From the Senne to the Mediterranean, France is hailed as one of the most expensive countries on the globe. With delicacies such as escargot and macarons, it’s no wonder the cost of living in France is higher than in most nations. The capital city of Paris ranks among the top 10 most expensive cities in the world, with the country as a whole being among the top 20 most expensive countries in the world.

Everything from gas to a loaf of bread has an inflated price in France. The average price per gallon of gas in France is around $5.54. The same amount of gas in Venezuela would be about $0.12. These countries couldn’t be farther apart in distance, and their people have near polar opposite lifestyles, demonstrating the wealth disparity and high cost of living in France.

Housing is arguably the biggest factor in living cost, and France is a prime example of a competitive housing market. Paris is on par with other major cities such as Beijing and Chicago in terms of monthly price. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Paris per month is $1,730. The same apartment over 5,000 miles away in Beijing would be $1,900 a month.

It is not always the average person looking for a place to live in France. In 2016, a villa in southern France was estimated to be valued at $1 billion. Many have reported this house to be the most expensive in the world.

Currency also reflects a country’s cost of living. The euro has been volatile in recent months but is consistently valued higher than other major currencies, such as the dollar. Over the past three months, the euro has steadily grown to four percent more valuable than the dollar. This disparity increases cost of living in France.

From the French Riviera to Normandy’s beaches, France is regularly one of the most expensive places to live. Paris tops many lists with its exuberant prices and is widely known to be exclusively for the wealthy. This ideology is not solely in Paris, as cities across France continue to see prices soar for everything from rent to a loaf of bread.

Sophie Casimes

Photo: Flickr

Several of the 10 richest countries in the world are also leaders in foreign aid and charitable donations to organizations that fight poverty both at home and abroad.

According to Global Finance Magazine, which utilized data provided by the International Monetary Fund, the 10 richest countries in the world by GDP per capita are Qatar, Luxembourg, Macao, Singapore, Brunei, Kuwait, Ireland, Norway, the United Arab Emirates and San Marino.

Number five on the list with a per capita GDP of $71,263, Kuwait has a history of offering humanitarian aid to developing countries, particularly in the Arab world. The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development has provided a total of $18.5 billion in loans to 104 countries in support for education, health services and agricultural development since the fund’s establishment in 1961. Part of the fund is also put aside to assist Kuwait’s citizens in finding housing.

Kuwait is also known for providing humanitarian relief in the wake of natural disasters and violent conflict. The country recently provided $500 million to Yemen and pledged another $500 million to Syria. In 2015, Kuwait’s contribution to foreign aid was 2.1 percent of its GDP, more than twice the U.N. Official Development Assistance target.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Ranked ninth on the list with a per capita GDP of $67,696, in 2013 the UAE was recognized as the top humanitarian donor of the year, having contributed nearly six billion dollars in aid to over 140 countries to provide food, shelter and education to vulnerable populations, particularly in countries such as Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories. Dubai, the UAE’s largest city, is also the location of the International Humanitarian City, which houses more than 50 commercial companies and nongovernmental organizations instrumental in the delivery of aid to areas of the world in need.

Ireland is the seventh richest country in the world and has a GDP of $69,374. In 2013, 49 of the top Irish companies donated over 24 million euro to local groups and organizations that focus on issues such as homelessness, education and disability services. The country increased its foreign aid budget, offering 640 million euro for developmental assistance in 2016, a seven percent increase from the previous year. Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charles Flanagan defined the fight against poverty and hunger worldwide as being “at the core of Irish foreign policy.”

Just behind Ireland with a GDP of $69,296, Norway allocates large amounts of aid money toward global education and health. It spent the third-highest percentage of gross national income on foreign aid in 2016 out of all the countries in the U.N., placing it just behind the UAE. Norway has recently proposed to double its support for renewable energy and is working with Kenya through the Oil for Development program to help Kenya protect its natural resources while gaining a foothold in the petroleum sector.

These nations, four of the 10 richest countries in the world, give back for a variety of reasons. The UAE claims that the humanitarian element is the single deciding factor in its policy on foreign aid, citing an Islamic belief that it is an obligation to help the less fortunate. Others see foreign aid as a means to strengthen its own political, diplomatic and economic positions. According to Dr. Hessah Al-Ojayan, assistant professor of finance at Kuwait University, Kuwait uses foreign aid to achieve “smaller ‘wins’ in the day-to-day global political arena.” Similarly, Norway’s partnership with Kenya, which the government has called “an engine of economic growth in Africa” and “increasingly important for Norwegian interests,” has the potential to be mutually beneficial.

Several of the 10 richest countries in the world have also made it to the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) World Giving Index top 20. The rankings are determined by three criteria: the percentage of people surveyed from that country who say that they have helped a stranger, donated money or volunteered time. These statistics show that not only the governments of these countries, but also the citizens themselves, are generous to the less fortunate. Ireland ranks ninth on the list, followed by the UAE at 10th, Norway at 14th and Kuwait at 19th.

Emilia Otte

Photo: Flickr

Over the past 20 years, terrorist attacks have become more common, and groups such as the Islamic State and al Qaeda have become global enemies. These occurrences raise the question: What is the best way to fight? Exploring how foreign aid builds alliances with a look at recent history may have the answer.

Less than 80 years ago, Germany, Italy and Japan declared war on the U.S. as a part of WWII. In response, the U.S.temporarily ended diplomatic relations with these nations. When the war ended, much of Europe was destroyed, and the continent faced wide-spread famine. In these conditions, the U.S. gave extensive foreign aid to these and other nations, helping to rebuild their communities, economies and daily  lives. Today, these three countries are some of our closest allies, giving evidence that foreign aid helps forge alliances.

The U.S. government feared that the Soviet Union could take advantage of Europe’s frailty and institute communism throughout the continent. In response, the new secretary of state, George Marshall, constructed the European Recovery Program, commonly called the Marshall Plan.

The Marshall plan appropriated $13 billion to 16 European nations. This was aimed at providing food to prevent famine as well as sending other basic necessities and supplies to begin rebuilding. These shipments allowed Europe to reestablish its economy and fueled the coal and steel industries that are so important today. This investment also made a path for the eventual creation of the North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO).

Below are three examples of benefits when foreign aid builds alliances.

1. Germany is one of our leading trade partners

As of today, Germany no longer receives U.S. foreign aid and has the largest European economy. Not only do both the U.S. and Germany remain in NATO, but the countries work together to expand global trade. Germany is also a large supplier of goods for the U.S. They exported $125 billion worth of goods, while the U.S. exported $50 billion to Germany.

Beyond economic ties, Germany also works with the U.S. at the U.N. Germany has been integral to fighting the Islamic State and al Qaeda and to maintaining peace in Africa and the Balkans.

2. Italy helps the U.S. agenda on human rights, democracy and disease control

Italy is now a prosperous nation that no longer requires foreign aid.

Italy is a member of the U.N., the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, G8, G20 and many other international organizations. In these roles, Italy works with the U.S. to cultivate democracy throughout the world and reduce conflict and terrorism. Italy also helps the U.S. in human rights, drug trafficking, human trafficking and fighting epidemics such as ebola. Rebuilding Italy after WWII helped create this strong alliance and gave the U.S. a powerful partner when negotiating complex international issues.

3. Japan partners with the U.S. to research innovative technology

The U.S. occupied Japan as a part of the treaty of surrender following WWII. This involved restructuring Japan’s political, social and economic systems. The country was demilitarized as the U.S. promised to protect it from any future conflict.

The beginning of the occupation focused on political and social reforms. Meanwhile, the Japanese economy began to collapse. At this point, the U.S. focused on rebuilding the economy through taxes restructured to reduce inflation. The Korean War soon began, and at the suggestion of occupying forces, the U.N. used Japan as its primary supplier during the war. As a result, Japan’s economy developed back into a healthy, sustainable one.

Japan remains a successful democracy and still has a robust economy. Japan no longer receives foreign aid and now offers aid to other developing nations. Moreover, they echo the voice of the U.S. agenda in East Asia. Japan supports political and military efforts of the U.S. in North Korea.

Japan also works with the U.S. in researching medicine and space travel. Together the two countries form the U.S.-Japan Science and Technology Agreement. For 25 years they have worked on advancing computer and energy technologies.

Less than 80 years ago these three countries were so devastated that their civilizations could have collapsed entirely. They are now world leaders along with the U.S. When foreign aid builds alliances, it creates strong countries and resilient partnerships. Foreign aid is able to turn our most sincere enemies into our friends.

Mary Katherine Crowley

Photo: Flickr

A new study of the working poor in the United Kingdom demonstrates that finding work does not always lift families out of poverty. Poverty in working families is on the rise, according to Rod Hick and Alba Lanau, professors at Cardiff University. In a report containing the results of their research project, they said that about 60 percent of impoverished families in the U.K. had at least one working individual in the household.

This study begs the question, “Why do working individuals still live in poverty?” It also points to a hot political topic—raising the minimum wage.

The research done by Hick and Lanau demonstrates that the number of individuals working in a household is a better indicator of in-work poverty than low pay. Part of the reasoning behind this is that less than half of adults experiencing in-work poverty have a low-paid worker in their household. Furthermore, most low-paid workers belong to households that are above the poverty line. Therefore, raising the minimum wage may not be a quick fix solution to in-work poverty.

Another key finding of Hick and Lanau’s research is that the rise of in-work poverty is concentrated in households living in the private rented sector and social housing. This indicates that housing costs heavily affect a household’s relationship to poverty.

Hick and Lanau provide three solutions to tackling in-work poverty in their report: supporting families through free or affordable childcare, helping to ease households’ financial burden with tax credits and lowering the cost of housing.

The second solution, which focuses on tax credits, has been utilized for decades. Since 2003, the U.K. has used the Working Tax Credit (WTC) to help low-income working households. Essentially, the WTC provides households with extra cash needed to survive. Other benefits and tax credits include Child Tax Credit and the Housing Benefit.

2017 will be a big year for the U.K. where benefits and tax credits are concerned. A more recent form of government aid, Universal Credit, is set to start replacing existing programs. Some are concerned about the UC’s benefit cap, which is £350 per individual.

The U.K. has made creative attempts at lessening in-work poverty. The reality is that 6.1 million people living in poverty in the U.K. are a part of working households, whereas 5.1 million households in poverty are workless.

Hick and Lanau’s research demonstrates an important phenomenon that is characteristic of the poor in developed countries. It pushes against the idea that finding a job will immediately elevate economic status. These findings encourage innovative and nuanced thinking to combat poverty in working families.

Rebeca Ilisoi

Photo: Flickr

Due to Finland’s high standard of living, based on the nation’s welfare system, poverty rates are low. In such a system, the Finnish enjoy an exceptional education system, strong health standards, and safe, connected communities, all of which combine to limit the presence of hunger in Finland.

Finland is one of the top-performing countries in education, measured in the fields of reading literacy, math and science by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). According to the National Center on Education and the Economy, education is made publicly available from the primary level through upper secondary level.

Naturally, education has been shown to reduce the likelihood of poverty, which remains especially true for Finland, where both the quality and availability of the system is widespread. The same is true for healthcare, where the standard of treatment in Finland ranks highly among other OECD nations.

The Finnish also live in safe communities, where 86 percent of respondents claim that they “feel safe walking alone at night,” compared to the OECD average of 68 percent. A low crime rate reflects the nation’s lack of poverty, due to the elements provided in Finland’s welfare system.

In more specific terms, Finland has the fourth lowest poverty rate among OECD nations, according to a 2016 report. It is unsurprising, then, that the issue of hunger is practically nonexistent within the country. As the organization Trading Economics reports, undernourishment affected only five percent of the Finnish population in 2008.

Moreover, Finland aims to end hunger worldwide, evident through the nation’s consistent donations to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Such donations have contributed to hunger relief in countries such as Lebanon, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic.

“Thanks to Finland’s flexible and predictable multi-year commitment of €29 million,” wrote the WFP in a 2014 report, “we are able to respond to the needs of vulnerable people using innovative tools that increase dignity and efficiency.”

Assuming Finland continues to meet the demands of its citizens, let alone providing assistance elsewhere, hunger in Finland will not be a concern anytime soon.

Genevieve DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as “Transforming Our World”, are part of a U.N. initiative adopted in September 2015. The SDGs are designed to build on the Millennium Development Goals.

As former U.N. Development Program (UNDP) administrator Helen Clark explained, the goals “provide us with a common plan and agenda to tackle some of the pressing challenges facing our world such as poverty, climate change and conflict.” The 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals includes 17 global goals, which are as follows.

17 Sustainable Development Goals

  1. No Poverty: An end to global poverty means ensuring a sustainable livelihood for all people.
  2. Zero Hunger: Work to achieve food security, improved nutrition, and the promotion of sustainable agriculture.
  3. Good Health and Wellbeing: Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing through universal health coverage, production of safe and affordable medicines and vaccines and funding for research and development.
  4. Quality Education: Ensure that all boys and girls get free primary and secondary education and access to affordable vocational training, without experiencing gender and wealth biases.
  5. Gender Equality: Gender equality and female empowerment is a human right, as well as a necessity for sustainable development.
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation: Universal access to safe and affordable water requires investment by the international community in infrastructure and sanitation facilities, and taking steps to protect and restore forests, mountains, wetlands, and rivers.
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy: Critical to the achievement of many other SDGs, investing in infrastructure and technology to provide clean energy will also cause economic growth in developing countries.
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth: Promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth and employment for all people.
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure: Industrialization creates jobs and generates income, reducing poverty and increasing living standards for all people. Technological innovation encourages development and provides new jobs.
  10. Reduced Inequalities: Reducing income inequality, as well as inequalities based on race, sex, age, and other statuses, requires improvement in policies and regulations, promoting economic inclusion.
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities: Most of those who are living in extreme poverty reside in cities. Achieving sustainable development in cities requires providing access to affordable housing, investing in public transportation, and improving urban planning.
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production: Countries must change the way they produce and consume goods, minimizing the toxic materials used and waste generated in the production and consumption processes.
  13. Climate Action: Climate change affects every country. The international community is working together to develop sustainable low-carbon pathways to the future, and mobilizing $100 billion annually, by 2020, to meet the needs of developing countries.
  14. Life Below Water: Marine pollution has reached critical levels – every square kilometer of the ocean has an average of 13,000 pieces of plastic litter. Sustainable management and protection of marine and coastal ecosystems from pollution and the impact of ocean acidification is extremely important.
  15. Life On Land: Forests make up 30 percent of the Earth’s surface. They provide habitats for millions of animal, insect, and plant species, and are sources for clean air and water. The goal is to conserve and restore forests, wetlands, drylands and mountains by 2020.
  16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.
  17. Partnerships for the Goals: Strengthen the means of implementation, and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

These 17 SDGs are bold and will require continued strong leadership to achieve. Many countries succeeded in achieving their Millennium Development Goals, so while there is a difficult road ahead it is not an impossible task to create a more prosperous and sustainable world for all.

Mary Barringer

Photo: Flickr

Fighting Global Hunger in Sweden
Sweden is a very fortunate country. Globally, Sweden ranks sixth, behind other Western European nations in keeping its citizens fed. There is virtually no hunger in Sweden, meaning it has very low levels of malnutrition and undernourishment as well as high access to safe, clean drinking water. Sweden, being so fortunate in its ability to maintain healthy citizens, has started The Hunger Project — a project designed to achieve a sustainable end to global hunger.

The Hunger Project was founded in 1977 in Sweden. It has become a global nonprofit dedicated to ending world hunger and poverty, declaring “our vision is a world where every woman, man and child leads a healthy, fulfilling life of self-reliance and dignity.” The Hunger Project now has many global allies, including in the United States. Some allied partners are Citi, the Ford Foundation, Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) and the World Bank, to name a few.

Starting to fight global hunger in Sweden quickly moved the project to the areas of the world that needed the most help. The Hunger Project works in three main large areas: Africa, South Asia and Latin America. The Hunger Project uses three essential activities in order to carry out its mission. The first is mobilizing village clusters at the grassroots level to build self-reliance. The second is to empower women as key change agents. The third is to forge effective partnerships with local government.

The Hunger Project works in partnership with people in Africa, South Asia and Latin America in an effort to build “bottom-up” strategies. “At the heart of [their] methodology is our fundamental belief in people as the author of their own development.” The Hunger Project works with people fighting against hunger and poverty in an effort to create a self-sustainable lifestyle outside the hardships of hunger.

The Hunger Project programs reach 17.3 million people in 16,000 communities. The Hunger Project encourages local solutions and community-led results.

While there is not much hunger in Sweden, there is hunger worldwide, and Sweden is working with many other countries globally to help those in need. The Hunger Project believes that the end to world hunger can be achieved by 2030. By working hard and efficiently this goal can be realized.

Karyn Adams

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in America Causes
Poverty in America is not as easily understood as it is in other parts of the world. Most Americans do not identify with what is defined as poverty and consider being poor as lacking nutritious food, housing and clothing.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the typical poor American has access to basic needs and wants including a car, air conditioning, cable television and other amenities.

The overall poverty rate in the U.S. is 13.5 percent — 43.1 million people. The demographics for poverty in the U.S. are measured by the federal government’s poverty threshold. Many Americans working several jobs are considered to be in poverty as well as senior citizens with fixed incomes.

Leading Causes of Poverty in America

One of the main causes of poverty in America is the shrinking of the middle class. High-paying factory jobs are leaving the U.S. and the country’s growing population cannot be supported.

Americans are also falling into poverty due to debt and the fact that they owe more than they own. They continue to take out loans at high interest rates while in low income brackets.

The National Poverty Centre has found that poverty rates are higher for families headed by single women, particularly women who are black or Hispanic. The statistics also show that 14.8 percent of women are living in poverty overall. Additionally, 24.1 percent are African-Americans, 21.4 percent are Hispanics and 9.1 percent are Caucasians.

Since the economic downturn, poverty in America had not risen until 2015, when it increased by one percent more than it was in 2007, the year before the most recent recession. Poverty in America has seen an increase as a result of the 2008 economic downturn.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

Australia consistently tops the chart for having one of the highest life expectancies in the world. Death rates continue to decline and diseases continue to be eradicated. However, between 2014 – 15, over 11 million Australians (50 percent) suffered from a chronic disease: coronary heart disease. In past and present, this is one of the deadliest diseases in Australia.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) Australia’s Health 2016 report, there are several prevalent diseases in the country. The top diseases in Australia are coronary heart disease, followed by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, cerebrovascular disease and lung cancer. The most common combination is cardiovascular disease coupled with arthritis. This combination affects 32 percent of the total population over the age of 65.

The Heart Foundation reported 45,392 deaths of Australian adults caused by coronary heart disease (CHD) in 2015. CHD occurs when the blood vessels that support blood flow to the heart muscle are blocked. Critical forms include a heart attack (blood vessel leading to the heart is suddenly and entirely blocked) and angina, a chronic condition that consists of short periods of chest pain when the heart has a temporarily limited blood supply. CHD kills one Australian every 12 minutes.

The AIHW monitors and analyzes the population’s health by measuring morbidity and mortality rates. Morbidity focuses on the rate of disease in a population. Mortality measures the frequency of death in a specific area. This number is calculated by taking the number of deaths (in the specified area) and dividing it by the total population. Utilizing and combining these techniques enables health policy makers and service planners to recognize the impact of various diseases and their corresponding risk factors.

Cancer contributes to a large portion of premature deaths caused by the top diseases in Australia. Due to its “diverse group of several hundred diseases,” the mortality and morbidity rates are high. The risk of being diagnosed with one of the various types of cancer before the age of 85 is one in two for males and one in three for females. Between 2014 – 2025, the projected number of deaths from all types of cancer is estimated to increase by 5,912 deaths among males and 4,515 among females.

In 2017, cancer exceeded coronary heart disease as the top disease in Australia. To combat increasing cancer cases, a team of scientists from North Tce institution is developing advanced methods of treatments and recovery. Additionally, the organization is looking at all different forms of the disease, varying from prostate cancer to leukemia. Changing hazardous lifestyle factors reduces the risk of cancer. Lincoln Size, Cancer Council chief executive officer, states that quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, using sunscreen outdoors, and exercising daily are important risk reducing factors.

Madison O’Connell

Photo: Flickr

According to a United Nations (U.N.) report, inequality is rising in both developed and developing countries. Many people lack access to basic healthcare, clean water and food. For example, the U.S. has the largest economy in the world yet ranks second in income inequality out of the 32 developed countries indexed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

It is apparent that poverty, inequality and access to healthcare are transnational issues that know no boundaries. Each year, more and more jobs become automated. Artificial intelligence is taking the place of blue-collar jobs all over the world. A 2013 Oxford study estimates that 47 percent of U.S. jobs will be taken over by robots, automated technology and artificial intelligence within the next 10 to 20 years. The World Bank states that the shift will be even more drastic in developing countries. This is because almost two-thirds of jobs are at risk of being replaced by automation.

Some of the world’s brightest minds believe that the culmination of rising inequality, poverty and workforce automation will inevitably draw humanity toward a universal basic income.

“I think that from a human decency standard there’s a lot of sense to the idea that everybody in a society should be able to meet their basic needs,” says Jeffrey Sachs, economist and director at the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Another expert, Elon Musk, says that “there is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation.”

When the Basic Income Grant Pilot Project (BIG) was trialed in India, results showed that recipient households were three times more likely to start a new business than others. In Namibia, crime rates dropped by 36 percent despite an influx of immigration after BIG was implemented. “When you have a safety-net people will take more risks,” says Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots. Human ingenuity is restricted in a system that forces people to work low-level jobs to pay for their existence. Universal basic income ensures that everyone reaches the first rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, ensuring that basic needs are met. This will drastically improve the quality of life on Earth in developed and developing countries alike. This generation could actually live to see the end of poverty on Earth.

The only way that a phenomenon like this could come to fruition is if the cost of not moving to a universal basic income becomes greater than doing nothing. As more humans are phased out of work by robots, the cost of welfare will extrapolate until it is necessary to switch to a universal basic income.

Josh Ward

Photo: Flickr