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How Can We Combat Poverty?

Examining How Other Countries Have Taken Steps to End Poverty and What the UK Can Learn

Poverty is a highly relevant issue in the UK at the moment. With many facing hard times during this cost of living crisis, poverty is a threat to many families and individuals. With it becoming such a big threat here, it begs the question of how other countries have dealt with the issue of poverty. The United Nations included poverty on its lengthy list of Sustainable Development Goals, objectives that all member nations should aspire to achieve. It is one of many social, economic and environmental issues outlined by the UN and the aim is to have these either accomplished or significant progress to be made in these areas by 2030. With that time fast approaching and the UK being hit by a plethora of financial hardships, it may be wise to look at what other nations have done to address poverty and how we might follow their example.

In terms of global figures, poverty had actually been on a steady decline in the later 2010s, falling from 10.1% in 2015 to 8.2% in 2018, but major global shifts such as the COVID pandemic and the War in Ukraine have contributed majorly to inflation and the progress that was being made has been undone due to unforeseen circumstances. The number of workers and their families reaching a state of poverty drastically increased from 6.7% in 2019 to 7.2% in 2020, which translates to an additional 8 million people becoming impoverished. The UK has been hit by this directly and many families are now uncertain of their financial future. The question now is, what can we do to provide a stable future and what changes need to be made to get out of this current situation? I believe that examining how other countries have tackled the problem of poverty may yet provide the answer.

Create sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies, to support accelerated investment in poverty eradication actions - Goal 1.8 Targets, UN

How Have Other Countries Managed Poverty?

An example that has often been cited and examined when discussing other nations that effectively deal with poverty in their populations, is the Scandinavian nations. Within the Nordic countries, a high emphasis is placed on welfare and a high quality of life for all people ensuring that all have access to the services required like healthcare and a stable safety net. We do fulfil one of these in the NHS though due to our economy that is now under threat of privatisation which would only worsen the money issues we already are concerned with. While free health care is one part of this, other key areas can be identified. For example, as outlined by Borgen Magazine, the keys to Denmark’s success include high employment rates, workers' rights, low-income housing and ensuring low child poverty. Workers' rights are another key concern at the moment in the UK with strikes becoming a regular occurrence. Czechia is also counted among nations that have a low poverty rate with 8.6% in 2020 according to statistics from the World Bank. They have helped ensure this by reassessing the minimum wage annually and having it rise should the average wage in the nation as a whole rise. This could also greatly benefit the UK and help everyone find equal footing in terms of money. Students would especially benefit as they would most likely be working their first jobs on minimum wage whilst at university and would therefore receive aid in their living costs.

Poverty means not being able to heat your home, pay your rent, or buy the essentials for your children. It means waking up every day facing insecurity, uncertainty, and impossible decisions about money. It means facing marginalisation – and even discrimination – because of your financial circumstances. The constant stress it causes can overwhelm people, affecting them emotionally and depriving them of the chance to play a full part in society. - Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Other ways in which we could improve our poverty rates is by empowering people who are currently living in poverty to have a say in what the requirement should be to aid those who are caught in it and to assist in crafting solutions to aid themselves and their families living in these conditions. We all need to be involved in helping remove the barriers that are dividing us and ensuring equal opportunities and access are true to their word and accessible for everyone.

The Scandinavian attitude to poverty and welfare is intrinsically linked to their culture and working philosophy, in that not only is one’s work of value but the person themselves are valuable. While a lot of these suggestions are of course a lot easier said than done, I do think that is something we do need to take on board. That those in higher positions need to remember that people who are struggling are just that, people. They are not numbers on a screen or an obstacle to walk past in the street, they are real people with lives and families who need a more positive future with our help. Poverty can only truly be stopped if we all can help one another, helping does take practice but if everyone can contribute even just a little then we will all benefit from a happier, safer and more sustainable life.


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