Development in Latin America
Multidimensional poverty is a widespread problem throughout Latin American and the Caribbean, marked by deficiencies in education, health and standards of living. In 14 countries in the region, close to seven percent of the population is familiar with this degree of poverty and an additional 9.5 percent stands on the brink.

United Nation Development Programme expert Alfredo González stated that “there are 45 million people that are living at the limits of their capacities and could fall back into poverty if faced with a negative shock.”

Such a shock could be caused by anything from a financial crisis, such as Argentina’s newest default debacle, to environmental catastrophe, seen in severe flooding and droughts throughout the region.

The UNDP reports that, while Latin America continues to enjoy the greatest amount of human development of any developing region in the world, this progress is being threatened by inequality and a lack of access to formal employment.

In fact, since 2008, the region’s progress toward human development has slowed by 25 percent according to UNDP figures.

The UNDP’s yearly Human Development Index, calculated based on a combination of factors including life expectancy, educational opportunity and purchasing power, rates the long term human development of every nation on a scale of zero being the worst to one being the best.

Chile, Cuba and Argentina topped the region’s HDI charts with respective scores of 0.82, 0.81 and 0.80, while Haiti, Nicaragua and Honduras came in last place.

This year’s HDI report highlights the important role formal employment plays in human development in Latin America. Increased incomes, gainfully employed youth and increased labor regulation are all benefits that communities stand to gain from better access to full employment.

Liliana Rendón, economics professor at the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico, observes that “the poor do not only suffer from an income deficit; poverty also includes shortcomings in healthcare, education and other problems. Income must translate into wellbeing, taking social, environmental and policy aspects into consideration.”

In order to make strides toward greater wellbeing the UNDP recommends that countries in Latin America and the Caribbean push for policies that facilitate universal access to social services, which, in turn, may serve to bolster formal employment and lift more people out of poverty.

-Kayla Strickland

Sources: Independent European Daily Express, Nearshore Americas, Buenos Aires Herald
Photo: The Guardian

Poverty in Tokyo
Despite having the third-largest economy in the world, there is a growing issue with poverty in Japan. Of the total population, 15.7 percent of Japanese people live in poverty, a percentage greater than countries with less economic resources.

The country’s overall child poverty rate has also hit a record high of 16.3 percent, prompting questions as to whether the country is trying to fix these issues.

When people think of Tokyo, “poor” is a thought that seldom ever comes to mind. Walking in the streets of the capital, you do not see people begging for money; the homeless are all hiding amongst the shadows.

Yet when the story of the emaciated and hypothermia-struck bodies of an elderly man, his wife and 39-year-old son were found in their home after weeks of no one noticing, one cannot help but question the state of the one in six Japanese citizens living under the poverty line.

Living in a Single-Parent Household

In 2012, The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported that “significant poverty among single parents is a factor boosting the child poverty rate to 14 percent.” According to a Library of Congress article, there has been an increase in the number of welfare recipients, especially from single-parent households. In addition, the article states, “It is hard for single mothers to find jobs that pay enough to support a household in Japan.”

Child poverty in working, single-parent households stood at 50 percent, according to a 2014 TokyoWeekender article. The Abe administration is working on poverty alleviation methods, but not enough attention is paid to child poverty.

Due to the stagnant economy, the number of “freeters” is on a rise. “Freeters” refer to young people, who, after deciding to avoid Japanese corporate culture, live a freer lifestyle. But jumping from job to job in modern Japan is too difficult to properly survive on.

More than 1.23 million single mother households exist that earn only 40 percent of the average household income. One out of three unmarried women are considered poor, and many of these women fall into poverty due to divorce, single parenting, debts, domestic violence and family background.

The Elephant in the Room

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011, there have been many job losses for middle-aged workers.

At the national level, Japan has gone through three prime ministers since the Fukushima disaster, who ranged from anti-nuclear to cautiously pro-nuclear. Calls for removing nuclear plants completely swarmed the country due to the fact that 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes occur in Japan; danger of a repeat is high.

Only one or two of the 54 nuclear reactors in Japan are now active; the rest are substituted by imported coal and gas, which have caused other detrimental effects on the economy.

When it comes to the question of poverty in Tokyo, many people prefer to hide the truth. On a neighborhood level, people hide that they need two jobs to afford tuition. On the political level, the government hides the true poverty statistics from its international community.

According to an article describing the effects of the Fukushima disaster, the “government was afraid to face reality and did not set the poverty line at an appropriate value.” All of this was done in the effort to endure the misfortune in private.

Poverty is a topic that is emerging from the shadows, and the Japanese government is beginning to acknowledge and address its presence.

– Ashley Riley

Sources: Behind the Grids, Japan Sociology, Tokyo Weekender, Library of Congress, The Economist
Photo: Travel CNN

education in cote
Education in Cote d’Ivoire is present and plentiful for those who can afford it. While there are free public schools available to Ivoirians, families are still required to pay for books, uniforms and supplies.

Additionally, over two-thirds of native Ivoirians work in agriculture, and children are often needed as part of the work force. The unfortunate reality is that most students who receive a proper education in Cote d’Ivoire are not natives of the country.

Zeina Jebeile, a current student at Boston University who grew up in Cote d’Ivoire but was not born there, says that the private school education she received was comparable to the education received by her friends in the United States. “We learned a lot of similar things, it was just in a different language,” Zeina explained. She continued to clarify that public schools are only available to those born in the Ivory Coast, and people like her who were born in other countries must attend expensive private schools.

Due to the French colonization of Cote d’Ivoire the vast majority of schools run on the French system and have the exact same curriculum as high schools in France. While being a native of the Ivory Coast holds the benefit of free primary education, students have a much higher chance of attending university if they graduate from one of the French, American or Lebanese private schools.

Due to the high cost of schooling, “not everybody gets access to education, and it’s sad because a lot of them are really interested in doing so,” Zeina explained. “Education is about $7,000 a year for high school, which is kind of ridiculous, but that’s what you get for the ‘French Prestige.’” In order to combat this, small tutoring centers have popped up throughout the country. The centers operate on a volunteer basis, with classes usually taught by Americans and Europeans travelling abroad to teach languages.

Language is a problem within the private schools as well. Zeina, who attended a French school, said that there is little emphasis placed on learning English. “You have the option between German, Italian and Spanish…. And the English is very, very basic. In the last year of high school they literally teach you things like ‘my dog’s name is Bobo.’”

Despite her classmates’ limited knowledge of the English language, a diploma from a French private school almost certainly leads to an acceptance into a French University, as well as easier access to a French visa. Those who graduate from Ivoirian Schools must either be the very top of their class or come from wealthy families if they wish to continue their education in college. “The system is very limiting for most people who live in the Ivory Coast,” Zeina admitted. “At the end of the day if you don’t have money you don’t really get access to education.”

The Ivory Coast has a population of 15 million, approximately one third of which are non-Ivoirians. Out of the 128,318 students enrolled in high school, 42 percent attend private school. In addition to high poverty rates among Ivoirians and the necessity for child labor, there are other factors which can prevent children from receiving the best education possible.

Cote d’Ivoire has suffered through two civil wars in the past 15 years. Political conflict instigated outbreaks of violence in 2002, leading to a five-year civil war that killed and displaced thousands. Just three years after the call for peace, violence broke out once again leading to a second civil war that lasted from 2010-2011. The physical and emotional damage inflicted upon residents of the Ivory Coast during these wars contribute to days of school missed.

Taylor Lovett

Sources: Interview with Zeina, Our Africa, University of Szeged, Kuno Library
Photo: Unocha

restricted labor force in india
While stories of India’s gender gap have been in the media spotlight in past years, a recent census shows the depth of the inequality. India is rated 101 out of a 136 country survey for gender disparity, with lower economic opportunities and a lower literacy rate. With a population of over a billion, nearly 160 million women are estimated to be restricted to domestic work, many of whom are of working age.

With a restricted labor force in India, the capacity for growth and development is hindered. Additionally, the options women do have are limited by unequal access to education and training. While this problem has been acknowledged, its scope was underestimated. Sociologists hope that governmental encouragement of women in the workforce can help reduce illiteracy and poverty among women.

However, even women who are employed are more likely to be “vulnerably employed” than their male counterparts. This term, used by an ILO study to describe nearly 84 percent of South Asian women, refers to the risk these workers face: seasonal employment and more easily terminated services leaves them with little job security. Additionally, these workers perform mostly domestic services, a trend which consistently reinforces the patriarchal hierarchy in India.

With job security being a problem for women, the government is hoping that opening up more opportunities in the public sector, now dominated by men, can have an equalizing effect for the women of India. With women and girls being among the most disadvantaged in the world, employing them and fostering growth in education and literacy is in the best interest for 21st century India.

For as large of a nation as it is, the hindrances on the labor force have not allowed India to realize its potential. For the generations of women now and those in the future, women must have the opportunity to come out of the domestic sphere and into the working world.

– Kristin Ronzi

Sources: Silicon India, ISP News
Photo: Worldbank

minimum_wage_law
Ending months of negotiations, Germany’s legislature voted on a minimum wage law mandating $11.61 an hour. The vote passed despite opposition from both trade unions and businesses calling out the program’s potential flaws.

The vote is considered to be a piece of landmark legislation for Germany, as in the past wages were set via agreements between employers and employees. Before this vote, Germany was one of a group of seven countries in the European Union who did not have a national minimum wage.

Opponents of the legislation, however, are outraged over some changes to the legislation in the eleventh-hour before the vote. Citizens under the age of 18 do not fall under the protection of the new law. Opponents claim that having a minimum wage would prevent younger citizens from being able to hold an apprenticeship.

For the first six months after the law is enacted, those who have been without employment for a long period of time will also fail to be covered by the law. Supporters of this restriction claim that if the long-term unemployed were paid $11.61 from the point of the law’s enactment, it would just make it more difficult for the unemployed to find jobs.

Compulsory work placement, something which mainly affects students, will also not be covered by the new minimum wage law, along with newspaper publishers for two years.

According to the Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers, around 160,000 newspaper sellers will be affected by the lack of pay and the total number of people who won’t be covered by the new law is approximately 3 million.

There are around 7.1 million people in part-time employment in Germany, according to a 2012 report. The report also stated that around 4.8 million people were unemployed.

“These exemptions hit the most vulnerable in the labor market, of all people,” said Frank Bsirske, the head of the white-collar trade union Ver.di. “Millions of people will continue to be exposed to the arbitrariness of starvation wages.”

The bill has also drawn criticism from the European Union executive body. According to László Andor, the European Social Affairs Commissioner, the European Commission requires that countries who are members of the E.U. have a minimum wage that includes everyone in order to prevent citizens from falling into poverty even though they may be employed.

German economists and lobbyists for many of Germany’s businesses have argued against the minimum wage bill as well; stating that a rise in the minimum wage may run the risk of driving prices up for consumers and could potentially end thousands of jobs in the weaker regions of Germany.

Supporter of the bill argue, however, that having a period of time to allow businesses to adapt is necessary.

“This has dominated the political debate in our country for ten years,” said Labor Minister Andrea Nahles, one of the supporters for the bill. “It’s coming now and that’s reason to celebrate. Millions of employees in this country will finally get a fair wage.”

– Monica Newell

Sources: World Socialist Web Site, The Wall Street Journal
Photo: Arab News

tajikistan
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Tajikistan, a small country between Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and China, erupted in a civil war between the Moscow-backed government and Islamists.

The war lasted for five years, greatly hurting the nation’s economy. Around 50,000 people were killed and more than 10 percent of the population fled the country. The war only came to an end in 1997 when the United Nations facilitated a peace agreement.

Since the civil war, the economy of Tajikistan has not recovered and the country is currently Central Asia’s poorest nation. Almost half of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is earned by its citizens working out of the country. Meanwhile the nation itself relies on the economies of Russia and China, as well as oil and gas imports.

During the war one in every five schools were destroyed. Since the war, Tajikstan has worked to improve the country’s education.

Tajikistan currently has an enrollment of 97 percent for primary school, 80 percent for secondary school, and 17 percent for tertiary school. Late entry, combined with the early dropout of school aged children, especially girls, lower Tajikistan’s attendance for later schooling.

Although there is a very high rate of literacy, other issues affect its educational system.

Salaries paid to teachers are very low, which leads to low staffing and poorly qualified teachers in schools. This is in part due to the lack of government spending on education. In 1991, 8.9 percent of the GDP was spent on education. In 2005, this figure was down to 3.2 percent.

Due to the negative effects of the civil war on the Tajikstan economy and the immense loss of life, the school systems have been suffering ever since. Although the government has been working to improve access to education, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

– Lily Tyson

Sources: BBC, UNICEF, Eurasia
Photo: Asianews

Education in kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan has been transitioning into its own government after the rule of the Soviet Union, which ended in 1991. Throughout the 1990s, Kyrgyzstan struggled economically due to a decline in production output after the termination of its reliance on the USSR’s industrial regulations.

Due to the country’s difficult economic history, there is a high poverty rate among its citizens; 22 percent of the population lives on less than $2 per day and 41 percent live below the poverty line. Due to the difficult economic situation in Kyrgyzstan, education in Kyrgyzstan has not been a priority. Here are five facts about education in Kyrgyzstan:

1. Low Employment Leads to Low Demand for Education

Due to the low employment rates, citizens of Kyrgyzstan saw less of a value for education after 1991. As a result, the government lowered the required education to nine years while changing other educational policies. Recently, the government has been re-investing itself in education, increasing educational spending and increasing access to education.

2. Decreasing Enrollment

The enrollment in Kyrgyzstan’s pre-primary schools is 10 percent; 87 percent for primary schools, 80 percent for secondary schools and 37 percent for tertiary schools. Throughout the past five years, these numbers have decreased. It is possible that this is due to the 2007 decree that a school uniform is mandatory for all students. Many families are unable to afford this uniform.

3. The Urban-Rural Gap

There is not a significant gender gap in education. There is, however, a gap in urban versus rural access to education. For secondary school, there are 6 percent fewer children attending in rural areas than in urban areas.

4. Struggling Academic Performance

In 2006, Kyrgyzstan scored 57 out of 57 countries for educational performance in reading, mathematics and science.

5. Low Teaching Wages

The student to teacher ration in Kyrgyzstan is one student to 24 teachers. In addition, teachers are paid less than 40 percent of the average national earnings.

Although Kyrgyzstan has been reforming its education — such as a $12.7 million grant to improve preschools — the country has many reforms left to be made in order to improve the quality of education offered to its citizens.

— Lily Tyson

Sources: 24 News Agency, UNICEF, Ministry for Education
Photo: Partnerships in Action

gold-mining

Artisanal gold-mining is nothing new to Zimbabwe; in fact, it’s a practice that is centuries old. What is especially interesting about the practice today, though, is how innovative Zimbabweans are using mining as a means of supporting their families in difficult economic times.

The correlation between economic strain and accelerated entry into the mining sector is strong. Zimbabwe has undergone a decade and a half of economic turmoil that began in 2000 with the collapse of its agricultural economy when the government forced out large farms only to replace them with much smaller ones run by inexperienced staff.

As a result, swaths of the population were forced to seek alternative employment, such as small-scale mining. By 2018, it is estimated that so many Zimbabweans will have adopted artisanal gold-mining that Zimbabwe’s gold output will double.

As an industry, gold-mining has the power to support thousands of hard-working Zimbabweans. According to the South African Institute of International Affairs, which in May 2014 published a comprehensive policy briefing on the topic, “artisanal gold-mining has emerged as one of the few means of poverty alleviation for poverty-stricken people in mineral-rich communities.”

Despite this, however, the government of Zimbabwe has yet to support the industry – in fact, it has criminalized small-scale mining altogether.

Government opposition to mining is a result of concerns that mining leads to environmental degradation and political instability. To some extent, these concerns are legitimate – mining relies not only on the use of dangerous chemicals but can also lead to water pollution and landscape erosion, as well as result in community tensions when workers of differing ethnicities and ideologies flood into mining towns.

Traditionally, Zimbabwe has enforced the criminalization of artisanal mining, arresting those who are caught engaging in the practice. However, because artisanal miners move between gold mines very quickly, law enforcement alone has not managed to end non-commercial mining in Zimbabwe.

The government of Zimbabwe would be smart to regulate rather than criminalize artisanal mining, as it benefits the country as a whole. Increased gold output over the past several years has earned Zimbabwe a reputation for being mineral-rich, and in turn, has led to increased international investment.

Mining gives individuals who would otherwise face unemployment an income, allowing them to participate in local economies, perhaps put down roots and in some cases, even undertake their own entrepreneurial ventures.

Lacking the violence with which it is often associated, supporting mining would be a no-brainer for Zimbabwe. Regulation (including environmental regulation) as a means of “formalizing” the mining industry could be incredibly effective in reducing its social costs and in turn, make the industry even more productive. Zimbabweans have found a way to ward off poverty – their government should listen.

— Elise L. Riley

Sources: Eldris, Info Please
Photo: The Zimbabwe Mail

german_poverty

As a country that focuses on eradicating global issues such as hunger and poverty, we must make as many people as possible aware of our efforts, and where these issues occur. Recently, it has been reported that poverty in Germany is on the rise. Although we do not always associate Western European countries with poverty, poverty has become a global issue, affecting all types of people.

Around one-fifth of German youth live in poverty. Poverty among young Germans is on the rise due to lack of proper education and vocational training. According to Simon Rapp, Chairman of the Federal Association for Catholic Youth Welfare (BAG-KJS), “this poverty occurs due to the absence of equal opportunities in the German education system, which often results in young people being excluded from society.”

In addition, “German youths have been having an increasingly hard time” finding a job, due to the lack of educative opportunities.”

According to a study from the Bremen Institute for Workplace Research and Career Support, around 220,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 live in households dependent on Hartz IV state welfare. Around 90 percent have reported that they have never received vocational training or had access to education. In Berlin alone, 20 percent of the youths are dependent on welfare and unemployment benefits.

To make everything clearer, a study from the Hans-Böckler Foundation estimated that 18.9 percent of young people live in poverty in Germany. Thanks to the study, German officials have calculated that more than 2.5 million children and young people are poor.

To make matters worse, poverty among German youths is expected to increase. Lack of proper education, vocational training and unemployment is expected to rise for Germans within the coming years. According to The Local, a study by German officials found that for young people aged 15 to 24, education played a key role in which youngsters would end up in poverty. Moreover, the study found that teenagers with leaving certificates from Hauptschule schools were “the lowest rung on the academically-tiered German school system, or those who drop out early.”

Education is the best protection against poverty. The question is, how can we help German youths access education?

 — Stephanie Olaya

Sources: The Local, WSWS
Photo: The Spiegel

labor unrest
Protesting has emerged in Cambodia since the first of 2014. Chevron employees demand wages to be increased from $110 to $160 a month. Over 200 workers from the multi-million dollar company, Chevron, have organized a strike for salary increases. The strike has forced 17 of Cambodia’s Chevron gas stations to temporally close until the strike is over.

The Chevron employees have also been joined by several of the country’s garment factory workers in protesting to raise not only the company’s wages, but the national minimum wage to $160 a month.

Because Chevron is a U.S. company, Cambodia is reaching out to the U.S. government officials for help. The thoughts among Cambodia’s factory and service workers have pushed the labor unrest to continue. Laborers in Cambodia‘s large textile industry staged strikes and protest late last year and in the beginning of 2014 for a higher minimum salary and has steered toward political resistance.

The Cambodia Daily states that local worker “Ly Heng, a 29-year-old gas pumper at the Stung Meanchey station, said he is only paid $75 per month and wanted to join the strike but had feared losing his job.”

Chevron released a statement stating, “We are disappointed that our unionized service station colleagues have taken the drastic action to stop work instead of following legal processes to resolve the matter that would have enabled us to continue the supply of fuel products and minimize inconvenience to the public.”

Chevron has been working with authorities to ensure the safety of civilians and the workers participating in the strike.

In the past, Cambodia has seen a fair share of wage strikes. The garment factory strike was a great success with an estimate of over 200,000 workers that participated. This made it one of the largest garment-worker strikes in the history of Cambodia.

So far this year, factories in Cambodia have enforced an inspection of current safety related policies due to the six deaths related to a garment factory accident. The deaths have resulted in not only a strike, but further inspections on current wage circumstances in Cambodia.

The strikes from the garment workers have inspired other members of the work force to fight for higher wages.

Teachers demand $250 a month because the current $75 a month is not a livable wage. According to the Cambodian Independent Teachers Union, there are 87,000 teachers in the country. Several of these teachers protested for higher wages, shocking Cambodia with the current salary that they receive.

The strike ended with Chevron’s agreement to increase the monthly wage by $20 back in May. The agreement stated that workers would head back to work and end the strike. The Chevron cashiers will have their salaries increased to $150 and petrol pumpers will make $130. Also, the Chevron employees participating in the strike will not receive a pay dock from the time spent during the wage strike.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: The Associated Press, The Diplomat, Global Post
Photo: VOA