Lifelong Learning and Poverty
Lifelong learning is the ongoing development of personal, social, civil and employment-related skills, an endeavor continuing throughout life. The acquisition of learning past one’s initial education is becoming more important in finding new opportunities. High-skill jobs are becoming more prevalent in many parts of the world, creating a larger demand for skilled workers. For this reason, lifelong learning can be a powerful tool in addressing poverty across nations. By 2030, 600 million people will be living in poverty, according to the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD). The United Nations acknowledges the role lifelong learning can play in dwindling this statistic through its inclusion of lifelong learning in the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To that end, here are three ways that lifelong learning can address poverty.

3 Ways Lifelong Learning Addresses Poverty

  1. Financial Literacy: Financial literacy is the ability to apply various skills to effectively manage one’s finances. It can be a strong tool against poverty as families with this knowledge can take advantage of helpful tax credits and public programs. Unfortunately, this is a skill that seems to be lacking even in developed nations. Through a survey, the OECD found that only 52.5% of respondents across 12 member nations had sufficient financial knowledge. Financial literacy has only become more important as people have more choices regarding retirement planning, investment strategies and tax programs. Focusing on initiatives that support the acquisition of these skills for all ages can be an effective strategy to address this issue. A 2007 study by Peng et al shows that personal finance lessons enhanced rates of savings and investment knowledge “among high school and college students.” Financial literacy classes with a focus on lifelong learning and poverty relief strategies could help reduce the economic pressure many families face.
  2. Health Literacy: Health literacy is “the ability to process and understand basic information needed to make appropriate health decisions.” People with poor health literacy skills are more likely to have poor physical health in general. In addition, these people “receive less preventative care,” struggle to manage chronic illnesses and have higher rates of hospitalization. People who do not manage their health are more likely to require costly medical services in the future for avoidable ailments. Maintaining one’s health is important to be able to participate in the labor market. Those living in poverty can rarely afford to miss out on employment. Knowledge on health and self-care must be accessible among people of all ages and literacy skills are a major factor in accessing these competencies. Children who are born to literate mothers are 50% more likely to live beyond the age of five than children of women who are illiterate. A study in Indonesia revealed a 19% vaccination rate among the children of uneducated mothers in comparison to 68% among mothers with at least secondary level education. It is clear that health literacy is crucial in maintaining the health of the next generation.
  3. Income: Educational attainment closely links to income. Those with more education are likely to earn more than those with less education. Frequently, many find that their jobs do not provide the level of compensation necessary to meet their needs and those of their families. To find better employment opportunities, it is important to continually develop one’s skills and education. In fact, just one more year of education has the power to increase income by 10%, according to World Bank data. Despite this, many of those who would benefit the most from lifelong learning find it difficult to access these opportunities. A 2007 survey in Kenya revealed that 30% of individuals did not participate in literacy programs due to a lack of learning centers nearby. Programs promoting income growth must integrate lifelong learning and poverty relief solutions in an appealing and available manner to better support marginalized groups.

Looking Ahead

Lifelong learning opportunities can influence many areas of one’s life. In promoting education, it is important to remember that people can develop new skills at all stages of life regardless of age. Programs focusing on lifelong learning and poverty show promise in improving conditions for many global citizens.

– Gonzalo Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr