Poverty is not an individual problem, and should not be understood apart from inequality, wealth and privilege. It is related to the home of origin; the services provided by the State (such as education, health and urban infrastructure, among others), precarious labor insertion and low salaries.
In addition, the inhabitants of the poor suburbs of cities are stigmatized, considered dangerous and criminalized by different sectors of society. However, it is not a situation related to the behavior or culture of the people, it has to do with the distribution of resources and opportunities. It is essential to understand the discourses, values and prejudices that justify and nurture social tolerance of poverty and inequality.
It is not a static condition that occurs at a certain time; It is the result of processes of disadvantages accumulated by the home in which one is born, the place where one lives, the school one attends, the access to health services and the type of work that is obtained. There are multiple situations that can be analyzed through biographical trajectories.
Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a book called Nickel and Dimed. In1998, Barbara wanted to see with her own eyes, how was the life of people with a low-wage pay in America. She was inspired by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform that was able to that any job equals a better life. The big question was how you can survive or have a better life on $6 to $7 an hour. She was a journalist, but she decided to change her whole life to be able to feel what other people feel when they received a low-wage pay every week or every two weeks. Barbara was able to see that no one can live a minimal wage in the United States. Her experiment was carried out in three different states, first Florida, then Maine, and finally Minnesota. Barbara lived in her own flesh what thousands of people live in the United States. Many people only earn the minimum wage on their jobs.
She worked in different jobs, she worked at Walmart in ladies wear in Minnesota. She describes that each job was very hard and that they required a lot of intelligence. There were many jobs that did not let them talk, they did not let them go to the bathroom. In housekeeper’s work they were not allowed to drink water. Some jobs made them work extra if they paid more.
The rent was very high, and her income was very low, during her study Barbara lived in very ugly places and unsafe for her, she felt very bad for herself. One of the good things she says is that it was only her, it was only food for her but a woman who has children could not support her children. There were many people who did not have a place to live and had to live in their cars, but those people were not called homeless because for them a homeless person is someone who lives on the street. Other people did not have money to eat during lunch time.
While working as a waitress, she worked in only one job, but her income was too low to live, and she had to get another job. Before long she is struggling to stay awake and mobile. She quits Hearthside, but still exhaustion looms at Jerry’s, and she starts taking ibuprofens to ease a stressful injury in her upper back. (Ehrenreich, Meleke, & Monica )
Another job was working as a housekeeper, she was assigned to a group and there was a girl who looked very sick but refused to go to her home or to the doctor because she needed to earn money. Ted, the franchise owner, was a tyrant who blames lockouts on employees and tells sick maids to ‘work through it’. (Ehrenreich, Meleke, & Monica)
That bothered her a lot and caused her to yell at the boss and reveal her true identity to her coworkers. Ehrenreich secures a position as a “dietary aide” at a nursing home called the Woodcrest Residential Facility for $7 an hour. One day she had to cover the shift herself for the same payment because another worker called that she could not go to work. Her head was exploding because it was too much for her to have to work so much for such a minimal payment. Another problem for her was when she got sick, she had ratchets and bumps on her legs, but she still had to work as a maid. For her, her worst job was that of Maid. It was a job that was too exhausted for her and the environment that surrounded her was not the favored one. Also, her boss was one of the worst bosses she had ever had. He had no compassion for his workers and he did not care about anyone but the maids doing their jobs well.
Ehrenreich’s investigation, time and again, demonstrates a central, salient fact: wages are too low in America and rent is too high. (Ehrenreich, Meleke, & Monica )
Her biggest problem was that the cost of renting each place she had was very high. She could not pay the rent with the money she earned at her jobs.
Wages are the main source of income, always referring to the formal economy. Salaries are the most important income with which to meet basic needs (food, education, or health). And, in the case of something left over, they represent the first step to build a heritage or wealth that allows breaking with the vulnerability associated with poverty. Given its importance, to know how income inequality evolves, if it increases or decreases, we need to know how wages are distributed among households.
Income is made up of other elements, such as social transfers and capital income. These elements have a different weight depending on the level of income of households. Thus, in the poorest households, social transfers from the State occupy a prominent position. On the other hand, capital income that originates in equity is concentrated in households with higher income levels.
Undoubtedly, the source of income that best explains the income inequality, its increase or decrease, is made up of salaries, in view of the percentages indicated above in the composition of income. Given their relative importance in all households, the different evolution of the highest and lowest wages has a determining impact on inequality and poverty reduction. Given its relevance in the fight against poverty and inequality, it is urgent to resituate wages at the core of economic dynamism, narrowing its link with productivity. At the end of the day, wages represent the main channel through which it reaches those who need it the most. Women are the ones who suffer most from unequal wages is very difficult for a woman or children to survive. To consider that a gender equality policy can be an example of Good Practice, it must be possible to foresee that it will reduce gender inequality. In addition, this inequality must be key to achieving the objective, for the achievement of a society free of discrimination based on gender. This possibility of improving the reduction of inequalities is the raison d’être of the entire learning and transfer process.
Situations of inequality can be observed and measured, they are relatively easy to identify, while the factors of inequality refer to the causes, they are at the root of the problem, and although they are the ones that can be faced to eradicate inequality, their Identification is more complex.
It is, unfortunately, too common to consider that the reason of a situation of inequality lies in some type of lack of the women themselves who suffer from this discrimination. Undoubtedly, women need to reinforce knowledge, skills and abilities that we have not received in formal education, or at least that we have not been fostered in the regular system of knowledge transmission and in the spaces of socialization. For example, training in certain technical areas or training in management skills. However, we already have enough evidence to know that the training and the necessary training are not enough to guarantee equal opportunities for women in professional activities traditionally occupied by men.
We are facing a new era, with a new configuration of the power block, socio-cultural trends and social and political actors. It requires the development of new change projects and new transformative strategies, with other concepts and new language. On the one hand, to connect with the socio-political experience and the social conscience of the most critical and advanced popular sectors; on the other hand, to better define the diagnosis of the complex reality and the perspective of change from an egalitarian, solidary and emancipatory perspective. In this sense, the proposed normative axes are better combined under this concept of social democracy. It gathers the institutional, political and moral experience of the best European civic traditions, commits to a clear democratic and democratizing content and social and economic turnaround favorable to the popular and subordinated layers; It also refers to a resounding opposition to the current economic and political order and a firm commitment to its profound transformation.
In short, in the face of regressive and authoritarian management of the crisis, the commitment to progress is more just, social, solidary and democratic. It can open a period of profound change, democratizing in the political and progressive social and economic. But we must not rule out a setback, a defeat imposed by the liberal-conservative power and the imposition of economic and financial power, with the consolidation of social and institutional involution for progressive forces and the vital conditions of social majorities. In the next five years, linked to the type of exit from the socio-economic crisis, the existing socio-political conflict and the processes of citizen legitimacy of the different actors and institutions, the new political equilibria and the orientation of the new social, economic model will be disseminated, institutional and European. The perspective of an advanced social democracy offers an alternative of progress, susceptible of sufficient popular support to influence the positive solution to this dilemma.