Poverty at its most extreme level goes well beyond being unable to pay bills. In certain parts of the world, the only object is staying alive. “Extreme poverty”, impacts people who are completely unable to meet their own basic needs.
While it impacts hundreds of millions of people all across the world, the evidence is quite strong that it is on the decline. There is still a long way to go before poverty is stopped, but there are hopeful signs for a brighter future. Read on to learn more about how to break the poverty cycle.
Global Poverty Levels Have Climbed Slowly Downward
In 1820, 85% of the world lived in extreme poverty. Granted, that was a long time ago. We didn’t even have electricity yet, right? But consider that number in the broader scope of human history. Civilization has existed for thousands of years and for many, resource scarcity has been the norm for the majority of people.
As of 2018, those numbers have seen a radial flip. Now, only 10% of people live in what is considered “extreme poverty.”
Of course, that’s still a lot of people. Close to a billion who aren’t having even their most basic needs met. But who wouldn’t celebrate such a radical shift, over the course of just 200 years?
Globalization has Increased Global Wealth
The rise of international businesses has substantially increased the amount of global wealth. Off-shoring labor is a controversial topic, and justifiably so — US companies routinely opt to locate factories internationally, and then run them with standards that fall radically beneath what would be deemed acceptable in the western world.
The ethics of this behavior are generally viewed unfavorably, but for developing countries, the sudden emergence of stable employment does produce significant opportunities.
People who previously couldn’t work at all now have the opportunity to make an income and feed their families. Factory conditions in developing countries still have a long way to go before they reach levels that the western world would deem humane.
Nevertheless, evidence-based practice requires us to view the situation beyond our immediate emotional reaction. Globalization is having a positive impact. The job now is to look for ways to further improve deficiencies.
Awareness is another factor that has significantly advanced the cause of lowering global poverty. The ubiquitous access to media has made it much easier to spread information about how dire poverty levels are in certain parts of the world.
There are also influential figures that further advance the cause of poverty reduction. For example, Australian philosopher Peter Singer has long championed globally directed-philanthropy.
One of the most public faces of the “Effective Altruism,” movement, Singer has written books that have reached millions of people, encouraging them to dig deep and support international causes they might not have previously even known about.
One of the people he reached? Bill Gates. Though not necessarily an “effective altruist,” by name, Gates and his Singer-influenced “Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” has donated more than $50 billion since the 90s.
What’s more, Gates has also been a very outspoken advocate for supporting global charities, encouraging other billionaires to pledge their wealth to meaningful causes.
It’s not just billionaires that are making a difference. People at all income levels are making regular contributions with substantial impacts.
Context is important
Before we get too carried away celebrating, it’s important to view the situation with a little bit of context. The threshold for what is considered extreme poverty is $2.20 per person per day. So even though most people are currently living above that line, the quality of life for many of them is still well short of that enjoyed by people in more prosperous countries.
The trajectory is continuing to improve, but slower than it used to. The reason behind that decline isn’t exactly known. It could be that the reduction in poverty numbers was formerly inflated to an extent that would be impossible to replicate. When globalization first took off, it naturally created a very sudden surge in international employment opportunities.
Now that many businesses are already established, the new jobs that they create are diminishing. Then there are global trends that naturally shift the way people approach personal philanthropy. We are, after all, coming off a two-year-long pandemic that sharply reduced many people’s capacity to work.
When money is tight, people give less. Throw in inflation, high-interest rates, and a looming recession and the situation becomes a little more clear. Right now might not be the best time for many people in privileged countries to give.
Of course, that changes with the times. For right now, the overall temperature of global poverty is, if not great, at least optimistic. At the individual level, things are still hard. Those falling at the wrong end of the poverty curve live difficult lives. But every day, more of them find it easier and easier to meet their basic needs, and that’s something to feel hopeful about.
Guest Author Bio
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.
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