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Eureka: Different types of poverty
by Joseph Gatt
2018-10-08 06:40:39
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Poverty can affect individuals, families, societies or nations. Having studied poverty, I realized that most scholars did not differentiate the different types of poverty one can encounter. So in this article I will outline briefly what I consider to be the different types of poverty, in no particular order.

Financial poverty

Of course if you don't have money you can't acquire resources and have to survive on material and non-material donations. When scholars think in terms of poverty, a lot of times they think in terms of financial poverty, as if how much money one has affects their general level of poverty. Of course money plays an important role, but it is not the only factor when it comes to poverty. But when legislating on poverty, of course financial poverty is an important factor to look at.

pover01_400Resources and available resources poverty

You can have all the money in the world, but if you don't have agricultural, industrial, real estate, leisure or service resources, your money is pretty much useless. I recall a South Korean telling me that in the 1960s even if you had all the money in the world you had to queue to get your ration of rice mixed with barely, and that even if you had all the money in the world rice would be of modest quality at best. So some countries may be financially rich, but lack basic agricultural, industrial or service resources, as in hospitals, banks or schools.

Social poverty

What economists call “social capital” is the human network that can help you with your day to day activities. You need a group of cronies to help you get jobs, make orders from your business, or clients to serve your state, or a group of friends that can help you in good times or in times of hardship. Some social structures tend to be anti-social, or in some cases tribal or militarized, meaning that you can't befriend people in higher social structures. No powerful friends, no possibilities for advancement as they say. At the state level, if you neglect your relationships with powerful countries, you could end up isolated, or in social poverty. Even if you have all the money in the world, in social poverty, you could well lose your money, or have few opportunities to make more money.

Hereditary poverty

In some countries, your parents and family have direct influence on what job you can have and in social progress. When I check the Wikipedia entries for French intellectuals, business people or media personalities, about half the time they had a famous mother and a famous father or both, and in another 25% of the time they had a famous uncle or grandfather. The remaining 25% either went to elite schools or started off as interns at said company. In East Asia, the children of powerful people often serve as go-betweens between powerful people and people in the streets, which mean they often qualify to become powerful people themselves. Born to a poor family, you are likely to remain poor in some countries.

Knowledge and information poverty

You could have all the money in the world and all the social contacts in the world, if you're not smart, your richness will remain fragile. Knowledge and information is what keeps the world going, and the more knowledge and information you have, the more likely you are to go up the social ladder, the more likely you are to get out of poverty.

Know-how poverty

If you don't have marketable skills, soon enough you might run out of stuff to sell. At the social or national level, a society that has little know-how, that is few skills that can be put on the market, can soon be in trouble. Agricultural know-how, industrial know-how, services know-how is what can get nations out of poverty.

“Soft skills” poverty

If you come off as rude or uneducated, unrefined or socially awkward, you might lose whatever riches you had. Soft skills can help you further your financial and social networks.

Health poverty

If an individual is not healthy, all the money in the world will be useless. If a population lacks healthcare facilities and is prone to epidemics, making money will be complicated.

Technological poverty

Some technologies are a must in agriculture, in industry and in services, and in society in general. If you don't have said technologies, you are likely to stay behind economically.

Political poverty

I know of several countries that are very rich, but their political system is one that leaves a lot of people stuck in poverty. Lack of political know-how can leave rich countries stuck with a large number of poor individuals.

Environmental/hygienic poverty

This is linked with health poverty. If the environment is not clean, people won't want to visit, and you could be stuck in poverty.

Security/military poverty

You can have all the money in the world. If you have no one to defend you, people will either take your money, or your land, or both.

“Tokens”' poverty

In some societies tokens are important. You have people say “don't talk to me if you're not a Harvard graduate” or “don't talk to me if you're not a Waseda university graduate.” France has something I like to call “token collectors” that is people who get elected to every possible office, attend every possible prestigious university and preside every possible prestigious association. They accumulate tokens, but are nowhere to be seen in such organizations. In sum, if you don't have the token diploma, position, religion or social status, no one will talk to you; no one will buy your stuff.

Linguistic poverty

A lot of skills and social networks operate in English. French can save you in some cases; a few other languages have the information available on technology, financial opportunities, social opportunities and so on. Not speaking, reading, writing or understanding one of those languages can lead to lack of information and social isolation and poverty.

Foreign currency poverty

Most international transactions are done in foreign currency. Not having enough of that foreign currency can lead a society or country to be stuck with domestic products and fail to exchange with the rest of the world.

Image/public relations poverty

If you have the reputation of a pariah, you will have trouble selling products. Even when people do buy your products, they will tend to hide the product's origin.

Network poverty

The world and societies are a web of different networks. Not belonging to any network can lead to social isolation, thus poverty.

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