DEFINITIONS OF POVERTY
As a concept it is incredibly difficult to settle on an all-encompassing definition of Poverty. Invariably the organisations seeking remedies for poverty approach debates from their own specific perspectives. With that in mind it is worthwhile examining some of the definitions offered in order to view the topic from a wider angle and through the cultural lenses of their authors.
On 7 September 2022, the Australian Senate referred an inquiry into the extent and nature of poverty in Australia to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report by 31 October 2023. The following organisations were among many making submissions to this Inquiry.
Overcoming Poverty through Education
The Smith Family have vision for a world where every child has the opportunity to change their future. They tackle poverty through education, saying, Our belief is that education is one of the most powerful change agents and our purpose is to overcome educational inequality caused by poverty.
Their Senate submission states, One in six Australian children and young people live in low-income households, where life’s basics are harder to come by, including food, secure accommodation and transport. In summary they say, for students living in poverty, their families’ access to financial resources, services, opportunities and networks of support and advice, in all areas of their lives, is more limited than for students living in more advantaged families. In turn, this impacts on every aspect of their lives, including the educational outcomes they achieve.
World Vision works in a range of different international cultures speaks of poverty in terms of levels:
Absolute poverty is akin to Extreme poverty or Abject poverty and is considered the most severe state of poverty. This level of poverty is not defined by money alone but also access to basic human needs, namely:
Safe drinking water
Access to information and services
Relative poverty considers social context. It is a more common issue in middle- and high-income countries where sectors of the population are still living through hardship compared to the average citizen.
Non-financial poverty relates to those who, due to global circumstances, may not be living in poverty in financial terms but still lack access to basic human needs, like clean water or education.
Secondary poverty is largely linked to those battling with addictions. They tend to earn enough money to afford the necessities, but spend much of their income on ‘non-necessities’ only to find themself with nothing when bills appear.
‘When a person’s resources (mainly their material resources) are not sufficient to meet their minimum needs (including social participation)’ (The Joseph Rowntree Foundation)
"Individuals, families and groups in the population can be said to be in poverty when they lack resources to obtain the type of diet, participate in the activities and have the living conditions and amenities which are customary, or at least widely encouraged and approved, in the societies in which they belong" Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).