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

Photo: Flickr

Education in the NunavikEducation in the NunavikEducation in the Nunavik
The Nunavik is a region located at the north of the Quebec region in Canada. With an area of 507,000 km2, it is home primarily to Aboriginal population, especially the Inuit. With struggles for land rights still occurring in this area, problems of large inequalities in health care and, in particular, education, persist. Inequity in education in the Nunavik is an important issue impacting many young lives and future livelihoods.

Country Overview

According to the OECD, Canada is the most educated country in the world with 56.2 percent of adults completing two-year, four-year or vocational program. In 2010, Canada had a graduation rate of 78.3 percent, making many think that almost everyone can get a diploma. While this national graduation rate may be high, the graduation rate for the Aboriginal youth population in 2011 was only about 24 percent. In comparison, the graduation rate for non-Aboriginal youths in the country was almost 87 percent. There is a huge disparity it the educational attainment in indigenous population, in this case, the Inuit, and in non-indigenous population.

Problems at Different Levels

The question, of course, is why this difference exists? Many failures can be linked to the ineffectiveness of policy initiatives created by officials at the local (Nunavik), regional (Quebec) and national (Canada) level. One example of the inefficiencies happened in 2015 when former Nunavik students learned that their high school diplomas were not in fact real diplomas, but certificates that indicate the “attestation of equivalence of secondary studies.”

While the school board apologized, nothing could be done for the students who worked hard with the resources that they had for their achievements. While this is a problem that came about at a local level, the provincial and national governments did not aide the local government either. The school board that oversees Nunavik education has also placed responsibility on the provincial Minister of Education for not providing more funds and help to the schools.

Alleviating the Problem of Education in the Nunavik

Improving education in the Nunavik is a key component to alleviating poverty and improving livelihoods of the citizens of the region. The first step to solving this education crisis is by recognizing the problem, and this is being done both by the Canadian government and by various nongovernmental organizations. The 2018 Canadian budget dedicated almost $12 billion for investment in indigenous populations through various education endeavors, housing programs and health initiatives.

One nongovernmental organization that is doing incredible work for the Inuit population in Canada is Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. This a national organization that has a goal to represent all Inuit women in Canada, giving them a voice and better access to educational opportunities. This group works with policymakers, other organizations and community leaders to develop ideas and solutions that are most beneficial to the Inuit population.

Another incredibly important nongovernmental organization is Indspire, a cross-national Indigenous-led charity that invests in Indigenous education all across Canada. Indspire has a virtual learning center called the K-12 Institute that helps policymakers, educators and community members best educate the Indigenous population. It also has awarded over $14 million for 2018 school year through about 4,900 scholarships to Indigenous students to advance their studies. This is an incredible organization because it is run by people who understand the struggles of educational attainment in Indigenous communities.

Disparities between indigenous and non-indigenous population have a long history in Canada, but these disparities will decrease with the work of nongovernmental organization such as Indspire and Paktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, along with the country’s government actions. By educating as many people as possible about the inequality, individuals and the government can continue to work hard to close the gap of education in the Nunavik and in whole Canada as well.

– Isabella Niemeyer
Photo: Flickr

Income Inequality in the Middle East
Since 1980, the high growth rates in Asia, particularly in China and India, have led to a significant increase in income for the bottom 50 percent of the global population. While this signifies growth and a reduction of poverty levels, it does not signify a decrease in global inequality or in the income inequality in the Middle East.

Income Inequality in the Middle East

There are two types of income inequality: between-country income inequality and within-country inequality. Although the high growth rates of India and China have led to a decrease in between-country average inequality, within-country inequality has only increased. Simply stated, a look into individual countries will show that the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer.

The World Inequality Lab, composed of over 100 researchers and economists, recently published the “World Inequality Report 2018.” The report underscores that collecting macro and microeconomic data on inequality is difficult, especially since many countries do not release or even produce income and inequality data and statistics.

Despite these limitations, the researcher and scientists found a new methodology to source the necessary data. One of the key findings of the report was that income inequality in the Middle East is the highest, while the lowest in Europe. In the Middle East, the top 10 percent take 61 percent of national income.

Causes of the Fiscal Inequalities

Income inequality in the Middle East is a result of multiple factors. On one hand, the disparate urban-rural income gap plays a large role in skewed income distribution, especially in countries like Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia. Because rural communities are further away from commercial ports and main markets, they have less access to imported commodities, such as rice and wheat.

This limited access to basic needs increases malnutrition and poverty rates in these countries, thereby furthering the economic divide. This economic inequality has played a role in the Arab Spring uprisings and demonstrations, polarizing these countries not just economically, but also politically.

The World Inequality Report predicts that if countries continue to operate “business as usual,” then global, within-country inequality will only increase. However, the report suggests that if countries follow the trajectory of Europe over the past decades, then global income inequality can be reduced.

Attainable Solutions

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia advocates for the following proven tools to combat income inequality in the Middle East:

  • Tax progressivity
  • Increased equal access to education
  • Increased fiscal transparency
  • Investment in reducing public debt

The World Inequality Lab has already made attempts to increase fiscal transparency, using national income, wealth accounts, household income and wealth surveys, tax income and inheritance data to estimate figure on inequality and wealth in the Middle East.

International Support

Additionally, UNICEF is working to strengthen the education systems in the Middle East by working closely with both federal and local governments. The Life Skills and Citizenship Education Initiative under UNICEF aims to integrate core life skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, into the current education systems.

And finally, having a sense of awareness about global income inequality can also play a role in combating income inequality. Simply knowing that within-country income inequality is increasing despite the reduction in global inequality is important in addressing the issue.

Shefali Kumar
Photo: Flickr

8 Global Issue Topics for Essays and Research Papers
Today, people are starting to become active participants in the fight against global issues and as a result, progress is being made. However, there are still individuals unaware of pressing issues around them. One way of bringing these people up-to-date would be through the use of essays or research. Here are 10 global issue topics for essays and research papers.

10 Global Issue Topics for Essays and Research

  1. Water Contamination and Shortage: 2.1 billion people in countries undergoing urbanization have inaccessibility to clean drinking water as a result of pollution, poverty and poor management of resources. Water resources are depleted by agriculture and industry energy production. To put into perspective, agriculture accounts for 70 percent of the reduction of water around the world, with 75 percent of a given countries’ water used for this purpose and depleted by contamination. Fortunately, there has been a recent increase in efforts to develop technology to combat contamination and reduce the rate of water depletion.
  2. The Relationship between Education and Child Labor: Despite a surge in funding for some countries and increasing attention through social media, education continues to be a luxury around the globe. Reasons include gender preferences and poverty, and child labor — the use of children in industry. According to UNICEF, 150 million children participate in laborious activities dangerous to their health. As one can imagine, this work hinders a child’s ability to fully invest in education. Therefore it’s most challenging to bring education to sub-Saharan Africa, where the rates of children enrolled in primary education continue to stagger. In addition, fewer students successfully complete secondary education here.
  3. Violence: Violence is a global issue that exists in all shapes and sizes. Violence can be done towards a particular group like women or LGBTQ+ members, or it is an act that can be a result of a mentally disturbed mind. There is also violence in response to economic stress. All these varying forms of violence lead to attention on the safety and prevention of such acts. However, there isn’t much consideration on how an everyday person can help. In discussions about violence, the biggest questions to answer are: How is this violence used? How is it achieved/accessed? Does the media have a role? How much is the foundation for a particular act of violence is personal? What is the overall goal?
  4. Poverty: In 2015, the International Poverty Line was set to $1.90. This number means that a person is living in extreme poverty if they live below this line. According to this set line, more than 1.3 billion people are living in this extreme worldwide. This fact suggests that 1.3 billion people have difficulty obtaining food and shelter, regardless of the availability of homeless shelters and organizations. Current questions or topics to explore in an essay or research would be the cause of variation in wages on the international level, and the nature and initiatives that can be taken to solve this global issue at large.
  5. Inequality: On a global scale, the focus on inequality tends to be in terms of the distribution of wealth. According to a Global Wealth Report, 44 percent of global net worth is held by only 0.7 percent of adults. This suggests that there is a significant division between economic classes around the world. Recently, research has shown the effects that this economic divide has on communities particularly in health, social relationships, development and stability. For example, in a society where there’s a large gap between the rich and the poor, life expectancy tends to be shorter and mental illness and obesity rates are 2 to 4 times higher. In terms of social relationships, inequality on a larger level introduces more violence and crime.
  6. Terrorism: Terrorism like the bombing incidents of the last few years continue to claim the lives of innocents. It is a threat to the peace, security and stability of the world, so terrorism prevention methods have been implemented to illustrate what is wrong and should be/could be done to uphold justice. However, the basis of the threats, mindsets and the successes/failures of response efforts still need to be evaluated.
  7. Child Marriages: Child marriages are defined as the union between one or two individuals under the age of 18. One in five girls are married before the age of 18, and child marriages prevent children from becoming educated, can lead to severe health consequences and increased risk of violence. Legislation and programs were established in order to educate and employ children in these situations as child marriages do not have enough awareness on individual involvement or emphasis on the common causes for these marriages.
  8. Food: Poverty, economic inequality and water contamination mean inability to produce sufficient amounts of food to sustain a population. This can, in turn, lead to poorer health and decreased energy to carry out physical and mental functions, leading to more poverty. By 2050, the world would need to find food for approximately nine billion people as cost of production for food will rise in response to the increased amount of individuals. Thus, the United Nations established programs to ensure food security and technology companies make efforts to reduce food production costs.

The Role of Essays and Research

There has been increasing progress towards solving the global issues; however, for some, this progress is too slow due to lack of understanding of preventative methods, diffusion of responsibility and unanswered questions. These global issue topics for essays and research papers can be used as a starting point to give more insight to others into the issues and how to get involved.

– Stephanie Singh
Photo: Flickr

 Lima
The World Bank defines Peru as a country having upper-middle income, yet its capital city, Lima, is not free from the woes of poverty. With a population of more than 10 million, Lima is affected by a large income discrepancy and is susceptible to many natural disasters. To fully understand the circumstances, here are 10 facts about poverty in Peru’s capital:

10 Facts About Poverty in Lima

  1. The rate of poverty in Lima is currently 13.3 percent, which is 2.3 percent higher than the rate in 2016. However, compared to other Peruvian urban regions, Lima’s spike in the poverty rate is the lowest.
  2. Peru has an extreme poverty rate of 3.8 percent, which is defined as the inability to purchase a basket of basic food and beverages. However, this rate is only 0.7 percent in Lima, a lower number than the 1.2 percent prevalent in other urban areas of Peru.
  3. Lima’s slowing economic activity can be attributed to political turmoil. President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who was elected in 2016, was succeeded by Martin Vizcarra in early 2018 amidst allegations of corruption. Big banks, such as JP Morgan, claim that this “political noise” has made it difficult for investors to trust businesses in the region.
  4. While malnutrition continues to be a problem in Peru, Lima combatting this occurrence through community kitchens. Such kitchens provide food to half a million people in Lima alone and is organized by the local effort of over 100,000 women. These kitchens are a big part of Peru’s efforts to reduce hunger and malnutrition.
  5. Another fact about poverty in Lima is that there is a large income disparity, which has led to problems with access to clean water. While the rich have cheap water pumped into their homes, the poor pay almost ten times more for water to be delivered by lorries.
  6. Lima has to cope with heavy rainfall and floods due to its coastal location. These are often responsible for destroying most of the infrastructure, which was the case with the most recent flood — dubbed “coastal El Nino” — that inflicted $3.1 billion worth of damage. Lima, like many other coastal cities, had to share the burden, which was approximately 0.5 percent of Peru’s GDP in 2017. These natural disasters make it harder for residents to break out of the poverty cycle by capitalizing on infrastructure.
  7. Lima’s geography also poses as a restriction for city expansion. The city is a desert strip bounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Andes and three valleys. There is hence limited space available to build infrastructure and increase efficiency.
  8. Lima had a high employment rate of 93.4 percent in 2017. Of the employed population, however, 34.3 percent were still underemployed, suggesting that many did not have a job matching their skill level. Interestingly, Lima has experienced a 0.5 percent decrease in unemployment.
  9. Another important fact about poverty in Lima is that the divide between the rich and the poor has led to the rise of several squatter settlements, called “pueblos jovenes” (young towns) or “barriadas” (shantytowns). Currently, over 35 percent of Lima’s population lives in such squatter settlements.
  10. Despite many challenges, Lima’s residents are well-educated. About ninety-eight percent of the population older than 15 years are educated, of which 43 percent have higher education from post-secondary institutions.

Capital Progress

Although Peru itself faces several issues related to poverty, Lima has found ways to ameliorate the conditions and overcome difficulties. In the changing political and economic landscape of Lima, residents prove that there is both hope and a means to achieve such statuses. These 10 facts about poverty in Lima are but a testament to this city-wide occurrence.

– Sanjana Subramanian
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Poverty in Istanbul Turkey plays an important role geopolitically, and its most important city, Istanbul, bears the majority of that burden. The government in the only city that spans two continents is currently going through significant changes. Addressing poverty in Istanbul is now at the top of the to-do list. Below are 10 facts about poverty in Istanbul that will illuminate some of the issues that plague the region and megacities across the world, and will provide some insight into the best ways of tackling them.

Facts About Poverty in Istanbul

  1. The number of people living below the poverty line in Istanbul has never been smaller. Over the past 10 years, the share of the population living on less than $4 a day has fallen from more than 20 million to just 1.7 million.
  2. The expanding difference between the rich and poor is a global issue and is one of the most commonly referenced facts about poverty in Istanbul. The Ministry of Development released data indicating that while the wealthiest 20 percent used to make 9.59 times what the poorest 20 percent did, that number has fallen to 7.96. This shows that poverty in Istanbul is being addressed by the shrinking the number of impoverished people and by closing the gap between the rich and poor.
  3. The lack of urban planning has perpetuated the realities of many facts about poverty in Istanbul. Much of Istanbul’s impoverished population resides in shanty towns, or gecekondu. More than 70 percent of the city’s housing has been built in the past 30 years. Over the same period, the population more than doubled. This has created problems with development as the government razes these properties to give way to larger projects, causing many forced evictions of the city’s most vulnerable populations.
  4. While poverty in Istanbul is a major concern, the city is doing much better than the rest of the country. This is problematic for the nation as a whole, as Istanbul residents on average make almost three times more than citizens in the more impoverished southeastern region.
  5. A significant cause for concern illustrated by these facts about poverty in Istanbul are the more than 500,000 Syrian refugees that call Istanbul home. To help reduce poverty among the refugees, Turkey has allowed them to live and work where they please, rather than being subjected to the often brutal conditions of refugee camps. Syrians can move freely throughout the city, and municipal governments have built schools that follow a Syrian curriculum, soup kitchens and even Beyaz Masalar, which are community centers that provide a venue for the Syrians to voice their needs and concerns.
  6. All is not great for children in Istanbul, however. More than 40,000 children are forced to work on the streets, many of whom are migrant children.
  7. Turkey’s football clubs are helping. Partnered with the UNDP, one of Turkey’s most famous football clubs, Galatasaray, pledged to raise funds for programs that fight poverty, inequality and exclusion.
  8. The country is tackling illiteracy as a way to bridge the gap. Literacy has been an important issue in Turkey since its modern inception in 1928. Nationwide. more than 3.8 million Turks cannot read or write. To address this issue, the organization ACEV started in Istanbul with three principles: “ (1) Equal opportunity in education for all; (2) Learning is a lifelong process that must begin in early childhood; (3) The child, as well as his or her immediate caregivers, must be educated and supported.” More than 125,000 people have learned to read with the assistance of this program.
  9. The government sponsors women’s literacy programs to address gender inequality. Access to education for women has long been an issue for Turkey. According to UNESCO, 9.7 percent of women could not read in 2014, compared to just 2.1 percent of men. As a result, President Erdogan and his wife Emine launched a female literacy campaign with the hopes of giving women greater access to the professional market, as well as providing greater independence throughout their everyday lives.
  10. When analyzing poverty in Turkey as a whole, poverty in Istanbul serves as a microcosm. Statistics regarding inclusion (or lack thereof) of minorities, women and immigrants mirror the rest of the country. However, the city and its superior economic resources and infrastructure provide a model that other cities can use when they look to address their poverty issues.

The economic situation for Turkey has been improving, but factors like the refugee crisis and urban-rural divide complicate it. Still, despite political tension within its borders, both sides of the aisle are putting a significant focus on the impoverished, citizen or not. Hopefully, countries in similar situations can look to Turkey and its handling of Istanbul as a model for poverty reduction.

– David Jaques

Photo: Google

Addressing Poverty in Kenya
In a country that has a plethora of wealthy individuals who make use of the coastal regions and beautiful landscape, the rate of poverty in Kenya still remains at 46 percent of the population. With an increase in assistance from the government and those who are living a lavish lifestyle, this issue could be drastically improved in a short period of time.

Addressing Poverty in Kenya

According to Buzz Kenya, “In Kenya, the slums are next to the posh neighborhoods. The rich people depend on the poor for housekeeping, yet they pay them peanuts even though they are fully aware of their situation.”

There needs to be accountability for wealthy individuals to accommodate those doing housework. If the wealthy paid their workers at a higher rate instead of on average $1 a day, poverty would not be resolved but it would definitely help the issue tremendously.

Even access to resources that most people take for granted are considered a “luxury” in particular parts of Kenya; these resources can include healthcare, education and clean water. The Kenyan government is working on a solution that would greatly help poverty-stricken communities obtain the necessary assets to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

The government and concerned citizens have the ability to better a developing nation.

International Affairs Budget

There are multiple methods of assistance that the government provides and the people can act upon. The International Affairs budget is one part of legislation that is available to the people. By supporting the International Affairs budget, aid will be provided to countries around the world that need the most help.

Assistance can come in the form of fighting diseases, supplying emergency care throughout the nation and promoting hunger-relief and stability in the economic system abroad.

Contributions to efforts such as the International Affairs budget allows for more workers to be employed in the country and continue to develop new and improved ways to figure out how poverty can ultimately and eventually become eradicated.

Causes of Poverty in Kenya

Poverty is a result of many factors in a nation-state; for instance, unemployment, lack of clean water and people from other countries migrating over with absolutely nothing.

“In June 2011, Kenya faced formidable hurdles with the Horn of Africa drought that left 3.75 million Kenyans and 150,000 refugees mostly from Somalia, in need of humanitarian assistance.” Refugees also contribute to the rate of poverty in Kenya.

UNICEF was able to contain the situation and efficiently provide support for not just Kenyan citizens but also the refugees from Somalia and South Sudan.

Land, Agriculture and Future Progress

Urban areas are not as much of an issue when it comes to poverty. Slightly less than a third of Individuals living in urban areas are below the poverty line, while approximately half of Kenyans living in rural locations are considered impoverished.

Kenya-Advisor states, “around three quarters of Kenya’s population is dependent on the agriculture industry, but with its erratic weather patterns and vast regions of arid desert, it is a very unstable sector. Periods of drought can be crippling, not only in terms of food supply, but in jobs as well.”

With so many people relying on agriculture for their main access of food supply, this can lead to an overuse of the land that can poison the soils and no longer provide the nutrition that Kenyans need.

Also, it can impact wildlife due to the uneven distribution of agricultural resources and has the potential to influence climate change. With the diversification of funding that the government and the people have the ability to provide, there will be a severe decline to the rate of poverty in Kenya and a subsequent new outlook on this emerging nation.

– Matthew McGee

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Russia
Almost 145 million people live in Russia. Despite placing emphasis on unity, some enjoy a much higher quality of living than others. This is evident in the country’s large income discrepancy, and the accompanying poverty in Russia. Below are 10 facts about poverty in Russia:

1. Poverty is on the Rise in Russia

In the early 2000s, income levels increased in Russia and drove down the poverty rate from 29 percent in 2000 to 10.7 percent in 2012. Unfortunately, the income levels didn’t remain and the poverty rate has grown slowly back to 13.5 percent in 2016.

2. Oil is Partly to Blame

One of the greatest threats to the Russian economy has been decreasing oil prices. In a country that greatly depends on oil, a shift in prices can be catastrophic. Given the falling oil prices over the past few years, from more than $100 per barrel to less than $30, Russia’s economy is vulnerable. Although there has been modest improvement as barrel prices are now at $60.

3. Agriculture is Also at Fault

As a country with vast amounts of tundra, agriculture is not a prime industry in Russia. Soil that lacks productive capabilities places a limit on economic expansion. Although Russia plays to its strength with oil, decreasing its dependency is a must. Diverse industries create jobs – something that could help alleviate poverty in Russia.

4. Wealth Inequality is Common

Wealth inequality exists in both developing and developed countries; including the U.S. Russia is no exception. The richest 10 percent of Russia’s population control three-fourths of wealth. This raises flags for a country with a rising poverty rate. With a dwindling middle class, Russia faces a problem on the horizon. Improving wealth distribution will take a creative solution.

5. President Putin has Vowed to Help

Acknowledging the issues that many Russians face, Vladimir Putin committed to improving conditions. He mentioned nearly 20 million Russians are living below the poverty line and promised to cut the number in half by 2024. Some had concerns that the plan lacked specific methods of action. Regardless, starting a conversation on poverty in Russia is a step in the right direction.

6. Rural Areas can Offer Relief

Russian citizens in rural areas often enjoy a better quality of life. Due in part to the wealth inequality that plagues the country, city living can be expensive. For this reason, those living in rural parts of Russia often experience less poverty than in the city. Rural living is beneficial in Russia; despite the country’s lack of agricultural capabilities.

7. The Future Remains Unclear

As a whole, the economic future of Russia is hard to predict. Poverty can be a direct result of economic conditions. In a country like Russia, this principle holds true. Growth in key industries is slow. With bankruptcy being commonplace in many regions of Russia, the time for the country to act is now.

8. Slow Economic Conditions Inspire Change

One positive of a struggling economy is the Russian government’s shift toward improvement. Adopting a pro-growth policy, the Russian government has launched infrastructure improvements. When paired with methods to fight poverty, this could lead to success for Russia.

9. Russia Needs Political Advocacy

As one of the most powerful methods of change a country has, utilizing politics can help Russia. An absence of a cohesive strategy to combat poverty is a key reason for Russia’s struggle. Developing and executing a policy on a national level has achieved success elsewhere. Local, regional and national policies could provide a piece to Russia’s poverty puzzle.

10. The Road to Poverty Reduction Could be Long

Russia’s economic woes might not see a quick resolution. The country’s economy is slow to change with the rest of the world. And with oil prices still below what they were during prosperity, Russia needs to adapt. Until it does, poverty in Russia will continue to be a problem.

– Robert Stephen

Photo: Google

Inequality in South AfricaSouth Africa has long been known as one of the most unequal societies in the world. In the 1990s, South Africa’s Gini coefficient–a measure that reflects inequality, where zero is absolute equality and one is absolute inequality–was, at 0.66, the highest in all the 57 countries for which this data was available. That measure, as of 2015, has remained the same. The top 10 percent of South Africans earn roughly 60 percent of all income and own 95 percent of all the country’s assets, whereas 80 percent own no wealth at all. Inequality in South Africa continues to be a major issue as the country moves to distance itself from its apartheid- era exclusionary style.

The root causes of South Africa’s severe inequality can be traced back to the establishment of Cape Town, a Dutch shipping port in the 1650s. Over the next two centuries, “military conquest and political exclusion, which took a colonial and racial form,” expanded into the interior.

After the British took over in the early nineteenth century, the defeated indigenous groups were never fully incorporated into the economic and political model. The twentieth century brought the neighboring counties under British rule, culminating in a peace settlement which “inscribed racial discrimination in the foundations of the new South African state.” The framework for inequality in South Africa had already been laid by the time the National Party came to power in 1948 and enforced its apartheid legislation.

South Africa continues a system of socioeconomic exclusion. However, whereas historically the exclusionary practices were racially-based, today the extent and depth of inequality in South Africa is increasingly intersectional. Although it continues to impact black South Africans the most, it strikes at race, gender, class and age. Over 55 percent of South Africans continue to live in poverty and unemployment sits at 25 percent.

All hope is not lost, however. The University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg has founded a new center, the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies, that will drive a five-year-long, interdisciplinary project. It will include approximately 80 researchers from across the country: economists, historians, legal academics, healthcare experts, sociologist and other disciplines.

The most promising hope yet for combating inequality in South Africa comes from the implementation of the National Development Plan. The plan seeks to reduce inequality and eliminate poverty by 2030 by “drawing on the energies of the country’s people.” Some of the key points include: increasing employment to 24 million, ensuring all children can read and write by the third grade and providing affordable healthcare and a public transit system. It also aims to strengthen the criminal justice system, including governmental accountability. “Progress over the next two decades means doing things differently,” the plan states.

In detail, the plan calls for:

  • infrastructure investment set at 10 percent of the country’s global domestic product (GDP).
  • raising rural incomes.
  • strengthening social wages.
  • professional public service.
  • private investment to boost labor.
  • housing market gaps to be closed.
  • informal settlements to be upgraded.

After handing over the plan to President Jacob Zuma, Minister Trevor Manuel stated that “social cohesion needs to anchor the strategy.”

South Africa’s apartheid era formally came to an end in April of 1994. Less than a month later, in May of 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first black, democratically elected president. The exclusionary system that Mandela grew up in is still widely overreaching within the country, but as the nine provinces continue to work together, there will be hope. Inequality in South Africa does not have to be a perpetuation.

– Aaron Stein

Photo: Flickr

How Economic Inequalities Harm SocietiesThe idea that economic inequalities are socially corrosive has been around for decades. But there now exists statistical evidence substantially supporting the notion.

Since Richard Wilkinson’s enlightening TED talk presented the impact of income gaps and unequal societies on the wellbeing of both the rich and the poor, the issue has received unprecedented attention. A professor emeritus of social epidemiology, Wilkinson based his results upon statistical data, presenting conclusive, irrefutable evidence to prove how economic inequalities harm societies.

He chose widely accepted parameters of quality of life to draw the comparison between societies. These parameters include:

  1. Life expectancy
  2. Infant mortality
  3. Teenage births
  4. Imprisonment
  5. Obesity
  6. Mental illness
  7. Social mobility
  8. Homicide
  9. Math and literacy

However, the 15-minute presentation focused on developed countries only. Other studies in the recent past have revealed a similar pattern in developing and impoverished economies. In nations like India and China, where glaring income gaps continue to exist despite steadily increasing rates of economic growth, data illustrating how economic inequalities harm societies has been found. A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report published in November 2013 gives a lucid explanation of what inequality is and how economic inequalities harm societies.

According to the report, inequality within a society takes two main forms: inequality of outcomes and inequality of opportunity. Inequality of outcomes includes income inequality resulting in inequalities in nutrition, education, etc. On the other hand, inequality of opportunity refers to unequal access to education and basic resources, among other things. As the report notes, both types are “opposite sides of the same coin” and cannot be viewed as independent.

More importantly, to answer the key question of how economic inequalities harm societies, it is important to note the relationship between factors that were earlier assumed to be independent. For example, poor countries with unequal distribution of income face greater political instability, lower investment in human development, higher taxation, less secure property rights and negative impacts on growth. Moreover, surveys conducted by UNDP found that citizens in such countries showed little or no trust in government policies formed to bridge income gaps.

Both Richard Wilkinson’s research and the UNDP report found that even the rich in unequal societies suffer from lack of trust, harsher sentencing (partially because of stricter laws), greater incidence of physical and mental illness (due to the pressure to “watch your back”) and higher taxation, among several other crucial indicators of quality of life. Undoubtedly, an equal society is in the best interest of all people.

– Himja Sethi

Photo: Flickr