International Bar Association, 29 May 2024:

Understanding the multidimensionality of poverty is not the only key to overcoming it. According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Olivier De Schutter, the approach to doing so based on economic growth has passed the peak of its usefulness.

In his book The Poverty of Growth, De Schutter explains why it’s necessary to expand our toolbox in the fight against poverty in order to be substantially less dependent on economic growth. Following a post-growth approach, policies to eradicate poverty would significantly differ from those adopted in the last decades by governments willing to do whatever it takes – including dismantling the rights of workers – to create what they term ‘a business-friendly environment’.

‘The major problem,’ says De Schutter, ‘is that the economic machine is essentially geared towards meeting the demand expressed by those who have enough purchasing power to send signals to the markets that certain types of goods and services have to be produced. In a market economy, mostly the resources are used to meet demand, not the social needs of people in poverty, but demand expressed by the purchasing power of the richest groups in society.’ Increasing overall output, he says, isn’t the most efficient way to meet social needs, but rather results in ‘inefficient use of the scarce resources at our disposal.’

The key, says De Schutter, is to be much more lucid about what we need to produce. ‘We should invest much more in public goods, education, healthcare, housing and public transport, and we should produce fewer mansions and private jets and powerful cars that will only be affordable to the richest in society’, he believes. He adds that moving to a post-growth approach will be a major challenge.

Continue reading