Innovative Survey Gives Voice to the Poor
12 July 2017: Today the GlobeScan Foundation, in partnership with Oxfam, releases the first results from its initiative to conduct the first-ever survey of the poor across the world. Our pilot survey of 1,021 people living below the poverty line was conducted in-person and by mobile telephones in India during 2016. The results demonstrate it is possible to survey the poorest of the poor, and also reveal provocative findings that will challenge those working to reduce poverty in India and beyond.
One key finding relates to the Indian government’s recent policy of requiring those receiving government assistance to have a bank account in which funds can be deposited. According to our survey, one-third (34%) of those living below the poverty line in India – 45 percent in rural areas – have yet to open a bank account. This suggests that this government policy, well-intentioned as it is for reducing corruption, could leave large numbers of India’s poor without the assistance they so desperately need.
Another finding from the Survey of the Poor shows that Indians living in poverty give quite negative ratings to the role both the police and community leaders play in their lives. Majorities of the poorest-of-the-poor (54% and 51% respectively) say these two actors actually worsen their lives. This suggests that these two groups are important intervention points for initiatives to improve the lives of the poor.
A number of survey findings underscore the particularly challenging plight of women living in poverty. Sixty percent of women surveyed report living in temporary shelters or outside (without walls), compared to 31 percent of men. Over a third of women (36%) report never attending school versus only 6 percent of men, and those women who did attend school attended for an average of 2 fewer years than men. One-third of women (32%) have no privacy when they use the latrine. Clearly, more aid programs aimed at improving women’s lives are urgently needed.
Another survey finding underscores the importance of improving the availability of potable water in poor Indian communities. One in two respondents (51%) report that their household has gone without adequate clean water in the past month, ahead of other necessities like food (38%) and cooking fuel (44%).
Perhaps most importantly, the survey’s findings fully support the UN Development Program’s determination that poverty is multi-dimensional, and is not simply a function of low income and expenditures. Statistical analysis by GlobeScan shows that factors including access to healthcare, information connectedness, trust in institutions, sense of personal safety, subjective well-being, and the extent to which daily household needs are being met (food, water, etc.), are all significant determinants of “poverty.”
Finally, the survey also provides self-reported evidence that climate change is already negatively affecting the livelihoods of India’s most vulnerable citizens. Half of respondents (50%) say the length, timing, or severity of the seasons has changed over the last decade, and 39 percent say the change in seasons has negatively affected their ability to feed their family. Among those who own arable land, these percentages are higher, at 86 percent and 45 percent, respectively. These findings show that mitigating the effects of climate change will be central to reducing poverty.
This pilot study in India is the first phase of the Survey of the Poor initiative with ambitions to regularly survey in the ten countries where 80 percent of the world’s poor reside. The experience gained from this pilot study will be used to sharpen and improve all aspects of the project in preparation for the 2017–2018 global rollout of this initiative.
A total of 1,021 interviews were conducted in India with heads of poor households or their spouses from April to June 2016. Fifty-five percent of the interviews were conducted in urban settings, and 45 percent in rural settings. Full methodological details can be found in the detailed research report, referenced at the end of this release.
Nisha Agrawal, CEO of Oxfam India, said: "The Survey of the Poor gives some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in India a voice. It gives them a rare opportunity to talk about their lives, the problems they face, and what needs to change. The Indian government must listen and act on their concerns. Women face a double burden of poverty and discrimination. The Indian government must create equal opportunities for women’s leadership at all levels of decision-making – political, economic, and public life. It must undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources and ensure effective implementation of laws to eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls."
Eric Whan, Executive Director at the GlobeScan Foundation, says: “The Survey of the Poor will capture objective and subjective assessments of the quality of life of the poorest of the poor, their aspirations for the future, and provide a platform for feedback on aid programs, policy changes, and the implementation of government interventions over time. It will provide a forum for feedback from the individuals and communities that aid is intended to impact and influence, and as a result, provide a unique and powerful source of intelligence to the development community and policy makers alike.”
Yashwant Deshmukh, Founder-Director at CVoter International, says: “As GlobeScan’s long-time Indian research partner, it was our pleasure to pilot the Survey of the Poor study in India, particularly in implementing our methodological learnings from project VASE (Victims As Social Evaluators). This resulted in the greatest success in terms of completing quality interviews with ultra-poor respondents given increased trust levels and minimized language and dialect barriers.”
The goals of the Survey of the Poor initiative are to develop a deep understanding of the life conditions, views, and needs of those living in poverty around the world, and to report those findings to the widest possible audience. This information will allow governments and organizations to focus their interventions against poverty and, when tracked over time, will also provide a strong tool for assessing the impact of those interventions.
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About the Survey of the Poor
The Survey of the Poor study in India is the pilot phase of the GlobeScan Foundation's broader Survey of the Poor initiative that will soon be conducted in ten countries around the world. This pilot study was aimed at assessing the literacy and numeracy constraints of the intended population, as well as the instrument’s content, to evaluate different sampling and interviewing techniques.
While the pilot project certainly demonstrated our ability to successfully reach and interview both poor and ultra-poor* populations, it also demonstrated a need for further innovation and experimentation to reach a higher proportion of the ultra-poor in the sampling and in randomly selecting respondents at the point of interviewing. For example, while 100 percent of the sample reported incomes below the poverty line in India of 3,000 INR (rupees) a month, only about one-third of the sample was considered to be ultra-poor.
For the Indian survey, interviews were conducted in ten languages and dialects. A total of 1,021 interviews were conducted with heads of poor households or their spouses from April to June 2016. Fifty-five percent of the interviews were conducted in urban settings, and 45 percent in rural settings.
* The term “ultra-poor” was coined in 1986 by Michael Lipton of the University of Sussex. It is defined as “a group of people who eat below 80% of their energy requirements despite spending at least 80% of income on food.”
About the GlobeScan Foundation
The GlobeScan Foundation is dedicated to helping achieve a more sustainable and just world for all. To accomplish this, we develop and apply a range of social science tools to give voice to global publics, help unlock collaboration and accelerate progress.
We build on the global research capabilities of GlobeScan Incorporated (founded in 1987), including well-established working relationships with research institutes around the world. GlobeScan is best known for conducting the 20-country BBC World Service Poll on topical issues (annually since 2005), for its annual syndicated Radar public opinion research service across G20 countries, for its respected thought leadership on corporate social responsibility and sustainability, and for its balanced client list that includes major global companies (Unilever, Disney, IKEA), civil society organizations (Gates Foundation, ICRC, Amnesty), and multilateral agencies (IMF, ADB, WHO).
Established in 2012, the GlobeScan Foundation is a federally incorporated not-for-profit private foundation based in Canada. Our president, Doug Miller, is a widely quoted global pollster (BBC, The Economist’s “World in 2016”), and author of “Can the World Be Wrong? Where Global Public Opinion Says We’re Headed” (Greenleaf 2016).
For more information, please visit: www.globescanfoundation.org