Pros of Immigration

While many view immigration as a cultural crisis, the pros of immigration are significant. Immigration is a point of contention as immigrants change the face of a population and bring their own culture with them. Moreover, immigrants receive criticism if they do not fully integrate, by not speaking the country’s primary language. Some people simply feel there’s no room for immigrants. They fear their jobs will be taken or undercut by the low wages some immigrants are willing to work for.

In spite of these concerns, it is undeniable that immigrants infuse much needed vitality into the economy. They build businesses, create jobs and bring new perspectives. Most importantly, welcoming immigrants supports and promotes an international standard of human rights. Everyone should be able to settle somewhere safe, healthy and stable—especially if their native country is not so.

Below is an immigration case study of sorts, demonstrating the economic benefits of immigration in Japan, the U.S., and Western Europe.

Japan

Plagued by an aging population and declining birth rates, immigration provides Japan with a new source of young workers. The Japanese Health Ministry predicts that by 2060, the country’s population will fall to 86.74 million. This is a 40 million decrease since 2010. Currently, 20 percent of Japan’s population is over 65 years old. As a result, this burdens Japan’s shrinking workforce with the funds for their pensions and healthcare. But immigration into Japan ensures the nation’s economy can maintain itself as people retire.

Japan is historically unwelcoming to immigrants, believing peace and harmony to be rooted in homogeneity. As such, the nation’s immigration policy reflects this. Japan only allows a small number of highly skilled workers into the country. This policy has been in place since 1988 to combat labor shortages. However, this is no longer enough to combat Japan’s worsening economy. In 2018, labor shortages in the nation were the highest they had been in 40 years.

However, the pros of immigration in Japan are clear. Without it, Japan faces an incredibly insecure economic future. With no sign of population growth, the nation’s perpetually shrinking workforce will become unable to support its retired citizens. However, immigrants can round out the workforce in Japan. And they can neutralize any economic woes the nation might face in the future by preventing labor shortages.

USA

The cultural and economic contributions immigrants have made to America are vast, overwhelmingly advantageous and long-lasting.

A study done by economists at Harvard, Yale and the London School of Economics found US counties that accepted more immigrants between 1860 and 1920 are doing better today as a result. These counties have significantly higher incomes, higher educational achievement, less poverty and lower unemployment because immigrants provided the low-skilled labor needed to support rapid industrialization. Undeniably, immigrants have always and still continue to increase economic growth in America.

Similarly, immigrants in the U.S. have been integral to innovation and entrepreneurship. Half of all startups in America worth over a billion dollars have been founded by immigrants. Eleven of these startups employ more than 17,000 people in the U.S. Some of these companies, such as Uber and WeWork, have significantly changed American culture. They modify the way Americans live their daily lives. Therefore, the pros of immigration in the U.S. are grounded in the diversity of thought brought by immigrants, necessary to further American innovation and economic growth.

Western Europe

Like Japan, Western Europe is battling an aging population and declining birth rates. Fertility rates are expected to hit zero in the next decade. Consequently, this region may not be able to sustain its expansive social welfare programs as its workforce shrinks and retired populations grow. In Germany, the median age is 47.1 years, the oldest in Western Europe. This is only slightly younger than Japan’s 47.3 years. Besides convincing its native populations to have more children, immigration is their only alternative.

Immigration into Western Europe is an undeniable win for both the immigrants and the host countries. Many new immigrants in Western Europe have escaped unstable regimes, religious persecution, and economic downturn in North African and Middle Eastern countries. Thus, immigrants give the region a younger workforce that is able to sustain the region’s expensive social benefits. In return, Western Europe provides immigrants with jobs, stability, and a safe place to live.

While still a very divisive topic, the pros of immigration lie in its plethora of economic benefits. It is undeniable that immigration has always been the driver of economic growth, despite all of the criticism. Immigration provides immigrants with an alternative to oppressive regimes and other instability, of course. And the pros of immigration for nations absolutely outweigh the cons.

Jillian Baxter
Photo: Pixabay

HIVAIDS“We all deserve a quality life with HIV and without it,” declared Russian activist Maria Godlevskaya at the International AIDS Conference. Godlevskaya is a loving mother and dedicated peer counselor who has been living with HIV for 18 years. Advances in the prevention and treatment of HIV mean that the number of new HIV infections is decreasing globally. Only two regions lag behind; in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, new cases of HIV are on the rise.

The State of the AIDS Crisis

To combat the global epidemic, UNAIDS has issued “90-90-90 targets” to be reached globally by 2020. The goal is that of all of the people living with HIV, 90 percent should be aware of their status. Of these people, 90 percent should receive treatment. And of those receiving treatment, 90 percent should achieve viral suppression.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia are currently the furthest from reaching this goal. In these regions, 73 percent of people infected with HIV are aware of their status, 36 percent of those people are receiving treatment and 26 percent have achieved viral suppression.

There is no indication that the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has even reached its peak. There is, however, hope. By understanding the key populations affected by the epidemic and funding prevention, testing and treatment methods, transmission can be slowed and even stopped altogether.

Advances Against AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Currently, only about three percent of HIV/AIDS funding in the region is targeted toward key vulnerable populations, including men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, and people who use intravenous drugs. The stigma against these populations often makes them invisible to the government and to the healthcare system.

About one-third of new HIV infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are in people who use intravenous drugs. Fortunately, strategies to reduce the risk of spreading the disease have been helping. Needle-syringe programs are an example of effective harm reduction strategies. They distribute free, sterile needles to drug users.

Additionally, opioid substitution therapy allows drug users to stay away from needle use. The therapy provides methadone, which is taken orally and eases drug withdrawal symptoms. Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine have significantly ramped up such harm-reduction programs; as a result, they have seen a decrease in HIV infections among people using intravenous drugs.

Mother-to-child transmission of HIV  has accounted for only one percent of all incidences in 2017. In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that mother-to-child transmission was stopped altogether in Armenia and Belarus.

In the fight against AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Saint Petersburg has become a model city. As a result of increased funding for prevention initiatives and harm-reduction programs for drug users, the number of new HIV infections has decreased. On a national level, however, the Russian Federation has neglected to fund effective prevention and treatment services.

Grassroots Nonprofits Helping Their Communities

When the government turns a blind eye, ordinary people step up. Maria Godlevskaya founded E.V.A, a nonprofit that advocates for women affected by HIV. From providing peer counseling to helping women communicate with medical officials, E.V.A gives marginalized women hope. The organization is about building bridges from woman to woman and from this network of women to their government.

The fight against HIV/AIDS knows no gender, no race and no age. Adolescents are coming together to fight HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Across the region, 80 adolescents are part of a nonprofit called Teenergizer. They visit local HIV clinics and record any roadblocks to testing they experience. The teenagers then use this information to create an interactive map of testing and treatment facilities for other youth in their region. Teenergizer reduces stigma and empowers youth to take their health into their own hands: as a result of the initiative, nearly two thousand adolescents from Eastern Europe and Central Asia have been tested for HIV.

The crisis of AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has been bleak, and the future is uncertain. But, the leadership of several countries, nonprofit organizations and dedicated citizens has the potential to crush social stigmas and the associated legislative obstacles to funding prevention and treatment. Armen Agadjanov of Teenergizer affirms that a brighter future is on the horizon. “I’m convinced that the future is in the hands of adolescents—they are the people who will change and build a new world.”

– Ivana Bozic
Photo: Flickr

How the European Union Fights HIV/AIDS
The European Union (EU) is an economic and political coalition of 28 European nations; countless individuals chosen by the state represent his or her nation within the alliance. The governmental body addresses public health, human rights, development, climate action along with numerous other subjects. The European Union is well-known economically, yet they should also be renown for their work to research, inform and prevent diseases, such as HIV/AIDS. The European Union fights HIV/AIDS through surveillance, data and prevention programs.

Surveillance

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) work together to collect data on HIV/AIDS in 31 European states. The surveillance programs allow the EU to monitor groups who are at higher risks to contract the disease, to improve responses to those affected and to learn more about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

The European Union utilizes their monitoring techniques to better its “evidence-based action;” for example, if one European country reported lower diagnoses than another nation, they would then be able to statistically analyze which system worked. The country resulting in fewer cases would, therefore, have the more effective approach to decrease HIV/AIDS.

Surveillance programs help the EU understand trends so they are better able to understand the disease and the efficacy of their treatment programs.

Data

Recent data collected by surveillance programs show an overall decline in HIV/AIDS within Europe. Additionally, AIDS-related deaths have substantially decreased since 1990.

In 2016, 29,444 people were newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 31 countries; this number is relatively lower than the predicted 30,000 diagnoses. The prevalence rate currently stands at 5.9 per 100,000 individuals, which is also drastically less than other places such as Sub-Saharan Africa.

The rate among men is higher than that of women; men are currently at 8.9 cases while women are at 2.6 cases per 100,000. These numbers are significantly lower than those of the past; therefore, the surveillance and prevention programs have proven effective.

Prevention Programs

Due to the high rate of late diagnoses, the EU recognized that there are issues with “access to, and uptake of, HIV testing and counseling in many countries.” The ECDC, which is a partner of the EU, developed the “European Test Finder” to help with locating the closest testing facility.

The European Union fights HIV/AIDS now by allowing quick and easy access to testing. The EU realizes that an early diagnosis can save a life, and locating a testing site is vital in helping those who have HIV.

The EU has also allowed pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is an antiretroviral medication that tries to prevent or reduce the likelihood of contracting HIV. France is the only nation that has used this prevention program, and it has proven successful. The EU is trying to make the drug more available across the union.

The “ART regimen” is one of the most efficient ways to prevent HIV/AIDS, and it works to extend the lifespan of someone with the disease. It is also an antiretroviral medication; yet, it is given when someone is HIV positive. This medication could lead to viral suppression, which means that one cannot transmit the disease to someone else.

A United Front

Another way the European Union fights HIV/AIDS is by using Facebook and Twitter. Social media platforms have been very effective as boosting awareness is crucial to HIV/AIDS prevention programs. The ECDC offers a helpful, digital guide to prevent STI/HIV.

The European Union fights HIV/AIDS by combining surveillance, data and prevention techniques. Although each state may have a different approach to preventing HIV/AIDS, the EU acts as an overarching body that researches and implements the best means to end the disease. The EU unites each country so they can eliminate the disease together.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in EuropeAlthough the European Union (EU) largely consists of many advanced nations, it is important to remember that these nations are still affected by poverty. Many countries were affected by the euro crisis that began in 2008 and are still suffering its consequences.

12 Facts About Poverty in Europe

  1. One in four Europeans experiences at least one form of poverty. Forms of poverty include income poverty, severe material deprivation, very low work intensity and social exclusion. Income poverty is the most common form of poverty in Europe, affecting 17.3 percent of people. One hundred eighteen million people (23.5 percent) of the EU-28 population were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, with 43 million of those not able to afford a quality meal every second day. This is known as severe material deprivation.
  2. Social exclusion is the lack of social resources and rights available to most people as a result of poverty or being part of a minority group. In 2015, more than a third of the population was at risk of poverty or social exclusion in three EU countries: 41.3 percent in Bulgaria, 37 percent in Romania and 35.7 percent in Greece. The countries with the lowest risk were the Czech Republic at 14 percent and Sweden at 16 percent.
  3. The poverty line is the minimum level of income needed to secure the necessities of life and differs greatly for each European country. An average of 9.8 percent of people in the EU live below the poverty line. The country with the lowest amount of people living below the poverty line is Austria at four percent, and the highest is Greece at 36 percent. This is one of the 12 facts about poverty in Europe that reveals the enormous gap between wealthier and poorer countries in Europe.
  4. The unemployment rate in Europe is only around seven percent. According to Eurostat, some countries rank above this average with Greece at 20.9 percent and Spain at 16.3 percent. In 2016, 48.7 percent of people who were unemployed were at risk of poverty. Unemployment also makes people more at risk of severe material deprivation.
  5. Poverty in Europe is not limited to those who are unemployed. In 2015, 7.7 percent of the EU population was at risk of poverty despite working full-time, with men more at risk than women. Romania has Europe’s highest risk of in-work poverty with a rate of 18.9 percent. Spain and Greece follow with 13.1 percent and 14.1 percent, respectively. Additionally, the in-work poverty risk has increased from 8.3 percent in 2010 to 9.6 percent in 2016.
  6. Women have a higher risk of poverty in Europe. The number of women suffering from poverty or social exclusion in the EU was 1.9 percent higher than men in 2015. Additionally, young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are more at risk of poverty or social inclusion with a risk of 30.6 percent.
  7. In 2015, almost 50 percent of all single parents in Europe were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, which is twice as much as the risk for any other household.
  8. Foreigner-born residents (39.2 percent) are at a higher risk of poverty or social exclusion than native citizens (21.6 percent). In Italy, the number of foreigners at risk is particularly high at 55 percent.
  9. Children below the age of 18 also have a high rate of poverty or social exclusion, at 47 percent, with 26 million children in the EU living at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Child poverty in the U.K. has reached its highest level since 2010, reaching 30 percent.
  10. Even with the economy improving, one in three people in Spain still lives in poverty, which is defined as living on €8,000 or less per year. Children are also at a higher risk of poverty in Spain. In Andalusia, a Spanish province, child poverty reached 44 percent.
  11. Italy has the most people at risk of poverty in Europe. This amount rose from 15 million to 18 million people since the 2008 crisis, with over 4 million people living in absolute poverty.
  12. The heads of government in the EU adopted the Europe 2020 Strategy in 2010 to address poverty. The goal of this was to lift at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty and social exclusion by 2020.  Unfortunately, this goal has not been reached and the situation has gotten worse instead of better. There has been an increase in poverty in the EU over the past years. In 2009, there were 117 million people and 27 EU member states at risk of poverty or social inclusion in the EU Since then, there has been an increase of 1.6 million people and one country.

Although these 12 facts about poverty in Europe may introduce a growing problem, the EU along with the European governments are taking active steps to fight this problem. Several countries’ economies are now expanding and showing improvement since the crisis. This includes Spain’s economy, which now has a predicted growth of 2.5 percent in 2018. It is imperative to continue to provide foreign aid and assistance in order to ensure that U.S. allies continue to grow and move past the repercussions suffered after the crisis.

– Luz Solano-Flórez
Photo: Flickr

SOS Méditerranée Saving the Distressed at SeaThousands of migration attempts across the Mediterranean take place every year. By mid-November of 2017, over 150,000 people reached Europe by sea. During this time, almost 3,000 were found dead or declared missing. NGOs accounted for 40 percent of all lives saved in the Mediterranean during the first half of 2017.

SOS Méditerranée is a European maritime and humanitarian organization responsible for the rescue of lives in the Mediterranean. The organization was created in response to the deaths in the Mediterranean and the failure of the European Union to prevent them. Its mission focuses on three key points: to save lives, to protect and assist and to testify. It was founded by private citizens in May of 2015 and works as a European association with teams in Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland. Together the countries work as a European network,  jointly financing and operating the rescue ship Aquarius.

Since February of 2016, Aquarius has operated in international waters between Italy and Libya. Since then, the rescue ship has welcomed more than 27,000 refugees aboard. Once aboard, Aquarius provides emergency medical treatment through its partnership with Doctors Without Borders. This supports the organization’s second key mission, to protect and assist. It provides both medical and psychological care to those on board and then works to connect them to supporting institutions in Europe.

In early March of 2018, the Aquarius welcomed aboard 72 survivors from a merchant ship after two tragic operations in the Central Mediterranean. The Aquarius was the only search and rescue vessel present in the area. It was mobilized to search for a boat in distress in international waters east from Tripoli by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Rome. Its rescue operations involved a complex search of 120 nautical miles over the course of 24 hours. Those rescued were from 12 different countries, mainly in West Africa, but also from Sudan and South Sudan. Once aboard, the survivors were able to receive the medical treatment they desperately needed.

SOS Méditerranée wants to give those rescued a voice, to testify, and show the actual faces of migration in the hope of bringing awareness about refugees in the Mediterranean and remembering those who were unsuccessful in their journeys. Evidence from the Mediterranean Migration Research Programme (MMRP) has examined the dynamics of migration to Europe from 2015 and 2016, as well its difficulties. Its key findings challenge assumptions about the dynamics of migration, including that migration is primarily driven by the need to access jobs and welfare support.

Instead, the MMRP found that the vast majority of people migrate across the Mediterranean by boat because of the belief that their lives are in danger or in hopes of a better future. During its study in 2015 and 2016, nearly 1.4 million people crossed the Mediterranean to Europe. However, due to the absence of legal routes to reach the E.U., migrants resort to dangerous crossings with smugglers. There is an urgent need to greatly expand safe and legal routes for the protection of these migrants.

Thanks to organizations like SOS Méditerranée, there have been thousands of lives saved in the Mediterranean. However, joint efforts must be made in order to prevent any further lives from being lost.

– Ashley Quigley

Photo: Flickr

Education in LatviaImprovements in education in Latvia are of the utmost importance, because children are the most impoverished group of Latvians. As of 2012, 23.4 percent of children under the age 17 were living below the poverty line, whereas only 18.8 percent of adults up to 64 years of age and 17.7 percent of Latvians 65 and older were below the poverty threshold.

With so many children living in poverty, receiving an education is the first step towards improving their situation. From 2008 to 2012, there was a decline from 26.3 percent to 23.4 percent of children living in poverty, perhaps due to primary and secondary education being free and mandatory for all native Latvians.

However, there would be a much greater decrease if discrimination was not as prominent within education in Latvia. Children of minorities are denied access to health and education facilities.

Romani and Russian speakers experience language barriers, as Latvian schools do not teach in these languages. Children of these ethnicities are falling into poverty, or remaining in poverty, which greatly affects the country’s overall economy. Russian speakers alone represent a third of Latvia’s population, greatly influencing the country’s poverty rate.

Fortunately, the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance has addressed the issue and promises that the Latvian educational system will provide equal access to education and jobs. They demanded that schools alter their curriculum to provide instruction in minority languages and cultures.

Even further, there is a presence of a separate but equal society in which Roma children must attend different classes than their peers, which reinforces the belief that they are not capable of sharing language and education with Latvian students. The Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission is also fighting to end this separation and merge all ethnicities into the same class.

Seeing how Latvia’s population has experienced an increase in its poverty rate, from 19 percent in 2010 to 22.5 percent in 2014, it is vital that the country makes improvements. Providing equal access to both basic and higher education is an important step forward, one that European officials acknowledge. Once Latvia ends racism, education will allow all children to climb out of poverty.

Brianna White

Photo: Flickr

Generalplan Ost

The unforgettable tragedy of the Holocaust committed by Nazi Germany during World War II resulted in the deaths of more than 12 million people in Europe, but Hitler and his party had greater ambitions for an even larger genocide called Generalplan Ost.

10 Generalplan Ost Facts

  1. Generalplan Ost means “masterplan of the east” and was the Nazi plan for the resettlement of Eastern Europe with German citizens after their victory in World War II, which they presumed was imminent in 1941 when they developed the plan.
  2. The territories they were prepared to take over and occupy were Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus and parts of Russia and Ukraine. The Nazis believed people from these territories were racially inferior and required extermination in order to make room for the Aryan Germans.
  3. To exterminate the unwanted people in Eastern Europe, Generalplan Ost called for mass starvation or moving those they wanted to get rid of farther east. Nazi policy in relation to the Generalplan Ost stated: “many tens of millions of people in this territory will become superfluous and will have to die or migrate to Siberia.”
  4. Heinrich Himmler was in charge of coordinating Generalplan Ost, as he had been appointed Reich Commissar for the Strengthening of German Ethnic Stock, which allowed him to decide the fates of people in Eastern Europe. Himmler had Oberfuhrer SS Professor Meyer-Hetling from the Berlin University prepare the plan.
  5. The plan called for the extermination or deportation of 31 million people in Eastern Europe, where about 45 million people were residing at the time. Professor Meyer-Hetling’s plan called for the immediate removal of 80-85 percent of Poland’s population and 50 percent of the Czech Republic’s population, as well as the later deportation of 85 percent of Lithuania’s population, 75 percent of Belarus’ population, 65 percent of western Ukraine’s population and 50 percent of Latvia and Estonia’s populations.
  6. How people were to be “removed” according to Generalplan Ost was based on a racial hierarchy crafted by the Nazis. Those of Slavic origin were “undesirable” and were to be moved into Siberia. The Jews were to be “totally removed,” meaning killed. The rest of the people in Eastern Europe were to be enslaved, “Germanized” or killed.
  7. Special German einzatsgruppen (“task forces”) led operations to kill Eastern Europeans from the end of 1941 to the end of 1942. They killed over 300,000 civilians in Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states alone.
  8. Hitler argued that he wanted to acquire Eastern Europe for the resettlement of Germans to the territory in order to give Germans “Lebensraum” (living space). The term was coined by the German geographer Friedrich Ratzel in 1901; he believed a country needed enough resources and territory to be self-sufficient and to protect itself from external enemies.
  9. Hitler was not the first to insinuate racist views towards the Jews, Slavs, and other people of eastern Europe. Multiple early 20th century scholars argued that the resources of the eastern European states were wasted on the “racially inferior” Slavs and Jews.
  10. Part of Hitler’s inspiration for Generalplan Ost and Lebensraum came from the United States’ westward expansion. Hitler believed Germany’s “manifest destiny” lay in the east.

Thankfully, Generalplan Ost never came fully to fruition. It is hard to imagine that there could have been an even greater genocide than what occurred in the Holocaust. Sadly, genocides continue to occur in the world today. Foreign states must act to stop genocides and prevent them from happening, for if foreign states had not intervened in World War II, Generalplan Ost and the Nazi regime could have succeeded.

Mary Kate Luft

Photo: Flickr

Help the People of EstoniaEstonia is a crucial ally for the United States in the modern age. On March 29, 2004, Estonia joined NATO as a means to strengthen their position in the world and form stronger international relations with the West. Since then, the United States, as well as many other key NATO members, have maintained a strong presence in Estonia to guarantee the nation’s security.

To help the people of Estonia, it is important to consider how to improve the state of their home lives. There are a lot of charitable groups that donate to help displaced children and young mothers.

Caritas Estonia is a valuable organization in Estonia which dedicates itself to improving the lives of vulnerable Estonian women. Their approach to helping the people of Estonia is to provide the support necessary to empower underage mothers and pregnant teenagers to participate and advance in the Estonian workforce.

Another organization working to strengthen Estonian families is SOS Children’s Villages (SOS CV). The organization started in 1992, shortly after Estonia gained its independence from Russia. SOS CV offers a valuable service to the most vulnerable 20 percent of Estonia’s population: it’s children. SOS CV provides homes for children whose parents can no longer afford to house them.

How can you help the people of Estonia? Browse the websites of these organizations to learn more about the work they do. You can donate your time and money to a worthy cause helping to strengthen the Estonian workforce and care for children in Estonia.

You can also email Congress via The Borgen Project’s website. The Borgen Project is an American organization whose purpose is to lobby U.S. Congress to implement policy changes to help reduce poverty around the globe.

These are just a few ways how you can help the people of Estonia.

Tim Sherwood

Photo: Flickr

Education in AndorraPositioned between the Spanish territory and France, Andorra occupies a small territory of 180 square miles. Considered to be one of the smallest countries in the world, its current population is approximately 77,000 people.

Regardless of its size, Andorra positions as the 191st largest export economy around the globe, making the European country a privileged one, in terms of its relation with countries around the world as well as the European Union. Thus, Andorra uses the Euro as its national currency and carries a special relationship with the U.N.

In 1982, the Andorran education system was implemented. This system helped built a strong school system that is now recognized as one of the best in the world, due to its language variety and free schooling up until high school.

As a country that borders France and Spain, its citizens speak mainly Catalan – a dialect of Spanish – as well as Spanish and French. Thus, education in Andorra is divided within those three languages. French speaking, Spanish and Catalan schools are the three schooling options for students to choose from. It is well known that 50 percent of students study in French-focused schools, whilst the other half is divided between the Catalan and Spanish schools.

Added to the fact that education has three different options in regards to language, education in Andorra is also divided between public, private and state-funded private schools – which can be described as a middle option that lies between public and private education. This schooling system is similar to the one in Spain, due to the proximity of the countries and the overall similarities between them. With the same schooling system as Spain, Andorra’s public school system is completely funded by the state, yet the teachers are paid by Spain and France.

A downside to the education in Andorra is the fact that there is only one university in the whole country, the University of Andorra. Thus, most students attend college in either France or Spain after they graduate high school, mostly depending on the language and school they previously chose to attend.

Overall, the school system and education in Andorra is one of the most surprising in the world. Such a small country is able to divide its school system into up to three languages as well as three different economy-based schools and high schools, giving opportunities to all citizens to be able to study and afford a quality education whilst doing so.

Paula Gibson

Photo: Pixabay

58. Poverty in Former USSR StatesThe countries that once made up the USSR are complex and differ in nearly every way. During the most of the 20th century, however, they were ruled over by one central government. Since the peaceful fall of the regime, the Soviet Union has splintered into the different countries we know today, connected via the Commonwealth of Independent States. Although poverty in former USSR states has generally decreased when comparing the rates of today to the past, this does not mean that the road to alleviating poverty in former USSR states was easy.

For many of the former “-stan” countries, for example, the fall had a rather negative effect on those economies. Turkmenistan became a dictatorship whose elections were not deemed fair and democratic. As a result, the country became very corrupt. Uzbekistan was not ruled by a dictatorship, but corruption inside the country is very high, making foreign aid difficult to administer. Furthermore, due to a highly controversial massacre of protesters in the country in 2005, it is the only country to have cut ties with the Western world. Tajikistan suffered a civil war right after the collapse. Kazakhstan, on the other hand, is different. The country has grown its economy since its independence due to its robust energy industry. Except for Turkmenistan (no data) and Kazakhstan (2.7 percent), every single one of the countries has a poverty rate of about 20 percent or higher.

For the countries located between the Black and the Caspian Seas, the state of poverty does not look much better. Armenia has a poverty rate of over 30 percent due to political instability, while Georgia experienced a civil war that created a few frozen conflict zones (South Ossetia and Abkhasia). Azerbaijan was spared any wars and has plentiful oil fields from which to grow its economy. Alas, corruption is very high in this country as well.

The countries in Europe, however, have done relatively well. Estonia is rated as the least poor of the countries (despite a 20 percent poverty rate) due to embracing the free market system and capitalizing on electronics. Latvia has also grown its GDP. Although it is poor, it proved itself immensely resistant to the 2009 recession and recovered very quickly while putting itself onto a path to join the EU. Moldova, however, has been suffering for two decades because of political instability, leading to the self-proclaimed state of Transnistria forming within the country. Now though, it is on its way towards EU membership, with a poverty rate of about 10 percent.

Ukraine has actually had a fairly peaceful transition into post-Soviet politics, making the 2000s a prosperous period for Ukraine. Although recent events in the country make it sound like a dangerous place, the poverty rate is in fact at only 6.4 percent. Finally, Belarus, arguably the worst country to live in after the collapse of the USSR. The country has been led by a dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, since its independence. The country has been graded as having the worst human rights of all the countries summarized in this article, making foreign aid questionable. Still, the poverty rate is supposedly at only 5.1 percent.

Overall, such a quick summary of each country cannot completely summarize the state of poverty in former USSR states. Every country is independent, making their political outcomes as varied as any group of countries in the world. What we can learn from this information is that whatever past a country might have had does not predict how it will perform in the future in regards to poverty. Those states that have succeeded in transitioning and becoming more wealthy have set a good example. Now it is up to the oppressive and poor countries to learn from this and grow.

Michal Burgunder

Photo: Flickr