European Development Cooperation and the Poor

By Aidan Cox; John Healey et al. | Go to book overview

Annex 1 Poverty: A Multi-dimensional Concept

(This review was prepared by Tony Killick and Roli Asthana)

1. Poverty is multi-dimensional.Material deprivation is at the core of poverty. This includes low income and consumption levels, leading to poor food and poor nutritional status; inadequate clothing and housing; and substandard access to health and schooling. It also includes low command over productive assets, material (land, equipment and other inputs) and human (education, training, health). Vulnerability and resultant insecurity are further characteristics, aggravated by inability to make provision against emergencies: vulnerability to droughts, floods and other natural disasters; to human disasters such as the death or illness of a bread-winner, as well as to war and civil disturbance; and to economic phenomena such as inflation or market collapses.

Poverty has important less material aspects too. Among the most important of these is dependency, for example arising from unequal relationships between landlord and tenant, creditor and debtor, employer and worker, man and woman. A further relational dimension is labelled as social exclusion, referring to inferior access to government services and other collective provisions; inferior access to the labour market, resulting in low mobility, low security of employment and particularly high incidence of unemployment; inferior opportunities for participation in social life and collective decisionmaking; lack of decision-making power. Hopelessness, alienation and passivity are thus common among those living in poverty. Finally, we should record the socially relative nature of poverty. People can be said to be poor when they are unable to attain the level of well-being regarded by society as constituting a reasonable minimum. Poverty

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