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The Fallacy of the Middle-Class: Overcoming Social Resentment (XIX). The SDGs of the Middle-Class.

Have a beautiful week. Christmas is coming and our spirit begins to perceive the kindness of the season. I have to publish today instead of Tuesday, because I have to prepare all the material for this coming Friday’s post. Regardless of COVID19 and the stress that causes over all of us, it is good-looking to start our week with a positive note.

“Please don´t hurt my Mommy”. A handmade watercolor exercise by Eleonora Escalante. Size: 5 inches x 7 inches. Paper: Fabriano 5. Photo Reference from Knowsley Safari Park, Merseyside, Britain.

Last year, around this time, exactly, I was writing the saga “Revenge Strategy wasting the power of your hate on the guiltless”. If you are a loyal and devoted reader to our Eleonora Escalante Strategy publications, probably you remember that I developed several examples of revenge strategies, being one of them the current US-China Trade War. At that time I illustrated to you the Sustainable Development Goals Index, as one of the comparison existing indicators between China and the US. If you wish to refresh this theme, go and click here please (it will be nice if you refresh your views about it again):

The SDG prelude. As you already know, when we perform strategic reflections about situations we go to review the frameworks. And we always go back in time. Before making a “group-think” or accepting blindly others’ knowledge premises, we are obliged to try to understand the origin of the frameworks. And I will try to summarize the SDG origin in one paragraph. Synthesis served at your plate as follows:

After WWII, petit a petit, the baby boomers were raised, and adopted a new way of thinking when it comes to the word “development”. Instead of development using the force or through an empire war coercion, new concepts and ideas came into the scene. Regardless of the hippy excesses and the Vietnam era, the generation of our parents began to introduce a new philosophy of thinking, expressed in action by introducing the concept of citizenship, human rights, and the adoption of pro-democratic norms for an agenda of international development. Before the year 2000, everything was pivotal to the baby boomers’ arrival to decision-making positions (they were on average 50 years old then), and baby boomers began to open the eyes to see that economic growth only, wasn´t sufficient. Then, the baby-boomers continued with the Millenium Summit of the United Nations in the year 2000 (I was only 30 years old then) and they sat out a new framework called the MDGs, with eight human Millenium Development Goals: (1) Eradication of extreme poverty, (2) Universal primary education, (3) Gender equality, (4) Reduction of child mortality, (5) Maternal health, (6) Combating HIV/AIDS, (7) Malaria and other global diseases, and (8) Environmental sustainability and global partnership. The MDGs-United Nations ideas kicked off a multilateral aid agenda in which the richer societies committed funds to help the poor nations. But like all in life, the MDGs framework needed to be polished and updated. By 2015,  the MDGs frame of reference evolved to become the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be accomplished for 2030. This new concept was consultative and represented more than 77 countries plus China, civil society groups, business, and of course, the UN network of organizations.

The 17 SDGs for 2030.

So, here we are in the middle of a weird COVID19 pandemic. Generation X and below have inherited an SDG Agenda that contains 17 sustainable development goals under the motto umbrella of “Leaving no one behind”. Thanks to God, this SDG effort has also a better supporting structure on key performance indicators, and many private sector multinationals and corporations have started to use it for their social responsibility own agendas. These development goals are:

  1. No poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-being
  4. Gender Equality
  5. Quality Education
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry Innovation and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequalities
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Production and Consumption
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life On Land
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the goals

Since the SDGs frame of reference is so new, it is still a work in progress. Is the SDG agenda attainable for 2030? No. It is not. Accurately, even if the 4% of the high-income class globally donates to the UN to make the SDG a reality, this agenda won´t be able to be accomplished if the Middle-Class doesn´t expand and reinforce. Our planet has so many issues and is so dis-balanced between the rich and the poor, that the Middle-Class (which is the measure of success for the SDG) won´t flourish neither strengthen in 10 years. Particularly in the context of the current technological disruptions and climate change tragedy which will inevitably contribute to social inequality.

The Middle-Class improvement and expansion is the consequence of accomplishing the SDGs. All these 17 SDGs accomplishments listed above are basically going (directly and indirectly) to trigger the Middle-Class integral rising and well-being. Some SDGs are directly linked to education, human rights, the environment, decent work, and economic growth. I am not at all dismissing the SDG as a framework for development, what I am trying to say is that the bottom line to know if all the SDGs will be completed is by understanding that a growing, improved, and robust Middle-Class is the direct consequence of the SDG achievements. Middle-Class improvement conditions that have to be checked nation by nation.

Since excellent education takes time, we must plan with a long term vision for SDGs and Middle-Class Growth. First, we have to improve our professors’ education, mindsets, and quality of life (including their salaries). Second, it will take at least two generations on consecutive row to permeate the minds of the people (students) globally. So, we can’t even dream of an Agenda SDG for 2030. It takes at least between 80 years to leave poverty behind, to become consistently part of a robust and strengthened Middle-Class. And I reassure you this is true because that is the case of many of the baby-boomers who were able to leave poverty behind. On average the Baby-Boomers are of the age of President Trump and the New Elected President Biden. So these baby-boomers have had the possibility to study, to work or build their entrepreneurial projects, have babies, set up good education for us the Generation X. We went to study in good schools because our parents were emerging Middle-Class, and then the cycle has repeated to Millennials, who have been raising the new generation Z. How many years have passed? Between 70 to 80 years.

It is irrational to disconnect the Middle-Class status from the SDGs. It is not possible to believe for a country or a social group that passes the minimum grade of the 17 SDGs (or is graded by the World Bank organizations as a Middle-Income country) to hold an official government-approved minimum salary of less than US$1.90 pppd (that corresponds to the extreme poor salary defined by the same World Bank).

More facts to prove with evidence. According to Eleonora Escalante Strategy, only 12% of the global population is, in reality, a Middle-Class (household earnings between US$28,800/year to US $175,200/year before taxes). The rest 84% is poor or has multi-dimensional poverty. Of course, the bottom of the bottom, the extremely poor group is only 10% of the population. Be aware that extremely poor families households only pull-in revenues of less than US3,000/year. And this happens in my country El Salvador as the legal and approved norm. For example, the most humble extreme poor coffee workers are paid US$203.44/month multiplied by 12 months, implies an income before taxes of US$2,441.28/year. Explaining it in detail, for an extremely poor family that lives in Santa Ana, El Salvador, if the economic provider of a house of 4 is only the male adult, the pppd number is US $1.65 pppd ($203.44 divided by 30 days and divided by 4 members of the family) which is less than US$1.90 pppd threshold for extreme poverty established by the World Bank.

A coffee collector in El Salvador, earns only US$ 203.44/month. Photo from

For the standards of the World Bank and in consequence the SDGs benchmarks, El Salvador is categorized as a Low Middle Income Country (LMIC). For Eleonora Escalante Strategy, this is wrong. Can you see how non-feasible or non-viable is this premise? How could it be that our nation is perceived as an LMIC nation if the official minimum salary is in the range of US$203.44/month to US$305/month? Can you see the horrific discrepancy?… The official minimum salary in El Salvador falls simply into the extreme poor category of revenues per household defined by all the multilateral agencies (here I include OECD, IMF, United Nations, World Bank, and some consulting and private banks), and our nation has been wrongly categorized as LMIC nation? Can you see it? And what is sadly worst, only around three years ago, Salvadoran public school professors were still earning on average US$400/month. As of the year 2017, the minimum salary for public school professors was improved to around US$600/month. And still is insufficient. This is a tragedy for us.

Minimum salaries officially approved by the Government of El Salvador. Updated for year 2020. Source: AFP Crecer.

It is of extreme urgency to connect the dots between the SDGs benchmark and the Middle-Class situation. Eleonora Escalante Strategy is convinced that after this saga, the multilateral and rich donor organizations have to review all these standards, not because they are incorrect (which for me are simply not carefully reviewed), but because if we want an SDGs Agenda converted in reality, the only true bottom line check measure is to review the status of the Middle-Class per nation.

In conclusion: It is unthinkable to classify a country as a Middle-Income one (regardless if Low MIC or Middle MIC or High MIC) if the official minimum salary falls below the extreme poverty level of US$1.90 pppd (or below a household income of US$2,920/year). In addition, it is time to elevate our standards. Developing nations will always be below the old industrialized and energy-intensive lifestyles in consumerism when it comes to rich nations. But what poor nations are asking for is high-quality education and a balanced ecological economic growth to overcome poverty (not just extreme poverty). Developing poor countries want to be at least LMIC nations, and for that to happen, high-quality education (with well-paid professors) and an offering of a balance of local-global opportunities are crucial.

The new disruptive technologies will increase the gap between the rich and the poor: once social media marketing and sale tools will become ubiquitous all over the world, only those who are financially strong will be able to survive, leaving the majority behind. Social Media platforms are in reality competitors to our traditional Google, but with a sophisticated media procurement and new look-feel alternatives (such as videos, audios, real-time gif buttons, and gadgets, etc.). Poor people and the Middle-Class have to understand this. In such a world of abundance of supply of products and services served through the new technologies, the cannibalization of prices will happen. And, in the end, the poor without education won’t be able to compete globally.

Therefore, the SDG agenda has to be realistic and plan for at least 100 years ahead, instead of going to 2030. Globalization without local-national regulations or protective measures for the poor existing incipient businesses will destroy its poor economies of subsistence. And inevitably the social inequality will augment over time. Even the same existing Middle-Class may go back to be poor under these new disruptive technological conditions. Why? Because in a globally connected world (through disruptive technologies) we, the members of the global middle-class are competing with the Europeans, Americans, Chinese, Indians, Africans, the rest of Asiatic countries, the poor LMIC from the BRICS, the Russians, etc. Many countries have a better or outstanding quality of education, better artisans, better scientists, and it will take decades to be at their level. Without a realistic observatory of the Middle-Class improvement, nation per nation, the SDG Agenda is only a dream, that may not be able to be true.

This post is a wake-up call to take action for those who are still not connecting the Middle-Class with the SDG Agenda. The status of improvement of the Middle-Class standards is the consequence of accomplishing the SDGs. Finally, be positive, if we pause and correct our own inconsistencies, we will be able to correct and solve them, little by little, otherwise, we will continue extending fallacies which will be spread to the new generations. And none of us want that, do we?

Blessings, see you on Friday with the Happiness Index and the Middle-Class theme.

Thank you for reading to me.

Sources of reference to write this post:

Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY.  Nevertheless, the majority of the pictures, images or videos shown on this blog are not mine.  I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

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