There exists the impossibility of attaining a minimal level of personal development due to a lack of capacities, opportunities and real possibilities. At work are political, economic, anthropological, historical, cultural and ethical factors. The inequality is absurd. It is probable that in 2016 the richest 1% of the world will control more than half of the globe’s wealth.
Poverty is a complex social phenomenon with worldwide scope, carrying multiple meanings, implications and consequences, and becoming increasingly widespread in European industrialised countries such as Italy.
Scholars establish different classifications to identify and measure poverty, although none are completely reliable, due to the margin of subjectivity in their designs and applications.
However, there are three categories that are the most highly used in reports and analyses of public interest: absolute, relative and extreme.
Absolute poverty, according to the definition adopted by the UN during the World Summit of Social Development in 1995 in Copenhagen, is a condition characterised by a severe lack of basic human needs, including nutrition, drinkable water, sanitary installations, health, housing, education and information. It depends not only on income, but also on accessibility to social services.
Relative poverty, on the other hand, refers to the absence of resources needed to access the average levels of goods, services and commodities that are within reach of other people living in the same environment.
Thus, in its extreme form it is connected to the dissatisfaction of the basic requirements for survival, always within historically determined social contexts. In terms of temporal continuity, poverty can be temporary or chronic and, as a social phenomenon, it can exist on an individual, family, grouped, regional and national level.
Temporary poverty can be caused by disasters provoked by natural phenomena, economic crises, armed conflicts and environmental transformations resulting from climate change, amongst others.
The most recent definition is one framed within the concept of human development, used by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and based on the ideas of Amartya Sen, Nobel prize in Economics 1998.
From this perspective, the central focus moves away from a lack of the resources needed to acquire certain goods and services as causing impoverishment, towards the impossibility of achieving a minimal level of personal development resulting from a lack of capacities, opportunities and real possibilities.
Within poverty, political, economic, anthropological, historic, cultural and ethical factors intervene and interact in dynamic ways, like parts of a whole, their outlines clearly marked by the stratification of their societies. Its principal cause is a shortage of resources needed to access particular goods and services, triggered by the unequal distribution of wealth and its polarization- a directly proportional relation existing between the two.
This unequal distribution of wealth, which in some countries and regions of the world reaches alarming levels, results from the capitalist model of development, which is based on the intensive exploitation of manual labour and natural resources, with the intention of optimising utilities, and enrichment of the owners of capital.
According to the information provided by the UNDP in their Annual Report on Human Development concerning 2015, ‘approximately 80% of the world’s population only possess six percent of the world’s wealth’ and it is probable that in 2016 the richest 1% will control more than half of the world’s wealth.
The polarization of wealth generates social exclusion, hunger, poor health, malnutrition, illnesses, illiteracy, falling attendance at school and psychological disorders, whilst also creating favourable circumstances for the development of drug addiction, prostitution and different forms of criminal activity.
In accordance with the UNDP, 709 million inhabitants of the Planet suffer chronic hunger; 11 children under the age of five die every minute and 33 mothers every hour; 660 million use undrinkable water sources; 2,400 million use inadequate sanitary installations, and almost 1,000 million are forced to defecate in the open.
In the same way, illiteracy affects 780 million people, and amongst them 100 million are between the ages of 15 and 24. This calamitous situation also affects developed countries, in which 160 million are functionally illiterate.
Regarding Italy, the National Institute for Statistics (Istat) concluded that in 2015, 1,582,000 families and 4,598,000 people were living in conditions of absolute poverty, the highest figure since 2005.
Relative poverty, according to the same source, affects 2,678,000 families, equivalent to 10.4 % of the entire population and 8,307,000 people (13.7 % of the population). Of these, 4,134,000 are women, 2,110,000 are minors and 1,146,000 are elderly persons. The levels of poverty reached in Italy do not constitute an exclusive phenomenon in the Old Continent.
According to the European Agency for Statistics (Eurostat), at the end of 2015, 118,760,000 people, 23.7% of the population, found themselves at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Amongst these, 17,470,000 resided in Italy, amounting to 28.7% of its population.
Below Italy are Cyprus (28.9), Lithuania (29.3), Latvia (30.9), Greece (35.7), Romania (37.3) and Bulgaria (41.3), countries in which poverty is also knocking at the door. (PL)
Photos: Pixabay – (Translated by Natalia Davies Hidalgo)