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

Job Opportunities in the Poorest Nations
Creating job opportunities in the poorest nations of the world is key to development while also being a significant challenge for the world. With unemployment ranging as high as over 20% in some low-income and developing countries – particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest unemployment recorded – companies and businesses around the world have been striving to increase human capital through working locally and providing employment opportunities onsite. Here is a list of four businesses creating jobs in the world’s poorest nations.

Because International

With its commitment to using production as a means of breaking “the negative cycle of poverty by creating opportunity for real, measurable, long-term economic growth,” Because International’s business model centers around the idea of aiding entrepreneurs through production. Its main product, The Shoe That Grows, is a long-lasting, expandable shoe designed for children in low-income countries. The company hires in areas that need the product the most. Local production helps sustainability and other benefits, from reduced carbon footprint and lower shipping costs to job creation.

The company has thus far created jobs on two production sites. The Umoja Company site in Kenya works on The Shoe That Grows for local markets. The Anbessa Shoe Share company, in Ethiopia, supplies shoes for international brands such as J.Crew and D.S.W. Additionally, Because International runs the Pursuit Incubator, an online support program where entrepreneurs living in poverty can gain relevant training and coaching, as well as get funding and develop their network. The Incubator has so far helped several start-ups based in Africa. Among them are Reform Africa, which makes bags from recycled plastic, Our Roots Africa, which produces plant-based and biodegradable straws and SoaPen, which provides hand soap pens for kids in low-hygiene areas.

Wonderbag

A Wonderbag is a non-electric slow cooker that allows food to cook for up to 12 hours without any additional heating. The product preserves heat and aids the cooking process. It is an easy-to-use foam insulated bag that wraps around cooking pans. This way of slow-cooking minimizes health issues by obviating the use of wood, charcoal and fuels in cooking. This common way of cooking in low-income areas is a health risk. The product also saves 13,000 hours per year. Because of this, women have more time to develop other skills. This provides an opportunity for women and girls to increase their earning potential and autonomy. As Kirsten Fenton, Wonderbag’s representative, told The Borgen Project, “Communities and their people lie at the heart of Wonderbag’s purpose.”

The company works with partnering factories and sewing collectives to provide local women with paid employment opportunities. Through organized training, teaching and guidance, Wonderbag has created community employment in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and soon Brazil. “These employment projects have been run with the support of co-operatives… [and] single mothers manufacturing Wonderbags from their home.”

MakaPads

MakaPads is an Uganda-based business producing naturally absorbent and biodegradable sanitary pads from local papyrus and paper waste. Its aim is to reduce period poverty and make sanitary products widely available for women and girls in developing countries. Its  motto is “Let’s ensure every girl has access to and can afford to buy sanitary pads.”

The company currently operates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Uganda and Sierra Leone. The average income in these countries is less than $1.25/month, yet a packet of period pads costs twice that. This inequity pushes women to use riskier products such as cloth rags, waste paper or banana leaves.

MakaPads provides training to those who wish to produce the pads themselves. CEO Nnassuuna Mirembe told The Borgen Project, “MakaPads are a Menstrual Hygiene Management product that is proudly made by over 90% women using resources from within the communities.”

The company has so far taught and employed over 200 women and men. “Maka also means home, which means several girls and women can stay at home, take care of the house chores but also make portions of the sanitary pads which they sell to the company and are paid a unit rate for each product,” explained Mirembe. This is possible due to the use of materials grown locally. These materials are easily and widely available, allowing the trained manufacturers to work from their homes and not have to bear any additional income.

One Dollar Glasses

One Dollar Glasses is a pioneering organization that produces optical glasses for those in need. The glasses are a revolutionary design. A single steel wire is the only necessary material. Additionally, the manufacturing process does not require any electricity, involves only one bending machine and costs $1 per pair. Considering how easy and accessible the production process is, the organization has managed to create more than 200 jobs in eight operating countries – Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Malawi, Myanmar and Peru – through financing relevant training and providing bending machines to those seeking employment. One Dollar Glasses also organizes its Best Spherical Correction Training to help trainees learn how to conduct eye tests and adjust glasses on patients.

These four companies have found innovative ways to create job opportunities in the poorest nations. They use sustainable techniques and are contributing to ending global poverty. Providing job opportunities in the poorest nations uplifts the entirety of the global economy. To do so in a sustainable, futuristic way is truly an accomplishment for these brands.

– Natalia Barszcz
Photo: Flickr

Creates Jobs for Women in Ethiopia
Live fasionABLE is a slogan that transcends the fashion industry. It promotes sustainable practices in creating quality products and focuses on empowering women. The shift to ethically sourced products has grown in popularity among the younger generations. ABLE is one fashion business that strives to provide jobs for women in Ethiopia, as well as internationally.

ABLE in Ethiopia

ABLE’s mission is to challenge the culture of the fashion industry by creating transformative opportunities for women. It aims to provide quality products to improve people’s livelihood in Ethiopia. Thus, the business provides many women opportunities for employment. This is one way that ABLE contributes to alleviating global poverty.

ABLE provides jobs for women in Ethiopia exiting the sex trafficking industry. Employed women manufacture scarves and aid in production. The company trains and equips women to make beautiful, cultural and quality scarves. Less than 38.8% of women held positions in the workforce globally in 2020, highlighting the need for businesses like ABLE to prioritize hiring women.

About 80% of women living in rural areas of Ethiopia work in agricultural cultivation and production and rarely receive any compensation for their work. Furthermore, fathers and husbands often place strict restrictions on women. USAID states that one in three women in Ethiopia experiences one type of physical, emotional or sexual abuse in their lifetime. Providing employment opportunities for women increases their autonomy and financial independence.

Employment Opportunities

Women who receive employment are able to provide an avenue for their children and communities to thrive through economic empowerment. According to author Ain Wright, there are five different policy approaches to closing the gender gap in Ethiopia: welfare, efficiency, anti-poverty, equity and empowerment. ABLE utilizes all five of these strategies for women that it hires.

The welfare and the efficiency approach go hand in hand. Providing women with the means to support themselves motivates and empowers them to actively support their communities. Additionally, all women receive encouragement to discover their voices through the strategy of empowerment, anti-poverty and equity.

Gender Equality

One challenge in increasing employment for women remains deeply rooted in cultural expectations and gender norms. ABLE has a commitment to creating a culture based on equality and rebuilding women’s lives. The fashion industry offers the highest number of jobs to women globally. Yet, only 2% of these women receive a fair wage. ABLE posts its wages on its website for the public to see, allowing consumers to understand the importance of their purchase.

As ABLE grew, it expanded its network to provide jobs for women in Ethiopia, Mexico, India, Brazil and Nashville, U.S. The company partners with local communities to assist in developing individual economies rather than developing itself into a major fashion corporation. ABLE also believes that telling people’s stories affects consumer awareness. Women with employment there created a podcast to tell their stories of strength and hopes for the future. The podcast and products continue to build consumer awareness, alleviate poverty and empower women.

ABLE is making great strides to grow as a company and maintains its role as an ethically sourced fashion brand. Its efforts have created more jobs for women in Ethiopia, empowering them their families and their communities. Moving forward, it is essential that other fashion companies shift to sustainable and ethical practices.

– Kate Lucht
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Algeria
Algeria is the largest country in Africa and about 5.5% of its population lived in poverty as of 2011. Surprisingly, about 75% of those in poverty live in urban areas. They typically make a living from informal jobs such as selling services, foods and goods outside of government regulation. Additionally, many Sahrawi refugees live in camps in Algeria’s Tindouf province. Poverty and Sub-Saharan migration create vulnerability to human trafficking in Algeria.

According to the U.S. State Department’s 2020 report, Algeria is in tier three for combating human trafficking. The Trafficking in Persons Report places countries in one of four tiers depending on their progress in preventing human trafficking. This report measures a country’s efforts in creating laws and penalties against human trafficking. Furthermore, it analyzes measures a country takes to identify and protect victims of human trafficking. This overview of human trafficking in Algeria shows the problems the nation faces and the progress it has made to prevent it.

Progress in Algeria

Algeria has not made significant progress to eliminate human trafficking within its borders. It only dismantled 100 smuggling groups and identified and helped 34 victims in 2019. Furthermore, the Algerian government prosecuted fewer human traffickers in 2020. As a result, the government is protecting fewer victims of human trafficking.

Vulnerability to Human Trafficking

Refugees, asylum seekers and sex workers from sub-Saharan Africa are most vulnerable to human trafficking in Algeria. According to Human Rights Watch, Algeria deported thousands of African migrants and asylum seekers. However, the U.S. State Department said that these deportation efforts may deter reports of human trafficking for fear of experiencing deportation.

Prosecuting Traffickers

A demonstration of force must be present in order to charge people with child sex trafficking in Algeria. This law makes it difficult to prosecute many human traffickers. As a result, Algeria has prosecuted fewer traffickers in 2020 than in previous years. Additionally, human traffickers may face up to 20 years in prison or have to pay fines up to $8,420.

The General Directorate of National Security has maintained 10 police brigades for combatting human trafficking in Algeria. As a result, Algeria only prosecuted 13 traffickers in 2019. Unfortunately, the Algerian government did not report how many alleged trafficking cases it investigated in 2020.

Protecting Trafficking Victims

Up until 2019, Algeria lacked effective ways to identify and protect victims of human trafficking. Unidentified victims underwent deportation or punishment for their illegal actions rather than receiving assistance. Algeria provides free services to trafficking victims to increase identification. However, people often underutilize these free services. Moreover, the government does not report how many resources are provided for victims.

Hope for Algeria

Algeria is working with the United Nations on Drugs and Crime to train and educate magistrates to better prosecute human traffickers. These workshops train them in identifying and assisting victims of trafficking. For example, these workshops hold mock trials for Algerian magistrates to practice human trafficking and smuggling cases.

Furthermore, the Danish Refugee Council is a nonprofit that helps Sahrawi refugees in Algeria. Its training programs on self-reliance have assisted over 200,000 refugees. The organization provides refugees with skill and job training, legal services and shelter. Its services have successfully prevented many human trafficking incidences.

Support from these organizations and aid from the Algerian government has made substantial improvements aiding victims of human trafficking. Although Algeria has much to do, it will hopefully return to tier two on the Trafficking in Person Report in 2021.

– Gerardo Valladares
Photo: Flickr

Serbia's Technology Industry
Serbia’s technology industry is growing, and recently it received a ranking of the 40th globally in exporting software. The growth of this sector has improved the country’s economy. Additionally, students receive encouragement to participate in higher education, especially in computer sciences and engineering. The hope is that an increase of startup companies in the technology sector will continue to stimulate local economies and boost Serbia’s position globally.

Employment in Serbia

In 2018, Serbia had an unemployment rate of 14.8%, an increase from the past years. Furthermore, in 2016, the Serbian Statistical Office recorded a total youth unemployment rate of 44.2%. One of the reasons for these high rates is the education system. Despite having nearly a 90% graduation rate from high school, Serbia’s education does not provide the workforce with the proper tools to meet its economic needs.

These factors led to the National Employment Action Plan for 2020, which concentrated on youth employment and workers with lower educational levels. However, Serbia’s technology sector requires a significant number of highly skilled and educated professionals to further technological advances through knowledge and inventions. Since this sector is the most important in the country, the government is currently focusing on higher education in Serbia to produce more highly skilled workers, specifically software engineers.

The Education System

To support Serbia’s technology sector, the government has dedicated nearly $80 million to science and technology centers. Additionally, it plans to provide schools in Serbia with almost $85 million in funding for better internet connections and equipment such as computers and software.

The education system has already received credit for producing many software engineers in Serbia. Children start programming early, with computer science classes starting in fifth grade and continuing into high school. Also, students who wish to pursue an education in STEM have the opportunity to attend one of the 80 high schools in Serbia that specialize in computer science and electrical engineering. Every year, more than 3,300 software engineering students graduate from colleges in the country, and the number of graduates is increasing every year.

In 2019, Serbia’s economy grew by more than 4% but stagnated in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. Serbia’s technology industry had more than 2,000 firms in 2017, a large increase from 700 in 2006. Furthermore, the industry revenue nearly doubled during that period. Google has started supporting Serbia by using its Google Developer Launchpad, which helps technology communities and startups in countries aiming to develop further.

Serbian Startups

Nordeus, a self-funded game developer, began in Belgrade, Serbia. Soon after, the company gained recognition for producing one of the most popular online sports games, which took in a yearly amount of $75 million. In addition, the startup Seven Bridge Genomics has raised more than $100 million and is bringing together scientists who research on finding therapies in order to cure cancers. The company employs the largest number of bioinformaticians in the world within the private sector. Additionally, the crowd-funded startup Strawberry Energy invented smart benches which provide Wi-Fi as well as outlets to charge your phone. Strawberry Energy started with benches in Belgrade but has already expanded into 17 countries.

Serbia’s technology industry has the potential to fight the country’s economic stagnation. Therefore, the government is supporting the technology and startup community with investments and improvements in the education system. Due to these measures, Serbia hopes to see a rise in employment and economic growth rates, hoping to lift people out of poverty in the country.

– Sarah Kirchner
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