Natural Law dictates that it is an inherent quality of mankind to extend a helping hand to those who are deprived of ease and convenience in life. Most often we find ourselves under an impulse to extend a helping hand when we see someone in need. This human nature is so complex that only the science of psychology can better explain, thus we will endeavor to comprehend instead how the act of charity evolved into a policy adhered to by certain political institutes.
When and how did poverty become a pressing issue which necessitated the governing body to act upon by means of formulating policies relative to the promotion of social welfare? Thus becomes the essence of this paper, as it delves into the historical aspect and purpose of the Elizabethan Poor Law in comparison with the current social welfare, more specifically in the aspect of its characteristics and aim. The succeeding paragraph will attempt to answer how the two differs and what similarities do they have.
Introduction With the Declaration of Independence in 1776, three basic yet paramount considerations laid its foundation and these are; life, liberty and happiness. It was then followed by a century characteristic of post liberation and on going need to rebuild and move on, where every man plowed his own field for sustenance. This was a time marked by the struggle to improve one’s standard of living, a quest for survival. A time when the children’s way of life determines the quality of father they have.
During the 18th century, government aid was un heard of nor was it for anyone to expect aid. Everyone was left to their own means to support their family. Progress then took place and in the late 19th century the disparity between wealthy business barons and their employed meager wage earners grew more obvious, In spite of the progressive reforms during the Roosevelt government, restricting rampant business corruption and unfair practices, poverty intensified at the onset of the great depression. The entire country was plunged into despair.
The Elizabethan Poor Law owed its beginnings in 1601 with the purpose of compounding all previous enactments relative to providing assistance and alleviation to poverty. This law structured a category that defines the state of poverty and at the same time accorded them with a fixed financial assistance through their parish. With EPL, each parish was required two personnel in charge of overseeing the creation, procurement and distribution of relief assistance for the poor. In general, this Law was created in order to provide aid for those who are poor through the means of providing them an opportunity of employment.
This law sustained with further adaptations like the 1662 Settlement Act, followed by the 1782 Gilbert’s Act, the Speenham land system in 1795 up until the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act which created the basis of poor relief (Bloy. 2002). The Elizabethan statute was aimed to assist migrant’s struggle to realize their vision in the early phase of industrialization where its principles were geared to accommodate the necessities of economic transformations as well as a negotiation between the landed gentry and industrial interests.
Likewise, it aimed to differentiate social insurance versus social benefits as supposed to the deserving and undeserving poor. As with EPL the means of relief were different for the deserving and undeserving poor, where those deserving poor belonged to the category under physically disabled, widows, and elderly who were accorded with outdoor relief in a form of cash payments. The undeserving ones on the other hand, received indoor assistance through poorhouses programs that provided hard labor with punitive measures set to discourage people from denying work.
As opposed to the economy, it was actually weak work ethic assumed to be the bully of the able bodied poor causing the lack of willingness to work, the root of all problems. Since EPL does not qualify them for any financial aid, they would be forced to endure the harsh working environments otherwise turn to charity organizations for reprieves which didn’t have enough resources to accommodate their quantity.
In an article entitled Congress, Bush faulted for inaction on welfare – news, published in find article website on October 09, 2002, social welfare seems to be a topic favored by few activists yet obviously avoided by the Bush administration. “The house welfare bill passed in May was roundly criticized by Protestants, Catholics and Jewish activists for requiring longer work hours, fewer education benefits and a new plan to disperse food stamps in block grants to sates and grant superwaivers to states that allow them to side step some federal regulations” (Eckstrom. . 1. 2002). While the Senate had a different version and interpretation of this bill which took quiet a major support from the religious sector, the Finance committee approved this bill a month later in June 26, retaining the provision of 30 hour work week. However, such bill was left stagnant apparently due to the President’s shifted focus to Iraq’s homeland security concerns neglecting the welfare of his nation’s people.
David Beckam, a Lutheran leader of an ecumenical group called Bread for the World, blames Bush’s unwillingness to compromise for political reasons, and while this article has been published in October, the same month when congress adjourns, the likelihood for this Bill to become a sitting until congress reconvenes is enormous. Analyst believes that this could perhaps be a political strategy that could be employed for re election especially that the campaign season is about to begin. Many religious leaders purport that the rate of poverty continues to rise and unless the government acts now, such crisis will only worsen.
The article entitled, Congress, Bush faulted for inaction on welfare, talks about how the government views welfare as an unnecessary element yet politically useful tool to acquire the people’s support in times of election. The changes and adjustments that has been proposed and lobbied for in this act includes the promotion of a family oriented principle where by longer work hours are cut short to give time for the parent to spend quality time with their kids. It also cuts short the benefits of meal tickets that helps feed the hungry.
It actually describes how the benefits for the poor have been a subject of a lot of infringements of the rights thus causing several criticisms, debate and disagreements. It talks about how a social welfare law can be viewed by politicians as a means to acquire future votes, seemingly delaying its enforcement while election is far away. It talks about how the President turns his attention away from his own people who have been asking him to feed and clothe them. Thus we can say that while poverty is supposed to be a responsibility of those whom the people elect, to alleviate this issue, they are the same ones who denied the poor of such aid.
The article focused on the changes made to the provisions of social welfare act with which benefits are being ripped off from the poor instead of providing them one, in the guise of political delaying tactics. This is similar to EPL in the sense that it is mostly the religious sector taking full responsibility on social welfare and ensuring reprieves and assistance for those in need, as being shown in the article, those who implores the immediate enactment of the social welfare act seems to be only from the side of the religious sector lobbying for the poor peoples right.
The question remains, what about those whom we elect to address this issue? Will they not do anything to help the hungry ones be fed? Will they value other matter outside their country more that the welfare of those who elected them?. This article also run in congruence with the aspect of providing assistance, whereby the opportunity of employment is accorded only to those able bodied, giving medical assistance to the sick while feeding those who are hungry, what about those who are unable to work and left to care of the government funded institutions who likewise suffers from the very little entitlement accorded by the government.
The social welfare act discussed in this article and the EPL both settles only those who are out of work for reasons of illness, those who are hungry because they don’t have money to buy food, and those who are sick who don’t have the means for hospitalization. Assistance is given only to those who can render the equivalent service to pay off what is being given to them, more of a conditional aid.
On the other hand, this House Bill discussed in the article differs from the Elizabethan Poor Law in the sense that the House Bill aims to ease the burden of labor through shorter work hours and longer time spent with the family, whereas the EPL did nothing to address the issues relative to the harsh working conditions of labor so long as they are to provide a means for the poor to earn a living.
The EPL did not care whether the laborers were maltreated, abused or unfairly waged so long as these laborers receive a means for them to sustain life. The Working conditions in the time of EPL, was far difficult compared to that of the House Bill of today. Furthermore, the EPL did not provide for any educational welfare and child care as suppose to the provisions under the House Bill, although understandably acceptable at that time as there were less children while education was not much of an importance.
With Epl then, there was no means for negotiations, no venue for the voices of the poor to heard, but with social welfare act today, there is room for bargaining and arbitration whereby lobbyist advances the voices of the poor people for adjustment and thorough assistance. While the two differs in the fact that Queen Elizabeth then used this law to promote religion while President Bush uses this Bill to advance his political significance, they are similar in the sense that there actually was a hidden agenda beneath the act of helping the poor.
In conclusion, social welfare began even before the time of reformation prior to the establishment of the Church of England, when Christians considered helping the poor, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry and giving a drink for the thirsty, welcoming a stranger and providing shelter, burying the dead, visiting the prisoner and providing medications for the sick as corporal works of mercy.
It is a responsibility not just for the leader of the nation, but an individual duty to help one another. As the world progressed and the population grew, poverty became not just a concern of the poor, it worsened into a national level where our elected leaders are tasked to resolve and thus alleviate. The only question left is how long should the people wait before poverty ceases?
Equal Opportunities Of Children In Malaysia
The term equal opportunity has been used in different contexts and has been the focused of many studies and policies in both developed and developing countries. In employment for example, equal opportunity pertains to the non-discriminatory selection of applicants and employees. That is, applicants are chosen based on their job-related qualifications regardless of gender, race, or socio-economic status. This concept is also called “careers open to talents” (Rawls 65).
In education, equal opportunity means the education should be distributed and be open to all who can learn and that no child or any individual that can understand and become educated should be excluded from access to education (Gutmann 127). From these definitions, it can be viewed that equal opportunity is the right of all people to access to social activities such as employment and education as well as health care and politics regardless of gender, religion, race, class, or disability.
Access to such social activities provides people the opportunity to learn, to work and improve their lives and the improvement that can be done on ones life depends so much on the opportunity provided by the society. However, equal opportunity in real life, although has long been considered to be a significant aspect of every society, is always overlooked in many circumstances. For example, the minorities in the United States have long experienced discrimination in terms of health care.
About 30 percent of Hispanic origin and 20 percent black Americans lack a usual source to health care compared to only 16 percent of White Americans (“Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care”). Also, among preschool children with asthma, only 7 percent of black and 2 percent of Hispanic children are prescribed routine medications while that of white American children is 21 percent (“Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care”).
On the contrary, Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that no child shall be deprived of his or her right of access to health care services (UN 7). In a research done by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, it was found out that there are racial disparities in special education across the US. This research shows that about 55 percent of White American students with disabilities are more likely to be included in special education compared to only 42. 6 percent that of Hispanic and 37. 3 percent that of the Black students (CRP 4).
However, Article 23 of the UN Convention promotes equal opportunity to mentally or physically disabled children, that they have the right to access and receives education and training regardless of their race or nationality. Moreover, there are about 130 million out of school in developing countries, most of which are girls accounting to 73 million of the 130 million (Bellamy 7). This finding suggests that most developing countries cannot meet the requirements of article 28 of the UN Convention which promotes children’s right to education.
These examples reflect that most countries developed countries cannot fully comply and commit to equal opportunities due to various reasons. One reason can be lack of resources especially in the case of the third world countries. In fact, the disparity in the percentages of children attending formal care like in Brazil, Botswana and Vietnam are due to differential access to and different ability to afford early childhood care and education (Heymann 2).
Another reason is that some of the existing laws, legislations and practices of a country are not aligned with the UN Convention although such regulations also promote equal opportunity to children. Malaysia and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Malaysia is a developing country in Southeast Asia. Like other developing countries, Malaysia heavily relies on the knowledge and skills of the country’s youth that provides Malaysia the ability to be globally competitive (EFA Report).
Due to globalisation, countries are adopting principles, legislations, and practices which have significant effect on the country’s ability to function in the global economy. Relatively, globalisation can increase inequalities. For example, technological development has resulted to educating children about information technology. If a country cannot provide enough resources and IT education to its youth, it cannot provide equal opportunity to its children. To address such issue, Malaysia adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1995.
However, the country maintains eight reservations due to conflict with the country’s constitution, domestic laws and ethics: Article 1 – definition on the term ‘child’; Article 2 – non-discrimination to race, nationality and gender; Article 7 – name and nationality; Article 13 – freedom of expression; Article 14 – freedom of thought, conscience and religion; Article 15 – freedom of association; Article 28(1a) – free and compulsory education at primary level; and Article 37 – torture and deprivation of liberty (Kulasegaran; UN Treaty Collections).
For examples, article 1 of the Convention conflicts with the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1961; and the Juvenile Courts Act, 1947 conflicts with Article 37. However, Malaysia shows commitment to the articles of the Convention pertaining to the rights of the child to education (Article 28 1b, c, d, e, 2 & 3), health protection (Article 24) and welfare (Article 19 and other articles of the convention).
Prior to the adoption of the UN Convention, there are other legislations that existed in the country such as the 1991 Child Protection Act. This Act has been revised and changed to the Malaysian Child Act or Child Act 2001 which is based on the UN Convention (UNESCO 4). This has been the greatest impact of the Convention on the country’s legislation. The UN Convention has impacted primarily the education sector and has provided the people more equal opportunity to education.
Even before the adoption of the Convention, the country already achieved 100 percent primary school participation while the basic primary education is free and universal, covering all children even if it is not compulsory (Kamerman 15). The country also established the National Philosophy of Education (NPE) in 1988 which served as the statement vision of the Ministry of Education (“Malaysia Education for All”).
NPE is basically a vision ‘to develop the potential of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner’ under the Education for All (EFA) programmes (“Malaysia Education for All”). Also under the EFA programmes of Malaysia is the early childhood care and education (ECCE) which aims to: provide care for the children of working parents; provide employment opportunities for women/mother; provide cognitive, social, physical and spiritual stimulation to children under 4 years; and prepare children for primary school (Kamerman 15-16).
Aside from the government through Ministry of Education, Community Development Division of the Ministry of Rural Development, and Ministry of National Unity and Social Development, NGOs also play significant roles in providing preschool education to children including: the Malaysian Council for Child Welfare, the Malaysian Kindergarten Association, the Malaysian Association of Child Care Providers, and the National Association of Preschool Teachers (Kamerman 16).
Basically it is the Ministry of Education who administer and ensure that preschool education is provided even to underprivileged in the urban and rural areas of Malaysia by providing curriculum guidelines which should be followed by all pre-school centres (“Malaysia Education for All”). NGOs on the other hand provide support to the government like the Borneo Child Aid Society which was founded in 1991, promoting and providing education to children who do not have access to basic education due to distance, poverty or legal status and mainly children who works in plantations (Borneo Child Aid Society).
Opportunities to health care, on the other hand is provided and promoted by the Ministry of Health. Health care for children can be achieved primarily via the Health Clinics which are focused on prevention, promotion, cure and rehabilitation services such as disease control, maternal and child health services, family planning and education (“National Implementation of Agenda 21”). Aside from Health Clinics, there are also Community Nurse Clinics that provide maternal and child health services in rural areas.
The coordination of these rural and urban health clinics contributed to the increased coverage of health care and immunisation against childhood diseases such as the eradication of polio in 1995 (“National Implementation of Agenda 21”). The Heath Ministry is responsible for health promotion activities and campaigns such as the Life Style Campaigns which started in 1991 and continued annually with different themes. Such activities were also participated by NGOs which ensured that different communities participated in health programmes (“National Implementation of Agenda 21”). Conclusion
Based on the findings above, Malaysia has long understood the importance of equal opportunity to child education and health care as reflected by the country’s practices and programmes which were implemented even before the country adopted and comply with the UN CRC although there are some reservations which can be viewed to be very important in terms of child rights is concern. However, Malaysia still decided not to comply with some of the articles in the CRC due to the country’s domestic law and ethics. Basically, the UN CRC is a compilation of universally adopted law that promotes children’s right.
Malaysia’s adoption of the UN Convention resulted to the creation of the Malaysian Child Act or the Child Act of 2001. Like other countries, the government agencies are the primary responsible for the programmes that promote opportunities while the NGOs also play supporting but significant roles especially in the aspects where government has some inadequacy. Generally, Malaysia implements equal opportunity to child education and health care as reflected by its 100 percent primary school attendance and health programmes.
However, because the country specified that it has reservation on Article 2 of the UN Convention which is about discrimination on race, gender, nationality, language and ethnicity, it can still be concluded that Malaysia’s policy and legislations do not completely implement equal opportunity. There are children who already work and the legislation of Malaysia supports child labour which is a reflection of unequal treatment to children; that is some children in other countries enjoy playing and can focus on studying while some children in Malaysia need to support themselves.
In today’s world people are very busy looking for a living. Every people are preoccupied with their own business to mind. Everyone seems like very busy that they tend to be not aware with the things that are happening around them. People through the years have changed into something that is far from what the people before have imagined. The world is now described as a global world where the communication between people is just a click away. Everyone now can communicate even if they are miles apart. Distance is not a factor anymore for one can be in a place technologically through various forms of computer-mediated communication.
The world has changed. But the changes that have happened have different effects to people, because people are different from one another. These differences can be seen in the form of gender or sex, race, ethnicity, color, and the like. These differences are what separate one from another. Through these differences, people can be classified and can be known based on some of their distinction. For example, you would know a person if he or she is American, French, Filipino, British among others. It is innate characteristic of the world that its inhabitants are different.
Because all of us are separated by geographical locations, time, and space. We are all different but we are one. We are all one and the same in terms of our being human. We all feel happiness, sorrow, heartaches, failure, and success. We are all under the same sky no matter how far we are from one another. We all have the capability to love and be loved. We weep, we laugh. We all exist, we are all humans regardless of the differences we have. This is the main point why we all have the right, right to live, right to be respected, right to be us.
But in today’s case, the rights that we all have are not equally distributed moreover it is not equally given to all people. Stratification in every society is so prevalent that one’s status became the primary basis of how the rights and opportunities will be given to us. Our economic status dictates our social status. Thus making the underprivileged unfortunate, they are the ones who are always the under dog, they are the ones who are always under the scrutiny of those privileged. As I have mentioned earlier we are all different in sex, in race, and in culture.
It should not be a matter because there is such thing as peaceful co-existence. But what is happening today is far from what the concept truly means. The barrier of people in becoming one is either their gender or their origin. There are many cases that because of these factors people are not given enough opportunity to participate in whatever they want to get involvement. People became divided because of the unfair allocation of opportunity. It is a word that could mean a thousand words. Opportunity is not just about the opportunity to live or to breathe. There are other factors that should be considered when talking about opportunity.
Most importantly and what seems to be the issue that is facing almost every society today is equal opportunity. Opportunity should be equally given to all people given he or she has the qualification and capability and regardless of his or her gender, culture, and point of origin. People should have their fair share of opportunity in everything, like education, work, and involvement in their community and country. But this seems to be very hard to achieve because of the stratification that is existing in every society, equal opportunity is something that is far from our reach as of now.
Equal opportunity has different definition depending on the context of its usage. It is a term used to describe an approach with the intentions of providing a specific social environment whereas people are active participants of any social activities like education, work, and health care. (Wikipedia, 2007) On the other hand, American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2000 defined it as the absence of any from of discrimination, for example is in the workplace. Equal opportunity could also mean verbatim without having to do with one’s race, gender, or ethnicity. But through the years, it is corrupted and given new meaning.
It became equated to the fact that the specified racial and sexual categories the government had set are being met. Its definition lies in the quotas which are considered illegal. (Yahoo Education, 2007) There is also an equal opportunity practice wherein in any given organization practices fairness in the process of employment. There is also an equal opportunity employer where he or she do not discriminate any applicants or employees because of their background. Equal opportunity can be a social theory wherein in the search of meritocracy it is important. It is known separate from freedom.
To clearly explain this, the Freedom of Speech is not under equal opportunity but rather human rights. When we say equal opportunity it means that everyone has a fair share of access in workplace, housing programs, and education that can not be changed or altered just because a person has different race or he or she has disability. The access for government services is fair as well and every one has the equal chance of getting it. But equal opportunity is such a complicated concept because one can not really measure it thus any policy regarding equal opportunity is hard to determine whether it is successful or not.
This is the main reason why for some instances the operational definition of equal opportunity is it exists when two people having the same qualifications and abilities get equal amount of outcome which can manifest in their salary. But there is a flaw in this operational definition. There are cases when there is no definite answer to what will happen to two persons in the future when they both have the same qualifications and abilities but they came from different family. One is characterized by wealth while the other is characterized by poverty.
Aside from these, equal opportunity is facing a lot of criticisms. According to Milton Friedman, this is about getting equal results. In his work entitled ‘Free to Choose’, he argued that because of equal opportunity, people who are far better than others are barred from doing the things that they could have done because of practicing equal opportunity. Because it aims to get the same result, most people tend to do what they ought to do, nothing more, and nothing less. Sacrificing the spontaneity of things and thinking of new ideas that could have been considered a milestone.
On the other hand, Adam Smith said that in a free market, people are having a hard time to sell his products even if they think that it is better than others. It is because of the fear that they might be accused of equal opportunity rights. Equal Opportunity entails a lot of things including that legal reproach should be given to know people who are prejudiced. But in the absence of equal opportunity activists who are aiming for the equality in society are being punished.
It also somehow paralyzes the economic growth of a certain country because it hinders the people to develop something new and get out from their comfort zone to venture on new things that would later on prosper their well-being. This is why equal opportunity can be damaging at times. Another criticism to equal opportunity is that its ideal is contradicting. Yes it is wrong not to hire a person because of his or her gender, race, religion, affiliation and the like, but it is all wrong to hire them because of the same reasons.
Although equal opportunity has a lot of criticisms, the agencies, governments, and concerned groups did not stop from making the world a place where it (equal opportunity) is practiced. The advocacy of having equal opportunity to all has grown big that every country has their own legislations regarding equal opportunity. They all have the same goals of protecting the rights of every people, the assurance that every people are treated right without having the bias with who they are and who they are not.
It is really alarming that though we are living in a globalize world people are not guaranteed of a better life, we are not yet sure of what will happen to us because of our identity. It is unfair that those who are able and capable of carrying out goals were not given a chance because of the simple reason that they are women or they are coming from a minority group. I believe that in everything else, especially in the workplace meritocracy should be the base of hiring or promoting someone. It should not have the bearing to the employee’s identity given that she has all the skills.
I also do not think that exercising equal opportunity means jeopardizing the development or growth of any business or community for that matter. These may be are the reasons why the government and different agencies are still working to promote equal opportunity to all. Many years have passed and the efforts in achieving equal employment drew a huge amount of attention. There was a publication created in 1968 which aims to raise the awareness of people regarding the practice of equal opportunity. The publication is entitled Equal Opportunity Publications or EOP.
They produce career magazines focusing on women, minority groups, and the disabled. They help these groups to find a job and broaden their world when it comes to job hunting. They also help different agencies and companies in hiring and maintaining a diverse labor force. The concept of equal opportunity is often connected to egalitarian and social justice. Is there really a difference between them? As mentioned earlier, equal opportunity is just a term to describe an environment which does not exclude people from having access to his needs like education, jobs, and healthcare.
Equal opportunity to all means everyone gains access to his needs regardless of race, gender, culture, etc. Egalitarianism, on the other hand, is like a doctrine or a moral principle that states all people should be equal. The main point of this does not only rest on opportunities alone just like the concept of equal opportunities. It also carries the belief that value should be divided evenly. Social justice, however, carries the idea of a just society. This does not only refer to laws but giving individuals fair treatment and just share of the benefits of society.
The concept of social justice is more of the idea of being equitable rather than being equal. Empowerment is also an issue that always comes along equality and equal opportunities. Empowerment is actually a process that a certain group of people undergo whenever they increase their capacity to make choices and do their actions to create their own outcomes. These actions can create assets which can increase the efficiency of the individual resulting to greater opportunities for him/ her. In short, an empowered person will have more freedom to choose resulting to greater hold on their life and greater influence in their own decisions.
One kind of empowerment is economic empowerment for the disabled. Disability is usually related to the negative cycle of poverty, ignorance, vulnerability, disability and exclusion. Poverty is one of the causes of disability but most people do not consider it as an effect also. Because of disability, disabled people experience social and economic exclusion which does not only affect the person alone but also his family (relying only on family members). As known by most people, disability prevents people from getting a job because of incapability.
Of course, there are also issues of discrimination and exclusion from education. There are a lot of factors that prevent disabled people from employment opportunities. These are the reasons why economic empowerment for disabled people is done. Economic empowerment increases the opportunities of disabled people not only in getting a job but also in getting access to different privileges, thus increasing their efficiency and individuality. They can have access to formal and informal information which is a big step to employment opportunities.
They can also participate in income generating activities fro them to be efficient. There British legislations regarding empowerment. There are actually some organizations that empower the disabled and other under privileged individuals. In fact, there exists a British Institute for Learning disabilities wherein they work with the British government and provide services that empowers people with learning disabilities in the process. There are also laws concerning empowerment just like the Education Empowerment Act. There are also legislations about women empowerment of different religions (e. g. Islamic) in Britain.