Families In Poverty Essay

1. Introduction

What are the differences between child poverty and adult poverty? Poverty is relentless at any age. However, what makes it much more heartrending for children is the likelihood that, depending on the case, its negative effects could last a lifetime even after having escaped the condition itself. Malnutrition inhibits healthy growth. A sense of self doesn't fully develop without experiences of being loved. Furthermore, once a child is left far behind in educational advancement, it is difficult to catch up with others. This means that child poverty casts a dark shadow not only over a child's present, but also over his/her future. In this regard, it is significantly different from adult poverty.

In addition, children, unlike adults, have no way to escape poverty on their own and just have to accept their harsh circumstances. Though, needless to say, escaping poverty through their own efforts is difficult for adults as well, it is incomparably more difficult for children. Also in this respect, our society has to use all available means to help children living in poverty.

During the last decade, poverty had suddenly become a topic of frequent discussion. This provided a viewpoint from which to re-discover child poverty; an issue that had long been left unattained. In order to rescue children from poverty, the problem needs to be continually recognized and should be shared as common knowledge in society.

2. One out of every six children in Japan is living in poverty

How is poverty defined and measured? The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines poverty as living in a household in which (equivalent) disposable income, when adjusted for family size and composition, is less than 50% of the national median income. The OECD uses a poverty line set at 50% of median income (OECD, Report Card 10). Disposable income is the total income of a household after income tax and social insurance fee deductions (so-called actual income). The poverty line in Japan is set at about JPY2,500,000 a year for a family of 4, though it changes slightly by year.

The poverty rate is the ratio of the number of people who fall below the poverty line. This is applied by many international organizations and researchers and is a very common way to measure the extent of the poverty. Based on this method, the child poverty rate is the ratio of the number of children aged 17 and under living in poverty.

The child poverty rate in Japan as reported by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare was 15.7% in 2009, which means one out of every six children was living poverty. When the administration of the Democratic Party of Japan announced the child poverty rate for the first time, 14.2% (as of 2006) was perceived as being shockingly high and this raised some questions. Furthermore, the rate is still increasing.

In May 2012, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre announced the result of an international comparison of child poverty rates in economically advanced nations. According to this comparison, the child poverty rate in Japan is the ninth highest among 35 OECD countries. Considering that Japan has the world's third largest economy, the child poverty rate is remarkably high.

Figure 1. Changes by year (Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare: National Livelihood Survey, 2010)
*1. The poverty rate in 2004 does not include data from Hyogo prefecture.
*2. The poverty rate is produced based on the definition used by the OECD.
*3. An adult is a person aged 18 or over and a child is 17 or under. A working-age household is a household headed by a person aged 18- 64.
*4. Household members whose equivalent incomes are not known are not included.

3. The poverty rate had been high even during the bubble economy

As these poverty rates in Japan were reported during a long-faltering economy, they tend to be taken as a sign of a stagnant economy. Feelings of resignation such as, "It's a recession, so it can't be helped," or "It's not only children who are suffering" are also pervasive. However, even in the past, the child poverty rates in Japan had been high compared to other countries. It was 10.9% in 1985 and 12.9% even in the bubble economy of 1988. It was higher than 14% during the booming economy under the Koizumi administration. Regardless of the state of the economy, government policies have continued to be insensitive toward impoverished child-rearing families.

The child poverty rate is measured by comparison of relative actual income, as seen in the definition of the OECD. This means that it varies depending on the economic circumstance of households with children or how society supports them economically, regardless of a nation's GDP.

According to data from UNICEF, the second highest child poverty rate (23.1%) is that of the United States, the world's wealthiest country. Also among economically advanced nations, the rate in Germany is 8.5% and in France 8.8%, far below the rate in Japan. In Germany and France, policies such as child allowance or elimination of tuition fees are substantial. The lowest rates have been achieved in four Nordic countries: Finland 5.3%, Norway 6.1%, Denmark 6.5% and Sweden 7.3%.

4. The child poverty rate can be improved

Aya Abe, researcher of the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research cites inefficiency of the government's efforts to reduce poverty as a main characteristic of child poverty in Japan. In other words, the child poverty rate hardly improves even after redistribution. Redistribution is the act of a government allocating money that the public has paid in taxes or social insurance fee back to the public in the form of benefits such as public assistance, child allowance and so forth. In general, after redistribution the rate is expected to improve. However, in Japan, the child poverty rate hardly changes before and after redistribution. During the Liberal Democratic Party's administration when child allowance had not yet been introduced, the rate was even higher after redistribution. To put it more clearly, Japanese society had spent money that its citizens had paid in taxes or social insurance fee mostly on the elderly, ignoring benefits for households with children.

Aya Abe also pointed to a prominently higher poverty rate among single-mother households as being a significant characteristic in Japan. Approximately 60% of single-mother households fall below the poverty line, which is quite unique to Japan among advanced countries. In Japan, employment is premised on the assumption that employees are given solid financial stability and a social position in exchange for being subservient to companies rather than just working for them. For that reason, stable employment for mothers, who have to devote a lot of time to child-rearing, is quite limited. Many of them are engaged in part time or temporary work for much lower wages under unstable employment, which means that they do not have any chance to receive a raise and can be dismissed at anytime. A nationwide survey of single-mother households in 2011 by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare shows that the average annual employment income among single mothers is just JPY1,810,000, about half of that among single fathers.

Furthermore, poverty among young people has recently become a serious problem. According to a labor force survey by the Statistics Bureau of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the percentage of non-regular employment among young people aged 15-24 is 45% for men and 55% for women, more than double compared to a decade ago. It can easily be imagined that the marriage rate among young people has drastically declined and that many young married couples with children are suffering from poverty.

What is understood from these findings is that the poverty rate can be improved by changing government policy, the nation's system and basically the whole concept of what society should be. The idea that economic growth and market revitalization are the only prescriptions against poverty is a falsehood. Improving the poverty rate depends on people's sense of value and what society thinks is important and puts priority on.

Figure 2: Child poverty rate, Report Card 10, Innocenti Research Centre, UNICEF
(Percentage of children living in households with an equivalent income lower than 50% of the national median)

5. Introducing the perspective of child poverty to Child Science

For those of us who study Child Science, what kind of meaning does it have to think about child poverty? The author has been editing a magazine that deals with children's issues over a number of years and is now in charge of general management of the Japanese Society of Child Science as a secretary-general. For close to two decades I have done feature magazine articles and have held symposiums and lectures concerning various children's problems while discussing these issues with many researchers and professionals in pedagogy, developmental psychology, pediatrics and so forth. However, rarely have we taken on these problems from the perspective of poverty.

However, in recent years, child poverty suddenly came to be an issue and when reading books about child poverty I cannot help but feel a sense of regret that many of the agendas we dealt with in the past could not bring about effective discussion due to a lack of perspective on poverty. For example, had we added the viewpoint of poverty to the problems of children, such as non-attendance at school, abuse, delinquency, low academic achievement and so forth, we would have had much more meaningful discussions that recognized the actual situations at hand. I find it unfortunate that this was not the case.

6. Reasons why poverty is hard to discuss

There are several reasons why the theme of poverty had not been brought up in discussing children's issues. The first was based on the unspoken agreement that we should not relate children's problems to poverty since it runs a risk of hurting the feelings of a needy family and of excluding them from the community. People in education were especially very sensitive about taking such a risk. Recently, many sociological surveys concerning the relation between academic ability and financial background were published and the term, "cycle of poverty" became commonly known even among ordinary people. However, until then, these ideas related to poverty had long been regarded as taboo.

Furthermore, research and surveys on poor families require a great deal of time and effort. It is difficult to ask about details of family finances from the aspect of privacy. Moreover, there may even be parents who feel outrage at having their family regarded as being poor or toward people who relate their child's problem to poverty. With the exception of sociologists whose main theme is the problem of poverty or researchers who are often in contact with poor families in order to support them from the viewpoint of child welfare, poverty is a very sensitive and difficult theme to deal with.

Still, I don't think the difficulty stems from those clear-cut reasons, but rather from the fact that most researchers simply do not have a clear image of poverty itself. From the beginning, researchers at universities had been raised without the experience of having contact with people from poor families. To have received years of education, including graduate school, in order to become a teacher of higher education, it would have been necessary for their parents to have had sufficient finances. Most researchers had been high-achieving students who entered a competitive school and had been raised surrounded by other bright children from a similar income bracket. Even when they try to do something about children's issues, there are very few researchers who can easily imagine the situations of families in extreme poverty or parents with low education. In addition to that, since pedagogy, psychology and so forth tend to base their research on an average child whose minimal economic circumstances are secured, children in poor families become farther and farther removed from researchers' awareness.

7. Excluded poor people in advanced nations

The truth of the matter is that the difficulty in raising awareness about poverty is deeply related to the nature of poverty. This becomes especially important when thinking about poverty in advanced nations.

There are some who say that though the poverty rate in Japan is increasing, its poverty level is still much better in comparison with levels in developing countries. But in fact, there are aspects in which poverty in advanced nations is more relentless than poverty in developing nations.

For example, in developing countries, poor people can be seen everywhere. On the streets there are various kinds of beggars and in the shadows there are prostitutes. Children plot to get tips by taking tourists to souvenir shops. The hungry try to get scraps of bread by hanging around restaurants. There, poverty is too pervasive to be hidden and there is less likelihood that a person will be excluded only because he or she is poor.

In contrast, in advanced countries, it is hard to recognize poverty so it tends to be excluded. In a prosperous society, poverty is uncommon; a phenomenon people want to refuse to acknowledge if possible. It is not an issue everyone wants to share. Especially, in a society like Japan where people put importance on cleanliness and homogeneity, impoverished people are likely to hesitate to reveal their plight. There are even those who commit suicide not because of poverty itself but because of the shame they feel about being poor.

There are societies in which hungry people, far from being able to enjoy a delicious meal themselves, cannot even approach someone having a feast right before their eyes and in which uneaten food is simply thrown in the trash. On the other hand, there are societies in which everyone is so terribly hungry that they fall over each other to get food without the least bit of shame. Both are relentless, but the nature of their plight is different.

Pressure to exclude the poor is stronger in advanced countries than in developing ones. People who have fallen into poverty are likely to be excluded from employment, the social system, family and society, and have nowhere to go. They are then erased from the minds of people who are living an ordinary life. Children in poor families are in a similarly vulnerable situation. That is why we should make a conscious effort to raise the issue of child poverty.

8. Getting over the difficulty of looking at poverty

Makoto Yuasa, a former advisor to the Cabinet Office who has been working for homeless people and advocating for their rights stated that, "The most prominent characteristic of poverty is that it's invisible, which makes it difficult to grasp the problems and actual situations involved." He then added that, "Seeing or visualizing poverty concurrently includes trying to see circumstances and conditions of people in poverty that we cannot see from the surface.

Poverty is not only a financial plight. It includes various problems that are derived from poverty. Trouble in daily life is often seen as being caused not by poverty, but by personality problems. In this way, impoverished people are sometimes excluded from society rather than rescued by it. For example, children who are neglected by parents who are struggling to make a living are at a risk of being negatively labeled as just dirty, sloppy, or stupid.

There is an excellent way of thinking in the field of child welfare that states, "Troublesome children are children in trouble." Whenever discussing children's issues, the topic of troubled children must be raised. Problems may be seen in a completely different light if they are considered from the perspective of child poverty.

We have to strengthen our ability to imagine in order to address children's problems.

The original essay was written in Japanese and published in JAPANESE JOURNAL OF CLINICAL DENTISTRY FOR CHILDREN ® on Dec. 2012 (vol. 17, no. 12) as the second part of a series titled "Syouni shikai ga shitteokitai kodomogaku (Child Science that Pedodontists Should Know).
Child Research Net would like to thank the Japanese Society of Practitioners for pediatric Dentistry for permitting translation and reproduction of this article on the CRN website.


  • "Child Poverty", Aya Abe, Iwanami Shinsho, 2008
  • Summary of Nation's Livelihood Research, 2010, from the website of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
  • "Child Poverty - The Actual Situation in Japan", NHK Viewpoint and Issue, Aya Abe, broadcasted on June 5, 2012
  • Survey of Single-mother Households 2011, from the website of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
  • "Anti-poverty", Makoto Yuasa, Iwanami Shinsho, 2008

Poverty is the condition of a person when he/she cannot fulfill his/her basic needs of life such as food, clothing and shelter.

Essay on Poverty

We have provided below various essay on poverty in order to help students. Now-a-days, essays or paragraphs writing are common strategy followed by the teachers in the schools and colleges in order to enhance the skill and knowledge of students about any topic. All the poverty essay are written using very simple words under various words limit according to the need and requirement of students. They can select any of the essays given below according to their need and requirement in the class, any competition or exam.

Poverty Essay 1 (100 words)

Poverty is the state for any person of being extremely poor. It is the extreme situation when a person feels lack of essential items required to continue the life such as shelter, adequate food, clothing, medicines, etc. Some of the common reasons of poverty are like overpopulation, lethal and epidemic diseases, natural disasters, low agricultural output, lack of employment, castism in country, illiteracy, gender inequality, environmental problems, changing trends of economy in the country, lack of proper education, untouchability, limited or inadequate access of people to their rights, political violence, organized crime, corruption, lack of motivation, idleness, old social beliefs, etc. Poverty in India can be reduced by following effective solutions however needs individual efforts of all the citizens.

Poverty Essay 2 (150 words)

We can define poverty as the lack of food, proper shelter, clothing, medicines, education, and equal human rights. Poverty forces a person to remain hungry, without shelter, without clothes, education and proper rights. There are various causes of poverty in the country however solutions too but because of the lack of proper unity among Indian citizens to follow solutions, poverty is increasing badly day by day. Spread of epidemic diseases in any country is the reason of poverty as poor people cannot take care of their health and hygienic condition.

Poverty makes people unable to go to doctor, to go to school, how to read, to speak properly, to eat three times meal, to wear needed clothes, to purchase own house, to get paid properly for job, etc. Poverty forces a person to go towards illness as they drink unclean water, lives at dirty places, and eat improper meal. Poverty causes powerlessness and lack of freedom.

Poverty Essay 3 (200 words)

Poverty is just like a condition of slave when a person becomes unable to do anything according to his/her wish. It has many faces which changes according to the person, place and time. It can be described in many ways a person feel it or live it. Poverty is a situation which no one wants to live however has to carry it by custom, nature, natural disaster, or lack of proper education. The person lives it, generally wants to escape. Poverty is a call to action to the poor people to earn enough money to eat, have access to education, get adequate shelter, wear needed clothes, and protection from the social and political violence.

It is an invisible problem which affects a person and his/her social life very badly in many ways. Poverty is completely preventable problem however there are many reasons which carry and continue it from the past time. Poverty keeps a person lack of freedom, mental well-being, physical well-being, and security. It is very necessary for everyone to work jointly in order to remove poverty from the country and world to bring proper physical health, mental health, complete literacy, home for everyone, and other needed things to live a simple life.


Poverty Essay 4 (250 words)

Poverty is a human condition which brings despair, grief and pain in the human life. Poverty is the lack of money and all the things required to live a life in proper manner. Poverty makes a child unable to enter to the school in childhood and lives his/her childhood in an unhappy family. Poverty is the lack of few rupees to arrange bread and butter of two times daily, buy text books for kids, grief of parents responsible for the care of children, etc. We can define poverty in many ways. It is very common to see poverty in India because most people here cannot fulfill their basic necessities of the life. A huge percentage of population here is uneducated, hungry and without home and clothe. It is the main reason of the poor Indian economy. Because of the poverty, around half population in India is living a miserable life.

Poverty creates a situation in which people fail to get sufficient income so they cannot purchase necessary things. A poor man lives his/her life without any command over basic needs such as two times food, clean drinking water, clothing, house, proper education, etc. People who fail to maintain the minimum standard of living such as consumption and nutrition required for existence. There are various reasons of poverty in India however mal distribution of national income is also a reason. Low income group people are relatively poorer than the high income group. Children of the poor family never get chance of proper schooling, proper nutrition and happy childhood. The most important reasons of the poverty are illiteracy, corruption, growing population, poor agriculture, gap between poor and rich, etc.

Poverty Essay 5 (300 words)

Poverty represents poor quality of life, illiteracy, malnutrition, lack of basic needs, low human resource development, etc. It is a biggest challenge to the developing country especially in India. It is a phenomenon in which a section of people in the society cannot fulfill their basic necessities of life. It has seen some decline in the poverty level in the last five years (26.1% in 1999-2000 from 35.97% in 1993-94). It has also declined at state level such as in Orissa it has been declined to 47.15% from 48.56%, in Madhya Pradesh 37.43% from 43.52%, in UP 31.15% from 40.85%, and in West Bengal 27.02% from 35.66%. Instead of some decline in the poverty in India it is not the matter of happiness because the Indian BPL is still very large number (26 crore).

Poverty in India can be eradicated by the use of some effective programmes, however need a joint effort by everyone not by the government only. Government of India should make some effective strategies aiming to develop poor social sector through key components like primary education, population control, family welfare, job creation, etc especially in the rural areas.

What are Effects of Poverty

Some of the effects of poverty are like:

  • Illiteracy: poverty makes people unable to get proper education because of the lack of money.
  • Nutrition and diet: poverty causes insufficient availability of diet and inadequate nutrition which brings lots of lethal diseases and deficiency diseases.
  • Child labor: it gives rise to the huge level illiteracy as the future of the country gets involved in the child labor at very low cost in their early age.
  • Unemployment: unemployment causes poverty as it creates the lack of money which affects people’s daily life. It forces people to live unfulfilled life against their will.
  • Social tensions: it creates social tension due to the income disparity between rich and poor.
  • Housing problems: it creates the bad condition for people to live without home on the footpath, roadside, other open places, many members in one room, etc.
  • Diseases: it gives rise to the various epidemic diseases as people with lack of money cannot maintain proper hygiene and sanitation. Also they cannot afford a doctor for the proper treatment of any disease.
  • Feminization of poverty: poverty affects women’s life to a great extent because of the gender-inequality and keeps them deprived of the proper-diet, nutrition, medicines and treatment facility.


Poverty Essay 6 (400 words)


Poverty is a situation in which people remain deprived of basic necessities of life such as inadequacy of food, clothes, and shelter. Most of the people in India cannot get their two times meal properly, sleep at roadside and wear dirty and old clothes. They do not get proper and healthy nutrition, medicines, and other necessary things. Poverty in the urban India is increasing because of the increase in urban population as people from rural areas like to migrate to the cities and towns to get employment or do some financial activity. The income of around 8 crore urban people is below poverty line and 4.5 crore urban people is on borderline of poverty level. A huge number of people live in slum become illiterate. In spite of some initiatives there is no any satisfactory results shown regarding reduction of poverty.

Causes of Poverty

The main causes of poverty in India are growing population, poor agriculture, corruption, old customs, huge gap between poor and rich people, unemployment, illiteracy, epidemic diseases, etc. A huge percentage of people in India depend on agriculture which is poor and cause poverty. Generally people face shortage of food because of poor agriculture and unemployment. Ever growing population is also the reason of poverty in India. More population means more food, money and houses. In the lack of basic facilities, poverty grows more rapidly. Becoming extra rich and extra poor creates a huge widening gap between the rich and the poor people. Rich people are growing richer and poor people are growing poorer which creates an economic gap between the two.

Effects of Poverty

Poverty affects people’s life in many ways. There are various effects of poverty such as illiteracy, poor diet and nutrition, child labor, poor housing, poor life style, unemployment, poor hygiene, feminization of poverty, etc. Poor people cannot arrange a healthy diet, maintain good life style, home, nice clothes, proper education, etc because of the lack of money which creates a huge difference between rich and poor. This difference leads to the undeveloped country. Poverty forces small children to do work at low cost and help their family financially instead of going to the school.

Solutions to Eradicate Poverty

It is very necessary to solve the problem of poverty on urgent basis for the goodness of humanity on this planet. Some of the solutions that can play great role in solving the problem of poverty are:

  • Farmers should get proper and required facilities for good agriculture as well as to make it profitable.
  • Adult people who are illiterate should be given required training for the betterment of life.
  • Family planning should be followed by the people in order to check the ever-rising population and thus poverty.
  • Corruption should be ended all over the world to reduce the poverty.
  • Each and every child should go to the school and take proper education.
  • There should be ways of employment where people of all categories can work together.


Poverty is not only the problem of a person however it is a national problem. It must be solved on urgent basis by implementing some effective solutions. Variety of steps has been taken by the government to reduce poverty however no clear results are seen. Eradication of poverty is necessary for the sustainable and inclusive growth of people, economy, society and country. Eradication of poverty can be done effectively by the unite effort of each and every person.


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