Poverty dynamics Alex Proudfoot
Poverty dynamics? • Many people believe poverty to be an almost perpetual state in which people live for all of their lives, however, due to the nature of how poverty is classified this can often not be the case. • Poverty can be defined as persistent or transitory. Persistent poverty is as the name suggests, permanent. People living in persistent poverty are the poorest of the poor and despite economic conditions they will be in poverty. Transitory poverty is where people live on the margins of poverty (or more specifically the poverty line), different economic circumstances will dictate whether or not they are in ‘poverty’ but their quality of life is never good. • Poverty dynamics is the study of the nature of poverty in places and how it changes and its characteristics.
Poverty dynamics in rural china • When a large area of Sichuan province was surveyed to study this, data showed that ‘only 2.4 percent of households were poor for all five years’ that the survey took place. This shows that poverty in rural China, if this can be taken as the norm, is very transitory. But, it is significant nonetheless with ‘over 30 percent of households falling below the lower consumption poverty line at some point in the five years’. • The reason for the fluctuation in who is in poverty in rural China is that economic growth is not permanent in China, particularly on a local scale, growth is very erratic and this can harm people’s incomes and livelihoods, pushing people into poverty in bad times.
Physical factors affecting poverty in rc • There is ‘a strong correlation between residence in flat fertile areas and wealth. Only 2 percent of households in the bottom quintile live in the plains. Most of those in the bottom income quintile live in the mountains’ Only ten percent of China is land that can be cultivated and so there is great competition for land and many farmers will cultivate land that is marginal, such as that in mountainous areas, on the edge of deserts and land vulnerable to flooding with poor irrigation. All these areas leave agriculture vulnerable to the weather and therefore mean that poverty may be something people fall into on a basis of luck with the weather in rural China. • It is in these marginal areas that there is a much higher incidence of poverty.
Gender There is a lack of education for many women in rural China. Whilst 23% of women have no education in rural China, the figure for men is only 8%, this shows a gender bias that leaves women disadvantaged in the workplace. This disadvantage for women is self-perpetuating, the lack of education for women means that they find it difficult to access the most influential and powerful positions in the country which means that women will find it difficult to change the economic situation of their gender. The lack of women in positions of power, despite their importance, is notable in rural China. Though the rural labour force is 65% women, only 1% of local decision making offices are held by women. These things create an economic inequality between women and men, and this inequality creates a higher incidence of poverty amongst women.
Poverty dynamics • The fact that poverty is not necessarily a permanent state that affects the same people all the time makes it difficult for policy makers to come up with the right ways to tackle poverty. • In China any efforts to reduce poverty should be focused on helping the groups with the highest incidences of poverty e.g. those farming on marginal land and women. Improving education for girls and providing extra financial assistance to those farming on land would help. • Another useful step would be to stop targeting assistance specifically to those under the poverty line as this changes regularly. Improvements to welfare would help everyone in poverty, both transitory, persistent or even those just above the cut off point.