“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” – Aristotle
What is The Poverty Line?
The Poverty Line explores a simple question: what does poverty mean?
The visual project is a collaboration between Stefen Chow and Lin Huiyi. It began in China in 2010 and has since expanded to 28 countries across 6 continents. The Poverty Line uses the universal lens of food to examine the choices you would face if you lived at the poverty line.
The project takes a typological photographic approach over time. Each country’s figure is based on their poverty line definition and official national statistics to derive a per capita per day rate, with household food expenditure incorporated for developed countries. Food is then procured from local markets using that monetary amount. Every individual piece of work is photographed with the food items placed on local newspapers purchased on the day of the shoot, with the dimensions and lighting carefully measured to have a uniform aesthetic across time and geographical spread. The result is a large typological photographic statement that addresses the complex issues of global poverty using economics, photography and food choices.
JAPAN Tokyo | February 2011 JPY 394 (USD 4.84, EUR 3.51) for food. This is based on per capita per-day basis of Japan’s relative poverty line, average lowest-income-quintile household size and low-income household food expenditure. Japan announced its poverty rate for the first time in October 2009, stating that 15.7% of the population fell below the poverty line in 2006, rising from 14.9% in 2003. The relative poverty rate for children was 14.2%. Japan’s social security expenditure was 24.4% of its national income in 2009 percent; about 70% of this was for elderly benefits. The elderly are also helped through long-term care insurance system, which has over 3.8 million users. All citizens belong to a public medical insurance system, and the government has implemented compulsory 9-years of schooling, which is free at national and public schools. Japan follows the relative poverty line defined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is half of the median national disposable income. Taking into account the relative income approach (instead of an absolute poverty based on basic needs expenditure), and the higher standards of living involving non-food consumption, our project focused on the food expenditure of low-income households. The average household size of the lowest income quintile was 1.86. Poverty information is under the purview of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, which runs the National Livelihood Survey, and household income distribution data is also collected by the Statistics Bureau, through the National Survey of Family Income and Expenditure. Note: Latest available standards and exchange rates were taken as of February 2011, when the photography was undertaken.
Cambodia Phnom Penh | May 2015 KHR 3,871 (USD 0.98, EUR 0.90). This is based on the overall national poverty line released by the Ministry of Planning. Cambodia uses an absolute poverty line definition. In 2013, the Ministry of Planning (MOP) introduced new poverty lines. The revisions to the poverty lines include (i) a food poverty line based on 2,200 calories per person per day (up from 2,100); (ii) a non-food component that is estimated separately for Phnom Penh, other urban, and rural areas. The poverty line is calculated based on the Cambodia Socioeconomic Survey (CSES) data, the latest being from CSES 2009. Cambodia’s national poverty incidence rate fell sharply from 47.8% in 2007 to 18.9% in 2012. Key poverty reduction factors include the movement of poor people to be just above the poverty line, rise in rice prices and production, and investments in rural infrastructure. Going forward, it will be challenging to match up to the earlier poverty reduction rates due to the poor’s vulnerability to shocks, low likelihood for future rice price spikes and low education levels. Note: Latest available standards and exchange rates were taken as of May 2015, when the photography was undertaken. Understanding More Cambodia Ministry of Planning: New Poverty Lines http://www.mop.gov.kh/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=kygQ6a8RDGk%3d&tabid=148&mid=696
World Bank – Cambodia Poverty Assessment 2013 http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2014/05/19677674/all-poor-gone-cambodia-poverty-assessment-2013
SINGAPORE Singapore | May 2013 SGD 2.22 (USD 1.79, EUR 1.37) for food. This is based on per capita per-day basis of the main public assistance income threshold for Singapore, and low-income household food expenditure. Singapore does not have an official poverty line. The government’s stance is to take a tailored approach for the social safety net, and it generally tries to provide assistance to the poorest 20% of households. For this project, a proxy using the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s ComCare assistance income threshold was used. Other public and non-governmental organisations with assistance schemes have differing definitions. Income disparity has become a much debated issue in Singapore in recent years, with income inequality increasing over the past ten years. Singapore’s Gini coefficient was 0.457 (before government transfers and taxes) in 2012, using the modified OECD scale. The government has been ramping up distribution of benefits such as cash vouchers and utilities subsidies to lower income households and emphasizing on education and skills upgrading. Note: Latest available standards and exchange rates were taken as of May 2013, when the photography was undertaken.
Vietnam Hanoi | May 2015 VND 23,667 (USD 1.10, EUR 1.02). This is based on the most recent General Statistics Office (GSO) line for urban areas in the country. There are two main approaches to setting poverty lines in Vietnam. The Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) sets a poverty line which is based on income and is used primarily for targeting social programs. In 2012, the MOLISA poverty line was: VND 400,000 per capita per month for rural areas and VND 500,000 VND per capita per month for urban areas. The General Statistics Office (GSO) sets a different poverty line based on an estimated daily food intake (2,100 kcal per person per day) plus an additional allocation for essential non-food needs based on general consumption patterns of the poor. This is used chiefly for monitoring poverty over time. In 2013, the GSO general poverty line was: VND 570,000 per capita per month for rural area and VND 810,000 per capita per month for urban area. This line is for domestic use, and the poverty rate is tracked and published by GSO. Under the 2013 GSO line, the national poverty rate was estimated to be 9.8%. The GSO worked with World Bank to calculate a poverty line which is more internationally aligned, and is for international use. It involves calculating the cost of food poverty line using 2012 unit values (January 2012 unit values), and recalculating the non-food component by estimating new Engels curves. The GSO-WB line for 2012 was VND 871,308 per capita per month – the corresponding poverty rate was 17.2% poverty rate. Vietnam’s mapped out poverty reduction plans first under the Hunger Eradication and Poverty Reduction Programme, and later the National Targeted Programme for Poverty Reduction. It set out its Comprehensive Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy (CPRGS), and related policies are incorporated into the country’s Ten and Five-Year Plans. Vietnam’s poverty reduction policies and programs aim to promote production to impr
The project was referenced by the World Bank and exhibited as large scale installations at the Pavillon Carré de Baudouin, Paris (2015), PMQ, Hong Kong (2015), Studio 94, Taipei (2015), Museum of Modern Art, Tblisi (2013), Three Shadows Art Centre, Beijing (2012), Galerie Huit, Arles (2011). The project has been extensively featured in international media including BBC, Le Monde, CNN, Foreign Policy and is currently in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago and Central Academy of Fine Art Museum, Beijing.
Chow and Lin are currently based in Beijing, China.