Toronto – October 14, 2016 – October 17 is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This day was designated to promote awareness of the need to eradicate poverty and destitution in all countries. The observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty dates back to 1987 and a gathering of over 100,000 people in Paris at the spot where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948. That very important document was signed to ensure that ending violence, hunger, and extreme poverty are essential goals for humanity.
To commemorate this, the United Nations General Assembly declared October 17 as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Countries from around the world devote the Day to presenting and promoting initiatives and events that work towards the eradication of poverty.
The importance of the day should not be understated. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” explicitly recognizes that poverty results not from the lack of just one thing but from many different interrelated factors that affect the lives of people living in poverty. For instance, poverty is not simply a lack of income. There are numerous factors that work towards destitution and poverty in its multiple dimensions and a variety of outcomes as a result poverty. The consequences of poverty run deep as it can lead to hunger, malnutrition, a lack of education, discrimination and exclusion from society.
An essential strategy to combat poverty over the last century has been the ability of people to come together in their workplaces and collectively negotiate for better terms and conditions of employment. In its simplest terms, unions as such, work towards this goal.
In Canada, we can see the outcomes of unionization in very concrete terms. We also know that poverty marginalizes certain groups greater than others. Women, indigenous, and racialized peoples, for example, often bear the brunt of poverty.
For example, women who work in unionized workplaces earn on average 35% more than women who do not. That amount can be the difference between living paycheck to paycheck, and would contribute to a more robust socioeconomic situation for individuals as well as millions of extra dollars to drive the Canadian economy.
In making it easier for people to unionize, governments ensure rising wages and standards of living, thus decreasing poverty and marginalization. It is clear that unionization is a very powerful tool to significantly decrease poverty. If we are to eradicate poverty over the coming century, we have to ensure that unions, and the socioeconomic benefits that they bring to society, are central to the conversation and the plan going forward.
Paul R. Meinema