Citizenship Amendment Act Protests in IndiaBlood, tears and the echoes of piercing cries have filled India’s capital New Delhi for weeks now. People participating in peaceful anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in India have face the wrath of violent police officers. India’s youth has taken to the streets to fight against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The CAA allows for the marginalization of the Muslim community by restricting their ability to gain citizenship in India. This has created great discomfort for many of the 138 million Muslims currently living in India, who make up around 13.4% of the total population.

The bill appears to be most beneficial to Hindus, who account for 80.5% of India’s population. Its introduction has caused a national uproar as it highlights century-old religious intolerance in India. Many argue that the bill is in violation of Article 15 of the Indian constitution, which prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. The public has drawn similarities between the current situation and the problematic partition of Pakistan and India.

How does the CAA actually affect citizenship?

The CAA specifies that illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh can receive Indian citizenship if they have proof of residence for six years under the condition that they affiliate with Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religious communities. However, Muslim immigrants from the same countries must have proof of residence for at least 12 years; it is argued this component contravenes Article 14 (equality for all people) and Article 15 of the Indian Constitution. The bill reduces the Muslim community to “second-class citizens” based on their religion alone.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his dissatisfaction with the Citizenship Amendment Act protests in India. He defended the bill, claiming there was no harm in trying to uplift the religious majorities in India, especially because they were discriminated against in other countries, like Pakistan. His party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has previously promoted policies and ideologies that favor Hindus and disfavor Muslims.

Further, members of the party have openly labeled Muslims as “terrorists” and have asserted that Hinduism is the dominant religion. Recently, BJP representative Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath claimed that the protests are stopping India from becoming a global power. However, he offered no explicit elaboration as to how they are doing so. It is evident that influential parts of the Indian government support and promote anti-Muslim sentiments.

Jamia Millia Islamia, a university in New Dehli with a significant population of Muslim students, is a center for Citizenship Amendment Act protests in India. Despite the peaceful nature of the protests, several videos of physical harassment at the hands of law enforcement have surfaced. This footage shows police charging students with lathis; many criticized this act for being unwarranted.

The Path to Equality: Pleas to the Supreme Court

Awareness about the CAA’s unjust components has spread across the country. Because of this, numerous petitions against the act have been filed at the Supreme Court of India. This same method was implemented previously against Section 377 of the Indian Constitution, which criminalized homosexuality. The Supreme Court later repealed the law thanks to the various protests and petitions filed across the country.

As the government continues to defend the bill, the public’s last hope is the Supreme Court, the only institution that can stop the implementation of CAA. On January 22, 2020, the Supreme Court did not issue a stay on the petitions filed against the bill and instead gave the central government four weeks to respond. This further angered the public and has continued to help the youth hold consistent protests all around the nation. However, as of March 5, the Supreme Court announced that it will consider petitions against the CAA after resolving matters pertaining to the Sabarimala issues.

The path taken by the protestors has proven to be effective in the past. The youth of India aim to strike down the CAA in court with the law on their side. Citizenship Amendment Act protests in India display the changing mindset of the country’s youth. These protests also promise hope to those ostracized by the government on the basis of religion. As religious tolerance is now a priority for the majority of India, unfair practices promoting inequality are bound to disappear in the near future. As for the present, the Supreme Court will decide whether CAA can be implemented in India within the next few months.

Mridula Divakar
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

How Developed Countries Can Help Reduce Inequality
Developed nations can contribute to a large percentage of world problems, such as pollution, and these issues tend to impact the developing world the most. Recently, issues that developing nations have been dealing with for a long time have begun to encroach on developed nations. The lack of poverty aid, climate policies and failure to protect the innocent have created a global hostile environment that has encouraged developed nations to divide from developing nations despite sharing the same world. However, developed countries can have an impact on inequality in the world. One way that developed countries can reduce inequality is by providing aid to impoverished nations. One of these areas is Haiti, which has experienced significant damage due to natural disasters in the past.

Demand to Raise Issues of Inequality

There has been an incredible demand to address issues that affect the world in an unequal way, such as climate change. One area that developed countries can reduce inequality is in the country of Haiti where there is a large percentage of the population living below the poverty line and the poorest of the population is the most vulnerable. Those in poverty often do not have a place to safely shelter during, or after, natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes. Launching a market to help and develop the developing world is a way to unify countries and respond to the issues of poverty and climate change.

Veerhouse Voda

One company dedicated to addressing the issue of shelter is Veerhouse Voda, which has developed a building method to efficiently strengthen inadequate infrastructures, like some of the ones in Haiti. Veerhouse Voda’s infrastructure development is just one of many ways that the expertise and experience of the developed world can go towards improving the infrastructure of the entire planet.

The existing infrastructure of Haiti is currently underdeveloped and is often a problem during natural disasters. For example, in 2016, Hurricane Matthew destroyed many shelters in Haiti and damaged others. Much of the population was not able to find shelter. Veerhouse Voda’s building method can create a much safer, more resistant infrastructure to withstand natural disasters. In addition, it can implement emergency buildings to mitigate the loss of life after disaster events.

Companies, such as Veerhouse Voda, have collaborated together to form the Unreasonable Group to invest in developing infrastructure. As a result, this can protect people and set a foundation for places like Haiti. Veerhouse Voda can create disaster-resilient shelters that are locally built. It uses local employment to construct its shelters and can later transition them to more permanent structures. The positive impact that Veerhouse Voda can have in Haiti and on the developing world is the motivation behind the Unreasonable Group and other companies.

Developed countries can reduce inequality globally in order to create more of a unified world. As the infrastructure of the world begins to equalize, there will be opportunities for each unique cultural perspective to contribute to the progress of civilization. The alternative to investing in developing countries now is to continue to combat the symptoms of inequality.

Brian King
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Uganda
The Republic of Uganda is in the African continent which constitutes a majority of the poor population in the world. There are 44 million people in Uganda, and 30 percent of Uganda’s population lives on less than $1.90 PPP per day. People speak over 30 different indigenous languages in this land of 240,000 Sq. Km. The population in Uganda is increasing at an alarming rate. In fact, by 2025, Uganda will have a population of 51.9 million. However, it is not increasing in proportion to the employment rate. Here are seven facts about prolonged poverty in Uganda.

7 Facts About Prolonged Poverty in Uganda

  1. Transportation: When most of the world is traveling in cars, people in Uganda transport from one place to the other by bicycles because of poor road conditions. Every 100 road crashes kill approximately 24 people. Accidents cost $1.2 billion in lost productivity and medical expenses annually, which accounts for 5 percent of Uganda’s GDP. The government invested a significant amount in infrastructural development to eradicate this problem.
  2. Health and Health Care: Uganda has a high number of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, respiratory tract infections and diarrheal diseases, which may contribute to the average life expectancy of 59 years. Limited health care is another factor that affects Ugandans’ health. In fact, there are more ministers in Uganda than there are hospital beds. Moreover, only eight physicians are available for every 100,000 people. When COVID-19 entered Uganda, Ugandans did not feel a difference because they were already used to lockdowns and poor health care. Luckily, Uganda has a robust health care development plan for the upcoming decade. In addition, Uganda is improving its tracking system for health supplies in order to provide quality drugs to sick people.
  3. Food Shortage: Pests and droughts have an effect on Uganda’s food security. Around 2 million people in Uganda are desperately hungry, so a pest infestation or drought could cause many deaths. Additionally, Uganda is hosting other nationals or refugees, which is putting further strain on its food system. Farmers in Uganda are starting to use technology to forecast weather in order to generate profitable yields.
  4. Sanitation: Around 87 percent of Uganda’s population does not have access to clean water. As a result, around 4,500 children in Uganda die every year because of diarrheal diseases. Several borehole micro-projects are in progress to provide a clean source of water to Ugandans.
  5. Education: Like any other poor country, Uganda’s economic progress is dependent on education. Both public and private schools in Uganda do not necessarily provide quality education. The primary education completion rate is around 53 percent in Uganda. It is currently increasing at a slow pace. Poor education will lead to high unemployment rates in Uganda. NGOs and CSOs such as SchoolNet Uganda, Uconnect and the Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) are working towards improving education access in Uganda. SchoolNet Uganda works to provide technological facilities to several institutions in Uganda.
  6. Inequality: The inequality rate is increasing at an alarming rate in Uganda, which contrasts the high rates of GDP growth. Uganda has started targeting social sectors such as education and health to improve its growth rate. However, this policy has not helped to improve the inequality rate. In fact, all these decisions worsened the inequality rate. Twenty percent of Uganda’s population owns around 50 percent of the total wealth.
  7. Sustainability: Statistically, two out of three people fall back into poverty in Uganda after coming out of it. Social security is the major reason for returning back to poverty. The Ugandan government spends only 1 percent of its GDP on social security. Its green growth development strategy shows a promising vision for 2018-2030.

Uganda’s growth in the last decade was mainly dependant on good fortune. The Ugandan government could solve prolonged poverty in Uganda if it focuses on improving access to electricity, education, child malnutrition, agriculture and employment.

Narasinga Moorthy
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

Eggs & Bread in London

Based in Walthamstow in East London, Eggs & Bread is a cafe like no other. It boasts “the smallest menu on Wood Street” that includes boiled eggs, jam, porridge, tea and coffee. Eggs & Bread in London is a “pay what you like” cafe, whereby those who overpay for a cup of tea and a boiled egg allow the less well-off to eat for free, or pay a reduced rate for breakfast. A report written by U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston on extreme poverty and human rights stipulated that homelessness is on the rise in London, austerity being the main cause. ​

Austerity is a Mindset

“Austerity is a mindset, which is now fully reflected in how the government operates,” Alston reports. The evidence seen on the report points to the conclusion that the driving force has not been economic but rather a commitment to achieving radical social re-engineering. Because of this, people have been relying more on food banks and charities for their next meal, which makes Eggs & Bread in London even more special.​

Thirty-seven percent of all children, 24 percent of all working-age adults and 19 percent of all pensioners live in poverty. While the poverty rate fell over the last few years, the depth of poverty increased.

London, the Capital of Poverty

London remains the capital of poverty in the United Kingdom. Another factor that adds to this is the high rents paid by half of all households who rent their homes. Those who rent from a private landlord have long faced high rents. More recently, housing association and council tenants have seen their rents go up rapidly. This is also due to wealth inequality, predominant in London.

Wealth inequality, which is higher than income inequality, increased over the years. Wealth for someone just in the top 10 percent is now 295 times higher than someone in the bottom 10 percent. In 2010–12 it was 160 times higher, a significant increase.​

As inequality in the capital rises whilst wages stagnate and many are forced to food banks to feed themselves and their families, social ventures like Eggs & Bread in London become ever more vital. As Eggs & Bread’s website states, “Everyone’s welcome, no matter if you are a city broker or simply broke.”

These sorts of cafes existed before, such as the Brixton Pound and The People’s Fridge, but the sheer amount of attention Eggs & Bread has had bodes well for its success, and will hopefully inspire other like-minded projects. With an estimated 28 percent of Londoners living in poverty, Eggs & Bread aims to balance out the inequality seen so often in big cities.

If one wants to pay, the donation box is discreetly placed next to where one puts the dirty plates. If one can afford to put something in the box, one can also pay for the breakfast of others who might not be able to pay. As Eggs & Bread in London states, “Everyone deserves a good start to the day.” ​

– Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr

Inequality in Nigeria

The severe inequality in Nigeria is a giant paradox. As the economy has grown to be the biggest in Africa and one of the fastest-growing in the world, poverty remains rampant. The oil-dependent country harbors the largest population of impoverished people in the world according to the Brookings Institute. As of 2018, 87 million people were living in extreme poverty in Nigeria. A sad reality for a country that, according to the African Development Bank, makes up a whopping 20 percent of the continent’s GDP.

Meanwhile, it would take the richest man in Nigeria, Aliko Dangote, 42 years to spend all of his wealth if he were to spend $1 million every day. According to Oxfam, Dangote earns around 8,000 times more per day than the bottom 10 percent of the population combined spends on basic needs annually. This is a stunning statistic for someone residing in a country ranked 157 out of 189 countries on the U.N. Human Development Index.

The Causes of Poverty

There are a few different factors driving poverty and inequality in Nigeria. Government corruption, greed and cronyism are arguably the biggest:

  • Transparency International ranked Nigeria 144 out of 180 countries on the corruption perception index in 2018.
  • The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission found that from 1960 to 2005 around $20 trillion was stolen from the Nigerian treasury by public officeholders.
  • According to Oxfam, lawmakers in Nigeria make $118,000 annually, one of the highest salaries in the world for public officials.
  • An estimated $2.9 billion is lost in tax revenue annually due to crooked and regressive tax policies, according to Oxfam. An example of these policies is the tax holiday given to companies in the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Project that results in around $3.9 billion in lost tax revenues. On top of this, the fragmented government revenue that is collected is inefficiently managed and unfairly allocated.

It is also worth mentioning that the share of the budget dedicated to public well-being is among the lowest in the region. In 2012, only 6.5 percent of the budget went to education, 3.5 percent went to health care and just 6.7 percent went to social protection. On top of this, around 57 million people lack access to clean water and more than 130 million do not have access to proper sanitation.

Gender Discrimination

Another main factor driving inequality in Nigeria is gender discrimination. Women are at a massive socio-economic disadvantage and Nigeria ranked 125 out of 154 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index in 2015. According to Save the Children Federation, 50 percent of girls aged 15 and older are illiterate. Land ownership and income are two aspects that show major gender inequality in Nigerian culture. For example, according to Oxfam, women make up 60 to 79 percent of the rural labor force but men are still five times as likely to own land, and the non-rural labor force is made up of only 21 percent women.

At the same time, more organizations are taking up the mantle to ensure that tackling gender inequality in Nigeria is more of a priority. For instance, Kudirat Initiative for Democracy or KIND for short, is a nonprofit based in Lagos that focuses on reducing barriers for women’s public participation in social, economic and political development. The initiative also concentrates its efforts on bringing an end to gender-based violence in Nigeria.

Children’s Suffering

Children are hit especially hard by the side effects of inequality in Nigeria. Around 32 percent of school-aged children are out of school and 51 percent are driven to child labor. Every 104 out of 1,000 children die before the age of five. The Save the Children Federation is working hard to alleviate some of the challenges of impoverished children. The nonprofit organization has made some impressive progress in helping Nigerian kids. According to Save the Kids website the foundation has:

  • Protected 296,132 children from harm
  • Supported 186,315 children in times of crisis
  • Provided 5,471,422 children with a healthy start in life
  • Provided 5,266,326 children vital nourishment
  • Supported 296,394 parents to provide for their children’s basic needs

The organization also runs a stabilization center for malnourished children and is working to provide adequate maternal health for Nigerians.

To Be Continued

Inequality in Nigeria is a multi-variant problem. Due to government and economic corruption and gender discrimination, Africa’s largest economy is off-limits for over half of the Nigerian population. Oxfam states that for Nigeria to substantially improve inequality and poverty, public policy, gender inequality and tax policies need a complete transformation. Until then, the good work being done by organizations like Save the Children Federation provide a positive but temporary solution. Confronting the issues and creating real reform from the inside out is the only way to halt the unacceptable poverty and inequality in Nigeria.

– Zach Brown
Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in Nigeria
Nigeria, a country located on the western coast of Africa, makes up to 47 percent of the population of Africa. With the rising amount of people surrounding the area, there has been a vast amount of poverty overtaking the country. Recently, the economic growth of Nigeria has risen due to many factors such as its production of oil. However, no matter how much the economy grows, poverty continues to rise as well due to the inequality between the poor and rich.

Economic Growth

In 2018, the oil and gas sector allowed the economic growth in Nigeria to grow 1.9 percent higher than the previous year when it only grew to 0.8 percent. Although that is where more of the growth is, the oil sector does not have physical bodies working to ensure that the industry continues to grow. This leaves no growth in the stock of jobs, leaving the unemployment rate to rise to 2.7 percent since the end of 2017. Many hope that the new Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) will promote economic resilience and strengthen growth.

ERGP

ERGP projects that there will a growth rate of 4.5 percent in 2019, but within the first quarter, there was only a growth of 2.01 percent. Charles Robertson, the global head of the research at Renaissance Captial, believes that ERGP’s 4.5 percent target was not unrealistic, especially since Nigeria was unable to meet those projections. Because most of the country’s economic growth comes from oil, there have not been many other non-oil jobs that have made a lot of profit.

The plan not only focuses on the rate of economic growth but also makes predictions that the unemployment rate will decrease to 12.9 percent. With the lack of available jobs, there has been little to no change in this rate as well. Many of the individuals that do have jobs, however, are earning up to $1.25 or less per day, which is not enough to pay for one household.

Inequality

As the economic growth in Nigeria grows, so does the gap between the poor and the rich. With the poor as the bottom 23 percent, the gap between the two has widened to 16 percent. A lot of the high-paying jobs are looking for people that have received high-quality degrees. If one does not have the money to pay for a good education, then they automatically miss out on the job opportunities that are out there. This means, that the children that come from rich families are the only ones that will be able to get the best jobs in the market.

The current government has been running a cash transfer program that provides 5,000 nairas to each household per month, which is approximately $14. This amount is not enough to relieve any household expenses because “less than 1 percent of poor people are benefiting.” Without any increase in money for each household, one cannot do much to decrease poverty.

Although there is economic growth in Nigeria, poverty is still on the rise. Many countries have faced this problem with trying to break the balance between the two and found it has not helped to decrease poverty as much. Hopefully, as the ERGP continues, it will help make changes.

Emilia Rivera
Photo: Flickr

Inequality in South Africa
Despite the institution of racially inclusive democracy, inequality in South Africa persists decades after the end of apartheid. According to a 2018 report by The World Bank, South Africa is one of the most economically unequal countries in the world. Inequality has gone up since the end of Apartheid in 1994 and remains high.

The Situation

In 2015, South Africa had a Gini coefficient of 0.63, the highest in the world. Also in 2015, the top 10 percent of earners controlled 70 percent of the wealth in South Africa, while the bottom 60 percent had 7 percent of the wealth. Fifty percent of South Africans earn $5 per day. Despite the official end to apartheid and the holding of multiracial elections, inequality in South Africa continues to operate on racial lines. Black South Africans mostly make up the lower class.

A significant wage gap also exists between segments of the population. There is a very small middle class with workers in either very high paying jobs or very low paying jobs. The high paying jobs earn on average five times the amount of lower-paying jobs. Therefore, a small segment of the population has similar income to those in developed countries, while low-wage laborers have wages comparable to ones in low-income developing countries.

Inequality in South Africa

High unemployment and low economic mobility mark inequality in South Africa. Unemployment reached 27 percent in 2017.

Poverty is high for a middle-income country and is a particular problem for black South Africans, the uneducated, the unemployed, female-led households, large families and children. Poverty also has a significant geographic indicator, a relic of the apartheid era. Poverty runs high in regions that people oppressed during apartheid, particularly the homelands, land set aside for black South Africans. Although the likelihood of living in poverty depends, to some extent, on race and gender, research indicates that skills and labor market factors play a significant role, which indicates that public policy has the potential to reduce poverty.

South Africa’s poor public education system means that skilled and professional labor is in short supply. Reforming the education system to make students better prepared to join the workforce could reduce poverty significantly.

Land Rights

Inequality in South Africa continues to connect to land rights even after the end of official segregation. Many black South Africans live in slums, which numbered 300 in 1994 but 2,700 in 2019. These underfunded living quarters stem from the 1960s when the apartheid region uprooted many black residents from their homes and sent them to live in isolated townships. The forced relocations meant many had to spend the bulk of their income on transportation and had to go to underfunded schools which did little to prepare students for the job market, contributing to the cycle of poverty.

Most relocated families have never been able to return home even after the end of apartheid, as prohibitively high costs keep them out of the big cities and in impoverished outskirts. Many have to commute from the outskirts of the town to jobs in the city; the commute can cost $3 a day out of an average wage of $10 a day for a service worker. Sending a child to a school in the city to avoid the poorly performing township schools also incurs costs.

Efforts to Eliminate Poverty in South Africa

Many tracts of public land lay empty, presenting opportunities for building housing. Reclaim the City has been working to stop the privatization of empty government land. It has moved over 1,000 people into abandoned government property such as hospitals, utilizing a law that says people cannot evict citizens if they lack a better alternative. Additionally, groups like the Social Justice Coalition are working to improve informal settlements where people already live by building amenities and securing formal occupation rights.

Additionally, the South African government has taken steps to reduce inequality with the implementation of the National Development Plan 2030 (NDP). The NDP seeks to end poverty within the country by 2030. The policy focuses on “drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society,” according to the National Planning Commission’s NDP Executive Summary.

– Clarissa Cooney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty Line in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s reputation as one of the most financially significant regions on earth masks internal issues of poverty and inequality. The record-high poverty line in Hong Kong has hit the city hard, with one-fifth of its residents living in a state of poverty in 2018. The one-fifth mark is the highest record rate of poverty the city has experienced since the government began publishing statistics in 2009. The highest rise in poverty came in 2016 when statistics documented that 20 percent, or 1.35 million of the residents, were living in a state of poverty.

The Poverty Line in Hong Kong

Government officials in Hong Kong attribute their record-high poverty line to an overgrown population, containing many elderly residents. With 7.4 million individuals inhabiting the country, many people of the older generation call Hong Kong home.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-Chung stated there is not much room for the poverty rate to drop significantly to combat a rapidly aging population. Kin-Chun stated that “The structural problem of the aging population is irreversible. Tens of thousands of our residents fall into the elderly category every year. This has nullified the poverty alleviation effect.”

Hong Kong and Inequality

Even though government officials shift the blame toward the aging population, history shows that inequality amongst the people in Hong Kong set in motion the high poverty rates. Rapid growth in technology and markets in the city has negatively impacted those who work standard jobs at an older age. More advanced jobs are taking over the city, handing out higher salaries and making those who work the latter unable to pay for proper shelter, food, water and other necessities.

The government of Hong Kong has provided some assistance by lowering the cost of necessities for the older generation. An acknowledged solution would be to provide better education about new technology and markets. Further, it could be beneficial to reassign residents to positions when qualified could lead to better outcomes.

Rent and Income

Another reason why the city has hit record-high poverty is that the monthly rent per household and wages each earns has skewed in opposite directions. Monthly rent is 70 percent of the median for household income for half of the city. The average unskilled worker works a 12-hour day to afford only a 100 square foot home.

Monthly rent could rise 10 cents in 2019 making affordable housing scarce. The government has proposed higher tax cuts on middle- and lower-class residents, including the older generation. Additionally, it proposed increasing taxes on wealthy residents. In doing so, it hopes to combat inequality amongst living and working situations.

Wealth Distribution

Wealth distribution in Hong Kong is extremely uneven. The top 10 percent in Hong Kong earn 44 times more than the lower 10 percent in the city. Wealthy business owners, who influence politicians and leading governmental officials, impact the division in income. The divide hurts the ability of those living below the poverty line to get any form of governmental assistance.

Like many other regions of the world, inequality and undervaluing of women have also contributed to the record-high poverty rate. Historically, China has undervalued women, restricting them to a one-child preferred boy law, while illegal abortions took place. A 2017 report found 451,700 women fell below the poverty line, compared to 80,000 men. The government of Hong Kong is actively working on passing more laws in order to provide more protection and better education for women and girls.

Nonprofit Efforts

The poverty in Hong Kong has finally exposed governmental leaders and ignited a need for change in the city. Hong Kong is finally beginning to publicly acknowledge the issues and seek help in turning the city around. Nonprofit organizations have implemented solutions to assist in reducing poverty. The ADM Capital Foundation, which emerged in 2006, addresses environmental and social challenges across Asia to combat the new markets and technologies.

Additionally, the Chen Yet-Sen Foundation is a charitable institution in Hong Kong. It works on establishing innovative and cost-efficient means to provide better literacy programs for children and women. Finally, the Our Hong Kong Foundation, founded in 2014, conducts research on land, housing, technology and economic development. In doing so, it helps to provide relief for those living in poor or unsanitary housing.

Aaron Templin
Photo: Pexels

Education in Israel
Although Israel as a whole is a highly educated country, its Arab minority does not fare as well in attaining higher education. Arabs and Jews typically attend separate schools, and the state education budget is unevenly skewed towards funding Jewish schools. Unequal access to education has long term consequences and in most cases result in poverty and unemployment of Arab minorities.

An Educated Nation

Education in Israel is treated with importance. Consequently, the nation is a leader among OECD members for the percentage of citizens completing tertiary education. According to the 2013 OECD publication, 46 percent of Israelis aged from 25 to 64 hold a post-secondary degree, well above the group’s average of 32 percent. Additionally, Israel’s population is younger than the average. Over 42 percent of the population is younger than 25, providing a continuous stream of students and young professionals that are entering the workforce.

A precursor and important supplement to tertiary education in Israel is mandatory military service. Conscription begins at the age of 18, lasting three years for men and two years for women. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is structured into different units, with conscripts sorted among them based on military and technical aptitude. The most prestigious IDF unit is the Talpiot, noted for its scientific innovation. It combines military service with rigorous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, giving its participants transferrable skills for university education and preparing them for the job market.

Challenges in Education in Israel

Primary education in Israel tends to be highly segregated. This segregation is representative of Israel as a whole as, according to Foreign Policy Magazine, 90 percent of Arab-Israelis live in all Arab communities. Separating children by ethnicity and religion limits their ability to learn about one another’s culture firsthand.

In addition to learning in isolation from their Jewish counterparts, Arab-Israeli schools receive less funding and do not meet the same educational benchmarks. Whether measured in standardized test scores, high school graduation rates or university matriculation, Arab-Israelis consistently lag behind. One of the more startling statistics regarding education in Israel is the per-pupil funding figure that can be almost 88 percent lower than that of a Jewish student. Furthermore, Arab-Israelis are not required to serve in the IDF, depriving them of the vocational training Jewish soldiers receive.

Consequences on the Country

Poverty in Israel is high compared to other Western industrialized nations and especially pronounced among Arabs. While poverty rates are decreasing, nearly half (49.4 percent) of Israel’s Arab population lives below the poverty line. Lack of education and underemployment plays a key role in Israel’s poverty rate, as over half of the poor families are working families.

Poverty creates a bad environment and makes people prone to crime, and the poverty present in Arab communities contributes to higher crime rates than Israel’s average. Most alarming is the increase in violent crime, including weapons violations and assaults. According to a 2018 article published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Arab citizens were involved in 40 percent of violent offenses and in 60 percent of the murder cases in the country, despite only comprising 20 percent of Israel’s population. As many Arab-Israelis feel marginalized socio-economically, some resort to violence as a means to make ends meet.

Solutions to the Problem

Both the Israeli government and nongovernmental organizations are working to ameliorate the educational gap between Arabs and Jews. One nongovernmental organization called Hand in Hand that serves as a center for Jewish-Arab education in Israel strives to bring Arabs and Jews together in the classroom. According to the organization’s mission statement, it currently operates in six schools, with the goal of expanding in at least 10 schools and 20,000 pupils in the next decade.

In terms of governmental reforms, Minister of Education Naftali Bennett pushes for both increased spending and a curriculum overhaul. The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel’s 2019 education budget of around $140 billion will surpass its defense budget. This is an astonishing development for a country that faces a vast array of security threats in its immediate vicinity.

Addressing the academic gap between Jewish and Arabic students, Bennett urges Arab schools to emphasize Hebrew and English instruction claiming that its absence is a barrier to future employment. The future of education in Israel depends both on integrating Arab students with their Jewish counterparts and addressing the structural problems present in underperforming schools.

– Joseph Banish

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