The United Nation’s “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” crystalizes a total of seventeen missions which are key to protecting the development gains of globalization. As a youth, ending poverty in all its forms everywhere, is essential to the so-called sustainable development because it will determine the future of the youth.
To youth, poverty not only has economic effects that might bring incalculable harm but social effects are of a very serious nature. According to the UNDP’s statistics, one out of five children live in extreme poverty. Over 265 million children are currently out of school and 22 per cent of them are of primary school age. Around 617 million youth worldwide lack basic mathematics and literacy skills. Due to poverty, a generation is falling behind.
Poverty and inequality are inseparable. Above all, the large disparities regarding access to education and other essential services make the challenges of self-improvement much more difficult to address. A prime example of this is currently more than half of manufacturing workers in the United States require college education compared to just over 20% in 1969. As a result of the move towards the digital economy, by 2020 about 47% of total U.S. employment will be at risk. However, the American workers are finding it unaffordable to take trainings or skill improvements. What is worse is their children will not be dependent upon the financial means of parents to have a college education.
Combating poverty to ensure social protection
There are two main areas which will need to be considered by policymakers for combating poverty to ensure social protection for all children. The first is the rising polarization in the context of a sharp rise in GDP. Take the two largest world economies, the U.S. and China as an example. According to the United Nations, with regard to the bottom 40% in national income share, the U.S. was 13% and China was 19.3% in 1980. These numbers reduced to 7.7% in the U.S. and to 9.5% in China in 2014. However, the GDP of the U.S. increased from approximately $3 trillion in the 1980s to $21.4 trillion by the end of 2019.
Likewise, China’s great leap forward in economic growth has wowed the world as well. The economic growth is strong but inequality has continued. The numbers and extent of inequality is a lot worse in developing and low-income countries. If policymakers cannot leverage their expertise, the youth will no longer trust the possibility of progress and therefore, the development gains made by human race over the last few decades under the impetus of globalization will not only lead to social problems but will not be sustainable anymore.
The second is the importance policymakers attach to this task in their political and economic agenda. There is a marked difference in this prioritization between various countries with some politicians caring tremendously for lifting the forgotten communities out of low-income categories and some focusing primarily on personal, political and economic gains. Canada, for example, has issued a package of policies to help provide all-out support for the citizens in need. This includes child benefits, an increase in guaranteed income supplement, and national housing strategy which will lead to benefits of C$400 billion over ten years.
Prior to the onset of COVID-19, youth(aged 15 to 24) were already three times more likely to be unemployed compared to adults, while 126 million young workers were extreme and moderate poverty worldwide. #KunaMatata
— Conc Jay 🇰🇪 (@ConcJay) May 22, 2020
Disparity in youths’ ambitions: Developed vs Developing
Developing countries have shown strong intent to end poverty. In 2012 when Xi Jinping was elected the general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, the vision of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020 was officially announced. It meant by 2020 China’s GDP per capita shall exceed $3,000 and the net income per household in rural China shall amount to approximately $1,200 which can provide them with necessities needed for basic comfort based on purchasing power in China. To battle poverty, Pakistan has issued a series of policies which cover a wide range of social aspects from labor market, development policy, rural development, land reforms, and regional and international cooperation.
How significant is the impact on the youth and how is that impact actually going to come into effect? The economic disparity can be judged from the feedback to a question which was part of the survey I conducted for a project for Model United Nations in 2020. In response to the question “what is the first word that occurs to your mind when you think of the future”, children who live in the First World always used words full of optimism such as “curiosity”, “dream”, “hope”, and “happiness”, while many out of those in the developing countries left the response blank. Perhaps, in poverty, it is unlikely for them to even dream of a bright future.
Technology consuming jobs of the ‘unskilled’
Some critics argue that God only helps those who help themselves. However, there is ample ground to believe that without the support of the governments it is almost impossible for the vulnerable groups, in particular the vulnerable youth, to change their destiny singlehandedly. In my interview with Paul Orajiaka, a “Warri boy” who made $10 million creating toys in Nigeria, he shared his opinion about battling poverty by individuals in the modern world experiencing rapid and dramatic advances in technology.
Paul further said “advance technology and auto-mechanization of production is seriously putting low skilled workers out of jobs. These workers mainly consist of less educated and poor people around us. With such displacement resulting from advanced technology comes further hardships for the poor families. Governments are expected to make efforts to empower these people by creating entrepreneurship opportunities to cater to their daily needs and fend for their families.”
Youth are the engine for the world’s future and ending poverty is a pre-requisite for the youth to stay afloat. Only when the policymakers care enough for equality, justice and democracy and bring down poverty, the vulnerable groups of the youth shall have faith that hope is not yet lost.
HOU Ruolin is a senior high school student in Beijing, China. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.