Many factors inform poverty. Globally poverty levels have increased since the lockdown of 2020. The global average is that 85% of the world lives on $30 per day, two-thirds on less than $10 per day and every tenth person lives on less than $1.90 per day. In India, two-thirds of its population lives in poverty, that is, 68.8%. More than half of the Indian people live on less than $2 a day, and over 30% on less than $1.25 a day. This is considered extreme poverty. The question to ask is, what are the root causes of poverty in India? This article looks at four societal problems that inform poverty in India.
Unemployment in India.
Unemployment in India is a severe problem. Jobs are diminishing, and the unemployment rate shot at 8% in December 2021. The youth between the ages of 15-23 were hardest hit by the trim of the workforce brought on by the pandemic. It was only partly responsible as active jobseeker numbers also fell. Indian women older than 15 were among the world’s lowest seeking jobs in 2020. Poor, rural Indian youth are the worst affected by unemployment. Almost three-quarters of the Indian workforce is in the informal economy, without social security benefits. The Indian workforces are vulnerable in their uncertain circumstances. Their earnings are below minimum wage.
Unemployment in India has been attributed to the slight growth in the manufacturing sector. Few manufacturing jobs can absorb a large number of non-technically skilled workers. The key is ensuring all workers have basic wages, social security, and access to jobs commensurate with their skills. The Indian government must focus on solutions based on a needs analysis of the nation’s people.
Lack of sanitation in India.
India does not have enough toilets. Millions of people in the country defecate and urinate in the open. This has led to the spreading diseases like cholera, typhoid, and COVID-19. The lack of sanitation and its poor state causes 126000 deaths a year. Unfortunately, India is the No. 1 country in the world for open defecation. According to 2017 statistics from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 344 million people are without regular access to toilets. Open defecation has historically been most prevalent among the poorest citizens in rural and urban areas. Poor sanitation hamstrings national development, and workers suffer from illnesses and live shorter lives. This affects community livelihoods and wellbeing. The ripple effect goes further and affects the ability to afford education for their children without any adults around to work and provide.
Inequality in India.
India has multidimensional inequalities. This refers to the intersectionalities and interrelationships between income, labour, education, health and household conditions to measure the state of deprivation. These variables are all interlinked to show the standard of living in a household. The Periodic Labour Force Survey in India for 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 reported that the Top 10% earn approximately equal to the bottom 64%. Income disparity influences India’s poverty so much that basic needs become luxuries. Gender-based inequities in India further widen the labour market that marginalises women employees. Critical interventions like creating new jobs and empowering the women’s labour force are urgently needed. This also requires a societal mindset change to no longer view women as the secondary “bread-earners”.
Lack of access to healthcare in India.
Healthcare in India is also unfortunately marred by inequality. Oxfam India’s “Inequality Report 2021: India’s Unequal Healthcare Story” reported that Hindus are better off than Muslims; the rich do better than the poor; men are better off than women, and the urban population fares better than the rural. Lack of access to healthcare disproportionately affects marginalised groups, compounded by socio-economic inequalities. This has also increased since the pandemic.
The National Health Profile (NHP) in 2017 stated there is only one government doctor for every 10,189 people and one state-run hospital for every 90,343 people.
India ranks 155 out of 167 countries on bed availability in hospitals. This means it has five beds and eight doctors per 10,000 of its population. Rural India is worse off. It accounts for 70 per cent of the country’s population but barely 40 per cent of the beds. The recommendation to help alleviate this challenge is implementing universal health coverage (UHC) supported by a robust public health sector. Marginalised communities cannot afford healthcare and are impoverished yearly due to healthcare expenditure.