The Cheat Sheet

Decent work and the end of poverty

JINOY JOSE P | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on June 01, 2016

Labour   -  Reuters

What’s the link?

Quite elementary. The key to eradicating poverty lies in enhancing decent work across the globe.

Says who?

The International Labour Organization, in its latest World Employment Social Outlook report. It has some crucial findings for agencies working towards poverty eradication. Even though nearly $10 trillion is what the world needs to eradicate extreme and moderate poverty by 2030, it all zeroes down to promoting quality jobs.

But I thought poverty rates were already coming down...

ILO says poverty has fallen significantly over the past two decades. Today, only about 2 billion people live on less than $3.10 (about ₹200) a day. Granted, that’s 36 per cent of the global population. But this is nearly half the rate in 1990, when countries committed to reducing poverty. ILO says extreme poverty also fell during this period. Which means, the number of people living on less than, say, ₹125 a day fell faster to hit 15 per cent of the population in emerging and developing countries in 2012, the latest available year.

That’s impressive.

Not quite.

Why and how?

Income inequality increased many times during this period. Wealth concentration went north. In January, an Oxfam study found the 62 richest people in the world are worth $1.7 trillion, equal to the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population — 3.5 billion people. The number of jobs may have gone up thanks to new and emerging sectors, but that has only contributed to the number of working poor in the world.

You mean not many good jobs around?

Right! Nor new jobs. Journalist Derek Thompson recently noted in The Atlantic that nine out of 10 workers are doing jobs that existed 100 years ago; just 5 per cent of the jobs generated between 1993 and 2013 came from ‘high tech’ sectors such as computing, software, and telecommunications.

Oh, you just pricked a bubble!

The rise in income inequality and the alarming absence of quality jobs have made matters difficult for the poor. Developed countries have shown an increase in poverty numbers. So, whatever progress we’ve made so far has been uneven. While China and most of Latin America made progress in poverty reduction, the numbers remain “stubbornly high” in Africa and parts of Asia. Even in Europe, observes ILO, poverty is increasing. In 2012, over 300 million people in developed countries were living in poverty. And of course, such situations affect women and children the most.

Yeah, they’re the worst casualty.

In emerging and developing countries, more than half of all children below 15 live in extreme or moderate poverty, notes ILO. Even in developed countries, 36 per cent of all children live below the relative poverty line. Which means all our gains may be undone pretty soon given the way climatic, economic and social conditions are changing, creating refugees and a huge debt-ridden populace. Neither philanthropy nor corporate ventures can address such a mammoth challenge. A big slice of those who moved out of poverty still live on just a few dollars per day, without access to essential services and social protection. And there’s no reason to think this will change anytime soon.

So, what’s to be done?

Create more and more quality jobs. This will make sure the poor don’t completely miss out on the technological revolution. Already, although they represent 30 per cent of the world’s population, the poor receive less than 2 per cent of the world’s income. This must change. Policymakers must focus on skill development and job security.

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Published on June 01, 2016
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