Karoshi Culture in AnimationJapan, known for its global economic power, has started developing solutions to Karoshi, or death by overwork. This phenomenon started in the late 1960s and gained media traction in the 1990s when several company executives died suddenly. Karoshi culture in animation, specifically, is a significant issue as workers experience unlivable wages and long hours.

How Prominent is Karoshi Culture?

The Hitotsubashi Journal of Social Studies suggests that the exploitation of Japanese workers is a Western disease that has caused as many deaths as motor vehicle accidents. This issue is specific to Japan because of the “workaholic” mindset of the Japanese economy. On average, Japanese workers do 100 to 200 more overtime hours than other developed nations.

Karoshi’s Effect on Animators

Karoshi culture in animation largely has to do with wage theft and overwork. In 2010, a 28-year-old animator committed suicide shortly after he quit his job. The animator worked hundreds of hours of overtime without pay for several months. An online journal that the animator kept documented that he had only taken three days off in 10 months and worked as late as 4 a.m.

Young workers are consistently the most exploited demographic as highly sought out animators still work for abysmal wages. The median wage for animators in 2019 was $36,000, with many low-end illustrators making as little as $200 per week. Comparatively, the average animator in the United States makes between $65,000 to $75,000.

Companies can get away with this because many animators are self-employed or freelance workers. Employees receive pay on a per-project basis, which means that employers can refuse to pay animators if they do not complete more work. This financial insecurity often drives workers to suicide or the hospital. Many workers have died from heart attacks or strokes.

Karoshi and the Japanese Economy

Many animators must choose between their job and starting families. Animator Ryosuke Hirakimoto told The Japan Times that he had never made more than $38 a day. He ultimately quit after his first child was born. Hirakimoto “started to wonder if this lifestyle was enough.”

Animators leaving, either by death or by choice, could ultimately hurt the global anime market. Most anime production is based in Tokyo and the industry is worth more than $20 billion. Anime provides great economic prosperity for Japan. The global pandemic has only increased sales and streaming as more individuals seek entertainment while stuck indoors.

Alongside workers leaving, the lack of pay means a lack of contributions to the economy. Animators will likely choose to spend their money on necessities because they cannot afford luxuries.

Recent Progress

Japanese citizens recently developed an organization called the National Defense Counsel for Victims of KAROSHI. It offers consultations on compensation for work-related stress, diseases, disabilities or death. Much of the organization’s work is dedicated to preventing Karoshi and helping those affected by Karoshi.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Japan reported that the average citizen worked 1,598 hours in 2020. This prompted the Japanese government to introduce a plan to encourage businesses to offer four-day workweeks.

Since overwork and pay discrepancies are leading causes of the phenomena, the implementation of a four-day workweek could solve many issues stemming from Karoshi culture in animation. Japan recommends that companies reduce their hours or keep better track of overtime to promote the educational and familial prospects of employees.

Moving Forward

Japan’s Karoshi culture in animation will not resolve easily. There is a lot that requires addressing beyond the economic factors, including the social stigma of taking time off. The next move for the government is implementing legislation to solidify shorter workweeks as the population ages and shrinks. 

– Camdyn Knox
Photo: Pixabay

Resilience During COVID-19 in IranJust south of the Iranian capital Tehran lies the metropolitan city of Qom. In late February, citizens in Qom became ill with COVID-19. Within weeks of the global spread, Iran became one of the first global hotspots outside East Asia, alongside Italy. The socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic created a dual crisis that threatened to exacerbate COVID-19’s impact on Iran. In 2018, the Trump Administration announced its intent to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal, following the successful negotiation of the agreement by the prior Obama White House. The unilateral U.S. withdrawal led to the reimposition of sanctions on Iran, crushing the economy and sending unemployment skyrocketing. In 2018 and 2019, the Iranian economy experienced annual contractions of more than 6%.

Against this backdrop, ordinary citizens took to the streets demanding sweeping change to the government in the biggest protests since the founding of modern Iran. The government responded with force. Hundreds of protestors were killed and the entire nation underwent a total internet blackout that lasted days.

With the country already wobbling from economic and political pressure, the pandemic hit at the worst possible time. As a result, many expected COVID-19’s impact on Iran to be outsized. Instead, the nation showed a shocking level of resilience that befuddled experts.

Economic Rebound

At first, COVID-19’s impact on Iran appeared to be nothing more than an accelerant to the generally negative undercurrents impacting the economy. A widely cited report by the Iranian Parliament Research Center foresaw a dramatic increase in poverty in 2020. By the end of the year, 57 million Iranians were expected to be below the poverty line. Moreover, as major economies across the world experienced sharp contractions, IMF analysts saw a similar fate in store for Iran. According to predictions, the Iranian economy would shed 5% of its size in 2020.

However, the opposite occurred. The Iranian economy actually expanded for the first time in years. Despite the crippling blow of U.S. sanctions and a global economic calamity, Iran posted a GDP growth of 1.5%. In many ways, this turnaround resembled a unique occurrence in China. In 2020, China also registered positive GDP growth, the only large economy to do so. But China had controlled COVID-19, whereas Iran was still struggling with its outbreak. The ability of the capital Tehran to manage its economy relatively well amid greater uncertainty was impressive.

But all was not well in Iran. Deaths from COVID-19 spiked across the country and satellite images confirmed the construction of massive buriel pits. By mid-July, almost 90,000 deaths were recorded in Iran. However, this is believed to be an underestimation. Data from the University of Washington confirms more than 200,000 excess deaths for the same period.

Vaccines Requested and Delivered

To get out of its current situation, Iran needs vaccines. In this arena too, recovery promises to be much faster than initially predicted. The refinement of COVID-19 vaccines, which was expected to take years, was released in months. The current challenge is the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. As of mid-July, only 5% of the Iranian population have received one dose of the COVID-19 jab and just 3% are fully vaccinated. But philanthropy is coming to the rescue. In the United States, a group of philanthropists is planning to send 150,000 Pfizer doses to Iran. Abroad, countries like Russia and China have promised to donate vaccines as well.

The road to normalcy will be difficult for Iran. But a strong global recovery has the potential to bring Iran to success.

– Zachary Lee
Photo: Flickr

Demining in ColombiaThe Colombian people and economy have suffered greatly from landmines placed around the nation in the 1990s by guerrillas, paramilitary organizations and drug traffickers. One estimate finds that mines are responsible for “12,000 injuries and deaths” since 1990. Their looming presence continues to hinder access to education, healthcare facilities and essential services. Governments and NGOs are having a difficult time with demining in Colombia due to the irregular and unpredictable placement of the mines. This complication makes funding for demining in the 63% of Colombian municipalities currently plagued by mines an international priority.

How Landmines Impact Civilians

Armed groups have targeted largely rural areas in mine placement. While mines were intended to harm military personnel, civilians in the rural communities have predominantly faced the tragic consequences. The lingering threat of hidden mines hinders daily life and safety in many municipalities. Due to landmines, communities suffer sudden deaths and mutilations even as Colombia progresses to a time of peace.

The percentage of civilian landmine victims went up from 45% in 2019 to almost 70% in 2020 despite widespread extraction efforts. It is also important to note that civilian deaths and mutilations disproportionately affect indigenous populations of the rural areas.

Global Demining Efforts

The United States is currently responsible for most of the funding for global humanitarian demining. Since 1993, the U.S. has allotted $4 billion to “conventional weapons destruction efforts” internationally. In 2020, the United States set aside $228.5 million for humanitarian demining efforts across 40 nations, including Colombia. Similar funding has successfully removed 1.4 million landmines across 376 square miles of land since 2016.

The funding from the U.S. is essential for the success of demining efforts in Colombia and the U.S. plays an important part in rallying other nations to contribute. As of May 2021, Colombia is the second-most densely landmine-filled nation after war-torn Afghanistan. Given the dire need for extracting landmines in Colombia, the funding provided by the U.S. is necessary to achieve economic stability, community development and improved security.

The United States is not alone in funding demining efforts. Norway is also a strong leader in supporting demining in Colombia, investing $20 million from 2016 to 2020. The United States and Norway also successfully garnered further support from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, the European Union, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K. The nations have all been collaborating since 2016 with the goal of ensuring Colombia is completely mine-free by the end of 2021.

Benefits of Demining

Some of the most prominent successes of this international cooperation appear in the municipalities of Nariño and La Unión, which are now completely clear of landmines. The two areas are home to more than 31,000 Colombians across 200 square miles, making the complete removal of landmines a significant victory for these communities.

In 2019, HALO (Hazardous Area Life-Support Organization) began a study to uncover the impacts of demining on local communities in Nariño and La Unión. Its study finds clear correlations between humanitarian demining in Colombia and socio-economic development that directly benefits the most financially vulnerable families.

Average housing values increased by more than 500% alongside a 38% increase in average household incomes. The study also found that 88% of newly cleared land was used productively for community development, agriculture and transportation. The communities consequently saw a return of 772 formerly displaced families as well as a substantial increase in household spending.

Beyond the quantifiable benefits to impoverished families, demining improves access to healthcare facilities, schools and other social services as previously dangerous land is clear for transportation.

Looking Ahead

Essentially, the U.S.-funded demining efforts prove to have strong economic benefits for many Colombian families, which include formerly displaced and homeless people who were most economically vulnerable. Demining successes in Colombia stand to show the significance of proper funding for humanitarian demining in order to protect impoverished populations and aid communities formerly devastated by conflict. Removing landmines has clear links to restoring security to communities trying to move past conflict and violence as well as improving economic stability.

While the recent successes from U.S. funding are promising, more funds are still needed to demine the rest of Colombia. Most importantly, the recent victories show the importance of increased funding for these efforts. Some areas, including Choco and Antioquia, have not seen the good fortune that Nariño and La Unión have and are still very much plagued by landmines. Further commitment, funding and assistance are a beacon of hope to impoverished or displaced Colombian families living in mine-strewn municipalities. U.S. funds and initiatives in Nariño and La Unión show the possibility of a mine-free future for the entirety of Colombia.

Jaya Patten
Photo: Flickr

Law in South Africa
The poorest citizens of South Africa are amidst a turning point in their history. In July 2021, stress from socioeconomic and pandemic-related challenges boiled to civil unrest after the July 2021 arrest of former president Jacob Zuma. The relationship between circumstances of poverty and conflict drives a volatile history of fragility and rule of law in South Africa and presents challenges to overcoming poverty in the nation.

The Link Between Conflict and Poverty

Poverty and conflict are inseparable resultants of each other: where there is poverty, the fragility and rule of law of a governing body are prone to violence. When more citizens are subject to poor living conditions, the likelihood of conflict is increased. A 2011 report on conflict and poverty describes poverty as a “causal arrow… to the conflict.” This means fragility and rule of law in South Africa are reliant on the improvement of poverty-related conditions. This is due to political promises that call for the end of poverty in the nation. Recent violence suggests that citizens living in poverty believe promises fall short of action. South African unrest in 2021 is anecdotal evidence of the connection poverty and conflict have with each other.

South African Frustration

A 2014 report describes South African citizens taking part in violence as “clamoring for the redemption of the promises made to them.” This description explains the circumstance by which fragility and rule of law in South Africa are affected. Unrest in South Africa explains that poverty plays a major role in exacerbating conflict and makes it clear South Africa has a fragile economy. Those taking part in the widespread unrest were not exercising a meticulously planned attack on the South African government. Rather, those who were looting were filling the absence of governmental aid in the first place. For example, the nation is dealing with a third COVID-19 wave along with rising unemployment. Frustrations in poverty response allowed for unrest to grow in the nation. Jacob Zuma’s arrest was a tipping point in the conflict already consuming lives in South Africa.

Addressing Poverty in South Africa

Poverty reduction efforts in South Africa are mixed. Frustration pointed toward the government reveals widespread poverty. The South African economy has slowed its growth in the past decade. Additionally, the nation has a wide economic disparity between citizens. This disparity is affecting fragility and rule of law in South Africa substantially. In a 2012 report, the Brookings Institution described the nation as “the most consistently unequal country in the world.” Development in the nation has left out a large portion of those living in poverty which means some forgo financial stability.

Regardless of South Africa’s scenario, a key in reducing poverty means improving fragility and rule of law. The 2011 World Development Report argues that “strengthening legitimate institutions and governance to provide citizen security, justice and jobs is crucial to break cycles of violence.” This is the goal of current institutions within South Africa. In 2015, the African National Committee, the ruling party of South Africa, adopted The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an addition to its 2012 National Development Plan. The combined goals aim for the elimination of poverty and the reduction of inequality by 2030.

COVID-19 Complications

Progress in sustainable development has not substantially reduced poverty. Rather, the World Bank estimated that poverty increased by 9% due to COVID-19. An increase in unemployment from coronavirus lockdowns highlights the current challenges in reaching the same goals.

Pandemic-related challenges to reducing poverty point to the boiling of governmental control. An increase in household instability during COVID-19 affected fragility and rule of law in South Africa. This explains the recent conflict in the region. Reducing poverty means improving fragility and rule of law in South Africa.

Addressing poverty and economic disparity in South Africa means answering the roots of conflict. Frustrations with the South African government lie within the ability for individuals to have access to human necessities. Foreign assistance and continual support for South Africa’s SDGs can aid efforts to reduce conflict that induces poverty in South Africa.

– Harrison Vogt
Photo: Flickr

Lebanon’s economic crisisAn unprecedented economic crisis has gripped the nation of Lebanon for the last 18 months. Years of political instability propelled Lebanon’s economic crisis, however, 2020 worsened its struggling economy through two events: first, the COVID-19 Pandemic that asphyxiated economies worldwide and, second, the massive explosion in the Port of Beirut that detonated in early August. These two disastrous, high fatality events transformed a dire situation into Lebanon’s economic crisis.

The Crisis Reaches New Heights

Last year, Lebanon saw a surge in inflation rates accompanied by sharp spikes in poverty. As the crisis reached new heights, central banks stopped lending money to medium and small businesses. This decision increased an already harsh situation for working-class people in Lebanon. The World Bank estimates that over half of the nation’s population possibly lives below the poverty line. Access to food, water and other staples have become dangerously restricted for those most affected by this economic crisis.

The consequences of the Beirut blast reached national proportions for Lebanon. The level of urban reconstruction needed to repair the damaged portions of Beirut has added a significant strain on the other infrastructural demands. Services that have been affected include access to a consistent electrical grid and waste management system. On a local level, the blast devastated the immediate surroundings and the cost of reconstruction has mounted to several billion dollars.

International Aid for Lebanon

International groups launched a fundraiser for an aid initiative in December of 2020. These groups created an outline for recovery and a restructuring Lebanon’s financial sector to combat constricting debt and financial insecurity. However, The World Bank emphasizes the need to bolster Lebanon’s internal financial sectors to achieve economic stability. With this in mind, Lebanon will require international assistance to reach these goals.

Civil and Political Unrest

Before the Pandemic, Lebanon’s economic woes were entangled within a collapsing central banking system. Overloaded with debt and inflated liquidity, the central bank shut down, effectively denying the majority of Lebanon’s working-class access to bank loans and financial services. The collapse of the financial sector plunged swaths of Lebanon’s population below the poverty line. Demonstrations and other forms of civil unrest stretched security forces thin and established a new norm of chaos. In the midst of the social upheaval, the government fell apart, dashing hopes for a centralized internal reconstruction of the nation’s economy and infrastructure.

Political analysts blame both the country’s central bank and the Hezbollah party for the roots of the economic crisis. Furthermore, analysts insist that a solution cannot be implemented until both of these problems are addressed. Despite the current political instability of Lebanon and its failed efforts to reform its government, analysts fear that the nation may descend deeper into political division. If the structure of Lebanon’s government deteriorates to the point that a power vacuum becomes available, extremist groups will take advantage, which demonstrates a grave risk to global security.

Lebanon’s Future

As the political vacuum occupying Lebanon’s center persists, the nation looks ahead towards elections in 2022. The future of Lebanon relies on the consensus of multiple political factions. This could prove a tedious situation. Such mediation would weigh the fragile balance of international intrusion, whether from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or political incentives from the United States or Iran. The likeliest path for Lebanon will include a series of shortterm stabilization efforts that will impede the rate of economic collapse and look towards shoring up Lebanon’s financial sector. However, the longterm vision of Lebanon is still a matter of deep contention.

– Jack Thayer
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

Child poverty in Greece
Child poverty in Greece is a prominent issue. About 40% of children under the age of 17 are at risk. According to Eurostat, Greece ranks at the top of the child poverty scale. Furthermore, Greece’s poverty rate is the third-highest within the European Union. This article will explore the state of child poverty in Greece and efforts to address it.

Education

The economic crisis in Greece is one of many reasons for the rising child poverty rate. Access to education has decreased as well. As a result, many children are unable to attend school and unemployment rates have skyrocketed.

State education is free until university in Greece and education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 15. In spite of this, approximately 11.4% of students dropped out of school in 2010. Moreover, an average of 30,000 students never enter high school. The highest high school dropout rate is in the Dodecanese islands and Rhodope.

Child Abuse

Giorgio Nikolaidis is a child psychiatrist and head of the Mental Health Department of the Institute of Child Health. He stated that inadequate child protection services were further undercut long before the economic crisis. Authorities are often aware of domestic, sexual abuse against children; however, they do not take the correct measures to protect children.

“I have seen cases where four-year-old kids were treated for sexually transmitted rectal HPV for over a year and no investigation had been undertaken to determine how they got it,” Nikolaidis said. The reality is that there is no coherent system to effectively protect victims.

The Greek constitution prohibits forced labor, but the minimum age for work is as low as 12 for people working in a family business. Thus, families often send their children to the streets to beg for money. Although Greece ratified the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention, these activities remain unpunishable by law. Children who spend more time on the streets are also at an increased risk of child trafficking.

Together for Children

Together for Children is an NGO that provides assistance to young people and their families. The organization is comprised of nine member organizations that work in child welfare. Its mission is to provide immediate support for children, families and individuals with disabilities.

The organization established a child helpline that provides free counseling services and emotional support for children and their families. Together for Children strives to tackle child poverty in Greece and create sustainable living conditions. Additionally, the organization ensures access to free education through various programs such as a nursery school for children with cerebral palsy, a development playgroup for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities, a special primary school for children with cerebral palsy and productive workshops for adults with cerebral palsy. Together for Children also has activities and programs to support unaccompanied minors who are refugees.

Assisting more than 30,000 children every year, Together for Children has received the Silver Medal of the Academy of Athens for its social contribution. In 2019, it also received a BRAVO Award for engaging with thousands of citizens in support of its initiative: Equal Opportunities for Children: Actions for Health and Education in Remote Areas of Greece.

Looking Forward

Organizations like Together for Children help create a better society for children to flourish. It focuses on improving the health and well-being of impoverished children, creating opportunities for quality education and supporting refugees. This organization has taken great strides in alleviating child poverty in Greece.

Poverty in Greece remains high due to the lack of education, child abuse and labor exploitation. Sexual and labor exploitation impoverishes children mentally and physically. Although the Greek financial crisis is often blamed for inadequate social services, there is much more that the country should be doing to protect children. Moving foward, it is essential that the government and other humanitarian organizations prioritize addressing child poverty in Greece.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

Informal Employment
Informal economies are a global phenomenon that often goes unmentioned by popular media. From street vendors to unregistered employees in sweatshops, informal workers make up a large portion of a country’s labor. Informal employment refers to workers who engage in labor that is not taxed or registered by the government. Informal economies are popular because of the opportunity to access wealth. While many see informality as a chance for upward mobility, there are many downfalls to this sector which are clearly visible in the case of Argentina.

Argentina has one of the largest economies in Latin America as it has vast natural resources in energy and agriculture. As of 2020, their GDP stood at 450 billion U.S. dollars and the country had significant advantages in the fields of manufacturing and tech industries. While Argentina’s numbers stand strong compared to other countries in the Americas, a closer look into their labor shows a different picture of their economy. In 2018, informal employment was 48.1% of total employment in Argentina. While many in Argentina find that informal employment is the only option for financial survival, this sector brings about serious issues for both individual workers and the larger economy.

Poverty and Informal Employment

The push factors to join the informal economy of Argentina differ based on one’s purpose in this sector. For employers, cheap wages are a major reason to seek unregistered workers. Informality markets itself as a money-saving business model. For workers, informality does not present itself as an option but as a means for financial survival. Argentina’s market does not offer many jobs in the formal economy, leading employees to grab at whatever positions are available.

The link between informality and poverty is hard to explore. Questions remain over whether informality causes higher levels of poverty or if poverty leads to higher levels of informal employment. The World Bank team in Argentina has developed a two-year program to analyze the causes and consequences of informality in Argentina. In their study, it was found that informal work appears to be the most common type of employment among workers in poor households, but the degree and direction of causation are more difficult to determine. Whether poverty causes informality or informality causes poverty is uncertain. The program is finding that prior to Argentina’s economic crisis, the increase in poverty rates appeared to be driven by an increase in poverty among informal households. Such statistics confirm at least a correlative link between the two issues. This serves as evidence for why issues with informality should be at the forefront of anti-poverty efforts.

Dangers of Informal Employment

Informal economies pose several consequences for the welfare of workers and the larger market economy of a country. On the side of workers, informal employment is an opportunity that comes with many risks. The biggest obstacle with informal economies is the recognition of worker’s rights. Given that these workers are not registered, organizations do not have the responsibility to uphold necessary protections. In Argentina, the Confederation of Popular Economy Workers estimates that only approximately 20,000 workers, or about 0.3%, have acquired labor rights so far.  This 0.3% comes from a total of 7.2 million informal workers, thus showing that many of these persons lack access to health insurance, pension, and protection against labor accidents. Consequently, informal workers often find themselves at the margins of society as their work fails to secure a stable income.

Informality also poses a threat to the overall economy of a country. In a personal interview with Dr. Jeronimo Montero Bressan, a full-time researcher for the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Argentina, he explained the ways in which the informal sector affects the rest of the country. Informal employment is a subsidy to the private sector. Most informal employment falls in the hands of private companies that produce subcontracting chains. This way informal workers can work under formal companies.

For Dr. Montero Bressan, while many come to have a romantic view of informality, the reality presents a chain of exploitation and an overall risk for the livelihood of the rest of the country. Dr. Montero Bressan has attested that because informal workers receive little money, wages will likely diminish throughout the entire economy, thus serving to motivate this type of employment. He has also said, “So, you tell people you won’t hire them because you could get the same labor for half what you pay them.” Informal economies do not just have an effect within a certain sector but come to influence the economy of the entire country. Without stronger regulation, everyone will stand at a loss as the value of labor falls with companies being able to ignore worker’s rights.

What is the response?

As Argentina sees stable numbers in the informal economies, efforts to reform this sector continue to fall short. According to Dr. Montero Bressan, the government of Argentina has done little to improve the rights of informal workers. In recent years, fines for specific sectors were blanketed, preventing companies from being fined when they leave workers unregistered. From his perspective, Argentina has weak labor laws that can provide little security. Dr. Montero Bressan has stated that if one were to be fired from an informal job, the employer could be taken to trial, however, the only likely result would be compensation. Such compensation gives laborers some value for their work, however, one-time compensation will not fix the problem of informality. Employees will find themselves back in poverty and seeking informal employment once the compensation runs out.

Informal employment generates consequences from the very beginning as worker’s rights are denied. For Argentina, the informal sector poses an extensive problem for both informal workers and the larger economy as informality decreases wages in the country. The informal sector has a strong connection with poverty as this means of labor is generally common in poor households. This sector, however, is not sustainable and the government of Argentina must respond by providing protection for workers and holding companies accountable for failing to register their employees.

– Ana Paola Asturias

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Paraguay
The landlocked country of Paraguay, located in south-central South America, currently faces authoritarian rule and turbulence. These recent troubles have contributed to the long history of poverty in Paraguay. Since the 1860s, the country has participated in three different major wars in South America. It also experienced a civil war in the 1940s which given the Paraguayan people a strong sense of fear and unwillingness to express themselves freely. This sentiment has only recently begun to diminish in the early 21st century.

Background

The citizens and inhabitants of Paraguay are less diverse and more ethnically homogenous than in other South American countries. Most are of European and Guarani descent. Rivers are very important to the country’s economy, as they support the function of many hydroelectric power plants. Paraguay is one of the best producers of soybeans, and many parts of the country are flourishing, where fertile soil allows for diverse diets and high standards of living.

While the country has been making a lot of progress in the 21st century in its efforts to combat poverty, economic distress continues to be a major issue. Leading up to the year 2017, there was actually an increase in poverty rates. Even though the country performed better economically overall, the total poverty rate that year rose from 26.6% to 28.8%. Even extreme poverty, which is defined as living on less than $1.90 a day, increased in this period.

Those numbers are heartbreaking because it shows a reversal in the steady decline of poverty rates in Paraguay in the years prior to 2016. To put this into perspective, in the five years previous, the poverty rate declined from 31.37% to 26.58%. This sudden worsening was unexpected as the South American region was collectively making progress in the fight against poverty. However, things have changed since then, and poverty in Paraguay is showing signs of improvement.

Path to Progress

Some think that changes in poverty in Paraguay are the result of the government shifting its focus to extreme poverty. People in extreme poverty may not have the most basic necessities, such as food, shelter, sanitation, and medical services. Jose Molinas, the Minister of Technical Planning, has admitted that there is a goal of reducing the extreme poverty rate to three percent. However, there is no goal to address the total poverty rate, leaving some impoverished people neglected.

Alicia Bárcena, the Executive Secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), stated that a lack of investment, extensive divisions in class structure, and limited productivity gains are threatening the region’s ability to reach the poverty reduction goals agreed upon by U.N. members in 2015. Perhaps by addressing these issues, then, and by giving attention and care to the total poverty rate as opposed to only extreme poverty rates, the country can see a decline in poverty rates.

In fact, progress is already being made, with the poverty rate going down from 24.2 to 23.5 between 2018 and 2019. This is due in part to the ongoing support from other countries and aid organizations.

The Australian embassy in 2019 initiated the Direct Aid Program (DAP). DAP provides small grants for over 80 countries worldwide, including Paraguay, funding non-governmental organization initiatives to aid these countries. It supports things like providing education for the youth, including vocational and sex education. Other initiatives include promoting the economic development of women to achieve gender equity, as well as infrastructure projects for indigenous peoples. One such initiative, Poverty Spotlight, helped 30,000 Paraguayan families leave poverty through higher income generation. Continued support of programs and initiatives like these will help maintain the country’s progress and gradually eradicate poverty in Paraguay.

Fahad Saad

Photo: Flickr

Aid to SenegalSenegal’s economy is one of the fastest-growing in Africa, with a growth rate of above 6% from 2014 to 2018. The country is home to 15.4 million people and is one of the most stable countries in the region. The service industry heavily burgeoned this growth, which made up about 60% of the country’s total GDP. The shock of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major slowdown in growth, falling to an estimated 1.3% in 2020. Although the country has instituted a comprehensive stimulus plan, Senegal’s economy is still facing a slow and painful recovery, which could be disastrous for the country’s long-term future. Aid to Senegal is essential for the country’s recovery.

Incoming Aid to Senegal

In a press release on November 11, 2020, Germany and the European Union (EU) announced the approval of relief funding for Senegal — 112 million euros in EU funding and 100 million euros in funding from Germany itself. The EU has a broader history of aid to Senegal, with more than a billion euros of aid sent from 2014 to 2020. Germany also has a history of friendship with Senegal, as the two entered into a reform partnership in 2019. The amount of aid rendered illustrates the strong commitment of both the EU and Germany to Senegal’s economy. The money will go toward Senegal’s COVID-19 stimulus program and will enable the government to continue relief efforts for its population.

German development minister, Gerd Müller, was strongly in favor of aid to Senegal and described many problems currently ailing Senegal’s economy. Nearly half of the country is unemployed and the shrinking economy will especially impact small and medium businesses, which make up 90% of all Senegalese jobs. Müller says, “We must not forget that the consequences of COVID-19 are far more dramatic in developing countries.”

Impact of Aid to Senegal

Müller is optimistic that the aid will enable the protection of jobs and the production of medical equipment necessary to fight COVID-19. The Senegalese government also started a program for businesses to receive cash loans for support.

Although Senegal’s economy is robust, it is still dependent on foreign aid to finance these measures. Aside from the aid coming from the EU and Germany, the World Bank approved $100 million worth of aid back in June 2020, demonstrating a need for further funding to prevent larger setbacks in Senegal’s economy.

An Admirable COVID-19 Reponse

The way that Senegal handled the COVID-19 pandemic itself has received praise throughout the world. It ranks second only to New Zealand on Foreign Policy’s Global COVID-19 Response Index, which measures the response of national leaders to the pandemic. The country took broad health safety measures at the beginning of the crisis, which had an unfortunate impact on Senegal’s economy. International aid to Senegal plays a large role in the country’s recovery from the impact of COVID-19.

– Bradley Cisternino
Photo: Flickr