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Poverty, Inequality and Social Justice
The issues involved in poverty, inequality and social justice are many and varied, from basic access to education and healthcare, to the financial crisis and resulting austerity, and now COVID-19. Addressing Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 5: Gender Equality, Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities and Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, our list both presents research on these topics and tackles emerging problems. A key series in the area is the SSSP Agendas for Social Justice.
This focus has always been at the heart of our publishing with the view to making the research in this area as visible and accessible as possible in order to maximise its potential impact.
Bristol University Press and Policy Press are signed up to the UN SDG Publishers Compact. In Poverty, inequality and social justice, we aim to address the following goals:
Before the introduction of the household benefit cap in the UK in 2013 the previous mechanism there limited the income of social assistance recipients was the wage stop, operating for four decades between 1935 and 1975. Similar to the benefit cap, the wage stop reflected and reproduced concerns with incentivising unemployed people to labour. This raises questions about why the wage stop was abolished in the mid-1970s when worries about unemployment continued, particularly its intersections with out-of-work benefits. It is widely argued that the abolition of the wage stop was a consequence of lobbying by the Child Poverty Action Group. Drawing upon records held at the UK’s National Archives, this article argues that this is an over-simplified explanation that, first, ignores concerns with the wage stop that pre-dated the Child Poverty Action Group’s criticism of it, including concerns within the assistance boards with its administration. And, second, while by the mid-1970s there was (albeit ambiguous) concern with the impacts of the wage stop, there was a shift in approach that emphasised the supplementation of low wages with social security benefits, rather than forcing social assistance below the assessed needs of households, as being a preferable means of ensuring the incentive to take wage-labour.
This panel discussion session explores some of the central dimensions of the Crisis in the Anthropocene that constitute global social challenges in the context of development studies. The conference theme highlighted the profound human impact on our blue-green-brown planet, that is already breaching planetary boundaries and pushing us beyond the roughly 1.5°C tipping point. This threatens liveability and sustainability in many localities and regions and may well rapidly be ‘off the scale’ of imaginability and survivability. Inevitably, as mounting empirical evidence and increasingly clear projections by the IPCC and other authoritative bodies show, these impacts are unevenly spread, both socially and spatially, both now and over the coming decades. The urgency of appropriate action is undeniable and we already know many dimensions of the required adaptations and transformations. Yet progress mostly remains too slow. These challenges are vital to the development studies community – heterogenous as it is – with our concerns for tackling poverty, inequality, deprivation and environmental degradation globally and locally.
Hence this symposium asks what the crisis means for development theory, policy and practice and what development studies can and should be contributing to – and, indeed, whether it is capable of – addressing some key dimensions that warrant greater attention.
The current design of UK public policy and mainstream political and social discourse has consistently equated paid work with good citizenship and desirable parenting. The article presents findings from a recent qualitative study that explores how lone mothers with different moral rationalities judge themselves before and after making a transition from welfare (and being full-time carers) to paid work. The findings suggest that the design of public policy and related discourses worked well with the moral rationalities of some lone mothers who believed that paid work made them better mothers. However, it left others with moral values on direct care behind, as they suffered from physical and emotional exhaustion and feelings of guilt in paid work. The article highlights how dominant ideologies reinforce the pre-existing hierarchy of paid work and care, with the latter being viewed as deserving of less acknowledgement.
Achieving prosperity for all within planetary boundaries requires that governments take wide-ranging transformative action, but achieving ‘triple-wins’ by joining up policies across economic, social and environmental realms can be challenging. A companion analysis undertaken under the ODI Nexus project () analysed key indicators in these realms in lower income countries and identified the Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka and Thailand as front-runners in achieving more holistic development outcomes. Looking deeper at these case studies, we sought to identify national policy interventions that struck a balance between the different realms of development and explored the policy development, legislation and implementation processes required for integrated transformational policy to succeed.
In each we found national-scale, triple-win policies led from the president’s or prime minister’s office. These policies can usually be traced to specific political moments that forced a reckoning with the failures of previous development policy, often resulting in radical change of direction in development planning. Yet, despite the existence of triple-win policies, as of 2019, there was limited evidence of triple-win outcomes being achieved. Instead, the case study countries typically performed well in one or two realms, often to the detriment of progress in the other(s).
We present potential reasons for the lacklustre impact of these policies and conclude with suggestions for future work to outline where in the policy landscape it may be possible to enact transformational nexus policies and how to support them to achieve their outcomes in the timeframes required to ensure equitable prosperity within planetary boundaries.
This article presents a typology to capture varying degrees of inclusive, sustainable economic transformation in low- and middle-income countries. We perform a cluster analysis of these pillars – poverty and inequality, environmental sustainability, and economic transformation – proxied by a set of quantitative indicators with data pooled between 2000 and 2018. This is supported by descriptive analysis of correlations in change over time between indicators as well as an exploration of the contextual risk and governance profiles underpinning these changes. From this analysis, we identify five clusters of countries with a range of outcomes across the three pillars. Countries consistently performing well across the three dimensions are not readily evident, though some countries are able to achieve moderate outcomes. Policy implications point to the need to get the basics right around pro-poor infrastructure development and making certain sectors greener in an effort to advance tripartite gains.
On 6 December 2022, Jakarta passed a controversial law criminalising extramarital sex within Indonesian territories. In this policy article, in response to Indonesia’s recent criminalisation of extramarital sex, the author problematises how such legislation compounds domestic sex workers’ encounters with poverty. Then, the author visits Indonesia’s minimum tolerance of prostitution, arguing how such an impractical policy hinders Jakarta from eradicating the socioeconomic root causes of prostitution. Next, the author suggests policy directions that Jakarta should take into account in order to deconstruct the problems of underprivileged, marginalised and impoverished women and girls entering the sex industry. Here the author emphasises that Indonesia can deny the recognition of prostitutes, but it has to recognise prostitutes as local citizens. Therefore, social protection schemes designated for domestic citizens should be made accessible on a gender-blind basis, regardless of beneficiaries’ socioeconomic backgrounds.
Scholars of childhood typically view children as agentic; poverty researchers, aware that poverty reduces children’s life-chances, may be tempted to consider them as victims. Adults experiencing poverty report feelings of powerlessness, and, by analogy, poverty may reduce children’s agency. However, comparatively little is known about the impact of poverty on child agency or the extent to which children use their agency to mediate the effects of poverty. Therefore, 55 low-income children from two Chinese schools were invited to participate in group discussions and qualitative interviews spread over several hours. Considering poverty to be multidimensional, children identified that their agency was restricted both by poverty and their status as children but argued that they were not without agency. This was confirmed in interviews with parents and teachers. Six strategies were identified that children use to ameliorate poverty’s effects. The strategies group into three pairs, the first strategy in each pair reflecting a child’s decision to accommodate to their circumstances with the second being an attempt to alter them. The first pair (norm adaptation and active communication) comprised coping strategies addressing the present; the second pair (self-improvement and self-sacrifice) were expressions of constructive agency; and the third pair (lowered expectations and rebellion) were partially acts of despair. Giving greater recognition to children’s attempts to improve the lives of their families and themselves may lead to more effective modes of policy intervention.
The new rural development in Vietnam is a large-scale, nationwide programme that involves many stakeholders. The perspectives of these stakeholders, whether they exhibit differences or homogeneity, will significantly shape the programme’s outcomes and results. This study assessed the perspectives of stakeholders and classified them into four categories: (1) the significance of the new rural programme, (2) the role of stakeholders, (3) levels of stakeholders’ participation, and (4) stakeholders’ expectations. The findings indicate that the stakeholders strongly agreed on and appreciated the significance of the new rural programme in improving people’s livelihoods. However, the distinguishing viewpoints focused mainly on the roles and the levels of participation of the stakeholders. Bridging the perceived gap among stakeholders and strengthening the key role of the people are the decisive factors of the programme’s success, contribute to poverty reduction, social justice, and the long-term sustainability of the national target programme for new rural development in Vietnam.
The Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) model is currently being employed in Uganda for deepening financial inclusion and poverty reduction. Despite its focus on women’s empowerment, concerns have arisen of an under-representation of women on VSLA leadership committees. Human rights-based, economic, and social justice arguments support active participation of women on VSLA leadership committees. The study sought to identify, explicate and characterise the barriers and facilitators to women in VSLA leadership. An exploratory study design using qualitative methods was selected to address the research objectives. Forty-nine focus group discussions were undertaken, featuring both VSLA members and non-members. VSLAs for inclusion in the study were randomly selected from within four regions of Uganda, stratified by: mature (>2 years old) versus new (<2 years old). The study exposed a diverse array of barriers and facilitators to women in VSLA leadership positions, revealing the influence of individual, material, institutional and social factors, in addition to social norms and gender characteristics, on women in VSLA leadership. The findings revealed that the design of interventions to achieve fair representation of women in leadership positions should be informed by an understanding of the different types, relative strengths, support for/against, and intersectionality of the factors impacting women in VSLA leadership.