Planning and Management of Informal Sector and Basic Needs – Urban poverty 4

This article is a comprehensive description of the major Urban poverty issues in Asia as well as an overview of human poverty as a whole; it has relevance to Asia as well as other regions. It highlights the origins of Urban poverty, the heterogeneous character of the urban poor, the groups most vulnerable amongst them, and the critical role they play in the growth of the city. In conclusion of the article policy recommendations are offered aimed at eliminating Urban poverty.

It suggests new transformational approaches for eliminating Urban poverty in twenty-first century. Few important points are highlighted that are important to the policymakers while working:

  • Urban poor are resourceful
  • Often the government action adds to their difficulties
  • They are heterogeneous in character thus policies should be made accordingly
  • They contribute to social well-being of the society

How Urban poverty is created and sustained

 It is taken for granted that a poor person was always poor and continue to be in same state. The reality is much different, poors are often victim of collective action of society which makes it difficult for them to improve their condition. Data processing and the advanced methods of data collection enabled us to adopt a more meaningful approach to solve this issue. Some of the major factors which causes hindrances for urban poor include

  • Policies and institutional arrangements create and reinforce poverty
  • Access to basic services is limited
  • Globalization and capitalist approach
  • Rural- Urban migration due to
    • Natural reasons (Drought etc)
    • Law and order
    • Social conditions
  • Status changes- become poorer in urban areas
  • Generations after generations become poor- choice of returning to rural areas dies out
  • Irresponsible authorities
  • For additional income- they slide into informal sector
  • Child labor develops
  • Degradation and vulnerability increases for survival

Categorization and different sectors comprising of urban poor

The Striving Urban Poor cannot be grouped under single category. People of different age groups, ethnicity, gender, occupation are affected differently. These can be categorized and found under following heads:

1. Working men and women
  • Division of labor
    • Men: transport sector, manufacturing, services
    • Women: trading and services, wending, domestic help
  • Physical safety of women is always risked
  • Health condition of women decreases
  • Child abuse, incest, violence against children increases
2. Women heads of households
  • Cannot solely take responsibility thus engage children with themselves thus leading to continuous poverty generations after generations
3. Migrant workers
  • Face hostile environment
  • Are often deported back due to contraction in economy is already depressed
4. Children
  • Child labor
  • Health deteriorates
  • Experience
    • Lack of education
    • Abandonment
    • Drift towards drug abuse, child prostitution and criminal activities
5. Older persons
  • Health deteriorates
6. Persons with disabilities
  • Rely on charity of others
  • Beg for alms
7. Ethnic and taste minorities
  • Physical security of beings is under threat
  • Quarrels and fights turn into widespread and violent persecution of that group

Ways to reduce and systematically eliminate poverty

Poverty cannot be considered as a minor issue or something which can be dealt with overnight. Human Poverty Index is one of the indicators which deals with measuring and reducing poverty. It takes continues monitoring and frequent changes in the policies. These policies cannot be rigid as the need of this sector keeps on changing and so the demands & needs must be addressed accordingly. To systematically reduce the poverty and raise living standard of poor, there is a need of:

  • Macro policies need to be developed
  • Study in detail the effect on the above groups of people
  • Observed and analyzed these groups accurately, participation of these groups should be there (ways should be worked out)

The Urban Poor as revitalizers of the city

It is considered that poor people do not and “cannot” contribute to the society. This thought is very much wrong as the reason for underdevelopment or poor living condition in an area is often result of insecurity among the people living in an area. These people too contribute in city building as they

  • Reclaims many hectares of land
  • Built “respectable neighborhoods once the residents are assured tenure security
  • Nurture the sense of community in the cities

Governance of the urban poor

In large metropolitan, Local authorities ignore them as the central government holds the responsibility for addressing shelter and relocation concerns. Due to globalization and rapid industrialization these urban poor are often left ignored. In intermediate cities and large towns seldom address the needs of their urban poor. In some cases, pressurized by the organized communities and their partner NGO’s support some small sized medium sized city and town governments try to interact with urban poor communities in joint problem solving

Measures for improvement

  • Access to public services
  • Infrastructure support
  • Tenure security
  • On site Upgradation
  • Flexible building codes

Asian Development Bank’s finding on how condition within this sector can be improved

  • Projects need high level citizen participation
  • Financial and human resources are often underutilized
  • Capacity building assistance is required for municipalities
  • Local governments’ involvement produces better results

Guidelines for reducing Urban poverty

  • Community participation by urban poor in decision making about their communities in governmental mechanisms and Participatory planning into governance strengthen the local and national authorities
  • Foster environment and socially sound neighborhood where people care about one another should be promoted. Demolition leads to crushing of people painstaking efforts in creating assets and social bonding
  • Supporting women participation in CBO’s and in economy. Women is more nearer to community and family, then their counterparts men as they tend to spend more time with the family. The government’s role in training and educating women can upgrade women skills and access to credit which would help in community and family development as women being more attached to their family and community knows the exact problems
  • Encourage the local government authorities for prioritizing the action benefiting the poor in order to eradicate poverty
  • Establish a national policy framework favorable to human settlements and sustainable development and Equitable distribution of resources
  • Policy for labor intensive growth & provision of social and physical infrastructure for poor

Poverty represents an invisible whole to the people living in it. There is need to view poverty within the system and helping them break out. We should make new arrangements which will raise their economic and social well-being. In the meantime poor should be given their due respect, which can help them stand against it


Author: Shubham Aggarwal, Founder of PlanningTank

Author Bio: Shubham Aggarwal, Founder of PlanningTank is Urban Planner from India working to improve the human settlements through the website. PlanningTank is the Urban, Regional, and Rural Planning Knowledge base which provides insight into to urban and rural areas. It focuses on educating, engaging and developing the community.


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