Poverty can be defined as “The state or condition of having little or no money or material possessions”, (Oxford English Dictionary). There has been two approaches brought forward by sociologists and these are absolute and relative poverty. Absolute poverty refers to basic conditions being met for an individual or group to live in a physically healthy state.
These conditions include sufficient food, shelter and clothing; if these are not met, it is seen as absolute poverty. (Townsend 1979). The second approach is relative poverty and is based upon the standard of the overall living in society. It is when individuals or groups are living to a lesser standard to others within the society. Another factor that can cause inequality within society is class. This relates to a division of groups within society.
Class has been seen as a major factor determining “the production, distribution and redistribution of resources”. (Townsend 1979). Depending on your class group, it will dictate where you are placed in the hierarchy of the society, which will affect your access to the gains and resources in society. There are four classes in society; these are the underclass, the working class, the middle class and the upper class. The inequality of class causes poverty as individuals are limited to wealth, resources and opportunities within society.
A case of inequality that relates to poverty is gender. This is when men and women are treated differently from each other regarding their roles and position within society. It is fair to say that women have been treated as less than equals and have had lesser opportunities within employment and chances Within Scotland, there were 980,000 people living in relative poverty and 620,000 across Britain working but living in relative poverty in 2007. (www. bbc. com).
There were also 250,000 children living in relative poverty, and 150,000 children living in absolute poverty within Scotland in the same year. (Save the Children in Scotland). A feminist perspective is the sociology theory you could use to show the causes of poverty and inequality. The feminist perspective believes there is a general thought in society, that there is a gender division in the employment market, and males are breadwinners, whereas women are housewives “.
Many women throughout the world encounter discrimination just because of their gender even though the government created the ‘sex discrimination act 1975’, which is now ‘The Equality Act 2010’, to prevent sexual discrimination, as it still continues today. Throughout the years it has been well known that women have faced discrimination in areas such as employment, education, and the use of facilities such as golf clubs etc. Due to the gender inequality within Britain’s society the man is the bread winner, and that the woman stays at home, cooks cleans and looks after the children.
Over the years it has created a culture that is engrained within our society. This leads to a woman often working part time or in low paid jobs, if working at all. Also, if they are working, they are less likely to be selected for promotion or managerial posts, because it is not seen as a woman’s position or because of childcare responsibilities, such as maternity leave for 9 months or longer if they have more than one child.
This can then lead onto that if you have a poor income, or reliant on benefits, then you are not able to afford the basics such as gas, electricity, appropriate living conditions and healthy nutritious food. This then creates health problems and inequalities because of poor diet and living conditions, from which they are unable to escape from. All of this can lead to addiction because of the situation they find themselves in. They can turn to smoking, drinking and drugs as a way to relieve anxiety, stress, boredom and depression. Poverty can severely affect the young people I work with and have a negative impact on their behaviour, experiences and life chances. Many of the young people come from deprived areas, where their homes are inadequate or their parents are on a low income or are unemployed. This has an effect on the young people’s health, and they often have poor diets and lack healthy nutrition.
Due to the lack of finances, the parents are not able to provide their children with a variety of social activities. This does not help develop the child’s socialisation skills and can often leave them feeling angry and left out from their friends. This anger can often show itself within education and lead to being excluded from school, which in turn can have a negative effect on their job opportunities. This lack of finance and social interaction for the young person can lead them to commit crimes.
The individual can often suffer low self-esteem which may lead to regular drug abuse, which again can have a knock-on effect towards crime. Within the residential setting, I work with a young person who often gets jealous and angry when he hears of outings his peers have been on while he is on home contact. This is because when he goes home, his parents have little or no money to take him out so he often spends his time on the street being bored, rather than going to places like the cinema or to a leisure centre.
This young person has committed crimes of vandalism through boredom and theft from shops because he cannot buy the goods he wishes. To conclude, it can be shown that there is a link between poverty and inequality, this has been demonstrated through various theories and supporting statistics.
What causes poverty by John H Mckendrick Miller, Janet (Care in Practice for Higher Still) 1996 Oxford English Dictionary Townsend, P(Poverty in the United Kingdom) 1979 www. bc. com/news www. savethechildren. com