Poverty is a reality affecting people in every country in the world. It affects an individual’s ability to afford basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing, health care, and ultimately affects every aspect of the individual’s life. Though the percentage of poverty varies according to what criteria are being considered, in 2021, it was recorded by the United Nations and the World Bank[i] that more than 9.2% of the world population live in extreme poverty, which means they cannot afford to live on $1.90 a day. However, a more in-depth analysis reveals that in developing countries, the percentage of people living below this margin amounts to nearly half of their population[ii].
There have been several conferences and meetings between countries in the world aimed at forming a working solution for the eradication of poverty. In 2015, the eradication of extreme poverty was included as a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and the target was that it would be eradicated by 2030. Like every SDG, this goal cannot be achieved without the active and consistent effort by the government of every nation.
One way the government of a country can work towards resolving extreme poverty is by increasing the minimum wage of workers in that country. While this is being increased, cognizance should be taken to ensure that the minimum wage is such that an individual earning that amount would be above the international poverty benchmark. I believe this is the least a country should seek to attain. The more reasonable position would be for the country’s minimum wage to be such that an individual can live comfortably on and not just survive on.
Some developing countries have succeeded in ensuring that the minimum wage in their countries just barely exceed the international poverty benchmark and stopped at that point, with no active plans to continue revising this minimum wage. Meanwhile, in these countries where more than half the population live in extreme poverty, public officials earn more than five times the minimum wage set by the government. This begs the question, “what kind of country pays its public officials so much money while its minimum wage is just barely enough to ensure that the citizens within that country live above extreme poverty?”, and the answer in my opinion is a country where the public officials have missed it totally, they have lost touch with the reality of who their responsibilities lie to and what those responsibilities are, and have rather chosen to focus on what they stand to gain by their positions.
The step forward is to make the positions of public officials one that is enticing to only people with the intention of making life better for the citizens of the country and not those looking towards gaining from their positions. This can be achieved by making sure no public official within that country earns more than five times the minimum wage of the country. This also serves as a motivation for the growth of the economy of a country, so public officials would work harder to ensure that the economy of the country continues to improve such that the minimum wage of the country keeps being increased as well as the wages earned by them.
Finally, those charged with the responsibility of determining the minimum wage, are the same people who set what would be paid to the public officials, so, a system where public officials earn not more than five times the minimum wage can only be achieved if there is a collective demand for it. Petitions should be sent to the lawmakers, letters should be written to them, public discussions should be had about it, active steps should continuously be taken. It would not birth results immediately but it is a step in the right direction.
[i] World Bank statistics on https://wwwworldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/overview#1
[ii] Andrea Peer, “Global poverty: Facts, FAQs, and how to help”, https://www.worldvision.org/sponsorship-news-stories/global-poverty-facts, Updated On: August 23, 2021.
Chinyere Jennifer Oyii completed her LLB at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology and went ahead to be inducted into the Nigerian Bar as Barrister and Solicitor. On her journey to obtain these qualifications, she grew fond of Human Rights law and this has shaped her legal practice. In her previous role working with the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, she offered pro-bono legal services to indigent citizens, and currently, she works in a private law firm where she coordinates the majority of research work carried out. Jennifer is passionate about utilizing her knowledge of human rights, advocacy, policy formation and research to create laws that would positively impact the lives of people. She is also currently pursuing her Innovation & Justice Fellowship with MIJ.