“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” states an ancient Chinese proverb. Following this meaningful message, the Chinese government has been taking action to eradicate poverty by 2020. Taking advantage of an important economic development completed with ambitious social strategies, China is very likely to achieve this goal.
In 2015, the world moved forward towards sustainable development through 3 landmark agreements: the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Thanks to this global commitment, poverty has been recognized as the greatest challenge of our current world. Over the last 20 years, nearly 1 billion people have been taken out of extreme poverty. Despite these efforts, many people are still living in extreme poverty. Accounting to 1.3 billion people, China is a key country to achieve the eradication of poverty.
Indeed, China is currently leading the fight against poverty. Turning to the official Chinese poverty line (which is 20% above the international poverty line of $1.9 a day), the country reduced poverty by 94% between 1980 and 2015. This evolution was first driven by the economic development of the country. If industrialization led to an increase in income inequalities, it also encouraged a deep transition for the Chinese working population. Between 1978 and 2015, the number of people in non rural jobs increased from 29% to 70%. Moreover, it made possible the development of local market and businesses, it also transformed and upgraded traditional agriculture.
At the same time, the Chinese government developed local and individual strategies to eradicate poverty everywhere. First, the government distributed cultivated land in rural China enabling everyone to have income from their land, while providing support for agricultural development. Second, the implementation of universal social development programs such as compulsory education and social pensions contributed to a growth in income of the poorest population, especially in rural areas. Finally, targeted poverty reduction programs have played an important role. Since the 90’s, the dibao program has provided a minimum income for poor individuals. This system focuses on individuals, drawing up specific plans for individuals, rather than being based on geographical regions of poverty, in the hope that it will have a better impact on the poorest.
However, many things remain to be done to achieve poverty eradication in China. And the last step towards poverty reduction will be the hardest one to implement. China’s economic growth is less important than before, and the industrialization’s positive effects have already impacted the population. Eradicating poverty from this stage forward, won’t be easy as it is now concentrated in the most underdeveloped areas. Moreover, a recent government survey found that 46% of China’s poor have health issues, which prevents them from working.
Thus, the current rate of poverty reduction could lead to an end of extreme poverty in China by 2020. This achievement has been made possible through the implementation of ambitious strategies which represents a model for other developing countries. Nevertheless, the goal to achieve poverty eradication in all its forms by 2030 is far from achieved. Around the world, in both developing and developed countries, poverty’s face is changing. From rural to urban areas, leaving the extreme poverty line doesn’t mean living with dignity. It is therefore necessary to keep fighting against poverty everywhere, particularly as its the first barrier to achieving sustainable development.