Are you a JC General Paper student looking for sample essays on the economic issue of Poverty?
This is a major sub topic under Economic issues, as you realise that while the global economy is progressing, groups of people in many countries remain poor. It’s almost unthinkable that the numbers of being poor are still large.
(More GP topics here)
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Q1: Examine why some people remain poor in affluent countries.
The highly modernised and industrialised nations, such as the United States, Japan and the countries of the European Community, enjoy the highest standard of living in the world today. However, despite high per capita national incomes and literacy rates, large numbers of un employed, homeless and hungry people still exist in these countries.
Perhaps the main reason for the number of poor people in these affluent nations is the complex economic cycle. As almost all the wealthy states are organized un der the capitalist market structure, they are subjected to periodic economic booms and recession. During times of depression, many people, especially the unskilled workers, lose their jobs as some firms close down while others retrench to reduce losses. For instance, when the United States was hit by a recession in the early 1990’s, General Motor had to shut down several of its plants, resulting in thousands being unemployed. Moreover, with newly industrialised countries such as South Korea and Singapore, joining an already competitive world economy, many in the affluent countries are expected to remain unemployed. Meanwhile some of these countries also do not have strong trade unions, such as those in France, to fight retrenchment decisions. Thus, many of the poor suffer as the result of vicious economic trends and the policies of exploitative profit-making entrepreneurs.
the motivation to alleviate their plight. For example, many people in Britain and Australia would rather live off the State and remain at the bottom of society rather than find a job to support themselves and their families. On the other hand, countries like Singapore do not have any welfare policies and many needy receive only limited assistance from charitable organisations, and are unable to break the poverty cycle, and thus remain as the poor in a rich nation.
Overcrowding in urban areas is also the cause of poverty for some in prosperous countries. While living space – is limited and the cost of living is high in metropolitan areas such as New York sizable sections of the huge population are unable to keep up with the financial expectations. Hence many homeless and hungry vagrants can be found in New York, Paris, London and other large cities.
As the developed nations all have adequate education systems, the illiterate are at a disadvantage when finding employment. Moreover with the complexity of modern technology, technical and professional training are often needed to secure a job, thus leaving the uneducated and poorly trained members of a competitive society struggling to secure a decent living.
Another reason for the continued existence of the poor, despite the accumulation of wealth by a nation, is that the deprived are often entangled in the web of poverty. For example, if a man is too poor to provide his child with education, he can expect his son not to secure a well paid job, and the son, like his father, will also remain poor. Thus the poverty cycle will probably continue with the future generations unless assistance is provided.
The unequal treatment of some groups in society is another cause of the plight of some people in these rich nations. Discrimination against the handicapped, the aged or people of “inferior” social status such as the burakumin in Japan, results in these people being unable to compete or improve their conditions. This can be seen in America where many of the blacks are still deeply entrenched in the lower class as they face racial prejudice.
Perhaps the saddest reason for the poor existing in wealthy nations is the indifference of the government and the upper and middle classes of the population. It is hard to believe that the American government is spending billions of dollars each year in seemingly useless space re search, while hundreds of vagrants are spending their nights under freezing conditions in the streets of Washington itself. The greater tragedy is probably the fact that thousands of people are continuing their blind chase for more wealth, while leaving their less well-off brothers behind to struggle. This appallingly selfish and unfeeling aspect of man has certainly contributed to the plight of the “have-nots.”
In conclusion, it is impossible not to find the deprived in any country, whether it is affluent or not. Mankind is ultimately self-centred. Unless Man is able to sacrifice his self-interest, equality will not exist, and the poor will remain in every community.
Q2: “The poor are responsible for their own plight.” How far do you agree?
Poverty is a cause for concern for both Third World and industrialised countries though the causes of poverty for both are markedly different. To hold the poor responsible for their plight makes it easier for governments to explain the problem of poverty, but in reality, many people are poor through no fault of their own. The causes of poverty are manifold; on the micro level it could be due to sheer laziness and possibly economic mismanagement. On the macro level, it could be due to restrictive trade practices, poor economic planning and foreign debt. To achieve significant economic growth, it is essential that Third World governments tackle the problem of poverty.
The World Bank (WB) has been heralded as one of the globe’s most important engines for economic development. However, this is far from the truth concerning the part it plays in promoting poverty in some countries. In the past fiscal year, the bank distributed nearly US$20 billion in repayments and interest from borrowers; thus, according to some critics, siphoning off badly needed capital from poor countries. Brazil, for example, has paid the bank US$5.3 billion more than it has received, forcing the Brazilian government to cut back on money spent on education, housing and food subsidies. This has led to a widening income gulf between the rich and the poor and widespread poverty. A case in point is Nigeria, whose unemployment level today is double that in 1990, as a result of taking on a WB loan that year.
Poverty can also result from economic mismanagement on the part of the government, for instance embark ng on “trophy projects” that look impressive, but are of little use and simply budgetary Black Holes. A good ex le the Sardar Sarovar Dam which was part of an ample project that envisioned building 3000 large and enormous small dams on the Narmada River in western India. The scheme sparked off controversy when it was revealed that the Indian government took on a huge US$5.3 billion loan just to build that single dam.
The WB has also been blamed for large-scale involuntary resettlement to make way for bank-financed dams – as in the case of the Sardar Sarovar Dam which dis placed 200 000 people and other construction projects. An internal investigation made public this year found bank enterprises responsible for creating 2.5 million “development refugees” (who live in squalid resettlement camps and poverty) between 1986 and 1993.
Critics of the WB point out that the imposition of so called structural-adjustment policies, creates widespread problems of poverty in Third World countries. Ironically, these policies are supposedly part of a strategy followed by the WB and the IMF to get bankrupt or poorly run countries back on their feet. Structural adjustment is of ten proposed by the IMF and then made a condition for the approval of bank loans. Steps such as privatisation of state-owned industries, currency devaluation, fiscal austerity and export-oriented strategies are advocated by the bank with a view to attracting foreign investment and promoting long term growth. But governments frequently pay for such programs by cutting back on subsidies for food and other basics crucial to the poor, compounding the already seemingly intractable problem of poverty in these countries. A currency devaluation promoted by the bank and the IMF in Francophone West Africa last year provides a striking example of the problem. About 80 million people in 14 African countries awoke one morning last January to find that basic goods had doubled in price; the decision sparked protest riots in Senegal. The IMF and the WB defended the policy as necessary to removing economic distortions that stifle agriculture and basic industries. Critics argue that the cure is worse than the disease. “Structural adjustment is usually imposed without involving local populations in the debate,” says Douglas Hellinger, managing director of the Development Group for Alternative Policies, a non-profit advocacy group. “Very often the result is falling wages, rising income inequality and deepening poverty.”
The existence of social blocs or classes is another cause of poverty in some countries, for instance, India. The “untouchables” who belong to the lowest caste live in poverty as they are often denied an education and per form only the most menial and lowest paying jobs. The vicious circle of poverty perpetuates itself as their children are also denied an education because their parents are unable to pay for one. Poverty can also be caused by environmental disasters such as floods and hurricanes that can destroy arable farmland and reduce farming communities dependent on the land to living from hand to mouth. Bangladesh is hit by almost annual floods and tidal waves which devastate farmland and leave farmers in poverty.
Unenlightened government policies such as apartheid cause poverty. Apartheid, formerly practised by the South African government, was responsible for creating a huge black underclass who lived in overpopulated “home lands.” Restrictive trade practices such as import quotas and taxes imposed on foreign goods manufactured in Third World countries make it impossible for them to alleviate external debt that is the root cause of poverty. Africa’s external debt for instance, stands at US$285 billion. Lacking a market for their goods, economic development – the key to prosperity – is stifled.
However, in some cases the poor are responsible for their plight. This includes those who are poor because they are lazy and would rather live in poverty than work and those who are poor due to their stupidity and economic mismanagement.
For the reasons stated above, most of the poor live in poverty through no fault of their own, but in some cases, they can be held responsible for their own plight.
Q3: Discuss what can be done to help the poor.
You see a young boy begging in the streets in the more insalubrious part of Bangkok; a teenage prostitute in the slums in the thriving city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, offering any prospective customer the only possession of any significant value she has her innocence and her physical youth – and the homeless in the ravaged part of Los Angeles, city of Angels. What comes to mind is the plight the poor and less privileged have been reduced to. What ever the situation may be, this major social disease of poverty occurs in all parts of the world – from the affluent countries such as Japan, the United States of America and France to the Third World nations in Asia, Africa and South America.
We have to understood that this predicament has not necessarily been brought upon the poor through their own doing and that we are not in any way unable to help them. Every little bit of help is significant, from donating your belongings to the materially deprived to staging a major group effort to launch campaigns to aid those in war-torn countries like Somalia, Pakistan or disaster-stricken countries like Bangladesh.
Yet, first and foremost, we must not underestimate the challenge. Ask any Singaporean who has financial security what he has contributed to helping the poor in his own country and most probably you will receive a long pause, a befuddled perplexed expression and a negative head shake. I believe the first step is to cultivate awareness of the fact that there are poor people in Singapore who can barely subsist on what they earn or other wise depend on, and that this misconceived idea that the poor only exist in poor countries should be discarded. This is where the government should step in. They could plan campaigns like fund-raisings, donation of clothes, food and so forth. They could even run snippets or mini programmes on the mass media: television, radio and newspapers.
Following that, there is always the outstanding individual or the voluntary social group to help with fund raising and other welfare campaigns, such as the Interact Club, Leo Club and The Rotary Club.
However these are only short term forms of aid. The best way is for the government to take hold of the reins. They could start by conducting research into the reasons for the existence of this lower earning class, as in the study undertaken by the SILS (Singapore Institute of Labour Studies). Subsequently, the government can implement procedures to alleviate the conditions of the poor. For example, in Malaysia, the government has discovered that more than 70 per cent of the poverty in Malaysia (income less than RM 200 a month) is due to out dated agricultural methods in the northern peninsula (Kedah, Perlis) and the monsoon which affects the shores of Kelantan and Terengganu preventing the local fisher men from making their living. Thus, suitable and effective steps have been taken, like introducing more efficient irrigation systems, better quality crops and subsidies for fertilizers and chemicals. There have also been agriculture workshops for the rice (padi) farmers in the north, and fresh water fish farming and the marketing of local crafts have been promoted. These measures have proved successful. Many of these people involved in helping in these projects were voluntary specialists who gave free coaching and seminars.
It has been said that “education makes a man” and this is true. However, many of the poor barely receive adequate education because of family financial pressures which force them to start working early. As the years drift, this group, factory workers or menial labourers, remain in poverty. This vicious circle continues into their children’s lives as they too have to bear the brunt of their parents’ burden. The best way to break out of this circle is education. Under-privileged children can opt for free tuition by voluntary groups like the Leo Club. Simultaneously, skills training can be offered to the parents to upgrade their qualification and lifestyles. By acquiring more skills they stand a chance of better jobs. Short courses and night classes are currently offered by SILS: while major companies could provide these opportunities as well.
Besides educational facilities, medical benefits and other subsidies such as basic necessities can be provided to decrease the burden of the lower-income group.
In most Third World countries, like India and most African countries, these unsatisfactory living conditions are the effects of the unequal distribution of wealth. The poor get poorer as the rich get richer. Such is the case in India. A clean, uncorrupted and well-meaning government should step in and control the country’s distribution of wealth. This does not mean the rich citizens should be deprived of the fruits of their labour, but it would be better to encourage investments in the country so as to increase job opportunities, as has been done in certain parts of China like Nanjing, Beijing and Shanghai.
Considering Singapore, we can quite happily conclude that the government is very responsive to this situation and many of the aforementioned measures have been taken. However, we need to realize as well that the problem of the poor cannot be completely eliminated and that a lot of funds are required to launch most projects.
Q4: In the world of today, power is determined less by military might, more by economic strength. Discuss.
The capacity to influence or control other states and regions is contingent on a nation’s wealth and its financial achievements, and not on its proficiency and prowess at warfare. ‘Power’ can also refer to the capacity for self-determination.
Students may consider soft power, or influence over other nations through cultural exports, which is also a function of economic strength as well.
Students must adhere strictly to the time frame provided – ‘today’s world’ implies that arguments and examples must be drawn from the recent past and ongoing events
This is a direct argumentative question. Candidates are thus to provide opposing viewpoints and relevant counter-arguments. They are also allowed to mostly agree/ disagree while specifying conditions for them to adopt the opposing viewpoint. The proposition comes in two parts, so students may choose to agree / disagree with the proposition ‘power is determined by economic success..
They must adopt the same approach for the second part – ‘power is not determined by military might’ as well.
Areas to consider:
Economic Power: G8 International forum officiated by nations which account for 65% the world’s economy.
USA / Japan Korea Soft power through cultural exports, in descending order of influence; EU
Economic Power and Military Might
UN Security Council Permanent members of the Council are economic powers with military might as well. o USA → Proved triumphant in Afghanistan and Iraq
North Korea → Nuclear capability as a bargaining chip to force more powerful nations to negotiating table.
Nations expressing concern over possibility of rogue
Q5: Do you agree with the view that change benefits the rich but rarely the poor?
Those who are rich will gain from any socio-economic or political change effected by man o while the poor will not reap any benefit or may even be adversely affected by the changes made in society. (debatable)
The terms ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ do not only refer to individuals who are such but countries as well.
This is a direct argumentative question.
Candidates are thus to provide opposing viewpoints and relevant counter-arguments. They are also allowed to mostly agree/ disagree while specifying conditions for them to adopt the opposing viewpoint.
Candidates must include both ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ parties in their discussion i.e. they cannot merely talk about how rich countries reap benefits without mentioning whether poor nations are affected the same way.
Areas to Consider:
Economic Aspect: o Globalisation
Changes made to economic policies e.g. wage increases, employers’ CPF contribution
Increase in retirement age
Increased maternity leave; monetary incentives paid to stay-home mothers (actually can be countered with WFH, work from hoe arrangewmtns for moms)(Consider more social concerns here)
Upheaval in political system (e.g. Afghanistan, Iraq)
Q6: “The escalating problem of juvenile delinquency is the result of economic and social changes.” Discuss.
1. Most students managed to provide some of the main points, with a fair amount of elaboration.
1. Many students did not analyze the question care fully and missed the key-phrase ‘social and economic changes. They thus failed to identify the actual changes, talking about the causes of juvenile delinquency without referring to the social and economic reasons for these causes. There is a difference.
e.g. parental neglect is a cause of delinquency, but the social change which has led to this is the rise in the number of families with two working parents, or the rise of the number of women entering the workforce.
e.g. academic pressure is a reason for people dropping out of school and taking up delinquent behaviour, but the social change that has brought about this increased pressure is the increasingly competitive job situation and the growing importance of getting good paper qualifications.
2. Simplistic over-generalizations. Students tend to make sweeping statements such as, “children watch violence on television and thus become violent”, which is obviously not true of all children. Stu dents also tend to leave huge gaps in their explanations of cause and effect, leading to ludicrous explanations such as “children are left alone at home and thus become delinquents”. There is also a com mon habit of blaming the West for everything from sex to violence, as if they never existed before. A look at the ancient tradition of martial arts, the numerous Hong Kong and Taiwan soft-porn flicks, should quickly dispel this notion.
3. Some children have the strange idea that delinquency includes hanging around shopping malls or being a runaway. These in themselves do not qualify as ‘delinquent’. If the kids hanging around shopping malls fight or steal, then they are delinquent. If the runaway takes drugs or becomes a prostitute, then he or she is a delinquent.
4. There is sometimes a tendency to go into very de tailed stories of how the Industrial Revolution has changed things, or full descriptions of what kinds of activities delinquents get up to. Another variation has the student playing preacher or agony aunt, telling us what we should do to keep teenagers happy etc. e.g. “Teenagers are very unstable and sensitive, and therefore all of us, especially parents, should do our best to treat them with care.”
SUGGESTED GP SAMPLE ESSAY ANSWER
(Development of points is quite simple once the social and economic changes have been established / identified as there are quite a few ways each point can be linked to delinquency)
1. Rapid Industrialization and the Rising Cost of Living means that more people are drawn into the workforce. Many families now have both parents working, which means that children tend to be un supervised. Loneliness may make they stay out and support / company from friends, and the wrong could get them into trouble. Parents may company could get neglect their children’s moral guidance and the children may not have the restraining presence of the mother at home to prevent them getting up to mis chief. Children may feel neglected and consciously or unconsciously try to get the parents’ attention by committing delinquent acts.
2. Parents are having fewer children due to the rising cost of living and changing social norms. Also they don’t need so many children to support them in their old age (due to the insurance savings schemes, and pension). This may lead to lonely children seeking company, which may possibly be of the wrong sort.
3. There has been a breakdown of the extended fam ily unit due to the rural-urban shift and rising cost. of living. Grandparents and relatives tend to live elsewhere and thus may not be able to supervise the untended children. This even applies to traditional neighbourhood communities where neighbours used to look out for each other’s children, something which has broken down with the rise of urban living.
4. The changing status of women has led to more women going to work. Being more career oriented now, they may not have as much time for their children. Also, women are now more likely to get divorced due to their greater economic independence and increased social status. A divorce may cause great emotional and psychological upset to teen agers and they could get into gangs, rebel or take drugs as a means of coping. The number of single parent families in the U.S., especially among African-Americans is a good illustration of this. (More social issues here)
5. The growing competition in society for academic qualifications has led to a lot of stress on young people. For many who can’t cope with the stress, delinquent activities may be a way of relieving pressure or frustration. Others who cannot make it and drop out may become delinquents as a form of rebellion against being stigmatised by society.
6. The growing affluence of society leads to conspicuous consumption. The importance of dressing in name brand clothing and accessories to be accepted leads many who cannot afford such luxuries to turn to theft or shoplifting to obtain them. Frustration at not having them and envy can lead to fighting and vandalism (of cars, etc).
7. With rising affluence has come the increasing significance of the mass media in our lives. More money is spent on leisure (cinemas, magazines) and most people can afford televisions (laptops, desktops, mobile phones, iMac, etc), so exposure to advertising is maximised on practically every single social media and internet and website imaginable. Manipulation by the media (advertisements, portrayals of glamorous lifestyles) creates consumerism which can lead to theft or crimes of envy (recall the Dark Web…). Although it has yet to be scientifically linked, the rising tides of violence, especially among the young, is quite obviously linked to media violence.
8. Rising poverty can also be a leading cause of problems. Examples would be the rise of organised crime in Russia and the theft and prostitution ram pant in South American countries involving abandoned and desperately poor children.
However, it could be argued that the breakdown of moral order/values due to rising materialism and individualism/ materialism may contribute to juvenile delinquency.
Also, the legal system may be too lenient on juvenile delinquents (not holding them responsible/accountable for their actions) thus encouraging them, or at least not dissuading them from delinquent acts. Both these could be argued as social/economic changes, depending on the interpretation.