Poverty and livelihoods : whose reality counts ?

Author(s) : Robert Chambers
Source : Environment and Urbanization, Volume : 7 Number : 1 Page : 173 — 204


This paper explores how professionals’ universal, reductionist and standardized views of poverty differ from those of the poor themselves. Poverty line thinking concerned with income-poverty and employment thinking concerned with jobs, project Northern concerns on the South, where the realities of the poor are local, diverse, often complex and dynamic. Examples illustrate how poor people’s criteria differ from those assumed for them by professionals. The paper also discusses neglected dimensions of deprivation including vulnerability, seasonality, powerlessness and humiliation. In the new understandings of poverty, wealth as an objective is replaced by wellbeing and "employment" in jobs by livelihood. The final sections argue for altruism and reversals to enable poor people to analyze and articulate their own needs, and they conclude with the implications for policy and practice of putting first the priorities of the poor.

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