Causes of Poverty in the Czech Republic
In the wake of its post-communist economy, the Czech Republic is working to revitalize its financial strategy and to become a commercial powerhouse in Eastern Europe. However, obstacles preventing the country from improving its economical state are due to the nature of its communist past.

The absence of labor markets forced the communist government to impoverish its citizens in order to sustain the state. Causes of poverty in the Czech Republic stem from the country’s political and economic background during the late 20th century and are exhibited through its complex economic struggles, faulty environmental policies and societal differences.

The Czech government enforces strict fiscal restrictions, which inhibit its economy from reaching its potential. Czechoslovakia strategizes its economy towards export-based trade to maximize external growth. This plan compromises economic security and further perpetuates causes of poverty in the Czech Republic. In order to strengthen its fiscal prospects, the Czech government must invest in its domestic demand for the sake of creating a more sustainable economy.

Instead of resourcing its environment responsibly by taking into consideration long-term consequences of pollution and resource obsolescence, the Czech Ministry of the Environment approves of policies that allow systematic ruin to the environment. This, combined with the issuing of permits without charge to large corporations (which wastes 47.5 billion Czech Korunas), deprives the Czech economy of state revenue it could utilize to fund public sectors that are desperate for financial aid.

With unemployment at 10 percent and various instances of political corruption, Czech society (which is exhaustively compromised of its middle and lower class) is distrusting of governmental figures and industry elites that dominate its politics. While the labor market of the Czech Republic is currently strong and wage increases are on the rise, causes of poverty in the Czech Republic are also contributing to fracturing the coexistence between social classes. For example, the Czech Republic’s reliance on its pension system is not ideal for economic longevity due to increasingly falling replacement rates.

If the Czech Republic is to preserve its strong labor market and to extend pensions to its citizens, it should focus on domestic market growth to meet the demands of its country from the inside out. In addition, the Czech government should focus on lessening the severity of its fiscal restrictions in hopes of liberating its economic prospects and combatting the causes of poverty in the Czech Republic.

Kaitlin Hocker

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in Norway
Norway, officially known as the Kingdom of Norway, is located between Finland, Russia, Skagerrak and Denmark. With a population of over 5.2 million people, Norway is a member of the European Economic Area. Norway is the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter and is considered to be one of the richest countries in Europe. Below are eight facts about the poverty rate in Norway:

  1. Norway had an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent in 2016 and was ranked 48th on a list of worldwide unemployment rates. The rate dropped 0.2 percent from 2015 to 2016.
  2. Although Norway is considered to be a wealthy country, 7.5 percent of the population still lives below the poverty line.
  3. The richest 10 percent of the population in Norway controls 21.2 percent of the entire nation’s wealth. The poorest 10 percent of the population controls only 3.8 percent of the whole country’s wealth.
  4. Norway lowered its oil prices in 2015, which caused an increase in the country’s unemployment rate and slowed down the growth of its GDP in 2016.
  5. Many immigrants in Norway live in poverty. According to recent research, 36 percent of immigrant children live in poverty in Norway, while only five percent of children with Norwegian parents do.
  6. The main cause of poverty among immigrants is that many immigrants are unable to apply their education and work experience they gain from their home country to their new careers in Norway.
  7. The poverty among children is a direct cause of lower education rates. Most immigrant children end up failing at the workplace and struggling with the same poverty problem.
  8. Norway’s government has expressed a willingness to increase public spending from the sovereign wealth fund to help prevent a recession.

Although Norway is considered to be one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, poverty is still a problem in the country, especially among immigrants. The Norwegian government will need to pay more attention to immigrants’ living conditions in the future in order to make changes and reduce the poverty rate in Norway.

Mike Liu

Serbia Poverty Rate

The Republic of Serbia is a European country that declared its independence from the union of Serbia and Montenegro in 2006. Due to Serbia’s separation from the union and its rapid growth between 2001 to 2008, the country faces a substantial poverty rate.

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), nine percent of Serbians are living in poverty as of 2016. Additionally, a concerning 25 percent of Serbians are on the verge of poverty. However, the Serbia poverty rate has improved since 2014, in which one in four people were living below the poverty line. Currently, the most vulnerable groups in Serbia are the Roma and youths.

The Roma are widely recognized as the European Union’s largest minority group, totaling ten million people. In many countries, including Serbia, the Roma were particularly vulnerable to poverty largely due to discrimination. Overall, 19.7 percent of Serbians are unemployed, and more than 50 percent of the unemployed are Romani.

Thus, a significant percentage of the Serbia poverty rate is made up by the Roma, who make up two percent of the Serbian population. Poverty among the Roma continues to persist as Serbia’s method for inclusion relies wholly on education, despite current statistics. As of 2015, only 8 percent of Romanis completed high school, due to discrimination and family financial difficulties. To adequately address the economic disparity of the Roma, more efforts will need to be put towards inclusion.

Youth in Serbia are more likely to be on the verge of poverty or living in poverty due to unemployment. The UNDP reported that “1 in 8 children under the age of 14 live in poverty”. As of 2016, 44.2 percent of youths were reported as unemployed. This is caused by a gap between the supply and demand of skilled labor brought about by Serbia’s flawed educational system.

Education in Serbia is currently not centered around their economic needs, so youths do not have the required skills for available positions. Poor education has led to a substantial long-term youth unemployment rate of more than 50 percent. Educational reforms will need to be made to address youth unemployment and poverty.

Governmental reform programs are underway to address the Serbia poverty rate and to prevent more people from falling into poverty. The rapid growth of Serbia led to significant internal and external imbalances that will need to be addressed through fiscal consolidation.

Structural reforms will also be needed to address the current problems with the Serbian educational system as well as other services.  With effort from the Serbia government and outside assistance, there is hope that the Serbia poverty rate will significantly decrease by 2030.

Haley Hurtt

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Latvia

Latvia – a former member of the USSR – is nestled in northeast Europe. It boasts a free market economy and has joined both the EU and NATO. However, with a long history of oppression of human rights, Latvia has struggled to acknowledge and enforce equal rights for all people. Stemming from violence suffered while under the Soviet Union, there are a few key concerns regarding the status of human rights in Latvia.

Latvia has a large number of stateless individuals – over 250,000 of the population. These people, many of whom are children, are not recognized as citizens of Latvia and do not enjoy many of the benefits that come with being a citizen. A lot of these stateless people are ethnic Russians who have difficulty becoming citizens of Latvia due to discrimination.

Discrimination against Russians carries over to many aspects of daily life. People who are not citizens of Latvia endure heavy restrictions in the professional world and are also limited regarding land ownership. Several people have been fired from positions due to possessing an unsatisfactory mastery of the Latvian language. Recently, the mayor of the capital of Latvia was fined for using Russian in a media post. This discriminatory behavior creates a barrier to achieving equal human rights in Latvia.

The U.N. has also raised concern about human rights in Latvia for the disabled. These concerns are specifically regarding the mentally disabled, and representatives for human rights have insisted the Latvian government prioritize the education of disabled children.

Latvia has the EU and the U.N. to hold them accountable for the preservation of human rights, and these organizations have certainly being doing so. While many issues create barriers to attaining the equal treatment of all people, Latvia continues to create reform to try to combat these issues – though there are definitely some areas still needing work. As long as the country is held accountable for its treatment of people, surely progress will be made.

Julia Mccartney

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in SwedenAs the first country to legislate freedom of the press in 1766, Sweden has had a history of being a vanguard for human rights for hundreds of years. Human rights in Sweden are a top priority for both its citizens and its government. With its seat on the U.N. Security Council and the establishment of the Human Rights Watch offices within its borders, Sweden sets a remarkable example for other developed countries to follow for upholding human rights.

The strong human rights record in Sweden is due to its governmental determination in uplifting its humanitarian tenets, include fighting discrimination, protecting the rule of law, building democracy and strengthening freedom of expression. Government officials fervently believe in protecting human rights in Sweden because it promotes global development and national security. In 2008, the Swedish government took detailed measures towards eradicating discrimination as much as possible by mandating that human rights must be incorporated into all realms of foreign policy.

Sweden’s international leadership in human rights is a defining characteristic of the country’s view on foreign policy. Given that extensive laws protect Sweden’s citizens within its borders, the country’s current agenda is to protect these rights abroad and to introduce laws that protect those whose rights are not as guaranteed. Sweden assists various international organizations such as the United Nations in extending human rights to those living in developing countries.

In order to combat domestic discrimination, the Swedish government introduced the Swedish Discrimination Act of 2009. It counters discrimination in professional and educational sectors by allowing compensation to be given to those who have experienced discrimination. Although Sweden exerts significant effort to protect human rights, there are still certain demographics that its legislation is not protecting completely. Specific groups that have been targeted include Roma, African, and Muslim Swedes. However, the Swedish government is aware of these reports and strives to assist those who encounter discrimination. According to Sweden’s official website, “Human rights largely begin at home. As Sweden strives to walk its talk, it is important to ensure that the values promoted abroad are upheld at home.”

Kaitlin Hocker

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in SlovakiaThe state of human rights in Slovakia, an EU member state located in central Europe, is in need of major reform. The discrimination against the Romani people – also known as Gypsies – has been carried out in various forms, such as restrictions on the right to education and ill treatment by police forces.

The Roma population, which constitutes approximately two to four percent of the Slovakian population, is the second largest minority group in Slovakia. The most prevalent type of discrimination against the Romani people in Slovakia has occurred in the education system, in the form of segregating Romani children. A joint report by the Amnesty International and the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), published on March 1, 2017, revealed that Romani children are regularly assessed as having “mild mental disabilities” and are sent to special schools that provide an inferior education. Although Slovakia had already received a threat of fines from the European Commission two years ago for breaching EU discrimination laws, racial segregation in schools is still rampant across the country.

Another form of discrimination that is representative of the current state of human rights in Slovakia is the ill treatment of Roma by the police. According to the Slovakia 2016 Human Rights Report published by the U.S. Department of State, a number of NGOs and members of the Romani community have reported incidents of police officers abusing suspects both while being arrested and after being imprisoned. For instance, in 2010 a Romani minor who was arrested for robbery claimed that police officers committed acts of violence against him in order to force him into giving a confession. In July 2016, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the state failed to carry out an adequate investigation into this incident and ordered the Slovakian government to pay €1,500 to the minor, in addition to legal costs.

The aforementioned cases of discrimination illustrate that human rights in Slovakia are in need of substantial improvement. While numerous members of the Romani community are already fighting for social inclusion and equal opportunities, efforts from the civil society and government will be crucial in eliminating such deep-rooted human rights issues.

Minh Joo Yi

Hunger in Gibraltar
Twenty-first-century Gibraltar is drastically different from what it was just thirty years ago. According to the CIA’s World Fact Book, the self-sufficient British Overseas Territory benefits from an extensive shipping trade, offshore banking, its position as an international conference center and tourism, among many other economic drivers. Low tax rates have also attracted plentiful foreign investment, driving British military presence to decrease to seven percent from the original 60 percent in the mid-1980s and hunger in Gibraltar to near dissolution.

Although no data exists to date for the percentage of Gibraltar’s 34,408 citizen population living below the international poverty line, the territory’s unemployment rate was listed as one percent in 2016, suggesting that Gibraltar has come a long way since the 19th century, when malnutrition, disease and economic instability were widespread. With improvements in the economy, poverty and hunger in Gibraltar have naturally become less and less concerning.

Gibraltar is currently a member of the European Union as a Special State territory, joining the European Economic Community under the United Kingdom in 1973. Despite its membership, Gibraltar is not subject to the same taxation requirements as other members. As a result, the territory has no capital gains tax, wealth tax, sales tax or value added tax. Non-resident businesses do not pay income tax unless the sources of this income are Gibraltar proper, and there is no tax on capital income. This plethora of “tax-free” conditions has made international trade a large player in the Gibraltarian economy, as non-resident companies can take advantage of such regimes to reduce taxation.

With recent Brexit developments, however, a debate over Gibraltar’s continued status as a member of the EU has arisen. Over 96 percent of the territory’s population voted to remain in a referendum held in June 2016 on the issue of continued EU membership. Since the referendum, Spain has offered a plan to keep Gibraltar in the EU on the condition that Madrid shares sovereignty over Gibraltar with London. Gibraltarian citizens overwhelmingly rejected the proposal.

Gibraltar currently benefits from the tourism industry and trade with Spain through its membership in the EU. Not only would leaving the EU mean leaving the European common market, a risky move for an extremely dependent territory like Gibraltar, but Spain’s economy would suffer as well. In 2007 alone, Gibraltar imported more than £174 million of goods and services from Spain, excluding petroleum imports, and enabled both Spanish and Gibraltarian frontier workers to earn £82.8 million from within the economy of Gibraltar.

On the surface poverty and hunger in Gibraltar may no longer be major issues of concern, but looming economic policy decisions could drastically change and shape the future of the territory.

Katherine Wang

Poverty Rate in Andorra
Andorra is a small nation in Europe, landlocked between the French and Spanish borders. For the majority of the country’s history, both French and Spanish leaders ran the government. This form of rule continued until 1993, when the feudal system that ran the nation was modified, leaving the co-princes of the nation to work alongside a parliamentary democracy to execute the rule of the country.

The Poverty Rate in Andorra

Before World War II, the majority of the citizens in Andorra lived in the same way they did in the Middle Ages. They primarily survived on small-scale farming and smuggling. In the modern day, this trend persists, and many citizens continue to live in old farmhouses from this era in history.

The subsequent increase in European tourism in the 1950s aided the country in developing its more rural regions. As tourism increased, old farm houses and undeveloped land became family hotels and restaurants, allowing for people in a lower income bracket to participate in the economy. When measured in 1996, Andorra had a GDP per capita of $18,000, which was higher than its neighbor, Spain.

The service-based economy has proven to be effective at maintaining a low poverty rate in Andorra. When measured in 1998, the country had a 1.62 percent rate of inflation. This low inflation rate and participation in the country’s economy have allowed even the poorest people to have a high standard of living. No extreme cases of poverty have been recorded in the country in recent history.

The Takeaway

Andorra is a country that made the most of the increased tourism in Europe after World War II. By allowing its citizens to convert their small farms into business, the poverty rate in Andorra has managed to remain low. Other European nations that have small economies should emulate the model that Andorra practices due to its effectiveness in maintaining a low poverty rate.

Nick Beauchamp

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in The Czech RepublicThe Czech Republic is in Central Europe between Germany, Poland, Austria and Slovakia. After World War I, the Czechs and the Slovaks of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire came together and formed Czechoslovakia. A political revolution caused the nation to split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on January 1, 1993.

The country has since opened up to free market capitalism and has a parliamentary republic. These factors have contributed to only one in ten Czechs living below the poverty line when last measured in 2016. The Czech Republic is among the countries in the EU with the lowest rate of poverty, which has allowed hunger in the Czech Republic to be almost non-existent.

The Effects Of Hunger For Czechs
Hunger in the Czech Republic is not a primary concern for the country’s government due to its .48 percent malnutrition rate. This rate means that .48 people out of every 100,000 in the Czech Republic will die of hunger, making it one of the least hungry countries in the world.

When UNICEF last did a study of hunger in the Czech Republic, it found that hunger was not an issue that was affecting many in the nation. Currently, only two percent of Czechs under the age of five suffer from stunted growth caused by malnutrition. On top of this, only one percent of Czechs under the age of five suffer from being underweight due to malnutrition.

Babies do not suffer from hunger in the Czech Republic due to the abundance of food in the nation. When last measured, only eight percent of babies were born with a low birth weight and the majority of babies born underweight quickly grew to a healthy weight.

The Takeaway
The shift from a socialist government to a government that practices free market capitalism alongside its parliamentary republic have allowed hunger in the Czech Republic to be non-existent. For the one in ten citizens in the nation who are impoverished, social welfare programs ensure these people get adequately fed. Overall, hunger in the Czech Republic is almost a non-issue.

Nick Beauchamp

Photo: Flickr

Luxembourg Poverty Rate
While Luxembourg is a wealthy European country, some of its people still live in poverty. In 2015, one in five citizens – 19 percent – lived under the threat of poverty. Unfortunately, there has been an uptick in the Luxembourg poverty rate since 2003, when the rate was 15.8 percent. This was at least partly due to the financial crisis.

The European definition of poverty, which is used to determine the Luxembourg poverty rate, includes people whose income, including social benefits, amounts to less than 60 percent of the country’s median income and therefore are unable to afford basic necessities like rent and transportation.

There is, however, good news when it comes to jobs. The unemployment rate in Luxembourg is 5.7 percent. This is the fourth-best in Europe after Germany, Austria and Malta. The European average is 10.4 percent, making Luxembourg’s rate quite low in comparison.

The average household available income in Luxembourg is $40,914 U.S., much higher than $29,016 – the average of member countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD). While income inequality has increased in Luxembourg since the financial crisis, it is still below the average of all OECD countries.

According to a study by EurWORK, about 12 percent of workers in Luxembourg are paid minimum wage. However, it is much more common for younger workers to be working for minimum wage than older workers. Unfortunately, nearly half of workers between the ages of 18 and 24 make so little that they fall below the poverty line.

Address Luxembourg’s Poverty Rate

Nevertheless, the government has introduced plans to help the working poor. The minimum wage is tied to the rate of inflation, so people with resources less than the legal limits are now given a guaranteed minimum income so they are able to support themselves. In 2009, the government also introduced childcare vouchers for families at risk of poverty to help them pay for daycare or after-school babysitting. Employers generally support these reforms.

Though poverty remains an issue in Luxembourg, the government has a history of implementing proactive solutions which gives citizens reason to be hopeful about their country’s poverty rate being reduced in the near future.

Brock Hall