What is the real definition of poverty


Slum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (& copy picture alliance / Hady Khandani / JOKER)

What does poverty mean?

Poverty means that people do not have enough to live a decent life. They don't have enough food, not enough clothes, they don't have the money to get enough food. Around 3.4 billion people worldwide live below the poverty line, 767 million people even in extreme poverty, including around 385 million children. We have our own article on the subject of child poverty here in the lexicon.

Reasons for poverty

There are many causes of poverty in the world. Many people live in countries where they cannot find work that gives them enough money to live on. Many people cannot go to school and have no education. Women often have more children than they want because contraceptives are not available to them. That can exacerbate poverty. In many countries around the world, living conditions are very difficult. Natural disasters such as floods or long periods of drought often lead to poor harvests or make agricultural cultivation completely impossible. Climate change is exacerbating this situation. In many countries there is a lack of raw materials to build an industry that could create jobs. Wars or exploitation by their own governments also plunge people into misery. A distinction is often made between absolute poverty and relative poverty. What do you mean with that?

Absolute poverty

This is what one speaks of when someone does not even have the bare essentials to survive. This is the case when someone does not have enough to eat or clean drinking water. Or when people have to live on the street because they don't have an apartment. Those who are sick cannot pay for the medicine or the doctor. In many developing countries, people suffer from absolute poverty. Often children cannot go to school there

Relative poverty

Even in rich countries, many people live in poverty. They then own a lot less than other people in their country. ("Relative" means "compared to others".) People cannot buy as good food as other people or simply buy new clothes. You don't have enough money to go to the movies every now and then or buy gifts for birthdays. Children often lack the support they need to achieve good results in school.

Source: Gerd Schneider / Christiane Toyka-Seid: The young politics encyclopedia from www.hanisauland.de, Bonn: Federal Agency for Civic Education 2021.