Tue, Nov 30, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Thousands caught in cycle of poverty, study shows

SOCIAL UPLIFTMENT According to a recent study, children growing up in about 15,000 poor families have been caught up in a cycle of familial poverty

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Twenty percent of low-income families are caught in a cycle of poverty, according to a study conducted by the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families (CCF).

The study, which was released yesterday, indicated that out of 78,438 low-income families, 15,003 experienced second-generation poverty, in which children who grew up in poor families were unable to break free from poverty.

"There are four major factors leading up to a familial poverty cycle: Education, financial situation, marital status and health," CCF executive director Chen Pang-hung (陳邦弘) said.

Chen said that children who grew up in single-parent families might see their mother struggling to make ends meet and that this could lead to them dropping out of school to make a living.

"Although these children may have joined the workforce early, as a result of their lack of education they might not be able to get ideal jobs and may be struck by poverty again," Chen said.

Families caught in a cycle of poverty shared several common characteristics: Their average monthly household income was below the minimum wage of NT$15,840 stipulated by the Council of Labor Affairs; the responsibility to raise two or more children; the main caregiver was not very well-educated; the major family structure was single parenthood; and only one person in the family worked.

Lee Mei-lin (李美玲), associate professor at the department of social work at the Taichung Healthcare and Management University, suggested three ways of helping children in low-income families escape from poverty: Financial assistance, followed by education and promoting awareness of poverty among civic groups and private entities and encouraging them to lend a hand.

"Education provides a positive function which will allow a child in a poor family to accumulate his personal assets and keep away from poverty," Lee said.

James Hsueh (薛承泰), director of the Taipei City Government's Department of Social Welfare, spent a large part of his childhood in a single-parent family of 11 children, including his siblings and cousins.

Hsueh shared his experiences at the press conference and testified to how education had been his ticket out of a financially strug-gling family situation.

After Hsueh's father passed away, his mother raised him and his siblings alone. The family shared their living space with his aunt and her children.

"Although my parents had never been educated, my mother insisted that all of her children had to be dressed neatly and be schooled. Finally, I got a scholarship to study abroad and thus left Kinmen. During my years overseas, I still had to send part of my scholarship money home to help my family," Hsueh said.

However, Hsueh said that, while he was at school, he was never identified as a child of a "poor" family, as his mother made sure that he and his siblings looked presentable at school.

Hsueh said that the university's department of social welfare would be launching a series of poverty-care programs, one of which included making children living in economically disadvantaged communities feel special and not ashamed of their backgrounds.

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