By: Juliana Hinton, Program Communications Coordinator
“The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” explicitly recognizes that poverty results not from the lack of just one thing but from many different interrelated factors that affect the lives of people living in poverty.” -UN
Did you know this Monday, October 17th, is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty? What started as an awareness initiative by the United Nations in 1987 has transitioned to fit a more modern understanding of poverty. Poverty is complex, situational, and cyclical. This year the UN claims to analyze poverty statistics around the globe not only by one’s income but by their life, the micro factors that play into a macro human crisis.
Although it is important to address poverty on an international level, many people may not realize the extent of poverty that exists in their own community, and their own country. So, in honor of the people who struggle to escape the invisible grasp of poverty every day, we need to think about the lives of farmworkers. Farmworkers are the lowest earning job in the labor force of the U.S., making them the most susceptible population to extreme poverty. An annual average income for crop workers for individuals is $10,000 to $12,499 and $15,000 to $17,499 for a family (avg. 4). According to the ASPE the average annual income to qualify living below the poverty line for 1 person is $11,880, and for a family of 4 that annual income is $24,300. Farmworkers in a family of 4 earn roughly $7,000-$9,000 less than what qualifies as living in poverty.
Not only are they the lowest earning population, but they are especially vulnerable because about 68% are migrant or seasonal workers. Whether people have migrated to the U.S. with or without visas, there is still an ever present fear of job security. Unfortunately, in many cases growers will take advantage of migrant workers by under paying or not paying them at all; under the assumption they have limited power to speak up for their rights as non-citizens. As well, finding financial stability is difficult when your income is dependent on constantly varying crop yields due to climate change or depleted soils. As the seasons change, often farmworkers will move about the country, with or without with families, making it harder to find a primary care provider (if they can afford one).
Farmworkers and their families live their lives as any other person in this country would, working to support their family, and with hopes that their children will succeed on their own someday. But the reality is, farm work does not currently pay enough to provide other opportunities for them. They took would like to afford health care, when they so desperately need it after long days of back breaking work and exposure to pesticides. They want to be able to buy books for their kids and afford the produce in the super markets that they work to harvest. They want to pay rent on time or even be able to pay rent at all. They want to be able to live happy and healthy lives.
There are extremely limited opportunities when you can’t afford the basic necessities of life. Which is why poverty will continue to plague marginalized people in systems set up against them. Farmworkers deserve their rights to fair pay and a safe work environment.