1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Special Events (2000 - 2009)

Combating Poverty and Inequality: Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics

Poverty reduction is a central feature of the international development agenda and contemporary poverty reduction strategies increasingly focus on “targeting the poor”, yet poverty and inequality remain intractable foes.

Combating Poverty and Inequality argues that this is because many current approaches to reducing poverty and inequality fail to consider key institutional, policy and political dimensions that may be both causes of poverty and inequality, and obstacles to their reduction. Moreover, when a substantial proportion of a country’s population is poor, it makes little sense to detach poverty from the dynamics of development. For countries that have been successful in increasing the well-being of the majority of their populations over relatively short periods of time, the report shows, progress has occurred principally through state-directed strategies that combine economic development objectives with active social policies and forms of politics that elevate the interests of the poor in public policy.

The report is structured around three main issues, which, it argues, are the critical elements of a sustainable and inclusive development strategy:
  • patterns of growth and structural change (whether in the agricultural, industrial or service sectors) that generate and sustain jobs that are adequately remunerated and accessible to all, regardless of income or class status, gender, ethnicity or location;
  • comprehensive social policies that are grounded in universal rights and that are supportive of structural change, social cohesion and democratic politics; and
  • protection of civic rights, activism and political arrangements that ensure states are responsive to the needs of citizens and the poor have influence in how policies are made.

The report seeks to explain why people are poor and why inequalities exist, as well as what can be done to rectify these injustices. It explores the causes, dynamics and persistence of poverty; examines what works and what has gone wrong in international policy thinking and practice; and lays out a range of policies and institutional measures that countries can adopt to alleviate poverty.

The Overview is also available in Arabic, Chinese, French and Spanish.

To open the full report in PDF or to download chapters, use the links below or select an option on the right under Additional Information.

Download the full report.

Download by chapters.
Contents, acknowledgements, foreword and preface

Section 1: Socially Inclusive Structural Change
Chapter 1 - Towards Employment-Centred Structural Change
Chapter 2 - Income Inequality and Structural Change
Chapter 3 - Tackling Ethnic and Regional Inequalities
Chapter 4 - Gender Inequalities at Home and in the Market

Section 2: Transformative Social Policy and Poverty Reduction
Chapter 5 - Towards Universal Social Protection
Chapter 6 - Universal Provision of Social Services
Chapter 7 - Care and Well-Being in a Development Context
Chapter 8 - Financing Social Policy

Section 3: The Politics of Poverty Reduction
Chapter 9 - Business, Power and Poverty Reduction
Chapter 10 - Building State Capacity for Poverty Reduction
Chapter 11 - Democracy and the Politics of Poverty Reduction

Concluding Remarks
References, acronyms and list of boxes, figures and tables

Kindle edition available from Amazon.

Edition for iPad and iPhone available from iTunes.

Printed copies available from UN Publications.
  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 3 Sep 2010
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISBN: 978-92-9085-076-2
    From: UNRISD/UN Publications