Friday, September 21, 2007

Inconvenient truths - a good place to look for ideas

Breaking the cycle of child poverty
By Neera Sharma
Policy officer, Barnardos

Poverty is the single greatest threat to the well-being of children in the UK. More than one in four children lives in poverty. In some regions, child poverty is even higher: rising to 54% in inner London. But the starkest deprivation is found in tiny, almost hidden pockets: there are some wards in the UK where over 90% of children live in poverty. Basic needs Poverty is increasingly seen in relative terms: it is about not having access to what others in your society take for granted. Children from the bottom social class are four times more likely to die in an accident A third of children in poverty go without the meals, or toys, or the clothes that they need.

For poor families, raising a child is not just about struggling to make ends meet; it's about struggling to give their child a chance to grow and thrive. Serious threat Growing up in poverty can affect every area of a child's development - social, educational and personal. Living on a low income means that children's diet and health can suffer. Poorer children are more likely to live in sub-standard housing and in areas with few shops or amenities, where children have little or no space to play safely.

Children from the bottom social class are four times more likely to die in an accident and have nearly twice the rate of long-standing illness than those living in households with high incomes.

They are also more likely to be smaller at birth and shorter in height. Children who grow up in poverty are less likely to do well at school and have poorer school attendance records. And the long term effects of being brought up in poverty can be even starker. As adults they are more likely to suffer ill-health, be unemployed or homeless. They are more likely to become involved in offending, drug and alcohol abuse. They are more likely to become involved in abusive relationships. Persistent poverty Once in poverty, children often stay in poverty well into adult life.

Recent research has found that most people remain in the same quarter of income distribution as their parents. In fact, the chance of being better off than their parents has reduced for people who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, compared with people who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. The key factors which suggest that children will fail to break free of the poverty cycle include: missing periods of school, being in care, being known to the police, misuse of drugs, teenage parenthood, and being out of education, employment or training between the ages of 16 and 18. Targets Ending child poverty by 2020 is one of the long term goals of the government.

The government has concentrated on employment as the primary way out of poverty for families with children. Tax credits have been introduced to supplement the incomes of working families. The government can claim some success with child poverty, despite well publicised difficulties with tax credit overpayment: Overall, 700,000 children have been lifted out of poverty. However, if the government wants to help the remaining children in poverty, more than tax credits are needed. There are 600,000 children under three living in poverty and only 42,740 free or subsidised childcare places for disadvantaged families The widespread availability of good quality child care is crucial, both in enabling parents to work or train for jobs, and in giving children a head start in life.

Early years care and education is known to improve children's future educational achievement and health, but almost all child care services for children under three are private sector arrangements for those whose parents can pay. There are 600,000 children under three living in poverty and only 42,740 free or subsidised childcare places for disadvantaged families. Work is not an option for all families, especially if they are caring for a disabled child or have health or disability problems themselves.

The children in these families grow up in persistent poverty and they must be the target of specific government policy if the goal of ending child poverty is to be realised. Even where they are able to overcome the obstacles to work, the gains from earning for many families will be modest, and some families may even find themselves worse off after returning to work. Work does not guarantee a route out of poverty.

Some of the initiatives set up to tackle exclusion are actually pushing those people not involved further towards the margins. State benefit link The Child Tax Credit established a guaranteed minimum income level for families in work, but there are no minimum levels for those on benefit. For those who do not have paid work, income can be far below the poverty line. Weekly income support for a couple with two children is around £178, compared with £253 in earnings at poverty level.

For a single parent with two children, income support is £147, compared with £175 in earnings at poverty level. League tables on child poverty among developed nations show a clear relationship between levels of state benefits and the rate of child poverty. All countries that have a high rate of social expenditure, such as Denmark, Finland and Sweden, have correspondingly low rates of child poverty. However, many families even miss out on benefits they are entitled to because of the complexities of the system, language barriers and a lack of clear information.

What families need to get out of poverty are good local services, employment opportunities that support family life and an adequate income. Child poverty is a social injustice, it is wasteful and it carries huge costs, both for the children involved and for society. The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by the BBC unless specifically stated. Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/07/25 09:43:33 GMT© BBC MMVII

Author and Page information · by Anup Shah · This Page Last Updated Friday, November 24, 2006 · This page: Consider the following poverty statistics

1. Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day. source 1

2. The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the poorest 48 nations (i.e. a quarter of the world’s countries) is less than the wealth of the world’s three richest people combined. source 2

3. Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names. source 3

4. Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn't happen. source 4

5. 51 percent of the world’s 100 hundred wealthiest bodies are corporations. source 5

6. The wealthiest nation on Earth has the widest gap between rich and poor of any industrialized nation. source 6

7. The poorer the country, the more likely it is that debt repayments are being extracted directly from people who neither contracted the loans nor received any of the money. source 7

8. 20% of the population in the developed nations, consume 86% of the world’s goods. source 8

9. The top fifth of the world’s people in the richest countries enjoy 82% of the expanding export trade and 68% of foreign direct investment — the bottom fifth, barely more than 1%. source 9

10. In 1960, the 20% of the world’s people in the richest countries had 30 times the income of the poorest 20% — in 1997, 74 times as much. source 10

11. An analysis of long-term trends shows the distance between the richest and poorest countries was about: 3 to 1 in 1820 11 to 1 in 1913 35 to 1 in 1950 44 to 1 in 1973 72 to 1 in 1992 source 11

12. “The lives of 1.7 million children will be needlessly lost this year [2000] because world governments have failed to reduce poverty levels” source 12

13. The developing world now spends $13 on debt repayment for every $1 it receives in grants. source 13

14. A few hundred millionaires now own as much wealth as the world’s poorest 2.5 billion people. source 14

15. “The 48 poorest countries account for less than 0.4 per cent of global exports.” source 15

16. “The combined wealth of the world’s 200 richest people hit $1 trillion in 1999; the combined incomes of the 582 million people living in the 43 least developed countries is $146 billion.” source 16

17. “Of all human rights failures today, those in economic and social areas affect by far the larger number and are the most widespread across the world’s nations and large numbers of people.” source 17

18. “Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished, almost two-thirds of whom reside in Asia and the Pacific.” source 18

19. According to UNICEF, 30,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.” That is about 210,000 children each week, or just under 11 million children under five years of age, each year. source 19

20. For economic growth and almost all of the other indicators, the last 20 years [of the current form of globalization, from 1980 - 2000] have shown a very clear decline in progress as compared with the previous two decades [1960 - 1980]. For each indicator, countries were divided into five roughly equal groups, according to what level the countries had achieved by the start of the period (1960 or 1980). Among the findings: Growth: The fall in economic growth rates was most pronounced and across the board for all groups or countries. Life Expectancy: Progress in life expectancy was also reduced for 4 out of the 5 groups of countries, with the exception of the highest group (life expectancy 69-76 years). Infant and Child Mortality: Progress in reducing infant mortality was also considerably slower during the period of globalization (1980-1998) than over the previous two decades. Education and literacy: Progress in education also slowed during the period of globalization. source 20

21. Water problems affect half of humanity: Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation. Almost two in three people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $2 a day, with one in three living on less than $1 a day. More than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2 a day, and more than 385 million on less than $1 a day. Access to piped water into the household averages about 85% for the wealthiest 20% of the population, compared with 25% for the poorest 20%. 1.8 billion people who have access to a water source within 1 kilometre, but not in their house or yard, consume around 20 litres per day. In the United Kingdom the average person uses more than 50 litres of water a day flushing toilets (where average daily water usage is about 150 liters a day. The highest average water use in the world is in the US, at 600 liters day.) Some 1.8 million child deaths each year as a result of diarrhoea The loss of 443 million school days each year from water-related illness. Close to half of all people in developing countries suffering at any given time from a health problem caused by water and sanitation deficits. Millions of women spending several hours a day collecting water. To these human costs can be added the massive economic waste associated with the water and sanitation deficit.… The costs associated with health spending, productivity losses and labour diversions … are greatest in some of the poorest countries. Sub-Saharan Africa loses about 5% of GDP, or some $28.4 billion annually, a figure that exceeds total aid flows and debt relief to the region in 2003. source 21

22. The richest 50 million people in Europe and North America have the same income as 2.7 billion poor people. “The slice of the cake taken by 1% is the same size as that handed to the poorest 57%.” source 22

23. The world’s 497 billionaires in 2001 registered a combined wealth of $1.54 trillion, well over the combined gross national products of all the nations of sub-Saharan Africa ($929.3 billion) or those of the oil-rich regions of the Middle East and North Africa ($1.34 trillion). It is also greater than the combined incomes of the poorest half of humanity. source 23

24. A mere 12 percent of the world’s population uses 85 percent of its water, and these 12 percent do not live in the Third World. source 24

25. Consider the global priorities in spending in 1998 Global Priority $U.S. Billions Cosmetics in the United States 8 Ice cream in Europe 11 Perfumes in Europe and the United States 12 Pet foods in Europe and the United States 17 Business entertainment in Japan 35 Cigarettes in Europe 50 Alcoholic drinks in Europe 105 Narcotics drugs in the world 400 Military spending in the world 780

26. And compare that to what was estimated as additional costs to achieve universal access to basic social services in all developing countries: Global Priority $U.S. Billions Basic education for all 6 Water and sanitation for all 9 Reproductive health for all women 12 Basic health and nutrition 13
27. source 25

28. Number of children in the world 2.2 billion Number in poverty 1 billion (every second child) Shelter, safe water and health For the 1.9 billion children from the developing world, there are: 640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3) 400 million with no access to safe water (1 in 5) 270 million with no access to health services (1 in 7) Children out of education worldwide 121 million Survival for children Worldwide, 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (same as children population in France, Germany, Greece and Italy) 1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation Health of children Worldwide, 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized 15 million children orphaned due to HIV/AIDS (similar to the total children population in Germany or United Kingdom) source 26

29. The total wealth of the top 8.3 million people around the world “rose 8.2 percent to $30.8 trillion in 2004, giving them control of nearly a quarter of the world’s financial assets.” In other words, about 0.13% of the world’s population controlled 25% of the world’s assets in 2004. source 27 Online Sources: (Note that listed here are only those hyperlinks to other articles from other web sites or elsewhere on this web site. Other sources such as journal, books and magazines, are mentioned above in the original text. Please also note that links to external sites are beyond my control. They might become unavailable temporarily or permanently since you read this, depending on the policies of those sites, which I cannot unfortunately do anything about.)
1. 'PPP Glossary Definition', Biz/ed web site,
2., if the above link has expired, please try the following alternative
4. Web Archive’s archive of the article, 5.
6. Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, 'Global Falsehoods: How the World Bank and the UNDP Distort the Figures on Global Poverty', TFF, 1999,
7. '30 Days Minimum Wage', More4 (part of Channel 4 in the UK), first broadcast November 2005,
8. Sanjay G. Reddy and Thomas W. Pogge, 'How not to count the poor', Columbia University, June 14, 2002,, if the above link has expired, please try the following alternative locations: o This reposted version is in HTML, whereas the original link is to a PDF document o Institute of Social Analysis, an organization set up by Colombia University
20. 21. 22.
26., if the above link has expired, please try the following alternative 27., if the above link has expired, please try the following alternative Full report, 8Mb in size
32., if the above link has expired, please try the following alternative locations: o Actual report o Home page for the report o News report mentioning these stats from Inter Press Service
33., if the above link has expired, please try the following alternative locations: Google search result This page has been auto-generated from Robert L. Fielding

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