When Given the Opportunity, Extreme Poor Take Destiny into Their Own Hands

Written by Tilman Ehrbeck, CEO of CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) on the Huffington Post blog

“When the U.N. General Assembly adopted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 1948, it essentially stipulated the right for all people to a decent job with decent pay and social protection in the case of temporary unemployment that would lift them back into the workforce. This made sense for the industrialized economies that made up the U.N. at the time and that were yearning for prosperity and social justice after the devastating years of World War II.

But even 65 years after the Human Rights Declaration, the empirical reality of many developing and emerging markets is starkly different. According to the Gallup world poll less than half of all working-age adults globally have regular employment of more than 30 hours a week. According to the International Labor Organization, only 20 percent of the world’s population has adequate social security coverage such as a pension or health insurance and more than half lack any coverage at all. In the least-developed countries fewer than 10 percent are covered by social security. This reflects the structure of the underlying economies and their large share of informal and self-employment. Fiscal constraints mean that many middle and low income countries will likely not be able to deliver universal rights-based social protection in the foreseeable future.

Against this reality, Southern practitioners have felt an urgency to experiment with new approaches that help the extreme poor to graduate into sustainable livelihoods.”

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