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Social Justice: A Collective Effort To Rid Poverty

In 2007, the General Assembly of the UN announced that on February 20 annually, World Day of Social Justice will be celebrated.  The day is meant to support all efforts to alleviate and eliminate poverty around the world, reach full employment, gender equity and justice for all people.

While poverty is a global and complex problem, there is also light in the tunnel. Over the past decades, Malaysia has witnessed steady economic growth that has substantially improved the well-being of its people. This commitment to growth with equity was instrumental in contributing to poverty reduction (0.6 percent by 2016) and the elimination of abject poverty[1].

However, with the ongoing pandemic, the poor are barely surviving and still, others are fighting hard not to fall into the category of the new poor.

How Can We, Together, As A Society Help To Eradicate Poverty? 

Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.

– Helen Keller

If we really want a poverty free Malaysia where the nation’s development is equal, fair and proportionate – there needs to be concerted effort from the government, profit and non-profit organisations and the community to seek social justice for all. 

So whether you’re a student or a professional, a stay-at-home-parent or a professor, we can all do our part to raise our voices, educate ourselves and our children, share the facts and stories, donate to credible organisations or invest our resources and time to changing the futures for those who need a hand-up. 

8 Things You Should Know About How Social Injustice Impacts The Poor: 

#1: Low-Income Workers At High Risk Of Being Unemployed 

Source: CNBC

Unemployment rates are soaring. At the end of 2020, SOCSO announced that more than 90,000 people have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. It is predicted that if the pandemic worsens and lockdowns continue, many more will be unemployed[2].

Those in the low-income brackets are likely to be amongst the first to lose their jobs as they are daily wage earners and without specific skill sets or expertise, businesses will be more likely to let them go in the event of a downsize. 

#2: Work Harder, Earn Less 

bullying at workplace
Source: Financial Times

Semi-skilled or low skilled jobs such as lorry drivers, construction workers and other manual labour jobs, require extended and odd working hours with low salaries[3].

UNICEF identified that those heads of households that fell under the urban poor demographic, worked 48 hours a week compared to the national average of 47 hours. For those working 48 hours, they only earn RM9 per hour compared to RM12 per hour for 47 hours[4].

#3: Lack Of Access To Education

Source: The Star

Oftentimes, poor families need kids to work, there aren’t schools close by, or girls are given low priority when it comes to obtaining an education compared to boys. 

According to UNDP, about 85% of school dropouts come from poor families in less developed states in Malaysia[5].

Results from a UNESCO and Ministry of Education survey found out that the overwhelming majority of children dropping out of school are located in Sabah and the dropout rates from primary schools are much higher there than in other states[6].

#4: Girls Suffer Silently As Their Futures Are Sold 

Source: Unsplash

The World Bank identified that globally,  girls with poorer economic backgrounds were more likely to marry early[7]. Those faced with economic difficulties find that marrying their child off as one burden lifted;  one less mouth to feed. 

Some families struggling in absolute poverty marry off their children in hopes that their new family is able to provide them with a better life.

These girls have no choice, no voice, no say on their future. 

#5:  Women In Poverty Have It Harder

Orang Asli Malaysia - Wiki impact
Source: Says

While it is clear that both men and women suffer in poverty, women tend to be on the losing end. 

The United Nations says that women have fewer resources to cope if they fall sick. Women are also likely to be the last to eat, the ones least likely to access healthcare, and routinely trapped in time-consuming, unpaid domestic tasks[8].

In households where the female is the main breadwinner for the family, they are subject to lower wages, fewer educational opportunities, substandard health care, and a lack of employee protections and benefits such as paid maternity leave and childcare.

Women in low-income families have to choose between earning a salary and taking care of their family. 

Healthwise, 3 out of 10 Malaysian women are anaemic[9]. A female that is anaemic has an increased risk of miscarriage and premature delivery[10]. Due to the lack of oxygen in the mother’s body, the baby’s birth weight may be affected and ultimately lead to stunted growth in the new-born. This trend is prevalent among the lower-income groups.

#6: Basic Amenities Are Still A Luxury For Some 

orang asli village
Source: Business Today

It’s easy to take granted clean water when we can have it at a turn of the tap. However, clean water is still a luxury for some Malaysians, namely the Orang Asli.

53% of Orang Asli communities do not have access to piped water[11].

As a result of the lack of clean water supply, communities living in these areas without piped water are at greater risk of contracting various diseases. 

The prevalence of parasite infections is as high as 90% among children in certain Orang Asli communities[12].

#7: Unequal Access To Good Healthcare 

Source: The World News

People who are poor are more likely to suffer from bad health, and those with bad health are more likely to be poor. This is because healthcare is often too expensive or inaccessible to those who need it. 

Khazanah Research Institute found that 6.5% of Malaysia’s population were more than 5km away from any healthcare facility, with no mobile alternatives that they could turn to[13]

Distance is only one factor. Road condition and mobile coverage is another. The states of Labuan, Sabah and Sarawak are much more rural, with terrain that is difficult to navigate, making it difficult to develop proper infrastructure to accommodate medical needs. 

Rural clinics and health services are only equipped to provide basic healthcare. Smaller district hospitals do not have hi-tech facilities for investigation or treatment. 

In Sarawak, 39% of the state’s public health clinics do not have pharmacists. 70.7% of the clinics do not have laboratory services and 88.9% do not have x-ray services[14].

#8: Stigma On The Poor 

In 2018’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General had this to say, 

Poverty is not inevitable… We need policies that create a strong enabling economic environment and that promote access to education, health services, decent work and social protection to everybody. We must do more to listen to them, address the indignities they face and tackle the power structures that prevent their inclusion in society[15].

The poor know they are poor. We don’t need to remind them of it.

Perhaps it’s time for us to judge less and help more. What are some of the perceptions we have on the poor? It is when we tear down those mental barriers that we can truly connect, care and contribute. 

Explore Our Sources: 

  1. UNDP. Malaysia Good Practices. Link. 
  2. Daim, N., & Yunus, A. (2020). Almost 45,000 find employment through placement programme. MYFutureJobs. New Straits Times. Link. 
  3. Wiki Impact. Job Challenges Rural Folks Face When They Move To Big Cities. Link. 
  4. UNICEF. (2018). Children Without. Link.
  5. United Nations. The Millenium Development Goals at 2010. Link. 
  6. UNESCO. (2013). Malaysia Education Policy Review. Link.
  7. Wodon, Q. et al. (2017). Economic Impacts Of Child Marriage: Global Synthesis Report. Link.
  8. UN Women. (2020). Women And Poverty. Link.
  9. National Institute of Health. (2019). National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019: Non-communicable diseases, healthcare demand, and health literacy. Ministry of Health Malaysia. Link.
  10. Ngoma, C., Mayimbo, S. (2010). The Negative Impact of Poverty on the Health of Women and Children. Annals of Medical & Health Sciences Research. Link.
  11. Metro News. (Sept 2020). Committed to bringing clean water to Orang Asli villages. The Star. Link.
  12. Elyana, FN. et al. (2016). A tale of two communities: intestinal polyparasitism among Orang Asli and Malay communities in rural Terengganu, Malaysia. NCBI. Link.
  13. Khazanah Research Institute. (2020). Social Inequalities and Health in Malaysia: The State of Households 2020 Part III. Link.
  14. Batumalai, K. (2020). 57 Years Later, Do Sarawak, Sabah Enjoy Equal Health Care To Peninsula? Code Blue. Link.
  15. Guterres, A. (2018). Remarks at Commemoration of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. United Nations. Link.

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