Britain Business

What is the best way to escape poverty?

17:51Ciaran McCormick

Poverty is one of the great evils of our society and thanks to years of ideological Conservative austerity to roll back the welfare state, it is flourishing in Britain. It sucks the soul, draining the colour from life. How can people escape it?

We are all the victims of our biographies. Our lives are influenced by a mix of influences that have touched on us even before we were born. Our origins, upbringing and family affect key factors such as education, nutrition and healthcare that can shape our lives.

I have been extremely lucky to have escaped the poverty trap thanks to the education that I have been given, having parents determined to push me further and a dash of effort. This means I will always defend working class people and recognise that I am lucky. My life has not been entirely my own doing.

Society chooses to give opportunities to certain people. Unconscious and conscious bias undermines the lives of minorities and denies them opportunities because people in positions of power perceive them differently. The media wages a war of hatred against easy targets like poor people and refugees.

Escaping poverty when the odds are stacked against you can seem impossible. But it is not.


















Welfare state


Fundamentally, the welfare state is designed to ensure that poverty does not exist. It is the cornerstone of a civilised modern society. The system does not work perfectly – people are unfairly sanctioned for benefits, the homeless are left vulnerable on the streets, foreigners are shut out because of arbitrary borders.

The welfare state is the ultimate safety net, ensuring that people that fall into tough times are not allowed to suffer grotesque poverty and die. Anyone can experience poverty. A business can fail or you may become homeless because of a relationship breakdown. Disasters can strike randomly and some people can withstand it better than others.

The welfare state is designed to give you a minimum standard of living so that you can continue to pursue a more prosperous life. Unlike what the media represents, receiving welfare state support does not give anyone a luxurious existence. It is still soulless poverty.

Many people also benefit from the welfare state, even if they work jobs, such as work credits and many part-time workers that are essential to the economy yet live a fragile existence, often on zero-hour contracts. The welfare state is the launch pad for escaping poverty, but alone it will never be enough.





















Education



The American educator Horace Mann argued passionately for civic education that was universal and free. On the power of education, he said:

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.”

Education is the reason that I am the person I am today, living a comfortable lifestyle. It is one of the most important ways that inter-generational poverty can be reduced. It gives people life-chances, the ability to pursue a fruitful career and teaches them essential social and civic skills, such as literacy and an awareness of health. It promotes a political stake in society, equality and tolerance.

The Global Partnership for Education estimates that it costs $1.25 a day to children in developing countries to fund the education of children from pre-primary to secondary school. 88% of this funding is provided by developing schools, with the international community falling short in the support they provide.

Education should be a fundamental and free right throughout all our lives.















Work


Of course, it must be recognised that even you are given plenty of privileges or education; you must play a part in your own story. Having a good work ethic is essential to escaping in poverty. We must strike a balance between rugged individualism, which claims that work is everything, and extreme determinism, which disregards it entirely.

Money gives you choices. This is denied to people in poverty and is what we must all strive for. Jobs should be plentiful in society and provide structure, dignity and self-esteem. Forcing people to work for free for big corporations to sanitise the employment statistics is the shame of our government.

Working to a zero-hour contract is another precarious situation that people are forced into. The casualisation and appification of employment is a deeply worrying trend that people are starting to call the ‘gig’ economy.

Employment that pays a living wage, with safe and positive standards and conditions is the minimum. We should be demanding tighter regulation to achieve this and stop companies getting a free ride in dictating unhealthy and precarious working conditions, particularly as we leave the EU and lose their entrenched worker’s rights protections.

Teaching people how to save and invest is essential. Work and education operate hand in hand and are the essential twins of the escape from poverty.


Frame of mind


Now that the essentials have been established, we can move on to a final factor. The welfare state is the safety net and the launchpad for everyone in society. Anyone may fall on hard times and need it, yet it is demonised by privileged sources of power like politicians and the media. Education and work are the two ways that both society and the individual can drag ourselves and each other into a better life.

However, our mentality is a key thing in whether we ever mentally escape poverty. People that come from modest upbringings often keep their frugal personalities and appreciate the value of money, even if they have a little or a lot.

In a capitalist society where consumption is the dominant ideology, you will always be in poverty. You will always feel poor compared to other people who can afford a bigger house, more glamorous possessions, more luxurious hobbies and flashier lifestyles. This is why rich people seem out of touch when they complain that they do not have much money or that they pay too much tax on their millions.

Shift your thinking to value experiences rather than possessions. If this is how you value your life, you will be fulfilled. Of course, that requires a minimum economic standard to make these choices. A better welfare state, education and work would give everyone these choices. Choose well.

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