The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable AgricultureThe Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) is a huge non-profit organization established in Switzerland by the company Syngenta, a multinational chemical and agriculture business. Founded in Switzerland in 1999, Syngenta was acquired by the government-owned Chinese company ChemChina in 2017 for $43 billion, which is reported to be the largest corporate acquisition by China to date. To some, this may sound like e a conflict of interest, all for optics and profit. However, with backers such as the United Nations, several governments and charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture has legitimate support.

What the SFSA Does

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture helps small farmers across the developing world on many fronts. It offers insurance programs for small farmers with affordable premiums to help them if the weather turns foul or their livestock gets sick. This is an enticing and helpful deal for farmers, especially in areas where the weather can be inconsistent. The SFSA also helps farmers plant crops that are more likely to weather the storms and produce a higher quality product at a higher yield.

To take full advantage of their new product, the SFSA teaches marketing and other business strategies to their farmer partners. With a surplus of crops, these farmers can now make a profit whereas before they barely made a living. One of their partners is Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh. Normally, Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh specializes in capital gains, but they also have a social outreach program that focuses on improving working conditions, pay and other social policies including improving nutrition in Bangladesh.

Failure and Success

In the United States, specifically in the State of Kansas, the Syngenta had a rocky start. In 2011, Syngenta introduced GMO corn seeds to Kansas farms before it had the approval to trade with China. This oversight closed off an entire market to these corn growers and processors, causing the price of corn to drop and resulting in the loss of profits. A class-action lawsuit followed. In 2018, a Kansas federal judge ordered Syngenta to create a fund to pay $1.5 billion in damages to companies and farmers in the corn business.

Since 2014, Syngenta and the United Nations have been working together in Bangladesh. This program was initiated to educate farmers on better farming techniques and to get their opinion and input about the issues they face. To do this, the SFSA held townhall-style meetings where they met and listened to these farmers. Since the SFSA started working in Bangladesh in 2001, 30 of their farming hubs have been created. Farmers who have participated have seen a 30 percent increase in productivity per acre and a 34 percent increase in household income.

Though it may have had a rocky start, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture has since proven itself to be an asset to a farmer around the world. Looking at joint projects with other organizations around the world, it is easy to see a lot of benefits. It is providing humanitarian aid around the world in the form of agricultural aid and education. Increasing sustainable agriculture and crop yields will go a long way to helping alleviate poverty around the world.

Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Trade EmbargoesIn a world dominated by complex international relations, tumultuous geopolitical conflicts and volatile financial climates, the sense of protectionism and the implementation of trade barriers are becoming more widespread. An embargo is a term that can be defined as the complete or partial ban on trade, business activities and relations occurring between two countries. Similar to trade sanctions, trade embargoes are involved when countries seek to establish barriers or constraints often for political motives, purposes and gains. But, do they work?

Cuba and the U.S. Trade Embargo

Countries like Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Venezuela, China and Russia have often been on the receiving end of trade embargoes for decades. In the past, U.S. trade embargoes have resulted in sporadic political changes and dire effects on foreign policy.

For instance, Cuba, in particular, has been adversely impacted by the U.S. trade embargo since the culmination of the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960s, particularly in regard to the collapse of the sugar industry. The initial decline was catalyzed by the imposition of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. Production further declined after the fall of the Soviet Union and a rise in the embargoes by the United States.

Trade Embargoes and Economies

At times, trade embargoes work because they can contribute to more peace and stability, and they can even prevent the debilitation of human rights violations, terrorism, aggression and nuclear threat. However, long term restrictions can be quite damaging and aggravate poverty and the standard of living for civilians. Owing to the sheer level of economic isolation and threat to trading relationships, the effects of trade embargoes can be especially damaging to the business, trade and commerce of a country, impacting a country’s GDP as well.

As a result of the negative effects of trade embargoes, domestic industries and producers often suffer a decline in their export markets and revenues, thereby threatening jobs and livelihoods. Countries that tend to overspecialize in certain commodities, goods and services may be most affected by these constraints as key sectors of the economy may be adversely impacted. Given their level of development, poorer countries are often restricted to producing goods in the primary industry that may have relatively lower returns.

Unintended Consequences

Trade embargoes may lead to grave economic and geopolitical problems like retaliation, such as the Russian counter-embargo after the 2014 EU Energy embargo during the Russian annexation of Crimea. This can result in an escalation in trade and price wars in the long run. Incidentally, the U.S. and China may now also be on the verge of a major trade war due to the new imposition of trade barriers, most recently on steel and China’s HUWEI chip sales.

Due to deficiencies in the country’s power to export goods and services during an embargo, its trade balance will also tend to suffer to a great degree. For instance, a U.N. arms embargo has been placed on North Korea concerning all armaments and related goods. Since December 2017, trade restraints have also been placed on key industries like oil and agriculture. This has created issues for the North Korean economy, but it has done little to deter the government from nuclear testing.

Open Trade Benefits Economies

According to the IMF, there is significant evidence that countries with open economies are more likely to achieve higher levels of economic growth. With new levels of trade liberalization and globalization, expanding economies are benefitting from massive inflows of capital and investment from stakeholder groups around the world. Moreover, in recent years, burgeoning and fast-paced economies like China are graduating to an open trade policy so that they can bolster trading ties with other key trading players.

In the year 2014, members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed to sign the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). In order to ensure greater ease, competitiveness, and efficiency in trade in the future, trade facilitation measures are now being implemented so that weak bureaucracy and productivity issues may be addressed. TFA will also aid developing economies to boost their exports and have greater access to markets.

The answer is not simple. Trade embargos can work under the right circumstances, but they are not always as effective as one would hope. Furthermore, they can have unexpected consequences. Given the vast scope and potential of free trade and development in a dynamically changing world, eliminating barriers and encouraging greater economic integration may provide a more effective way to address important social and economic issues and have profoundly positive impacts in the long term.

Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Flickr

ChinaPoverty in China today primarily refers to the rural poor, as the country’s economic growth over the past few decades has led to the majority of urban poverty being eradicated. But while local Chinese governments have implemented many programs and policies in an effort to aid China’s poorest regions, there is still one major factor that researchers say China is forgetting about: language. In a lot of ways, language and its variations affect poverty in China.

Language Statistics in China

Geography plays a huge role in analyzing the relationship between spoken Chinese languages and poverty. China’s last national census reported that the nation has more than 1.38 billion inhabitants, many of whom are located in the urban areas of Eastern China. Studies of China’s urbanization trends also reveal a migration of the nation’s various ethnic groups. The main language of the most urbanized cities is determined by the ethnic group that populates that area the most. With 91.51 percent of the Chinese population being Han Chinese, standardized Mandarin is the most commonly spoken language across the nation.

The remaining 8.41 percent of the Chinese population is made up of 55 other ethnic groups. This part of the population, though a minority in terms of the general population makeup, accounts for the majority of those who are located in rural Chinese areas. The Chinese central government has identified 14 of these rural provinces as areas of concentrated poverty. These areas have their own distinct languages and cultures, speaking one of 200 dialects from five main dialectical groups, out of which Mandarin Chinese is only one. Furthermore, around 30 percent of these ethnic minorities are illiterate and unable to speak Mandarin, the main language in the country. As such, many of these ethnic minorities remain isolated from provincial opportunities that may help them rise out of poverty.

Government’s Work

There has been an increase in attention from regional and local Chinese governments in terms of addressing the education gap between urban and rural communities. One expert, Zhu Weiqun, even states that the Chinese government needs to do more to teach these ethnic groups standardized Mandarin, as this has been a primary influencer in the development and urbanization of cities like Beijing. This type of education will provide these ethnic minorities with the lasting ability to access other jobs apart from farming, that will enable them to earn enough money to feed and clothe themselves without such a strong dependency on governmental programs.

Challenges

Understandably, there is also the problem of resistance from certain ethnic minority groups, particularly Muslims, who feel that their language is integral to their cultural identity. As such, the government is tasked with encouraging the standardization of its most commonly spoken dialect in a way that does not simultaneously alienate any one ethnic group. This cycle of promotion and rejection is integral to the way that language continues to affect poverty in China.

– Jordan Washington

Photo: Unsplash

hygiene and sanitationIn November 2018, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing. The Expo was the latest iteration of the Reinvent the Toilet challenge that was started in 2011 to help bring clean, safe sanitation to millions of people living in poverty in the developing world. The expo unveiled the world’s first pathogen killing toilet along with small-scale wastewater treatment plants ready for sale to both private and municipal entities. Innovations showcased at the Expo have the potential to greatly decrease human and economic losses because they provide improvements in sanitation and hygiene.

The Importance of Sanitation and Hygiene

Unlike most modern toilets, where waste is flushed away with water, these reinvented toilets separate the waste and water and were designed to be used in areas where no sewer systems exist and to safely reduce waste byproducts  With 2.3 billion people worldwide not having access to basic sanitation facilities, it is no wonder that as many as 892 million people defecate in open places like street gutters and bodies of water. This creates serious sanitation concerns as it contributes to the spread of diseases including Hepatitis A, typhoid and polio, as well as intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma.

Poor sanitation and hygiene along with inadequate water kill as many as 842,000 people in low and middle-income countries each year, affecting children under five the most. According to a 2013 UNICEF report, “2,000 children under five die every day from diarrheal disease, and of these 1,800 deaths are linked to poor sanitation, water and hygiene.” These figures underline the importance of hygiene and sanitation around the world, showing just how important the work done with the Reinvented Toilet Expo is.

Decreasing the Number of Sanitation and Hygiene Related Deaths

The innovative ideas displayed at the Reinvented Toilet Expo aim to significantly decrease the number of deaths from poor sanitation over the course of the next 10 years, especially in urban areas.  The World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank were among the financial institutions that have pledged financial commitments with the potential of reaching $2.5 billion toward urban sanitation projects, which is the largest ever coordinated commitment to urban sanitation.

Currently, 55 percent of the world’s population resides in urban areas, and that number is expected to increase to 68 percent by 2050. This poses a growing challenge for sanitation and hygiene for impoverished people in urban areas where sanitation is at a premium. What limited data exists on urban sanitation suggests that human waste is discharged directly into rivers, lakes and oceans. Making improvement in sanitation and hygiene in urban areas will not only create a healthier population but it also is good for the overall economy.

Better Sanitation Equals a Better Economy

According to The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, poor sanitation and hygiene lead to more than $200 billion lost in healthcare costs, decreased income and productivity. The new toilets would greatly reduce that number. The reinvented toilet could represent an estimated $6 billion in the global market by 2030 and could even help open up a new sanitation sector. The World Health Organization reported that every dollar invested in global sanitation could have an average return of $5.50.

Since 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested over $200 million towards improvements in sanitation and hygiene and plans to invest another $200 million into decreasing the cost for nations where improved sanitation and hygiene will have the most impact. The continued improvements in sanitation and hygiene will decrease the mortality rate, boost the global economy and have the potential to offer new sources of renewable energy and water.

Peter Zimmerman
Photo: Flickr

Causes of Human Trafficking in ChinaHuman trafficking encompasses any exploitation or forced trade of humans against their will. This includes sex trafficking, child labor, forced labor and even forced adoptions and marriages. Human trafficking has risen to extremely high rates in China and the country has been identified as having one of the world’s highest rates of human trafficking in the world.

Human Trafficking in China in Numbers

It is reported that human trafficking impacts 236 million people in China and Chinese trafficking victims have been transported and found on every single continent around the world. Approximately 600,000 workers willingly migrate into China on the basis of false promises regarding work opportunities, including escapees from North Korea. Instead of finding work, many are set up and sold into human trafficking organizations. They are usually forced into hard labor, prostitution, or entertainment industries. There are numerous causes of human trafficking in China. Supply chain companies, many of which sell their products to the United States, utilize human trafficking to obtain cheap or free labor to mass produce their products.

Causes of Human Trafficking in China

The one-child policy has contributed to human trafficking in China and can be considered as one of the main reasons for this negative trend in the country. In an effort to control the growing population, the country limited each family to the maximum of one child. As male children are prioritized over female, an uneven gender distribution ratio exists.

This results in less marriageable women and, therefore, the purchasing of wives through human trafficking. Children are also kidnapped from poverty-stricken rural areas and sold to parents that are unable to have children themselves. Overall, the largest causes of human trafficking in China are the high unemployment rates in rural areas, mass production increase in urban areas and lack of enforced punishment by government and law.

Tackling the Issue

China does not meet the minimum requirement of standards necessary to combat the rise of human trafficking. However, as this issue has been brought to the light internationally, the country has begun to make efforts to fight against human trafficking. The Central Committee, the State Council and local governments and institutions are designated to tackle this issue.

Many organization, predominately those that are organized by women, have been prominent in providing knowledge about sex trafficking to uneducated women. Paired with the Ministry of Justice, the All China’s Women’s Federation has produced many anti-trafficking printouts and propaganda. China has increased cooperation with other countries attempting to investigate cases of Chinese trafficking overseas, as well as provided shelters for trafficking victims and funded awareness campaigns to increase knowledge surrounding the issue.

These efforts, however small, go along way in helping prevent the rise of human trafficking in China. Providing awareness to uneducated and poverty-stricken rural areas is a large first step, as many people fall into trafficking simply by being unaware of what it is, what it looks like and how it occurs. There is a long way to go, but with the help and encouragement of international countries, the causes of human trafficking in China will begin to lessen. The first big step, the recognition of the problem, is already done.

– Mary Spindler

Photo: Flickr

China’s life expectancy has increased dramatically since 1990. The life expectancy in the country in the 1990s was more similar to that of the developing world, but recently, it resembles that of a high-income nation. China has managed to reduce its burden of disease in the last few decades and has increased its child mortality rate and maternal health dramatically. In the text below, top 10 facts about life expectancy in China are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in China

  1. Newborns from the United States can expect to have a longer lifespan than Chinese newborns. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that Chinese newborns have a healthier life expectancy and that, in the last 10 years of a life of U.S. citizens, health declines steadily. Chinese citizens can expect to live 68.7 healthy years, compared with 68.5 healthy years for U.S. citizens.
  2. China has the potential to lift its life expectancy by three years. This is only possible, however, if the country lowers its smog levels to WHO standards. China has taken strides towards reducing their air pollution and has vowed to reduce the impact of its air pollution in order to raise life expectancy to 79 years 2030.
  3. China has raised its life expectancy from 69.3 years in 1990 to 76.1 years in 2015. The leading factors for this substantial rise is the improvement in China’s child mortality rate and their maternal health. Child deaths due to lower respiratory infections and diarrhea have decreased by 90 percent since 1990.
  4. Tuberculosis (TB) is a major burden for China. The country has over a million new cases each year, more than any country except India.
  5. China carries 10 percent of the global burden of tuberculosis and the presence of drug-resistant TB makes battling the disease that much more difficult.
  6. China faces around 1.6 million premature deaths due to smog and air pollution. This poisonous air pollution is a combination of factories that emit dangerous particles, car pollutants and urban traffic, and indoor pollution in rural areas. Although the country has cut down on their air pollution, some fear that the damage has already affected adults and will continue to affect the vulnerable immune systems of the elderly citizens.
  7. China has made strides in reducing the cases of tuberculosis. TB incidence rate in the country has been declining by 3.4 percent every year since 1990. This rapid decline is due to government implemented programs that focus on the prevention and control of TB.
  8. Some researches show that there was an 11.2 percent difference in income inequality in the country. This kind of inequality can lead to varying life expectancies in different areas of China. It also means that each region faces different kinds of health problems. While one has eradicated an infectious and fatal disease, another may be still suffering under the burden of it.
  9. Tobaccos are one of the highest risk factors in the country. Chinese women use tobacco at an extremely low rate, but a majority of Chinese men smoke regularly and the exposure to secondhand smoke in the country is 72 percent. It has been discovered that there has been a 30 percent rise in tobacco-related deaths in the country since 1990.
  10. As China has reduced the burden of disease, child mortality and maternal health, new problems have arisen. These problems are non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These are chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, or epilepsy. They cannot be passed on from one person to another, but have a great impact on a person’s quality and length of life. There are 15 million annual deaths attributed to NCDs in the country and 85 percent of those occur in low or middle-income countries.

China has made great strides in its mission to increase life expectancy and quality of life. However, the country still faces issues such as inequality, air pollution, tuberculosis and NCDs. These top 10 facts about life expectancy in China provide hope for an ever-increasing life expectancy in a nation that has risen out of poverty and ill-health.

– Olivia Halliburton

Photo: Pixabay

8. Internet Censorship in Russia and ChinaInternet access has become a vital source of information and awareness around the world in the past decade. While more than 50 percent of the world’s population remains without internet access, countries with large populations such as India and China have a massive and growing user base. 

While theoretically advancing their countries not only technologically but politically and socially as well, government restrictions on the right to post or access certain types of information can seriously curtail these benefits. Technology has long been a catalyst for change; however, when restricted, technology can quickly become a tool used for the suppression of human rights such as freedom of expression, free speech and freedom of assembly. 

Studies have determined three key points for promoting internet access across the globe: foreign investment, a focus on the community rather than individual access and no government monopolization of the newly emerging market. Today, government monopolization has the potential to become synonymous with internet censorship. 

Internet Censorship in China

China has more than 750 million internet users, and every user deals with internet censorship. Known as the ‘Great Firewall,’ China’s series of internet filters is one of the most comprehensive systems in the world, restricting citizens’ access to hundreds of internet sites.

Prior to 2017, many internet users in China were able to circumvent the Great Firewall using Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, which provide users with browsing capabilities private from their internet providers. However, within the past year, the number of VPNs able to slip through China’s restrictions has decreased substantially. 

Government monopolization of news outlets in China has led to internet censorship, sometimes to the point of misinformation. In 2017, new legislation in China required all online news sources to be fully monitored by government-approved editors and writers. This enables the government to block legitimate news stories that run counter to the government’s position while also allowing them to push misinformation and propaganda through news websites, giving them complete control of the country’s narrative. 

Internet Censorship in Russia

Russia, another country suffering from serious internet censorship, followed closely behind China in banning VPNs so as to further restrict access to web pages not approved by the government. Without their own Great Firewall, Russia focused on banning specific sites. In 2017, approximately 244 web pages were blocked every day. 

Beyond blocking individual sites, or even entire categories such as news outlets, both Russia and China enforce severe internet censorship on individual citizens. For example, in newly enforced restrictions, China requires internet users to register for online communication sites with their real names. This enables them to hold individuals accountable for what is said in previously private settings. 

These restrictions are typically put in place under the guise of stemming extremist speech, but they can be, and often are, used to block or discourage any speech that the government wishes to suppress. Russian citizens have seen a drastic increase in threats, physical assaults and imprisonment associated with internet censorship on the individual level. Writing, posting or sharing information and opinions on topics such as Russian-occupied Crimea, religious freedom or Syria can result in up to 12 years in jail. 

Censorship: A Human Rights Violation

Those dealing with internet censorship in both Russia and China are in fact experiencing human rights violations. In China, freedom of expression in one of the last safe places—online communities—is closely monitored and used against individuals; in Russia, freedom of expression has become unsafe and restricted to a point worse than anything seen since the Soviet era.  

While technology is often viewed as a large component of a nation’s ability to improve the lives of its citizens, internet censorship creates an environment of control and misinformation. More vital to the wellbeing of people and, by extension, the country they live in, are necessary freedoms such as freedom of expression and speech.

Through the restrictions Russia, China and other countries place on their citizens access to information on the internet, governments have the opportunity to trap people in a cycle of misinformation and silence, thereby negating the once-positive effects of internet access. 

Overcoming Internet Censorship

Citizens in these restrictive countries are growing stronger in their opposition to this violation of their rights. In Russia, the number of protests concerning freedom of speech, religion and assembly has continued increasing. In China, many citizens continue to find ways to circumvent the Great Firewall.

The freedom of internet access has the potential to overtake the negative effects of internet censorship, so long as individuals, communities and countries continue to work towards honesty and open communication across the globe. Simply through our knowledge of internet censorship in countries such as Russia and China, the growing issue of human rights violations is being more openly discussed, and thereby, empowering many people in those countries to continue to fight against the oppression.

– Anna Lally
Photo: Flickr

US-China Trade TensionsThe U.S. has recently started enforcing tariffs on China to address the trade imbalance between the two countries. The Trump Administration’s goal is to pressure China into altering its trade policies to favor the U.S. In response, China has enforced its own tariffs leading to the US-China trade tensions.

From May to June this year, the Chinese Renminbi fell 4.3 percent against the U.S. dollar. Many fear an impending trade war if neither side backs down. Unfortunately, the trade tension also has the potential to significantly impact not only the economies of the U.S. and China but developing nations as well.

Impact of US-China Trade Tensions on Developing Nations

The impact of US-China trade tensions on developing nations would be especially significant in Asia. Economic success is a pathway to alleviating poverty and advancing progress globally. The trade tension would serve as a roadblock. Should it continue, China and the U.S. are not likely to immediately feel major shock waves from the tariffs given the enormous size of their economies.

Smaller nations, however, are getting caught in the middle. According to JP Morgan economist, Sin Beng Ong, Asian countries like Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan would be hit the hardest from a possible trade war. Each nation is export dependent and is intertwined in the complex supply chains in the tech and automobile industries. Chinese goods are often made using components produced in other nations. For example, Taiwan’s supply of components to China makes up two percent of its GDP. Tariffs on China then also impact Taiwan by proxy.

South Korea is similar. Compared to last year, exports were up by 13.2 percent in May and following the trade tension it dipped to 0.1 percent in June. OCBC Bank measured the impact of the US-China trade tensions on other nations as well. It projected a drop of 0.2 percent for South Korea and a drop of 0.3 percent for Japan if the U.S. continues with new tariffs on the $250 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Closer allies like India, Canada, EU and Turkey have noted concerns on impending harm in the long run as well. This would not only erode their economic progress but negatively impact our diplomatic relations as well. As a result, these countries have retaliated, despite being allies, fearing lack of jobs and an overall harm to their respective economies.

The US-China trade tensions have the potential to unite the world against the U.S. in order to protect years of economic development and avoid increasing poverty.

Trade Tensions and Poverty

As of 2013, the World Bank has reported the poverty headcount ratio in South East Asia to have significantly improved. The number of individuals living with just $1.90 a day was listed as 15.1 percent: a significant improvement from previous years. The US-China trade tensions, however, will impact this progress negatively.

The impact of the US-China trade tensions on development in the U.S. is mainly centered on food. China has targeted pork through multiple 25 percent tariffs and other products such as soybean. This hurts farmers economically because they now have to sell their products for much less.

Trade War and Nonprofits

In Asia, several nonprofits have a continued mission of resolving the issue of poverty. Organizations such as the Peace Corps and Care have existed for several years. In the event of a trade war, their work will have increased importance in impacted nations.

International groups, such as the World Trade Organization, have worked to quell the escalations through advocacy. WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo noted that the “escalation poses a serious threat to growth and recovery” in nations around the world.

A recent WTO report also mentioned, however, that the global trading system would be able to resolve such issues. Specifically, it asked the G20 economies to alleviate the issue and advocate for trade recovery.

As the US-China trade tensions escalate, it is imperative to the health of developing nations as well as the U.S. and Chinese economies that the issue is resolved. With organizations such as the WTO and nonprofits in South Asia working to minimize tensions, the goal of alleviating the issue is still attainable.

– Mrinal Singh
Photo: Google

How Abolishing Birth Limits in China Improves the EconomyAs government officials convene in Shaanxi to discuss abolishing the birth limit in China, they are also beginning to understand just how the one-child limit has affected the economy, for better or for worse. Over the past three years, the Chinese government has worked towards eliminating the one-child limit and repurposing it to a two-child limit. However, in a recent reversal for the Communist Party, Chinese government officials are currently drafting ways to in fact increase childbirth and population growth, thereby abolishing birth limits in China.

The One-Child Policy in China

When Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping proposed the one-child limit in 1979, he catalyzed a series of unintended social and economic implications. At the time, China was facing major food and housing shortages. Due to its exponentially growing population, hundreds of thousands of people were entering a state near poverty.  To combat these shortages, the one-child limit was placed on the people of China. Suddenly, China’s annual population growth rate dropped to a mere 0.6 percent.

Since 1980, China has been a global hub for economic expansion. In fact, decades of China’s economic boom have lifted hundreds of millions out of abject poverty and sent over 100 million men and women to college. However, recent studies attribute the economic boom not to the stagnant population growth rate, but rather to reform policies that loosened state control over the economy.

Consequences of Limited Population Growth

In fact, fertility rates have decreased to 2.1 in China, partially due to the birth limit and partially due to socioeconomic and cultural transformations, such as later marriage, postponing childbirth to pursue careers, longer birth intervals and fewer births. Researchers suggest that these transformations are not localized to China since countries that had similar fertility rates to China in the 1970s experienced the same decrease in fertility without a strict birth control policy.

The 1980 one-child limit was intended to be a temporary measure to alleviate economic pressures at the time. However, it lasted for decades, shaping an entire generation of people. Perhaps the most tangible effect is that of the aging workforce. China’s level of productivity, measured in output per hours, is at its lowest level since 1999. According to the International Monetary Fund, the number of people in their prime working age (ages 15 to 59) will decrease by almost 200 million over the next three decades. Because the labor force is dwindling, this can pose major pressures in economic and social development.

Changing Policy

Despite the negative impact of the one-child limit, Chinese officials are trying to reverse the effects by lifting strict birth control measures and abolishing birth limits in China. Just in the past three years, ever since the passage of the “two-child” policy, China has seen the percentage of families with two children increase from 36 percent to 51 percent. The National Health Commission claims that the “two-child” policy is working, as it encourages families to not be bound to just having one child.

Additionally, local governments are taking several steps to promote childbirth as the state governments work on policies such as education and housing subsidies and investments in clinics and preschools. These initiatives, coupled with officials’ proposal of abolishing birth limits in China, will help facilitate a better working economy for China.

– Shefali Kumar
Photo: Flickr

Using the Internet for DevelopmentIf you are reading this, you are lucky enough to have something that 4.1 billion people go without every day- internet access. And while the internet may be used for a variety of frivolous and silly things like cat videos, memes and gifs, it has also become an indispensable part of daily life in the developed world. The internet also has the potential to drastically improve life for the world’s extreme poor. One study estimated that guaranteeing internet access for everyone would lift 500 million people out of poverty and add over $6 trillion to the global economy. Some people are already taking action. Here are six countries that are using the internet as the most important mean for development.

  1. Colombia.  Thirty-nine percent of Colombia’s citizens live under the poverty line, with the poorest living on under $2 a day. In response, the government has taken steps in using the internet for development by ensuring internet access for 96 percent of this tropical nation’s population. In three years, this infrastructure development raised at least 2.5 million people out of poverty. As the Minister for Technology, Diego Molano, said in an interview with The Guardian: “When we connect, for example, a rural school to Internet, when we connect a small school in the middle of the jungle to Internet, those kids in the middle of nowhere have effectively the same opportunity to access the whole of information society — just like any kid in New York, London or Paris.”
  2. China. While crowdfunding is common in the United States, it is usually not used on a such a wide scale as in China. The Chinese government has recently released an online program called Social Participation in Poverty Alleviation and Development, designed to lift at least 47 million people out of extreme poverty. Essentially, it uses social media platforms such as WeChat to allow normal citizens to help struggling families. At least $3.45 million has been raised for various projects that cover education, agriculture and more important social and economic issues, using the internet as the basis for development.
  3. Kenya. Private industry can make a difference as well. In Kenya, online banking systems such as M-PESA have helped to lift citizens out of poverty. Tavneet Suri, an economist at MIT decided to study the impacts of this phenomenon. She found that for 10 percent of families living on less than $1.25 a day using a mobile banking system was enough to lift them out of extreme poverty. The effect was even more marked amongst women. The mobile system allowed female-led families to save 22 percent more money than before.
  4. Bhutan. The small country of Bhutan located high in the Himalayan mountains has been isolated from the outside world for most of its history. The onset of the digital age changed that. The government has actively encouraged its citizens’ adoption of the internet by moving bureaucratic processes. With the support of the World Bank, information communications technology will continue to expand. In 15 years alone, the number of internet users in Bhutan grew by over 300 thousand.
  5. Rwanda. Though Rwanda may still be known in the international community for its horrific ethnic genocide, in recent years, the country has taken multiple steps towards development. The government has launched an effort called Vision2020 to cultivate an entrepreneurial, tech-savvy middle class. Internet connections are widespread throughout the country and are used for innovative purposes. One philanthropist started the Incike Initiative, an annual crowdfund that provides health care for the survivors of the genocide. Another entrepreneur started a platform called Girl Hub that allows women to give their opinions to local news sources. Rwanda fully utilizes the internet for development.
  6. Peru. With support from the international community, the Peruvian government is making efforts to connect more than 300 thousand people in rural areas to the national electric grid and, through this, to the internet as well. This connection has wider implications, especially for education. Students in these isolated areas can now be exposed to ideas in the wider world. This encourages engagement. A teacher in one of these villages, Teresa Uribe says that the kids now want to learn more, thanks to the technology.

These stories show the power of the internet to enact positive change in the developing world. If you too are interested in using the internet for development, take this opportunity to email your representatives about anti-poverty legislation. The internet’s potential should not go wasted.

– Lydia Cardwell
Photo: Flickr