You cannot end poverty by giving people money, but you can end it by changing the structure of the economic system for fair distribution of the gains.

If the structure of the economy is tipped to benefit few people, even if you grow the economy by 20%, that growth will benefit those few people.

If we had believed that poverty is unacceptable to us, and that it should not belong to a civilized society, we would have created appropriate institutions and policies to create a poverty-free world.

I’m tired of hearing wealthy people say “well, I just worked hard and pulled myself up by the bootstraps when times got tough” that may be part of one equation, but it is not the whole picture.

One of the most ludicrous assertions made by certain people is that “If you work hard you will be wealthy.”

There is a large element of luck, cutthroat dealings, exploitation and often downright dishonesty.

Why are nurses, farmers and research scientists not paid as much as bankers, musicians and movie stars but work as hard?

Instead it is bankers who created the global financial crisis, and instead of being jailed, they were bailed out and subsequently are still getting hefty bonuses.

Most wealth is the result of gaming the system.

When offered the chance to choose one out of six different causes for inequality, government economic policies, workers’ pay, the educational system, trade, the tax system and the poor’s work ethic, people around the world generally agree that the gap between the rich and the poor is a product of failed government policies and inadequate wages.

Poverty, they say, does not result from a poor work ethic among the disadvantaged.

And this consensus that inequality is the result of inadequate policies and low wages suggests a potential course for narrowing the income and wealth divide.

Government economic policies can be changed and wages can be raised.

When a CEO of a retail store earns R100 million in one year and the lowest level employee earns less than R60,000 per annum, it is no surprise there are such huge inequalities.

I’m by no means saying the CEO should not earn his salary and bonus, but I’m deliberately saying the lowest level employee should not be paid peanuts.

We cannot measure the success of a country by how many millioneers it created, we measure the success of a country [or company], by how it treats its downtrodden, marginalised and disenfranchised, by how many people it has delivered out of the shackles of poverty.

This means that the global public agrees that inequality is not the consequence of some character flaw of the poor.

It is an economic condition that can be fixed.

Equating poverty to laziness is like equating intelligence to the ability to speak English.

The fact that a person is eloquent in English does not automatically mean they are intelligent. The fact that they cannot speak English does not mean they are stupid.

As Prince Mashele said recently, if we equate the ability to speak English to intelligence, then why do we have homeless people in England?

Poverty is not a function of laziness, just like english is not a function intelligence.

There are a lot of hard working women in continent who wake up very early in the morning, travel long distances [sometime walk] to work, do hard physical labour.

If hard work was a measure of success, most of these women would long be out of poverty, unfortunately they are not.

Poverty is a structural issue that fails to capitalise on society’s hard work.

The structure is in such a way that it benefits and maximizes return to a chosen few elites and gives minimum return to those who do hard physical labour.

Work ethic is critical to a nation’s prosperity, but work ethic supported by a system that rewards hard work leads to prosperity.

High work ethic in a repressive system benefits the elite few and keep the poor in their state.

No. The growing gap between the poor, the rich, and the dwindling middle class is not caused by laziness. It is caused by an imbalance of wealth distribution.

The perks and inside investment activities of the ‘banksters’ enables the rich to get richer at the expense of the poor.

There comes a point when after trying to find meaningful work an individual becomes discouraged and just gives up. The number of unemployed people in the country is in the millions.

They are not even counted in the unemployment statistics. Because they are not looking for work they don’t contribute to the unemployment records. Not a good sign for a country that is called the biggest economy in Africa.

What significance does being the biggest economy in Africa have, if it doesn’t benefit all people in that country?

What significance does having one of the highly paid president in the world, and one of the highly paid publics servants, when the country still ranks high as one of the most unequal societies in the world.

Poverty is not a function of laziness only, it is function of a lack of will by elites, it is system failure, a design failure.

By all means work hard, be productive, be creative, innovative, challenge the status-quo.

A high work ethic is what will keep you competitive. Encourage your team to work hard as well, but pay them well. As you benefit from their hard work, let me benefit as well.

As Dr Lucas Moloi says “you need to be willing to create millioneers, if you want to be a billionaire.

My major problem with the world is a problem of scarcity in the midst of plenty … of people starving while there are unused resources … people having skills which are not being used.

My major problem is people who want to be billionaires on the back of slave waged employees.

The world produces 17% more food per person today than 30 years ago. But close to a billion people go to sleep hungry every night.

In one of my recent favourite TED talks titled The Gospel of Truth, Casey Gerald concludes by asking this question:

“Why?” With all the power that we hold in our hands, why are people still suffering so bad?

In my TEDxJohannesburg talk, I share my thoughts on how we can eliminate poverty using innovation:

One thought on “P is for Poverty: Is laziness the cause of poverty?

  1. I am truly blessed by this article. I am someone who is so passionate about bringing an end to poverty. I hate poverty with passion. As I am writing this, I am about launching a campaign I tagged ‘Zero Tolerance to Poverty’ and before I found out this article I used to believe that poverty is as a result of laziness but you have just changed my mind.

    Please sir, I will love to know more about you and share my several thoughts with you on this campaign.

    I am from Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria
    My name is precious Awesome Otuekong.
    My number is 08035717001
    Please permit me to reach out to you.
    Warmest regards.

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