UNFPAState of World Population 2002
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HOME: STATE OF WORLD POPULATION 2002: Macroeconomics, Poverty, Population and Development
State of World Population
Characterizing Poverty
Macro-economics, Poverty, Population and Development
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Macroeconomics, Poverty, Population and Development

The Demographic Window
Fertility Decline and Economic Growth
Globalization and Poverty

Globalization and Poverty


UNFPA's most recent country programme in Mexico focused on five of the poorest states: Chiapas, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Oaxaca and Puebla. Several innovative projects linked poverty alleviation to reproductive health.

In Chiapas, health promoters and midwives were trained to provide and promote the use of quality reproductive health services. Educational materials were developed to address reproductive rights, gender equity, sexuality, family violence and sexual and reproductive health. Indigenous women were helped with childcare and nutrition. Men were also encouraged to participate in improving reproductive health.

In seven poor, rural regions and 42 municipalities with largely indigenous populations, reproductive health services were enhanced, and community health assistants were trained to provide health education to adolescents. Young people were involved in efforts to strengthen links between service providers and the communities, and support was provided to an institution that works to help rural youth overcome cultural and linguistic barriers. The project also facilitated exchanges of experience among rural midwives.

Safe motherhood was promoted in five Chiapas municipalities by training traditional midwives, and through radio programmes in local indigenous languages.

Reproductive health services in four marginal urban areas and 18 rural areas in Hidalgo were expanded by setting up itinerant health brigades; medical personnel and community health workers received training, and a system for evaluating service quality was established. In Oaxaca, training efforts focused on safe motherhood and gender equity for female migrants, particularly agricultural workers.

In addition, UNFPA provided technical support to population planning institutions in five high-priority states to advance the national poverty alleviation strategy, helping them improve local capacity to select the best locales for programmes. This successful initiative encouraged the government to mobilize domestic and donor resources to expand these efforts.See Sources

Globalization should be an opportunity for the poor, but it often does not work that way. Globalization opens markets, but markets can confer their benefits only on those they include. The poorest are almost by definition excluded, except at the lowest level of market operations.

A wage-based market economy tends to drive up the price of essential goods and services including food, water, housing and energy, while wages at the low end do not keep pace, and the non-waged see even low-cost goods move out of their reach. "Liberalizing" the market for necessities has actually driven people into poverty, not rescued them from it. Markets are aimed at maximizing profit, not attacking poverty.

The poor provide little opportunity for profit, and find less. Globalization as currently practised can expand employment at the low end of the income scale. Sometimes it has the opposite effect: opening markets, for agricultural products, for example, has concentrated economic activity and made subsistence farming uneconomic.

Many agricultural workers have gone on to an uncertain future in the towns. This can have a disproportionate effect on women when they are a large part of the rural labour force. Globalization has opened new opportunities for women in the urban labour market, but with many risks and strict limitations on their upward mobility.

The effect of globalization can also be seen in the swift transfer of social goods-drugs and medical technologies, for example-across countries, from one affluent group to another. But by and large globalization has so far had little positive effect on health, education and other social goods for the poor. In fact the opposite is often the case.

There is considerable pressure on developing countries, in the guise of economic restructuring, to curtail public expenditure and rely on the free market. But cuts in public expenditure are frequently indiscriminate, removing support for public services like education and health care, which are used most heavily by the poor. The free market does not supply these goods to the poor, because they are not profitable.

Poor people need globalization policies that work for them. Recommendations in this area go well beyond the scope of this report, but they should include new approaches to debt, trade and economic restructuring, as well as international assistance. The UN's Financing for Development conference in 2002 pointed to important needs and strategies.

To the extent that policies in these areas make poor people poorer and increase inequality, they push back the time when the demographic window will open and economic growth and fertility decline will reinforce each other. To make the most of globalization, part of the economic gains must be ploughed back into social programmes that directly help the poor.

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