EU Youth UnemploymentIn 2019, the EU youth unemployment rate was at its lowest point in the last 10 years. More than 3.3 million young people (aged 15-24 years) were unemployed that same year, but compared with the previous year (2018), the situation looks much better. In 2018, more than 5.5 million young people were neither employed nor enrolled at an educational institution or training program. This vital change is achieved thanks to multiple EU policies and tools. It provides proper training and education, prepares youngsters for the labor market and gives them the chance to be competitive and successful. However, it is important to notice that youth unemployment is 10 points higher than the average and there is a lot more space for improvement.

EU Youth Unemployment: Social and Economic Impacts

Eurostat reports show that EU youth unemployment rates are much higher than unemployment rates for all other age groups. In January 2019, jobless men and women above the age of 25 are 5.7%. As for the same period, rates among youths are 14% which is almost three times higher.

The unemployment rate is an essential indicator of both social and economic dimensions of youth poverty. Dangerously high unemployment rates show that young people can’t find their place in the labor market. Thus, they are not an active part of society. Jobless youngsters most often live with their parents, which destroys their learning motivation and civic engagement. Additionally, the lack of financial independence prevents them from going out and traveling. The combination of these factors kills their drive to find a job that creates even deeper despair on the emotional level.

A vicious circle starts forming around these young people who lose interest in social causes, politics and innovations. Once they lose their drive, long term unemployment is just the next step, according to studies in the EU. Unfortunately, many teenagers and twenty-something college graduates do not find jobs right after leaving the education system.

EU Institutions and National Governments Tackle Youth Unemployment

Young people’s labor market performance has indeed improved significantly over the past few years. According to the European Commission, there are 2.3 million fewer young unemployed now than five years ago. Around 1.8 million young people started apprenticeships, education or other kinds of training. Youth unemployment had decreased from 24% in 2013 to 14% in 2019.

The significant decrease of EU youth unemployment is possible through a combination of EU and national governments’ efforts to fight this phenomenon with various measures. This includes the promotion of a life-cycle approach to work, encouraging lifelong learning, improving support to those seeking a job and free training programs.

The latest research shows that apprenticeship and traineeship programs help prepare young people for the labor market and build relevant skills. Coordinating social policies like education or youth engagement and economic policies like employment rates is hard but a balanced governmental approach. With support from the local business in different countries, the number of youth employment increases in recent years. New partnerships have been set up with social partners, youth services and youth organizations as well.

These efforts should work to tackle EU youth unemployment by helping students and young professionals build attractive resumes for businesses operating on the global labor market. Nowadays, finding a job is more challenging than ever. Global competition requires all kinds of skill-sets from newcomers. In addition, these programs are designed to reinforce youngsters’ positions at this entry point. Besides, NGO initiatives and partner organizations create platforms for online education. The platforms are for people to take specialized courses without the need to enroll in an official university program. It’s easier, faster and very practical. Usually, such NGOs cannot provide certificates or diplomas, but the good news is businesses don’t need one. If the young person shows skills and a can-do attitude, he/she is hired.

The Changing of European Higher Education

The European conservative format of higher education is also changing slowly. More universities invite businesspeople to the campuses. This way the students can get the chance to meet entrepreneurs with hands-on experience and learn in a more informal environment. This type of education is most popular in the U.S., while formal education in Europe is still lagging in this regard. But times are changing, dynamics of life, work and study are different, and all involved parties are adjusting. There is no doubt that universities should work hand in hand with businesses to ensure a prospective future for young people.

Olga Uzunova

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in FinlandMany know Finland as one of the happiest countries around the world. Not only do people know Finland for the iconic Northern Lights, but they also consider it to be one of the least poverty-stricken countries in all of Europe. Finland has the fourth-lowest poverty rate in OCED countries and a Gini coefficient of .27, which is lower than the United States. Here are five facts about poverty in Finland.

5 Facts About Poverty in Finland

  1. Finland has a high quality of life. In fact, Finland has one of the highest quality of life scores in Europe. Its score of 8.2 out of 10 is higher than the average 7.4 rate in the European Union as of 2016. People are generally happier in Finland and the number has stayed consistent since 2003.
  2. Finland’s unemployment rate was approximately 7% as of 2018. This is a huge improvement over the last couple of years, where the unemployment rate was close to 10% in 2014. Since then, the unemployment rate has dropped to a little more than 6% as of January 2020. This number is significantly lower than Finland’s youth unemployment rate which was close to 17% in 2017, but it is a huge improvement from its 2016 youth unemployment rate of nearly 20%.
  3. Finland’s GDP per capita has been steadily increasing over the years. Finland’s GDP per capita has increased by over 8% from 2017 to 2018. Finland ranks as having one of the highest GDP per capita with numbers higher than countries including Canada, France and the United Kingdom.
  4. Finland’s education system has been improving since the 1970s. Finland ranks first out of all OCED countries on the PISA test. The PISA is an academic test in language, math and science that 15-year-old kids take internationally. Many attribute Finland’s successful education system to its investment in teachers’ education. Over half of Finland’s adult population finish some form of education which could be due to the fact that Finland’s government pays for close to 100% of the cost of education.
  5. Finland’s child poverty rate is one of the lowest in OCED countries. Finland has a child poverty rate of 4%, compared to the U.S. child poverty rate of 20%. This is due to Finland shifting welfare policies from local government to big government by providing mothers with public daycare and allowances for children under the age of 17. Finland’s child poverty rate is not only lower than the United States but also Germany, Sweden and Australia.

The probability of someone becoming poor in Finland is actually lower than the probability of them becoming poor in all of Europe. In 2016, the chance of someone in Finland being at risk of poverty was approximately 16% compared to 22% in the European Union as of 2019. Finland also has one of the highest Human Development Indexes (HDI) with a placement of number 12 out of 189 countries. Its HDI has been increasing for nearly two decades now and sits at a .925 as of 2018. One can attribute Finland’s success as a country to an increased life expectancy at birth since 1990, an increased number of expected and mean schooling since 1990 and an increase in its Gross National Income (GNP) per capita since 1990. These five facts about poverty in Finland show that overall, Finland is one of the most prosperous countries in Europe due to the exceptional education system, low poverty rate and an expanding economy.

– Hena Pejdah
Photo: Flickr

10 Ways the EU Supports the Least Developed CountriesThe European Union (EU), comprised of its 27 member states, is the biggest economy in the world. As such, the EU is the biggest exporter and importer of goods and services provided by third parties (non-union members). On the other end of the spectrum, the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) account for only 2% of the global economy and only 1% of global trade in goods and services. The EU’s social policies have always been supportive of these LDCs. Yet, they acknowledge that economic policies and opportunities are most effective in supporting these countries. Even though the LDCs function in the global economy, they struggle with exports (while obtaining the full benefits). Because of this, the EU began allocating resources to help these countries. The EU also opens the European market to their products and services. Here are 10 ways the EU supports Least Developed Countries.

10 Ways the EU Supports the Least Developed Countries

  1. No Customs Taxes, No Quotas: LDCs exporters are not taxed when accessing the EU market. There are no limits on how much LDCs can export to member states without this taxation. This applies to all products or services, as long as it complies with the EU’s quality standards. The only exception is the trade of arms and ammunition.
  2. EU Aid for Least Developed Countries: The EU encourages the LDCs to increase exports and production by investing in their local economies. The Aid for Trade is the EU’s stimulus for the LDCs to take on infrastructural projects such as roads, bridges and ports. It is believed this aid helps the countries develop further and become more competitive.
  3. Least Developed Countries Get Complimentary Access to the EU Market: The EU’s trade policy for LDCs differs from other developing countries. In some cases, it is even more accommodating than their partnerships with traditional allies. By giving LDCs uninhibited access, the EU is providing a competitive advantage over other third parties. This way, LDCs have more opportunities to trade with the EU than stronger economies. Hence, this gives them a better chance to grow.
  4. Full Access for Services: The EU makes it easy for companies in the LDCs to sell innovative services. For example, engineering, management advising and IT. There is dual reasoning behind this policy. First, it creates a more competitive market. Second, it helps LDCs enhance their local technology and engineering service sectors.
  5. Opt-out from World Trade Organization’s Patents: The EU created unique policies that apply only to LDCs to encourage innovation. The LDCs may request an opt-out from the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) rules on intellectual property. This could include things like expensive patents or designs. These things can block their developmental progress. Further, the EU gives LDCs access to otherwise patent-shielded drugs, to ensure that people have access to the medications they need.
  6. Governmental Support and Counseling: The EU supports the LDCs’ governments, so they can make trade a central part of their national agenda and plan to develop their economies. As part of this effort in 2015, the EU pledged €10m to a program designed and guided by top European economists.
  7. No More Unfair Competition Among Farmers: Subsidizing local farmers to export is a common practice around the world. As a result, farmers in weaker states struggle to compete; sometimes they even declare bankruptcies. In 2015, the EU and Brazil discussed a new deal with the WTO. This deal would scrap the unfair practices and export subsidies to farmers. The deal is still in process, but it hides an excellent premise for all the LDCs that would profit from it on the background.
  8. Backing the Fair Trade: EU trade deals with the LDCs that specially designed products to promote fair and ethical trade of products. This includes cocoa, coffee, fruits and other foods; these products are mainly supplied from these countries. Additionally, the EU supports the LDCs by partnering with the International Trade Centre. It invests in projects like 1 RUN that trains small-scale farmers in the LDCs to produce their crops more sustainably.
  9. The Trade Facilitation Agreement: The EU is the loudest supporter and promoter of the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement. It will make it much more manageable and more affordable to clear goods through customhouses – giving crucial administrative relief to exporters from the world’s poorest countries.
  10. EU Supports the Least Developed Countries on the World Stage: The Union is a prominent member of the world’s international organizations, including the WTO, the UN, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In each one, the EU prioritizes the needs of the Least Developed Countries and encourages other members to open up their markets and provide finance to help their advancement.

 – Olga Uzunova

Photo: Pexels

Europe 2020 strategy on povertyEach decade the European Union (EU) establishes an agenda to achieve goals for growth and social well-being. For the previous decade, the EU strategy focused on “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” led by advancements in five main areas: employment, R&D and innovation, climate change and energy, education, poverty and exclusion. These five factors were essential in strengthening the EU economy. It also prepared the EU’s economic structure for the challenges of the next decade.

The Europe 2020 strategy set the target of lifting “at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty.” To achieve this, the EU’s agenda included actions in stimulating education programs and employment opportunities. These actions aim to help Europeans at risk of poverty develop new skillsets. They also help Europeans find jobs that position them better in society.

For the last 10 years, poverty reduction has been a key policy component of the EU. In 2008, Europe had 116.1 million people at risk of poverty. As a result, EU members sought to reduce the number of poor Europeans to less than 96.1 million by 2020. Yet, as of 2017, the number of people at risk of poverty had only decreased to 113 million. So, what were the challenges that kept the EU from achieving its goal?

Employment in Rural Areas

The main tools the Europe 2020 strategy relied on greater access to education. Eurostat research shows that employment is crucial for ensuring adequate living standards. Furthermore, it provides the necessary base for people to live a better life. Although the EU labor market has consistently shown positive dynamics, the rates didn’t meet the Europe 2020 strategy target employment rate of 75 percent, especially in the rural areas. Jobless young people in rural Europe make up more than 30 percent of people at risk of poverty. As a result, the lack of new job openings and career paths in rural areas hindered individuals from escaping poverty and social exclusion.

Local Governance and Application of EU Strategic Policies

According to reports from 2014, the EU’s anti-poverty strategy was interpreted differently in every country. There is no common definition of poverty across all 27 member states. Therefore, the number of people at risk and their demographics vary. Moreover, EU policies were not implemented in all countries equally. Regional administrations and rural mayors are responsible for implementing EU anti-poverty policies. This localized approach resulted in a lack of coordination that was needed to correctly and efficiently realize the EU’s tools and strategies.

Education: The Winning Strategy Against Poverty

Despite these challenges, the EU showed that poverty can be addressed through education. Seen as key drivers for prosperity and welfare, education and training lie at the heart of the Europe 2020 strategy. Since higher educational attainment improves employability, which in turn reduces poverty, the EU interlinked educational targets with all other Europe 2020 goals. The Europe 2020 strategy did in fact achieve its goal of reducing the rates of people leaving education early to less than 10 percent in several EU countries. It also increased the number of workers having completed tertiary education to at least 40 percent. Both of these goals provide reasonable evidence of downsizing the risk of poverty by providing access to education.

Today, upper secondary education is the minimum desired educational attainment level for EU citizens. A lack of secondary education presents a severe obstacle to economic growth and employment in an era of rapid technological progress, intense global competition and specialized labor markets. Europeans at risk of poverty profit the most when given access to secondary education because it provides a path to staying active in society and learning marketable skills. The longer young people from rural areas pursue academic goals, the higher the chances of employment.

Moving Forward

As the Europe 2020 strategy showed, universal access to education has the potential to impact poverty across the European Union. Gaining new skillsets is one of the best ways to provide Europeans at risk of poverty and social exclusion with more opportunities for development and prospects for a better life.

– Olga Uzunova 
Photo: Flickr

Eliminate Poverty in Germany
Germany’s economy is booming. Since reunification, the unemployment rate has steadily decreased and Germany has turned itself into one of the richest countries in Europe. Nonetheless, poverty in Germany remains a potent issue. In 2017, more than 15% of people in Germany were impoverished. Here is some information about the country’s poverty rates as well as its plan to eliminate poverty in Germany.

The Rise of Poverty in Germany

According to the European Union’s (E.U.) standards, the number of individuals living in poverty in Germany is continuously increasing. In 1995, 12% of Germans were making wages that qualified them as at risk of or living in poverty. By 2014, that number had risen to approximately 16%. As of 2017, approximately 19% of people in Germany were at risk of living in poverty. Over 15% were already living below the poverty line. The Institute of German Economic and Social Research defined the poverty line as a 60% median net income.

The above percentages only represent households in Germany and do not include those living in refugee camps who may be experiencing poverty. As of 2018, Germany had more than 1 million refugees living within its borders.

Despite the country’s economic success in manufacturing and trade with the E.U., Germany’s poverty rate continues to reach record highs year after year. While the economic boom helps the country in certain ways, the benefits oftentimes do not reach the impoverished. People living in poverty often lack the resources necessary to escape impoverishment. Though new jobs are available, the wages are generally meager, while the profit tends to go to those who are already wealthy. Many attribute the rising poverty rate in Germany to the exploitation of the poor.

Unequal Poverty Across Germany

Impoverishment does not affect all regions of Germany equally. Southern Germany, the least impoverished area of the country, still has a poverty rate of about 12%. The region with the highest poverty rate, the North, has a poverty rate of a staggering 18%. Additionally, the North also experiences the highest poverty growth rate.

This inequality is largely attributed to the Ruhr region, a highly industrial area in Northern Germany. The Ruhr is the most densely populated region in the country, with production focusing largely on coal, steel and chemical manufacturing. During World War I and World War II, the Allied bombing destroyed nearly 75% of the region. Since then, Northern Germany has experienced long term impoverishment that continues to contribute to the growing poverty rate.

Solutions

Despite the growing rate of poverty, the country is aware of the issue and is actively working to eliminate poverty in Germany. The country is continuously creating more jobs and working towards a stronger economy. Additionally, Germany also raised its minimum wage in 2015 to 8.50 euros an hour. Experts believe that this increase in the minimum wage helped approximately 4 million people grow their wealth. The country has also strengthened support for vocational training in an attempt to increase the amount of employed low-skilled workers. Germany is aware of the economic inequality facing many of its citizens and is working hard to create more policies that help the poor escape poverty’s clutches.

Poverty in Germany is a pertinent issue. Despite the country’s wealth and economic growth, the rate of poverty continues to rise, consistently reaching new highs every year. Although the issue of impoverishment may seem overwhelming, the German government continues to persist and develop programs designed to eliminate poverty in Germany.

– Paige Musgrave 
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Bulgaria
Situated on the west coast of the Black Sea, Bulgaria has continually struggled to secure basic services for its people. An improvement came when Bulgaria entered the European Union in 2007. Amid this positive step, however, it became clear that Bulgaria’s wastewater treatment and sanitation system was below E.U. standards. The latest situational analysis on equal access to water sanitation in Bulgaria shows that there are 10 significant areas for improvement. Bulgaria must address these issues in order to ensure pure water and high-quality sanitation to the entire country. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Bulgaria.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Bulgaria

  1. The water and sanitation network in Bulgaria is decades old. Iskar is the largest reservoir in Bulgaria. Located near the country’s capital, Sofia, it collects about 675 million cubic meters of water. Built in 1954, it is one of the oldest reservoirs. Bulgaria built most of its water network between the 50s and the late 80s. In 1990, however, the political regime changed from communism to democracy and the new government abandoned all infrastructure projects. As a result, one-third of Bulgarians suddenly lacked a reliable water supply and sewage network.
  2. Bulgaria does not recycle its wastewater. Even though two-thirds of the Bulgarian population has access to a wastewater network, only 57 percent possess access to a wastewater treatment plant. This means that large amounts of household water do not receive treatment and households reuse it. In other words, Bulgaria does not engage in the recycling of wastewater. This is not the case in other European countries such as Germany, Belgium and Spain, where recycled water goes towards agriculture, groundwater recharge and ecological enhancement.
  3. Bulgaria’s water supply pipes contain asbestos-cement. The World Bank reports that Bulgaria’s existing water network is extremely outdated. On average, water supply pipes in Bulgaria are 36 years old and most comprise of asbestos-cement. The majority of developed countries have discontinued the use of asbestos in building materials, due to its cancer-causing properties. Several developing countries, however, continue to use asbestos-containing materials. Moreover, Bulgaria’s non-revenue water rate—water that is produced and then lost or unaccounted for before it reaches the desired target— is close to 60 percent, resulting in an even more unstable water supply network.
  4. People suffer from water rationing. As a result of outdated water networks, lack of strategic wastewater collection and expenditure in treatment systems, a significant number of people suffer from seasonal water rationing and lack of sanitation. The people in the North-East regions of Bulgaria suffer the most. They experience frequent water rationing throughout the year and high prices of water supply and sanitation. Additionally, 37 percent of the population does not have access to wastewater treatment. Furthermore, 24 percent of the population lives in areas with no wastewater collection systems at all. These staggering statistics require significant funding to ensure that water quality and sanitation services comply with the requirements of the E.U. directives.
  5. Most Bulgarians in rural areas do not have access to sanitation. According to the National Statistical Institute, 25 percent of Bulgarians, the majority of whom live in rural areas, do not have access to sanitation. These areas spread to 81 percent of the country’s territory and 39 percent (as of 2014) of the population, meaning that most of these regions also lack adequate sewage disposal. The Special Accession Program for Agricultural and Rural Development (SAPARD), the Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession (ISPA) and the Operational program for rural development funded centralized sewerage systems in a number of rural areas. While considered a positive step, the funding ultimately only benefited villages with municipal centers.
  6. Roma communities suffer the most from the lack of proper sanitation. Bulgaria’s compliance with the E.U. standards proved a difficult task in 2007 and, unfortunately, this challenge still continues today. The overall lack of balance between living conditions in rural and urban areas, as well as a lack of public policies regarding living conditions, enhance the challenge. For example, Bulgaria does not possess a national policy for addressing illegal neighborhoods (ghettos). These mostly Roma-populated neighborhoods do not possess access to centralized sewerage systems, water treatment plants 0r wastewater tanks. The National Strategy of the Republic of Bulgaria on Roma Inclusion (2012-2020), a document that Bulgaria implemented from 2012 to 2020, seeks to improve the quality of life of vulnerable groups and promote their full inclusion in society. While the document grants Roma families access to public social housing, the measure falls short of solving the problem in its entirety. It ultimately leaves more than 400,000 people in Roma ghettos.
  7. Masterplans for water and sanitation services are corrupt. A situational analysis on equal access to water and sanitation in Bulgaria states that: “Financial mechanisms have been subject to significant trade in influence and corruption, so the investments have achieved very low efficiency.” Experts from the Earth Forever Foundation made a comparative analysis of the validity of the data used in the masterplans for sustainable water and sanitation services in three villages in Central Bulgaria. The analysis revealed that the regional plans provide inadequate wastewater removal. Furthermore, the regional plans utilize treatment measures that not only fail to comply with legislation but also stubbornly remain unaffordable for the general population.
  8. Bulgaria and the World Bank are collaborating to solve water supply and sanitation problems. To tackle these problem areas, the government voted on a new ambitious plan regarding the water supply and sanitation issues. In 2016, the Bulgarian government and the World Bank worked together on the Country Partnership Framework for Bulgaria. The document focuses on the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of essential public service delivery, including improved water supply and sanitation.
  9. Approximately 99 percent of Bulgarians have access to a clean water supply. Thanks to the collaborative efforts, Bulgaria now shows significant improvements. According to the latest report from the Ministry of Regional Development, centralized water supply now spans 99 percent of Bulgaria. At present, a centralized water supply covers 5,000 towns and villages. Currently, only two areas do not receive full coverage from the central water supply. In response to those two areas, the government has created a strategy to cover the needs of the outstanding 1 percent. A new law, part of the next strategic plan (2024-2033), seeks to further improve the country’s sanitation network.
  10. Bulgarian schools teach clean water supply and sanitation. To educate the new generations, Regulation No. 13 of 21.09.2016 on Civil, Health, Environmental and Intercultural Education included new topics in Bulgarian public school curriculum. Subjects added include healthy lifestyles, water usage and conservation, waste/water waste management and composting. Designed to help students recognize the importance of nature conservation, these subjects focus on water pollution reduction, clean water preservation and recycling.

Over the last 13 years, Bulgaria has exhibited slow, yet promising progress towards achieving the U.N. goals for universal access to water and sanitation. The country continues to strive to comply with the E.U. standards for clean water supplies and wastewater treatment. The new challenge for Bulgaria is to establish baseline measures for the fairness of access to water and sanitation through the Equitable Access Score-Card, a process of self-assessment. This self-assessment focuses on “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all” and “access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations” by 2030.

Olga Uzunova
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in SwedenHomelessness is an issue that plagued Sweden for a long time. Well known for its national welfare system, the Swedish government provides a large safety net for its citizens to fall back on if they ever fall ill or lose their job. The Swedish government provides universal healthcare, family support and financial support for the elderly and retired. All Swedes, regardless of need, could call upon the government to receive the benefits provided by the Swedish welfare system. However, this doesn’t mean that the Swedish welfare completely shelters its residents from homelessness. What is causing homelessness in Sweden? Who are the homeless people in the famous welfare state? What is being done to alleviate this issue?

Defining Homelessness

Because numerous factors can cause homelessness, every country has a different definition of homelessness. In Sweden, a person is homeless if they are in:

  1. acute homelessness.
  2. an institution and not having any housing prior to release, or in an institution even though they should have been released because they lack their own housing.
  3. long-term living arrangements organized by Social Services.
  4. in private short-term living arrangements.

This certainly is a broad definition to determine if someone is homeless. However, even with this broad definition, counting the exact number of homeless people in Sweden is a challenge. In Sweden’s 2011 survey, for example, there were 34,000 homeless people. Around 4,500 people were classed as being in an acute situation, which means that they were on the streets or in homeless shelters. However, some homeless organizations estimate that the total number could be higher. Stockholms Stadsmission, a Swedish homeless charity, pointed out that the data only presented 370 E.U. migrants. The organization claims that the survey’s estimate of these E.U. migrants is too low.

Causes of Homelessness

People fall into homelessness in Sweden for multiple reasons such as breaking up with a significant other, escaping domestic abuse or suffering from mental illness. However, the lack of affordable housing seems to be one of the main causes of homelessness in Sweden. The housing prices in Sweden, especially in Stockholm, have increased homelessness significantly. Sweden’s steadily growing population, which reached 10,183,175 people in 2018, is definitely affecting the ever-rising housing price. While an industry expert suggests that Sweden is building more homes to meet the rising demand for housing, these housings are often not affordable due to the cost of materials, land and labor.

The ones who are most affected by this rising housing prices are the marginalized and vulnerable members of society. Furthermore, Sweden’s welfare system is attracting an increasing number of immigrants into the country, which puts a strain on the system.  While many migrants to Sweden are financially stable, there are groups of migrants who are not as fortunate. There are marginalized groups of E.U. migrants who fall into homelessness in Sweden.

Amnesty International’s 2018 report on the Romani population in Sweden found that there is a sizable population of Romani and other E.U migrants who are suffering from homelessness in Sweden. Romani, in particular, are marginalized more than other races in the entirety of Europe. In Sweden, the report suggests that many Romani people suffer from prejudice and lack of access to basic amenities such as water, shelter and healthcare. Lacking heated shelter, for example, is dangerous for the homeless since night temperature in Sweden usually falls below freezing. One homeless man described in an interview for the report that he had to wander around the streets to keep himself from freezing to death after being kicked out of a bus station at 2 am.

Measures Being Taken to Help

Some people aim to alleviate homelessness in Sweden. The Swedish government, for its part, is taking measures to alleviate the current issue. Stockholms Stadmission, for example, opened the first food bank in Stockholm. Human rights activists in Sweden are also calling for multiple reforms to alleviate the homelessness in Sweden. Since the highest cost of land, workers and materials to build new housing is negatively affecting the lives of the homeless in Sweden, human rights activists are calling for rental, tax and land reforms. Swedish politicians are responding to this call. Recently, the Swedish government introduced measures to encourage housing turnovers and subsidies to encourage the construction of more affordable housing.

Homelessness in Sweden is a complicated issue. The rising demand and price of housing are putting pressure on Sweden’s steadily increasing population. While Sweden’s broad definition of a person’s homelessness might broaden the number of people who can receive assistance, the task of counting the exact number of homeless people in Sweden is still challenging. Many EU migrants, the Romani people in particular, still face the danger that homelessness in Sweden brings. The Swedish government and charity organizations are taking measures to address this issue both on the local and governmental levels. While a long road still lies ahead for the homeless of Sweden, many hope that a better life is coming for them.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Uzbekistan’s Economic TransformationAlthough the poverty rate in Uzbekistan is only 14 percent, the standard of living and GDP per capita are low. The government of Uzbekistan has partnered with the World Bank to undertake a massive economic transformation. It hopes to develop its economy, spur investment and improve livelihoods. The government is improving infrastructure efficiency and social services to achieve high-middle-income status for its residents by 2030. This is a part of the development strategy called Uzbekistan Vision 2030. The World Bank, International Finance Corporation, Asian Development Bank and the European Union have worked cooperatively to facilitate Uzbekistan’s economic transformation.

Massive World Bank Loan

The World Bank has worked with Uzbekistan since 1992 and funded more than 20 projects, totaling $3.6 billion. The bank recently approved a $500 million loan to stimulate private sector growth and job creation. Uzbekistan’s transformation into a successful market economy will ultimately result in a higher quality of life for its citizens. Currently, Uzbekistan’s GDP per capita stands at $6,900, almost one order of magnitude lower than the United States’ GDP per capita of $54,541. Uzbekistan believes that poverty levels will shrink as a direct result of developing its private sector economy and boosting GDP per capita.

Cyril Muller, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, said that the loan will “boost growth, promote transparency and accountability and improve services for citizens.” In 2018 and 2019, Uzbekistan reduced trade and investment barriers, decreased strict business regulations, loosened its currency and opened markets to spur investment and boost imports and exports. These recent changes to its economic policy show Uzbekistan’s commitment to loosening its controls on prices, production and foreign investment.

Livestock Sector Receives Support

The European Union and the World Bank jointly funded a five-year project in 2019 aimed at developing Uzbekistan’s livestock sector. More than $150 million will go towards addressing supply chain problems such as low productivity, substandard animal health services, financial constraints on research institutions and poor access to markets for smallholder farmers. The Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Jamshid Khodjayev, said that this project aims to increase the efficiency of the livestock sector by increasing the number of small farmers participating in commercial value chains, improving productivity and ensuring the sustainability of incomes.

The project will also support credit lines for farmers and other workers in the livestock industry. The agriculture industry employs about a quarter of the population. Livestock is an important agricultural product in Uzbekistan. About 90 percent of “livestock production relies on small farm holdings” and about 4.7 million smallholders depend on livestock for a living.

Energy Sector Boosts Agribusiness

“More than 126,000 MWh of electricity and 50 million cubic meters in natural gas” are available for use every year thanks to $50 million of project financing to improve energy sector performance and competitiveness. Since 2012, more than 560 farms and agribusinesses received credit lines made available through six financial institutions. Investment portfolio assets include agricultural machinery, greenhouses, livestock, orchards, vineyards and vegetable farming.

The poverty rate in Uzbekistan declined from 27.5 percent in 2001 to 14 percent in 2016 as a result of strong economic growth. GDP growth was a robust 8 percent for 2015 and 2016. The business environment has improved significantly due to a more open economic policy. Uzbekistan’s economy will continue to see improvement from internal changes to business-related statutes, like reducing the number of days to register businesses and property. Support from multilateral banks like the World Bank will further promote Uzbekistan’s economic transformation.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

E.U. is Fighting Poverty
Poverty does not disappear by itself and Europe understands this. The European Union (E.U.) prioritizes poverty as an issue and has helped start many poverty reduction projects throughout the world. Within Europe, the E.U. fights poverty based on its Europe 2020 Strategy that strives to lift 20 million people out of poverty by 2020. Globally, the E.U.’s development policy aims to eradicate poverty through sustainable development. In both of these endeavors, the E.U. is making tremendous progress in reducing poverty. Here is how the E.U. is fighting poverty in Europe.

The EU Fights Poverty in Europe

The Europe 2020 Strategy is an ambitious plan that could drastically change Europe’s economy and social landscape. Some of the strategy’s targets include employing 75 percent of people aged 20-64, providing higher education to 40 percent of people aged 30-34, increasing energy efficiency by 20 percent and using 3 percent of the E.U.’s GDP for research and development. These targets are mutually reinforcing as improvements in education should help reduce unemployment, and improving energy efficiency should make European businesses more competitive, creating more jobs.

The Europe 2020 Strategy is only a “reference framework” that E.U. countries use to create national targets. These national targets mean that governments can now measure their progress and determine whether or not they are reaching their poverty reduction goals. Thus, even though the Europe 2020 Strategy does not force countries to do anything, it has helped countries to measure their progress and determine whether they are doing enough. The strategy receives constant review and the European Commission still believes that the Europe 2020 Strategy is an effective framework that can help create jobs and promote economic growth.

What have the results been? As of 2017, the E.U. managed to provide 39.9 percent of people aged 30-34 with higher-level education, 0.1 percent away from their 2020 goal of 40 percent. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of people at risk of poverty in the EU dropped from 122.8 million to 112.8 million. The percentage of 18-24-year-olds leaving school early dropped from 14.7 percent in 2008, to 10.6 percent in 2017. While the European Commission admits that people need to do more to combat poverty in Europe, the progress so far has been promising.

The EU Fighting Poverty Internationally

The E.U. wants to end poverty worldwide. It is attempting to do so using a couple of different methods. In 2007, the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) created a partnership between the E.U. and Africa. The partnership helped create a relationship between the two groups that could help foster sustainable development that will benefit both parties. The partnership deals with other issues besides development and poverty but has made significant impacts on the latter. For instance, the E.U. accounts for one-third of all the foreign direct investment in Africa. Supporting the Africa-E.U. partnership is the Pan-African Programme which strives to create sustainable human and economic development. The E.U. has allocated $845 million euros to the program between 2014 and 2020. Outside of Africa, the E.U. also plays a large role in poverty reduction. E.U. aid represents more than 50 percent of global aid.

In conclusion, the E.U. is fighting poverty and promoting sustainable development. Within the continent, the E.U. is making progress as education rates improve and poverty levels continue to recover from the 2008 financial crisis. Globally, the E.U. continues to lead by example as it sets the bar for providing foreign aid to developing countries. The U.S. has the capability to match these achievements but needs more people to voice their concerns about international poverty. Reach out to congress and encourage the U.S. to end international poverty by clicking this link here.

– Nick Umlauf
Photo: Flickr

Georgia's integration into the E.U.Since the end of the Russo-Georgian War in 2008, poverty reduction and higher employment have accompanied an expanding Georgian economy. However, fears of renewed conflict with Russia, Georgia’s northern-neighbor, jeopardize the progress the nation has made in curtailing poverty and handling the refugee crisis. Georgia’s integration into the E.U. will not only reap economic benefits and accelerate a decline in poverty levels, but also provide Georgia security from Russian aggression.

Georgia’s Relationship to the EU

Despite being a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe, Georgia is not a member-state of the European Union. Since Georgia’s Rose Revolution in 2003, politicians of diverse ideologies have prioritized E.U. membership as an ultimate goal. In fact, a 2009 survey of over 2,400 Georgians found that 50 percent of the population believed that Georgia would join the E.U. within 10 years. While Georgia has yet to join the E.U. in 2019, the Georgian government continues to introduce various reforms to align the country with the tenets of E.U. institutional structures. E.U. membership would help Georgia tackle poverty and inequality.

Free Trade with Europe Increasing National Welfare

Poverty in Georgia remains at 16.3 percent and unemployment at 12.7 percent. Currently, Georgia is allowed to trade in certain industries with the E.U. as a part of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). Once the E.U. admits Georgia and Georgia is able to trade freely with E.U. member-states in all industries, poverty and unemployment will likely decline.

Free trade makes a country more productive by selecting a country’s most productive industries for exporting. Import competition will replace less productive industries, but Georgians will specialize in their more productive exporting sectors and reap the benefits of specialization. Enhanced specialization from trade will raise Georgia’s gross domestic product and increase consumer welfare because Georgians will be able to purchase foreign-produced goods at cheaper prices while specializing in exporting sectors, such as copper ores and wine. Coupled with appropriate distributional policies, free trade will have a positive impact on reducing poverty and unemployment.

EU Membership Shielding Georgia from Russian Aggression

During the 2008 war, 130,000 Georgians became displaced; Action Against Hunger reports that the number of refugees has increased over time. If Russia were to invade again, there would be serious economic consequences. Furthermore, the refugee crisis would deteriorate substantially. Georgia’s integration into the E.U. provides a security agreement under the auspices of the European Defence Union; if Russia interferes with one E.U. member-country, it faces the backlash of Europe. George could reverse its progress in reducing poverty over the past decade. E.U. membership will serve as a security buffer from Russian aggression and a defender of the nation’s recent economic progress.

Because of the protection and economic boost E.U. membership would bring, many political scientists and economists agree with the 67 percent of Georgians who advocate for Georgia’s integration into the E.U.

– Grayson Cox
Photo: Flickr