Poverty has always been an important issue throughout the development of human history. In my opinion, poverty is a description of peoples unpleasant living status. People who are in poverty usually have jobs in labor force or get paid by the hour, most likely without insurance coverage which required by the government. They may have met the basic requirements of living, for examples, they may have enough food and have a place to live. Nevertheless, they lack a certain amount of money to balance and fulfill all of their needs in necessities of life such as food, safety drinking water, clothing, and shelter. Usually, things they purchase are the worst on the market and meat is something unusual on their dining table. In addition, people in poverty are most likely to have little chances to get an education or support their children to finish education. Moreover, people in poverty will fight with small diseases such as cold and fever without purchasing medication, and they will ignore any bad signals from their body as long as possible because of the fear of unaffordable medical expenses. It is almost impossible for people in poverty to conduct activities, which are enjoyable and helpful to improve the quality of their lives. Although poverty seems to represent an awful living status, but extreme poverty is much worse than that. People in extreme poverty have difficulties to meet the basic requirements for food and clothing. In addition, most likely, they do not have a settled place to keep them from wind and rain. My perspective of poverty comes from my growth process. I grew up in a third-tier city where one of the largest coal corporations in China has before I was 12 years old and I moved to Shanghai later. People I have to meet in poverty are those live in the poorest villages in China that need assistance from big cities. I participated in two charity activities that not only bringing donation money to them but also experiencing their lifestyle. People in those villages usually share one or two rooms with the whole family, from the oldest grandparents to the smallest babies. They have access to electricity but they use electricity as little as possible in order to cut the expenses. Most of the donation money is used for building schools and purchasing books and stationeries for the children. The rest of the money is distrusted on the household basis in cash, which they can improve their living quality a little bit.
Poverty V.S Economic/Political Situation
Economic success in China
In the documentary of the Poor Us: An Animated History of Poverty, it talks about the success of Chinas economy around 1800. During that period, China was one of the wealthy countries in the world. It had the largest income per capita in the world and produce one-third of the worlds economic output. With the observation of climate through human history, the emperor of China put efforts into famine and flood prevention. In the famine took place in 1743, the system offered emergency relief to over two million people with grain from stored supply in areas where suffered from drought conditions. Moreover, the first emergency aid took place just before the 19 century. According to Sachs, the world was equal in income levels around 1750, to be more precise, the world was nearly equal in poverty. He claimed that a bad harvest could mean famine and death in any part of the world. However, the documentary says an exception China. Due to its success in economic development, the emperor of China had time and energy to make prevention for the future. China was rich enough to store extra food for incidents and disasters. The economic success saved Chinese peoples lives during the famine in 1743, which means that the economic success also saved China from being national poverty at that time.
The Industrial Revolution
Sachs states that modern economics growth began in England. According to philosopher Thomas Pogge, one of the two historic periods for poverty is that people who lived off the land emerged along with large cities. During the industrial revolution, there were many activities, which considered illegal and immoral today such as child labor and a dangerous working environment.
However, the Industrial Revolution did pay an important role in reducing poverty across the world. With all kinds of innovations that increase agricultural productivity and improve modern transportation methods, people started to see the practicability of reducing or even eliminating the poverty population. Two centuries after the Industrial Revolution, the population living in poverty has been reduced from 80 percent of the world population to 15-20 percent as for today. I believe that the Industrial Revolution imbue people with enthusiasm for scientific field and technology. As a result of that, the world economy has benefited from the speedy development of technology overall. The government of the rich countries has extra money on hand to help not only the poor in the country but also outside the country.
The Great Leap Movement in China
In Sachs's point of view, politics, as well as geography, poverty trap and culture is one of the reasons that lead to poverty. The failure of politics, to be more precise, the failure of governance is the obstacle of eliminating poverty. In the documentary of the Poor Us: An Animated History of Poverty, it mentions the great leap movement in China in 1958 as the reason leads to the later famine. Back in 1958, in order to exceed the development of Western countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, the Chinese government made a production plan of steel, which was so beyond their ability that people had to melt their cooking tools to meet the production demands. In the end, Chinese people met the production demands with a huge price. Thirty percent of the steel was useless because of using the wrong method to produce. In order to stimulate the people's initiative, Chinese government lowered the cost of pig iron and spends 4 billion Chinese Yuan to subsidize factories losses caused by high cost of pig iron. At that time, 4 billion Chinese Yuan was more than 10% percent of national fiscal revenue. Most importantly, the Chinese government made the order that producing steel and iron was the most important thing for the whole country and nothing else could compare to that. Thus, one hundred million people devoted themselves into the Great Leap Movement, included members of People's Commune, office workers, teachers, students and other labor forces. As a result of that, the number of people who engaged in farming was far away from enough. With the decline in grain acreage, incomplete harvest due to lack of labor force and rejection to foreign aid, China started to suffer from serious food crisis from 1959 to 1961, which was the world famous three-year famine. During that period, people were not only living in poverty or extreme poverty status, 30 million people died during that time. I believe the poverty in China in 1959 had a direct link to politics, especially poor governance management.
Therefore, I think both economic and political situations are vital for reducing poverty. Good governance is helpful for increasing economic development and improving national living standards. In addition, good economic development allows the government to make policies that enhance current development and help the poor.
Eliminating Extreme Poverty
As I mentioned before, wages and living standers have been greatly improved in countries that were industrializing such as the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and the United States since the 1850s. Although people are worried about the widening inequality within and between countries, I am still optimistic about eliminating extreme poverty at a global scale. In order to achieve that goal, many things can be done. Firstly, it is important to analyze the reasons lead to extreme poverty on an area basis. According to Sachs, there are two main regions of the world still trap themselves into extreme poverty. One is sub-Saharan Africa and the other is South Asia.
One of the key obstacles for Africas agricultural yield rate is soil-nutrient depletion. Farmers in Africa are so poor that they cannot afford the spending on nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous, which leads to the failure of fully-grown crops. In addition, good water management system and irrigation are important for high yield rate. Thus, the Africa government should start programs that enable every farmer to get what they need. In addition, Sachs mentions the necessity of a major buildup of infrastructures such as roads, rail, power, and communication networks. Moreover, the lack of electricity and information technology leads to low productivity as well. The Africas government should increase the cover area of electricity and import information technology. Because of the high-speed development of information technology and strong business competition, the costs are falling a lot so far. The Africa government could make it happen through borrowing money from the World Bank or making deals with other rich countries.
Sachs believes that one of the most important aspects that distinguish the poverty problem in South Asia from other areas is the significant population. Thus, the main problem for South Asia is food supply. Although the yield rate was increased a lot through the green revolution and the Evergreen Revolution, the population was growing at a higher speed. Thus, the control population is important for South Asia. It is possible to delay the age that women give birth to children by heightening womens status and making women get higher education. In addition, the chronic undernutrition of children, which threatens their survival, health, and capacity to learn, is the obstacle for reducing poverty as well. Children in South Asia need better diets, disease control, and provision of safe water and sanitation. Thus, what South Asia could do is accept medical assistance from the world, try to make the breakthrough in another Green Revolution, attract and focus on investment in infrastructure, water, and sanitation, health care, women empowerment, and education. South Asia, especially, India should keep its advantages in information technology in order to accumulate wealth to solve poverty problems at the same time.
I believe with effective leadership, good governance, and helpful aids from all over the world, extreme poverty could be eliminated within reach.
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