The Causes of Poverty and the Search for Solutions - Hunger And Malnutrition

countries food literacy education

Hunger's relation to poverty is reciprocal: poverty causes hunger, but hunger causes people to remain in poverty. As with every other aspect of global poverty, hunger is an immensely complicated problem, involving not just the lack of food but also the larger functions of macro- and microeconomics, national and international aid, weather and environmental changes, the availability of such social services as education and health care, use of arable land and equitable land distribution, and the healthy development of the agricultural sector. Figure 2.1 shows regional progress on the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of eliminating world hunger.

According to the report The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2005 (Food and Agriculture Department of the United Nations, 2005), at least 842 million people (other sources cite 852 million) suffer from chronic hunger. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that as many as two billion people suffer from periodic hunger and food insecurity (the condition of not knowing whether one will have enough food at any given time); 75% of the world's hungry people live in rural areas with few economic prospects. The FAO contends that hunger is a cause of poverty rather than a consequence. As Figure 2.2 shows, hunger causes disease, unemployment, high rates of child mortality, lack of FIGURE 2.2 Relationship of hunger and malnutrition to other problems of poverty "Running in Reverse: Persistent Hunger Slows Progress towards Other Millennium Development Goals," in the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2005, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2005, http://www.globalpolicy.org/socecon/hunger/general/2005/1linsecurity.Pdf (accessed April 10, 2006)education, unsustainable use of natural resources, risky personal choices, and a lack of economic opportunities.

In The World Food Situation: An Overview (International Food Policy Research Institute, December 6, 2005), Joachim von Braun explained that hunger caused by the lack of adequate intake of calories is not the only type of food insecurity. Also on the rise are the incidence of underweight children (126 million), vitamin and mineral deficiencies (more than two billion people), and the prevalence of overweight and obese poor people (unknown number, but believed to be increasing). According to von Braun, the number of people in developing countries not getting enough food to sustain them (undernourished) dropped by nine million in the 1990s—just 1% of the total number of undernourished people in the world, despite the efforts of the Millennium Development Campaign, which are outlined in Table 2.1. Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced an increase of 20% in the number of undernourished people since 1990. Deficiencies in such micronutrients as iodine, vitamin A, iron, and zinc cause weakened immune systems, anemia, low IQs and learning disabilities, complications in pregnancy and childbirth, and numerous childhood diseases. These conditions result in poverty-causing problems such as absenteeism and poor performance at school and work, TABLE 2.1 How investing in nutrition is critical to achieving the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) "Table 1.6. How Investing in Nutrition Is Critical to Achieving the MDGs," in Repositioning Nutrition as Central to Development: A Strategy for Large-Scale Action, The World Bank, The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 2006, http://siteresources.worldbank.org/NUTRITION/Resources/281846-1131636806329/NutritionStrategy.pdf (accessed April 10, 2006). Data adapted from Gillespie and Haddad (2003).unemployment, illiteracy, and the continuing cycle of poverty.

TABLE 2.1
How investing in nutrition is critical to achieving the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals)
Goal Nutrition effect
SOURCE: "Table 1.6. How Investing in Nutrition Is Critical to Achieving the MDGs," in Repositioning Nutrition as Central to Development: A Strategy for Large-Scale Action, The World Bank, The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 2006, http://siteresources.worldbank.org/NUTRITION/Resources/281846-1131636806329/NutritionStrategy.pdf (accessed April 10, 2006). Data adapted from Gillespie and Haddad (2003).
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Malnutrition erodes human capital through irreversible and intergenerational effects on cognitive and physical development.
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education. Malnutrition affects the chances that a child will go to school, stay in school, and perform well.
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women. Antifemale biases in access to food, health, and care resources may result in malnutrition, possibly reducing women's access to assets. Addressing malnutrition empowers women more than men.
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality. Malnutrition is directly or indirectly associated with most child deaths, and it is the main contributor to the burden of disease in the developing world.
Goal 5: Improve maternal health. Maternal health is compromised by malnutrition, which is associated with most major risk factors for maternal mortality. Maternal stunting and iron and iodine deficiencies particularly pose serious problems.
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. Malnutrition may increase risk of HIV transmission, compromise antiretroviral therapy, and hasten the onset of full-blown AIDS and premature death. It increases the chances of tuberculosis infection, resulting in disease, and it also reduces malarial survival rates.

Every country has its share of hungry people. In the United States an estimated thirty-eight million Americans were food insecure, thirteen million families were at least periodically unable to afford food, and five million families had at least one member who regularly went hungry in 2004 (Vikki Valentine, "Q&A: The Causes behind Hunger in America," NPR.org, November 22, 2005).

What causes such widespread hunger? According to von Braun, world cereal production reached a record high of more than two billion tons in 2004, yet nearly a billion people worldwide suffered from hunger in 2005. (See Table 2.2 and Figure 2.3.) Most researchers agree that the Earth is capable of producing enough food to feed the entire world population; in fact, wealthy countries regularly subsidize (pay) some farmers to overproduce or underproduce certain crops to help control prices. The Institute for Food and Development Policy (known more informally as Food First) reported that the world's farmers produced enough to provide 4.3 pounds of food per person, per day, in 2002 (including cereals, grains, vegetables, meat, and fish). Anuradha Mittal of Food First commented in an interview in The Sun ("Anuradha Mittal on the True Cause of World Hunger," TABLE 2.2 Old and new global food and nutrition problems, 2005 Joachim von Braun, "Figure 1. Old and New Global Food and Nutrition Problems," in The World Food Situation: An Overview, International Food Policy Research Institute, December 6, 2005, http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/agm05/jvb/jvbagm2005.pdf (accessed April 10, 2006). Based on data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2005a, United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition (UN/SCN) 2004, Micronutrient Initiative and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) 2005.

TABLE 2.2
Old and new global food and nutrition problems, 2005
Type Causes People affected
SOURCE: Joachim von Braun, "Figure 1. Old and New Global Food and Nutrition Problems," in The World Food Situation: An Overview, International Food Policy Research Institute, December 6, 2005, http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/agm05/jvb/jvbagm2005.pdf (accessed April 10, 2006). Based on data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2005a, United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition (UN/SCN) 2004, Micronutrient Initiative and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) 2005.
Hunger Deficiency of calories and protein 0.9 billion
Underweight children Inadequate intake of food and frequent disease 126 million
Micronutrient deficiency Deficiency of vitamins and minerals More than 2 billion
Overweight to chronic disease Unhealthy diets; lifestyle Increasing also among the poor

FIGURE 2.3 Hunger in the developing world, 1990, 1995, and 2002 Joachim von Braun, "Figure 2. Hunger in the Developing World," in The World Food Situation: An Overview, International Food Policy Research Institute, December 6, 2005, http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/agm05/jvb/jvbagm2005.pdf (accessed April 10, 2006). Data from Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2005a.

http://www.thesunmagazine.org/Mittal314.pdf, February 2002): "There is a shortage of purchasing power, not a shortage of food." So how is it possible that more than one-third of the human population goes hungry and 25,000 people die every day of starvation, malnutrition, and related diseases? As with other aspects of poverty, the answer involves global, regional, and local politics as well as economics.

Agricultural Subsidies, Trade, and Food Aid

Agricultural subsidies are often cited as a factor in either causing or exacerbating the problem of hunger. The governments of wealthy countries routinely pay farmers—mostly the owners of large agribusiness-type farms—billions of dollars each year to produce too much or not enough of certain crops in order to control prices of crops for export or import. In the United States, for example, farmers were paid $2 billion annually from 1995 to 2002 in "conservation subsidies," which means that these farmers were paid to not cultivate land for crops (Benjamin Powell, "It's Time to End Farm Subsidies," Investor's Business Daily, March 28, 2005).

These attempts to control crop and food prices are linked to the debate about fair trade discussed above. Farm subsidies in Europe, Japan, and the United States are designed to work in conjunction with trade barriers such as quotas and tariffs. As farmers in developed countries are paid to overproduce certain foods (for example, rice and corn), those countries export, or "dump," their surplus supplies to poor countries for extremely low prices or sometimes for free as "aid." At the same time, trade barriers prevent poor countries from exporting crops and other goods to wealthy countries (this is sometimes called "protectionism"). Food dumping from wealthy countries floods the markets, which drives down the value of crops in poor countries so low that it is often more economical for them to import the food or accept it as foreign aid than to invest in their own agricultural development. However, this also makes them more vulnerable to international economic factors and inhibits their ability to sustain themselves. According to "Farm Subsidies That Starve the World" (New Statesman, June 20, 2005), ending farm subsidies in the United States and Europe would cause the prices of African food exports to double, thus dramatically increasing the continent's economic growth.

International aid in the form of food seems like a straightforward way to deal with the worldwide crisis of hunger, yet many detractors claim that it actually makes the problem worse. Poverty researchers note that there is a difference between the kind of emergency aid that calls for the direct exportation of food to an area—such as occurs following a natural disaster like the Asian tsunami of December 2004 or the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005—and the practice of simply sending food to a poor region not experiencing an emergency situation. Very often, non-emergency food aid is actually just food dumping, as discussed above, which causes dependence on a foreign food source and prevents a poor country's farmers from competing in the international market.

In addition, when developed countries in North America, Europe, and elsewhere give aid in the form of food, they do not typically give it directly to hungry people (except in emergency cases, when food may be dropped from low-flying airplanes). Rather, they give it to the federal governments of poor countries, who distribute it to local governments, who in many cases sell it to the hungry at prices so low that local food producers, if any exist, cannot compete and may be forced out of business. Furthermore, an underdeveloped or developing country that depends on imports for food will often use its arable land to produce crops and goods, such as cut flowers or livestock feed, for export to developed countries rather than growing food for local consumption. When small farms shut down or are forced out of business, people often migrate to urban areas to work in manufacturing operations (typically sweatshops), leaving rural regions even more vulnerable to economic depression.

Access to Food

Food surpluses—whether subsidized or not—rarely make it to the hungry people of the world. Instead, they usually are sold as exports to wealthy countries for human or livestock consumption. The most fundamental reality of hunger is that poor people simply cannot afford food, even if it is available to them, but this is a simplification of a complex issue. According to J. W. Smith, author of Economic Democracy: The Political Struggle of the Twenty-first Century (Institute for Economic Democracy, 4th edition, 2005), the presence of excessive food imports from developed countries in poor countries inhibits the development of other industries in those poor countries because of the high cost of importing the food. Not only the agricultural but also other sectors of the economies of underdeveloped and developing countries suffer from the loss of financial and technological development. Smith and other economists argue that the high unemployment and lack of social services resulting from such economic underdevelopment are the real causes of poverty and widespread hunger.

Furthermore, arable land in developing countries often is sold to multinational corporations and agribusiness conglomerates, which use the land to grow crops and raise livestock for export to the developed countries in which their headquarters may be located. This inequitable distribution of land has been a serious problem in Latin America and the Caribbean for decades. In Guatemala, for example, large tracts of farmable land (called latifundios) are devoted to crops grown for export, while small plots of land (called minifundios) are allotted to the farmers who grow the food for the country's own population. This is a common situation throughout the Latin American-Caribbean region, where, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), 64% of the rural population lives in poverty and the number of poor people—mostly indigenous groups—living in rural areas has increased since the 1980s. In all, small farmers account for 27% of the total rural poor population in Latin America and the Caribbean, and many argue this is largely due to the region's land distribution policies. The organization War on Want reports that just 1% of Brazil's farmers own two-thirds of the country's land, and 60% of all arable land is left unused. ("Brazil's Landless Farmers Fight Back," 2006, http://www.waronwant.org/). Yet Brazil's small farmers cannot legally use the land. Like many other countries in the region, Brazil depends heavily on food exports from the multinational corporations that own most of the land to pay off its international debt of $223.6 billion (2003 estimate).

Critics of the system of subsidies, trade, and aid point out that even during such well-publicized events as the Ethiopian famine of the 1980s, enough food was available—but not to the people who needed it most. Anuradha Mittal notes that during several of the major food crises of the twentieth century (in Ethiopia, India, and Indonesia, for example), the countries involved were actually growing food for export; Ethiopia, Mittal says, was exporting green beans to Europe during its famine.

A report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2005) finds a direct link between growth in a developing country's agricultural sector and a reduction in hunger and poverty; however, a growth in urban and industrial sectors or an overall growth in gross domestic product does not necessarily translate into a reduction in hunger and poverty. This finding suggests that economic growth itself is not enough to change patterns in hunger, but that the healthy development of farming, both for export and for in-country use, is essential.

Other Factors of Hunger

The FAO report lists a country's system of governance as chief among the factors affecting hunger rates. The World Bank has compiled as many as 350 variables to develop indicators to measure the overall status of a country's governance. Four governance indicators in particular—political stability, government effectiveness, rule of law, and control of corruption—are necessary to achieve hunger reduction in a country. For example, from 1991 to 2001 hunger worsened considerably in countries experiencing violent conflict and/or political instability. In Africa, much of which has seen long-term conflict and instability, per capita food production has dropped 12.4% on average during periods of violent conflict.

Natural disasters and environmental events also cause food crises by halting food production altogether. These occurrences have far more serious consequences in poor countries, where food production is already low, and they tend to happen more often in poor countries. Droughts, excess rainfall, earthquakes, and other environmental events have wreaked havoc in the agricultural sectors of underdeveloped and developing countries. Displacement is another consequence of natural disasters that increases the incidence of hunger in poor countries; when people are forced to flee after major disasters such as earthquakes or migrate due to severe weather conditions, pressure is placed on the areas in which they settle to produce enough food to support them.

The World Bank's 2006 report Repositioning Nutrition as Central to Development: A Strategy for Large-Scale Action states that a lack of food is just one of several factors contributing to malnutrition and under-nutrition. Additional causes of severe malnutrition, especially in children, include a poor understanding of nutritional needs, insufficient knowledge about women's health in particular, and poor sanitation (the source of water-borne viruses and bacteria that cause diarrheal diseases). This suggests that investment in infrastructure would help reduce hunger and malnutrition.

LOW WAGES AND THE WORKING POOR

According to the International Labor Organization's (ILO) World Employment Report 2004–05: Employment, Productivity, and Poverty Reduction, there were 185.9 million unemployed people in the world in 2003. Perhaps more important for a discussion of poverty, of the total number of impoverished people in the world—approximately three billion living on less than two dollars per day—at least 1.39 billion of them were employed in 2003. About 550 million of those lived in extreme poverty—on less than one dollar per day. In all, 19.7% of working people around the world and 23.3% of workers in developing countries lived in extreme poverty.

These figures address one of the most common misperceptions about poverty: that poor people do not work. Regional rates of unemployment illustrate further the falsity of this assumption. The unemployment rate in sub-Saharan Africa, the overall poorest region in the world, with 751 million people, was 10.9% in 2003; in South Asia, which contains some of the poorest and most populous countries in the world, the unemployment rate was 4.8%; and in Latin America and the Caribbean the rate was 8%. Since most of the world's population is concentrated in poor countries, one would perhaps expect a greater percentage of the populations of these poor regions to be unemployed, but considering the large number of people living there, these percentages actually are rather low. By comparison, the unemployment rate in the United States, with 149.3 million people in the labor force, was 5.1% in 2005; out of Canada's labor force of 17.35 million people, 6.8% were unemployed in 2005; and in the European Union 9.4% of 218.5 million people in the labor force were unemployed.

The International Labor Organization defines "working poor" as those people whose earnings leave them unable to afford to lift themselves and their families above the poverty threshold (either the international line of one or two dollars a day or the poverty threshold of their individual country). The ILO also makes other distinctions regarding what it calls "working poverty":

It is important to note that, by definition, a person is counted as working poor only if that person is unable to lift himself or herself and his or her family above the poverty threshold. This means that somebody who earns only 50 cents a day would not be considered as working poor if somebody else in the family earns enough to make sure that each family member lives on more than US$1 a day. Conversely, somebody might earn as much as, for example, US$5 a day but with a family consisting of, say, 10 members (9 of them not working) each member would be living on less than US$1 a day. Such a person would still be counted as working poor. Finally, including the whole family in the concept of working poverty ensures that a rich young person in the developing world who has just started work life and works without remuneration in order to gain work experience is not considered to be working poor.

In the United States the working poor are defined as those people who work at least twenty-seven weeks per year in the labor force, either working or actively looking for work, but still live below the U.S. poverty threshold. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publication A Profile of the Working Poor, 2003 (March 2005), 7.4 million Americans could be classified as working poor in 2003. Furthermore, about three out of every five working poor Americans worked full time. As in the rest of the world, women (3.9 million) outnumbered men (3.5 million) in the working poor category. Unlike the working poor in developing countries, however, fewer working poor in the United States were employed in the informal economy, although informal work does exist in the United States. Most U.S. working poor are employed in service jobs; sales and office work; or production, transportation, and material moving. American working women who are heads of households are the most likely to be among the working poor, at a rate of 18.4%.

For most of the working poor around the world—including the United States—low wages, rather than unemployment, are a main cause of their situation. The BLS estimated that this was the case for about 62% of the working poor in the Unites States in 2003. In Working Hard, Falling Short: America's Working Families and the Pursuit of Economic Security (Working Poor Families Project, October 2004), Tom Waldron, Brandon Roberts, and Andrew Reamer reported that 9.2 million working families in the United States have low incomes, and 2.5 million of those families live below the poverty threshold. Although there is a link between low income and education level, the authors note that low wages leading to poverty do affect the well educated: 3.9 million working poor families had a parent with some post-secondary education.

The Working Poor in the Informal Economy

The International Labor Organization suggests that a large number of the world's working poor are employed in the informal labor sector, or informal economy. The term "informal economy" refers to the exchange of goods and services outside of national and international regulatory guidelines, meaning that the people who work in the informal economy receive no legal protection or employer-sponsored benefits, and have no official means by which to better their working situations. Unregistered self-employment and wage employment in informal work are the most common types of jobs in the informal economy, with self-employment accounting for about 33% of all nonagricultural employment in the world. Self-employment in the developing world typically refers to work that is home based (for example, garment workers, cigarette rollers, and embroiderers) or such enterprises as street vending and garbage collecting.

Work in the informal economy is more common in developing than developed countries, although informal labor does exist in wealthier countries, mostly in the form of self-employment and part-time and temporary work (the latter two are known as nonstandard wage employment). The ILO publication Women and Men in the Informal Economy: A Statistical Picture (2002) reports that 50% to 75% of nonagricultural workers in FIGURE 2.4 U.S. cities in which forced labor incidences were reported, 1998–2003 "U.S. Cities in Which Forced Labor Incidences Were Reported," in Hidden Slaves: Forced Labor in the United States, Free the Slaves, and Human Rights Center, September 2004, http://www.hrcberkeley.org/download/hiddenslaves_report.pdf (accessed April 10, 2006)developing countries are employed in the informal economy. Estimates that include informal agricultural workers yield much higher percentages.

Although women have less of a presence in the overall labor force, they account for a greater percentage of informal workers. In developing countries 60% of women who work are employed in the informal economy, while in the largest developed countries women made up at least 60% of part-time workers, including 68% in the United States. Children also make up a large proportion of the informal economy, especially in developing countries. While the informal economy is not necessarily equated with the criminal economy, children (most notably girls) working in informal employment are particularly vulnerable to the abuses and exploitation of unregulated work; millions of child laborers end up being sold or tricked into the world of human trafficking, prostitution, pornography, slavery, and debt bondage. This kind of forced labor is not limited to so-called third world countries; it exists in the United States as well. (See Figure 2.4 and Table 2.3.)

TABLE 2.3 Reported countries of origin of victims of forced labor, United States, 1998–2003 "Reported Countries of Origin of Victims of Forced Labor," in Hidden Slaves: Forced Labor in the United States, Free the Slaves, and Human Rights Center, September 2004, http://www.hrcberkeley.org/download/hiddenslaves_report.pdf (accessed April 10, 2006)

TABLE 2.3
Reported countries of origin of victims of forced labor, United States, 1998–2003
Reported country of origin of victims of forced labor Number of cases Estimated number of individuals
SOURCE: "Reported Countries of Origin of Victims of Forced Labor," in Hidden Slaver: Forced Labor in the United States, Free the Slaves, and Human Rights Center, September 2004, http://www.hrcberkeley.org/download/hiddenslaves_report.pdf (accessed April 10, 2006>
Mexico 25 ca 1,500
United States 20 ca 71
China 11 ca 10,000
Thailand 9 ca 150
India 9 ca 70
Bangladesh 8 ca 200
Russia 8 ca 100
Vietnam 6 ca 250
Honduras 5 ca 70
Philippines 5 ca 200
Korea 4 ca 6
Guatemala 3 ca 5
Indonesia 3 4
Cambodia 2 30
Cameroon 2 3
Estonia 2 15
Ghana 2 2
Kenya 2 2
Malaysia 2 5
Zambia 2 2
Albania 1 1
Brazil 1 1
Czech Republic 1 10
Ecuador 1 1
Ethiopia 1 3
Guyana 1 1
Haiti 1 1
Hungary 1 13
Jamaica 1 2
Kryghistan 1 1
Latvia 1 5
Micronesia 1 2
Nigeria 1 2
Peru 1 8
Romania 1 10
Tonga 1 4
Ukraine 1 29
Uzbekistan 1 1
Yugoslavia 1 1
Specific nationality not reported
Asia 6 ca 10,000
Southeast Asia 4 ca 30
"Hispanic" 2 ca 70
Eastern European 1 1

Working conditions in the informal sector vary greatly. While some enterprises exist in the informal economy simply because they cannot afford to abide by the bureaucratic regulations of the formal economy, others deliberately avoid providing their workers with even the most reasonable legal protections. In Decent Work and the Informal Economy (2002) the ILO points out that working in the informal economy does not necessarily mean living in poverty or even earning low wages: "Many in the informal economy, especially the self-employed, in fact earn more than unskilled or low-skilled workers in the formal economy." However, the report also notes that 75% of the poor living in developing countries lived in rural areas and worked in both agricultural and nonagricultural informal work. In addition, incomes among those working informally do average significantly less than the incomes of those working formally; this is particularly true of women and children, who are far more likely to experience abuses at the hands of employers.

EDUCATION AND LITERACY

In almost all societies a lack of education and literacy tends to result in a lower socioeconomic status. In its Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) names literacy as a basic human right and affirms its role in improving overall human development indicators at both the micro and macro levels. Nations with high levels of illiteracy tend to have high levels of poverty, and vice versa. Rates of literacy have risen more or less steadily since the 1950s, when 55.7% of the world's population was literate. Since 1970 the most dramatic increase in global literacy rates occurred in youths between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four. (See Table 2.4 and Table 2.5.) Despite these gains, illiteracy remains a significant problem around the world. As Table 2.6 shows, literacy has documented links to poverty, yet the global community has largely failed to ensure an educated populace. In 2002 ninety-nine million children did not attend primary school. (See Table 2.7.) Most of these not-in-school children were in developing countries, but developed countries and those in transition have problems as well. For example, according to UNESCO, in 2005 more than 40% of people aged sixteen to sixty-five in Chile, Italy, and Poland had a very low ability to comprehend information from written news sources or from fiction. (See Figure 2.5.)

In all countries with an adult literacy rate lower than 95%, literacy is less common among rural dwellers than among those who live in urban areas. (See Figure 2.6.) A large part of the education problem in developing and underdeveloped countries is the existence of school fees. (See Table 2.8.) With no reliable public education system, these countries charge families to send their children to school and sometimes to buy uniforms and supplies. In a 2005 World Bank report conducted for UNESCO, researchers found that 86% of the countries surveyed still charged fees for primary education—some of them legal and some of them not. Fees are considered illegal when they are not in accordance with a nation's laws or constitution. Education-related fees that adversely affect the poor contradict the spirit of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, which together guarantee free education as a basic human TABLE 2.4 Global and regional trends in adult literacy rates, selected years 1950 to 2000–04 "Table 7.3. Global and Regional Trends in Adult Literacy Rates, 1950 to 2000–2004," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2005, http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt7_eng.pdf (accessed April 8, 2006). Data from the following sources: For 1950 and 1960: UNESCO (1978) Estimates and Projections of Illiteracy, CSR-E-29. Data refer to the 1972 assessment and are not necessarily comparable with data for subsequent years. For 1970 and 1980: UIS 2002 assessment based on the UN Population estimates and projections (2000 assessment). For 1990 and 2000–2004: data are from this report's statistical annex, Table 2A. Copyright © UNESCO, 2005

TABLE 2.4
Global and regional trends in adult literacy rates, selected years 1950 to 2000–04
Adult literacy rates (percent) Increase in literacy rates (percent)
1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000–2004 1970 to 1980 1980 to 1990 1990 to 2000–2004
SOURCE: "Table 7.3. Global and Regional Trends in Adult Literacy Rates, 1950 to 2000–2004," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2005, http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt7_eng.pdf (accessed April 8, 2006). Data from the following sources: For 1950 and 1960: UNESCO (1978) Estimates and Projections of Illiteracy, CSR-E-29. Data refer to the 1972 assessment and are not necessarily comparable with data for subsequent years. For 1970 and 1980: UIS 2002 assessment based on the UN Population estimates and projections (2000 assessment). For 1990 and 2000–2004: data are from this report's statistical annex, Table 2A. Copyright © UNESCO, 2005
World 55.7 60.7 63.4 69.7 75.4 81.9 9.9 8.2 8.5
Developing countries 47.7 58.0 67.0 76.4 21.6 15.6 14.0
Developed and transition countries 94.5 96.4 98.6 99.0 2.0 1.8 0.5
Selected regions
Sub-Saharan Africa 27.8 37.8 49.9 59.7 36.0 32.1 19.6
Arab states 18.9 28.8 39.2 50.0 62.7 36.1 27.7 25.3
East Asia and the Pacific 57.5 70.3 81.8 91.4 22.3 16.4 11.7
South and West Asia 31.6 39.3 47.5 58.6 24.4 20.8 23.5
Latin Aerica and the Caribbean 73.7 80.0 85.0 89.7 8.5 6.3 5.5
TABLE 2.5 Youth literacy rates by country development status and region, selected years 1970 to 2000–04 "Table 7.4. Youth Literacy Rates by Country Development Status and Region, 1970 to 2000–2004, with Percent Increases in Each Decade," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2005, http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt7_eng.pdf (accessed April 8,2006). Data from the following sources: For 1950 and 1960:UNESCO (1978) Estimates and Projections of Illiteracy, CSR-E-29. Data refer to the 1972 assessment and are not necessarily comparable with data for subsequent years. For 1970 and 1980: UIS 2002 assessment based on the UN Population estimates and projections (2000 assessment). For 1990 and 2000–2004: data are from this report's statistical annex, Table 2A. Copyright © UNESCO, 2005
TABLE 2.5
Youth literacy rates by country development status and region, selected years to 2000–04
Youth literacy rates (percent) Increase in literacy rates (percent)
1970 1980 1990 2000–2004 1970 to 1980 1980 to 1990 1990 to 2000–2004
SOURCE: "Table 7.4. Youth Literacy Rates by Country Development Status and Region, 1970 to 2000–2004, with Percent Increases in Each Decade," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2005, http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt7_eng.pdf (accessed April 8,2006). Data from the following sources: For 1950 and 1960:UNESCO (1978) Estimates and Projections of Illiteracy, CSR-E-29. Data refer to the 1972 assessment and are not necessarily comparable with data for subsequent years. For 1970 and 1980: UIS 2002 assessment based on the UN Population estimates and projections (2000 assessment). For 1990 and 2000–2004: data are from this report's statistical annex, Table 2A. Copyright © UNESCO, 2005
World 74.7 80.2 84.3 87.5 7.4 5.1 3.8
Developing countries 66.0 74.4 80.9 85.0 12.7 8.7 5.1
Developed and transition countries 99.0 99.3 99.5 99.7 0.3 0.2 0.2
Selected regions
Sub-Saharan Africa 41.3 54.3 67.5 72.0 31.5 24.3 6.6
Arab states 42.7 54.7 66.6 78.3 28.1 21.8 17.6
East Asia and the Pacific 83.2 91.3 95.4 97.9 9.7 4.5 2.6
South and West Asia 43.3 52.6 61.5 73.1 21.6 16.8 18.9
Latin America and the Caribbean 84.2 89.5 92.7 95.9 6.2 3.6 3.4

right. In many regions, the average annual household income can actually be less than the cost of sending one child to school. For families who rely on subsistence farming for their livelihood, the cost simply is not worthwhile. Table 2.9 and Table 2.10 show the likelihood that countries will achieve the Millennium Development Goals of universal primary school education and universal literacy on time.

TABLE 2.6 Links between illiteracy and poverty, selected countries, 2003 "Table 7.7. The Literacy Challenge Compounded: Links to Poverty," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2005, http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt7_eng.pdf (accessed April 8, 2006). Data from World Bank Development Indicators Database. Copyright © UNESCO, 2005

TABLE 2.6
Links between illiteracy and poverty, selected countries, 2003
Gross national income per capita, 2003 (in PPP* US$) Percent of population living below US$2 a day (most recent figures) Belongs to heavily indebted poor countries
*Purchasing power parity.
Note: The figure of 63% to distinguish between high and low adult literacy rates is based on an examination of the distribution of all countries with rates below 95% and a calculation of the median.
SOURCE: "Table 7.7. The Literacy Challenge Compounded: Links to Poverty," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2005, http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt7_eng.pdf (accessed April 8, 2006). Data from World Bank Development Indicators Database. Copyright © UNESCO, 2005
Number of illiterates is greater than 5 million and adult literacy rate is < 63%
Bangladesh 1,870 83
Egypt 3,940 44
Ethiopia 710 78 X
Ghana 2,190 79 X
India 2,880 81
Morocco 3,940 14
Mozambique 1,060 78 X
Nepal 1,420 81
Pakistan 2,040 66
Sudan 1,760 X
Yemen 820 45
Number of illiterates is greater than 5 million and adult literacy rate is > 63%
Algeria 5,930 15
Brazil 7,510 22
China 4,980
Democratic Republic of Congo 660 X
Indonesia 3,210 52
Iran, Islamic Republic 7,000 7
Mexico 8,980 26
Nigeria 900 91
Turkey 6,710 10
Number of illiterates is between 1 and 5 million and adult literacy rate is < 63%
Burkina Faso 1,170 81 X
Côte d'Ivoire 1,400 38 X
Mali 960 91 X
Niger 830 86 X

TABLE 2.7 Number of out-of-primary-school children, 1998 and 2002 "Table 2.4. Number of Out-of-Primary-School Children, 1998 and 2002," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2005, http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt2_eng.pdf (accessed April 8,2006). Copyright © UNESCO, 2005

TABLE 2.7
Number of out-of-primary-school children, 1998 and 2002
1998 2002
Total Male Female Percent female Total Male Famale Percent female
Thousands Thousands
Note: Figures may not add to totals due to rounding.
SOURCE: "Table 2.4. Number of Out-of-Primary-School Children, 1998 and 2002," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2005, http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt2_eng.pdf (accessed April 8,2006). Copyright © UNESCO, 2005
World 106,268 45,067 61,201 58 99,303 44,722 54,581 55
Developing countries 102,052 42,971 59,081 58 95,459 42,701 52,758 55
Developed countries 1,911 961 950 50 2,376 1,285 1,091 46
Countries in transition 2,304 1,135 1,170 51 1,468 736 732 50
Sub-Saharan Africa 44,581 20,648 23,933 54 40,370 18,367 22,003 55
Arab states 8,491 3,501 4,991 59 6,906 2,882 4,025 58
Central Asia 775 375 400 52 635 294 341 54
East Asia and the Pacific 8,309 4,158 4,151 50 14,782 7,410 7,372 50
South and West Asia 35,722 12,534 23,189 65 30,109 12,698 17,411 58
Latin America and the Caribbean 3,620 1,623 1,997 55 2,084 858 1,226 59
North America and Western Europe 1,429 718 711 50 1,848 1,012 836 45
Central and Eastern Europe 3,340 1,510 1,830 55 2,569 1,203 1,366 53

FIGURE 2.5 Literacy challenges in selected countries and territories, percentage of adults aged 16-65 with very poor skills in prose literacy "Literacy Challenges in Selected Countries and Territories," Percentage of Adults Aged 16 to 65 with Very Poor Skills in Prose Literacy," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2005, http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt7_eng.pdf (accessed April 8, 2006). Copyright © UNESCO, 2005

FIGURE 2.6 Adult literacy rates by urban/rural residence, 2000–04 "Figure 7.8. Adult Literacy Rates by Urban/Rural Residence, 2000–2004," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2005, http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt7_eng.pdf (accessed April 8, 2006). Data from UNICEF MICS 2000, taken from Carr-Hill (2005). Copyright © UNESCO, 2005

TABLE 2.8 Education fees, selected countries, 2005 "Table 3.4. Fees Still Exist in a Large Number of Countries," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Paris, 2005, http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt3_eng.pdf (accessed April 8, 2006). Data from Bentaouet-Kattan (2005). Copyright © UNESCO, 2005

TABLE 2.8
Education fees, selected countries, 2005
Note: Data was collected informally from World Bank task teams and may not reflect the most recent changes in policy and practice at the country level.
SOURCE: "Table 3.4. Fees Still Exist in a Large Number of Countries," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Paris, 2005, http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt3_eng.pdf (accessed April 8, 2006). Data from Bentaouet-Kattan (2005). Copyright © UNESCO, 2005
Legal fees Albania; Argentina; Armenia; Azerbaijan; Benin; Bhutan; Bosnia/Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Burundi; Cameroon; Cape Verde; Chad; Comoros; Costa Rica; Côte d'Ivoire; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Egypt; El Salvador; Eritrea; Grenada; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Guyana; Haiti; India; Iran, Islamic Republic; Jordan; Lebanon; Madagascar; Maldives; Mauritania; Morocco; Niger; Papua New Guinea; Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Romania; Russian Fed.; Rwanda; Solomon Islands; South Africa; Swaziland; Tajikistan; Thailand; The former Yugoslav Republic Macedonia; Timor-Leste; Togo; Trinidad/Tobago; Turkey; Uruguay
Illegal fees Bolivia; Brazil; Colombia; Ethiopia; Ghana; Honduras; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Lesotho; Liberia; Mexico; Mozambique; Namibia; Nigeria; Panama; Tonga; Uganda; Ukraine; Vietnam
Both types of fees Burkina Faso; China; Democratic Republic of Congo; Djibouti; Ecuador; Georgia; Indonesia; Kenya; Kyrgyzstan; Latvia; Mali; Mauritius; Mongolia; Nicaragua; Palestinian A. T.; Republic of Moldova; Vanuatu; Venezuela; Yemen

TABLE 2.9 Country prospects for the achievement of the adult literacy target by 2015 "Table 2.9. Country Prospects for the Achievement of the Adult Literacy Target by 2015," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2005, http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt2_eng.pdf (accessed April 8, 2006). Copyright © UNESCO, 2005

TABLE 2.9
Country prospects for the achievement of the adult literacy target by 2015
aPeople's Democratic Republic.
bThe former Yugoslav Republic.
SOURCE: "Table 2.9. Country Prospects for the Achievement of the Adult Literacy Target by 2015," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2005, http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt2_eng.pdf (accessed April 8, 2006). Copyright © UNESCO, 2005
Level of adult literacy rate in 2000–2004 High literacy (between 80% and 97%) Quadrant I Quadrant II
At risk of not achieving the goal 20 countries High chance of achieving the goal 23 countries
Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Namibia, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Saint Lucia, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Vietnam Bahrain, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzogovina, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, China, Cyprus, Equatorial Guinea, Greece, Israel, Jordan, Macao (China), Maldives, Mexico, Palestinian Autonomous Territories, Paraguay, Republic of Moldova, Saudi Arabia, Serbia and Montenegro, Singapore, Thailand, TFYRb of Macedonia, Venezuela
Low literacy (below 80%) Quadrant IV Quadrant III
Serious risk of not achieving the goal 30 countries Low chance of achieving the goal 0 countries
Algeria, Angola, Belize, Benin, Burundi, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Lao PDRa, Madagascar, Mauritania, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo, Tunisia, U. R. Tanzania, Zambia
Slow performers Fast performers
Increase between 1990 and 2000–2004

TABLE 2.10 Country prospects for the achievement of universal primary education by 2015 "Table 2.8. Country Prospects for the Achievement of Universal Primary Education by 2015," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2005, http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt2_eng.pdf (accessed April 8, 2006). Copyright © UNESCO, 2005

TABLE 2.10
Country prospects for the achievement of universal primary education by 2015
aThe former Yugoslav Republic.
bPeople's Democratic Republic.
SOURCE: "Table 2.8. Country Prospects for the Achievement of Universal Primary Education by 2015," in Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006: Literacy for Life, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2005, http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt2_eng.pdf (accessed April 8, 2006). Copyright © UNESCO, 2005
Distance from 100% net enrollment rate (NER) in 2002 Close or in an intermediate position Quadrant I Quadrant II
At risk of not achieving the goal 20 countries High chance of achieving the goal 20 countries
Albania, Bahrain, British Virgin Islands, Czech Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Georgia, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Slovenia, Maldives, Malaysia, Netherlands Antilles, Palestinian A. T., Paraguay, Romania, South Africa, TFYRa of Macedonia, Uruguay, Vietnam Algeria, Belarus, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Jordan, Lesotho, Lithuania, Malta, Mauritius, Morocco, Nicaragua, Vanuatu, Venezuela
Intermediate position or far Quadrant IV Quadrant III
Serious risk of not achieving the goal 3 countries Low chance of achieving the goal 44 countries
Azerbaijan, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia Bangladesh, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Chile, Costa Rica, Coôte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Djibouti, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Iran (Isl. Rep.), Kenya, Lao PDRb Latvia, Lebanon, Macao (China), Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Oman, Republic of Moldova, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, Swaziland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Away from the goal Towards the goal
Change over the period from 1990 to 2002

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almost 3 years ago

Most of the communities in the entire Indian sub-continent(such as Bengali) are succumbed in ‘Culture of Poverty'(Oscar Lewis), irrespective of class or economic strata, lives in pavement or apartment. Nobody is genuinely regret ed or ashamed of the deep-rooted corruption, decaying general quality of life, worst Politico-administrative system, bad work place, weak mother language, continuous consumption of common social space (mental as well as physical, both). We are becoming fathers & mothers only by self-procreation, mindlessly & blindfold(supported by some lame excuses). Simply depriving their(the children) fundamental rights of a decent, caring society, fearless & dignified living. Do not ever look for any other positive alternative behaviour (values) to perform human way of parenthood, i.e. deliberately co-parenting children those are born out of ignorance, extreme poverty. It seems that all of us are being driven only by the very animal instinct. If the Bengali people ever be able to bring that genuine freedom (from vicious cycle of ‘poverty’) in their own attitude, involve themselves in ‘Production of Space’ (Henri Lefebvre), an intense attachment with the society at large - one different pathway has to create to overcome inherent 'hopeless' psyche; decent, rich Politics will definitely come up. – Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, 16/4, Girish Banerjee Lane, Howrah-711101, India.