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Tackling poverty through effective labour market approach

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In a world that is witnessing an unprecedented level of technological breakthroughs to drive development, that millions of persons are still living in extreme poverty should be a moral outrage.

Indeed, dangerous work conditions, unsafe housing, lack of nutritious food, unequal access to justice, lack of political will and limited access to healthcare and many other interrelated and mutually reinforcing deprivations prevent persons living in extreme poverty from realising their goals and perpetuate their unwanted situation.

However, poverty is not solely an economic issue, but rather a multidimensional phenomenon that encompasses a lack of both income and the basic capabilities to live in dignity.

October 17 marked the recognition by the United Nations (UN) of the day as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Themed, “Acting Together to Empower Children, their Families and Communities to End Poverty,” experts said the most reliable way of escaping poverty is through gainful employment, as access to both job and decent work conditions remains a challenge.

Research shows that 66 per cent of employed people in developing economies, and 22 per cent in emerging economies is in either extreme or moderate working poverty, and the problem becomes even more striking when the dependents of these “working poor” are considered.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates suggest that nearly $10 trillion is needed to eradicate extreme and moderate poverty by 2030. However, income transfers alone cannot realistically achieve this. The solution requires more than simply the availability of resources.

ILO Regional Director for Africa, Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, said it is not just unemployment or inactivity that traps people in poverty, but they are also held back by a lack of decent work opportunities, including underemployment or informal employment.

She advised that appropriate labour market policies could play an important role in the fight to eradicate poverty, by increasing access to job opportunities and improving the quality of work conditions.

Samuel-Olonjuwon noted in particular policies that combine income support for jobless people with Active Labour Market Policies (ALMPs).

This policy combination, according to her, is particularly relevant today, when global forces such as international trade, technological progress, demographic shifts and environmental transformations are reshaping the world of work.

She said the effects of these policies on poverty eradication cannot be overestimated. By tackling unemployment, underemployment and informality, policies combining income support with market policies can directly affect some of the roots of poverty, while enhancing the working conditions and labour market opportunities for millions of women and men in emerging and developing countries.

Already, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, had argued that one of the keys to ending child poverty is addressing poverty in the household, from which it often stems, noting that access to quality social services must be a priority.

He said: “The day presents an opportunity to acknowledge the effort and struggle of people living in poverty, a chance for them to make their concerns heard, and a moment to recognise that poor people are the first ones to fight against poverty.”

While the target for the ILO to end poverty globally by 2030 through social development goals (SGDs), it is estimated that by 2030, the percentage of Nigeria’s population living in extreme poverty will increase from 44.2% to 45.5%, representing a total of some 120 million people living under $1.90 per day.

Despite this grim reality, there have been very little (if any) results to what the government is doing to tackle the poverty problem in Nigeria, with its different economic and social intervention programmes. The poor are getting poorer and the very few that escape extreme poverty easily fall back into it due to varying issues from food insecurity to poor healthcare services.

Experts warned that there should be continuous investment in finding a long-lasting and permanent solution to poverty. Social amenities should be provided to improve the quality of lives of the people.

Beyond the domain of poverty alleviation, the report on Nigeria’s poverty index said Nigeria’s changing demographics – and the associated implications for employment and public finances – will increasingly require attention from policymakers.

“With average population growth of approximately 2.34% per annum, we estimate that by 2030, Nigeria’s population will grow to some 263 million people, 150 million of which will be below the age of 25.

“Moreover, if current economic trends persist, we forecast that between 2018 and 2030 real GDP growth (2.15% per annum) will be unable to keep up with population growth, resulting in average annual growth of GDP per capita of less than zero.

“These trends may have consequences for particular cohorts of the population, such as Nigerian youth (under 25) who, according to our projections, could see their mean disposable income decreased by approximately 9% between 2018 and 2030,” the report said.

Recently, the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, had warned that Nigeria might remain the poverty capital of the world till 2050, and even beyond, as current projections showed that Africa would be home to 80 per cent of the world’s poorest people.

He said: “That is not the frightening thing. One half of this 80 per cent will be in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Two countries will account for 40 per cent of all the poor people in the world, and Nigeria will, therefore, remain the poverty capital of the world.”

He noted that Nigeria has produced many great people, saying: “This is a country that has boasted of the best professors, greatest intellectuals, and the most educated people.

“In 1960, the per capital income in Nigeria was higher than what it was in South Korea and China. Today, China has more than 300 million university graduates, more than the entire population of the United States of America. Yet, China did not have direct foreign investments; in fact, China stopped it.

“So, for all Nigerians, who care about this country, the real task before us is to know that we have 30 years on the outside in which we need to make sure that we do not become the poverty capital of the world and slum of the world.”

Similarly, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), said the increased level of poverty among Nigerians has continued to be a huge source of concern to the organisation.

NECA noted that the government’s interventions are still insufficient to rid Nigeria of the poverty blight as indicated by the Poverty Index.

The employers’ body said government at all levels can do a lot more to sustain the reduction of the ravaging poverty scourge by paying attention to the development of the critical Human Development Index (HDI) report by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which indicates a country’s quality of life.

It urged the government to prioritise the creation of an enabling environment for large, medium, and small enterprises to thrive.

According to NECA, to complement the Federal Government’s efforts at tackling poverty, “we encourage state governments to initiate prototype programmes to these schemes at their level to the very poor and the vulnerable citizens.”

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Poverty (DESA), said the commemoration of October 17 each year, demonstrates how nations can achieve greater participation by enabling people from all walks of life to come together to respect the human rights and dignity of people living in poverty.

The participation of children and young people has always been encouraged and supported as an integral part of the October 17 observances at the United Nations and around the world. This recognises the important roles children can play by sharing and applying the valuable knowledge they have acquired from their personal daily struggle to overcome poverty.

DESA added: “As we know, poverty has many faces; it changes from place to place. For some, poverty is hunger, lack of shelter, being sick or not having enough money, etc. Basically, poverty is a state or condition in which a person lacks financial resources and not able to fulfil basic needs.

“Poverty-stricken people and families live without a home, clean water, healthy food, and medical attention. Therefore, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty highlights the problems faced by the poverty-stricken people or families, and work towards eradicating poverty globally in all its forms.”


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