Disability Pay Gap
Recently, more and more information has been coming to light on how employment and wage differ for people, especially for minorities such as women and people of color. However, one group of people has frequently experienced exclusion from the conversation: people with disabilities. On average in the U.K., disabled employees receive almost £2 per hour less than their coworkers without disabilities. Over the last couple of years, the disability pay gap has been widening. In 2014, employees with disabilities earned 11.7% less than non-disabled employees. In 2019, they earned 14.1% less.

The pay gap is significantly more apparent for women than men. From 1997-2014, the disability pay gap for men was 13%, whereas it was 7% for women. The pay gap also differs significantly for those with mental versus physical disabilities. Men with mental disorders such as depression and anxiety had a pay gap of 30%, whereas women suffering from the same mental illnesses had a pay gap of 10%. Men with learning disabilities experienced even higher pay gaps, making around 60% less than other workers without disabilities.

The Cause of This Pay Gap

Many factors influence the disability pay gap, from facing discrimination to impairments due to their disability. However, the most influential factor is that many people with disabilities are less likely to work full-time and year-round in nearly every occupation, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report. When factoring in the schedules and occupations of a worker with disabilities, the pay gap nearly disappeared. Similarly, accounting for sickness leave also significantly reduces the pay gap.

Despite this, people with disabilities still earn significantly less than the average non-disabled worker meaning they are more susceptible to falling into poverty. People living in poverty are also more likely to develop a disability, meaning their chance of employment is even lower. In fact, almost half of those living in poverty in the U.K. are people with disabilities.

The disability pay gap only exacerbates the poverty rate for those with disabilities, as they often have a higher cost of living due to extra health care and accommodations. In addition, many people with disabilities face higher levels of unemployment and poverty because they tend to be less educated. For example, in the U.S. one in five adults with disabilities has less than a high school education, more than double the rate for those without disabilities. Only 19% of disabled adults possess a college degree, compared with more than 35% of non-disabled adults. 

Organizations and Legislative Bills Assisting

Despite the tremendous hurdles that people with disabilities face, many organizations and legislative bills are seeking to assist people with disabilities.

  • In the U.K., the Jobcentre Plus Support for Schools, first introduced in 2016, is a program that provides career advice and assistance for young people who have a disability. Since then, it has partnered with more than 1,400 schools to provide career advice and guidance to young people with disabilities.
  • Introduced in 2017, the Personal Support Package offers employment support for people with disabilities that is delivered through the U.K. government.

In conclusion, those with disabilities face a tremendously higher rate of poverty, something that people often leave out of the discussion regarding global poverty. However, organizations and governments are making an effort to combat it and as they put more and more measures into place, the poverty rate is slowly reducing.

– Padma Balaji
Photo: Unsplash

Canadian Job Market
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, Canada’s unemployment rate first jumped to the highest it had been in more than two decades. In just two years, it dropped to almost the lowest it has ever been.
As in many countries, the Canadian job market struggled after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people had trouble finding work during the first few months of the pandemic. However, Canada has managed to create a staggering number of jobs since then. Now, the country’s job market is, arguably, in better shape than it was prior to the start of the pandemic.

Pre-COVID-19

 Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian job market had been enjoying a prolonged period of prosperity. From 2009 until 2019, Canada’s unemployment rate decreased almost every year, with a low in 2019 0f 5.7%, an all-time low for the country.

In February 2020, just before the start of the pandemic, Canada’s unemployment rate was at 5.5%, only a slight increase from 2019 and there were some signs of encouragement. Employment amongst youth had increased, although with little change to other age groups. Additionally, a number of provinces had also seen increases in employment. Most notably, Quebec increased its employment by 20,000. Other provinces that had increased employment during this same period were Alberta, Nova Scotia and Manitoba.

How COVID-19 Affected the Job Market

As COVID-19 began to spread, many nations required massive shutdowns of companies and businesses to combat the virus. People worldwide either had to work remotely or lost their jobs entirely. Canada was no exception to this as the number of jobs available decreased by more than 3 million in the months of March and April 2020.

Canada’s unemployment rate rose to 13.7% in May 2020, the highest it had been since 1993. Most of the jobs that Canada lost had been recovered during the summer of 2020 and yet, recovery efforts slowed as the virus began to ramp up again that fall. Another wave of job losses also occurred in January 2022 as a result of precautionary shutdowns in response to the Omicron variant.

The pandemic had the largest impact on women, young workers and workers with low wages. Unemployment for those between the ages of 15-24 rose far more sharply than any other age group. Before the pandemic, women had a lower unemployment rate than men. However, in May, unemployment spiked for both genders and women had the higher rate.

Post-COVID-19

In just two years since the start of the pandemic, the Canadian job market has rebounded in impressive fashion. Not only did the country’s unemployment rate return to where it was prior to the shutdowns, but it was also even lower than it was in early 2020. In February 2022, Canada’s unemployment rate stood at 5.5%, lower than the 5.7% rate it was in February 2020. That is also just about the all-time low of 5.4% that it reached in 2019.

Much of the decrease in the unemployment rate can be due to Canada’s unprecedented job creation. The nation has been able to create thousands of jobs per month over several months. In November 2021, 154,000 jobs were added and 54,700 jobs were created in December. Following the temporary Omicron shutdown, Canada added 337,000 more jobs in February 2022.

While many jobs recovered thanks to businesses reopening after the start of the pandemic, the Canadian government also introduced various measures to improve the state of the job market. One of these was the Canada Recovery Hiring Program which helped employers rehire employees with an added boost to their salaries. The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy allowed millions of Canadians to keep their jobs so that their employers could rehire them once the positions were available again. The Canada Recovery Hiring Program provided assistance to employers that would help them rehire employees, create new jobs and increase hours for those jobs. The combination of the policies and others allowed Canada’s job market to rebound tremendously.

Looking Ahead

After losing more than 3 million jobs at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has managed to get its job market in a better position than it was prior to the pandemic. Rapid job creation that shattered expectations has allowed millions of citizens to return to work and many to begin working. It appears that Canada has made the best of what was, otherwise, an unfortunate situation.

– Tyshon Johnson
Photo: Flickr

African Digital Jobs
Africa is struggling to keep up with a global economy dominated by technology but African digital jobs are growing. Nigerian activist Oladiwura Oladepo co-founded the Tech4Dev organization to enrich the continent’s access to digital work opportunities.

Technology for Social Change and Development Initiative or Tech4dev is a nonprofit that originated in 2016 according to the Global Citizen site. Founded to solve the “world’s greatest problems,” the group provides access to the internet and computers in Africa and trains Africans in digital skills. This is especially vital in Oladepo’s home of Nigeria, where more than 100 million of the country’s 200 million population lack any digital services and many suffer from poverty, unemployment and starvation.

Tech4Dev’s Programs

Tech4Dev offers numerous specialized educational programs to create African digital jobs for different demographics. One program listed on their website includes “Women Techsters,” which aims to increase economic equity between genders and financially empower women. The “Basic Digital Education Initiative” also aims to teach elementary and high school students technology skills as well as basic STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) skills.

Another more-advanced program that Tech4Dev offers is the “Emerging Market Model Initiative.” The program emerged with the help of Microsoft to provide strong digital training to Nigerian adults through various government agencies. In addition to helping prospective learners, this program also equips said agencies with the ability to teach future groups of adults and increase overall digital literacy in the long term.

Although the programs have different target audiences, all of the programs have the same overall goal of teaching Africans online skills so they can find work and improve the lives of themselves and their communities. In Tech4Dev Executive Director Oladiwura Oladepo’s own words, this is “Using technology to advance sustainable human capital development in Africa.”

Technology and Economy Hand-in-Hand

The World Bank has stated that the digital economy is 15.5% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), which is a monetary measurement assigned to the overall goods and services that a country provides. With this number expected to increase as digitalization increases, African digital jobs in countries like Nigeria could produce significant capital gains.

As President Enrico Lores of HP Inc. stated on the World Economic Forum’s website, digital access factors into more than just job opportunities. With remote learning, no online access means not receiving an education. Online medical access can mean life or death. Even ignoring formal services, the internet can provide vital information similar to how Oladiwura Oladepo shared life-saving information on Ebola precautions in 2014.

About Global Citizen

In 2022, Oladiwura Oladepo received the 2022 Waislitz Global Citizens’ Choice Award from the Waislitz Foundation and the Global Citizen platform. Global Citizen defines a global citizen as someone who takes action to fight inequity and poverty across the whole world through collective action.

Oladepo acts as a global citizen by using Tech4Dev to support Nigeria and all of Africa by setting the groundwork for African digital jobs. Global citizens like her have raised more than $41.4 billion in funding and aided the impoverished in both developed and developing countries across the globe. The site lists 1,560,219 active global citizens dedicated to eliminating global poverty today.

Henry Bauer
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

A Shrinking Workforce in Burkina Faso
A shrinking workforce in Burkina Faso has implications far and wide for the economic and social state of the country. Political instability and limited natural resources have exacerbated the country’s poor financial state. Following a coup d’état in January 2022, Burkina Faso ended up in political chaos once again. Though the country has many transitional bodies which seek to aid the transition, the instability and harsh economic conditions make progress slow and difficult. A shrinking workforce in Burkina Faso makes progress forward difficult while economic and social progress itself makes tackling the high unemployment rate challenging.

The main issue is the downward trend in employment. The labor force participation rate has been steadily declining since the 1990s, meaning that the progress of the last three decades has been lost. Technological progress particularly has been slow and costly and the country lags behind its African and global competitors.

The Workforce

Primarily, the country’s workforce struggles to keep up with its growing population. Current estimates show that the population is growing at a rate of over 3%, yet more than 40% of the population lives in poverty. Seven out of 10 people are under the age of 30, but the working age population is weak and underdeveloped. In 2005, approximately 89.1% of the working-age population had employment. However, in 2018, the World Bank reported that only nearly 45% of the working-age population in Burkina Faso was participating in the labor force in 2018. Certainly, the problem is not as simple as it seems.

The country faces problems as the underdeveloped workforce and infrastructure struggle to cope with the growing population. Sectors such as health care have borne the brunt of the lack of resources. Government expenditure on health care in Burkina Faso has nearly disappeared. Even before the lack of investment in health care, there were not enough health care workers to support the system and the needs of the people. Children and infants experienced significant hardship as a result of this.

Children have suffered differently. The Department of Labor reported that nearly half of all children in Burkina Faso work as of 2012. Though unemployment is high, child labor is cheap and exploitable, so children comprise a significant portion of the workforce in the country. Activists have the daunting task of reorienting a shrinking workforce in Burkina Faso so that fewer children and more adults enter the workforce.

Economic Rebound

One positive sign is that Burkina Faso’s post-COVID-19 economic rebound has been successful. The country grew an estimated 8.5% in 2021. Though the 2022 coup caused some to question the financial stability and prospects of the country, a high growth rate, to 6.5% in 2021, shows that Burkina Faso is resilient. Many believe that an investment in gold mining and related infrastructure is the way forward for Burkina Faso. Gold is Burkina Faso’s top export to the United States. Some believe that gold will be lucrative in the future and will be able to support a growing workforce. However, the reliance on gold will be challenging, as those in Burkina Faso will need to be stringent and careful about the labor requirements and fulfillments that it will need to strengthen its workforce.

Looking Ahead

The country is eligible for what is known as “preferential trade benefits” under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which means that global partners recognize the need to invest in and prioritize the country. Ultimately, strong and positive growth is possible on the trend that Burkina Faso is on at the moment. Progress will need to be cautious and prudent, but many are hopeful that a stronger workforce and therefore a stronger country is possible.

Lara Drinan
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Supporting Women’s Education and Careers
Discrepancies in pay for women are nothing new. However, the ongoing inequality has led to overwhelming financial losses across the globe. In 2018, the World Bank estimated that a lack of equal pay and opportunity for women globally accounts for a striking $160 trillion global deficit. Countries like Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and Vietnam–which are responsible for large exports of apparel globally–are seeking to correct outdated practices by supporting women’s education and careers in hopes of building a greater future.

Egypt

U.N. Women’s gender-focused education project aims to promote economic growth within the country. By focusing on young women and girls, the initiatives encourage formal education and business communities. Educational policymakers are in connection as well to formally improve the connection of education of women to employment. As a result, there have been 205 completed infrastructure improvements, the building and funding of four new community schools and interactive learning techniques and methods with 3,990 students. Additionally, the project has helped mothers to better understand financial literacy and the importance of their daughters’ education.

Turkey

Turkey has the second-highest rate of young unemployed people. While only 34.5% of women have entered the workforce in Turkey, the country is working hard to initiate a movement toward women’s career and education growth. The Young Women Building Their Future program focuses on the nearly 3.5 million women in Turkey who have not had access to formal schooling or vocational training.

Governmental developmental goals focused on supporting women’s education and careers seek to “leave no one behind” and provide opportunities specifically to young women designed to help them enter, navigate and succeed in the workforce.

Pakistan

Pakistan has set inclusive gender growth participation targets to rise from 26% to 45%. In the last 22 years, the participation rate has almost doubled but the World Bank and other programs, are seeking to increase educational and career rates at an even faster pace.

Because work for pay increases with formal education, the country seeks to move beyond the only 10% of college-educated women in the coming years. With pay increasing three-fold for women with formal secondary education, this goal could contribute to decreasing poverty rates as well as inequality.

Vietnam

Vietnam has developed the National Strategy on Gender Equality with female-focused entrepreneurship goals set for the 2021-2030 period. Among those goals, promoting gender equality and employment opportunities for women–who make up approximately 50% of the overall population–is at the forefront of goals.

With goals such as focusing on reducing unpaid work by women, promoting women to director and ownership positions of business, as well as reducing domestic and gender-based violence also at the forefront, the country hopes to combat poverty rates with opportunities for women.

As these countries come together with goals of reducing poverty through supporting women’s education and careers, the future is bright for the current and future generations.

– Michelle Collingridge
Photo: Flickr

How Japan Became Impoverished
As the world’s third-largest economy, many have long viewed Japan as an economic and global powerhouse. However, Japan has faced an increasing poverty level for the better part of the last two decades. According to the latest study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Japan’s poverty rate currently stands at 15.7%. Here is some information about how Japan become impoverished.

Japan’s Lifetime Employment System

The determining factor of income distribution has long been Japan’s lifetime employment system. This system has been around for decades; Japan implemented it during the large growth periods the country experienced during the 1950s and 1960s. Established companies for regular or seishain employees mostly practice the lifetime employment system. The system’s focus is on three primary pillars. The pillars include an “implicit guarantee” to take care of regular employees until retirement, wages that seniority dictates and company-based labor unions for regular employees.

However, 37% of the country’s labor force are nonregular employees and the employees have revolted against this system in recent years. Non-regular employees receive less pay and do not receive the same level of benefits that their regularly employed colleagues receive. Another key aspect of this argument is that increased flexibility to hire and fire employees will increase economic efficiency.

The Outlook and Shift of Japan’s Lifetime Employment System

The fact that numerous companies have converted regular workers to non-regular, part-time employment has also affected the outlook of the lifetime employment system. At the same time, a large portion of available jobs remains non-regular. Within the last few decades, companies that routinely hired 20 to 30-lifetime employees a year, now only hire two or three new employees each year. This new process has contributed significantly to how Japan became impoverished.

One can largely attribute this shift to two major occurrences. The first occurrence involves emerging-market economies such as China, where labor costs are lower. The second is the increase in part-time workers, especially women who need work and may not be able to commit full-time due to childcare duties and seniors who aren’t able to enjoy retirement due to their pension benefits not covering living expenses.

The Lack of Bankruptcy Procedures in Japan

Oxford Head of Japanese Economics, Shigeto Nagai stated how Japan also lacks Chapter 11 or a similar bankruptcy procedure that could possibly give those who fail another chance. This leads to an overwhelming fear in citizens of Japan, which prevents the citizens from seeking change due to the absence of the program. The addition of this program could significantly help those in need and eliminate the underlying fear that exists.

Although no current implications are in place, certain companies are taking action into their own hands to possibly eradicate the issue. A number of companies have started adopting a variety of incentive plans including performance bonuses, share options, profit-sharing schemes and employee stock ownership plans. While this is not the end-all-be-all solution, it is a start toward reaching the proper employee benefit programs that are at the center of the cause of how Japan became impoverished.

Similar factors and the revolution of such a large part of the labor force against Japan’s long-established system have led to the disappearance of the middle class. Nagai also stated that “Income has declined across the income percentiles, and the share of low-income households has risen as those of middle- and high-income groups shrink.” The Economics Head further stated his concerns, stating that Japan’s middle class is gradually disappearing.

Nagai feels that the only way to save the Japanese economy is to create a more dynamic human resource allocation. The static allocation of human resources has greatly affected how Japan has become impoverished and the country’s best efforts to eliminate the deflationary equilibrium or the lifetime labor force.

Looking Ahead

Despite recent trends, there are a lot of changes underway to relieve Japan of its impoverished struggle. Labor shortages have led to employers raising salaries, which has attracted many younger, potential employees. Numerous Chinese startup companies have created employment opportunities which a substantial amount of young talent and many regular employees of larger corporations are quitting jobs early in their careers to seek opportunities elsewhere.

With the recent developments, the nation of Japan is closer to being the economic powerhouse that it has historically been for decades and its citizens once again have a fair chance at earning a living.

Austin Hughes
Photo: Flickr

Young African Entrepreneurs
Boost Africa is an initiative that partnered with the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) in 2017. The initiative seeks to identify and realize new ways of supporting job creation, poverty alleviation and sustainable economic growth in African countries to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Boost Africa currently receives funding support from the European Commission and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States Secretariat to help young Africans and help young African entrepreneurs.

Mission Statement

Africa, with its young population, houses many of the world’s fastest-growing economies. However, graduates choose to work abroad after finishing their studies. This stunts the continent’s great potential for economic progress and people often refer to it as brain drain. Boost Africa seeks to resolve this challenge by creating attractive job opportunities for young Africans and empowering young African entrepreneurs.

In particular, it seeks to tackle the issue of brain drain from the angle of entrepreneurship and innovation. The initiative believes in the possibility of improving living standards by funding affordable access to energy, healthcare, financial services, education and internet connectivity. To do so, the initiative focuses on supporting start-ups, which would further democratize the economy to allow and attract young individuals from all social backgrounds to participate in and benefit from the continent’s growing economy, according to AfDB.

Boost Africa summarizes its mission in the following actionable steps: enabling entrepreneurship and innovation, developing the skills and expertise of young entrepreneurs, creating quality jobs and addressing the financial gap in the early stages of business creation.

The initiative mainly funds sectors where innovation has the greatest potential to improve the quality of life by providing access to affordable services. Such sectors include information technology, agribusiness, financial services, health, education and renewable energy, AfDB stated. Boost Africa has a special interest in start-ups that have youth and women as final beneficiaries.

Program Components

According to AfDB, Boost Africa has three main components: the Investment Programme, the Technical Assistance Pool and the Innovation and Information Lab.

The Investment Programme covers the entire venture segment, from seed funds and incubators to accelerators and business angel funds. More specifically, the Programme targets ecosystem builders that promote the health of the entrepreneurial ecosystem by promoting creativity and innovation. Both the AfDB and the EIB fund the Programme and collectively contribute €50 million. Third-party investors and investors through financial intermediaries are also eligible to co-invest.

The Technical Assistance Pool focuses on instilling best practices in investing. It seeks to do so by improving the investment readiness of fund managers, training entrepreneurs in the technical aspects of investments and creating investors’ networks for business angels.

The Information Lab is Boost Africa’s incubator for innovation and partnerships. In addition to helping individual entrepreneurs develop their ideas, it will work with local governments to put in place best practices for entrepreneurial ecosystem interventions.

The Impact

Four years into the initiative, Boost Africa has contributed significantly to job creation and economic growth across Africa and in particular, rendered entrepreneurial finance more accessible. The initiative has provided more than €300 million to fund start-ups and provide technical assistance to entrepreneurs. To date, more than 1,080 businesses and 3,267 business owners have benefited from the initiative’s resources. Boost Africa has moreover enabled many young African women to enter the entrepreneur field, with more than 50% of the created jobs benefiting women.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Union has pledged to commit €60 million to support the sectors that the unprecedented economic, social and health challenges most affected.

From its wide-ranging impact, Boost Africa has proved to be more than a simple financing opportunity for young African entrepreneurs. The initiative deliberately focuses on African youth and specifically, young African women. This makes Boost Africa as socially motivated as it is economically motivated. In addition to advancing the development of the African economy, Boost Africa is reducing socioeconomic and gender gaps in African employment, thereby contributing greatly to the continent’s social progress.

– Emily Xin
Photo: Pexels

Disability and Poverty in the U.K.
Like in so many other countries, disability and poverty in the U.K. are rampant. However, people often overlook the disabled in the U.K. because it is not a developing country. In the U.K., 14.6 million people are disabled and face prejudice because of their disabilities.

The Equality Act of 2010

The Equality Act of 2010 includes rights for those with disabilities. It defines disability as one having “a physical and mental impairment for a substantial and long-term negative effect on one’s ability to perform daily activities.”

Rights under the Equality Act include protection from prejudice and discrimination based on one’s disability. People with disabilities often experience discrimination in education and in the workplace.

Disability and Education

Of the 14.6 million people battling disability and poverty in the U.K., 9% are children, according to Scope. Children with disabilities are more likely to experience bullying and exclusion from the education system.

As of 2021, of the people with a disability in the U.K., “24.9% had a degree or equivalent as their highest education.” Comparatively, 42.7% of the non-disabled people had a degree. Disabled people are almost three times more likely to not have a degree at all.

Disability and Employment

Because they are less likely to receive an educational degree, disabled people in the U.K. are “less likely to be in employment than non-disabled people.” The employment rate for disabled people in the U.K. is 53%, while the employment rate for non-disabled people is 82%, according to Scope. The employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people is 29%.

Because the employment rate is comparatively lower for disabled people than non-disabled people, poverty for the disabled is likely. In 2014, 18.4% of the disabled people within the working age, 16-64, experienced food poverty. Meanwhile, disabled people above the age of 65 are twice as likely to experience food poverty, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report.

The Disability Resource Centre

The Disability Resource Centre (DRC) is a nonprofit organization that helps battle poverty in the U.K. by empowering disabled people. In 1992, the Birmingham Disability Rights Group established DRC, and now, it advocates to improve the lives of disabled people across the U.K.

It is a disabled-led organization that offers a variety of services including advocacy, life skills development, employment and training opportunities, among many other services. Its mission is to give disabled people an opportunity to live out their full potential in society.

In 2019/2020, DRC served more than 3,600 people with 3,000 more people using its e-learning portal. Additionally, during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, DRC conducted 366 outreach activities to empower disabled people across the U.K.

Although disability and poverty in the U.K. are growing problems, organizations like the Disability Resource Centre are giving disabled people a voice and an opportunity to thrive in a hostile society.

– Chris Karenbauer
Photo: Flickr

Ethical Development
With the ease and opportunity of the globalized market, it is typically advantageous for companies to outsource their production to developing countries where labor is cheap. This incentivizes manufacturers in these countries to cut their production costs as much as possible in order to maintain an edge over their competitors, which they often accomplish by slashing wages and overlooking workplace safety regulations. Described as a “race to the bottom,” this competitive dynamic forces manufacturers to constantly degrade their standards of production and places a crushing burden on workers, which impedes the ethical development of many poor countries globally.

Ethical Apparel Africa

Ethical Apparel Africa (EAA) offers an alternative to this race to the bottom by presenting a responsible model of outsourced production. EAA is an apparel manufacturing and sourcing company that currently partners with five factories in Benin and Ghana. It provides partner factories with expert guidance to improve the quality, capacity and efficiency of their production process. It also connects the partner factories with clients by persuading overseas companies to outsource their manufacturing needs to West Africa.

This operation is lucrative as the EAA facilitated roughly $5 million in exports in 2021 and the EAA expects to hit $7 million in 2022. In return for this boost in output, their partner factories reinvest their profits into the community by creating jobs, paying livable wages and offering generous employee benefits.

Job Creation

As of October 2021, EAA has created more than 1,000 local jobs and aims to create 4,000 more by 2027. On average, workers in the jobs make around four times their prior income and the workers also receive numerous employee benefits ranging from nursing care and subsidized transport to performance bonuses and free lunches. The free lunches are particularly impactful as only 33% of surveyed workers ate three square meals a day before working at EAA.

As part of its approach to ethical development, EAA is also committed to employing women, who make up around 70% of its workforce. Thanks in large part to the “race to the bottom” and its effects on exploitative workplace practices, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that roughly 25 million people around the world are subject to forced labor. The practices disproportionately affect women and women make up 71% of forced laborers. Beyond the obvious moral objections to this modern slavery, promoting gender equality in employment is key for the region’s sustainable growth. Research shows that it equates with greater productivity, higher levels of economic resilience and more equitable distribution of incomes.

Why Africa?

There are several reasons why West Africa is a solid economic investment, and EAA’s model of ethical development shows how to utilize these advantages rather than exploit them.

  1. Duty-Free Access to the U.S. and Europe – Since the implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act in 2000, Africa has had duty-free access to the U.S. market, which gives it a 15% to 30% advantage in shipping costs over other foreign exporters. Africa also has duty-free access to the EU market thanks to its Everything But Arms initiative, through which it receives a similar edge over most other exporters.
  2. Strong Workforce – Africa will likely experience massive population growth over the next several decades. With the population expected to double by 2050, labor will be abundantly available. By investing in the region now, EAA is building long-term relationships with the emerging powerhouse of Africa’s workforce.
  3. Raw Material Potential – West Africa is the sixth largest regional producer of cotton in the world and exports more than four times as much cotton as East Africa. However, it currently exports 95% of this cotton in its raw form. Manufacturers including the EAA have the opportunity to invest in spinning and weaving capacities in order to boost this export value and redistribute it within the region.
  4. Longevity – Ghana has a long history of economic and political stability, which ensures the dependable utilization of any economic value that EAA generates. The West African middle class is also growing rapidly, which represents a promising supply of human capital and a potential consumer market.

These reasons mean that West Africa will likely become a major producer of international goods in the next several decades. EAA’s work in West Africa provides a model of equitable production that can help manage this expected growth in a responsible manner. By guaranteeing satisfactory wages and working conditions, their manufacturers are alleviating poverty and laying the groundwork for the region’s ethical development.

Jack Leist
Photo: Flickr

PSRD: Dedicated to Fighting Poverty Among the Specially Abled
Anyone, at any time and anywhere, can fall victim to poverty. However, some factors exist that put some individuals more at risk than others, and disabilities increase the likelihood of families living in poverty. In 2019, 25.9% of disabled people in the United States lived in poverty, more than double the rate for those without disabilities. The specially-abled face higher barriers when trying to find success in their lives and become financially stable. The connection between unemployment and disability remains serious: “half of all working age adults who experience at least one year of poverty have a disability.” In Pakistan, a country where the poverty rate is 5.4%, poverty amongst the specially-abled is significantly higher.

Physical Barriers and Poverty

  1. Health care: One reason for the physically challenged to fall into a state of poverty in Pakistan is the lack of adequate health care. Persons with disabilities are more likely to need extra resources and different types of treatment that are not easily accessible. Health care disparities arise due to societal stigma and a lack of policy changes to provide care that appropriately meets the needs of the specially-abled. There are relatively few advocates in Pakistan who are actively trying to open up more health care options for persons with disabilities. Such environments make it more difficult for poverty-stricken and physically challenged individuals in Pakistan to seek health care.
  2. Employment: The most significant cause of poverty among people with disabilities is the lack of employment opportunities they have. Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2011. Pakistani law mandates 2% of hired employees in Pakistani institutions need to be specially-abled individuals, but this law is not always put into practice. For example, a study shows that government departments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province in Pakistan, are not meeting the 2% requirement.
  3. Education: Finally, a lack of education is a risk factor for poverty as it prohibits individuals from reaching a level of financial stability. It was found that, while education is accessible for many specially-abled children, rates of actual literacy remain low. More specifically, literacy rates for children with disabilities were much lower than those of their non-disabled peers. Regardless of socioeconomic status and family background, physically challenged students are not receiving the level of education necessary to reach the same standards of comprehension.

PSRD’s Solution

Evidently, many factors lead to the presence of poverty amongst the specially abled. The Pakistan Society for the Rehabilitation of the Differently Abled (PSRD) is a nonprofit organization working to bring specially-abled people out of poverty by focusing on health care, employment and education. Based in Lahore, Pakistan, the organization has worked with the population through the following programs:

  1. Vocational Rehabilitation Center: PSRD allows poverty-stricken and differently-abled individuals to maximize vocational skills. With an aim to eradicate the employment difficulties its students face, the center provides loans to jumpstart businesses. Those who receive help are better able to provide for themselves by becoming entrepreneurs and selling their own, handmade products. With their businesses, beneficiaries of the center are more capable of acquiring their own income and successfully support themselves.
  2. PSRD Hospital: In an effort to make health care more accessible for the specially abled, PSRD’s 100-bed orthopedic hospital is one of the largest in Pakistan. It provides specialized services for the needs of those facing physical barriers. The hospital does not refuse any patients and patients receive services at low or no cost depending on their situation.
  3. Orthotic and Prosthetic Center: With limited access to affordable resources, many physically challenged individuals are unable to obtain prosthetics and artificial limbs that ease their day-to-day lives and open up more employment options. PSRD creates customized prosthetics and approximately 3,900 patients have benefited from the center.
  4. PSRD High School: Education plays a large part in the road to employment and a successful future. By focusing on youth who are specially-abled, PSRD hopes to ignite the talent of all students so that they can lead better lives. The school also serves the needs of each of its students by providing therapy programs and making classes accessible for the most underprivileged children. The high school’s ultimate goal is to release the potential in each student and better “integrate” students into society.

People with physical disabilities are far more likely to face poverty than their non-physically disabled counterparts. With health care disabilities, limited employment options and lower high education rates, poverty may be inevitable for many specially-abled individuals. Organizations such as PSRD in Pakistan are working to empower differently-abled persons and provide them with the resources needed to persevere through their challenges and reach their goals. PSRD works to dismantle poverty amongst the specially-abled in Pakistan.

– Mariam Kazmi
Photo: Unsplash