Four Contributory Factors to Poverty Locally and Globally

Poverty is a complex issue that affects millions of people both in South Africa and around the world. Understanding the factors that contribute to poverty is crucial in finding effective ways to combat it. This article will delve into four significant contributory factors to poverty both locally and globally, elucidating each with relevant theories and real-world examples.

Poverty refers to the lack of financial resources to satisfy basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, and education. It’s a multifaceted problem influenced by numerous factors. These can be broadly grouped into economic, political, social, and environmental elements.

Four Contributory Factors to Poverty Locally and Globally

The Four Contributory Factors to Poverty both Locally in South Africa and Globally are:

  1. Economic Factors: The lack of job opportunities and access to quality education leads to high unemployment rates, thereby contributing to poverty. For example, in South Africa, the youth unemployment rate is particularly high, limiting the earning potential for many households.
  2. Social Factors: Discrimination and inequality based on race, gender, or ethnicity can lead to limited opportunities for certain groups. In the South African context, the legacy of apartheid still affects many black and coloured communities, limiting their access to opportunities and resources.
  3. Political Factors: Corruption, poor governance, and inadequate policies can result in unequal distribution of resources. In some South African municipalities, mismanagement and corruption have led to a lack of basic services, further exacerbating poverty.
  4. Environmental Factors: Climate change, natural disasters, and lack of access to natural resources can significantly impact agriculture and livelihoods. For example, the drought in the Western Cape region in South Africa in 2017-2018 affected both water supply and agriculture, hitting the poor hardest.

The following sections will explore four key contributory factors, focusing on both the local South African context and the global perspective.

1. Unemployment

Introduction to Unemployment as a Contributory Factor

Unemployment is a critical factor contributing to poverty. Without employment, individuals lack the income necessary to meet their basic needs, leading to a life of hardship.

Theory: The Cycle of Poverty

The Cycle of Poverty theory explains how unemployment can lead to a perpetuating loop of poverty. Unemployment reduces income, leading to limited access to education and skills training, further restricting employment opportunities.

South African Example

In South Africa, the high unemployment rate, especially among the youth, is a serious concern. In many townships, the lack of job opportunities has led to a rise in poverty levels, with people struggling to afford essential living costs.

Global Example

Globally, unemployment due to automation and outsourcing has led to poverty in many developed countries. For example, the decline of manufacturing jobs in the United States has contributed to increased poverty in certain regions.

2. Lack of Education

Introduction to Lack of Education as a Contributory Factor

Education plays a vital role in economic development, and a lack of access to quality education can significantly contribute to poverty.

Theory: Human Capital Theory

The Human Capital Theory posits that investment in education enhances individuals’ skills and abilities, leading to higher earning potential. Lack of education, therefore, reduces economic opportunities.

South African Example

In South Africa, disparities in education, particularly in rural areas, have limited the potential of many to secure well-paying jobs, contributing to widespread poverty.

Global Example

In many developing countries, lack of access to education, especially for girls, has perpetuated poverty, as it restricts their opportunities for employment and economic empowerment.

3. Income Inequality

Introduction to Income Inequality as a Contributory Factor

Income inequality refers to the uneven distribution of income within a population, leading to significant disparities between the rich and the poor.

Theory: Gini Coefficient

The Gini Coefficient, a measure of income inequality, illustrates how inequality can lead to social unrest and economic instability, exacerbating poverty.

South African Example

South Africa has one of the highest Gini Coefficients in the world, reflecting a vast income disparity. This inequality has contributed to entrenched poverty, particularly among the historically disadvantaged communities.

Global Example

Globally, income inequality in countries like Brazil has resulted in a sharp divide between the wealthy urban areas and impoverished rural regions, perpetuating poverty across large swathes of the population.

4. Political Instability and Poor Governance

Introduction to Political Instability as a Contributory Factor

Political instability and poor governance can lead to a lack of proper implementation of policies aimed at reducing poverty, thereby perpetuating the problem.

Theory: Governance Failure Theory

The Governance Failure Theory highlights how inefficient and corrupt governance can impede economic development and contribute to poverty.

South African Example

In some instances, South Africa has experienced challenges with corruption and mismanagement, leading to failed service delivery and exacerbating poverty in certain areas.

Global Example

Countries like Venezuela, suffering from political instability and governance failures, have seen a dramatic increase in poverty levels due to economic mismanagement and social unrest.


Poverty is a deeply entrenched problem influenced by various factors. Unemployment, lack of education, income inequality, and political instability have been identified as four key contributory factors to poverty, both in South Africa and globally. Understanding these elements and the underlying theories can guide effective policy-making to address and alleviate poverty. By examining real-world examples, we can grasp the gravity of the issue and inspire action to create a more equitable and prosperous world.

Looking for something specific?


Related Posts