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Poverty dipped 4.1% in 2016

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 22, 2019

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A significant boost to the rural economy in 2016, primarily due to an improved performance in agriculture, led to increased consumption and an overall decline in poverty of 4.1 per cent.

This was disclosed in the latest edition of the primary living conditions publication, the Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions (JSLC) for 2016, which is produced jointly by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) and the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) and tabled in the Senate on Friday.

The result of the survey also indicated a decrease in inequality, in terms of the standard of living, as the “Gini coefficient” declined from 0.3802 to 0.2518 during the year. The “Gini coefficient”, sometimes called Gini index or Gini ratio, is a measure of statistical dispersion intended to represent the income or wealth distribution of a nation's residents, and is the most commonly used measurement of inequality.

According to data from STATIN, Jamaica's poverty between 2009 and 2016 fluctuated as follows: 2009 — 16.5 per cent; 2010 — 17.6 per cent; 2012 — 19.9 per cent; 2013 — 24.6 per cent; 2014 — 20 per cent; 2015 — 21.2 per cent; and in 2016 — 17.1 per cent. The rate of 24.6 per cent in 2013 was the highest for decades.

The JSLC said that a nominal increase of 4.8 per cent moved average per capita household consumption to $311,200 in 2016, with a 14.7 per cent increase in rural areas which registered $273,787, while the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) and “other towns” remained close to the 2015 averages, registering $383,717 and $304,055, respectively.

“Real mean per capita consumption also increased, moving 2.6 per cent between 2015 and 2016, and signalling that households actually increased their consumption of goods and services over the period,” the JSLC noted.

“This was mainly seen in rural areas, which registered a real increase of 12.5 per cent, while the other two regions moved only marginally. The changes observed in average household consumption were similarly reflected in the poverty rates, with an overall decline in poverty of 4.1 percentage points below 2015, moving to 17.1 per cent (in 2016),” the publication stated.

The survey, for the first time, included questions on food security and economic livelihood. With respect to food, 59.3 per cent of households reported that they had enough food to eat on a daily basis. By region, the figures were 56.5 per cent in the KMA, 60.4 per cent in “other towns”, and 60.5 per cent in rural areas.

Some 59.5 per cent of households headed by males reported having enough to eat, as well as 59.2 per cent of those headed by females.

Among the elderly, 60 years and over, the figures were slightly lower. Some 56.5 per cent of households headed by an older person, 60-plus years, reported that they had enough food to eat each day, and regional figures spanned a narrow range close to the national average.

Some 55.3 per cent of households headed by an older male reported that they generally had enough food, as did 57.6 per cent of those headed by an older female.

The largest proportion of respondents (43.7 per cent) reported working in someone's business as their main source of livelihood. Some 14.9 per cent farmed or produced goods, 14.3 per cent got help from others, and 10.6 per cent bought and sold goods. Over three-quarters (77.9 per cent) of households reported that the household members were the main source of economic support. Some seven per cent reported that their main support was from other family members in Jamaica, and 8.7 per cent from family members outside of Jamaica. Similar proportions were found by region, however, a larger proportion of male-headed households (80.7 per cent) than female-headed households (76.4 per cent) reported being supported by the household members themselves.

The conclusion was that the JSLC 2016 underscores the important connection between rural development and agriculture, and the equally important link between economic growth and people's living standards. Yet, it is widely recognised that economic growth, while necessary, is not sufficient to change the lives of all people in the society.

Even though the data showed a decline in inequality, it also pointed to significant differences between the poorest segments in the society and rural dwellers in comparison with others.

“These groups still tended towards having the largest households with the largest average number of children, had larger proportions living in houses made from the least durable materials and fewer amenities and, while they reported less illness/injury, were hospitalised at a higher rate,” the JSLC 2016 stated.


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