Acting on Poverty and Inequality

There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river.
We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.

Desmond Tutu

In COVID-hit India, 23 crore people (230 Mn) people earn less than INR 375 (approx $5) per day.

Post COVID, India has seen a sharp jump in poverty, triggered by a record drop in income levels, jobs and widening wealth gap.

Of the decline in aggregate income, 90 per cent was due to reduction in earnings, while 10 per cent was due to loss of employment. This means that even though most workers were able to go back to work they had to settle for lower earnings.

The sheer loss of income left poorer families with no choice but to cut down on food intake or selling assets. They were also forced to borrow from friends, family and money lenders.

Image by sippakorn from Pixabay

He who opens a school door, closes a prison.

– Victor Hugo

Apart from immediate measures such as free rations and cash transfers for the vulnerable households, long term investment in health and education is one of the critical paths to reaching the goals of ending extreme poverty and supporting inclusive, sustainable economic growth and helping countries build resilience to crises and risks.

There is direct correlation between improved public healthcare and income growth in developing nations : The percentage of childhood stunting, where children younger than 5 years of age are below height for their age given factors such as chronic malnourishment and recurrent infections, stands at 38% for India. Research shows that these children develop lower cognitive ability during their first 1000 days of life; and when they become adults, they would be less able to compete in a more technology-driven economy.

When we think and plan about making things better, apart from what we can do as individuals and firms, a lot also boils down to how efficiently does our Government invest the public money into the required domains, including and especially education and healthcare.

In addition to giving under the mandates of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), where firms can lead the way in terms of practices and policies to have a positive influence on the world, we now also have initiatives for individuals where we can pledge away a portion of our wealth within our lifetimes or in our wills. Initiatives such as the Giving Pledge and Living My Promise closer in India are some ways to explore this.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.

Matthew 6 : 3

How we give is as much important as what we give.

If the intent is to encourage others to do the same, especially when spreading the idea to use one’s influence and wealth for good, the same can be done in a manner which does not make the one receiving feel less.

One of the better ways to help poor and currently unequal to improve their situations would be to empower them to be able to move up with education and healthcare, and policies which bring about long term well-being for all stakeholders in the respective nations in the world.