Saturday, December 16, 2006

Il y (en) a partout...

The debate on 'what is poverty?' is a hot but not a new one: economists, proponents of defining poverty with mathematical formulas and anthropologists with an insistence on cultural variance have been crafting successful and less-than-successful definitions of poverty for years now. Regardless of how poverty ends up being defined, instances of poverty or, of what resembles to poverty, abound in rich and poor counties, in big and small cities, in urban and rural settings.

Because poverty is such a big challenge for countries and the world, efforts from governments and international organizations concentrate on perfecting existing approaches to dealing with poverty; to that end in a statement released a few days ago, the World Bank announced that is expected that globalization reduces world poverty. Meanwhile and regardless of whether on adheres to this line of thought or not, it is important to get to know the 'enemy' well: how are we expected to win the battle ignoring the 'strengths' of our opponent, ignoring its many faces?

French daily "Le Monde" published a very interesting article titled "Nous, les travailleurs pauvres" ("We, the poor workers") on the subject matter of poverty and one of its nasty faces, urban poverty. Claire Guélaud narrates the personal stories of individuals that are poor (or near the dividing line- pending which definition of poverty you take). Yet it is not the story of homeless or unemployed people: it is the story of individuals that work but barely (if ever) make the ends. It is the story of people whose receipt of financial aid is contingent upon how much or how little work they found this month, as most of them are part time workers. It is the story of people that experience the frustration of unpredictability and the anxiety of seeing the electricity bill rise, even if such a rise amounts to a coin or two worth of euros.

Regardless of the category in which such individuals fit in, particularly since it may change by the day, the article raises important questions about economics, society, social responsibility and education. It even brings up the question of the ability to control one's life and future, most evident in the case of Mr. Lewille who dreads the day that Social Security will take his little child on account that he is not able to raise a family.

San Jacinto and parts of urban France like Roubaix (Nord) may differ substantially in just about everything; and yet if there is a commonality to be found then that would be that they both have people that suffer; people that work a lot and gain little.

Next to the damage it causes on people's lives, poverty's defining characteristic is its ability to conceal itself: behind statistics, behind nice clothes even behind a big smile. That all makes poverty no less an enemy to people: it only makes harder to fight.


World Bank Statement: Global Economic Prospects 2007: Managing the Next Wave of Globalization

article in Le Monde: Nous, les travailleurs pauvres

1 comment:

Pixie said...

This is a very beautiful article Anastasia.I like the different facets of poverty that you have presented in your last articles.Urban poverty is something that its more and more evident around as.The salaries are stable but the expenses are increasing and we get every day poorer.There is also the disguise of poverty you are right as people might appear to get by but we do not know what happens behind their closed doors.It is really our story of how difficult it is for an individual to become independent financially and the stressors of the every day expenses that pressure us.

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