Friday, February 20, 2009

Tools of the trade

Image of all the worldly possessions he owns, including his tool, a hoe, of a migrant worker waiting for a cross-country bus in China.Dear Gentle Reader,

When a man or woman's possessions are this slim, and possessing a hoe for breaking up the soil gives one a better chance at finding employment, you know that things are rough.

China may have enough money to launch space missions, but her rural poor, and her migrant workers, have a long way to go.

With a statement like that, a reality check is important because great leaps forward have been made for the destitute in China.

By 2006, within 25 years, the number of Chinese subsisting on less than 1 USD a day had dropped from 64% of the population to 16% of the population. 

(Statistics generated by the United Nations Development Programme [UNDP], a major branch on the United Nations tree.)

In warm bodies, that corresponds to over 400 million people who had been lifted out of abject poverty. 

Of course it also means that there are over 212 million destitute Chinese still living on less than 1USD a day, if that percentage (16%) remained unchanged by 2009, with the new population estimates for 2009.

China won the 2006 Poverty Eradication Award from the UNDP for the considerable achievement of lifting over 400 million Chinese out of truly destitute poverty.

And yet, many factories are closing due to the current financial crisis. 

Which means that many men, women, and younger people are now out of work. 

And families in distant villages may go hungry, again, without the remittances from these migrant workers.

And owning a hoe might give you a better chance at finding a job. Even if you have to sacrifice and save to buy it.

Again, what does one do to fix things?



Cloudia said...

"Again, what does one do to fix things?"

Chris: That IS the question for all of us. How can WE fix the world; how can we fix our own security?

Thanks for your always worth while posts, Scribey. Aloha-

Junosmom said...

I wonder how one eats on $1 a day. Perhaps you don't.

Sepiru Chris said...


It is a question for today, and every day...


Not well at all. And not much, costs are lower, but not that low.

And you certainly get what you pay for when your gross income is under a dollar a day.


Dave King said...

Somehow your one image is worth a bookful of statistics.

Heidelweiss said...

I'm sure you know about China "shutting down" its adoption programs. My sister in law is very current on this issue as she has two daughters from China. The Chinese government was not pleased with its reputation for having so many of its children adopted so they have decided it's better to have their orphanages remain overcrowded and the residents turn to prostitution when they are released (they have various other plans in place for the orphans but they sound disastrous to me). I would have liked to "fix" that situation by adopting a child from China (obviously not a fix for the country, just helpful for one child ;)). We'll still turn our papers in and perhaps get a child in 57 years.

Major soapbox. I just get a bit pissy when I see how much poverty there is there and what 95% of those orphans have to look forward to when they get out of those orphanages and... Well, if you don't get the idea I need to shut up ;).

pattinase (abbott) said...

I heard a story on NPR about the poor in India today too. Things are getting worse there as well.

simmers said...

Fixing 'things' is easy.

Fixing 'systems' is challenging.
(perturb it and hope for the best would be my advice for a complex non-linear system)

Fixing $1/day poverty...if the top 10% of earners (who get 34% of the pie) give some of their cash to the sub-$1 folks then the problem would appear to be solved. But then all of the sub-dollar stuff that can be bought may rise in price. Sort of like a cat chasing its tail. One could then invoke the Kilkenny solution and chop the tail off and feed it to the cat. Cattibalism?

Possibly, the solution to most social 'things' would be for everyone to be aware and a global sense. It seems that people, in general, are not fair by nature. So the problem becomes changing human nature.
Or a technological breakthrough? Could a series of technological breakthroughs bring the lowest and saddest people to a level that is considered secure and comfortable? If it is then we may be in luck. It would seem that our curious nature and our desire to live longer drives us to generate better technology. If we don't blow ourselves up in the process, maybe we'll find the silver bullet.

Barrie said...

I'm with Dave King. That photo spoke volumes.

Sepiru Chris said...

Dave King,

Thanks. It does, but China's achievements combating poverty are not told by the picture... which was why I had to do more than describe what the picture showed...


Unable to comment...


It's atrocious there too. I am involved with a foundation for education for the rural poor there.


I will toast silver bullets (good against lycanthropes too..)




bindu said...

China does a lot of its work through cottage industries set up in rural areas. There people earn a living working on things like dismantling electronic waste that are shipped there from the West, putting together the goods all of us consume so well, etc. Dangerous work with toxic pollutants - with no protection at all. So while they have been lifted out of poverty for good national statistics, they have to deal with serious medical issues on the side.

The situation in India is a different one, but as bad. Not enough room here to get into it!

Barbara Martin said...

Your post, Chris, is a perplexing topic on how to fix the systems of the world. Perhaps we should all become socialist and share what we have with others. While at the same time not allowing those in control of doling out the goods to have power over those less fortunate.

rebecca said...

I had written a post last year titled, "Hunger Through the Lens of the World," which was about the Pulitzer Prize photo of a child in the Sudan who was starving and dying and trying to walk towards a camp -- all the while, while the photographer just "took a picture" of this and did not help because he was only there to "report" the horror of it all. Well, the horror of it all fell on him for not helping his fellow human being - a baby in need who most likely died - because though he won the Pulitzer, he was heavily criticized and three months later the photographer committed suicide. I don't think one can see an image like that, not help, and then have any more peaceful nights of sleep. I don't think so. And what made this picture so horrific was that a vulture lay waiting in the background waiting for this child to die.

But your post brought this to mind because of the inequity that exists in this world where we can very well feed all of its inhabitants, yet don't seem to do so. Why is it that?

And once we venture outside our comfortable surroundings (even if it is via internet, paper or tv), we are reminded of the many blessings we have and how others - many others - struggle and die each day in poverty that is beyond imaginable.


David Cranmer said...

This was a very sobering post but unfortunately I have no answers.

Sepiru Chris said...


I know that stuff is on the news a lot, and it is very regional. It also not really cottage industry, although it appears that way from recent footage. India has much cottage industry by far. (I have spent years trading in international commercial dispute resolution and have traveled extensively, for business, in both countries.

I agree, it is far more than a post can handle.

I am researching a book on the global trade electronic waste trade and its political, sociological, environmental and health impacts.

Barbara Martin,

I just raise the image and the stats to raise awareness. The distribution of capital almost inevitably leads to injustice and corruption, especially when there is no strong rule of law in place in the beginning.

I am a free marketeer, with a healthy appreciation, gained as a Canadian, for the value of government intervention.

I have no idea what the solution is, either. But I think it is worthwhile to highlight, from time to time, that it exists.


I am with you. And the poverty is not unimaginable to me because I see it on many trips to India, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, et al...

Sometimes it is worth bringing images back to help, at a minimum, us appreciate all that we do have.

And one day we have to find more equitable ways of doing things.

And we have to realize that here is an impact to every action.

Shirts that people buy at Walmart for 8.99 mean have an impact on the quality of life, many stages down the supply chain, on the workers.

We can't have cheap cheap cheap and not have those purchasing decision have no consequences for the health of others and the planet.

David Cranmer,

Neither do I, David. Neither do I.