Why Poverty in Rich Countries? Background and Solution

Poverty is on the decline in the world. However, one in ten people is extremely poor: 800 million people live on less than 1.90 dollars (approximately 1.50 euros) per day. Extract from our educational booklet Inequalities explained to young people , available to order.

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800 million poor

The fight against poverty is making progress. Because even if the population has increased a lot in the world, the number of poor people has decreased: it went from 1.9 billion in 1981 to 800 million in 2013. On the other hand, it increased in sub-Saharan Africa, from 210 million in 1981 to 390 million in 2013, when the population of this region increased from 400 million to 810 million inhabitants. The vast majority of the very poor live in developing countries, especially in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Where do the very poor live?
Unit: millions
Number of persons
Middle East and North Africa8
Eastern Europe and Central Asia10
Latin America and the Caribbean30
East Asia and the Pacific74
South Asia249
of which China alone125
Sub-Saharan Africa390
People living on less than € 1.50 per day.

Source: World Bank – 2018 data

Cities of cans

The slums are shacks built from recycled materials: old cut-out cans, sheets, cardboard, wooden planks, plastic sheeting. They are located on the outskirts of large cities, on vacant lots. In poor countries, slums often “shelter” the rural peasants who have abandoned their land, and the poorest populations.

One in five children is poor

One in five children in the world lives in poverty. The majority of these children live in poor countries and suffer, among other things, from malnutrition and many diseases. Around six million children worldwide die before reaching their fifth birthday each year. Two-thirds of these deaths are due to preventable illnesses: pneumonia and diarrhea, which are cured well in rich countries.

To be poor in a rich country?
In rich countries too, there are poor people, but this cannot be compared with the extreme poverty that prevails in some countries of the world. The poverty line is already not the same. In France, it is considered that poor people are those who live on less than 30 euros per day, against less than 1.50 euros in poor countries. Living conditions are not at all the same either: almost everyone has access to drinking water in rich countries. But we are considered poor compared to people who live in the same country as his, compared to the wealth of this country.

Why so many poor?

  • The population is growing too fast . Currently, we are about 7.5 billion people on earth and the population is growing while the wealth is already lacking.
  • Looted resources . Some countries have failed to take off from an economic point of view. Some were looted by rich countries during colonization. Sometimes large Western companies exploit the wealth and redistribute only crumbs to poor countries.
  • Selfish leaders? Many of the poor countries affected by poverty have been or still are ruled by dictators, unscrupulous people, who have mainly thought about their personal interests and filling their own bank accounts.
  • Large gaps between rich and poor. Poor countries suffer from immense inequalities between the wealthy categories, as rich as in developed countries, and the poor who live in misery.
  • Wars that wreak havoc. Wars destroy factories, roads, schools, fields, and at the same time have resulted in heavy and unnecessary expenditure for the economies of these countries.

What solutions?

First, those who lead poor countries should prioritize the fate of their people. In particular through a better sharing of wealth. Some of these countries often have enormous resources (oil, diamonds, tourism, etc.) which benefit only the richest inhabitants, but also the Western powers which make these riches their trade. Then we, the people of rich countries, need to do more to help those who need it most. Provided that this aid is well distributed and used.

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