Fashion can Contribute to PovertyFashion can contribute to poverty, but it is also a powerful force that lifts women out of poverty as it has stirred up a feminist movement. Brands that provide a living wage for female garment workers empower them to lead dignified lives. Additionally, these fashion brands give women access to a fair supply chain, proper work and fair wages. As a result, fashion consumers that support ethical fashion brands help advocate for women’s rights through their shopping decisions.

The Feminist Movement

The feminist movement supports women all over the globe. The fashion industry is part of the feminist movement because it is a female-dominated industry. According to Labour Behind the Label, 80% of garment workers worldwide are women. One example of the feminist movement in the fashion industry is the production of t-shirts with feminist quotes. In 2019, the Spice Girls’ #IWannaBeASpiceGirl t-shirts sold for Comic Relief’s “gender justice” campaign were made by Bangladeshi garment workers. However, Oxfam reported that same year that no Bangladeshi garment workers earned a living wage. These workers received 35 pence an hour during 54-hour workweeks, amounting to about £82, which is well below the living wage estimate. This is a clear example of how fashion can contribute to global poverty.

Fast Fashion

Fast fashion prioritizes the fast production of cheap clothing produced by garment workers all over the globe. According to the Clean Clothes Campaign, it is typical for a garment worker to work 96-hour workweeks. This is equal to 10 to 18 hours per day for wages that are two to five times less than what is needed to live sufficiently. In addition, the majority of profits made from fast fashion are paid to top fashion CEOs. In fact, Oxfam states that CEOs earn in four days what a garment worker will make in one lifetime.

Brands that pay garment workers a living wage allow employees to afford essential needs, such as housing, food, transportation, education and savings. In 2017, the Deloitte Access Economics report for Oxfam Australia stated that paying garment workers a living wage would only increase the retail price of clothing by 1%. Researchers from the University of New South Wales and the University of Queensland also found that increasing the cost of clothing by $0.20 would ensure Indian garment workers earn a living wage.

SOKO: Ethical Fashion

SOKO empowers garment workers by addressing the most vital human rights abuse in the fashion industry: the non-payment of a living wage. This women-led, ethical jewelry brand produces collections made by more than 2,300 independent Kenyan artisans. SOKO’s virtual manufacturing platform connects with a global marketplace to receive orders and payments. By leveraging technology, artisans earn five times more with SOKO compared to an average artisan workplace. In addition, this U.N.-endorsed brand guarantees workers freedom and sovereignty by limiting artisans’ work to 50% or less of their total capacity. As a result, SOKO artisans have experienced a 12% increase in average artisan income, and SOKO’s sales have impacted 11,400 beneficiaries.

Empowering Girls and Women

The U.N. reports that investing in girls and women helps improve their livelihoods in the long term. Moreover, studies from the World Bank show that providing basic education to girls until adulthood enables them to better manage their family’s needs, provide care for their family and send their children to school. This helps improve the lives of children and women all over the world. Empowering women also leads to reduced maternal and child mortality levels. When garment workers can afford to send their children to school, economic growth improves and poverty decreases.

The lives of underpaid garment workers are a testament to how fashion can contribute to poverty. Brands that support their garment workers contribute to the feminist movement. Brands support the movement by investing in female education, providing living wages, establishing safe working conditions and empowering workers. Consumers can support the movement by supporting ethical brands that strive to uplift the garment workers making their clothing.

Giselle Magana
Photo: Flickr

Fast Fashion in BangladeshMerriam Webster defines fast fashion as “an approach to the design, creation and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.” To many people, this phrase means trendy clothing for affordable prices, but to the garment workers and citizens of Bangladesh, fast fashion means unlivable wages and unsafe working conditions. Bangladesh is the second-largest producer in the garment industry after China and is home to more than 8,000 garment factories. The clothing produced makes up 83% of the country’s total exports. With more than four million Bangladeshi citizens working in these factories, the stability of the nation depends on the industry, which is controlled by the Global West.

The Fast Fashion Industry

Fast fashion is controlled by demand. The industry needs to pump out clothing quickly so stores have the clothes in stock before the trend fades. American and European demand for Bangladesh to produce is constantly increasing, which creates lower wages, more precarious working conditions and detrimental environmental consequences.

Bangladeshi garment workers make an estimated $25 to $75 a month. This is an impossible wage to live on, especially in large Bangladeshi cities such as Dhaka, where most of the garment factories are located. Nazma Akter, a seamstress in Bangladesh who began working in factories at 11 years old, stated, “We are cheap labor — that is why we are scared; we need money, we need to survive.” With an unlivable wage comes an unlivable life.

This violation of human rights comes with serious economic effects. With such a large percentage of the population living on so little, there are few citizens who are able to invest in Bangladesh, spend money to boost the economy and help lift the nation out of poverty. This low wage, which is only getting lower, is keeping Bangladesh impoverished and fast fashion plays a large role.

Unsafe Working Conditions

Fast fashion’s demand for cheap, fast labor creates low-quality working conditions, which can lead to horrific disasters in garment factories. In 2005, a garment factory collapsed in Dhaka, which killed 64 people and injured more than 100 others. In 2010, a Bangladeshi factory fire killed 26 and injured more than 100. Another fire in 2012 killed 112 workers and injured more than 150. However, the most tragic garment factory disaster was the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, which housed five garment factories that sold to countries in North America and Europe. In the collapse, 1,138 people were killed and 2,600 people were injured. The incident revealed the horrible reality of the dangers posed to underpaid Bangladeshi garment workers.

Outside of these large-scale disasters, it is estimated that there are 1.4 million workplace injuries in garment factories every year. Western corporations often manage their factories through a series of subcontractors, creating little to no presence of the actual company in the factory. This allows brands to blame any liability on the subcontractors and removes the obligation to improve working conditions.

Environmental Consequences

The cheap prices of fast fashion cause severe environmental consequences in Bangladesh. Textile production creates 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year and consumes a lot of water. Furthermore, in order to produce clothing quickly and inexpensively, the garment factories use toxic dyes and chemicals. These chemicals are then released into nearby rivers, polluting the water supply. The World Bank estimates that around 20% of wastewater worldwide comes from textile dyes. Chemicals released into the water supply increase disease among Bangladeshi citizens.

Effects of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic hit Bangladesh especially hard. In March 2020, when shutdowns began across the U.S. and Europe, a large retail fallout followed. Many large clothing brands such as Zara, H&M and Gap canceled their orders. In March 2020 alone, 864,17 million pieces of clothing from Bangladeshi factories that cost $2.81 billion were canceled after they had already been produced. This left the workers unpaid, unemployed and unsupported.

The petition #PayUp started trending worldwide, exposing the clothing brands that canceled their orders of Bangladeshi garments without compensating factories and workers. However, many large brands still have not paid. In response to the crisis, the Bangladeshi prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, announced a bailout of $590 million to be used solely for the salaries and allowances of factory workers.

Industry Reform

The garment industry is deeply ingrained in Bangladesh. If the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic taught any lesson, it is that the solution is not as simple as boycotting. Removing fast fashion would be removing almost the entirety of the Bangladeshi economy. Instead, the solution is reform. The solution is to raise awareness of the poor working conditions and put pressure on the large fashion corporations to create more sustainable clothing, humane working conditions and a livable wage. By holding companies accountable, making informed consumer decisions and advocating for workers’ rights, there is hope in ending the negative consequences of fast fashion in Bangladesh.

Georgia Bynum
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the Fashion IndustryFashion as a feminist movement is a powerful force to lift women out of poverty. Brands that provide their female garment workers a living wage empower them to lead a dignified life. Fashion consumers advocate for women’s rights based on the equality of the sexes through ethically produced clothing. Consumer brand choices have the power to uplift ethical brands that support labor sustainability and female garment workers experiencing oppression. Considering these facts, poverty in the fashion industry is a feminist issue.

The Feminist Movement

The feminist movement means supporting women all over the globe. The fashion industry is part of the feminist movement because it is a female-dominated industry. According to Labour Behind the Label, 80% of garment workers worldwide are women. They produce the t-shirts with feminist quotes found in stores all over the globe. However, in 2019, Oxfam reported that 1% of Vietnamese garment workers and 0% of Bangladeshi garment workers earned a living wage. In 2019, the Spice Girls’ #IWannaBeASpiceGirl t-shirts sold for Comic Relief’s “gender justice” campaign were made by underpaid female Bangladeshi garment workers. These workers earned 35p an hour during 54-hour workweeks amounting to 8,800 takas — well below the living wage estimate of 16,000 takas. Furthermore, the workers were exposed to harassment and abuse. The business practices of fast fashion brands highlight the imbalance between the feminist movement, consumer actions and the grim reality of garment workers.

The Feminist Movement and Fast Fashion

Fashion brands are a powerful force in ending cycles of poverty. But, fast fashion prioritizes the fast production of cheap clothing made by overworked and underpaid garment workers. According to the Clean Clothes Campaign, it is typical for a garment worker to work 96-hour workweeks for seven days a week, ranging from 10-18 hours a day. On average, the wages paid are two to five times less than what is needed for a worker and her family to live above the poverty line. The Juniper Research study predicts that online shopping fueled by COVID-19 will increase fashion sales to $4.4 trillion by 2025. Top fashion CEOs earn in four days what garment workers spend their whole life trying to make. The unfortunate truth is that fast fashion has made the richest men in the world at the expense of the most vulnerable women.

Poverty in the Fashion Industry

In 2017, the Deloitte Access Economics report for Oxfam Australia reported that paying garment workers a living wage would only increase the retail price of clothing by 1%. In other words, a living wage and fair working conditions are reasonable consumer expectations. Researchers from the University of New South Wales and the University of Queensland also reported that increasing the cost of clothing by 20 cents would allow Indian garment workers to earn a living wage. By investing more in clothing production, brands and consumers can support the global development of garment workers. This will allow workers and their families to invest in education, healthcare and their local community.

Ethical Fashion

Garment workers employed at ethical brands are paid a living wage, have safe working conditions and are treated fairly. On the other hand, fast fashion workers face gender discrimination through mandatory pregnancy tests, abuse and sexual harassment. Fashion as a feminist movement has the power to address the main human rights abuse in the industry — the non-payment of a living wage.

Female empowerment is a catalyst for prosperity. The United Nations reports that investing in the education of girls and women helps global transformation. It contributes to economic growth, reduces poverty through increased productivity and improves health outcomes. Studies have shown that providing basic education to girls until adulthood enables them to better manage their family size, provide better care to their family and send their children to school.

However, poverty is an important factor in whether girls and women obtain an education. Without a living wage, poverty-stricken workers cannot afford to send their children to school and the cycle of poverty continues. Education has the power to help improve the lives of women and reduce maternal and child mortality rates. Therefore, education for girls fosters the development and empowerment of women.

Moving Forward

Poverty in the fashion industry is a feminist issue. Brands that invest in the talented and skilled female workforce acknowledge that living wages empower women and their local communities. Garment workers need to be placed at the forefront of the industry to negotiate better pay and working conditions. Being in leadership roles ensures that fashion as a feminist movement represents the most vulnerable around the world. The fashion industry and consumers have the power to help end global poverty, improve access to education and empower women through conscious consumerism.

Giselle Magana
Photo: Flickr

Surjer Hashi NetworkBangladesh is a country in South Asia with a population of 163 million people. As a developing country, Bangladesh struggles to provide adequate healthcare for such a large number of people. The problem particularly brings challenges for people from rural and marginalized communities, who often cannot access quality health services. To combat this issue, the Surjer Hashi Network has been established. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), it is a network of hundreds of health facilities throughout the country. The facilities bring free or reduced-cost healthcare to low-income populations in Bangladesh while simultaneously bringing the country closer to achieving universal healthcare.

Healthcare in Bangladesh

Despite Bangladesh’s current struggles to provide a reasonable level of healthcare for its citizens, the country has made significant progress over the past few decades. Certain indicators have seen improvements such as maternal and infant mortality. Furthermore, the rate of vaccinations for children has increased dramatically, with the percentage of tuberculosis vaccinations for children under 1 increasing from 2% in 1985 to 99% in 2009. While the developments are a good sign, Bangladesh still faces many challenges in maintaining its healthcare system. For instance, the country suffers from a severe shortage of healthcare workers. As of 2009, only about one-third of the country’s facilities have at least 75% of qualified staff working in healthcare and 36% of health worker positions are vacant.

The ineptitude of Bangladesh’s governmental structure and the inability of its institutions to carry out its policies cause problems. The healthcare system is concentrated in urban areas even though 70% of the population lives in rural areas. Meanwhile, careless management obstructs the allocation of resources. Healthcare workers suffer from high turnover and absenteeism while maintenance of facilities is poor. Meanwhile, rural Bangladeshis often forego formal healthcare due to a lack of access in the communities. As a result, only a quarter of the population uses public healthcare.

The Surjer Hashi Network

USAID backs the Surjer Hashi Network of health clinics aiming at serving low-income and other underserved communities in Bangladesh. With 399 facilities nationwide, the network serves at least 16% of the population. In just a five-year period, USAID helped the Surjer Hashi Network prevent 2,000 maternal deaths and 10,000 child deaths. The facilities provide communities with proper healthcare in remote and underserved areas. Rural women, in particular, have benefited as the Surjer Hashi Network of clinics provides for reproductive health and child care.

Universal Healthcare in Bangladesh

In 2018, USAID started the Advancing Universal Health Coverage (AUHC) program, which has allowed the Surjer Hashi Network to remain operable in the long term. The program has consolidated the hundreds of clinics in the network into a centrally managed organization and it has introduced new business models aimed at keeping costs down and expanding health services. The efforts will ensure that clinics in the Surjer Hashi Network will be financially independent while providing high-quality and affordable healthcare for the disadvantaged.

As its name suggests, the AUHC’s goal is to achieve universal healthcare in Bangladesh. Through the Surjer Hashi Network, USAID is ensuring that Bangladesh can provide healthcare coverage for as many people as possible with healthcare facilities that are accessible in rural areas as well.

Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Alleviation and Entrepreneurship
Research shows supporting entrepreneurship in low-income countries may be one of the most effective ways to permanently reduce global poverty. Despite this, this method of poverty reduction has often been overlooked. This is due to the fact that there has been limited information on its positive impact. However, with more information compiled, individuals in positions of power have sought to make it a focus of poverty reduction. The Global Partnership for Poverty and Entrepreneurship (GPPE) is an organization that has collected a plethora of this data. The resources on the GPPE website provide countless examples of poverty alleviation and entrepreneurship.

The Global Partnership for Poverty and Entrepreneurship

Established in November 2019, the GPPE officially launched in May 2020. This partnership was created by the University of Notre Dame with the intent of building up a research base that can help with future initiatives in supporting low-income individuals with entrepreneurial pursuits throughout the world. In an interview with Dr. Michael Morris, the head of this start-up, the three main objectives of this organization became clear. The first objective was to gather information on entrepreneurial startups in poor communities throughout the world. The second objective was to teach individuals about compiled information within poor communities in order to allow for community uplift. The third objective was to reach out to academics who have an influence on getting more research done on these topics and easily spread techniques to those within their academic influences.

Overall, the GPPE wants to get more people on the ground within impoverished communities. These people would support the poor with their entrepreneurial endeavors. The GPPE is currently setting up example programs within the United States. The purpose of these programs is to prove resources in various areas can be useful in supporting low-income individuals. Within South Bend, Indiana one of these example programs is the Urban Poverty and Business Initiative. This initiative uses resources from the Notre Dame community, especially from the students, to help poor individuals set up entrepreneurial endeavors. Students have helped create social media platforms and helped with marketing for the impoverished in the South Bend community. This is just one idea countries around the world can use to help reduce global poverty.

Entrepreneurship Among the Youth in Swaziland

A study on the youth in Swaziland has provided important information on where certain entrepreneurial systems are lacking within Africa. Other countries can use this study as a resource to help enact systems for poverty alleviation through entrepreneurship. Inadequate work experience provided within universities, a lack of youth voice in entrepreneurial policies and weak business environments are all factors that have driven the youth within Swaziland to have poor entrepreneurial experiences in the past. Organizations like the Youth Enterprise Fund, created in 2009 in Swaziland, have struggled to support new entrepreneurs.

Models have, however, been created in order to show the effects of government intervention when it comes to reducing obstacles that hinder the growth of young entrepreneurs, which can be extremely useful. Examples of influential government intervention include granting youth greater access to capital and giving them business training. Business training in particular has shown to make an enormous difference among the youth of Swaziland with regards to sales. A mixture of giving the youth in Africa more educational resources and professional connections has proven to greatly improve their entrepreneurial success and thus help them rise out of poverty.

Poverty-Reducing Work of Women in Bangladesh

In many low-income countries, the workforce does not utilize women as often as men. This can cause the viewpoint of women being financially burdening. Creating entrepreneurial and employment opportunities for women positively impacts their livelihoods. This is especially true for women living in rural areas. Within Bangladesh, a company called Hathay Bunano has given women both jobs and resources to build enterprises on their own. What this establishment has found is that not utilizing women is a huge waste of production resources. This includes supporting more women artisans through developing pride in the ownership of a product.

Hathay Bunano has worked to employ women who are at the most disadvantaged positions within Bangladesh. The organization has shown that simply giving these women jobs boosts their self-confidence in order to create better lives for themselves. Hathay Bunano is a company that produces hand-knit toys which is important in the context of proving that handicraft businesses can thrive in a competitive economic market. Overall, evidence shows providing grounding for poor women to start businesses that can be supported by their skill levels is plausible.

In conclusion, information that the GPPE has compiled, including the two studies mentioned above, shows poverty alleviation and entrepreneurship can go hand in hand. Working to inform more individuals on how communities can support the poor in their creation of businesses and entrepreneurship will transform low-income countries’ economies and the lives of the poor within them.

– Olivia Bay
Photo: Flickr

Fires in Bangladesh
Rohingya refugees have been seeking a safe place to dwell for years. The Rohingya people are originally from Myanmar. However, the government has persecuted them for their Muslim beliefs since 1960. Their battle for independence and peace has seen little success. Recently, attacks on this ethnic group have worsened and more and more Rohingya are fleeing to Bangladesh. Unfortunately, some of their struggles continue in Bangladesh. A raging fire in southern Bangladesh left 15 people dead and hundreds missing. Aid workers are providing relief to those the fires displaced in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, government officials are working to end the Rohingya crisis.

Nowhere to Run

Many Rohingya refugees stay in Bangladesh after fleeing Myanmar. Myanmar is located in southeast Asia and is notorious for Muslim persecution. Buddhism is the primary religion in the country, and, as a result, the Muslim Rohingya have experienced persecution. The country recognizes a total of 135 ethnic groups; however, it does not recognize the Rohingya people.

In August 2017, Myanmar used extreme tactics to remove the Rohingya people. Myanmar’s military began attacking Rohingya civilians using deadly force. As a result, the Rohingya people suffered starvation, torture and senseless violence.

The U.N. describes these tactics as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” During the initial attack, a total of 6,700 Rohingya people died, while many others were forced to flee from Myanmar. In refugee camps in Bangladesh, people set up bamboo huts as homes, hoping that they would be safe from further violence. Now, fires in Bangladesh leave these refugees homeless once again. To address this crisis, aid workers are now helping to rebuild communities and government officials are looking into the cause of the fires.

Coming Together

The Red Cross and the Bangladesh Red Crescent are assisting in relief efforts. Aid workers worked quickly to provide necessary supplies to refugees. Through their work, victims of the fire received food, blankets, water and clothing. In addition, rescue efforts are underway, as more than 400 people are missing. There is a dire need for help to search for these missing people.

The work of the humanitarian organizations is paying off for many of the refugees, some of whom have been reunited with their lost family members. One refugee, Ayesha Bibi, was relieved to be reunited with her husband after assuming he was dead.

There has been some speculation that arson is what caused the fires in Bangladesh. At this point in the investigation, government officials have no solid leads and are unable to confirm or refute these suspicions. As the fires have left the refugees homeless, the highest priority is ensuring their safety. Refugees have been using equipment and emergency tents provided by The Red Cross and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society to survive.

A Brighter Hope

These past few years have brought devastation to the Rohingya people. Fortunately, funding and outreach programs have helped to ease the strains of their hardships. The U.N. has recently allocated about $14 million for the Rohingya people. This money will contribute to rebuilding shelters and providing emergency relief. Although the fires in Bangladesh have left refugees homeless, hope exists for a more secure future.

– Nancy Taguiam
Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in 2020
“Everyone is growing.” At the end of 2019, this was the World Bank’s outlook of the economic trajectory for the year 2020. The global economy was steadily growing and strengthening, and only a select few countries were facing GDP and economic contractions. Here is a look at the countries that experienced economic growth in 2020.

COVID-19’s Impact on the Economy

At the end of 2020, the World Bank sang a much different tune than what it did at the end of 2019. After the onset of a global pandemic, the majority of the world’s economies have taken a turn for the worst, the year turning out to be one of the worst in terms of economic growth and development. A far cry from the projected global GDP growth of 2.5%, as in June 2020, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that the world would close out the year with a GDP growth rate of -4.9%.

For some countries such as Spain, the U.K. and Tunisia, economic growth in 2020 had already fallen by around 20% by the year’s second quarter compared to the same period of 2019, a record quarterly fall for many countries. In other countries such as Taiwan, Finland, Lithuania and South Korea, the economic impact was much less than 5% contractions in GDP.

However, while the problem of economic recession was common for most nations, there were a select few that were not only able to ward off a negative growth pattern but steadily grew in the face of a global crisis. According to reports from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in October 2020, only 16 countries would sustain economic growth in 2020 of more than 1%, and 11 would grow at a rate between zero and 1%. That leaves a whopping 167 nations facing economic contraction.

5 Countries that Experienced the Highest Economic Growth in 2020

  1. Guyana: Guyana currently has the fastest growing economy globally, with an economic growth rate of approximately 26.21% in 2020. The mainland country serves as home to one of the most promising newly discovered oil basins globally and a vast supply of other natural resources. The recent oil discoveries and new production began in late 2019. Guyana’s economy is expanding fast and expects the GDP to more than double by 2025. Therefore, while it is likely that the Guyanese economy did face setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the explosion of its oil industry has been able to keep the country’s economy heading in the right direction.
    2. South Sudan: After facing stunted economic growth in the 2010s due to civil unrest, the relatively newly independent South Sudan faced harsh humanitarian and food insecurity crises. However, in 2018, the country signed a new peace agreement, followed by the reopening of many of its oil wells, boosting its main revenue source. Between 2018 and 2019, the country gradually maneuvered itself back into a steady growth pattern that maintained a 4.11% growth in GDP in 2020.
    3. Bangladesh: Over the years 2016 to 2020, the Bangladesh economy has recorded a 7.6% growth in GDP. Such rapid expansion has allowed the country to graduate from the U.N.’s list of Least Developed Countries (LDC). Because of its now stable macroeconomic environment, buoyant domestic demand and export-oriented industry-led growth, Bangladesh has been able to maintain an approximate 5.2% growth rate during 2020, with predictions that it will see an increasing growth rate of 6.8% in 2021 and the coming years.
    4. Egypt: Similar to Guyana, the Egyptian economy has recently benefitted greatly from lucrative natural gas discoveries. Though the pandemic and global economic crisis hit the country’s economic growth in 2020 due to a sudden fall in tourism, remittances and exports, its previous main sources of income, the revenue from its oil discoveries, was enough to stabilize growth in the economy. Already, the Egyptian economy is on the path to recovery with a projected 2.76% growth in 2021, before returning to its previous growth levels averaging at 5.28% in the coming years.
    5. Benin: Due to intentional and effective key economic and structural reforms in recent years, Benin reached a growth rate of 6.41% between the years 2017 and 2019. Therefore, while economic activity did slow for the country heavily dependent on re-export and transit trade, it was able to sustain economic growth in 2020 at a rate of approximately 2%. As the world adapts to and moves towards the end of the pandemic and global economic crisis, expectations have determined that Benin’s economy will return to faster growth rates of around 5% to 7% in the upcoming years.

Looking Forward

It was low- and middle-income emerging economies that were better able to sustain a growth trajectory throughout the 2020 global economic crisis. In fact, China, which the COVID-19 pandemic hit first, has been the only trillion-dollar economy that sustained positive economic growth in 2020. Economic growth is crucial for reducing and eradicating poverty and can lead to social improvements in affected countries. Therefore, the hope is that the countries that are not on the above list will return to pre-pandemic growth rates, and the five fastest-growing nations of 2020 keep developing at this level.

– Rebecca Harris
Photo: Flickr

Tourism-Economies
Everyone loves a good vacation or at least it is easy to think that while walking on a white-sand beach and sipping a Mai Tai. The truth lurking behind the tranquility of remote island temples and the prestige of historical landmarks is that tourist economies are not all sunshine and smooth sailing. With off-seasons that take up a large portion of the year and uncertain demand, tourism-economies may be more vulnerable to pitfalls than industrial or agriculture-based economies. The following countries exemplify the great promise and instability of tourism-economies.

Indonesia

Tourism in Indonesia is one of the main draws for foreign currency. In 2018, the number of people coming in from outside of Indonesia rose 12.6% to about 15.8 million. One of the biggest draws in tourism is culture. Countries that do well in tourism carry significant cultural influence in the area or have notable landmarks. For example, the world fetes Italy for its long history, art and cuisine. Meanwhile, statistics have shown that Indonesia underperforms in this sector compared to other countries in the region. Singapore, for example, draws in about 19 million people per year.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh is rapidly developing and this is an overall plus for the economy. However, it could bring a slight hiccup in the years to come. The nation’s main source of income, its textile industry, faces an imminent, irreversible decline with its graduation in development stages. Tourism could be Bangladesh’s biggest hope, with the industry contributing 10.4% to the global GDP. However, tourism only comprised 4.4% of Bangladesh’s GDP as of 2018, painting a bleak picture for the future of tourism. The country has been performing second to least successfully concerning popular destinations in Asia.

What might help is how well South Asia has been performing in tourism. Nations that have performed well in this area, like India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam, drew in 86% of the region’s total earnings in 2018 – a high Bangladesh was able to ride on the coattails of, as it attempted to market itself as a more desirable tourist destination. In recent years, Southeast and Southern Asia have demonstrated success in tourism, with respective 8% and 10% rates of growth.

One factor that greatly affects tourism is the visa facilities in a country. If tourists find the entry process to be too much of a hassle, they may be less inclined to vacation there. In India, a top-performing country in tourism, most of the world can easily obtain an e-Visa. In Bangladesh, however, in order for a person to gain a visa, many of their neighbors need to secure a visa beforehand. This further hampers an already struggling tourism industry.

Nigeria

Some have long thought of Nigeria as having great tourism potential, although obstacles in economic development stand in the way of meeting this full potential. Countries also have accommodation rates to take into account with tourism economies. Too steep a price may turn travelers off while not charging enough will undercut the profit potential of having a tourism economy to begin with. Since not all currencies convert equally, tourism-economies do well when they draw tourists from places with currencies that are more valuable to them. For example, Nigeria has this advantage over the U.S., with $1 being equal to 381.25 Nigerian Nairas. The average hotel rate in the U.S. was $131.21 per night as of 2019, while in Nigeria, the daily rate averaged anywhere in-between the equivalent of $27 and $128.

Relative Problems

Where tourism differs from other income-generating industries is that demand is less certain. If there is a use for a product, then a demand exists, and if there is a demand, then a country can profit by supplying for that demand. However, with tourism-economies, the “use” that creates demand is fickle, and as such, the success of the country “filling the supply” is less secure.

When the culture cannot compete, visas are too difficult to secure and prices just are not right, it does not just mean that the economy slows. People working in tourism potentially cannot generate an income, even if they can technically perform their jobs correctly. Travel trends and off seasons are out of the control of the low-to-middle income people working in the industry. For those already in a precarious financial situation, finding financial growth and stability in a tourism economy is incredibly difficult. In the past year, the global COVID-19 pandemic has also created further problems for the tourism industry.

Barefoot College International

With COVID-19, travel restrictions and business shutdowns, the tourism industry is all but entirely gone in most countries. As the earning potential of a tourism economy is insecure, some organizations strive to help populations attain more secure means of income. Barefoot College operates in more than 90 countries and is expanding across Africa, Latin America and South Asia.

Barefoot College has a variety of boots-on-the-ground efforts to help impoverished communities, including clean water and environmentally conscious health initiatives. It also has a strong education program that provides academic and practical skills that can help people increase their earning potential and make it easier for them to get jobs. Its focus is on digital education so that its work is accessible for people anywhere in the world.

After 40 years, 75,000 children have received an education, 65% of whom have been girls. From here, 40% of the children educated through Barefoot College have been able to enter their country’s mainstream education system. Of those educated through Barefoot College, 30% went on to become employed at jobs that required literacy. After graduating, 85% of those considering migrating decided to stay in their village to use their acquired knowledge and skills there.

While tourism-economies can be very profitable, changing factors such as a global pandemic cause many of these economies to be unstable. Organizations like Barefoot College help provide much-needed stability to tourism-economies. Moving forward, it is essential that more organizations work to find long-term economic solutions for countries that rely heavily on the tourism industry to help ensure a stable economic future.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Health in Bangladesh
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG founded the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) in 1972. The nonprofit began as a localized program in northeastern Bangladesh to promote agricultural reform and educational training. BRAC now influences over 11 countries in both Asia and Africa. It hones in on projects that work to improve social lives, social enterprises, national investments and university opportunities. The organization’s main accomplishments pertain to improving health in Bangladesh. Desiring the collaboration activists, BRAC enhances the abilities of individuals to gain work experience, especially with an environment that supports their physical and mental health.

Healthcare Issues in Bangladesh

Out-of-pocket spending on healthcare in Bangladesh is around 64.3% of total health spending. Bangladesh spends approximately $1.49 billion annually on situations concerning one’s health. This is concerning as average income households spend 7.5% of their total earnings on healthcare, with the least financially stable citizens, comprising the poorest 20%, spending 13.5%. The need to spend a large amount of income on healthcare puts a strain on Bangladesh families, especially since a little over 20% of the population lives below the national poverty line. Around 10% are employed for under $1.90 a day.

Money is not the only factor affecting people in Bangladesh. Only 34.6% of the population has access to purified drinking water as the country has the largest amount of citizens infected by arsenic-filled water. This dangerous chemical still contaminates nearly 10% of the water supply. Furthermore, 28.3% of the population drinks water infiltrated with various diseases that further damage physical health. Of further concern is the fact that sanitation only improves by 1.1% annually, not growing fast enough to better the environment that many citizens live in. Over 40% of latrines are unimproved, with the sewage waste even running into waterways due to a lack of sanitation programs. This exemplifies the necessity to improve individual health in Bangladesh.

Health and Nutrition

High annual healthcare costs are driving 5 million Bangladesh civilians into poverty. As a result, BRAC has deployed many healthcare workers to directly work with citizens in Bangladesh. They ensure citizens have access to quality, affordable health services. Establishing Essential Health Care (EHC), the nonprofit works to improve the immune systems of individuals. The EHC assures that people are not as easily susceptible to various diseases in the environment or water supplies. In addition to providing healthcare services for mothers and children, it also works on basic treatments to counteract the negative effects of acute respiratory infections at an affordable price. This specific program partnered with government agencies in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and now offers healthcare opportunities to more than 120 million people in the 64 districts of Bangladesh.

With the sub-section of the Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction – Targeting the Ultra Poor (CFPR-TUP) program, BRAC designs special needs for the 8% of the Bangladesh population that suffers from extreme poverty. Moreover, it created its Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) program to provide supplementary foods to both mothers and children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. Not only does this program support those suffering from malnutrition, but it eases the pain that mothers have to go through when breastfeeding and lack of vitamin intake. This enabled the education of 2 million women regarding healthy diets and the benefits of breastfeeding.

The WASH Program

The WASH program works toward improving water, sanitation and hygiene in Bangladesh and to create more hygienic practices. It has started its journey in the country by focusing on education. Many do not learn about the necessity of cleanliness. Through BRAC, however, 5,700 secondary schools have now included hygiene discussions in their curriculums. The organization is also working to ensure that local research facilities provide affordable opportunities to test every district’s water supplies.

Additionally, the nonprofit partnered with Jamalpur municipality to operate a waste plant. This effort counteracts the intrusion of waste into clean waterways. Volunteers and BRAC workers work through the WASH program to ensure health in Bangladesh. They especially focus on Rohingya refugee camps and areas that experience the effect of floods. Every dollar that goes to the program results in $4 towards sanitation improvements in Bangladesh.

BRAC wants to increase the professionalism of frontline services and introduce a strong variety of for-profit products and programs. It continues affordable programs to improve Bangladesh citizens’ health and focuses on cleaning the water supply, like introducing hanging latrines and counteracting the malnutrition that mothers and children suffer from. The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee strives specifically to reform the healthcare system in this South Asian country through such actions. Its achievements include giving 2.52 million people access to safe drinking water with the aid of technological advancements. Through its various accomplishments, this nonprofit continues to achieve more every year even after nearly 50 years of service.

Sylvia Vivian Boguniecki
Photo: Flickr

Elderly in BangladeshThe world currently has approximately 720 million people over the age of 65. By 2050, about 22% (36 million) of Bangladesh’s people are projected to be in this age category. With this in mind, it is important that this growing demographic is taken care of. In particular, the poverty affecting the elderly in Bangladesh is a concern that should be attended to.

Elderly Poverty in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is one of the most impoverished countries and the effects of poverty are felt hardest by vulnerable populations like the elderly. The Global AgeWatch Index ranks countries by how well their older populations are faring socially and economically. Bangladesh is considered a distinctly tough country for older people as HelpAge International ranked Bangladesh 67th out of 96 countries on the 2015 Global AgeWatch Index.

The organization notes that a considerable amount of the hardship inflicted upon older people in Bangladesh is due to natural disasters and extreme weather. Cyclones, floods, and heatwaves destroy the homes and livelihoods of elderly people. Additionally, HelpAge notes that elderly people in Bangladesh are often refused healthcare due to ageism within the country’s public health system.

Elderly people in Bangladesh also struggle to maintain a dependable income since finding employment is harder with age, especially with common and physically demanding jobs like rickshaw pulling or soil digging.  As in many other lower-income countries, elderly people in Bangladesh have to look for employment in old age due to inadequate livelihood support and insufficient social security measures.

While by no means exclusive to Bangladesh, another problem that the elderly face in Bangladesh is stigma, as pointed out by Dr. Atiqur Rahman. The stigma described is one that views the elderly as unproductive, unhealthy and needing intensive and constant care. Dr. Rahman describes the idea of the elderly being a burden as both morally and economically incorrect.

Old Age Allowance Program

The Old Age Allowance (OAA) program is a government social pension scheme that assists the elderly in Bangladesh. Originally implemented in 1997, the program provides welfare payments to qualifying elders in order to help them get by. The overall size of the program was rather small at its inception, supporting about 400,000 people. Since then, the OAA has come to cover 4.4 million elderly in Bangladesh and the size of the payments increased from 100 to 500 Bangladeshi takas (around $6). Granted the growth is a step in the right direction, the program is not yet at a point where it can help in the broad sense. Elderly poverty has still increased since it started. The OAA program accounts for a minuscule portion of Bangladesh’s budget (0.53%) and covers only 2.25 million elderly people.

Additionally, much of the fund is going to the wrong people. A study by the University of Dhaka’s Bureau of Economic Research and HelpAge International discovered that elderly people who are not impoverished are getting 50% of the total benefits and about 33% of the fund is going to those who are younger than the eligible age. Another study found that local governments lack the knowledge and interest to properly target relevant beneficiaries most in need.

Organizations Supporting the Elderly in Bangladesh

HelpAge International provides early warning systems for potential natural disasters. In times of these disasters, the organization ensures the elderly have shelter, food and access to services. For long-term relief, HelpAge restores livelihoods by supporting small business enterprises with low-cost community loans. The organization also provides training for healthcare workers to treat conditions affecting the elderly and works on improving healthcare infrastructure and referral systems for the elderly.

The Care First Foundation is an organization that offers the elderly in Bangladesh risk monitoring, referrals, counseling, medicine and medical support, home care and activities. Its goal is to expand its initiatives to alleviate elderly suffering through proper community support and services.

With more support from organizations and improvements to the social support system provided by the government, the elderly in Bangladesh can thrive and not just simply survive.

Sean Kenney
Photo: Flickr