"The campaign to make poverty history - a central moral challenge of our age - cannot remain a task for the few, it must become a calling for the many. On this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, I urge everyone to join this struggle. Together, we can make real and sufficient progress towards the end of poverty."
| United Nations Ex-Secretary-General, Kofi Annan|
"Excerpts taken from his message to be delivered on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty , 17 October 2006".
The vast majority of people here in Nova Scotia, Canada believe that poverty (in Nova Scotia, not in the Global South) is pretty personal, that the causes are identifiable as lack of education or opportunity and and that the solutions lie in charity and better public services. Although there are many reasons for the income discrepancies in this country, no one seems, at least at first blush, to think about the systemic reasons. . .
Isn't poverty a result of the income distribution system? A large portion of jobs (I wish I knew how many) are minimum wage or low income jobs. (5.5% of jobs in Nova Scotia were minimum wage in 2005. I cannot find data for the last 5 years -- any suggestions? Since the minimum wage has increased three times since then and since the actual real dollar increase in wages has been pretty stagnant it does make me wonder if the percentage might be higher now. . .) Since we primarily use work to distribute income, if you are sick or disabled or mentally challenged, or mentally ill, or addicted or a hundred other reasons that keep you from working, then you will receive so-called "income assistance" which, of course puts you well below the poverty line. Usually assumed to be the LICO's set by stats Canada.
There is an old Marxist theory about "surplus labour". The theory being that employers want to keep an "army" or "pool" of surplus labour (those not working) in order to keep wages low. With capital able to gallop around the world they not only encourage that but it is a matter of public policy. (Starting with Paul Martin and probably before, the government believes that they have no need to work to lower the unemployment rate; that around 8% is acceptable.) They have been moving capital around for 30 years and out of North America for the last 20+. Just take the plant/factory/call centre and move it to where wages are lower. Now, in a place like Nova Scotia, where we have an aging population and we are not even replacing the steadily declining population - there is a shortage of labour,. That should drive wages up, but guess what? It does not. Instead, the federal government allows what they call "temporary foreign workers" to take jobs that cannot be filled by Canadians. When you look at the list of occupations they all look like professionals. but the reality is here in Nova Scotia that there are many workers (mostly from the Philippines) that are here on these work permits to work at Wendy's and Tim Horton's; there are 9-12 working at the St. Mary's Smoke House (fish plant) in Sherbrooke, Guysborough County, Nova Scotia where there is a 30% unemployment rate and where there would have been a line to get these $10 an hour jobs. No one knows how they got approved. ..
Anyway, my point is that poverty is not caused by my personal failings or illness - my addiction is as likely to be a symptom of poverty (thank you, Gina) as the cause - but is systemic.
This video of Malcolm Gladwell is American but identifies part of the problem -- the rich are NOT paying their share in the north, and rich corporations and a small number of ultra rich folks are just reaping the rewards of thieving the resources from the Global South.