Poverty alleviation, or poverty reduction, is a set of measures, both economic and humanitarian, that are intended to permanently lift people out of poverty.
The world is not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals target of less than 3% of the world living in extreme poverty by 2030. The share of the world population living in extreme poverty declined to 10% in 2015, from 16% in 2010 and 36% in 1990. However, the rate of poverty reduction is decelerating, with 8.6% in 2018. Moreover, baseline projections suggest that 6% of the world population will still be living in extreme poverty in 2030, missing the target of ending poverty. The situation remains particularly alarming in sub-Saharan Africa, where the share of working poor stood at 38% in 2018.
The incidence of multidimensional poverty in India almost halved between 2005–06 and 2015–16, decreasing from 54.7% to 37.5%. Since November 2017, the World Bank is reporting poverty rates for all countries using two new poverty lines: a "lower-middle-income" line set at $3.20/day and an "upper-middle-income" line set at $5.50/day. These are in addition to the earlier poverty line of $1.90/day. Using the $3.20/day poverty line, the percentage of the population living in poverty in India (2011) was 60%. This means that 763 million people in India were living below this poverty line in 2011.
Poverty entails more than the lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making. The World Social Summit identified poverty eradication as an ethical, social, political, and economic imperative of mankind.
Social protection systems help prevent and reduce poverty and provide a safety net for the vulnerable. However, in 2016, 55 percent – as many as 4 billion people – were not covered by any social protection cash benefits. Only 22 percent of unemployed persons receive unemployment cash benefits, and only 28 percent of persons with severe disabilities receive disability cash benefits.
Economic growth has the indirect potential to alleviate poverty, as a result of simultaneous increases in employment opportunities and labour productivity. Making employment opportunities available is just as important as increasing income and access to basic needs. Increase capital (factors that increase productivity), both human and physical, and technology for economic growth. Good infrastructure, such as roads and information networks, helps market reforms to work.
Mobile banking can address the problem of the heavy regulation and costly maintenance of saving accounts. However, mobile phones have only a limited effect on poverty reduction when not accompanied by other basic infrastructure development.
Raising farm incomes is described as the core of the antipoverty effort as three-quarters of the poor today are farmers. Studies show that growth in the agricultural productivity of small farmers is at least twice as effective in benefiting the poorest half of a country's population as growth generated in nonagricultural sectors. Improving water management is an effective way to help reduce poverty among farmers. With better water management, they can improve productivity and potentially move beyond subsistence-level farming.
Welfare states have an effect on poverty reduction by ensuring economic opportunity, independence, and security in a near-universal manner. Studies show that NGO money is better spent and more sustainable if it could be spent on teaching citizens of the developing countries health education, basic sanitation, and providing adequate access to prevention methods and medical infrastructure.
One way to help poor countries is debt relief. Given that many less developed countries have an extensive debt to rich countries, and given that the interest payments on them often exceed the yearly profits from exports of those, canceling these debts, at least in part, could allow these poor nations "to get out of the hole".
Universal public education has some role in preparing youth for basic academic skills and perhaps many trade skills, as well. If minimum agricultural skills are combined with modest amounts of cash and land in a temperate climate, the farmers can go from subsistence to modest wealth. Education for women will lead to reduced family size—an important poverty reduction measure in its own right.
One of the most popular tools for economic development and poverty reduction are microloans made famous by the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh. The idea is to loan small amounts of money to farmers so that these people can purchase the things they need to increase their productivity and thereby income.
Research shows that a correlation exists between greater gender equality and greater poverty reduction and economic growth, suggesting that promoting gender equality through the empowerment of women is a qualitatively significant poverty reduction strategy.
Efficient institutions that are not corrupt and obey the rule of law make and enforce good laws that provide security to property and businesses. Data from 150 nations have shown several measures of good governance (such as accountability, effectiveness, rule of law, low corruption) to be related to higher rates of economic development.
Another approach that has been proposed for alleviating poverty is Fair Trade which advocates the payment of an above market price as well as social and environmental standards in areas related to the production of goods.
Some have argued for radical economic change in the system. Such proposals have been put forward by both left-wing and right-wing groups: socialism, communism, anarchism, libertarianism, binary economics, and participatory economics, among others.
Disasters are a major cause of impoverishment and can derail any progress made towards poverty reduction. Hence, poverty reduction strategies should be better integrated and coordinated with climate change adaptation.
Most of the poverty alleviation programs in India are designed to target rural poverty as the prevalence of poverty is high in rural areas. Some of these programs are:
Jawahar Gram Samridhi Yojana – Started on 1 April 1999, its main aim was the development of rural areas. The main goals were the development of infrastructure like roads for better accessibility of the village, hospitals, and also other social and educational (schools) goals. Its secondary objective was to give sustained wage employment to BPL families.
National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS) – Coming into effect on 15 August 1995, this scheme provides pension to all old people who are above the age of 60 who could not fend for themselves and did not have any means of subsistence. The pension was ₹200 a month to begin with (now it is ₹2000 a month). This pension is given by the central government.
National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS) – Started in August 1995, this scheme provides a sum of ₹20,000 to a person of a family who becomes the head of the family after the death of its primary breadwinner.
National Maternity Benefit Scheme – This scheme provides a sum of ₹6000 to a pregnant mother in three installments. The women should have age to be older than 19 years of age. It is for families below the poverty line.
Annapurna – Started in 1999–2000, this scheme provides food to senior citizens who cannot take care of themselves and are not under the National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS), and who have no one to take care of them in their village. It provides 10 kg of free food grains a month for the eligible senior citizens.
Integrated Rural Development Program (IRDP) – first introduced in 1978–79, the major objective of IRDP is to raise families of identified target groups below the poverty line by the creation of sustainable opportunities for self-employment in the rural sector. Assistance is given in the form of subsidy by the government and term credit advanced by financial institutions (commercial banks, cooperatives, and regional rural banks). The target group under IRDP consists of small and marginal farmers, agricultural labourers, and rural artisans having annual income below ₹11,000 defined as the poverty line in the Eighth Plan.
Pragathi believes that nothing short of an integrated development works in relieving poverty. With this philosophy in mind, we are working towards alleviating poverty by a multi-pronged effort in the areas of education, women empowerment, income-generation opportunities, enhancing employability of youth, preventive health care, and community involvement. To know more about our efforts and achievements in this direction, take a look at www.globalpragathi.com