A Comparative Analysis of a Social Problem

Poverty is a social problem typical of many developing countries. It is estimated that all over the world, more than one person in every five people lives in extreme poverty and spends less than $1.25 per day (Bhalla and Luo, 2013). The developing countries have been struggling in order to eradicate extreme poverty among their citizens. The gap between the rich and the poor in these countries is extremely wide; therefore, reducing that gap causes these countries a lot of challenges. Among the most affected countries, there are the two most populous nations in the world: India and China. People of these two countries make over 30% of the total world population (Bhalla and Luo, 2013). In the recent past, the two nations took major steps in the economic development, which made them the major economic giants in the world. This development, however, has also experienced some challenges. Among the serious problems associated with this development, there is the social-economic parity.

In these nations, the number of individuals suffering from extreme poverty remains immense. Therefore, a lot of efforts are to be taken by the respective governments in order to counter this problem. The problem of poverty remains very critical for the countries’ way to the global economic dominance. Today, China is usually compared to the USA in terms of the trade domination and economic wealth, and India is named the next big player in the world economy (Shi, 2014). Having such high prospects of the global economic domination, these two countries have no option but to tackle the issue of poverty in their societies. Recently, the poverty reduction rates in these two countries have also been paramount; such statistics signifies a significant economic improvement. This paper compares and contrasts the magnitude of poverty in India and China; it also analyzes the similarities and differences in the efforts that have been made by them in order to eradicate poverty among their citizens.

Extent/Magnitude of the Problem


In both India and China, the most affected subpopulations reside in the rural areas. In terms of wealth, the rural-urban parity is estimated to be above 35% (Shi, 2014). The parity is an issue of much concern to the government considering that nation’s urban and rural subpopulation does not differ to that extent. In fact, it is estimated that more than 50% of the total China’s population resides in the rural areas (Shi, 2014). These people engage in the primary economic activities such as agriculture, forestry, fishing, and animal husbandry that provide a lower level of productivity and income. Today, most residents of the rural areas still have no access to proper education and basic social amenities, for example, sanitation and medical care. The inability of the government to satisfy these crucial social needs has aggravated the poverty in these regions. Hunger and lack of proper diet are also among the common issues that add to the national poverty rates. It is estimated that more than 90% of the total poor population in the country resides in the rural regions (Shi, 2014).

In India, just like in China, most of the extremely poor subpopulations reside in the rural areas. A total of 30% of the rural subpopulation lives in extreme poverty spending less than $1.25 per day (Panagariya and Mukim, 2013). The number is considerably high as at least 70% of all Indian people reside in the rural areas (Panagariya and Mukim, 2013). The rural poverty in the country accounts for 77% of the total poor population (Panagariya and Mukim, 2013). Just like in China, the gap between the urban and the rural wealth is extremely high. In India, it is estimated that there is more than a 45% parity in the urban-rural wealth (Panagariya and Mukim, 2013). In the rural areas, the natural calamities such as droughts are the most contributors to the high rates of poverty. Moreover, there are a constant hunger and lack of proper nutrition in these regions. Here, people experience the lack of basic social amenities such as health centers and education institution; thus, these regions have high illiteracy rates and a high level of the disease infections and deaths. Most individuals who reside in the rural regions are engaged in the basic economic actives, for example, agriculture, that provide fewer returns (Panagariya and Mukim, 2013).

In terms of poverty, the most affected and vulnerable social categories in these two nations are also similar. In both countries, the women, elderly citizens, children, and other minorities are the most venerable categories (Shi, 2014). In China, the job opportunities are mostly concentrated in the urban areas; therefore, the most educated and talented individuals move from the rural and other poverty-affected areas to the urban areas in their search for employment (Shi, 2014). As a rule, men migrate to the cities looking for the job opportunities and leave their families behind. Women and children, thus, struggle with even greater poverty on their own and only keep their hopes on the little money sent by their working men.

In India, women and children are also very vulnerable. Just like in China, most men in the country find some employment in the urban areas and leave their families in the rural regions. Males occasionally send home some part of what they earn but, in most cases, the sum is too little to satisfy the basic needs of their families. In India, women and children make over 65% of the total poverty population (Panagariya and Mukim, 2013).

For the elderly in India, it is also extremely difficult to earn their living due to their old age and lack of concern by the government. The national government has not implemented any measures in order to ensure the proper survival of this social category. Usually, these people are left under the care of the family members who, in most cases, are also too poor to support them (Panagariya and Mukim, 2013). Consequently, more than a half of the total number of the elderly people in India experience in extreme poverty. The minority groups and disabled are also discriminated in the job market; thus, most of them still live on the edge of starvation.


Despite the fact that in both China and India, many poor people live in the rural areas and most of them are women, children, and the minorities, there are some differences in the nature and extent of poverty in these countries. In India, the level of poverty is very high as compared to the same in China. It is estimated that a total number of between 90 million to 100 million Chinese still leaves below the poverty line (Shi, 2014). These people make about 6%-7% of the total population in China (Shi, 2014). In turn, the rural population living below the poverty line is between 55 million-70 million of the total population existing on the edge of starvation in the country (Shi, 2014). This figure is less as compared to the Indian statistics both in regard to the national poverty and poverty in the rural regions.

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India is the leading country in the world in terms of the total population living below the poverty line. In the country, about 300 million individuals spend below $1.25 per day (Panagariya and Mukim, 2013). It means that more than 25% of the total Indian population lives below the poverty line (Panagariya and Mukim, 2013). Unlike in China where only one in eleven people is extremely poor, in India, at least one in four people lives below the poverty line. These figures are an indication of how the magnitude of poverty varies in these two countries. In India, this social problem is burning and more critical as compared to China. In rural India, the poverty is much worse as compared to China. In such a manner, in these areas, a total of 231 million people live in extreme poverty (Panagariya and Mukim, 2013). On the other hand, in the rural areas of China, only 55 million – 70 million individuals live under the poverty line.
The urban poverty also differs in the two countries. In the urban regions of China, only around 30 million people live below the poverty line. The statistics mean that only 5% of the total urban population suffer from extreme poverty (Shi, 2014). This number was much lower in the past; nevertheless, recently, it has significantly increased as more people move to the cities searching for the new opportunities. The state-owned enterprises also had to close many jobs after they had failed to compete with the private sector; thus, they contributed to the poverty issue in the cities. China does not have such big slums as in the major cities all over the world. It can be a surprise to see less poor households in Shanghai or Beijing than in New York (Shi, 2014).

It does not mean that everyone is rich to afford a good house. In fact, the government owns and controls all housing in the cities, and it simply does not give room to the development of slums. If it were not the case, then several slums would develop in the Chinese cities. Due to these limitations, most poor people face a lot of difficulties in finding housing in the cities. In the recent past, research has reported that there are several cave families in the big cities of China, for example, Beijing. These cave families live in the sewerage tunnels where the warm sewerage pipes provide them with warm. More than 500 families across the country have been said to lead such a life in the major cities. It is a clear indication of the level of the urban poverty in China (Shi, 2014).

In the Chinese cities, however, most families even the poor ones enjoy an affordable government housing. The state lowers the housing cost by subsidizing the needy. Consequently, the issues such as lack of sewerage and proper sanitation, lack of water and other basic needs associated with the slums are not common in China (Shi, 2014). The disease outbreaks caused by overcrowding and poor hygiene in the urban areas is also not typical. Nevertheless, in the recent past, caution has been raised by the increasing urban poverty level. If no measures are taken, then the modern well-organized cities of China will degrade in the nearest future.

The urban poverty in India is more critical as compared to that of China. In India, about 70 million people live on the edge of starvation (Panagariya and Mukim, 2013). It is about 17% of the total urban population (Panagariya and Mukim, 2013). Even though, the percentage is considerably lower than the poverty level in the rural areas; it is extremely high as compared to the urban poverty in China. India is the home to most slums in the world. Each major city in the country has at least one big slum (Panagariya and Mukim, 2013). Most city dwellers live in the poorly housed areas with bad sanitations and where no basic social amenities are provided. The studies show that at least one in every six city dwellers in India lives in slums in extreme poverty. In fact, the largest slum in the region, Dharavi slum, is founded in Mumbai, India.

In India, the slums indicate how deeply rooted the poverty problem is. The life in these areas is quite harsh, more so to the young children (especially girls) and women. In the slums, the living conditions are very poor; they increase the rates of disease infections in young children. The water supply is limited; moreover, this water is usually dirty and is another source of diseases. In addition, common social problems associated with poverty, for example, high crime and rape rates, are the order of the day. At least five deaths, which are the results of crimes, are reported from these slums each day (Panagariya and Mukim, 2013).

In the Indian slums, there is no sewerage system. Most of the human waste is disposed of in an unhygienic way; therefore, it increases the risks of different infections in these areas. They are quite crowded; it is another big threat in the case of any epidemic. In Dharavi slum, about one million people reside in one square mile that formerly used to be a swampy region. The population suffering from HIV/AIDS is also very high; around 1.8 million of the slums residents, mostly women, suffer from this incurable disease (Panagariya and Mukim, 2013).
Other factors of poverty in China and India include hunger, starvation, and diseases, as well as high mortality and maternal death rates. In China, the hunger and starvation was a common phenomenon in the past. Nevertheless, the necessary steps have been taken in order to manage the issue (Shi, 2014). Meanwhile, in India, these problems are still among the biggest concerns of the government. Several people in India still do not get proper feeding and proper diet, and others are even hospitalized due to starvation.

In China, the government has invested a lot in combating all the diseases associated with poverty and poor sanitation. Consequently, nowadays, the outbreaks of typhoid and other hygienic diseases are not common in the country due to numerous medical and hygiene initiatives. In India, these diseases still are a burning problem. Even today, the rural dwellers suffer from numerous intestinal infections. Moreover, in the country, HIV/AIDS remains high with about 5.4 million people living with the virus. In India, the number of deaths in children below the age of one year and maternal deaths also remains considerable as compared to China. In China, the infant mortality rate is 15 in every 1000 live births while, in India, it is 41 in every 1000 live births (Shi, 2014). The maternal death rates also differ; in China, only 32 women in every 100,000 die while, in India, 190 women in every 100,000 die (Panagariya and Mukim, 2013).

Efforts to Reduce/Eliminate the Social Problem of Poverty


China and India have made tremendous steps toward the reduction of poverty in their countries. For the past three decades, these two nations have demonstrated the quickest economic growth ever witnessed in the world. They have both targeted the poverty reduction. In average, China reported a 10% growth in its economy in the period from 1980 to 2010 (Wang et al., 2014). Despite this growth having slightly reduced since 2010, it remains still very high as compared to many countries in the world. On the other hand, India has experienced a 6% growth in is economy since 1980 (Thorat, 2014). These figures mean that the total wealth of both China and India has immensely increased over a stated period; the entire progress has been made in favour of the citizens residing in these countries.

Despite the fact that the economic growth does not necessary mean decreased poverty; it does a lot good to the nation, in general, by enabling people to earn more. The more the country gains, the higher is the probability that the wealth of some citizens in that country will increase. It is the case in these two nations. In China, for example, the economic growth has resulted in a significant reduction in poverty; though being not perfectly implemented, the increased wealth has helped the country to some extent. In the early 1980s, the rate of the Chinese rural population living in poverty was 94%. In the urban regions, the individuals living below the poverty line constituted 46.4%. After the most vigorous period of the national economic growth, these numbers reduced to 16.5% in the rural areas and less than 5% in the urban areas (Wang et al., 2014).

India has also reduced its poverty with the economic growth in the country. Consequently, the level of poverty has decreased from above 65% of the total country population to the present rate of only 25% (Thorat, 2014). In India, the economic growth also was not perfectly correlated with the level of income gain; hence, this factor complicated the process of the poverty eradication (Thorat, 2014).

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Laws Established to Curb Poverty

In an effort to reduce poverty in both Indian and China, the government in these two nations adopted very strong laws (Wang et al 2014). China even through it has stop practising this laws today, it had limited migration with the country. The effort of this law was to ensure that rural urban migration did not result to high poverty levels in towns. The adoption of housing regulation in urban China has also ensured that only people that are skilled and that can manage urban life lives in towns (Wang et al 2014). The government has also enacted laws on equality that seek to ensure all individual are given equal opportunities in the society.

In India, the government under its laws, it states that every citizen in India has right to equality. Poverty is termed as a factor that results to inequality (Thorat, 2014). In effort to reduce the violation of equality law, the Indian government has enacted four major laws which have established schemes to deal with poverty (Thorat, 2014). The scheme established under the India laws have are; the nation old age pension scheme, the national maternity benefit scheme for the pregnant women, the national family benefit scheme formed in 1996 to help the family that have lost a breadwinner and lastly, the Annapurna scheme which gives food to the elderly that lives alone (Thorat, 2014).

Policies Adopted To Reduce Poverty

The two countries have also designed and implemented the policies in order to tackle the issue of inequality. The fiscal policies are the main means, with which these countries have tried to redistribute wealth and reduce poverty (Bhalla and Luo, 2013). It is much easier to save money in India and China as compared to the countries of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). It is because the taxes in these two nations are kept at the very low levels. In fact, in China and India, taxation brings only around 20% of the total government income as compared to 50% in the OECD countries. The low level of taxation has been enforced in order to ensure that wealth is well distributed among the poor people (Bhalla and Luo, 2013). This strategy has worked out in both countries and caused a remarkable reduction in poverty in these nations.

The two countries have increased and improved the provision of public services. China had an average of 1.73% increase in the human development index while India’s index has an annual increase of 1.51% (Bhalla and Luo, 2013). These figures indicate the efforts put forward by the respective governments in order to reduce poverty. In China, healthcare has been considerably improved; today, even some free services are offered countrywide. The number of the healthcare facilities, educational institutions, and other social amenities was increased (Wang et al., 2014). In India, the same steps have been implemented. Nevertheless, a lot is still to be done in order to ensure a better provision of these social services in both countries (Thorat, 2014).

Task Force Establishment Effort

The last thing, which these two countries have employed for the poverty reduction, is improving the social protection. The two countries have designed different programs that protect some disadvantaged individuals in the society. In China, in an effort to combat poverty, the government created a special program in 1997. The Minimum Living Subsidy Scheme commonly referred to as Di Bao covered over 150 million individuals (Wang et al., 2014). It was implemented in order to support people, who resided in the urban regions and had no employment mostly because of the structural reforms in the market that made them lose their jobs. In India, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) was introduced in order to provide a similar social protection. Annually, it provides 100 days of a paid employment to 240 million unskilled work-people (Thorat, 2014). These steps help many households to survive.

Think Task and Non-Governmental Organization

Think task and non-governmental organization have also played very crucial role in poverty reduction. In China, the think task and NGOs are not so common with regard to the communist government in China but in India there are very common (Thorat, 2014). The Development Research Center of The State Council has been the main think task in china that has ensured poverty reduction (Wang et al., 2014). It researches on how best the government can improve poverty level and gives it best research proposals to the government. In India the National Center for Cold-Chain Development has been the organization in the forefront to ensure poverty reduction. This task force ensure development in all sectors of the Indian economy which in turn reduces poverty (Thorat, 2014).


The efforts to combat poverty also differ to some extent in the two countries. China has an upper hand in the poverty reduction in comparison to India. The country has done a lot in order to tackle the urban poverty. China has enabled the urban population to reside in good settlements that are planned and controlled by governmental agencies. This way, China has ensured that the slums will not develop in its cities (Wang et al., 2014). India, on the other hand, has done less for the reduction of the urban poverty. Almost all cities in India have at least one slum where essential services, for example, sewerage, are not provided. The studies show that, despite the efforts to reduce poverty, urban poverty in this country still creates a wrong picture (Thorat, 2014).

The provision of social amenities still differs in these countries. In China, a system of basic education was built; consequently, the level of literacy improved to 95%. There are an adequate number of schools and classroom for children, sufficient teaching staff, and availability of the required items such as textbooks. Despite the fact that the optimal level of education has not yet been attained, much has been done in order to ensure that everyone in China acquires basic education. In terms of healthcare, China has created numerous medical facilities for its citizen with reliable services and competent physicians. Other amenities have also been improved; today, over 99% of the total population enjoys electricity and clean water supply (Wang et al., 2014).
In India, all these achievements have not yet been attained. The literacy level is still low (84%). The government has opened some schools, but the high number of children has not yet been entirely accommodated. The cases of inadequate classrooms and lack of teachers in the Indian schools is very common. This fact proves that the efforts to combat the issue of schooling are still insufficient. The healthcare facilities also remain very remote in some regions of India. In the rural areas, most women give birth using the old means, which cause considerable health issues to both the infant and the mother. This fact explains why the infant and maternal mortality rates remain high in India. Other social amenities are also remote in some regions; only 75% of the total population has access to electricity and clean water (Thorat, 2014).

Efforts Success in India and China

Efforts put forward by India as well as china have been both successful to a larger extent. The effort by the Chinese government to improve on social amenities, have an inclusive growth, the social protection and the policies on taxation have done a lot in ensuring poverty reduction. Wang et al. (2014) concluded that if Chinese government did not take the following step in ensuring poverty reduction, the poverty level of chine would be higher with more than 100% from what it is today. Wang et al. (2014) also added that some effort like reduction in tax level have had both impact positive and negative impact. The new policy has enable the rich to accumulate more wealth thus enlarging the gap between rich and poor.

In India, the policy and efforts adopted by the government have worked in most parts of the countries while as other have remained in total poverty. Thorat (2014) found that the effort by the Indian government to reduce poverty was working mostly in the urban region. It was also revealed that the social grouping behavior in India was a big hindrance for poverty reduction. The caste system behavior reduces the interaction between the poor and the rich which makes it hard for the poor to brake the seal and change status. Nevertheless, the effort by the government in India have ensured that poverty reduce with more than 5% annually (Thorat, 2014).

In ten years’ time from today, the situation will be much different in these two countries. With the current efforts in place, china will be having a less than 1% of the total population across the countries living below the poverty line (Bhalla and Luo, 2013). The future might also be hard on china because more than 50% percentage of people below the poverty line may shift to urbans areas if steps to curb the raising problem of poverty in urban areas are not addressed (Bhalla and Luo, 2013). India will still be the leading nation in the world with most people below the poverty line with at least 80-100 million people living in less than $1.25 a day (Bhalla and Luo, 2013). However this will be a significant reduction of over 200% compared to today’s level of poverty. The rural and the urban poverty in India are expected to reduce systematically over the next ten years period (Bhalla and Luo, 2013).


In conclusion, poverty is a significant social problem, especially in the developing countries such as China and India, which have a lot of opportunities for the global economic dominance. As outlined above, in these two countries, the issue of poverty is deeply rooted in the rural areas. In these regions, people engage in the primary economic activities such as agriculture, fishing and animal husbandry that provide less income. It has also been revealed that the most vulnerable social categories are women, children, and minorities. In China, however, poverty is considered to be of a less magnitude as compared to India. In India, more people live in poverty both in the rural areas and urban slums in comparison to China. Lastly, it has been found out that both countries are doing their very best in order to reduce poverty. They both have ensured considerable economic growth, provision of social amenities, and improved social protection. However, China is a leader in the eradication of poverty as compared to India.

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