The Notion of the Vulnerable Householder

Dreze and Sen (1989) consider the notion of the householder as entitled to food and provide an understanding to the issues surrounding food security and access to finance. Sen, in much of his work, felt that the inequality literature focuses mainly on income (1985, 1986, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1998). Providing access to finance does not itself reduce vulnerability. Sen argues for the case of financing that leads to capability build, that is, building the ability of the individual to increase their income and consumption. In effect it supports the age-old idiom that states that it is better to teach a man to fish so that he can fish for life rather than giving him a fish which he can only eat for a day.

There are some objections to Sen’s theory as it is argued that social resources can get devoted to vulnerable groups and that they may not in fact pay attention to inequality above the vulnerability threshold (Tseng 2011) , which can affect capability build of individuals within these groups. In effect there is significant literature that seems to indicate that microfinancing the vulnerable householder can in fact increase inequality (e.g., Adams and Von Pischke 1992; Rogaly 1996; Copestake et al. 2001; Copestake 2002; Dichter 2007) Bateman and Chang 2012; Bateman 2010). Sen (1992 p. 40) defines capabilities as the freedom of a person to be able to make choices for his or her well-being.

The notion of the householder and the enabling of capabilities is not isolated to the individual but extends also to a business.

Small businesses and microbusinesses face a wider range of critical risks than large multinationals do. Navare and Handley-Schachler (2016) suggest that a microbusiness tends to be more focused and use a smaller range of resources, and therefore, in theory, it is less able to absorb losses caused by local events or to diversify into industries with low or negative correlations of risk. It may be noted that in most developing countries there are little or no consumer protection laws, which creates an additional risk to the vulnerable householder.

Beck (2009) observed that too often the contemporary vision of risk (to the householder) is from the perspective of the Western world resulting in Western governments producing models of risk, risk management and risk mitigation from their perspective rather than what is appropriate to the local context. Local-level social risks are significantly different. Growing up in poverty, racial/ethnic/caste minority status, living in non-permanent homes and being subject to intimidation from power sources have been associated with a high level of income vulnerability, making it difficult to save and invest. However, the paradigm for capability build goes beyond economic betterment to personal empowerment, which includes not only personal betterment but autonomy and control over economic resources and decisions on food choice (Kabeer 1999, 2001). Kabeer extensively focuses on the three dimensions that define capability build and enabling the determination of strategic choices: access to resources, agency and outcomes.

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