This report argues that tackling chronic poverty is the global priority
for our generation. There are robust ethical grounds for arguing that
chronically poor people merit the greatest international, national and
personal attention and effort. Tackling chronic poverty is vital if our
world is to achieve an acceptable level of justice and fairness. There
are also strong pragmatic reasons for doing so. Addressing chronic
poverty sooner rather than later will achieve much greater results at a
dramatically lower cost. More broadly, reducing chronic poverty provides
global public benefits, in terms of political and economic stability and
public health. The chronically poor are not a distinct group. Most of
them are 'working poor', with a minority unable to engage in labour
markets. They include people who are discriminated against; socially
marginalised people; members of ethnic, religious, indigenous, nomadic
and caste groups; migrants and bonded labourers; refugees and internal
displacees; disabled people; those with ill health; and the young and
old. In many contexts, poor women and girls are the most likely to
experience lifelong poverty. Despite this heterogeneity, we can identify
five main traps that underpin chronic poverty.
- Insecurity - the chronically poor are frequently those who live in
insecure environments, and who have few assets or entitlements to cope
with shocks and stresses. Their coping strategies often involve
trading long-term goals to improve their lives (e.g. accumulating
assets or educating children) for short-term survival.
- Limited citizenship - chronically poor people have no meaningful
political voice and lack effective political representation. The
societies they live in and the governments that exercise authority
over them do not recognise their most basic needs and rights.
- Spatial disadvantage - remoteness, certain types of natural resource
base, political exclusion and weak economic integration can all
contribute to the creation of intra-country spatial poverty traps.
Spatial disadvantage also occurs across entire nations (which we term
Chronically Deprived Countries). Many urban locations, despite
proximity to possible advantage, are highly disadvantaged, with poor
or non-existent public services, high levels of violence and desperate
- Social discrimination - chronically poor people often have social
relations - of power, patronage and competition - that can trap them
in exploitative relationships or deny them access to public and
private goods and services. These are based on class and caste
systems, gender, religious and ethnic identity, age and other factors.
- Poor work opportunities - where there is limited economic growth, or
where growth is concentrated in enclaves, work opportunities are very
limited and people can be exploited. Such work allows day-to-day
survival but does not permit asset accumulation and children's
The report identifies five key policy responses to these five traps.
These policies do not map neatly (on a one-for-one basis) against the
chronic poverty traps. Rather, they create an integrated policy set that
can attack the multiple and overlapping causes of chronic poverty.
Priority goes to two policy areas - social protection (Chapter 3) and
public services for the hard to reach (Chapter 5) - that can spearhead
the assault on chronic poverty. Alongside these are anti-discrimination
and gender empowerment (Chapter 5), building individual and collective
assets (Chapters 3, 4 and 6) and strategic urbanisation and migration
(Chapters 4 and 5). Working together, these policies reduce chronic
poverty directly and create and maintain a just social compact that will
underpin long-term efforts to eradicate chronic poverty (Chapter 6).
Such social compacts ensure a distribution of public goods and services
that contributes to justice and fairness. In a global report such as
this we are striving to produce policy recommendations that can be
applied across many countries. But, as the report shows, policies to
reduce and eradicate chronic poverty need to be customised to specific
national contexts. While many of the case studies included refer to
specific countries, we utilise a simple typology to differentiate the
main types of country context. Based on a cluster analysis of 131
countries, we identify four distinct country clusters (Chapter 1/Annex
- Chronically Deprived Countries (CDCs)
- Partially Chronically Deprived Countries (PCDCs)
- Partial Consistent Improvers (PCIs)
- Consistent Improvers (CIs)
While the patterns are complex, it is evident that the inroads on
chronic poverty that have started and/or are well advanced in East Asia,
South East Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and parts of South and
Central America have not yet been matched by progress in sub-Saharan
Africa and South Asia.
Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC). Chronic Poverty Report 2008-09: Escaping Poverty Traps. Chronic Poverty Research Centre, London, UK (2008) 164 pp. + Annexes F-L (53 pp.)