Syrian Refugees in GermanyWhat began as a peaceful political uprising in 2011 has become one of the most devastating on-going civil wars of the 21st century. The war has contributed to the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, leaving Syrian refugees in Germany hopeful for improved living conditions. The Syrian Civil War has not only devastated the country and its people but also neighboring nations, creating a regional disruption.

Syria’s fall is a global failure, and the consequences the war has brought with it have been difficult for other countries to manage. The Syrian Civil War forced countries to establish new policies to address the influx of Syrian refugees. Syrians have been escaping the bombings and repression since the outbreak of the war in 2011. However, in 2015, Europe was under more pressure when over one million refugees arrived through dangerous sea travel. Some Member States have closed their borders, and others have implemented new welcoming policies.

Current Living Conditions

Angela Merkel’s Germany welcomed thousands of Syrian refugees with its open door policy. German crowds awaited the arrival of Syrian refugees in Munich from Austria in 2015. However, today this enthusiasm contends with the rise of populism and right wing parties, affecting the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Germany. Amidst refugee settlement, anti-immigration views have become more and more popular among Germans. This forces the government to desperately establish effective integration policies to reduce tensions.

The living conditions of Syrian refugees in Germany are very difficult. They are hospitalized as needed after arriving from extremely life-threatening conditions. Later, the refugees receive camp assignments. Due to the large number of refugee arrivals, Germany had to build emergency camps. These camps lack quality infrastructure and necessary equipment. Some refugees are assigned to shelters such as Tempelhof, where they sleep in a small bed among hundreds of others in one hall.

Due to integration laws that assign family members to different cities, some refugees must endure family separation. Moreover, Germany suspended the family reunification policy between 2016 and 2018 for refugees awaiting their status approval. According to the German government, Germany embassies received 44,736 family reunification applications in 2018, but only granted 1,500 applications.

Paperwork Holds Up the Process

Unfortunately, the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Germany become even more difficult once paper work begins. It could take up to eighteen months to be recognized as an asylum seeker. In most cities, refugees cannot join integration programs if they are not asylum seekers. According to the German law, asylum is a given right to anyone fleeing political persecution. However, the process of being granted refugee status based on the Asylum Act and the Residence Act can be lengthy.

These acts entitle refugees to integration programs, language classes and employment. This is not the reality for refugees who wait years of the approval of their status. Systematic hurdles can stop refugees from learning German, continuing their education or pursuing a job. Therefore, many refugees lose hope and enter black market jobs or seek distressing pathways.

A Brighter Future

Nonetheless, German policies, under the guidance of Merkel, continue to strive for effective integration. Overall refugee unemployment dropped sharply from 50.5 percent to 40.5 percent in mid-2018, based on the Institute for Employment Research. The study also concludes half of the refugee population will be employed by 2020. This is an optimistic advance considering the language barrier in addition to the fact that 80 percent of refugees who arrived in 2015 did not acquire a university degree. This is achievable because the settlement of refugees is improving along with the overall living conditions of Syrian refugees in Germany.

Eventually, refugees will be able to leave crowded shelters and move into apartments with their families. By improving  integration efforts and paperwork processes, Syrian refugees in Germany can gain asylum status and attain their legal rights.

Njoud Mashouka
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Australia
Australia is a sovereign country located “down under” in the Southern Hemisphere and is the largest country in Oceania which homes the Australia mainland continent, Tasmania and a variety of other small islands. Australia was first inhabited by indigenous Australians until the British arrived in the late 18th century where they then split the country into six colonies including New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. These colonies eventually united to form the Commonwealth of Australia. Although Australia still lacks a growth in wages and salaries and has limited affordable housing, it has other highly developed aspects of living. These are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Australia.

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Australia

  1. Education is High-Quality – The average student scored a 502 in subjects such as reading literacy, math and sciences in the Programme for International Student Assessment, an impressive score above the OECD average of 486. The average Australian will spend 21 years in school compared to the OECD average of 17 years. Of note, 80 percent of adults have completed upper secondary education.
  2. Life Expectancy is Continuously Increasing – Thanks to improvements within the public health care sector and progressions in medical care, life expectancy is improving with a significant increase over the past few decades. Life expectancy stands at 83 years of age, three years higher than the average of 80 years in the Southern Hemisphere. Notably, the country provides mental health interventions and headspace centers to adolescents for a more healthy upbringing to decrease the number of suicides.
  3. Air Quality Ranks High – Australia’s government has taken drastic measures to reduce air pollution, implementing the National Clean Air Agreement. The country’s livability has increased and impacted health and produced a positive environment despite a few concerns of high peaking airborne pollutants in some cities.
  4. Water Quality is Sufficient in Some Areas – In urban areas, 90 percent of Australians have access to acceptable water quality but in the regional areas, only 70 percent of households have access to clean sources. Due to the continuous change in climate, local water utility companies have to make a few accommodations on account of quality resulting in some areas failing acceptable water standards, such as Southern and Western Australia.
  5. Home Affordability is Declining – In Australia, owning a home is a main priority, but the number of homeowners has had a significant decrease since the 1980s due to high interest rates and an increase in housing prices in areas like Sydney. Due to this, there is an increase in household renters from 26 percent to 31 percent.
  6. Wages and Salaries are Declining – Australia measures wages and salary by average weekly earnings. Since the mid-70s, there has been a decline in reported earnings because of higher tax brackets and an increase in unemployment rates which suppress wages. There are also more people who are willing to work part-time jobs versus full-time employment.
  7. Crimes are Increasing – There are more crimes being reported in Australia than before. This ultimately affects the standard of living considering people do not feel as safe and secure. Burglary and assault are the main crimes that have increased dramatically with robberies increasing from 23 to 113 per 1,000 people and assaults increased from 90 to 689 per thousand of the population. Communities are addressing crimes by implementing situational crime prevention interventions by strengthening locks and improving surveillance.
  8. The Economy is Growing – As one of the wealthiest Asian-Pacific countries, Australia is an attractive place for investment considering the government is helping with the entrepreneurial development. Australia’s economic freedom score is 80.9 making it the fifth highest in 2019 for factors such as labor freedom and trade freedom.
  9. Quality of Life is High – Australia’s HDI is the second highest in the world behind Norway. Because it is a liberal and democratic nation along with its warm climate, 43 percent of Australians aged 18 and over are mostly satisfied with their standard of living.
  10. High Poverty Rates for Children – In 2018, three million Australians were living below the poverty line of a 50 percent median income including 17.3 percent children. Those that are living deep in poverty are surviving with $135 less a week than the median income and are relying on Government Assistance payments.

Living conditions in Australia compared to the rest of the world rank high. Education is abundant and most Australians find their standards of living satisfying. However, these 10 facts of living conditions in Australia portray the need for improvement in water quality and poverty rates that are affecting the everyday lives of Australian citizens.

– Jessica Curney
Photo: Flickr

migration of peopleDr. Ermitte Saint Jacques is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Florida. Her primary focus is the transnational migration of people and globalization. Dr. Jacques sat down with the Borgen Project to discuss the state of the migration of people and some of the misconceptions that follow in their paths.

Limited Economic Opportunities

Dr. Ermitte Saint Jacques has found in her research that the migration of people provides benefits for both the migrants and the countries involved. “Many people migrate for a livelihood,” said Dr. Jacques. “If people can’t seek a livelihood in their own country, they travel abroad.” Migration enables people to maximize their opportunities. When prospects aren’t working out in one country, they have the capability to go to the next.

Many migrants return to their home countries after finding successful jobs; it’s often seasonal and not permanent. For example, in 2017, 4.4 million people immigrated to a country within the European Union. Of that, two million migrants were from non-EU countries. However, more than three million reported leaving the EU that same year. As of Jan. 1, 2017, non-EU immigrants made up only 4.2 percent of the EU population.

Supply and Demand

Businesses demand the need for workers, and migrants fulfill some of these demands. “It’s important to recognize the contribution immigrants have,” said Dr. Jacques. “Some immigrants come to open businesses, some come to be laborers.” Often, those who are here as laborers, fulfill an important function that might otherwise go unfilled. Many misconceptions about laborers revolve around them taking important jobs from citizens or living off of government aid.

“We need to push back against the rhetoric of migrants coming to steal work, get on welfare, etc.,” said Dr. Jacques. “Everything can cross borders except people, and that’s very problematic. Mobility for people is a problem.” Dr. Jacques hopes more countries will follow suit with the European Union’s policy on open borders and the Schengen Agreement. Signed in 1985, the Schengen Agreement eliminates internal borders to enable migrants to travel freely among countries in search of economic opportunities. Only four of the 26 members of the Schengen Agreement are not part of the EU.

Poverty and Migration

Poverty poses a problem in that it hinders many people’s ability to migrate because they simply don’t have the funds to leave. So, impoverished people often lack the opportunities that migration offers. People who don’t have the resources to migrate either need a social network that can provide access to the ability to migrate or they must enter a cyclical travel and work pattern. They travel as far as they can and work for a bit before traveling again until they finally end up where they want to be.

“We are not talking about people fleeing turmoil or fearing for their life,” said Dr. Jacques. “They are not refugees or seeking asylum. They are typically economic migrants seeking work.” Migrants are different than immigrants. Immigrants move from one country to another to live; whereas migrants typically move from one country to another for economic reasons, and often, the move is temporary.

People emerge from poverty by seeking better opportunities elsewhere, and migration enables them to do so. It is an investment for those who are struggling. “Migration is necessary for people to escape from the horrendous cycle of poverty and finally be able to maintain a livelihood,” said Dr. Jacques. The more people understand about the migration of people, the easier it will be to dispell the misconceptions.

Jodie Filenius

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Peru
Poverty in Peru declined steadily from 2001 to 2016, dropping from 55 percent to 21 percent. In 2017, the poverty rate rose slightly to 21 .7 percent. The relative success Peru has had in reducing poverty, however, is a result of economic growth along with increased and improved social programs and technological innovations. The Inter-American Foundation, which currently has 20 active projects in the nation, has made significant contributions to the reduction of poverty in Peru, having invested more than $5 million in the nation and directly benefiting more than 35,000 people.

The Situation in Peru

In Peru, poverty is defined as having a monthly income of fewer than 338 soles (equal to $105). Poverty continues to be an issue in both urban and rural areas, with 44 percent of the impoverished population living in rural areas while the remaining 56 percent are located closer to urban centers. Those who are extremely poor tend to live in rural areas or on the very outskirts of the cities. Natural disasters, inadequate education and training and poor healthcare all contribute to poverty in Peru, making it a multi-dimensional problem.

The recent increase in the poverty rate can be at least partially attributed to political turmoil in the nation. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was elected to office in 2016, and his policy decisions reflected a misunderstanding of Peru’s poverty and how best to reduce it. He resigned in March 2018, however, and his successor, Martín Vizcarra, has “declared the rise in poverty ‘unacceptable.’” It remains to be seen how new leadership will affect Peru’s poverty rates in coming years.

The Inter-American Foundation in Peru

While outside organizations cannot necessarily solve problems within Peru’s government, they can have an impact on improving the lives of Peruvians across the nation through targeted and effective investments and programming. The Inter-American Foundation, for example, has committed to investing in Peru by providing specific grants that are invested strategically to make the largest possible impact.

The Inter-American Foundation (IAF) was created by Congress in 1969 to act as an independent agency of the U.S. Government. The IAF focuses its efforts on reducing poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean, providing grants and creating partnerships with local organizations and governments. Rather than designing projects, the IAF invests in initiatives created by grassroots groups and communities, supporting local innovation.

The programs supported by the IAF in Peru employ a range of methods for various intended outcomes, although all are connected to efforts to reduce poverty in Peru. Program areas include leadership, education, job skills, enterprise development, agriculture, food security, legal assistance and inclusion. Most of these programs are funded by the IAF for periods of three to six years, with the amount of grant funding and the number of years the program will run determined at the outset. The IAF also estimates how many direct and indirect beneficiaries each grant will have.

Programs Supported by IAF in Peru

One of the initiatives most recently supported by the IAF, the Asociación Peruana de Productores de Cacao (APPCACAO), will receive $177,500 from the IAF and run from 2018 to 2020. This program is designed to help cacao producers, who often lack the income needed to support their families. According to the IAF, APPCACAO will help “raise their income and quality of life by improving their production of fine flavor cacao and strengthening their management and governance practices to ensure greater participation of women and youth.” This will directly benefit 1,260 individuals and another 3,900 will receive indirect benefits as this program seeks to improve agriculture, food security, leadership, education, job skills and enterprise development.

The Asociación Grupo de Trabajo Redes (AGTR) is a program that also addresses the economic empowerment of women by focusing on female domestic workers. The IAF recognizes that these women are likely to have poor working conditions and low incomes. It, therefore, works to educate female domestic workers about their legal rights and helps to improve their negotiation skills, helping them find higher-paying jobs with humane working conditions. With an IAF investment of $240,000, this program will be active from 2017 to 2020, directly benefiting 2,600 individuals and indirectly benefiting 44,650.

A third program working to reduce poverty in Peru is the Asociación Kallpa para la Promoción de la Salud Integral y el Desarrollo (Kallpa), which focuses on reducing youth unemployment, including the unemployment of disabled youth. Youth is defined as anyone between the ages of 15 and 29, and the program provides the support needed for young people to “find meaningful employment or start a small business.” The IAF has invested $554,390 in this program, which is expected to benefit 1,550 direct and 5,200 indirect individuals.

Looking Ahead

These programs provide a brief look at the work that the IAF has supported, highlighting its efforts to improve conditions for women and young people, decrease food insecurity, improve working conditions and reduce unemployment, all of which are vital to decreasing poverty in Peru. Notably, however, 11 out of the 20 active projects currently supported by the IAF were scheduled to end in 2018, and it remains to be seen whether the IAF will continue to invest in as many projects in the future.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Rideshare in Africa
Many African countries are moving toward urbanization. Residents are discovering that mobility is being limited by the overcrowding of roads and the lack of public transit. However, rideshare in Africa has quickly gained footing, bringing with it a new set of possibilities for the economies of the cities they serve.

Benefits For the People

Despite many countries in Africa boasting some of the fastest growing economies in the world, it is still home to 11 of the 20 countries with the highest unemployment rates. With the rapid growth of rideshare, there is an equally rapid need for drivers, providing jobs to tens of thousands of Africans in many of the continent’s major cities. Uber, an American-based company that has been servicing Africa since 2013, providing hundreds of thousands of people with rides.

Rideshare in Africa also alleviates some of the biggest transportation hindrances people in dense cities face. While Africa has quickly seen a surge of residents owning and regularly using technology such as smartphones, many still do not own personal vehicles. For those who do, the underdeveloped infrastructures of many African cities, most of which were not designed to hold the numbers they now contain, make driving difficult and impractical. Companies like SafeBoda, which started in Uganda but hopes to service various regions throughout Africa, are deploying “boda-bodas” (motorcycle taxies) instead of cars, allowing citizens to move about the city centers more easily and work in places previously out of reach.

Benefits For the Economy

Currently, almost 40 percent of Africans live in cities, and this number is expected to grow to 50 percent by 2030 and 60 percent by 2050. With this increase in population, there is a corresponding increase in demand for transportation that does not require a personal vehicle. Rideshare companies have set out to fill this demand, bringing with them foreign and domestic investors who see rideshare as growing in popularity among the people, bringing economic potential.

While Uber remains the top rideshare service throughout Africa due to its worldwide brand recognition and its ability to keep rates low, many African-based companies have been able to use their local knowledge to compete with the larger foreign companies. Kenyan-based rideshare company Mondo Ride, for example, understands that overcrowding in the city streets means that passengers taking rideshare cars would only add to the problem. Therefore, they offer the option for boda-bodas or tuk-tuks (three-wheeled motorbikes) in many of the cities they serve. This allows them to compete with giants like Uber, thereby bringing more investment into their city as they grow in popularity.

The Future of Rideshare in Africa

As rideshare in Africa takes off, it faces two battles that will shape the futures of both rideshare itself and the cities in which they operate: market competition and government regulation.

While local rideshare companies have the advantage of regional familiarity over the giants like Uber, the larger companies’ ability to lower prices threatens to make smaller African-based companies obsolete. In many African cities, there have been protests by these smaller companies, claiming that Uber is creating a monopoly over the industry, mitigating the positive economic effects of healthy competition.

 As rideshare continues to grow in Africa, local governments are struggling to regulate the industry. Ghana became the first to create formal documentation detailing Uber’s presence in its cities, but other countries have not been able to keep up with the high rate of growth this industry has seen.

Regardless of any frustrations with market competition or difficulties in regulation, rideshare in Africa is quickly becoming the norm. It is a sign not only that Africa is embracing technology but also that it is excelling in doing so. As rideshare companies and local governments begin to understand their local markets, residents will be better able to enjoy the benefits and the economic opportunities will continue to grow.

– Rob Lee
Photo: The Africa Report

Youth Unemployment in South Africa Globally, 71 million youths were unemployed in 2017, according to a report by the International Labor Organization. Unemployment in South Africa is particularly high and has been so for decades, with 5.5 million young people currently searching for work. In response to high youth unemployment in South Africa, a social enterprise known as Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator was created to help connect young people seeking work with employers.

Youth Unemployment in South Africa

With 26.7 percent of the population unemployed, South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. With 63 percent of South Africans being under the age of 35, South Africa has a large youth population. The unemployment rate for youths, defined as those aged 15 to 34, was estimated to be 38.2 percent in the first quarter of 2018. Each year, 1.1 million South African youths enter the labor market, but only 6 percent enter formal employment, and an additional 8 percent are informally employed. The remaining 86 percent are either continuing their education, looking for jobs or becoming discouraged by the system.

High youth unemployment in South Africa is caused by a variety of factors, including high public education drop-out rates, a lack of significant economic growth and the nation’s legacy of apartheid. With many of the poor still living in townships located far away from urban centers, finding work remains difficult. Even if they are qualified for certain positions, they may lack the ability to travel into the city, particularly in the face of inadequate public transportation.

Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator

Formed in 2011 in Johannesburg, Harambee has been providing services for the youth across the nation and has helped more than 50,000 young South Africans obtain their first job. In order to provide opportunities to youths outside of the city, Harambee hires recruiters who go to the townships and record contact information for young people who are searching for jobs. From there, some youths are given an invitation to come to a Harambee office to discuss their skills and interests. A trained job coach them helps them through the process of creating a CV and preparing for job interviews. Harambee even provides free interview clothes for those unable to access or afford them.

Another way of connecting with job-seeking youth and working to reduce youth unemployment in South Africa is through the application on the Harambee website. On this application, young South Africans indicate their skills and what kinds of work they are interested in, making it easier for Harambee to successfully match them with an employer.

Harambee has partnered with 450 employers, ranging from small businesses to large corporations. Many of these employers are looking to fill entry-level positions, providing opportunities for South African youths without any prior job experience to find gainful employment. When deciding on matches, Harambee considers the needs of the company, as well as the skills of the potential employee and their proximity to the job. Transportation costs must be considered, and if they are too high, workers may go into debt, in spite of being employed.

For those who have the potential to get hired for more rigorous jobs, Harambee provides vocational training for up to eight weeks to prepare applicants for employment. Since many of the youths Harambee works with come from poor backgrounds, they often lack the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the workforce. Harambee does what it can to ensure the young people the organization is working with will be successful in their employment.

Success Stories

One South African youth, 23-year-old Thabo Ngwato, was unemployed and had been having difficulty filling out job applications until his friend recommended Harambee to him. Through Harambee, Ngwato found work at a call center in Johannesburg, allowing him to support his mother and nephew as well as to purchase his first car. Ngwato told Reuters that, thanks to Harambee, “I know how to network, look for employment. The skills are ones I can take anywhere.” Helping with the application process and teaching basic jobs skill is essential in reducing youth unemployment in South Africa.

Similarly, 29-year-old Oratile Phekoayane was hired as a Webhelp worker after finding Harambee. The services Harambee provided helped her develop interpersonal skills in order to have more confidence in interviews. According to Reuters, Phekoayane stated, “I see myself as a business partner here. I’m looking to grow, maybe join the executive side.” Thanks to Harambee, she was able to gain employment, develop her skills and become successful with the potential for mobility.

Currently, Harambee has a goal of helping at least 10,000 young South Africans find employment each year. By 2022, they want to have matched 500,000 young people with employers, which will require a significant increase in the number of youths they help become employed each year.

Luckily, Harambee is not alone in addressing youth unemployment in South Africa. Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president since February 2018, has also been making youth unemployment a priority. Ramaphosa launched the Youth Employment Services (YES) initiative in 2018 and has been working to convince companies to reinvest 1.5 percent of their profits into providing paid work experience to young South Africans. By encouraging companies to reinvest in the country’s youth, Ramaphosa is acknowledging the important role that young people will play in the future of South Africa.

Harambee’s success and continuous growth indicate that the goal of ending youth unemployment may be attainable. Harambee has already had a significant impact on reducing youth unemployment in South Africa. Furthermore, it has provided a model for other organizations around the world to use to reduce youth unemployment.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

 

Cambodia hairAccording to the World Bank, although the poverty rate in Cambodia dropped from 47.8 percent in 2007 to 13.5 percent in 2014, 4.5 million people are dangerously close to falling back into poverty. Luckily, Hair Aid, an Australian humanitarian group, is working to help decrease and end poverty in Cambodia.

Hair Aid sends teams of volunteer hairdressers to places like Cambodia in order to teach many of people living in poverty how to cut hair, giving them an opportunity to learn a skill and reduce poverty in that area. Not only does Hair Aid recruit volunteer hairdressers and send them to locations all over the world but they have also been recruiting volunteer hairdressers to work with other local community organizations that help those in need.

Hair Aid’s Currently Changing Cambodia with Hair Cuts

In August 2018, Hair Aid partnered with Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) to teach a course in Steung Meanchey for five days. Hair Aid volunteers describe one function of this humanitarian group as a way to empower the Cambodian people, teaching them skills as a way to start micro businesses in order to support themselves and feed their families. It’s a way to end poverty in Cambodia by providing opportunities to help fight against this epidemic.

Hair Aid also provided essential tools for a popular CCF hairdresser, Granny Thim. This 73-year-old hairdresser used only a pair of kitchen scissors to cut hair within the community. Impressed by Thim, Hair Aid provided the correct and needed tools for her so she can continue her passion, work and skill for cutting hair.

A Hair Aid hairdresser from Brisbane, Bronwyn Ball, also volunteered in Cambodia to help fight against poverty, after seeing the impact hairdressing can have in creating new opportunities for many women and children who are in the sex trade industry.

According to the Australian Broadcast Corporation or ABC News, Ball states that it’s not just about teaching them how to cut hair for the purpose of creating a sustainable income, but it also “gives them hope.” Hair Aid not only gives these women and young girls a certificate and graduation ceremony but they also give them hope for the future.

She also praised Australian celebrity and hair salon owner Tabatha Coffey, star of her own American TV series called Tabatha Takes Over. Coffey has joined and supported Hair Aid, and since Coffey’s series is about helping reinvent failing hair salon businesses, she was able to put to use other skills than just hair cutting tips. She was able to provide business advice for the trainees, helping rid poverty in Cambodia by teaching the Cambodian people a trade and a way to sustain it.

Other Organizations Continue to Help Fight Poverty in Cambodia

While CCF and Hair Aid continue to offer support and training to the Cambodian people, other organizations are doing the same. Helping Hands, for example, aims to provide training opportunities for the people in the country,  building pride and dignity for many families and communities to end poverty in Cambodia.

Helping Hands works with village chiefs, community elders, parents and teachers with the purpose of changing priorities in the Cambodian people. This includes operating schools, providing breakfast, running agriculture training and educational programs and teaching mothers and caretakers about nutrition as well as household hygiene issues.

The Group for Research and Technology Exchanges (GRET) works to provide access to services and water systems, including access to piped water and sanitation, by creating programs to help improve conditions in the area. They also increase small-scale farmers’ income and protect the environment as well as indigenous communities, not only helping to find solutions to land conflicts but also improve crop yield and give access to agricultural water.

Hairdressing is an opportunity for the people of Cambodia to not only feed their families and themselves but also help end poverty in Cambodia. Hair Aid, CCF and other organizations are continuing to support and assist the Cambodian people, hoping to end the poverty epidemic and to improve conditions throughout the country.

– Charlene Frett
Photo: Flickr

Upaya Invests in India to Create JobsAccording to the World Poverty Clock, five percent of India’s total population (1.3 billion people) face extreme poverty, with each person living on at most $1.90 per day. With such huge numbers, Upaya invests in India to provide stable jobs and steady income to the poor.

Upaya Investing in India

Derived from a Sanskrit word, Upaya means “Skillful means” or “method,” meaning any activity, skill, experience or practice that helps one toward the realization of a goal. With similar intentions, Upaya is tirelessly providing long-term solutions for people living in extremely poor conditions across India.

Seattle-based Upaya invests in India to create employment for the poorest of the poor through its accelerator program and investments in partner enterprises across regions that face extreme poverty. The firm supports early stage enterprises that ensure people in extreme poverty have a stable job and steady income, making them more self-reliant. So far, its 14 partner enterprises have already created over 8,500 sustainable jobs, effectively lifting many job seekers out of extreme poverty.

An Interview Between The Borgen Project and Upaya

The Borgen Project spoke to Upaya CEO, Kate Cochran, to get deeper insights into the firm’s accelerator program and how Upaya invests in India:

The Borgen Project (TBP): Tell us something about Upaya and how it all started?

Kate Cochran (KC): Upaya was originally inspired by a research project which was led by our co-founder Sachi Shenoy to answer the question – how do you scalably serve the extreme poor? We use the World Bank definition of people living on $1.90 or less a day. Our model is to invest in social entrepreneurs who are creating businesses that can create the jobs that employ the poor.

TBP: Can you talk a little about Upaya’s accelerator program?

KC: In 2017, we took our learnings from our first five years and created a program which allowed us to work with more companies at one time and more companies that we can afford to invest in. We bring them together for workshops. We connect them with mentors and experts in the field. We get to know them and we do field visits and at end of the period. We select one to three of those companies for equity investments from Upaya.

TBP: Is there a different focus sector every year that Upaya invests in India?

KC: It is a different theme each year. We select segments in industries that we focus on because we find that by grouping companies, probably in the same industry but not so narrowly that they feel competitive with each other, we can put together a curriculum that is more valuable to them. This is not only because each industry has its particular needs but also it’s easier for us to compare the companies. In 2017, it was the skills gap, this year it is agribusiness and we are in the middle of that accelerator. Next year, our accelerator will be in rural manufacturing.

TBP: Which countries are currently benefitting from Upaya’s accelerator program?

KC: India currently is our main focus, but we will be moving to other countries in the future.

TBP: What kind of jobs are generated when Upaya invests in India?

KC: We have made 14 investments that have created just under 9000 jobs. The jobs are quite varied across our portfolio.

For example, we have an investment in a waste management company in Bangalore that has built a model of forming teams to separate recycled old material from landfill waste in a very efficient way. These teams are located on corporate campuses, and so people who are employed in doing this have a full time 40-hour week, traditional wage jobs. At the same time, the company also provides reliable income for rag pickers, who have worked highly exploitative and dangerous environments in the past. The firm provides reliable, formal employment and also trains them on how to collect this material in a safe way. Such jobs are reliable jobs and help in creating a reliable living.

And this is just one company. There is a lot of diversity in the jobs created. But what we look at to be called a job – we want to know that the individual who is doing this is able to earn an income, at least a minimum of six months a year, that is high enough to move them beyond extreme poverty.

TBP: How do you measure the success of your partner enterprises at ground level?

KC: Sachi Shenoy, our co-founder, leads a practice to get to the job holder level and conduct surveys to see whether their income level is changing. We track household income, living standards, quality of their house, whether their children are going to school and other things.

TBP: What are the challenges that you face in countries like India that has a large population living in poverty?

KC: We face the same challenges really that our partners face since we are very invested in their success. Challenges would be like the changes in the central government policies, like when the GST came out or the demonetization happened. But even with the challenges, the good part of working in India is that it remains a huge market that can grow very quickly.

Deena Zaidi

Photo: Flickr

working women in indiaWomen in India are most often confined to social norms that affect their participation in the workforce. Marriage, motherhood, vexed gender relations and patriarchy are the most prevalent norms confining women to the domestic sphere. Working women in India — especially working mothers — subsequently suffer from guilt and social stigma in this restrictive isolation.

Working Women in India

Working women in India are made to feel guilty for choosing work as a priority predominantly by patriarchal prejudice. Even though women make up nearly half of India’s population, their economic potential has been put on the backburner. If women were to join the workforce, India could hold the key to the future growth of Asia’s third-largest economy.

According to the 2015 McKinsey Global Institute Report, Indian women can add $2.9 trillion, or 60 percent, to annual GDP by as early as 2025 if they are allowed to participate in the workforce on an equal basis as men. Another study indicates that 48 percent of women drop out of the workforce before they reach middle management positions due to marriage or motherhood.

Per the 2017 World Bank report, female labor force participation in India fell from 34.8 percent to 27 percent. At present, women contribute a mere 17 percent to the country’s GDP, well below the global average of 37 percent.

Distribution of Value and Gender Equality

Women in power have proved time and again that they make good leaders and put up a tough fight for men in every field. However, only 27 percent of Indian women are currently in the labor force. According to a report, women perform 9.8 times the amount of unpaid work than men in India.

If unpaid work were to be measured similarly to paid work, it would contribute almost $300 billion to India’s economic output; “but the current measure of GDP does not assign a value to housework, therefore it becomes imperative to bring women to the workforce to accelerate economic growth,” say experts to a website called The Wire.

It seems certain that bringing women into the workforce helps in the growth of GDP. Women in the 95 countries analyzed in this research generate 37 percent of global GDP today, despite accounting for 50 percent of the global working-age population. This global average contribution to GDP masks large variations among regions.

Gender parity in India plays a huge role in bringing women back to work. India’s record on the gender parity is so bad that it is even below that of sub-Saharan Africa, one of the poorest regions of the globe. Working women in India have to break away from the social and gender barriers to create a new wave of empowerment.

Only if the gender parity reduces can India be a potential country for economic growth. A study suggests four areas that help reduce gender gaps: education level, financial and digital inclusion, legal production and unpaid care work.

Hurdles Faced When Women Return to Work

Social norms and a patriarchal society hinder women from workforce participation. Women face social taboos and guilt, and mothers are made to feel guilty if they prioritize a career. The society considers that a woman’s first priority is to take care of her child, husband and the house.

Due to such beliefs, women have less confidence and self-doubt to step up into the workforce. Break for their marriage or motherhood leads to less pay, and maternity leave hinders their ability to move up the corporate ladder.

Company and Government Initiatives

Several workforces have women-friendly offices which enable mothers to work while they have children. Several workforces have crèche facility within office premises and work-from-home policies.

India paves the way in maternity leave, though, with its Maternity Benefit Amendment Act which grants paid leave time to 26 weeks.

Organizations Helping Women Rejoin the Workforce

  • JobsForHer: A job portal for women who are on break and want to rejoin the workforce. Top companies from tech to industries to media houses offer job opportunities specifically for women. This organization helps in mentoring women to return to work and provide skills and confidence training.
  • SHEROES: An organization which provides corporate and flexible job opportunities for women. SHEROES has built a community of working women and works to help them come into contact with their own mentors and resources. The organization focuses on helping women seeking a career along with maintaining a work-life balance. The community gets access to career resources while SHEROES Mentors engage actively to help women attain career success on their own terms.
  • HerSecondInnings: Helping women find a job is not enough; female professionals have to be empowered at all levels. Or at least that’s what HerSecondInnings believe. Over 2,000 women have been accessing this portal for job options as well as for coaching to help develop skills as well as better understand labor options. There are e-coaching sessions as well, which women can attend online. HerSecondInnings also helps organizations improve their diversity and inclusion programs. These improvements include diversity and inclusion assessment surveys and women leadership programs.

With steps and organizations like these, the future of female empowerment and getting women in the workforce in India is bright indeed. Time and effort will demonstrate how one of the largest nations in the world will work to enter into a new wave of gender equality.

– Preethi Ravi
Photo: Flickr

Reduce poverty among the disabledEliminating global poverty requires both aid organizations and the global community to recognize and ensure the rights of people with disabilities. At least one billion people worldwide experience some type of disability, and many of those people account for the world’s poor. Evidence suggests that people with disabilities represent a large selection of the world’s poor. The World Health Survey data shows that in five out of 15 developing countries, households where at least one family had a disability, had significantly fewer assets and lower levels of income.

Poverty and Disabilities

Economic inequality is exacerbated by discrimination that has manifested as a lack of employment opportunities for disabled people, especially in developing countries. The difficult economic circumstances facing impoverished, disabled persons and the lack of opportunities for upward mobility can have life-threatening consequences.

The World Health Organization’s World Report on Disability found that people with disabilities were found to be 20 percent less likely to be able to afford necessary healthcare. Poverty exacerbates the effects of all of these externalities, which makes it extremely crucial to address these issues in developing nations and begin reducing the poverty of the disabled.

It’s also important to recognize the interconnectedness of all of these issues and that they stem from institutional barriers and an uneven distribution of opportunities. Poverty and inequality are inevitably linked, which means that a focus on reducing the inequality of economic opportunities will reduce poverty as well.

This poverty reduction doesn’t solely apply to disabled people. The International Labor Organization conducted a study of 10 low-income developing countries and found that an estimated 3-7 percent of GDP is lost each year due to the exclusion of disabled people from the labor market.

Everyone benefits from providing employment opportunities for disabled people and uplifting them out of poverty, but it requires tearing down the negative social and political barriers that have pervaded society in regards to the disabled population. This is the only way to effectively reduce poverty. One organization has worked with developing nations across the world to ensure a disabled person’s right to a life without poverty.

The Disability Rights Fund

The Disability Rights Fund (DRF) is an organization that promotes advocacy for people with disabilities by empowering those identifying as disabled to advocate for themselves. The group has expanded its efforts to several developing nations. They’ve worked to increase the participation of disabled people to advocate for the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons. Their leaders provide grants and support systems that promote the economic well-being of disabled people in developing nations.

Albert Mollah of The Access Bangladesh Foundation spoke highly of the positive effect one of these grants had on their operations. A grant from The Disability Rights Fund allowed them to meet with several disabled persons’ organizations to provide feedback to the Bangladeshi government on how to improve the livelihoods of their disabled constituents.

The Access to Bangladesh Foundation recommended that the government include persons with disabilities in all safety net programs, raise awareness among duty bearers about the contributions that those with disabilities can make in society, track data and ensure access and disability inclusion to infrastructure and information.

Grants from The Disability Rights Fund have had similar success with the OHANA group in Indonesia and the Uganda National Association of the Deaf. The DRF pools its vast resources and directs them towards groups that are credibly working to alleviate the impacts of inequality for the poor and disabled.

Disabled people are particularly susceptible to poverty because of cultural misconceptions. Concentrated efforts against the social and political barriers faced by the disabled will help to reduce poverty and spread awareness of the issue. Combating the marginalization of the disabled by these cultural misconceptions will help everyone by opening access to a plethora of highly skilled workers.

– Anand Tayal
Photo: Flickr