Healthcare in SpainSpain is a beautiful country with exquisite landscapes and a rich culture. This country is known for its delicious, elaborate dishes such as paella. Healthcare is usually not the first thing that comes to mind when typically thinking about Spain but it definitely should be. Spain is world-renowned for its amazing healthcare coverage and for the way the Spanish citizens are usually able to stay healthy throughout their life.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Spain

  1. Spain is the healthiest country in the world. In 2019, the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index evaluated and ranked over 150 nations based on their life expectancy, environmental factors (ex: access to fresh, clean water) and health risks (ex: obesity). This study gave Spain a grade of 92.75 based on the aforementioned criteria and ranked the Iberian country first out of the listed countries.
  2.  Spain has a free, public healthcare system. Spain’s healthcare system is financed by taxes which means that residents have access to free or very low-cost healthcare, provided they pay for social security. According to HealthManagement.org, 99.7% of the Spanish population takes advantage of the public healthcare system, and only 3% of the population decides to go with the private sector. This is indicative of the Spanish healthcare system’s high quality, as the vast majority of the country decides to be covered by it.
  3. Cancer and circulatory system diseases are among the most common causes of death in Spain. The data found at statistica.com attests that “diseases related to the circulatory system and neoplasms (cancer) ranked as the main causes of death, both with over 100 thousand cases in 2017.” In addition to this, Spaniards also suffer from chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
  4. Mental health is taken very seriously in Spain. Taking care of one’s mental health has become a major topic recently, but Spain has always valued the mental health of its citizens. Spain started to realize the importance of mental health in 2006 and has since worked to assist Spaniards with that issue. Spain offers amenities and services including free prescription drugs and has dedicated a portion of its health budget to mental health. For example, according to the WHO, Spain dedicated 5% of its total healthcare budget (6 million euros) to mental health expenditures in the year 2011.
  5. Child healthcare in Spain is taken equally seriously. Along with Spain’s amazing healthcare coverage for adults, this country also offers equally superb healthcare opportunities to children. According to expatica.com, “the healthcare offered to children in Spain includes prenatal and postnatal care, pediatric care up until age 15 (and standard care from a general practitioner afterwards), free vaccinations until age 14, dental care until age 15, access to 23 different types of speciality practitioners, prolonged benefits for children with physical or mental disabilities and free emergency services”.  Evidently, children are taken care of very well in Spain and have access to many amenities and medical opportunities throughout their entire life.

Spain is a country that is home to beautiful landscapes, exquisite cuisine, wonderful people and an amazing healthcare system! It truly earns its spot as one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Spain is a great place to live if someone is looking for a free healthcare system that fully covers all aspects of the medical field.

Kate Estevez
Photo: Flickr

Team Europe
On April 8, the European Union announced that they were launching an initiative called “Team Europe,” which would secure €15.6 billion of financial support toward nations seen as highly vulnerable to the potentially devastating effects of COVID-19. The “team” is coming up with resources from the EU, its member states, and major financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

What Is Team Europe?

The funding for this will come from a variety of places. One source is the reorientation of existing funds to programs that cannot currently be carried out due to the pandemic, as well as programs making pre-existing programs more relevant to handling the virus. Another is the European Investment Bank, which will be providing €5.2 billion of aid in emergency response, funding medical research to help find a vaccine and providing those on the ground with PPE (personal protective equipment).

Finally, the EU will be partnering with aid charities such as Oxfam and Caritas who are currently on the ground in these nations, providing much needed medical care and first aid experience to help treat those who have become infected.

Who Are They Helping?

“Team Europe” has decided to focus their aid on relief for nations in “Africa, the Western Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa, parts of Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean.” They are specifically centering their attention on those most at risk: women, children, the elderly, and disabled people, as well as migrants, refugees, displaced persons and their host communities. The EU also wants to provide economic support for small and medium-sized businesses and self-employed persons in the private sector.

What Is The Plan

There are three parts to “Team Europe’s” funding for at-risk nations. Part one is sending €502 million immediately for emergency response actions. This includes supporting the WHO and the UN to continue work on the ground that they have already been doing, as well as appealing to the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Movement to increase emergency preparedness and response. They are also ramping up production of PPE in European factories and ensuring that everyone has access to health, water, sanitation and proper hygiene.

Part two will utilize €2.8 billion to increase communication and awareness for protective measures and hygiene advice to limit the spreading of the disease. The EU will accomplish this by funding global health initiatives such as “Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and the Global Financial Facility to be used to respond to the coronavirus.” Finally, this phase of the plan will emphasize the importance of equal access to healthcare for migrants and refugees who have been living in refugee camps to escape war-torn nations.

The final phase is the largest, with €12.28 billion being set aside to decrease the long term social and economic consequences that the pandemic will have on the previously stated nations. This involves working with these nations to adopt reforms for “socio-economic development and poverty reduction”, as well as taking measures to protect workers during the crisis to keep the maximum number of people employed. The EU will also be providing loans from the European Investment Bank for healthcare equipment and other medical supplies, and finally, providing debt relief by the International Monetary Fund in affected countries.

Why Are They Helping?

During the announcement of “Team Europe,” Vice President of the EU Joseph Borrell stated that in order to overcome the pandemic, it would require a united, global action to take place. If the virus continues in other parts of the world, it will return to Europe. Moreover, European nations that make up “Team Europe” saw the devastating impact COVID-19 had on many of their own nations, which have some of the best healthcare in the world. They are aware that “the crisis could have consequences of an entirely different scale in other parts of the world,” according to Borrell. It is the duty of the EU to help other nations escape the horrific and deadly fate that COVID-19 has already had in many places across the globe.

– Sophie van Leeuwen
Photo: Flickr

Health tourism in CroatiaWith over 1,000 islands and 3,600 miles of coastline, Croatia is the perfect tourist getaway. After facing devastating wars, Croatia has turned to tourism to boost its economy. Croatia’s beaches and national parks have become notable tourist attractions. In fact, 19.6% of the country’s GDP depends on tourism. The combination of its magnificent landscape and suitable healthcare has resulted in the emergence of a new type of travel in the Balkans: health tourism in Croatia.

Poverty in Croatia

The Yugoslav Wars resulted in freedom for the former states of the Yugoslavia Republic; Croatia gained its independence in 1991. The war affected the regions along the country’s borders of Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Unable to recover from the war, these regions became highly impoverished. 

In 2013 Croatia joined the European Union. While the EU typically has 8% unemployment, Croatia’s unemployment rates are much higher, reaching 15.4%. The cost of living in Croatia is higher than in other Eastern European countries, making it more difficult for those in poverty to afford what they need. To provide relief, the country has implemented its “Strategy for Combating Poverty and Social Inclusion in the Republic of Croatia.” This plan’s purpose is to improve the condition of vulnerable groups and help those that are socially excluded by offering more opportunity.

Health Tourism in Croatia

As Europeans grow frustrated with healthcare in their home countries, they travel to other countries to access medical care. This innovative and growing trend has promoted the rise of health tourism in Croatia. Market Research Future (MRFR) projects that the global medical tourism market will grow 21.4% a year for the next five years. The reasons health tourism has grown in Croatia include:

  • The health care system appeals to patients as it is both affordable and reputable. Obtaining surgeries in Croatia often costs less compared to receiving that same treatment in visitors’ home countries. Additionally, EU citizens can use their EU health insurance in Croatia.
  • The use of the internet and social media encourages travelers to visit attractive destinations like Croatia. Websites promote healthcare options while emphasizing the popular vacation spots in the area.
  • Technological advancements continue in the health care system. The quality of medical specialties in Croatia constantly progresses and ensures excellence.

The main concentration of health tourism in Croatia involves medical surgeries and wellness. Croatia specializes in popular medical procedures including plastic surgery, orthopedics and dentistry. Spa tourism encourages travelers to relax in the therapeutic resort town of Opatija. Tourists can explore the country while getting procedures all in one trip.

Future of Health Tourism

The same conflict that led to Croatia’s independence also brought about poverty and unemployment that continues to impact Croatians. In order to improve its economy, Croatia focused on tourism and created a strategy to combat poverty. Now, the country’s beautiful coastlines have become trendy destinations and health tourism in Croatia captivates vacationers. Improvements in healthcare have resulted in more Europeans flocking to Croatia for medical surgeries and therapeutic resort towns. Almost 10% of tourists visit Croatia for its healthcare, and that number is expected to grow. As the demand for health tourism in Croatia increases, this new industry can generate future economic benefits.

– Hannah Nelson
Photo: Pixabay

BrexitJanuary 31, 2020, was a historic day for the European Union, for it marks the day the United Kingdom left the Union based on a public vote (referendum) held in June 2016. Seventeen point four million citizens opted for Brexit in 2016 and, after several negotiations and talks, the U.K. is now the first former member of the European Union. An important and large-scale decision such as this has the ability to distort economic stability greatly.

Trade

The EU is the world’s largest single market that allows free trade among all its members. It is also responsible for negotiating trade policies on behalf of its members, establishing a single, strong voice throughout various negotiations. Since Britain is no longer a member, it must create its own suitable trade policies with the countries it wishes to trade within the Union. Britain also needs to negotiate for its own demands. It was projected that the U.K. stood to lose $32 billion after Brexit, with no trade agreement in place between the U.K. and the EU. Losses incurred are more likely to increase as the EU accounts for nearly 46% of the U.K.’s exports. Researchers project that Ireland’s exports to Britain may drop by at least 10%. This creates a serious trade imbalance and hence contributes to the national deficit of the nation.

Food Poverty

British citizens consume a significant amount of imported food. Brexit could lead to a rise in food poverty, as about 30% of food is imported from the EU and 11% is from countries whose trade policies were negotiated by the EU. Since there is no trade policy in place, food insecurity is bound to rise. Food prices will likely rise 6% by June 2020, according to researchers. Overall, an increase in food poverty may be on the horizon.

Immigration

The U.K. had announced that post-Brexit only highly skilled immigrants will be able to secure jobs and the additional requirements have already created an impact on the economy. Immigrants mostly work low-skilled jobs and the implementation of this policy has already lead to shortages. At least one in 11 posts are vacant. Also, immigrants occupy nearly one-sixth (140,000) of the 840,000 care worker jobs. The new regulations will soon prompt vacancies and greatly affect people with disabilities and the elderly.

The Potential Solutions

Trade talks between the U.K. and the EU are taking place effectively. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed a “Canada-style free trade agreement” which the EU is prepared to accept, given the fact that the agreement would demand no tariffs or quotas from them. This shows that negotiations are productive and that the U.K. is trying to cause very little disturbance to the economy. Aware of its reliance on imports from the EU, the U.K. has opted for a mutually beneficial free trade agreement. As the cost of imports and exports are reduced, the trade imbalances are corrected. This in turn will influence food poverty as the general price levels will decrease and imported food will become affordable.

Additionally, there are multiple organizations and government schemes that help combat food poverty in the U.K. For example, The Trussell Trust and other independent foodbanks have distributed nearly 3 million food packages between 2018 and 2019. The organization Healthy Start allows the purchase of basic food necessities for pregnant women and mothers with infants.

What Are the Benefits of Brexit for the UK?

The U.K. is free to trade with other nations such as Japan, the U.S. and India without EU restrictions. This will stimulate growth in all nations involved in possible free trade and help tackle domestic issues, such as unemployment and hunger. Effective trading can lead to increased employment opportunities and better living standards.

The U.K. has given almost half a trillion pounds to the EU to be a member of the bloc. The amount the U.K. will save is significant enough to be directed at rising food insecurity, short-term deficit and unemployment. The U.K. is also able to craft specific policies to suit its needs instead of being subject to the ones crafted by the EU. The ability to do this helps the U.K. and other nations involved, as all policies will be tailored to be mutually beneficial and appropriate.

Overall, Brexit is a challenge. It is difficult to adjust to and likely poses serious threats to economic stability in the near future. However, this is only a short-term issue. Once the transition period is over, a structured agreement between the E.U. and the U.K. will help their economies regain stability.

 Mridula Divakar
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the Czech Republic
In the European Union, the Czech Republic ranks second in terms of the risk of its population falling below the poverty line. A record low of 3.4% of the Czech Republic’s population is at risk of poverty according to Eurostat data. This is in comparison to the average of 10% of the European Union’s population that poverty threatens. With that in mind, here are five facts about poverty in the Czech Republic.

5 Facts About Poverty in the Czech Republic

  1. The Czech economy has been on an upward trend, which has helped young people. The improvement of the Czech economy has helped reduce the poverty rate in the country. The GDP growth rate and unemployment levels are among the best in Europe. The unemployment rate for the country was 2.9% in 2017, which ranks among the top tier in the world. The GDP growth rate of 4.4% in the Czech Republic is among Europe’s best and the GDP rose to $245.2 billion in 2018 in comparison to $186.8 billion in 2015. This has benefited young employed Czechs between the ages of 18 and 24, of whom only 1.5% were at risk of poverty in 2017. With a high labor shortage, this in turn has increased the wages young Czechs can attain.
  2. Women are at a higher risk of poverty. The Czech Republic has one of the highest wage gaps between men and women. On average, a Czech woman’s salary is 22% lower than her male counterparts. Women on a pension and single mothers are the two groups that poverty in the Czech Republic most affects. Mothers who come back from maternity leave often see a reduction in pay after returning to work, up until age 50. Women, who on average live six years longer than their spouses, often see a rise in their expenses after the death of their spouses.
  3. Education plays an important role. Education plays a large role in determining poverty status in the Czech Republic, especially among youth. Children whose parents are relatively low-skilled and low-educated are one of the highest at-risk groups for poverty in the E.U. However, children of the well-educated in the Czech Republic are among the lowest risk for poverty in the E.U. Because of the risk of poverty from their parents, some children struggle with living in adequate housing while trying to maintain their education. For those children who struggle to finish their education, SOS Children’s Villages will assist them with job training and living facilities.
  4. Measures that the new government introduced have helped. The new administration, which took power in 2014, has undertaken reforms to increase social welfare and attract financial investment. These reforms have improved the living conditions in the country which have played a role in reducing poverty. The Czech Republic also introduced an online tax reporting system that should increase revenues and decrease tax evasion. The economic reforms have resulted in a budget surplus (1.6% of GDP in 2017) and a decrease in unemployment from 6.1% in 2014 to 2.9% in 2017, as well as increased GDP per capita by over $2,000 from 2015 to 2017.
  5. Housing costs are expensive. For two straight years in 2017 and 2018, the Czech Republic had the least affordable housing in Europe according to a study by Deloitte Property Index. The average Czech worker will have to work 11.8 years in order to have enough money to be able to afford a home. This was the highest figure in the study and 59% higher than the average. Factors relating to the housing market include lack of new apartments on the market, regulatory measures by the Czech National Bank and public sentiment. However, some cities like Ostrava do have affordable housing and housing is becoming more affordable in other cities as well.

These five facts about poverty in the Czech Republic highlight a few key points. New government measures have helped in the fight against poverty as well as the growth of the Czech economy. Young people have been doing extremely well in the country which has helped bring the overall poverty rate down. However, the nation can still do more work in the fight against poverty, especially in terms of helping female workers in the country and making housing more affordable. Overall, one can be optimistic about how the Czech Republic is taking further steps to reduce poverty in the country.

Zachary Laird
Photo: Flickr

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 note 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 
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