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Poverty AlleviationFor the past four decades, the Chinese government has viewed poverty alleviation as integral to its economic development. The government’s efforts against poverty have intensified under the leadership of President Xi Jinping who proposed ambitious measures to eliminate poverty by the end of 2020.

China has made tremendous progress in alleviating poverty through the government’s efforts, as the number of people living in poverty in China has fallen from 750 million in 1990 to just 16.6 million in 2019. However, obstacles remain ahead of China’s efforts to completely eradicate poverty and improve the standard of living for its residents.

Poverty Eradication Under Xi Jinping

In 2014, China’s government implemented a strategy of Targeted Poverty Alleviation, which allows the government and local officials to address the needs of individuals and households rather than entire villages. Local officials use data from a local registration system containing information from more than 128,000 villages to identify and provide support to poverty-stricken areas. According to China’s President Xi Jinping, Targeted Poverty Alleviation follows an approach based on policies in five areas:

  • Industrial development
  • Social Security
  • Education
  • Eco-compensation
  • Relocation

 At a local level, the Targeted Poverty Alleviation program employs the pairing-up strategy, which enables impoverished families in western provinces to receive support from the more affluent eastern provinces. Officials who exclusively support rural inhabitants support impoverished households, including those in ethnic minority areas. The government supports the local industry by establishing internet commerce centers in rural areas known as Taobao villages. In Taobao villages, rural residents can support themselves by selling crops and local products online. By 2015, Taobao villages supported 200,000 shop owners and employed one million people.

The Targeted Poverty Alleviation campaign has also implemented nationwide initiatives to facilitate industrial development. In 2019, China spent 19 billion dollars on a variety of infrastructure initiatives. Through these initiatives, China has been able to build or renovate more than 124,000 miles of roads and provide 94% of rural villagers with internet access.

China also uses a resettlement program to help elevate rural residents from poverty. Under this program, the government encourages residents in remote and ecologically vulnerable rural regions to relocate to areas closer to the cities. By one estimate, over nine million people have been resettled by this initiative between 2016 and 2020. Increased economic opportunities in cities and reforms that allow greater internal migration in China have also encouraged resettlement. These migrations have resulted in China’s urbanization rate rising from 17.92% in 1978 to 57.3% in 2016.

Metrics of Success

China’s efforts to alleviate poverty have been judged as tremendously successful by most measures. Between 2014 and 2019, 68 million rural residents have risen from poverty. China’s reforms to its economy has enabled 730 million people to emerge from poverty over the past four decades, accounting for nearly three-fourths of global poverty accomplishments from this time period. According to the UN Millennium Global Development Report, China’s policies have enabled the international community to meet the UN’s goal of reducing extreme global poverty by 50%.

China’s economic success has enabled it to address disparities between its urban and rural populations in healthcare. Urban and rural populations have both witnessed infant mortality rates decline below 1%, and maternal mortality rates for urban and rural mothers have declined and attained parity at the level of two per million in 2019.

Obstacles

Despite China’s progress in eliminating poverty, the nation continues to face obstacles in attaining its ambitious standards and supporting the needs of poor residents. Local officials’ administration of financial support is often arbitrary or impeded by stringent bureaucratic procedures, which has resulted in some poor households being denied or receiving insufficient financial support. The increased funds invested in poverty alleviation efforts has also contributed to significant “corruption and mismanagement.”

China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) reported that 730 yuan (112.21 million USD) in poverty alleviation funds were misappropriated in 2018 through violations, such as embezzlement, fraud and bribery. The government uses the CCDI to maintain oversight on how its funding is used, and officials who fail to accomplish poverty reduction in their region face expulsion from the Communist Party and “career oblivion.”

The government’s poverty alleviation efforts have also been criticized for its emphasis on the rural poor while ignoring those in urban areas who are struggling to meet high living costs. China’s poverty alleviation campaign invited high polluting industries, such as those that have been associated with reduced air and water quality in impoverished regions, causing many to question whether China’s progress is sustainable. The relocation program has also been controversial as many rural residents often relinquish their land for little compensation, only to subsequently struggle to find work in the cities. Government officials have also expressed impatience with residents who were unwilling to relocate.

The progress of the poverty alleviation campaign was also complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the initial four months of 2020, unemployment rose to 6.2% and one expert calculates that 80 million people in China were unemployed when rural villagers and migrant workers were included in the calculation. Despite the economic effects of the pandemic, Beijing has not relented in its endeavor to eliminate poverty, and experts doubt that China will admit to having failed to meet its goal for 2020, regardless of the state of the economy. Regardless of whether China attains its goal for 2020, experts doubt that it will abandon its endeavors to improve its people’s standard of living.

China’s efforts towards eradicating poverty have yielded tremendous success, yet the government and the country’s people will be responsible for ensuring that its progress is sustainable and results in tangible improvements to the standard of living of people in urban and rural areas.

Bilal Amodu
Photo: Pixabay

Best Poverty Reduction Programs
In the global fight against poverty, there have been countless programs to effectively downsize this issue. Poverty reduction programs are an important part of the fight against poverty and because of this, countries should be able to cooperate and learn from one another. Thankfully, with the help of the U.N., the world has been making progress in terms of cooperating to implement good poverty reduction programs. In no particular order, these are the five countries with some of the best poverty reduction programs.

Five Countries with the Best Poverty Reduction Programs

1. China

For the Middle Kingdom, poverty reduction is a key contributing factor to its rapidly growing economy. China has helped reduce the global rate of poverty by over 70 percent, and according to the $1.90 poverty line, China has lifted a total of 850 million people out of poverty between 1981 and 2013. With this, the percentage of people living under $1.90 in China dropped from 88 percent to less than 2 percent in 32 years. China’s poverty reduction programs have also benefitted people on a global scale by setting up assistance funds for developing countries and providing thousands of opportunities and scholarships for people in developing countries to receive an education in China.

2. Brazil

Brazil has taken great steps in reducing poverty and income inequality. Brazil has implemented programs such as the Bolsa Familia Program (Family Grant Program) and Continuous Cash Benefit. Researchers have said that the Family Grant Program has greatly reduced income disparity and poverty, thanks to its efforts of ensuring that more children go to school. They have also said that beneficiaries of this program are less likely to repeat a school year. Meanwhile, the Continuous Cash Benefit involves an income transfer that targets the elderly and the disabled.

3. Canada

Canada has implemented poverty reduction programs such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the National Housing Strategy. The Guaranteed Income Supplement is a monthly benefit for low-income senior citizens. This program helped nearly 2 million people in 2017 alone. Meanwhile, the National Housing Strategy in an investment plan for affordable housing that intends to help the elderly, people fleeing from domestic violence and Indigenous people. With its poverty reduction programs in place, Canada reportedly hopes to cut poverty in half by 2030.

4. United States

Although the United States has a long way to go when it comes to battling poverty, it does still have its poverty reduction programs that have proven to be effective. According to the Los Angeles Times, programs such as Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps have all helped to reduce deep poverty. In particular, people consider the Earned Income Tax Credit to be helpful for families that earn roughly 150 percent of the poverty line, approximately $25,100 for a four-person family. Social Security could help reduce poverty among the elderly by 75 percent.

5. Denmark

Denmark has a social welfare system that provides benefits to the unemployed, the disabled and the elderly, among others. People in Denmark are generally in good health and have low infant mortality rates. Denmark also has public access to free education, with most of its adult population being literate.

It should be stressed that none of these countries are completely devoid of poverty, but they do provide some good examples of how governments can go about reducing this issue. With the help of organizations like the USAID, it is clear that this is an issue many take seriously.

Adam Abuelheiga
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Japan
According to The Economist, poverty in Japan is rarely visible. There is little begging and little evidence that the homeless exist. The poor are quietly hidden in shadows away from what appears of economic homogeneity in Japan. They are hidden from sight and very difficult to measure.

However, the truth of the matter is that poverty is increasing at alarming rates in Japan. After years of economic stagnation, now statistics show that nearly one in six Japanese lived in poverty in 2007. This accounts for nearly 20 million people within the population.

 

Poverty in Japan

 

Yet the popular perception of Japan is one of a nation of prosperity and centenarians. Even many Japanese themselves were horrified to find out that Japan’s poverty rate was in recent years as high as 15.7%, nearly as high as the figure for the United States. The Japanese government has admitted that it had been keeping poverty statistics hidden since 1998. Aya Abe, a researcher at the National Institute of Population and Social Security in Tokyo has stated, “it is very unpopular for the Japanese media to say anything about Japanese poverty.” By denying the existence of increasing poverty, Japan has failed to support its growing impoverished population.

The results of this lack of support are visible in the plight of single parents in Japan. The poverty rate of single parents is now the highest of the all of the nations that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Furthermore, statistics show that now one in seven children in Japan lives in poverty. According to Japan Times, more and more children are now unable to afford schoolbooks and basic materials for education.

Despite these grim facts, few impoverished Japanese are even willing to admit that they are poor. Poverty experts in Japan say that 80% of the poor in Japan are “working poor.” That is to say that these poor may be working temporary jobs with few benefits but they unable to or even unwilling to reveal the true condition of their financial or living situation.

Furthermore, years of deregulated labor and competition with China have created a wide market of low paying jobs. For a nation that is accustomed to lifetime jobs, there are few social safety nets for the unemployed. Thus, while the poor in Japan may fair considerably better than those in developing nations, they face a social taboo that attempts to cover up poverty. Thus the climb upwards is a difficult and lonely challenge.

– Grace Zhao 

Sources: New York Times, Japan Times, The Economist