In last week’s edition, we began a critical look at the state of poverty and poverty intervention schemes in Nigeria; postulating strategic measures to driving significant results.
Although great strides have been made towards poverty reduction in Africa, the region hosts half of the world’s extreme poor. Latest estimates from the World Bank suggest that the share of the African population living in extreme poverty declined from 57 percent in 1990 to 41 percent in 2013. Yet, with current realities, the world’s extreme poor may be increasingly concentrated in Africa by 2030 (World Bank 2018).
Social Spending in Nigeria
In the face of present extreme poverty indices, it has been established that Nigeria’s human capital spending is amongst the worst in the world. According to the Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) index put together by Development Finance International (DFI), Oxfam, and the World Bank’s Human Capital Index (HCI), Nigeria’s performance on social spending on health, education and social protection is described as low and for the second consecutive year, Nigeria ranked the lowest in the CRI index among 157 nations based on a comparative assessment of the level of commitment of national governments towards reducing poverty gap.
Source: Oxfam International
The Social Inclusion & Shared Prosperity Approach
The concept of social inclusion, also referred to as social integration represents a vision for a society for all in which every individual, each with rights and responsibilities have an active role to play. It is defined as a process in which those at risk of poverty and social exclusion gain the opportunities and resources that are needed to fully participate in societal activities and in this process, adequate income and employment are treated as key means to tackling social exclusion, poverty and inequality. Individuals take part in society through three interrelated domains: Markets (labour, land, and housing), Services (electricity, health, education, water) and Spaces (political, cultural, physical, social) and to improve the terms on which people take part in society means to enhance their ability, opportunity and dignity.
Identity is the key driver of social exclusion. Individuals and groups are excluded or included based on their identity. Among the most common group identities resulting in exclusion are gender, race, caste, ethnicity, religion, age, occupational status, location, and disability status. Social exclusion based on such group attributes can lead to lower social standing, often accompanied by lower outcomes in terms of income, human capital endowments, access to employment and services, and voice in both national and local decision making.
A case study of Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland went through a turbulent period from October 1968 to April 1998 that saw as much as 50,000 people physically maimed and over 3,600 people killed. For 30 years, there was a violent division of whether to belong to the UK or the Republic of Ireland and for a small country, this affected their economy and increased the poverty rate. In order to eliminate poverty after the conflict, the UK government in conjunction with the Northern Ireland government developed a strategy to end poverty by 2020 centred around;
- Eliminating Poverty
- Eliminating Social Exclusion
- Tackling Area Based Deprivation
- Eliminating Poverty from Rural Areas
- Tackling Health Inequalities
- Tackling Cycles of Deprivation
- Tackling Inequality in the Labour Market
- Shared Future – Shared Challenges
The Social Inclusion Strategy was built around an understanding that work is the best route out of poverty for people of working age. Within this context, government aimed at providing access to work for those who could work, whilst supporting those who could not work. Priority was also placed on child poverty. The government defined child poverty as the proportion of children living in a household whose income is less than 60% of UK median household income not including housing costs. In other words, child relative income poverty is the proportion or number of children who live in households below the income poverty line in each year.
With a clear strategy of social inclusion in place, the government set to work with positive results seen over the years regardless of the current challenges. The employment rate for working-age adults in Northern Ireland increased from 64.3 percent in 2000 to 67.1 percent in 2013. Examining the changes to the labour force between 2000 – 2008 for the five regions of Northern Ireland, results showed employment rates for each area was either stable or positive. However, between 2008 and 2013, three of the five regions experienced a fall in employment rates and the overall rate decreased by one percentage point over this time period to 56.4 percent in 2013. Another change noticed was in the proportion of working-age adults that were engaged in economic activity. The figures showed that there was a decline in economic inactivity from 30.9% in 2000 to 27.4% in 2013.
The effect of the social inclusion strategy was also seen in the health and education of the citizens. According to official figures from the inclusion and social change team, life expectancy continued to rise. In the period 1996 – 1998 life expectancy at birth was 79.49 for women and 74.16 for men. In the period 2011-2013, life expectancy at birth was 82.29 for women and 78.00 for men. Life expectancy for females has been consistently higher than males during this period; however the life expectancy for males has increased by 3.8 years compared to 2.8 years for females. With respect to education, in a 2012 international measure of science, mathematics and reading ability, the average score of Northern Ireland students on the science and reading scales was not significantly different from the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development) average and was broadly comparable to the UK average scores but lower than those for the Republic of Ireland.
Leaning Points for Nigeria
The authorities in Northern Ireland clearly understood the issues and targeted the 3 key areas they knew would affect the poverty index of the country namely;
- Specific Child Poverty Targets – reflecting the UK child poverty measures as outlined in the Child Poverty Act of 2010 that covered relative income poverty, absolute income poverty, and mixed low income and material deprivation
- General poverty and social exclusion indicators – taking a lifecycle approach and reflecting many of the commonly agreed EU (European Indicators) indicators and commonly agreed national indicators, but also including a number of additional indicators reflecting specific social inclusion challenges faced in Northern Ireland and;
- Public Service Agreement targets – comprising Public Service Agreement targets of relevance to Lifetime Opportunities anti-poverty and social inclusion objectives.
With the targets clearly defined, monitoring and evaluation of the policy impact brought a sense of clarity on how the poverty figures could be tackled. In spite of the various efforts being made, a few indications point to the fact that Northern Ireland may not be totally out of the woods yet. Current figures from the government of Northern Ireland shows that around 318,000 (17%) people in Northern Ireland live in relative income poverty (before housing costs) including approximately 93,000 (21%) children. However giant strides have been taken since the end of the conflict in 1998.
Nigeria has a unique population demography with a median age of 18.4 years with poverty centred around the youthful population that desire work, education, quality healthcare and opportunities. Therefore, if the goal of ending poverty by 2030 would be achieved, all stakeholders, ranging from the government to the private sector and developmental agencies must focus on areas that promote social inclusion; particularly the provision of decent work and acceptable wages. The more the people are productive and educated, the higher the chances of increase in the standard of living and the better the lifestyle changes that will bring the people out of poverty into prosperity.