What Is Absolute Poverty & What Does It Look Like?

November 04, 2021

What Is Absolute Poverty & What Does It Look Like?

Think about your daily routine. Do you brush your teeth and wash your face? Do you take a shower using soap and clean water? Do you eat breakfast and grab coffee or tea on your way to work? Do you drive a car or use another means of transportation to get somewhere? Do you buy groceries, gas, and pay bills? 

While each of these things is an entirely different activity, they share one thing in common: they all require money. Even the simplest of tasks in your daily routine requires you to buy something. For example, if you want to brush your teeth, you need at least $2 for a toothbrush and toothpaste, assuming you get both from the Dollar Store and somehow avoid paying tax. 

But typically, spending this amount of money doesn’t make you bat an eye. However, what if you lived on $2 or less per day? Immediately, all of your money would be gone, meaning you could only afford to brush your teeth. Taking a shower with soap and clean water, eating breakfast, grabbing a cup of coffee or tea on your way to work, and doing whatever else you usually do is now outside of the question. 

You no longer live in a decent or semi-comfortable situation. Instead, you live in absolute poverty, a challenging and discouraging circumstance that millions of people worldwide are facing. 

What is absolute poverty? 

Painting a picture of absolute poverty makes it easier to understand, but it's still important to discuss the specific definition and the numbers around this situation. 

Simply put, absolute poverty is when a household or individual doesn't have the minimum amount of income needed to meet their basic needs. That means things like food, clean drinking water, shelter, healthcare, and education are all unaffordable and unattainable. And this is a reality for many people. 

Research indicates that more than 700 million individuals live in absolute poverty, which is 10 percent of the world's population. While this is a lot of people, most of them actually exist in one place. The UN suggests that a majority of individuals experiencing absolute poverty are in sub-Saharan Africa and only have less than $1.90 per day.

What's also important to keep in mind is that employment doesn't necessarily guarantee a decent living, meaning a job isn't the one and only way to solve this problem. In 2018, 8 percent of employed workers and their families lived in absolute poverty.

But it's the children who are disproportionately affected by this issue. The UN recently discovered that one out of five children are experiencing absolute poverty, which is a significant number of kids who don't have their basic needs met.  

What does absolute poverty look like?

Living in absolute poverty is all about survival. Every day is centered around meeting basic needs. And with absolute poverty, you try to meet those needs over a long period of time. This type of situation isn't something you overcome immediately.

Most people who live in absolute poverty are born into it and find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle. As a result, people typically spend a lifetime struggling to get essential items, including: 

  • Access to education 
  • Clean and safe water 
  • Food and nutrition 
  • Sanitized and adequate housing 
  • Proper clothing 
  • Basic medical care 

A great example of where absolute poverty is most prevalent is in Eswatini, a lower-middle-income country in sub-Saharan Africa. Research suggests that the number of Swazis experiencing absolute poverty is exceptionally high, with 58.8 percent of the rural population living on less than $1.90 per day. 

Even worse, 26 percent of children under 5-years-old are impacted by chronic malnutrition, a likely consequence of their poverty. Oftentimes, because Swazi adults can't afford basic needs, children are abandoned and left in trash cans, by rivers, and on the side of the road. 

The choice to leave kids behind may seem extreme, but it's important to put yourself in Swazis' shoes. Imagine having no job, no income, no food, no water, and no housing. In this circumstance, it's a genuine possibility that your child will die. And for some parents, walking away is easier than watching their kid suffer a slow death. 

What is absolute poverty vs. relative poverty? 

When it comes to absolute poverty, it truly is the worst type of poverty that you can experience. However, some people liken it to relative poverty, even though it's entirely different. 

Relative poverty is when a household or individual makes 50% less than the average household income, meaning they have some money but can't afford more than what's necessary. For example, paying for the internet and buying a TV may not be feasible.  

Additionally, relative poverty is changeable depending on a country's economic growth. However, with absolute poverty, even if a country grows economically, it won't positively impact those below the national poverty line. 

Take steps to help reduce absolute poverty 

When you take the time to consider the life someone lives in absolute poverty, it's easy to see that the situation is not easy. Every day is a struggle, and choices are a matter of life or death because you're constantly trading one thing for another.

Buying water means missing meals. Paying for school means skipping out on medical care, and no one should have to make those kinds of decisions, which is why Khutsala Artisans is taking steps to reduce absolute poverty. 

By helping Swazis in Eswatini, Khutsala Artisans is working to uplift people who have mostly known survival mode. But making a difference in Eswatini is not easy and requires help. 

Khutsala Artisans offers beautiful, handmade jewelry and home decor, but it's your purchase that makes all the difference. When you buy products, it directly translates into Khutsala Artisans providing more jobs to Swazis in Eswatini. 

Currently, Khutsala Artisans only hires Swazi men and women. And while employment is only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to decreasing absolute poverty, jobs have played an instrumental role in helping Swazis meet their basic needs. 

Through employment, Swazis have the opportunity to feed the people on their homestead, which is an average of 7 individuals. Additionally, they have the ability to get access to education, adequate housing, proper clothing, and medical care, which is incredibly important since Eswatini has the highest HIV prevalence in the world. 

So when you buy something from Khutsala Artisans, your purchase truly makes a difference in reducing absolute poverty. With your contribution, Khutsala Artisans can provide more jobs in Eswatini and help Swazis break the cycle of poverty and live a comfortable life that everyone deserves. 

Help us continue to lift people out of poverty by shopping today. 


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