Factors Associated With Family Poverty In Developing Countries

While the global economic growth is rebounding from the world financial and economic crisis of 2008, labour markets are still showing slow employment creation, and widespread deficits in decent work (United Nations, 2011b). For example, over 75 per cent (up from 21 per cent in 1990) of the sub-Saharan African labour force was employed in the informal sector in 2008 (Xaba et al, 2002; Economic Commission for Africa, 2010). In Latin America the figures were 36 per cent for 2009, up from 32 per cent in 1999.

The corresponding figures for South Asia are 80 per cent and 77 per cent respectively (United Nations, 2011b). The informal sector is notorious for its long working hours, low productivity, low earnings, and the high poverty among its workers. Overall, informal sector workers are generally known to live and work under harsh conditions associated with shocks such as illness, loss of assets, and loss of income. They also have little or no access to formal risk-coping mechanisms such as insurance, pensions and social assistance (African Union, 2009).
Beyond economic factors, changes in family structure have been a major force behind poverty, and family poverty in particular, in many developing countries. As a background it is perhaps worth highlighting that in many of these countries the extended family—which comprises of generations of close relatives—has for many years been seen as an essential stimulant for the well-being of people and the sustenance of society through its provision of emotional and material support for its members (Bernard, 2003; African Union, 2004).

In the African context for example, the extended family is a long established institution which provides a sophisticated social security system for its members, particularly in times of need and crisis such as unemployment, sickness, old age, and bereavement (African Union, 2004). The traditional African extended family is also the base for childcare and socialisation as well as for reciprocal care-giving relations between generations where older persons play a major role in taking care of grandchildren while younger family members are the main caregivers of older members (Blanc and Lloyd, 1994).

Asian societies also have a strong traditional culture of intergenerational support where children are expected to have a sense of gratitude towards their parents and an obligation to provide care for them in their old age. At the same time, the extended family—grandparents, aunts, and other relatives—are counted upon to provide child care-giving support (Caparas, 2011).

In Latin America many societies possess a collectivistic orientation which underscores a strong concern for the fate and well-being of one’s kin, and the need for family members—young and old—to support each other and to assist in the socio- economic maintenance of the family (Fuligni et al, 1999).
Over the years, however, many developing countries have undergone fundamental demographic, economic and sociological changes that have stretched, and in some cases exhausted, the socio-economic support mechanisms that were traditionally offered by extended families.

While trends vary by region and country, several transformations can be affirmed: decreasing fertility; increased number of older persons; increased migration; changing nuptiality patterns; increased proportion of female-headed households; and high levels of HIV and AIDS and other communicable 12 diseases.

Overall, these changes have contributed to family circumstances that are characterized by economic fragility and debilitating family poverty (Dintwa, 2010).