Slums and social mobility: Down and out | The Economist

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire (Photo credit: filmhirek)

This is an important article from the Economist. I would recommend it as a MUST READ. Check it out!

via Slums and social mobility: Down and out | The Economist.

Personally, I do not agree with the Economist’s viewpoint. It seems to lack real context.

Yesterday, I arrived in Bombay (Mumbai), now famous for the film Slum Dog Millionaire. We left the modern airport, crossed the stunning new bridge across the Indian Ocean, and entered the prosperous south of the island of Bombay. Bombay is full of enormous contrasts. As we left airport, we passed mile after mile of shanty-town but the highway was very detached from the life in the shanty-towns. Meanwhile, there is enormous prosperity and wealth to be seen in Bombay.

Personally, I seriously struggle with the Economist’s concept of social mobility from shanty-town to entrepreneurial  success. I am also uncomfortable with the idea that people in shanty-towns are better placed for opportunities than those in rural communities in India. In my experience of major cities in India, the seriously under-privileged are extremely poor with large numbers homeless and resorting to begging. By comparison, rural communities may be desperately poor but people seem to be socially more cohesive.

I have spent enough time working in India to know that the golden ticket is education. Without education, or for the few family wealth, life is destined for hardship and relative poverty. I reject the Economist’s argument seeking to link slums to social mobility.

As I ponder the wider implications, my mind considers the UK. In the UK, it is very hard for the majority of people who grow up in poor under-privileged communities to break out. Traditionally, the ticket out has been education but since 2008, with rising youth unemployment in many mature economies, education seems to have lost its qualities as the magic bullet.

Whether it’s the shanty towns of greater Bombay or the depressed areas of the UK, young people, millennials (16 to 35) need more focused help. Perhaps, unemployed millennials around the world will become entrepeneurs but for most to succeed, there are just to many barriers.

Let me turn this to two open question:

  1. How should millennials from slums, in both the developing and developed world, strive to improve their lives and possibly gain traction on the social mobility ladder?
  2. How should responsible governments and international agencies effectively improve social mobility, especially for those from extremely deprived backgrounds, particularly slums?

Any thoughts?

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