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March 28, 2014


Naomi Hossain

It's vital these issues are still being discussed - your work has been critical for helping us figure out what is going on. In our IDS/Oxfam qualitative research on how wellbeing is being impacted by food price rises we find that wages have been increasing for people on low incomes -not everyone but most. But three caveats: 1. people often face a major and sometimes violent struggle bidding their wages up - there is nothing automatic about wage increases in response to price rises - witness the Bangladeshi garments workers' ongoing fight; 2. people are typically shifting to more precarious livelihoods - mining, migrant labour, sex work etc; 3. quality of life is definitely lower - more women are in (low) paid work so the unpaid care work at home is neglected (we call this women's economic empowerment!); communities become more individualised, and people feel pressure to earn more cash just to put a basic meal on the table. So poverty numbers might well be down - but what does that actually mean? What if people are actually worse off? We think it is a possibility. See http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/our-work/food-livelihoods/food-price-volatility-research


No offense to your study, but all this proves is that the world bank measure of poverty is not based on any objective living standard. I would go so far to say as food prices don't matter to you if you are living at around 2 dollars a day. You rely on aid to live, you can't be a market consumer. Secondly, the argument that higher food prices will lead to relative wage inflation could benefit the poor, but it is relatively hard to say if it will.. Capital always ends up with the lion's share, especially in nations with little to no labor protection (most of them). Therefore, for those reasons and many more I don't care to list, aggregate global poverty and aggregate global food prices are relatively unrelated. I only post against this because I believe your assumptions are dangerous.

Uwe Kerkow

Is it possible that part of the answer lies in the fact that many of the poor are rural poor and still produce food? Rising prices would help help them earn more - if they are able to sell.


Is the $1.25 real or nominal value?

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