Elderly Poverty in Colombia
Many often ignore the marginalization of the elderly in benighted areas of the world in favor of other more current events. This is a phenomenon affecting almost every developing nation. The increase in life expectancy around the world does not necessarily mean that people are living better quality lives, especially in countries without sufficient resources to care for their elderly population. Below is some information about elderly poverty in Colombia.

The Current Situation

Colombia is a country of roughly 50 million people and a growing elderly population. However, it only has 80 geriatric centers to attend to its senior demographic. Furthermore, only 28% of the total senior population in Colombia can access a center specializing in their medical needs. According to the Medical Department of La Sabana University, the remaining 72% of elders cannot access proper medical attention or a trained caregiver. Most of this demographic inhabits isolated rural areas where access to specialized centers is quite distant. Elderly poverty is an underlying issue in Colombia, and very few organizations have committed themselves to the improvement of this situation.

Impact on Income

Poverty not only impacts Colombia’s senior population medically but also financially. In fact, around 59% of people over 60 rely solely on the pension system and have no stable income source. The elderly poverty rate in Colombia has reached the second-highest in the region, behind Paraguay, almost doubling the Latin American average. Currently, it is the nation with the third-largest elderly population without an income. Furthermore, social and familial networks are not strong enough to care for their elderly, as the aging citizenry becomes a burden for their families and immediate circle. Because only 4% of citizens over 60 years old have a pension and their own source of income, most of them rely on their descendants to care for them. However, given that 9.8% of seniors live by themselves, some do not have familial ties that support them.

Even though the alarming data on elderly poverty is bleak, it informs governments on where to address the issue. They must attempt to invigorate the quality of senior life and provide easy access to pensions. In addition, the government must work to strengthen the geriatric medical sector’s training and outreach. When trying to solve this structural issue, families and communities must also enter into consideration. They are essential to providing elderly support, ultimately decreasing the chance that anyone over 60 feels burdensome

Colombia’s Actions

Colombia is following the example of Spain and Mexico in including its aging population in socio-economic life. It has employed and trained seniors to perform tasks and activities in sectors such as tourism, culture and entertainment, granting them a stable income and bettering living standards. Additionally, it is also increasing seniors’ quality of life as they stop feeling obsolete. Responsible government spending regarding the elderly and the civilian population’s inclusivity towards its aging citizens must accompany this “longevity revolution.” For example, Bogotá City Council created the Municipal Elderly Council back in 2015, a community-based organization focused on advising the Mayor’s office matters impacting seniors. The council represents the elderly; it has been a successful platform in promoting dialogue and advocacy for senior civil society.

Foundational Efforts to Combat Elderly Poverty Issues

Currently, two prominent organizations working to diminish elderly poverty in Colombia are the British NGO HelpAge and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). They are joining efforts to provide the elderly living in rural areas with humanitarian aid and psychosocial help from gerontology professionals. Both organizations have a commitment to working on-site in Colombia, in regions like Nariño and Valle, where armed conflict displaced over 400 seniors. HelpAge and AECID also provide legal aid to elders seeking to be indemnified because of their displacement.

Both foundations work hand-in-hand with Paz y Bien (Peace & Righteousness), a Colombian NGO in charge of aiding displaced elderly populations in precarious situations. Together, they discovered that householder mothers were willing to earn extra income by taking care of their communities’ elderly. Thus the foundations provided women proper training to care for seniors, not only to grant them basic medical attention but also to keep them company in a new community. This model benefits both parties, as they are able to form new societal ties. So far, this joint project has yielded excellent results over the last six years.

Many often ignore elderly poverty in Colombia to prioritize other issues, such as ending the six-year ongoing armed conflict. With the pension system’s flaws, it is crucial for civil society to keep taking action. With efforts to attend to elderly poverty in Colombia, the future is promising, as emerging projects create a more dignified life for seniors.

– Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

4 Ways India’s Government Can Improve its EconomyRecently, Bangladesh, once considered one of the world’s poorest countries, has surpassed India in GDP per capita. This news has caused outrage among Indian citizens, but the government will not be able to mimic Bangladesh in creating a more prominent low-wage manufacturing export sector. Instead, India needs reforms that will create higher incomes for everyday workers, who are the backbone and foundation of the country’s economy.

GDP per capita measures the average income earned per person in a country during a given year. In 2019, India’s GDP per capita was $2,104. However, in 2020, this figure dropped to $1,876, placing the country one spot below Bangladesh, which currently has a GDP per capita of $1,887. Unlike India, Bangladesh has experienced consistent economic growth over the past three years.

Indian citizens are demanding that Narendra Modi, the country’s prime minister, enact reforms and policies that will boost GDP per capita by improving wages for India’s working class. Here are four ways that India could potentially boost its GDP per capita.

4 Ways India’s Government Can Improve GDP

  1. Increasing income for farmers. In India, 40% of the population works in agriculture and small-scale farming supports many poverty-level communities. However, the Indian government has historically kept prices for agricultural products low in favor of the consumer, despite the lower profits for farmers. The recently introduced 2020 Farm Acts will allow farmers to sell their products to the highest bidder, allowing them to seek higher incomes. When farmers are prospering, they support other sectors of India’s economy through their own consumption. Products like fertilizer, working attire and tools are necessary for farmers, especially as they expand their business. This increase in expenditure directly creates jobs for others.
  1. Through government expenditure and investment in infrastructure. The government controls the amount the nation spends on public matters each year. However, government spending is necessary to increase the overall GDP per capita. This year, incomes have declined for Indian citizens, meaning private consumption has also decreased. By spending money on building and repairing roads and bridges, the government will provide citizens with greater ease and efficiency in their work and create jobs in construction. Furthermore, by using more funds to pay higher salaries, private consumption will once again increase, promoting higher business investment and improving the market for imports and exports. By spending a certain amount of money, the government would benefit from the economic boost created as a result.
  1. Urbanizing India’s rural populations. Urbanization drives economic growth, and because India’s farming population is so prominent, moving some of these farmers to cities would allow them to get jobs in manufacturing. Not only would this increase agricultural productivity by decreasing the number of farmers using the same amount of land, but it would help grow some of India’s medium-sized cities into more prominent urban landscapes. The government can promote migration to city areas by providing incentives to rural populations, including investing in better infrastructure and urban services, such as transportation and water management. In addition, new urban populations would create a resurgence of the housing market and give banks more lending opportunities. Inevitably, more development and urbanization would create new opportunities for international investments and manufacturing exports.
  1. Becoming competitive in high-potential sectors. India has the opportunity to create as much as $1 trillion in economic value by establishing itself as a competitive manufacturer of electronics, chemicals, textiles, auto goods and pharmaceuticals. These sectors accounted for 56% of global trade in 2018, while India only contributed to 1.5% of global exports in these areas. Greater urbanization and an increase in the manufacturing labor force would allow India’s government to make this a reality. Currently, the country’s imports constitute a greater percentage of global trade than its exports. By increasing competitiveness in these sectors, India would not only increase its potential for exports but also decrease its reliance on imports, curbing the amount of money spent by citizens on foreign products.

While the path to economic recovery is not always as straightforward as it seems, India’s government has several means through which it can improve incomes for everyday workers. The government not only has an incentive but an obligation to create a better quality of life for its working class, which is the foundation of India’s economy. Improving India’s GDP per capita would directly benefit the nation and its citizens. Greater opportunities for manufacturing exports, foreign investments and urbanization are all benefits the country would reap from its own investment in its working class.

– Natasha Cornelissen
Photo: Flickr

Croatia is a country in Eastern Europe, part of the former Yugoslavia. It gained independence in 1991 after the Homeland War. As a result, the country struggles with poverty. It joined NATO in 2009 and the European Union (EU) in 2013, helping it advance as a country. In 2008, there was an abrupt economic slowdown that lasted into 2014, which plunged many into poverty. Now, poverty in Croatia is one of its biggest problems.

Croatia’s Economy

Croatia has high poverty rates. In 2015, an estimated 19.5% of the population was below the poverty line. Further, 15% of people were unable to even afford basic necessities, such as food, shelter and water. Poverty in Croatia increased when it left Yugoslavia during the Homeland War, changing from a communist to a free-market country.

Unemployment rates in Croatia are also high. The average unemployment rate is 12.4% (2017 estimate), which ranks Croatia 164 in the world. For youth, the unemployment rate is 23.7%. This is largely due to a lack of qualifications for jobs. Skilled professionals have moved to work elsewhere in the EU, and those remaining do not have the qualifications for the jobs that need filling.

Living in Poverty

Poverty is influenced by geography due to uneven developments throughout different regions. Small towns and other rural areas in the east and southeast, primarily near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, are the poorest areas in Croatia. There is a 5.9% poverty rate in cities, while there is up to a 34.3% poverty rate in small towns and rural areas.

Similar to the discrepancy between urban and country is the disparity between the rich and the poor. The previous government did not allow such imbalances to occur. However, those in government positions received favored treatment. As Croatia recovered from war in its new free-market system, the status of those who were previously disadvantaged worsened. After Croatia became independent, the rich received advantages while the poor received disadvantages. This created a large gap between the poor and rich. It was estimated in 2015 that the poorest 10% of households in Croatia earn only 2.7% of all income, while the richest 10% earned 23%.

Some groups are more likely to live in poverty than others. Older people, single-person households and single-parent households, large families of four or more people, children lacking parental care, people with lower education, war veterans, victims of war and their families, displaced people and ethnic minorities are most likely to live in poverty in Croatia.

Additionally, retired people are also more likely to live in poverty. Retired people are one-fifth of Croatia’s population. As a result, pension is becoming overburdened, and people on pensions are not given enough money to live. Those on pension receive less than 50% of the average Croatian salary.

Working Towards a Better Future

Croatia is working on alleviating poverty. Croatia is participating in the EU’s Europe 2020 strategy. The strategy aims to create sustainable and inclusive growth in the economy and employment while also reducing poverty and improving education. Because of regional disparities, Croatia is implementing a regional-based version of this strategy.

As a result, Croatia’s employment rate has improved from 60.6% of the population to 66.7% in last five years. This figure even includes those who wish not to work. Also, the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion has gone down from 29.1% of the population to 23.3%.

After its economic slowdown in 2008, Croatia struggled with an increase in poverty. While it has the highest poverty rate in its region, Croatia is working to address this problem. The country strives to decrease the gap between rural and urban areas as well as the divide between different social groups.

Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr

Education Will Help End Poverty
Education is a luxury many people take for granted, but it is something poverty-ridden families often sacrifice to have. Globally, over 250 million children and young adults are not in school. As a result, around 617 million young children and adolescents around the world are unable to read or do mathematics within the minimum proficient level. Poverty is one of the main reasons for this tragedy and it often comes from generations prior that also lacked schooling. By properly educating new generations, poverty rates could reduce significantly. Here are some ways that proper education will help end poverty.

Health

Estimates have determined that in developing countries, one-eighth of all children are born malnourished and that about 47% of those in low-income countries will continue to experience malnourishment until they reach the age of 5. Poor nutrition is a direct result of poverty and often linked to insufficient knowledge of proper nutritional diets. A study that occurred in 13 different countries found that the standard yearly gain production increased with those with basic education by 8.7%, which in turn increased food security and helped lower rates of malnourishment in children.

Education will help end poverty because, with basic education, parents learn more about how to care for themselves and their families, which in turn leads their children towards healthier lifestyles. Health education gives families have a higher chance of survival and even reduces rates of HIV and AIDS.

Mortality Rate

Education will help end poverty because it is particularly powerful for girls. Education has many effects on girls and women, but a primary impact is that if all women in poverty finished primary school, then the child mortality rate would reduce by almost 17%. This adds up to about 1 million newborns saved every year, but how does saving lives help lower poverty rates?

If more children survive, then families would not feel the need to have more children, thus the size of families would be smaller. If the families were smaller, then families would have more income and resources to go around, thus reducing poverty. For example, sub-Saharan African women with no education have 6.7 births on average, but with access to schools, these women only have 5.8 births. And finally, those studied who had finished secondary education have 3.9 births on average.

With schooling, women could more easily recognize danger signs in pregnancy and be able to seek care faster. Women with more knowledge about their body, pregnancy and childbirth have a better chance of giving birth safely. Records have determined that a child with a mother who had basic education is 50% more likely to surpass their fifth birthday.

Income and Economic Growth

Income is, of course, a huge factor in poverty. Records have stated that if someone has basic education (that is, reading, writing and mathematical skills), this not only has a positive impact on their own income but can also “increase the rate of return on the economy.” Those with education have a much higher chance of getting better jobs with higher wages. Just one year of education can result in a 10% raise in pay. More pay means better, more nutritious food, better access to sanitation, better access to healthcare and better housing.

For example, Vietnam was one of the poorest economic countries in the world due to its 20-year war. However, since 1990, Vietnam transformed its poor and war-torn country into a GDP that grew to 3,303%. Its economic growth rate was the second fastest and the main strategy for this success was the improvement and modernization of its education system. Vietnam is only second to China, which also implemented a new education system, causing it to have the number one fastest GDP growth.

With children attending schools and developing both important skills and abilities, they will one day get better jobs. The more income they have, the more goods and products they consume which benefits the companies. This in turn increases the demand for the production of more products, thus giving jobs to more people and helping the economy grow. These changes and more will be key in eradicating poverty around the world.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in the United Kingdom
When analyzing the issues that are prominent regarding women’s rights in the United Kingdom, one that catches the eye is the dominant source of inequality between men and women, the wage gap. Through research, it has become evident that the gender wage gap has caused some tremendous strife when it comes to women’s rights in the United Kingdom. In fact, the country has worked for many years to try to tighten the gap with little luck.

The Wage Gap and the Equal Pay Act

According to an article that the Independent published, 78% of the United Kingdom’s biggest companies have widened the gap in favor of men as of 2020. However, it is evident that the movement for equal pay in the United Kingdom has actually regressed in the most recent years.

Historically, the United Kingdom saw a tremendous decrease in the wage gap in 1970, which marks the official passing of the Equal Pay Act. According to a journal by authors Peter Dolton, Donal O’Neill and Olive Sweetman, there was much development that went into the Equal Pay Act. Their discoveries have led to the conclusion that within the workforce there were many, “gender-specific forces” that drove the United Kingdom legislature to pass the Equal Pay Act.

However, this act proved to solve so few of the problems for women’s rights in the United Kingdom, as companies simply did not believe in the idea of equal pay. As found in the graphs within Susan Harkness’ essay, the year 1977 showed a tremendous spike in the wage gap that ultimately stayed consistent from then on. Overall, with proper legislation in place, the U.K. is still struggling with a wage gap issue even in such revolutionary times.

Defining the Wage Gap

When looking at data, it is appropriate to ask how much this gap truly is. Now, according to an essay by authors Claudia Olivetti and Barbara Petrongolo, they mentioned that men’s hourly wages are between 27 and 33 log points higher than that of a woman.

More specifically, in the Independent article, by Sophie Gallagher, she spoke to a handful of women who have struggled with this issue first hand. Gallagher wrote that “head chef Kay Collins didn’t have to go digging to find out she was being paid £6,000 less than her male colleague,” which allows readers to fully understand how big this gap is based on a yearly salary. Though the issue is still very prominent, people are working hard at minimizing the gap.

With this information, women in the U.K. are not settling for this type of inequality. Gallagher went on to explain how many women who are falling victim to the gender gap are challenging the legality of their personal situations. As written in the same article, “… the BBC’s former China editor Carrie Gracie won her unequal pay claim after it emerged she was being paid around £100,000 less than a male comparator,” which proves that the fight is still being fought for women’s rights in the United Kingdom 50 years after the Equal Pay Act.

Fawcett Society and YESS Law

However, in contradiction, recent numbers show that as of 2019, the gap among employees has dropped 0.5% and continues to drop as the years go on. Though the issue is still very prominent, people are working hard at minimizing the gap. Working through many setbacks that have appeared in the past, many charities have been working in favor of women when it comes to receiving equal pay. For example, Campaign group Fawcett Society and legal charity YESS Law started the Equal Pay Advice Services, which supports women when speaking out about the wage gap that they have fallen victim to.

What the two organizations are doing is educating women on what the gender gap is and how large it has become in more recent years. They want to advise lower-paid women on equal pay in order to raise awareness of the issue. According to Fawcett Society, 40% of women are unaware that equal pay is a right. The organization also created a “Right to Know” petition to help raise awareness.

These charities are great examples of how an outsider can help the movement for equal pay in the U.K. By showing support for these groups, one can express their own support of women’s rights in the United Kingdom.

Simply by becoming more educated on the topic, women are discovering that more and more are fighting for what is truly theirs. The U.K. is following the notion that there is no need for the prevalence of a gender gap in current society. In fact, many are using protests, facing legal challenges and speaking to policymakers as a means to get what they truly deserve, that being equal pay.

– Sophia Cloonan
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous Peoples
Indigenous peoples in Canada have roots in poverty tracing back to the 19th and 20th centuries. They had to relocate to small plots of land called reserves where destruction of their traditional way of life “combined with the poorly organized set-up of reserves resulted in impoverishment for those on the reserves.”

In Canada, 25% of Indigenous peoples live in poverty with 40% of those living under the poverty line being Indigenous children. Many Indigenous peoples died due to lack of shelter, adequate food, access to health care and lack of federal relief services. Today, Indigenous communities continue to suffer at the hands of institutionalized colonial violence.

Housing Inequalities

Several cross-country reserves have declared a State of Emergency due to poor living conditions. Statistics deemed only 56.9% of homes on reserves adequate in 2000 and 43% unsafe and in need of repairs in 2016. In 2016, both reserve shelters and Inuit homes qualified as overcrowded — 28% and 30% respectively.

Some Indigenous people moved off of reserves and into urban centers. Even there, they continued to face economic struggles. Indigenous peoples are twice as likely to live in poverty in comparison to non-Indigenous folk. In 1995, 55.6% of Aboriginal people in urban centers lived in poverty. Meanwhile, in 2003, 52.1% of Indigenous children lived in poverty.

Income Disparities

Impoverishment within the Indigenous community has resulted in fewer on-reserve schools, rising illiteracy and rising unemployment. Indigenous households making an income below $20,000 represented almost 20% of the entire Canadian population; whereas, non-Indigenous homes only represented 9.9%.

Non-Indigenous folk in lower-income homes have a 12.9% outcome of people with major depressive episodes. Meanwhile, Indigenous folk in lower-income homes had a 21.4% outcome — almost double. The values for higher incomes families are much closer; 6.3% for non-Indigenous and 7.7% for Indigenous.

Health Inequities

The Well-Being Index determined that First Nation and Inuit communities ranked on average 20 points lower than non-Indigenous communities. Despite being only 4% of the Canadian population, Indigenous people make up 14% of the population relying on food banks. Smoking and lung cancer statistics also show an overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples. Lower-income Indigenous households reported daily smoking levels at 48.8%.

The lowest-income Indigenous populations also experience disproportionate difficulties in accessing health care. Popular barriers are that Indigenous peoples are “unable to arrange transportation (19.6%); not covered by Non-Insured health benefits (NIHB) (18.4%); could not afford transportation costs (14.6%); prior approval by NIHB denied (14.2%); could not afford the cost of care, service (11.4%).”

Aid

Many community activists and grassroots organizations work tirelessly to help support the Indigenous communities in Canada. Dismantling generational poverty is another focus of activists and organizations. True North Aid is just one of those in the fight for Indigenous peoples in Canada.

True North Aid has decades’ worth of experience. It has an advisory council of four Indigenous Elders, partners and a Board of Directors with over 35 years of experience. Under such leadership, the organization successfully raises awareness for Indigenous struggles. Additionally, it provides home reconstruction aid, water purification technologies and health care aid to Indigenous communities in Canada.

Activists and organizations supporting Indigenous peoples are imperative in the fight to end poverty for Indigenous people. Indigenous communities suffer disproportionately and need advocacy and action.

– Jasmeen Bassi 
Photo: Flickr

hunger in Chile
Chile is a country located in the far southeast of South America. With a population of over 18 million people, Chile is the sixth most populous nation on the continent and the ninth most populous in the Western Hemisphere. The country is largely developed with a high-income classification from the World Bank, but staggering levels of poverty and hunger in Chile remain. This is mainly due to government corruption, income inequality, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Chile’s Hunger Problem

The issue of hunger in Chile is partly a result of the national government’s decades-long neoliberal policies, which have created a high level of income inequality in the country. The Covid-19 pandemic has also contributed to this issue by causing widespread economic devastation.

The large number of Chilean citizens employed in informal work reveals a major connection between income inequality and hunger in Chile. The accumulation of wealth and resources, especially in terms of education and healthcare, in the hands of a very privileged elite has catalyzed the growth of poverty in Chile. A lack of financial and structural development in the country’s rural and peripheral areas has forced large numbers of Chileans, many of whom are unskilled and without formal education, to work outside of nationally recognized businesses. The unregulated nature of this under-the-table work has worsened the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the University of Chile, the salaries of workers have fallen by 60% since the beginning of the pandemic.

Before the recent economic and health crises, the national economy of Chile was greatly improving. Levels of poverty within the country had greatly diminished, from almost 40% to 9% since 1990, the last year of the military dictatorship. Nevertheless, the swift devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic has raised the poverty level in the country to almost 15% since last year.

Covid-19 and Hunger

This decline in income and increased levels of poverty have been matched by increasing food scarcity and hunger in Chile. Many local markets in Chile’s more impoverished and isolated areas have been forced to close due to both government-mandated social distancing restrictions and high levels of debt among the country’s lower class. The dire need to bring home food to their families has forced many Chileans to continue to work despite pandemic conditions, disproportionately increasing their exposure to the virus.

Beyond the rising cost of food and living in Chile, the recent social restrictions and rising unemployment due to the virus have left hundreds of thousands of Chileans in danger of hunger. Families’ lack of income as well as their increased difficulty providing food point to the development of a hunger crisis in the country. The economic impact of the coronavirus has had a particularly great effect on lower-class citizens living near the capital who work in informal and unregistered jobs. Many critics of the Chilean government’s response to the pandemic and economic crisis point out that its proposed stimulus package, which includes millions of food baskets to be distributed to the hardest-hit areas, would be largely insufficient to tackle the ever-increasing problem of hunger.

Anti-Poverty Protests

In 2019, widespread protests erupted in Chile for a variety of reasons, mainly related to the increased cost of living and rising income inequality in the country. These protests marked the first time since the military dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s that the Chilean Army had entered into Santiago to maintain order. Although protests initially broke out in response to a hike in the metro fare in Chile’s capital city, most people agree that Chile’s past macroeconomic policies have laid the groundwork for the current economic situation.

Income Inequality and Neoliberal Economics in Chile

A major factor that has contributed to the ongoing anti-government protests in Chile is the staggering income inequality present within the country. Although the popular protests against the government of Sebastián Piñera began in 2019, the socioeconomic effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting shutdown have greatly exacerbated the poverty and income inequality in Chile.

The country’s stark income inequality can trace its origin to the Pinochet regime. During the military dictatorship, various neoliberal economists from the United States were invited to Chile to help modernize and revitalize the national economy.

Although the effects of this neoliberal approach have greatly expanded the economy of the country as a whole, most of this new wealth was heavily centralized with the majority of Chileans still facing grave economic and health-related conditions. Although Chile boasts the fourth largest economy in South America with a registered nominal GDP of approximately $300 billion in 2018, the distribution of wealth within the country tells a very different story. According to the CIA World Factbook, Chile has the fifteenth highest level of income inequality in the world, ahead of both China and the United States when measured with the Gini index.

Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Chilean Poverty

Like in many other countries worldwide, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting national lockdown have greatly exacerbated the high levels of poverty and income inequality already present in Chile. Despite Chile’s overall economic success and complex healthcare system, the country has one of the highest infection rates per capita in the Western Hemisphere with 13,000 cases for every 1 million citizens. In comparison to similarly-sized economies in South America, Chile’s rate of infection is 10 times that of Argentina and twice that of Brazil, making it one of the most hard-hit countries on the planet.

The presence and spread of Covid-19 in the country are highly related to the preexisting level of income inequality in Chile. A large majority of new cases can be traced to the highly impoverished areas surrounding the capital of Santiago. Like other low-income areas in 2020, many of its residents are essential workers and unable to quarantine if they are to continue earning enough to pay for food and other necessary resources. This phenomenon of lower-income citizens facing increased exposure to the coronavirus due to their inability to stay home from work is not unique to Chile but is also occurring in many other economies across the globe.

Improving Conditions for Hungry Chileans

One group working to address the problem of hunger in Chile during the Covid-19 pandemic is Desafío Levantemos Chile, an NGO which aims to aid hundreds of Chileans by distributing food, providing microloans and housing projects, and advocating for public education reform. The group’s healthcare work has proven to be indispensable during the pandemic. The organization has worked to distribute testing kits and personal protection equipment to rural areas of the country and has also supported local hospitals and frontline workers through crowdfunding. Since its founding in 2011, Desafío Levantemos Chile has provided primary medical care to over 185,000 Chileans.

Many of the factors related to the high levels of poverty, income inequality, and hunger in Chile are endemic to the country’s socioeconomic and political status quo. The effects of the neoliberal push of the late 1980s have created a stark division of wealth and resources in the country. The austere policies of the Piñera government have incited civil unrest, which the Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated. As in many other countries around the globe, and especially in South America, the lingering effects of this difficult year will continue to create economic hardships for many ordinary and impoverished people well into the future.

– Jason Beck
Photo: Wikimedia

inequality in columbia
In Colombia, the issue of income inequality is undeniable. Income inequality is present largely due to income distribution and poverty. The Colombian government proposed reforms for economic and social aspects. However, the reforms only benefitted businesses, leaving behind the working class, indigenous groups, young people, women and ethnic groups. In recent years, the divide between the rich and poor has become more noticeable.

3 Aspects of Inequality in Colombia

  1. Land Inequality: To pay off debts, the Colombian Government sold off large portions of public land from 1823 to 1931, which led to the concentrated system of land ownership. To concentrate land, the Colombian government used tax incentives, which promoted inefficient land cultivation and hindered economic activity. Mechanisms for the concentration of land include the expulsion of peasant populations, which exacerbates the inequality in Colombia. This violent expropriation led to higher rates of poverty in the countryside than in cities.
  2. Income Inequality: According to the World Bank, in 2017, only 10% of Colombia’s population received 39% of Columbia’s income. This means that the most wealthy earn a large portion of the country’s income, whereas the rest is spread out disproportionately between the rich and poor due to the lack of a middle class. Furthermore, the working class lacks much-needed government aid.
  3. Women and Children in Colombia: Compared to men, women earn 13-23% less for the same jobs. A lack of flexibility in working arrangements directly affects female labor workers. This practice and the wage gaps clearly exemplify gender discrimination in Colombia. Women lack flexible schedules that allow time for maternity leave or other childcare-related absences. There have been many effects on infants and toddlers in Colombia. Due to malnutrition, around 346 toddlers died in 2018. Another reason for the deaths of these toddlers is poverty and lack of healthcare access in communities. According to the World Bank, malnutrition killed 14 children per 1,000 births in 2018. The majority of healthcare issues for children have a relationship with malnutrition.

Looking to the Future

One nonprofit organization and NGO that is working to eliminate inequality in Colombia is the Pintando Caminos Asociación Para Recrear el Futuro. This NGO has worked for 12 years to improve the lives of children by providing opportunities to children in oppressed and impoverished areas, such as Bogota, Colombia. Bogota is known for its slums, the conditions of which the government overlooks, allowing cartels to easily control the area. This creates a cycle of poverty. This organization is trying to break that cycle by providing aid and necessary tools to allow children to succeed without inequality holding them back. So far, they have raised over $43,781 and have helped 140 children.

Due to the inequality in Colombia, only 10% of the population succeeds, whereas the rest are struggling from the unlivable wages and working conditions. This inequality differently affects the working class or low-income workers, as well as those who are most vulnerable in society: children.

– Samira Akbary
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in MoroccoMorocco is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy in Northern Africa. Using its geographical proximity to Europe, the country is positioning itself to become the trade center of Africa. Combining this with low-cost labor, Morocco is moving toward an open market economy. Mohammed VI, the current sovereign of Morocco, has reigned over a steadily growing economy. However, poverty in Morocco is still a major issue that demands the government’s attention.

An Improving Economy

Morocco’s economy has enjoyed steady growth since 1960. Agriculture, tourism, aerospace, phosphates, textiles and sub-components are some of the major sectors that support the country’s economic expansion. In order to further support their increased industrial development and trade, Morocco built a new port and free trade zone near the city of Tangier. Due to these efforts, Morocco’s GDP rose from 2.03 billion in 1960 to 117.92 billion in 2018. However, even with this massive rise in the country’s GDP, income disparity is still an issue.

Income Inequality in Morocco

Income inequality is one of the main issues that reflects the state of poverty in Morocco. In 2018, the OECD published a report which observed the country’s alarming income inequality. The report found that Morocco’s Gini Coefficient, an index of a country’s income inequality, was the highest of all countries in Northern Africa, at 40.3%. This inequality has far-reaching implications in Morocco. In his interview with Reuters in 2019, Ahmed Lahlimi, the head of Morocco’s official statistics agency, stated that social “disparities often trigger protests because they are viewed as a result of an illegitimate accumulation of wealth.”

A report by Oxfam also found that Morocco’s income inequality has considerable consequences. In the report, Oxfam showed that it would take 154 years for a normal employee to earn what Moroccan billionaires can make in a year. This is especially concerning because an estimated 1.6 million Moroccan citizens live in poverty. Inequality is also made evident by the difference in literacy rates between urban areas and rural areas: as of 2011, urban children were 2.7 times more likely to learn reading skills than those living in rural areas. While the literacy rate in Morocco rose from 69% in 2012 to 73% in 2018, it is clear that more needs to be done to improve the differences between urban and rural access to quality education.

Alleviating Income Inequality

In 2005, King Mohammed VI launched the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH), which aims to reduce poverty in Morocco by improving living conditions, assisting vulnerable social groups and supporting Moroccan families. The third phase of INDH, which will last from 2019 to 2023, will use its 1.9 billion dollar budget to improve basic social services and infrastructure around Morocco. As of 2019, the initiative has created 44,000 projects, 17,000 actions and 9,400 income-generating activities in an effort to bridge the inequality gap in Morocco. The country also took on a loan from The World Bank to reduce unemployment in Morocco. The government plans to use the loan to improve private sector employment, human resources, accelerate digitalization and quality of education.

While Morocco’s economy is improving, it is clear that poverty is an issue that still affects many people. Although the developing economy of Morocco improved the lives of many, it also resulted in extreme income disparities. This inequality impacts many citizens, as made apparent by the difference in literacy rates between children in urban and rural areas. Luckily, King Mohammed VI and the Moroccan government have taken measures to alleviate income disparity and poverty in Morocco. With the beginning of INDH’s third phase, many people in Morocco hope for a better future.

– YongJin Yi 
Photo: Flickr

Income Inequality in Russia
In 2015, 111 people controlled 19 percent of all household wealth in Russia. Russia’s wealth and income inequalities have drastically increased in recent years, surpassing the U.S. Historically, income inequality in Russia has fluctuated. Towards the end of Tsarist Russia, the top 10 percent of earners made about 45 to 50 percent of the national income. During the Soviet period, this dropped to about 20 to 15 percent. However, it rose back up to about 45 to 50 percent in 1990 with the fall of the Soviet Union.

Income Inequality in Russia

Recently, income inequality in Russia has risen so that the top 1 percent of earners’ combined income is as high as 20-25 percent of the national income. This is comparatively much higher than Eastern European countries, where the top 1 percent income shares of wealth make about 10 to 14 percent of income. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, socioeconomic stratification has exceeded that of other formerly socialist economies, including China. Wealth inequality is even more drastic, with the richest 10 percent of Russians owning 87 percent of the country’s wealth, making it the most unequal of the world’s major economies.

Causes of Income Inequality

The transition from communism to capitalism after 1990 is the primary cause of increased income inequality. Specifically, housing played an important role in the rise of private wealth and increased from less than 50 percent of national income in 1990 to 200 percent of national income in 2015. This results from housing privatization and the rise of real estate prices. In turn, these shifts in housing prices significantly increased rents for a large fraction of the population. Their income didn’t increase to help account for the raised costs, exacerbating socioeconomic inequality in Russia.

The rise of the oligarchs, a group of individuals who control most of the productive assets and the capital in Russia, also contributed to the severe inequalities in income and wealth. Oligarchs formed ties with political figures, giving them a foothold in politics. This, combined with their economic power, allowed them to influence governmental and market structures.

Oligarchs have contributed to development and economic growth, but they also play a critical role in increasing inequality in Russia. The political and economic power of the Russian oligarchs enables corruption. Oligarchs want to lower competition, avoid taxation and keep wages low. Because of their political influence, they are able to support policies that will further their own interests. These interests maximize their profits while keeping taxes and wages low and preventing redistribution, which increases inequality.

Resistance to Corruption

In 2017, about 60,000 people protested inequality on the streets of almost 80 different cities. This isn’t a large percent of the population but does show people’s anger with the current socioeconomic inequalities. Alexei Navalny, who has been the face of Russian opposition to President Vladimir Putin, called these anti-corruption protests. Over 1,000 protesters were detained as a result and Navalny was sentenced to 30 days in jail. While many people are scared to protest in Russia, a significant number of young people were among the demonstrators who turned out for the anti-corruption protests, showing promise for intensified anti-corruption activism in the future.

Maia Cullen
Photo: Flickr