Poverty Working Group

homeless in athens

Conference 2014 Cfp

While the crisis in the EU is unfolding and the recession in the US is persisting, poverty is becoming a reality or a threat for more and more people. Nevertheless, while absolute poverty is the most telling aspect of poverty, research in approaching this aspect is left aside. The Poverty Working Group encourages contributions which shed light on the theoretical approach of absolute poverty, on social needs and the relative level of their satisfaction and the construction of a poverty threshold based on this level. Additionally, welcome is critique of mainstream relative poverty approaches.

In particular, the IIPPE Poverty Working Group attempts to bring together researchers to contribute on absolute poverty, using a Marxist political economy and interdisciplinary framework and focuses its attention on:

  • Theoretical approach of the needs of housing, nutrition, clothing and footwear, transportation, health, education, childcare and leisure related needs
  • Measurement of those needs, or aspects of them in a given historical and social framework
  • The standard of living in general or in particular
  • The value of labour power as a useful approach of the poverty threshold, under relative conditions

To apply to join the IIPPE Poverty WG, email iippe@soas.ac.uk or sign up to our Google group.

Absolute Poverty based on needs

The IIPPE Poverty Working Group (PovWG) aims to attract interest on the study of poverty from a Marxist perspective. Absolute poverty based on needs, socially and historically determined is the focus of the group, as well as critique to mainstream relative poverty schemes.

Absolute poverty can be defined as a situation where the minimum amount of goods and services a person and his/her dependents need to survive and be reproduced in a normal way, in a given historical and social context, are lacking. The poverty rate, when poverty is defined in an absolute sense should be one of the most important economic and social indicators in any country that aspires to be called a modern democracy. The issue of the definition and measurement of absolute poverty is a technical, social and unavoidably political issue. The absolute poverty threshold cannot be totally free of relativity, subjectivity and value judgment on the part of the analysts, researchers and “experts”.

The issue of absolute poverty is considered as a historically and socially specific question and poverty as a situation that can be defined independently of the income distribution, and quantifiable in the following sense: The absolute poverty threshold can be constructed on the basis of a basket containing at least the minimum requirements of normal physiological reproduction. This basket though has also a certain degree of social content and determination in the sense that, members of a household need some goods and services to ensure their social integration to a satisfactory degree. Since the empirical investigation starts from the major urban centers where most of the salary earners are concentrated, the concept of the value of labor power is applied. It is evident that such an approach is extensively interdisciplinary.

Therefore, the content and the results of the PovWG do not have to do only with marginal social strata and the corresponding social policy which might reduce their suffering. They are intended also, to objectively inform and help labor unions and similar organizations in their fight for the wage and salary, pension, unemployment compensation, based on objective economic and social criteria.

More specifically, our goal here takes the form of creating a composite index comprised of use values evaluated using current and constant prices and including also local municipal taxes, levies and fees associated with the consumption of certain use values. All those use values satisfy in an adequate way the “basic” needs, namely the needs of survival and normal social reproduction of the typical households. The construction of this basket/index is approached in every possible way: theoretically, empirically or even axiomatically. The composite nature of the index provides the advantage of its revision when the average social and economic conditions change, leading to an increase to those perceived as basic needs for the typical household, or when we manage to develop our knowledge in greater depth in the specification of a need.