SDG 10 in China
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 targets intended to combat poverty on a global level and create a more sustainable future. All United Nations Member States adopted them in 2015. Major challenges still remain to reach SDG 10 in China, which targets the reduction of inequalities across the world.

The Gini coefficient, which is an indicator used to measure wealth and income inequality within a nation, typically measures inequality levels. The United Nations has set the warning value of this indicator as any value over 40. China’s Gini index peaked in 2008 at 49, and has since experienced a slight decline to 46.8 in 2018, and then to 46.5 in 2019.

Causes of Inequality

One of the primary hindrances to progress in SDG 10 in China is its rural-urban gap. There are major differences in lifestyle, education level, income and access to financial services between urban and rural areas in China, which exacerbates the increase in inequalities across the country.

High levels of inequality in China began to surge in the 1980s when the country experienced one of the most rapid periods of macroeconomic growth and urbanization. While poverty levels overall lowered substantially in China over this time period, and income levels increased among poorer groups, inequality increased drastically. This is largely due to the income of the most wealthy upper two deciles (most of whom live in urban areas) nearly doubling between 2002 and 2007. This, coupled with the creation of private property, all led to a severe widening of the wealth gap. Private ownership of property led to a growth of asset income in urban areas. In 2002, experts found that asset contributed to 8% to 10% of national income inequality in China, and in 2007, this figure grew to 13% to 19%.

China’s Urbanization Plan

Since 2008, there has been some slight advancement in SDG 10 in China but continued levels of rapidly increasing urbanization will cause China to largely depend on policy reform to continue to moderate and lower its high levels of inequality. These initiatives should include a focus on targeting the rural-urban gap.

As a way to target the rural-urban gap, which experts see as a main cause of inequality, China announced an urbanization plan in 2014, which targets moving about 100 million more current rural residents into cities by 2020. The urban population in China has since increased from a proportion of 54.77% of the population in 2014 to a proportion of 59.58% of the population in 2018. A criticism of this plan notes that as this does not address the underlying issues causing inequalities between rural and urban areas, it could simply lead to a shift to an urban-urban wealth gap.

The New Rural Cooperative Medical Scheme

China has also expanded the New Rural Cooperative Medical Scheme since 2005, which is a health insurance program that emerged in the late 1990s. It also created the New Rural Pension Scheme in about 2010. These two programs expanded the rural social protection system, which previously did not cover all people in rural areas. Access to health insurance for rural populations has indirect effects on rural incomes. The rapidly aging population of China has also been a contributor to inequality levels, which the pension program helps to address.

Other Initiatives

Several other policy initiatives that aid the progress of SDG 10 in China include personal tax income reform, labor market policies, pro-farmer policies, social security, regional development strategy and fiscal transfer policies, poverty alleviation policies and financial inclusion. The country also added an exemption from agricultural fees and taxes for rural households in 2006. These had historically been a financial burden for rural citizens. China has also established the Dibao program, which is a cash transfer program that guarantees a minimum income for low-income households. It started in urban areas in the mid-1990s and expanded to include rural areas after 1999. In 2016, more than 60 million people were beneficiaries of the Dibao program.

Further fiscal policy reforms are crucial to improve the status of SDG 10 in China. Without these, projected structural trends predict rising inequality levels. These policies will likely have to focus on tax reforms, an increase in public spending on education, health and social assistance and on targeting the provincial and regional inequalities that contribute to the rural-urban gap.

– Katherine Musgrave
Photo: Flickr

Hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas
On September 1, 2019, a massive Category 5 hurricane hit the Bahamas, bringing mass destruction and devastation to the people living there. The storm, named Dorian, took the lives of 70 people and left thousands homeless. A storm of this magnitude impacts all people in its path, yet those hit hardest are the ones living in poverty. During the hurricane season between June and November, hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas by increasing the unemployment rate, exacerbating socioeconomic inequalities and leaving many without access to food, water and shelter.

Unemployment Rates Rise

The Bahamas relies heavily on tourism from resorts, casinos and cruise lines to support its economy. Bahamians living in poverty-stricken conditions depend upon employment from these resorts to support their families. A large storm like Dorian often reduces these resorts and casinos to rubble, leaving thousands unemployed.

Before the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian, the unemployment rate stood at 10.9%; however, after the storm, the unemployment rate rose to a staggering 50%. With a fractured economy, an abundance of destroyed homes and limited food and water, survivors of these massive storms are forced to leave their homes and families to seek employment elsewhere.

Poverty-Stricken Neighborhoods Are Left Helpless

Of those missing and pronounced dead following Dorian, many were Bahamians living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. The Mudd, a neighborhood well-known for its high levels of poverty, is just one of many that have been leveled by major hurricanes. Thousands of Haitian immigrants seek refuge in unstable wooden homes, which are no match for hurricane-force winds. 185 mph winds blown these neighborhoods to pieces.

In an interview conducted with Dorval Darlier, the chargé d’affaires of the Haitian Embassy in the Bahamas, Darlier described the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in The Mudd. He stated, “It looked like a bomb just exploded. It is completely destroyed. Not even a piece of wood stands up in The Mudd. If someone was not evacuated, they have to be dead.” Approximately 3,500 Haitian immigrants live in The Mudd and other poverty-stricken neighborhoods.

The devastation left by a hurricane increases public health risks, particularly for the poor. Bahamians living in poverty tend to take refuge in the most vulnerable areas. When a storm threatens the island, they are the least able to afford to evacuate and are often forced to stay in life-threatening conditions. Bahamian officials are required to visit these neighborhoods and urge residents to evacuate; however, many refuse to leave because they either have no place to go or are living in the Bahamas illegally.

Hurricanes Expose Inequality

In the past, hurricanes like Dorian have been known to expose the severity of inequality in the Bahamas. People living in poverty-stricken conditions, primarily Haitian immigrants, are left without homes. Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis vowed not to rebuild immigrant neighborhoods like The Mudd: he mandated that those left without homes after a storm are to be deported.

Shella Monestime, a Haitian evacuee and resident of one of these neighborhoods, spoke out following the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and the Prime Minister’s response. She stated, “We just lost everything. We have no clothes, no home, no money. We have to start all over again. People died, and all they are talking about is people getting deported.”

Relief workers in the country have emphasized the drastic nature of this social inequality. A lack of legal papers and uncertain statuses prevent immigrants from receiving assistance after a hurricane. Fear of arrest and deportation has forced the Haitian community into hiding. The Bahamian government has instructed relief workers not to provide assistance to Haitians without proper documentation.As a result, they are often left homeless and helpless after massive storms ravage the area.

Hurricane Aid Provides Hope

The American Red Cross is just one organization that helps rebuild and aid people impacted by hurricanes. In response to Hurricane Dorian, the American Red Cross provided food, shelter, clean water and emergency supplies to thousands of families displaced by the storm. As of June 30, 2020, the Red Cross had distributed over $11 million in cash to over 3,000 Bahamian families. This funding has helped families recover financially and overcome many challenges brought on by Dorian.

In partnerships with Mercy Corps, World Central Kitchen and CORE, the American Red Cross is able to continue providing thousands of gallons of clean drinking water, cash grants to business owners, fresh meals, rent payment assistance and physical aid in rebuilding homes. More than 50 disaster respondents have been deployed to the Bahamas, each with specializations in varying categories including IT/Telecommunications, relief distributions, cash-as-aid, information management, communications, shelter and finance.

 

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has already been extremely active, with 11 storms as of August 6 and a prediction of 10 more named storms to be added to the list by the end of the year. Although hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas, aid from organizations like the American Red Cross provides hope to those affected. Despite past destruction, the island continually recovers and proves its resilience as a country.

– Jacey Reece
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in South Africa
South Africa is a culturally and historically rich nation located at the tip of the African continent, bordering the Indian and South Atlantic Oceans. Home to 56.5 million people, the country represents a unique case of national development with several new advances, some even more relevant than one might expect. South Africa has seen undeniable progress since the end of apartheid in the 1980s. Even so, poverty in South Africa continues to be a prevalent issue. Here are five facts about poverty in South Africa.

5 Facts About Poverty in South Africa.

  1. Nearly half the adult population of South Africa lives in poverty. The South African government measures poverty by three threshold points. The upper-bound poverty line (UBPL) indicates an income of 1,183 Rand ($70.90) per month. On the other hand, the lower-bound and food poverty lines indicate incomes of 785 Rand ($47.04) and 547 Rand ($32.78) respectively. According to the Department of Statistics in South Africa, 49.2% of the population over the age of 18 falls below the upper-bound poverty line. The government has worked to address poverty levels mainly through a program called the New Growth Path (NGP). This policy works to support small businesses through financing and enhancing multiple sectors of the economy. NGP also aims to expand public work projects to ensure that more individuals will have access to consistent income.
  2. Women are generally more vulnerable to poverty. According to South Africa’s Living Conditions Survey (LCS), 52.2% of women fall below the UBPL, compared to 46.1% of men. Additionally, the research shows that 74.8% of women-led households follow below the UBPL, whereas only 59.3% of men-led households do. A similar gender gap exists at each line of poverty, with women consistently experiencing poverty more frequently than men. Data suggests that this difference has remained relatively stable over the past decade. Women-led families are also more likely to lack access to water and sanitation. The South African government’s Programme of Action has worked to address these issues. The program focuses on developing infrastructure, dispersing resources in rural areas and providing subsidies for housing enhancements. The program has grown in support and funding over the past five years.
  3. COVID-19 has made poverty worse in South Africa. With over 500,000 cumulative cases as of August 13, 2020, and close to 4,000 new cases on the same day, there is no doubt that the pandemic has exacerbated many of the underlying issues surrounding poverty in the country. Hunger and food insecurity have, in particular, become much more pressing issues. Lockdowns, for example, have halted employment and left many South Africans with the impossible choice of working to provide food or staying home to stay safe. Forecasts are currently estimating that the pandemic may push up to 1 million people into poverty.
  4. Inequality of all sorts characterizes access to income in South Africa. Whether in terms of wages, wealth or consumption, South Africa always places among the most unequal countries. In 2015, the country scored 0,65 in the Gini coefficient, one of the world’s highest. While inequality seems to have improved over the past 20 years when measured per capita, consumption inequality has actually increased since the end of apartheid. Similarly, even though black South Africans are reporting the largest increase in the average number of assets owned, within-group asset inequality among black  South Africans has continued to grow. This puzzling trend seems to indicate that many of the problems from decades of apartheid have not disappeared, but rather have become a normal part of South African society. Additionally, a study that the World Bank published proves that South Africa’s inequality of opportunity, a type of inequality measured by the access to quality basic services such as education and healthcare, is higher than any other country. Government efforts to reduce inequality have included higher social spendings, affirmative action programs and targeted government transfers. The government has also seen promising success in its progressive tax system that has the potential to act as a redistributive tool in the coming years.
  5. Poverty headcounts in rural areas are significantly higher than that of urban areas. As of 2015, 25.2% of the population of urban areas lived below the UBPL, whereas 65.4% fell below the UBPL in rural areas. While grim at first, these findings do suggest that some policies are creating significant improvements in poverty levels. Over the past decade, the South African government has implemented a National Development Plan (NDP) with the intention of it acting as a blueprint for eradicating poverty below the lower-bound poverty line and reducing income inequality across the board. While still only in the middle phase of its execution, and the present pandemic certainly hindering it to some extent, this plan shows the government’s commitment to reduce poverty.

South Africa is continuing to grapple with its inherited history riddled with inequality and financial oppression. However, the more recent policies and conversations around the conditions of poverty are indicative of positive changes. The responsibility now falls both on the South African government and on the global community to continue fostering policies of poverty reduction and closing the gaps of inequality.

Angie Bittar
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Namibia
Even as one of the eight countries in Africa classified as an upper-middle-income country, Namibia is still striving overall to eliminate extreme poverty and inequality. The implementation of new socioeconomic structures from the Namibian government and partnering initiatives will soon make the vision of no poverty in Namibia a reality.

Living Below the Poverty Line

Of the nation’s population of 2.5 million people, 17.4% were living below the poverty line in 2015 and 2016. This is a drastic decrease of over 11% between 2009 and 2010 when 28.7% of the population lived below the poverty line. This progress aside, environmental conditions and employment rates have inhibited the growth of economic status and societal wealth in Namibia.

Although the poverty line decreased in 2016, unemployment remained at a steady rate of 34%. Women were more likely to be affected by unemployment at 38.3%, and youth counterparts suffered at a rate of 43.4%. The rates of poverty and unemployment are dependent on people’s surroundings. Youth living in rural areas are likely to experience more difficulty finding a job than those living in an urban setting.

Education in Namibia

Education in Namibia, similar to in the U.S., is a primary skill to have when looking for work. Therefore, poverty in Namibia significantly affects people who may not have access to education. This includes those living in rural areas, those affected by disabilities and women. People living in rural areas are more likely to be affected by inadequate access to education due to a lack of resources. Rural communities often have limited access to management, funding, technology and information. In many cases, these resources directly affect employment opportunities.

Unfortunately, one-third of students drop out of school before the tenth grade. This issue correlates to the lack of teaching qualifications, as more than 20% of teachers in Namibia have no formal qualifications. The number of students that continue to higher education also remains at a low estimate of 19%.

To combat these challenges, there is a need for mobilization of employment policies to rural areas in Namibia.

The High-Level Panel on the Namibian Economy (HLPNE)

The HLPNE was appointed by the Namibian government in March 2019 to respond to issues regarding “the path toward recovery and growth.” The seminar discussed economic inequalities, examining the investments and policies for the creation of jobs. According to the ILO, “The HLPNE has four pillars of work that include building a $1 billion investment portfolio, removing policy impediments, promoting Namibia for tourism and investment and creating employment opportunities.”

Honourable Erkki Nghimtina, Namibia’s labour minister, and Chair of the HLPNE Johannes Gawaxab both spoke during the seminar. They believe that the economy needs funding to gradually allow for job creation. In turn, this would balance the socioeconomic disproportion in Namibia. Tax incentives and government funding from private sectors and organizations would provide the ability to implement this, allowing the country’s economy to respond properly.

Vision 2030

Along with this, the Namibian government has created a developmental agenda to combat poverty in Namibia: Vision 2030. Vision 2030 enacts targets to create new and improved policies to form a more unified government between all sectors, both rural and urban. This agenda focuses on healthcare, education, housing and more in order to provide equal opportunity for those living in poverty in Namibia. Modernizing the economy within rural sectors will provide more funding and resources between schools. This will allow students to receive appropriate education, specifically developing skills needed for work in Namibia.

With help from new initiatives and improved policies and targets, awareness is being brought to poverty in Namibia. This awareness will allow for improvement upon the inequalities that still affect rural and urban sectors. These contributions will enable Namibia to continue making positive strides to eliminate poverty by 2030.

– Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

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