Jamaica - Poverty and wealth

When it comes to wealth, Jamaica is a land of extremes. On the northern coast—home to tourism—and in the suburbs of Kingston, wealthy Jamaicans live in first-rate housing, visit shopping centers featuring the best imported goods, and enjoy an elevated standard of living. Living in such suburbs as Cherry Gardens, Arcadia Gardens, and Forest Hills, the wealthy send their children to private schools and to universities abroad, and employ private security forces. Yet not far from these wealthy enclaves a significant number of poor Jamaicans live in squalor, with poor housing, limited food supply, and inadequate access to clean water, quality health care, or education. Kingston's poor congregate in the slum districts of Trench Town, Jones Town, and Denham Town, where

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Jamaica 1,819 1,458 1,353 1,651 1,559
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Haiti 500 607 527 481 370
St. Lucia N/A 2,076 2,150 3,542 3,907
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

water supplies are often polluted and violent youth gangs clash with police for control of the streets.

The wealth is distributed largely along racial lines, reflecting Jamaica's slave-plantation heritage. The descendants of black slaves tend to be among the poorest classes in Jamaica, while white and mixed-race descendants of plantation owners and traders tend to be better off. These extremes are reflected in the nation's distribution of income: in 1996 the wealthiest 20 percent of Jamaicans controlled 43.9 percent of the wealth, while the poorest 20 percent controlled only 7 percent. In fact, the poorest 60 percent controlled just 34.3 percent of wealth. Due in large part to the decline of services in urban slums, the percentage of people with access to safe water has declined from 96 percent in the period from 1982-85 to 70 percent in the period from 1990-96; access to sanitation facilities (plumbed toilets) has dropped from 91 percent to 74 percent in the same period.

Jamaica's rural poor also face difficult circumstances, for many workers must try to grow their own crops or participate in the informal economy —in some cases, the drug trade—in order to survive. Both the rural and urban poor have suffered from the long decline in the quality of social services provided to Jamaicans. Though the British built a well-developed health and education system on the island in the post-World

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage
Share: Jamaica
Lowest 10% 2.9
Lowest 20% 7.0
Second 20% 11.5
Third 20% 15.8
Fourth 20% 21.8
Highest 20% 43.9
Highest 10% 28.9
Survey year: 1996
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Jamaica 24 7 3 1 9 8 48
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Cuba N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
St. Lucia 40 5 11 4 17 11 11
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

World War II years, a lack of government funding for schools and hospitals has meant that these services have declined in quality over the years. Despite this deterioration, 93 percent of Jamaican primary-level students are enrolled in school, and a government-funded health-care system ensures that Jamaicans have access to adequate health care.

Jamaica's high inflation and dependence on imports—especially for food, gasoline, and clothing—has meant that the poor have had to spend a high amount of their relatively small incomes on the necessities of life. Despite governmental food subsidies for the poor, similar to food stamp programs (vouchers that can be exchanged for food in grocery stores) in the United States, most poor Jamaicans spend more than half of their income on food and beverages. The difficulty that many Jamaicans face to earn a living on the island has contributed directly to the high immigration rate of the country and to its very low population growth. Despite the difficulties faced by Jamaica's poor, a study conducted by the Overseas Development Council judged that Jamaica's quality of life was better than both Mexico and Venezuela and equal to that of neighboring Trinidad and Tobago.

Also read article about Jamaica from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Anonymous
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May 11, 2011 @ 6:18 pm
What is the poverty rate of Jamaica?
I cannot find it anywhere on the internet and I was wondering if you knew.
John Grimes
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Jun 16, 2011 @ 12:12 pm
I am a black American (half mexican and black). The disparity in wealth and or education is appalling there. I have traveled to Jamaica and I love it. The people are the nicest that I've met and I've been all over the world. A few years ago I sent a letter to Ministry of Education during the time that I was still teaching school and offered to come and teach there for free during one summer if my boarding would be paid for. I mailed a letter out on 2 occasions and never got a response or even a phone call. What's up with that? If things work out for me and money is not an issue I plan on going back and teaching for free whether the government pays me or not. I will make a difference.
Rich Trapani
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Jun 30, 2011 @ 5:17 pm
I just got back from Jamaica after spending a week volunteering with the Missionaries of the Poor. The poverty that I saw was astonishing, especially for a nation just a couple of hundred miles from the United States. While I am a proponent of capitalism, I am appalled that more is not being done to alleviate the suffering of so many people. Father Richard Ho Lung, the founder of the religious order in Kingston, definitely has done a great deal to help those in need. May God bless him and the Missionaries of the Poor!
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Aug 4, 2011 @ 7:07 am
What are the dominant religious groups in Jamaika, and are they active in providing humanitarian services to the population in need?
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Oct 7, 2011 @ 9:09 am
I am a citizen of Jamaica and I love it here. I would nt want to exchange my garden of paradise for any other place. if there is an increase in employment where the citizens can live more comfortably, then it will be heaven!!
Thanks to you all for you services and may God continue to bless and keep you!1
Dancin
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Jan 31, 2012 @ 5:17 pm
What is the % of rich people, and the % of poor people?
tamlison
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Apr 17, 2012 @ 12:12 pm
Assess the use of per capita income to assertain the standard of living of the people within jamaica
lizy
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Sep 22, 2013 @ 1:13 pm
I need help because I need to know what Jamaica poverty rate is in 2013
Shafane McLean
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Oct 26, 2013 @ 11:23 pm
Thank you. You just helped me with a last minute assignment.
david harrison
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Mar 30, 2014 @ 4:16 pm
Im travelling with my family to Jamaica for Xmas for the first time. Ive been waited a lifetime. Been doing some soulsearching and research about parents beautiful Island. But sometimes I wondered WHY!.
I saw a You tube Documentary "Life and Debt" about the ever present IMF agreements which bought the country to its knees. Everything is perpetually in decline since, And it adopts the same IMF model today just without financial subsidising..
Many weak negotiating & bad agreements helped alter the worlds perceptions of a people Basically stating that theres no economy in supporting such a nation for the IMF. And the desperate Jamaican leaders didnt even see it. So surviving didnt become a option, it became a way of life.
History shows that Jamaica has always been divided, so it was easy pickings for the IMF. Bad Aid is apparently all it deserves. Globalisation is about seeing the big picture but you have to know where you stand among your competitors. Does Jamaica, I think not.

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