuals, a quarter of which are under the age of 18 and 18,000 of which are children under the age of 12. As a result, both the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) and UNICEF Australia are urging the government to develop an action plan to tackle child poverty.

The poverty line is based on the OECD standard of less than 50% of the median income. In 2010, this figure worked out to be U.S. $16,700 per year for a couple and U.S. $35,000 per year for a couple with two children. These figures are far below the Australian national standard.

Part of the problem revolves around the fact that social assistance payments are very low, having not increased since 1994, while the cost of living has increased by a third.

As such, the poverty rate among people living on social assistance is much higher (36.5%) than among the general population. Furthermore, ACOSS argues that social security payments are not high enough to meet basic standards of living and cover necessities such as food, shelter and clothing.

ACOSS is, moreover, requesting that the government raise social security payments by $250 a month in order to help recipients cover basic necessities and to cover job search expenses. One of the most vulnerable groups is single parent led households, especially since half of the children living in poverty belong to families led by single parents.

In fact, Australia has the fifth highest poverty rate for single parent led families of all of the OECD countries. UNICEF Australia’s Tim O’Conner argued that Australia is falling behind many other countries in lifting people out of extreme poverty and ending child poverty.

Another vulnerable group is the indigenous population who make up 2.5% of Australia’s total population. The nation’s indigenous people live in the poorest communities while suffering the effects of poverty the most which includes worse health and having a life span approximately 17 years shorter than the national average.

Moreover, the child mortality rate among indigenous groups is four times greater than that of the general population.

What is shocking is that Australia is one of the richest countries in the world, coming in second only to the U.S. in wealth per capita. Many people are unaware of the rates of poverty in Australia since reports usually focus on the nation’s wealth as a whole.

The fact that there exists so high a rate of child poverty in Australia should be cause enough to prompt this issue of inequality to be addressed.

Elizabeth Brown

Sources: Oxfam, ACOSS, Indy Media
Photo: Democratic Underground

New Zealand, a country with a GDP of $181.1 billion and one of the most trade-friendly economies, has recently called attention to its large population of poor children. On October 29, Doctor Russell Wills, New Zealand’s Child Commissioner, announced he would lead an initiative to solve the problem. The Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on Solutions to Child Poverty recently released a report stating that one in four New Zealand children live in poverty.

The government has recommended urgent steps to achieve a significant reduction in child poverty in New Zealand. A few of these measures include a child poverty strategy, measures to combat income poverty, and improved access to better housing and healthcare. Professor Jonathon Boston, co-chair of the EAG, stated, “we [New Zealand] need a proper strategic approach, with specific poverty reduction targets and a clear monitoring and reporting framework.”

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner has made a personal effort by partnering with Otago University to produce an annual measure and report on child poverty. Jacinda Ardern, the spokesperson for the main opposition Labour Party, stated that New Zealand’s lack of effort to solve the child poverty problem has made the nation an “outlier” with the other OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries.

Lienna Feleke- Eshete

Sources: Global TimesHeritage
Photo: Momento Creative