Poverty measurement is political with choices about indicators and thresholds being grounded in values and norms about what it means to lead a ‘good life’. Experiences of shame and exclusion are not exclusive to poverty alone and may be even stronger for those transitioning out of poverty, such as for those moving from rural areas into urban spaces. And if we really want to reduce poverty, we need more redistribution, both at national but crucially also at international scale.
In this episode, Andrew Fischer offers a critical perspective of how we measure and tackle poverty. Andrew is Associate Professor of Social Policy and Development Studies at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in the Hague in the Netherlands. In 2018, he published the book ‘Poverty as Ideology’, which offers a comprehensive and critical examination of approaches to understanding and measuring poverty and how they are used for policy making.
Although this interview was recorded early February before we were fully aware of the imminent far-reaching implications of Covid-19, its messages are more timely than ever. With estimates suggesting that poverty will increase massively as a result of the pandemic, it is necessary to interrogate the underpinnings of such estimates and the political and other purposes that they serve. In addition, the widespread need for income support for populations across the world, many government measures that have been put in place and calls for more ambitious policies such as Universal Basic Income (UBI) makes a focus on redistribution at national and international level more apposite than ever.
During the interview in this episode, Andrew elaborates on some of the main arguments in his book and draws on his wider work in which he challenges dominant narratives and approaches to development, poverty and social exclusion. The conversation will be particularly relevant for those with an interest in poverty measurement and critical perspectives of social and development policy.
If you want to learn more about Andrew’s work, his book ‘Poverty as Ideology’ can be downloaded free of charge from the University of Bergen website.
You may also want to look at other work that Andrew refers to, including a report for UNDP on employment and the importance of redistribution and his book from 2013 entitled ‘The Disempowered Development of Tibet in China‘.