In recent years Nepal has decreased its poverty level however the economic disparity between high income and low income is on rise. The political instability in country has forced the rural people either to migrate urban areas or go for foreign employment. The urban areas are gradually being populated and unmanaged developmental activities is a common sight and low income families are them who drive these developmental activities in urban areas. The inflation has caused low income families hard to pay rent and bear basic facilities and they landed up in squatter communities. Similarly, the rural people in search of employment opportunities find their roofs in these squatters. The number of slums have increased significantly in past 50 years and the government has failed to address these homeless people.
Most of the low income parents are working but still struggling to make ends meet. They have to struggle to find and keep a toehold in a changing labor market, to pay costs of essential basic needs of fooding, housing, health care and to raise children with a chance of future success. The average monthly income is Rs. 4,173 (less than half dollar) which they earn through informal employment activities such as driving, cleaning homes, offices, sweepers, cleaning drains, scavengers, porters, etc.
Low income communities have various problems such as food and housing hardships, poor health, insecure environment, social violence, job stress, insufficient income for proper education of children, water, sanitation and hygiene problems and in some slum areas they do not have lighting facility and they defecate along river or other open spaces. The low income people have low education level which prove as market disadvantage, and they are not able to raise their income despite hard labor throughout the day. Besides these research have found that children in low income families have more psychological problems than that grow in high income families. The low income families face high level of emotional and behavioral problems and marital conflicts as they are not able to fulfill their aspirations.
Child rearing is more challenging for low income families due to their financial vulnerability. The child care services are expensive and they are not able to pay the amount which leave the children uneducated and on their own in their homes. These parents hardly get time to interact with their children. Most of the times the parents in low income communities from their past experiences feels that their child cannot achieve what a rich parents' kid can. Their working hours itself is a barrier which inhibit to support children physical, cognitive and social development. They have long working hours and they are not in well off condition to afford the child care services which again inhibit the early childhood development. The children who do not have good care during childhood is obvious to develop deviant behaviors in adulthood and chained in vicious cycle of poverty. Low income children are more likely to live in stressful home environments and with parents reporting symptoms of poor mental health. The parents don't supervise those school going children firstly they do not have time and secondly they don't know how to as they are themselves illiterate or have low educational level. These school-age children are less likely to be highly engaged in school activities and more likely to exhibit high levels of emotional and behavioral problems.
The low income families spend much in fooding and other basic needs as housing, rent, health services, etc. Low income families have poor health and so are their children but there is less chances of investment in children future prospects. These families postpone their medical care needs as health services are expensive in private and take almost 1-2 days in government services. Low income families are less likely to have paid vacation or sick leave and making it more difficult to juggle work, family health and well-being.
Poor economic status certainly limits parents from spending a quality time with their children. This is because most of the time parents involve in income generation activities to fulfill basic needs of the family which involves rearing and caring of children. However, sufficient 'income' might not always be the key to better childhood development and parental obligations. Many research suggest that the economic improvement cannot be only solutions to the problems faced by these low income communities. There is a need of proper socialization in these communities as of high income and this is possible as it has much to do with social and cultural aspects. Besides, it is important to bring out quality attention of parents towards their children no matter how much time they can actually manage. The parents need to interact with the children and communicate about the problems they have been facing. They need to guide their children to adopt good behaviors and refrain from drug abuse, violence and anti-social behaviors. Quality time also calls for emotional needs of children and motivate the children to be creative and intelligent.
The psychosocial and behavioral problems in children need greater quality attention beyond economic improvement of the low income families. The children learn early in childhood and if low income families can give that attention and affection then they can sure perform well as of rich kids. Children seek love and affection from their parents than luxury. They are much concerned about family stability than societal affairs. So it is the high time for the parents to shape the mind of their children during their early development. The positive influences can begin right now if the low income families understand its need rather than waiting the day when poverty is ideally abolished and thinking that they will grow positive in the process.
The challenge itself is inspiring to explore. The challenge topic motivated me to research in this area and seek out the barriers faced by low income families. The challenge drove me to the places and various research papers and journals which gave be better insight to design solutions for the problem.
Through the literature review I have got insight of economics of urban poor. The problems of slums people is beyond the basic needs. Their prioritized issue is housing rights and they are just struggling for their existence. Beside this there is a need to address the psychological, social and physical development of the children and need of parents to guide their children.
The questions that came into my mind are:
- Will the parents in these communities able to understand the need of proper early childhood development?
- Even if they are willing to contribute a fraction of their income in dietary supplements, will they still be able to do it in real?
- What are the key social, cultural and family values which undermine women's potential to income generation? What could be the linkage between such values to childhood development? Can we change the circumstances?