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Nature of Poverty Essay

The nature of poverty can be described in many ways. The obvious way to explain poverty is the lack of income. However, in the deeper meaning, poverty also includes those who lack of security, healthcare, power, and other basic necessities. Poverty can be categorised in terms of absolute poverty and relative poverty. Absolute poverty is household based measure by income per year under a statistic developed by government which will aid those who are poor by giving them money depending on the number of members in the family on a yearly basis. While, relative poverty focus on people’s living with no statistic. For instance, if a family has 10 members but they have only 3 cars, they can be regarded as poor. Nevertheless, there are three common methods that use to measure the level of poverty. The first method defines poverty as a lack of income, which can be measured by World Bank. The absolute poverty for this case is a cut up point above or below the certain amount of income.

Yet, this method has a major drawback. Since it focuses solely on income and ignoring other important factors such as social well-being or the general welfare of people, this method fails to provide the whole aspect of poverty. Secondly, UNDP measures poverty in terms of the lack of capability. It is known as Human Poverty Index that indicates the standard of living of the people in the country, which are life expectancy, life satisfaction, and footprint. This method provide not only deeper but also broader ways of measuring and assessing poverty. It looks pass the income factor and takes into consideration the non-monetary aspects, which generate the more well-rounded information and results. However, there are some critics that this method cannot truly measure the level of the poor since statistics and numerals are unable to measure people’s feelings. It is said that we cannot know how others feel unless we walk in their shoes, therefore, in order to get the accurate result, living with the poor is required. Lastly, poverty as a social exclusion is mentioned by Robert Chambers about the nature of poverty.

Chambers introduces the bottom-up theory, which suggests that people should actually work with the rural poor who lack of power to speak out, security, and live with fears. Therefore, the approach is carried out to get an in depth understanding of what are the real meanings of poverty by associating directly with the poor. By this view, Chambers tends to provide qualitative method while other methods are quantitative based. Although this method provides useful information of the poor, there are few flaws to be considered. Because the outcome is mainly based on qualitative methods such as verbal communication, there is a high tendency that the outcome will be bias. Moreover, snapshot may occur. For example, the interview conducted during the harvest season might get a better result than the actual reality.

Therefore, the long-term picture should be taking into account in order for the outcome to be more anthological and longitudinal. Another problem is that people may not be honest, which is called courtesy bias. This way people will only answer what the researchers want to hear and leave the truth out. Thus, sometimes researchers may ask them to draw the picture of their life, which turns out to be a better way to get the real answer. Chambers talks more about vulnerability and isolation of people. For example, the poor cannot transport to sell the goods. In conclusion, there are several ways to measure the level of poverty.

Three most common methods are the lack of income, HPI by UNDP (lack of capability) and social exclusion by Robert Chambers. Each method uses different viable and factors to indicate the level of poverty, all have their own advantages and criticisms. Therefore, each one is suitable and appropriate in different situations and purposes. However, in my opinion, even though, the lack of income method might be easier to measure and assess, the social exclusion theory by Robert Chambers could provide the real well-being of people since it includes the important of non-monetary factors that are crucial for the welfare of people.


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