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

Recycling Efforts in ScotlandAs of March 2021, Scotland has provided £70 million, or $97,466,250 USD, to the new Recycling Improvement Fund. This will improve recycling efforts in Scotland and the world. Recycling can shield off climate change, help the environment and alleviate poverty, so funding will make a notable difference.

How Scotland Will Use the Funds

Across the country, local authorities are receiving encouragement to create ways to make recycling possible for their communities. Examples include advocating for waste prevention and reuse, fixing damaged reusables, establishing a routine for collecting, accessing the proper recycling means for items like electronics and using low-carbon equipment.

Roseanna Cunningham is Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform. She is fighting for each household’s right to make their own choices in the environment. Cunningham claims the fund will ensure that communities will have equal access to recycling if they choose to do so. Local authorities have recently voiced their opinions on ways to improve recycling infrastructure and ways to involve the communities. This is where the NGO Zero Waste Scotland comes in. This organization manages their applications, assesses their ideas and makes contracts. If an idea undergoes improvement, the fund will go towards supplying local authorities’ plans.

Motivation for Recycling Efforts in Scotland

Cunningham has stated that it is in Scotland’s best interests for society to focus on a circular economy founded on green-based job opportunities. In other words, the country will reuse waste as long as possible to preserve resources, but there should also be more local jobs with missions to preserve the environment. The country hopes to become a leading example to the world in time for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November 2021. Many other leaders from Zero Waste Scotland have also voiced their excitement about the positive impact the funds will have on the economy. Even private sectors are becoming involved.

Scotland has the goal of increasing the recycling rate to 70% by 2025. In 2018, carbon emissions related to waste dropped by around 11%. In 2019, 1.1 million tonnes did not enter the landfill when 45% of households recycled. Also that year, local figures did something to improve recycling, resulting in a 17% to 68% rate increase. Scotland is ensuring the Recycling Improvement Fund will up these percentages.

How Recycling Efforts in Scotland Alleviate Poverty

Quality of life would improve for those without equal access to recycling because of green-based employment and education. Further, communities achieve social development when they learned about preserving their resources for as long as possible. One day, the earth’s resources will run out depending on the consumption rate. The prolonging of the use of the things that people use daily, like plastic, metal and paper, can keep poverty at bay.

As of March 2021, Scotland’s unemployment rate was 4.4%, slightly less than last year’s 4.7%. More recycling efforts could lead to more employment as well, through green-based jobsMore than windmills and turbines, types of green-based jobs consist of teachers, caretakers, bike couriers, solar energy installers, transportation services and overall services that benefit communities. Further, preventing contamination of rivers and land from trash recyclables solves a number of problems when it comes to drinking water, soil for crops, carbon emission and water pollution. This also addresses environmental hazards.

To involve the public in recycling, there are door-to-door recycling pickups, which offer money in exchange for recyclables. In conclusion, Scotland’s new program will prove to rely on the citizens to make the ultimate difference. As protecting the environment becomes a priority, so does poverty.

Selena Soto
Photo: Flickr

Self-Employed Women in IndiaIn early April 2021, India experienced a surge of COVID-19 cases that has left devastating impacts on the economy. According to ReliefWeb, on May 19, 2021, “India set a global record of 4,529 COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours.” The economic consequences of COVID-19 disproportionately impact vulnerable populations such as self-employed women in India. On June 10, 2021, in a desperate call for help, the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) expressed to the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security the financial hardship that its members are facing.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Informal Workers

The COVID-19 pandemic has been harmful to the entire Indian economy, but female informal workers are bearing the brunt of it. These workers rely on public transportation to commute to work, such as buses and trains, but these modes of transport were shut down during the pandemic. Additionally, many self-employed workers are street vendors, a form of work that has also been barred. The May 2021 Cyclone Tauktae in Gujarat, India, exacerbated all these issues. About 8,000 female workers “in the salt farming industry lost the opportunity to sell 600-700 tons of harvested salt because it was swept away when Cyclone Tauktae struck.”

Due to these compounded issues, already impoverished women are unable to work, a consequence that comes with serious financial repercussions. SEWA surveyed many members who must now cut back on their food consumption and medicinal needs because they simply cannot afford it. These are issues that members of SEWA face along with most other self-employed workers across India.

However, the situation is particularly difficult for female workers due to a long-standing culture of gender bias in India. Women are far more likely to have lower-paying and less secure jobs than men. When India first started recovering from the pandemic in late 2020, the return to employment of males took first priority. Thus, self-employed women in India experience a disproportionate rate of pandemic-induced poverty in comparison to their male counterparts.

SEWA Takes Action

According to SEWA leaders, India is grappling with widespread misinformation and fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, especially in the rural regions of India. Currently, the organization is taking four main steps to combat COVID-19 in India:

  1. Encouraging people with symptoms to test for COVID-19.
  2. Urging community members to wear masks and educating people on other public health guidelines.
  3. Advocating for COVID-19 vaccination by building community trust.
  4. Prioritizing emergency support to women whose livelihoods took a hit due to “COVID-19 restrictions and the destruction of Cyclone Tauktae.”

In late June and early July 2021, SEWA distributed 1.2 million masks in urban regions and 1.5 million masks in rural regions of India. SEWA aims to provide “health kits, food packets, medicine and financial relief to workers who have lost all sources of income as a result of lockdowns or natural disaster.” Further, SEWA is transforming its offices into temporary “COVID-19 patient care centers” to ease the strain on India’s healthcare system.

One major success for women in India overall is the election of Mamata Banerjee as the chief minister of the West Bengal state government. Banerjee’s commitments “include 250 welfare programs,” many of which will support women and mothers specifically. For instance, Banerjee will mobilize “conditional cash transfers to mothers for their daughters’ education.”

A Call for Action

In order to provide ongoing assistance to self-employed women in India, SEWA requires national and international support. SEWA appeals for support in the form of donations of masks, sanitizers, personal protective equipment and medical supplies as well as monetary donations.

SEWA also welcomes support for the alternative markets that have risen in popularity during the pandemic, such as making face masks, producing sanitizer and selling pre-packaged meals for deliveries. The World Economic Forum puts forth further suggestions, such as providing digital tools and training to help informal workers succeed in changing times. For example, “connecting farmers with consumers of their vegetables in local cities via WhatsApp.”

With support from organizations and the public, during unprecedented times like these, self-employed women in India will be able to rise out of poverty with the ability to thrive and not simply just survive.

Jessica Li
Photo: Flickr

3 Groups Creating Jobs in Underdeveloped CountriesPoor infrastructure and lack of job opportunities are among the top reasons that underdeveloped countries remain in poverty. Creating jobs in underdeveloped countries is key to achieving developmental goals and providing economic and political stability that can help many developing countries out of destitution. Furthermore, jobs provide income, independence and choice to individuals. It is for these reasons that creating jobs in underdeveloped countries can improve conditions and help in eliminating hunger and poverty. Creating new job opportunities can also help advance gender equality and many other pending societal issues.  In September 2015, many organizations came together to establish the U.N. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which recognized the importance and impact of jobs on these economies. Since then, corporations and organizations have been launching efforts to try and reduce global poverty by creating more jobs in developing countries.

3 Groups Creating Jobs in Underdeveloped Countries

  1. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC): This U.S.-based finance development organization has long created jobs in underdeveloped countries that have boosted countries’ economies. OPIC has supported major infrastructure projects such as airports and hospitals, which have created many construction jobs. It also has provided and allocated financial resources to entrepreneurs in developing countries. These resources give entrepreneurs the means to start and grow their businesses, which will, in turn, produce more jobs. In 2019, OPIC merged with the Development Credit Authority, which was a part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to form the Development Finance Corporation (DFC). The DFC partners with the private sector to invest in energy, healthcare and technology initiatives, as well as infrastructure and jobs.
  2. The World Bank: The international organization works to reach goals in the employment sector by launching efforts to improve financial access, provide financial training and build more robust infrastructures for lacking governments. Due to the World Bank’s international efforts, countries are recognizing the top challenges they face using job diagnostics. After evaluating data, governments can focus on more pressing socioeconomic issues. This will create jobs that benefit people in need and give them more economic stability. The World Bank counsels governments to invest in transportation, information and communications to connect more people to job markets. Finally, the World Bank is responsible for developing programs that promote entrepreneurship in small-and-medium-sized businesses.
  3. Mother’s Service Society (MSS): Founded in 1970, MSS is a social science research institute in Pondicherry, India, that leads research and conferences on subjects from global leadership to economic theory. MSS research projects and conferences develop action plans to increase employment and create jobs in developing nations. These plans detail multiple factors that, when combined, generate employment and boost the economies of these countries. According to MSS, the Newly Industrializing Economies (NIEs) in East Asia have demonstrated that more comprehensive strategies for job generation have yielded the most progress. More comprehensive strategies for job generation can include ideas such as having more of an emphasis on agriculture, promoting small businesses, improve marketing efforts, develop exports and employment planning.

More Strategies

Besides the great work of these groups, other comprehensive strategies for creating jobs in underdeveloped countries include extending basic education, improving higher education, raising productivity and upgrading the skill level of workers. By implementing these strategies, economies can close socioeconomic gaps, join the global market and create more job opportunities.

– Annamarie Perez
Photo: Flickr 

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in TurkeyAfter the 2018 currency crisis impeded Turkey’s downward trend in poverty, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented another major setback for the country’s poverty reduction goals. When Turkey suffered its first wave of the pandemic, the country lost 2.6 million jobs, which made up 9.2% of total employment. Populations living above the poverty line, but with high vulnerabilities to economic insecurity, have endured the brunt of these job losses, accounting for six out of 10 of the job losses. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Turkey has been severe as COVID-19 disproportionately impacts the impoverished.

The Economic Impacts of COVID-19

The short-term effects of the pandemic on limiting job prospects and on low-income families are immense. In a survey conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), more than seven out of 10 respondents from Turkey said they are “concerned” or “very concerned” about their ability to make ends meet in the short term.

Further, the fear of job insecurity has reached a high in the country. In September 2020, a record 1.4 million people were too discouraged to search for work, up nearly threefold from the previous year. A poll by Istanbul Economics Research found that nearly half of those with jobs were “very afraid” of losing them by winter.

A notable rise in the prices of basic goods and services has also added to the concern of low-income families. Items such as bread and cereals, unprocessed foods and transportation rose by 16.3%, 19.8% and 14.7% respectively.

The true extent of the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Turkey may be much more than first anticipated. Turkey’s official unemployment rate hovered at 12% to 13% during the pandemic. However, alternative calculation methods, which consider those who stopped actively looking for jobs out of despair or due to COVID-19 restrictions, claim a 40% unemployment rate.

COVID-19 Impacts Informal Workers and Working Women

Another impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Turkey is the disproportionate impact on certain segments of the low-income population compared to other segments. The pandemic has resulted in a bulk of job losses for informal and lower-skilled workers. At the peak of the pandemic, informal workers suffered a -0.25% change in year-on-year employment, more than five times what formal workers have endured.

In addition, female workers were three times more likely to become unemployed during the pandemic compared to their male counterparts. This is especially due to Turkish female workers’ higher concentration in jobs that lockdown measures highly affect, such as hospitality, food and tourism.

Recovery Strategies and Results

Turkey’s government swiftly and decisively implemented notable mitigation policies to deal with the crisis, which consisted of increased unemployment insurance benefits, social transfers and unpaid leave subsidies amounting to a welfare shield of about $6.2 billion.

Without these mitigation policies, projections determine that the rise in poverty could have been three times higher. These mitigation policies fostered a significant job recovery in the country. As of September 2020, the country has regained 72% of the lost jobs with the help of the Unemployment Insurance Fund, which contributed monthly allowances to approximately five million laid-off employees.

Room for Improvement

Despite the government’s efforts to minimize poverty stemming from the pandemic, there is room for the government to do more to overcome the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Turkey. While the relief packages of similar countries have reached up to 9% of their GDPs, Turkey’s total relief packages have amounted to less than 1% of its estimated GDP in 2020.

Increased comprehensive government intervention to deal with the rise in poverty is an idea that appears to resonate well with the public. About 80% of Turkey’s citizens think the government should be doing “more” or “much more” to ensure their “economic and social security and well-being.”

Greater investments by the Turkish government, as well as the short-term and long-term development of more comprehensive social safety nets, would mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Turkey. Additionally, upskilling, training and other active labor interventions by the Turkish Employment Agency (ISKUR) could be key in closing the worker gaps that the pandemic has widened.

– Gabriel Sylvan
Photo: Flickr

Addressing Autism in Hong Kong
Of every 100,000 children in Hong Kong, 372 suffer from autism. Autism Spectrum Disorder or autism affects an individual’s nervous system and causes developmental delays. This condition varies in severity in each case, and symptoms mostly consist of recurring body movements, odd fascination towards certain things and trouble speaking and interacting with others. Left unattended, autism in adulthood often results in loss of employment and difficulty focusing in school. The Aoi Pui School, Autism Partnership and Heep Hong Society are all addressing autism in Hong Kong and improving lives by helping children integrate into ordinary schools and teaching vital work skills.

Aoi Pui School

Researchers who wanted to provide quality education to children with autism in Hong Kong founded Aoi Pui School (APS) in 2007. More specifically, the institution teaches fundamental work skills to its students. Every student at APS enrolls in a program that educates the children about professional competence. In the program, students learn about the importance of maintaining a positive work ethic, approaching work with enthusiasm, comprehending the responsibilities and knowing the privileges.

Autism Partnership

The Autism Partnership (AP) came to Hong Kong in 1999 and strives to offer effective treatment to children with autism. AP works towards integrating autistic children into mainstream schools and society. It offers two programs called The Buddies and i-Club to encourage autistic children to develop their social skills. The Buddies program targets first, second and third graders and educates the students on how to maintain relationships with their peers. The i-Club program focuses on children heading to middle school and teaches the children how to calm down, control their feelings, consider the point of view of others, establish relationships, respectfully play with others and start dialogues.

AP also helps children successfully join mainstream schools. First, an AP employee sets up a specific plan with the institution. Then, AP educates counselors at the school about the child’s particular case. Next, the organization checks on the success of the student and changes the child’s plan when problems arise. Lastly, the student relies less on the counselors and navigates school individually.

Heep Hong Society

Since 1963, Heep Hong Society strives to improve the lives of minors with disabilities and different backgrounds. In particular, the organization assists older autistic children in obtaining and retaining jobs. First, the Heep Hong Society gives personal guidance to each adolescent. In the one-on-one discussions, the organization discovers the young adult’s passions, talents and attributes to help connect the students with dream jobs and assist them in issues regarding socialization, studying and employment. Also, the Heep Hong Society works with local companies to secure jobs and scholarships for its students.

Conclusion

All in all, Aoi Pui School, Autism Partnership and Heep Hong Society strive to help children with autism in Hong Kong enroll in mainstream schools and obtain employment. With the help of these organizations, autistic youth can retain independence and live above the poverty line.

– Samantha Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty In Singapore
In Singapore, elderly people from the age of 65 and up formed 15.5% of the country’s total population, ranking among the most rapidly aging communities in Asia besides Japan. This has been due to the improved healthcare system and living standards that have significantly decreased the mortality rates over time. Research shows that between 2012 and 2015, poverty in Singapore increased by 43.45%. Poverty levels among the old age population increased by 74.32% in the same period. The increase in the elderly population has increased dependency on the working-age population, with most having to return to work after retiring. Here are four reasons for the increase in elderly poverty in Singapore.

Lack of Government Foresight

Singapore developed rapidly over the last few decades, however, studies indicate that only a proportion of the population enjoys wealth. In 2013, the government reported that 105,000 households experienced poverty, which was one in 10 families.

During its planning, the government lacked foresight resulting in it failing to consider some important factors. These factors include longer lifespans of the elderly, the fact that savings from their years of labor would depreciate annually and the fact that they have varying education levels due to not always being able to access formal education. Poor communication skills, high medical costs and inefficient government support programs are some of the reasons that contribute to increasing elderly poverty in Singapore.

Lack of Efficacy

Government support is key to alleviating poverty in many countries. Singapore’s government has put in place programs to assist the poor, such as ComCare, a short to medium-term assistance scheme. However, the lack of education and confusion around the processes and criteria of this program frequently discourages the elderly from applying for the help they need. Citizens aged 55 and over included only 35% of applicants of ComCare in 2015, even though the elderly make up a large portion of Singapore’s impoverished. Moreover, high medical care costs due to age issues may also deplete the assistance provided—retirement income adequacy declines due to decreased social security benefits and less income from pension benefits.

Lack of Financial Planning

Financial planning among individuals is also to blame for the skyrocketing levels of elderly poverty. Insufficiency in funds to live a complete life due to poor personal decisions, such as engagement in drugs or refusing to relocate for employment, is a frequent cause of this. As such, inadequate financial resources and the poor management of these resources are the root cause of financial adversities.

Most older adults in Singapore are poor due to forced retirement. The statutory age of retirement is 62. Many employers also coerce elderly employees into early retirements to avoid higher taxes and expenses. This leaves little notice for a lot of elderly Singaporeans to save at an earlier stage. Additionally, financial education does not receive priority, leaving many in Singapore vulnerable to avoidable mistakes.

Changes in family structures and lifestyles coupled with the increased costs of living have also increased the levels of elderly poverty. Therefore, this has necessitated good financial planning, necessary at a younger age for better old age.

Lack of Training

The elderly lack the communication skills required for positions in the service industry. Singaporean language policy, which eliminates other Chinese dialects except for Mandarin, marginalizes the old since most of them can only communicate in Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese. Therefore, positions in customer service or as receptionists are consequently out of reach for many leaving only the option of manual labor.

A lack of communication skills can also affect an individual’s social mobility, as limited communication can make upgrading skills for the purpose of improving one’s job a tall order. The government provides language courses, but it does not tailor the courses to the illiterate, who would instead use their time to generate income. Overall elderly poverty further ties to other factors such as health, education and job opportunities, which also constitute the determinants of socio-economic state in old age.

The Tsao Foundation

During its developmental stages, Singapore did not adequately spend on welfare and social policies, spending more on its pursuit for economic development. However, NGOs exist that are providing long-term solutions to elderly poverty in Singapore. An example of this is the Tsao Foundation. For 28 years, it has developed training and financial education opportunities, as well as community-based elderly care to help transform the aging experience in Singapore. The Foundation was even able to continue its mission remotely through COVID-19 through its pre-existing online Expert Series, allowing people to continue their education throughout the pandemic. The Tsao Foundation aims to help shape an inclusive society that promotes intergenerational solidarity, benefiting everyone involved.

It is important to prioritize education and to create opportunities throughout every generation. Through the efforts of the Tsao Foundation, the intent is that elderly poverty in Singapore will not continue.

– Simran Pasricha
Photo: Flickr

Cuba's Private Sector
A couple of days after the closing of the Cuban border, 16,000 private workers, upon sensing danger, requested the labor ministry suspend their licenses so they could avoid paying taxes. That number rose to 119,000, 19% of the private workforce, in a few more days and threatened to annihilate the Cuban economy. The implementation of the global travel restrictions had a devasting impact on the country’s tourism sector, which is the second-largest revenue generator for the island nation. As a result, selective private businesses took a massive hit and the government lost a crucial foundation for foreign exchange. By December 2020, Cuban tourism had fallen by 16.5%, followed by an 11% drop in the country’s GDP. Worried by the lingering economic collapse, the government began opening Cuba’s private sector, providing Cubans with self-employment opportunities and allowing them to operate businesses in added sectors.

What Did the Government Do?

Previously, the communist-led government allowed Cubans to participate in merely 127 officially approved private sector activities. Some of the legalized activities included working as a barber, working in gastronomy or transportation or renting rooms to tourists. To expand the private sector, the government eliminated the previous list of 127 activities. Instead, it created a new list of 124 jobs prohibited in the private sector. The rest of the 2,000 legal activities, which the government recognized, will be open to Cubans. In the past, state-owned businesses have always dominated the Cuban economy. However, the private sector has managed to make a mark over recent years. Presently, 635,000 people occupy the private sector, which is roughly 14% of the Cuban workforce. The introduction of the long-awaited economic reform might increase diversification in the private sector and could spur economic growth for Cuba.

The Effects on Cuba and its People

The economic reform will allow Cubans to partake in additional economic activities. It will help eradicate bureaucracy in the governmental arrangements, as the Cubans will no longer have to manipulate their business documentations to fall under the list of legalized activities. Now, they only have to confirm that they are not running any business from the list of prohibited activities.

Further, the liberalization of the private sector will bring about a change in the career patterns of Cubans. Previously, apart from the underpaid state-run jobs, the only other viable option for Cubans were low-skilled jobs. Now, Cubans will have countless other opportunities in technical fields like engineering and economics. Still, professional fields like medicine, law and teaching could open to state employees only. Additionally, the opening of the private sector will increase employment opportunities, which will rapidly develop the private sector. Private business owners currently make up 13% of Cuba’s workforce. This number will spike due to the relaxation of the private sector.

The Future of Cuba’s Economy

Ricardo Torres, a pro-reform economist at the University of Havana’s Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy, stated that the opening up of Cuba’s private sector will diversify jobs and boost the GDP. This, in turn, triggered a shift in economic arrangements in Cuba. But the chances of the private sector dominating the economy soon are bleak, mainly due to the political settings of Cuba. Therefore, expectations have determined that state-owned businesses will direct the economy. Rather than rushing into free-market forces, the Cuban government must seek inspiration from other countries and establish a solid institutional framework. Several European states, the U.S., Japan and other East Asian countries have proved that by focusing on macro and microeconomic policies and planning and investing in citizens, an economic upliftment should be possible.

Cuba’s Relationship with the US

The economy was booming under the Barack Obama Administration. Things, however, took a turn when former President Donald Trump overturned Obama’s agreement to ease travel restrictions on Cuba. Donald Trump also ended the U.S. cruise travel to Cuba, disallowed many Cuban Americans to send remittances back home, pressured a U.S.-run hotel out of Cuba, forced countries not to hire Cuban doctors and nurses during the pandemic and re-enlisted Cuba on the list of countries that sponsor state terrorism. Cuban businesses suffered a great deal due to this. The labor reform could not have been timelier for the Cuban government as it could present a sturdy case for amendments in the U.S. policy.

One of Obama’s main objectives was to expand the private sector in Cuba. Therefore, on the back of the opening of the private sector and the appointment of Joe Biden as President, the Cuban government can look to persuade the U.S. to consider a policy reform. Although Cuban had to wait a long time for labor reform, it is crucial to mend unemployment rates, boost the GDP and restore Cuba’s unsteady economy through Cuba’s private sector.

– Prathamesh Mantri
Photo: Flickr

Diamantes Na Cozinha
Joao Diamante, a Brazilian chef who trained in Paris under world-renowned chef Alain Duccard, decided to go back home to Rio de Janeiro, a large city in Brazil. In 2016, he began his social project Diamantes Na Cozinha (Diamonds in the Kitchen) in Rio de Janeiro. This project has received a lot of attention from national and international press due to its unique and philanthropic vision.

Who is Joao Diamante?

Diamante himself benefited from social programs in Bahia, Brazil when he was a teenager. His experiences eventually helped him become a chef overseas. Because of his belief in these youth programs, he decided to fund his own. Diamantes Na Cozinha creates cooking, nutrition and hospitality workshops for young people in vulnerable situations living in favelas in Rio de Janeiro. Favelas are low-income neighborhoods in Brazil.

Diamante himself lost a dear friend due to the violence taking place in the favelas, and he believes that teenagers must receive protection from organized crime and drug addiction. Unfortunately, addiction and crime are all too common in these impoverished populations.

About the Workshops

Kids as young as 16 enroll in the courses through Diamantes Na Cozinha, resulting in them learning skills that can land them a job later on. But, the program is also to help kids find their purpose in life. It distracts them from the harsh realities of living in a favela. Through this, Diamante is not only helping individuals emerge from impoverished situations, but also propelling the Brazilian economy.

Diamante currently teaches various courses. Each course contains up to 25 students who can sign up free of charge. There is a wide variety of courses such as hospitality, high cuisine, food anthropology and cocktail-making. During training, students have the opportunity to serve at catering events. This serves not only as an opportunity for students to receive an evaluation but also as a means for them to start making an income. When training is over, Diamante selects his best students to work a the Na Minha Casa restaurant permanently.

Currently, the Diamantes Na Cozinha headquarters includes an archive with more than 200 volumes, a fully equipped kitchen and a media library. The project has gathered international attention, most notoriously in its feature in the Netflix food show “Feed Phil,” where the host visited Diamantes Na Cozinha and presented the foundation’s story. Through this and many other features, the project has gained momentum and donations from businesses and individuals alike.

“We use Gastronomy as a tool for social and professional transformation,” said Diamante. “We don’t just want good professionals, we want our students to evolve as human beings.”

– Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Gender Poverty in Japan
Despite its economically advanced status, Japanese society continues to struggle with lessening the gender gap for women. Gender poverty in Japan has become a major concern. Experts predict poverty rates for elderly women will double or triple in the next 40 years. Governmental leadership is well aware of the need to enact policies to address issues of poverty. However, it has been slow to implement changes.

5 Facts About Gender Poverty in Japan

  1. High Employment Rates, Low Wages: Overall, female employment has risen to 71% in recent years. However, Japanese mothers work in part-time jobs that cap out at relatively low salaries compared to full-time careers. Japanese women in the workforce also earn nearly 30% less than men.
  2. Higher Expectations of Unpaid Work: On average, women in Japan participate in 224 minutes of unpaid work per day while their male counterparts only participate in 41 minutes. This amount of unpaid work time for men is the lowest among countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
  3. Child Custody Falls on Women: In cases of divorce, many primarily expect women to take custody of their children. Taking a break from the workforce or maintaining long-term, low-paying part-time work makes it difficult for women in Japan to access higher-paying jobs in addition to providing childcare that Japanese people typically do not expect of men.
  4. High Rates of Poverty for Single-Parent Families: The rate of poverty for single-parent families is an alarming 56% which is the highest among OECD countries. COVID-19 has presented additional challenges as a majority of job cuts in the early stages of the pandemic were part-time jobs predominantly employing women, including single mothers.
  5. Lack of Access to Leadership Positions: Women hold only 15% of senior and leadership positions in Japan, of which their salaries are half of those of their male counterparts. Additionally, Japan has a mere 10% female representation in its parliament. The country also has not had a female head of state for 50 years.

Addressing Gender Poverty in Japan

The government under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attempted to address gender poverty in Japan under an economic plan called Womenomics. During his tenure, overall employment rates for women rose. Additionally, Abe enacted a plan to increase female leadership positions to 30% by 2020. Abe did not achieve this goal but it is still in place under new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Abe also enacted generous maternity and paternity leave reforms along with access to free early education and childcare for toddlers. Only 6% of Japanese men take advantage of paternity leave, citing workplace stigma for not doing so. Before leaving office due to health reasons, Abe enacted a wide-ranging five-year plan. He implemented this plan to address gender inequality and it has continued under his successor.

In recent years, there have been some important victories for women’s rights in Japan. In addition, there are new social movements related to the #MeToo movement. Journalist Ito Shiori won a landmark rape case against a television reporter with close ties to Abe, bringing more attention to gender-based violence and discrimination in the country.

The Japanese #MeToo movement gained more traction in 2019 when actress Yumi Ishikawa took to social media to question why her part-time job at a funeral home required her to wear high heels. This set off the #KuToo social movement which is a play on words for “shoes” and “pain” in Japanese. Although the movement has experienced some backlash from men and women in Japan, it raises important societal questions about rigid gender norms in the country and has broadened public debate about gender inequality.

Conclusion

Some are implementing efforts to address gender poverty in Japan. It is a positive sign that significantly higher numbers of women are now experiencing representation in the workforce. Moreover, a public discussion is occurring to challenge traditional gender roles and expectations.

– Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr