Information and stories on Labor category

Labor Exploitation at Foxconn ChinaFoxconn China is a major factory town in Shenzhen, China. It is a factory town that a Taiwanese company called Foxconn created. Foxconn is one of the largest contract electronics manufacturers in the world. People commonly refer to the town as Foxconn City and it employs over 350,000 workers. Foxconn bans the outside world from entering its large factory town. Major tech companies, such as Apple, Amazon, Dell, Google and Hewlett-Packard, contracts Foxconn to produce electronics. Here is some information about the labor exploitation at Foxconn China.

Labor Exploitation at Foxconn China

In 2010, labor exploitation at Foxconn China came into the spotlight when numerous workers committed suicide by throwing themselves off their dorm buildings. Reports determined that there were 18 suicide attempts and 14 confirmed accounts of death in 2010. One might question if the working conditions changed in 2019.

Labor exploitation at Foxconn China takes on multiple forms. On a surface level, all of the line workers at Foxconn China seem to be full-time employees. What many do not know, however, is that many line workers at Foxconn China are part-time student workers. These part-time workers are usually students from Chinese trade schools who are “interning” at Foxconn’s factories. These so-called internships are usually underpaid line jobs.

These part-time student workers are in danger of labor exploitation at Foxconn China. Oftentimes, these “interns” only receive $3.15 per hour. In 2019, Amazon.com came under scrutiny for violating Chinese labor law concerning these student laborers. In China Labor Watch’s 2019 report, the organization accused Amazon’s Foxconn factory of violating the Chinese student worker laws. Because each intern worker receives a production quota, they must do overtime and night shifts, which Chinese labor law does not allow.

The Reality of Labor Exploitation

The Guardian’s 2017 report gives a glimpse into labor exploitation at Foxconn China. Suicide notes and interviews with suicide survivors reported that workers at Foxconn China experience long workdays, harsh management and minimal pay. The Guardian interviewed a young man named Xu. Xu told the Guardian that the management of Foxconn China is often harsh to its workers. According to Xu, managers of Foxconn factories often publicly humiliate workers for being slow or make promises that they will not keep. In one case, Xu stated that a manager promised to pay double for overtime hours but only gave regular pay. This kind of degradation and inhumane work hours seems to be the root cause of suicides in Foxconn.

In 2019, Apple and Foxconn came under scrutiny for breaking the Chinese labor law. China Labor Watch’s investigation revealed that, as of August 2019, 50 percent of the workers in Foxconn City were temporary workers. According to Chinese labor law, only a maximum of 10 percent of a company’s employees can be part-time workers. In addition, the Chinese Labor Watch accused Foxconn China of making its student interns and workers do overtime. Chinese labor law on student internships does not allow student interns to work overtime or night shifts. While Apple denied many of the accusations, Apple did admit that the number of part-time workers in its Foxconn facilities exceeded the Chinese labor law’s regulation.

The Future for Foxconn Workers

Li Qiang, the director of China Labor Watch, gave a piece of hopeful news in her interview with a software company called Moz. Li pointed to a couple of improvements that Apple made in regards to fostering better working conditions for its line workers. Apple started to issue reports on the state of working conditions for its factories overseas. In addition, some experts suggested that a decrease in iPhone sales might also help the Chinese line workers. Due to the falling sales numbers, Foxconn had to cut back on both employee counts and overtime hours. As a result, many manufacturing employees are quitting their jobs, which may force the factories and management to treat their next round of employees better.

It is true that Foxconn China has not made any major improvements since the 2010 suicides. However, it is clear that major companies such as Apple are making an effort to improve the lives of the Chinese line workers at Foxconn China. While these minor improvements on labor exploitation at Foxconn China might not look like enough, it is the collection of these small changes that can bring about a major change and improvement. As long as there are people who closely monitor the labor exploitation in Foxconn China, there will be future improvements for the workers in China.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about North Korean Labor Exporting

North Korea, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), is the most isolated and closed-off country to the rest of the international community. One of North Korea’s primary sources of foreign income is through their labor exportation. The U.S. Department of State estimates that 100,000 North Korean workers are working as the overseas labor exports of the North Korean government. It is also estimated that the North Korean export laborers generate $1.2 – $2.3 billion for the North Korean government. Here are 10 facts about North Koran labor exporting.

10 Facts about North Korean Labor Exporting

  1. North Korea’s isolated and closed economy is the source of its poor economy and labor export. North Korea’s economy is directly controlled and dictated by its government. The country’s estimated GDP in 2015 was $40 billion, compared to its neighbor South Korea’s $1.383 trillion. Because of the government’s heavy spending on the development of its military and nuclear arsenals, industries dedicated to civilian consumption are severely underfunded. The CIA’s 2019 profile of North Korea highlights the country’s shortage of fuel, arable land, poor soil quality and agricultural machinery. It also points out North Korea’s problem with human trafficking and forced labor.
  2. China and Russia are the primary importers of North Korean labor. Because of the country’s
    macroeconomic conditions and geographical proximity, the North Korean government has sustained economic ties with both the Russian and the Chinese government. According to a 2018 C4ADS report, there were approximately 30,000 DPRK nationals working in Russia. Some organizations also estimated that there were approximately 94,200 DPRK workers in China as of 2015. C4ADS is a nonprofit organization that provides data-driven analysis reports on global conflict and transnational security issues.
  3. North Korean labor exporting is not limited to manual labor. Historically, especially in for the male laborers in Russia, North Korean laborers worked in Russia’s Siberian timber industries. The majority of the female North Korean laborers worked in different North Korean themed restaurants and hotels in Russia and China. A recent investigation done by C4ADS, there is evidence of North Korean agents selling facial recognition software and battlefield radio systems to military organizations and police forces around the world. Many of these sellers when tracked by their IP addresses, seem to be based in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Some police forces around the world, such U.K.’s police force, may unknowingly purchase advanced software products from organizations run by the North Korean agents.
  4. The Russian government claims that Russia’s employment of North Korean laborers is not contradicting any of the U.N. sections against DPRK. In 2017, the U.N. Resolution 2397 stated
    that all North Korean workers in foreign countries must be sent back to DPRK by December of 2019. The sanction also limited the DPRK’s import of petroleum to 500,000 barrels. Some claim that the Russian government’s employment of the North Korean workers and petroleum export to the DPRK is a form of foreign aid. CNN interviewed Alexander Gabuev, chair of the Russia in the Asia-Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center. Gabuev claimed that the Russian government’s aid to the North Korean government is a way of not “squeezing” the already desperate North Korean regime too hard.
  5. There is evidence of North Korean workers employed in Europe working in inhumane conditions. In March of 2019, the Worldcrunch investigation interviewed a North Korean worker who claimed that he was sent to the shipyard in Gdynia, Poland by the order of the North Korean regime. Working for a ship part manufacturing company named Crist, the North Korean worker told his story of the inhumane working conditions to which many North Korean workers are subjected. In one account, the worker told the story of Chon Kyongsu, who burned to death at the shipyard because he didn’t have a fireproof protective suit.
  6. Some exported North Korean workers sometimes defect from their workplaces. In April 2016, 13 North Korean restaurant workers from China defected to South Korea. A debate on whether this defection was out of their own free will or a cleverly planned trick by the restaurant manager to have the workers defect is still going on. These 13 defectors were the highlights of many news networks around the globe. Mr. Pak, a North Korean defector who was interviewed by the NK News, is among many other North Korean oversea laborers who defected from their workplace in Russia, China and the Middle East.
  7. Overseas labor is viewed as a privilege by many North Korean citizens. Mr. Pak was sent to Kuwait as a construction laborer by his government. Pak gives a detailed account of how he was selected as an oversea laborer. He met the North Korean regime’s criteria of becoming an oversea laborer by being a party member, married with children, having technical skills and having no previous access to classified information. However, Pak still had to bribe his examiner to have his certification approved.
  8. Many North Korean defectors struggle to adjust to the country of their defection. Even after defecting, the lives of the North Korean defectors don’t get easier. Post Magazine’s 2018 article gives a detailed story of two North Korean sisters living in South Korea after their defection. So Won, one of the sisters, described the cultural differences and prejudices she felt in South Korea. Small differences such as her fashion sense and having a North Korean accent to big issues such as the South Korean people’s prejudice against North Korean defectors made it hard to assimilate. Workers who defect to China risk the danger of getting arrested by the Chinese officials and get sent back to North Korea. If sent back, the consequence of which will be either execution or forced labor in a labor camp.
  9. There are many organizations that serve as Underground Railroad for many North Koreans. Organizations, such as Liberty In North Korea, rescue North Korean defectors by providing them with basic needs, transportations, accommodations and rescue fees for the staff and the partners of the underground railroad. According to the organization’s website, Liberty In North Korea’s rescue program managed to help 1,000 North Koreans in escaping the North Korean regime. Other underground organizations, whose volunteers are South Koreans, run safe houses and create many routes to smuggle North Korean defectors and foreign laborers out of North Korea and other countries.
  10. The South Korean government is taking measures to ensure the safety of the North Korean defectors. Many North Korean defectors go to China, Russia and countries in Southeast Asia before making their way to South Korea. While many neutral countries, mainly in Southeast Asia, serve as a brief respite in their journey to freedom, other countries such as China actively arrest North Korean defectors to deport them back to North Korea. This is because the Chinese government doesn’t view North Korean defectors as refugees. They are viewed as illegal economic migrants. South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, along with many other NGOs throughout the world, works to not only ensure the safety of North Korean defectors but also provide financial support for their resettlement in South Korea. The Ministry of Unification also didn’t completely disclose their methods for the sake of the safety of North Korean defectors.

North Korean foreign laborers face many hardships and dangers. Not only are they economically exploited but they are also suffering under the North Korean regime’s oppression of their rights and freedom. These 10 facts about North Korean labor exporting show that North Korea’s illicit means of sustaining their economy puts many North Korean families in danger of exploitation, human trafficking and violence. While this might look bleak, there are many people and organizations that are bringing the strife of North Koreans to the attention of the global community. They remind the world of how important it is to recognize the strife of people around the globe and do a small part to aid them.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in San Marino
In the northeastern part of the Italian Peninsula lies San Marino, one of the world’s tiny micro states surrounded entirely by the country of Italy. Its modern form has shaped since 1463 and the country has maintained its autonomy until today. In fact, it is the world’s oldest republic. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in San Marino.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in San Marino

  1. Population: As of 2019, there are 33,683 people living in San Marino. It has the fifth smallest population on Earth. Roughly 15 percent of the population are migrants and 53 percent are individuals within the working ages of 18 to 65. The nation’s official language is Italian. The poverty rate of the country is very low, so the country does not officially measure it.
  2. Education: Education is compulsory until the age of 14 and attendance is free. Almost the entire population has completed secondary school as the country has a 91 percent completion rate. Over 10 percent of government spending goes towards education. Citizens of San Marino mostly pursue college degrees in surrounding Italy or abroad.
  3. Economy:  Economic output relies heavily on finance and manufacturing. The banking sector accounts for more than half of the country’s GDP at roughly 60 percent. Corporate taxes are low in comparison to the EU and the standard of living is high.
  4. Health Care: Life expectancy in San Marino is 83.4 years old. Health care is not free, but a universal system exists parallel to a private system.  The Azienda Sanitaria Locale insurance fund provides the government system. There are six physicians for every 1,000 inhabitants as of 2014. Child mortality is extremely low with only one death in 2018.
  5. Government System: San Marino has nine municipalities and the country is a parliamentary, representative, democratic republic. The legislation is within two chambers and there are two captain regents as heads of state. The country directs foreign policy mostly towards aligning with the EU. Therefore foreign aid policy is similar to that in the European Union.
  6. Social Security: There is social insurance for the elderly and the disabled. Furthermore, there are survivorship benefits for the unemployed and the widowed even though the unemployment rate has reduced in the past years.
  7. Communications: As access to information can make a big difference in human development, an important aspect of the top 10 facts about living conditions in San Marino is the country’s access to this right. Its living standards reflect this. More than half of the population are active internet users and broadband is widely available. There are 38,000 cellphone subscriptions active today which is more than the entire population.
  8. Labor Conditions: The law forbids workplace discrimination for any reason. The state guarantees contracts and the minimum wage is 9.74 euros per hour. In general, labor conditions are safe with an eight-hour working day in guaranteed humane conditions. Meanwhile, as of 2018, the unemployment rate was only eight percent.
  9. NGOs in San Marino: There are no specific NGO projects in San Marino, but a number of NGOs do exist from time to time specially aiding in education and training as well as health. For instance, the British organization, Hope is Kindled, was present in 2006 with a project to advance health through medical and technological research.
  10. The Serene Republic: As a small enclave, San Marino does not have large natural reserves within its territory. Nonetheless, it shares the geography of surrounding Italy which is slightly mountainous and mild. It imports most of its resources and food. To be able to keep its stable political and social system while being dependant on other countries, it must be in good terms with its neighbors and the international community.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in San Marino demonstrate why this small nation has been able to maintain such serenity for more than six centuries. As a result, it has been able to ensure its citizen’s freedom and security in all aspects.

– Diego Vallejo Riofrio
Photo: Flickr

grape industrySouth Africa, a country located at the southern tip of Africa and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean, is home to a vast number of grape plantations. Many of the grapes that come from these plantations are used to make wines first-world consumers enjoy. Popular brands include Capensis Chardonnay, Porseleinberg Syrah, and Ernie Els Signature Blend. But as delicious and luxurious as these wines may be, the grape industry they come from are using unfair labor tactics.

Unethical Conditions

A 2017 study done by Vinmonopolet, an alcoholic beverage retailer in Norway, exposed numerous grape plantations in South Africa where farmers were working under unethical conditions. These conditions include the following:

  • Facilities that lacking regular health and safety checks
  • Employees experiencing verbal harassment and physical harassment
  • Facilities not issuing employees with employment contracts
  • Employees being paid below minimum wage
  • Employers prohibiting employees from joining trade unions
  • Exposing workers to dangerous pesticides
  • Scheduling workers for 12-hour days with no overtime payment

While it is common for reporters to label these unfair labor tactics in the grape industry as “modern-day slavery,” many people do not ask why these exploitative practices from the past still exist. Seeking to start that conversation, the District Six Museum was founded.

Changing the Grape Industry

Built in 2017 in the South African city Cape Town, the District Six Museum’s goals are threefold:

  1. In order to understand how exploitation in the wine industry perpetuates itself, one must have knowledge of what came before.
  2. The first step to challenging the unfair labor tactics in the grape industry is to have conversations about the intergenerational trauma ingrained within this ongoing exploitation.
  3. Colonial-era methods and mentalities continue to influence current labor practices.

As tourism expands in South Africa, so does the wine industry. It is common for tourists to take advantage of the delicious wines during their stay. However, as the District Six Museum notes, the majority of tourists are clueless when it comes to both contemporary and historical unfair labor tactics in the grape industry. Through advocacy and bringing about awareness, the District Six Museum is working to change that.

Being fully aware of what the District Six Museum exposes, Fairtrade Africa, a nonprofit organization that represents all Fairtrade-certified products in Africa, is working to end the unfair labor tactics in the grape industry. Established in 2005, this nonprofit fights for the rights of all African harvesters — whether they be in the grape industry or not.

Through advocacy and various projects, Fairtrade Africa had many successes in their effort to combat the unfair labor tactics in the grape industry. For example, Fransmanskraal, a farm on the South African Western Cape province that supplies grapes to Place in the Sun Wines, was able to use the premiums they received from Fairtrade Africa to improve the quality of their educational and recreational facilities. These premiums, which are not aid but are generated from business transactions, gave school-aged children the opportunity to attend school in their hometown, to participate in local sports matches and to improve nutrition by building vegetable gardens. The premium even helped one woman named Alvercia Juries attend and graduate from the University of Western Cape, making her the first college graduate in the Fransmanskraal community.

Another project Fairtrade Africa took on in the grape industry was reducing the use of coal to generate electricity in the Stellar Organics wine cellars. Western Cape, where Stellar Organics is located, can get very hot during the summer months. That is not good because wine needs to be kept at a certain temperature in order to be made just right. This is why Fairtrade Africa helped improve the insulation of Stellar Organics’ wine cellars, so they wouldn’t have to use so much coal to keep their wines at the right temperature. Ultimately, this allowed them to save electrical costs, be more environmentally sustainable and enhance the quality of their fair-trade products.

Fairtrade Africa encourages advocacy aimed at ending unfair labor tactics in the grape industry and is always accepting donations.

– Emily Turner
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Labor
From 2010 to 2016, Vietnam’s poverty headcount ratio fell considerably from 20.7 to 9.8 percent of its population. Another significant amount of growth is reflected in Vietnam’s GDP, which increased from approximately $6.3 billion in 1989 to an estimated $205.3 billion in 2016. This extensive growth is linked to Vietnam’s reform in economic policy in the mid-1980’s, which in turn prompted labor reform in Vietnam.

Đổi Mới Economic Policy

In 1986, the Vietnam government initiated the Đổi Mới, a series of economic policy reforms that affected the country’s rapid recovery and furthered development.

The reform marked Vietnam’s transition from a centralized economy to an open-market one, otherwise known as an open door policy. The open door policy was intended “to promote a multi-sector economic system, emphasizing the state sector, while encouraging the private sector.”

According to the Social Watch, this change increased the gap between the rich and poor, which threatened the progress of poverty reduction.

Amid these economic policy changes and growing disparities between socioeconomic classes, labor rights came to the forefront in Vietnam’s policy agenda. Below are several examples of the reformed labor rights.

Formation of Labor Unions

The Human Rights Watch reported the formation of “independent trade unions” as a result of activist efforts in October 2006. These unions aimed to “protect the rights of workers” and “disseminate information about worker’s rights and exploitive and abusive labor conditions.”

For example, the United Worker-Farmers Organization of Vietnam and the Independent Worker’s Union of Vietnam supported farmers whose lands were taken. It is important to note that these “independent trade unions” are not officially acknowledged by Vietnam law.

Recorded Improvements

According to the World Bank, the gender gap is lessening. As of 2015, households led by women were “less likely to be poor than male-headed households” while the enrollment rates for girls and boys in primary and junior secondary school were almost equal.

In addition, the World Bank noted that women’s participation in the labour force “is within 10 percent of that of men”, a gap which is smaller than in most countries worldwide.

Labour Reform in Vietnam and Problems Today

Despite advances in labor reform in Vietnam, the move toward independent labor unions was halted when the U.S. left the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In July 2017, The Diplomat noted that trade unions in Vietnam strongly relied on the financial support and management from the state. Furthermore, Vietnamese laws require contributions to a trade union fund from employers, effectively making trade unions financially dependent on employers.

This is especially concerning in the wake of the U.S. leaving the TPP, as it halted Vietnam’s labor rights reform. The Diplomat emphasized that “many people argued that the need for labor rights reform is gone because there is no more demand for reform from the United States.”

However, there is a solution to the current state of limited labor rights and corrupt workplaces.

Addressing Corruption with a Potential “Đổi Mới II”

Vietnam can counter corruption through reform, coined as “Đổi Mới II,” which focuses on fighting corruption and enhancing institutional legitimacy through increased democratization. By applying the rule of law more rigorously, governance can be improved.

Labor reform in Vietnam, while not occuring rapidly, is experiencing activism, protests, and potential uncertainty. Despite these factors, however, improvements are possible, especially with the “Đổi Mới II” reform policy and initiatives like introducing independent labor unions, which curtail corruption and advocate on behalf of Vietnam’s laborers.

Christine Leung

Photo: Flickr

Women in the Indian Workplace
India is the world’s second largest populated country with over 1.3 billion people living within its borders. Of these 1.3 billion, 60 percent live in poverty. Indian poverty is further exacerbated by a growing income inequality. According to the British charity, Oxfam, only the top 10 percent of people in India own the majority of the country’s wealth (80 percent). This has real-world consequences; three out of every four Indians still live in small rural villages, and seven out of twenty are illiterate. These statistics present serious challenges for India’s development.

If the majority of India’s population is too poor to buy consumer goods, the economy will not be able to grow as quickly. Complex as the issue of poverty in India may seem, there is one relatively simple and effective solution; fully incorporate women in the workplace in India.

How Women in the Workplace in India Will Help the Economy

According to Catalyst, an international nongovernmental organization (NGO) that works to represent women’s interests in the workplace, women access higher education in India at the same rates as men (27 percent). However, the labor statistics are a different story. Only about 29 percent of Indian women work compared to 82 percent of Indian men. This leaves the Indian economy at a developmental disadvantage. If the rate of women in the workplace in India jumped to a mere 40 percent by 2025, India could add $700 billion to its GDP.

Unfortunately, according to The Economist, instead of increasing, the rate of female participation in India’s labor force has been decreasing in recent years. Since 2005, India’s labor force has dropped at least nine percentage points, despite overall population growth. This leaves India with one of the largest untapped worker populations in the world. If Indian women worked just as often as men, the nation would have over 200 million extra workers. According to The International Monetary Fund, this shift would grow the nation’s economy by 27 percent, effectively making India a developed country.  

Why Women in India Are Not Working

There are several factors influencing the drop in women in the workforce. Firstly and primarily, there is the issue of cultural bias against women working. In India, especially after the marriage, most women are expected to remain in the home. In fact, women working is considered a mark of a lower social status. This is why, as a whole, as Indian households become wealthier, fewer women are participating in the workforce.

Secondly, there is the issue of maternal responsibility. Indian mothers are expected to shoulder the burden of household duties on their own. Employers have to provide 26 weeks of paid maternity leave, but there is have no obligation at all to provide paternity leave. On top of this, employers are deterred by the requirement to provide childcare for women returning to work. When combined with the high expectation of caring for the family, these factors create a “motherhood penalty”  for working women.

Finally, regardless of gender, many traditional Indian jobs are disappearing because of industrialization. Because of Indian law, unlike in other developing countries, they aren’t being replaced by women-friendly factories. This scarcity further reduces the opportunities for women in the Indian workplace. A 2012 poll found that when jobs are harder to come by, 84 percent of Indians believe men are more entitled to have them.

How India Is Working To Include Women in the Workforce

The obstacles created by culture, politics and the economy may seem insurmountable, but various organizations have already been putting forth various solutions. The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi launched two programs on the anniversary of former, late, female leader Jayalalithaa. One provides working women with scooters, making their commutes to work easier and safer; the other plants 70 lakh trees to honor the 70 years since Jayalalithaa’s birth.

The Prime Minister also launched Make in India (2014) and Startup in India (2016) in order to not only invest in the people of India by helping to fund small businesses but also to provide jobs that these businesses would bring to India. Both of these initiatives provide opportunities for women to enter the workforce.

Furthermore, another government organization, Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP), was launched to encourage women’s participation in business by offering support and collaboration with industry partners while NGOs such as CARE India are mobilizing to support the country’s working women by empowering individuals to be role models for their communities.

In the future, in order to ensure the development of these organizations, India should continue to work to change the social norms that have surrounded women regarding work and maternal responsibilities. The Indian government should look deeply into their development plans and aid working women by changing policies that disproportionately harm them. Only when there is a more balanced amount of women in the workplace in India, can the country develop fully.

Lydia Cardwell
Photo: Pixabay

Cassava RootThe cassava root is such a versatile ingredient in the fight against poverty that some scientists are calling it a ‘miracle crop’.

It’s likely that even you have come across cassava, as it makes up the small balls in bubble tea and is the main ingredient in tapioca pudding.

While it lends a hand to some dishes in developed countries, the root is a vital component to diets in the developing world. Cassava is one of the leading food and feed plants of the world, ranking fourth among staple crops with a global production of about 160 million tons per year. The majority of cassava is grown in three regions: West Africa and the adjoining Congo basin, tropical South America and South and Southeast Asia.

The miracle crop was introduced into Africa in the 16th century by Portuguese traders from Brazil. Initially, it was adopted as a famine-reserve crop because of its nutritional value. The leaves can be prepared in a similar fashion to spinach and contain high levels of protein and vitamins A, B and C. Cassava root can be prepared in countless ways, but should not be consumed raw. They are often boiled and sliced, but they can also be dried and beaten into flour.

It is among the highest calorie value foods, containing 160 calories per 100g root. It provides more protein than sources like yams or potatoes and it is also a leading source of essential minerals like zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, manganese and potassium. Potassium is an important component of a healthy diet, helping regulate heart rate and blood pressure.

In addition to its bountiful nutritious value, the crop is perhaps one of the world’s easiest to grow. Cassava root can be grown well in poor soil with a relatively low fertility and textures ranging from sands to clay. It is drought resistant and loses its leaves in order to preserve moisture in times of limited rainfall. The plant produces new leaves when rains resume. Additionally, cassava can be grown in extreme rainfall. For these reasons, the crop requires little labor and attention and the fruits of one harvest can be consumed 6 months to 3 years after planting.

Lastly, cassava has the potential to solve more than hunger. It is possible to transform cassava from a low-yielding famine-reserve crop to a high-yielding cash crop in order to raise income and draw poor regions out of poverty. The domestic market for cassava products continues to grow and export demands are increasing.

Cassava production presents enormous opportunities for solving domestic famine and malnutrition. It could also promote economic stability and reduce poverty through trade between areas with a food surplus and a food deficit.

Jamie Enright

Photo: Flickr

 

Labor unions support the Jones ActThe Jones Act made headlines in the past month, an impressive feat for an obscure law almost a century old. The law requires a certain amount of U.S. ships to deliver aid and trade to other parts of the world. Lawmakers of the 20th century designed the act to protect the finances of U.S. maritime industries.

Puerto Rico has been in dire need of aid since Hurricane Maria hit the island. It requested an extension of a Jones Act waiver during the crisis, so emergency supply delivery would not be impeded. The federal U.S. government denied this request.

Defenders of the Jones Act include the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, the Inland Boatmen’s Union and the Sailor’s Union of the Pacific. U.S. labor unions support the Jones Act, believing the 1920s legislation protects U.S. jobs. However, the Jones Act does not help labor like it used to.

The Capital Research Center, in its outline of the Jones Act, notes why labor unions find this regulation so appealing. Its supporters declare that national defense depends on both a strong navy and a healthy maritime industry and that lifting such protections would result in significant job loss. However, what is good for overseas shipping is not necessarily good for the United States. The International Trade Commission discovered in 1995 that the Jones Act cost the U.S. $2.8 billion each year. Moreover, the restrictions caused ridiculous situations where lumber had to be trucked from Maine to Florida before it could then be sent to Puerto Rico by boat. The Jones Act has not stopped American generosity and trade, but it has certainly made both acts much harder. Even people given jobs by the U.S. maritime industry are hurt by rising gas and food prices from the $2.8 billion price tag.

Are these sacrifices worth enduring if the results lead to the survival of the shipbuilding industry? Linda Lingle, the former governor of Hawaii, believed that repealing the Jones Act would put American shipping companies out of business. But perhaps the Jones Act is not helping in that regard. Since 1946, the U.S. maritime industry removed roughly 2,000 vessels from its service, leaving it in 2007 with a fleet of fewer than 200. During that period of time, 200,000 jobs and 60 American shipyards were lost in the industry. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, a “Jones Act repeal would affect about 2,450 laborers in the coastwise shipping trade and would cost only 36 jobs in the shipbuilding industry.”

Matthew Paxton, the president of the Shipbuilder’s Council of America, cannot deny the vestigial nature of the Jones Act even while defending it. Paxton explained to the Washington Examiner why labor unions support the Jones Act in September 2017. But he acknowledges that the shipbuilding business has shifted to Asian countries in the previous three decades. “The U.S. shipbuilders know they can’t compete fairly, so they rely on the federal government to keep this thing going,” said Paxton.

Ultimately, the Jones Act protects few jobs at the expense of the needs of the many. Richard Rowland, of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, states, “Greater competition in shipping would bring down prices and make the business climate more investor-friendly. Really, the only one being helped by the Act are the shipping interests.” If labor unions support the Jones Act for its protected jobs, then labor unions will have to question if Puerto Rico’s poverty is a fair cost.

– Nick Edinger

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Moldova

If ever there were a time capsule left in the world, it would be Moldova. Pictures of Moldovans in traditional clothes, locals driving horse-drawn carriages and a country dedicated to agriculture and the production of wine are among the first photos that come up in an image search. Though online photographs of Moldova are charming, poverty in Moldova has been a definitive characteristic of the nation since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. What was once a wealthy state became the poorest country in Europe after Soviet liberation.

The Statistics
According to The World Bank, Moldova has experienced economic growth and a significant poverty reduction since the start of the millennium.

Poverty in Moldova has dropped from 30 percent in 2006 to 9.6 percent in 2015. The percentage of those living on less than $1.90 a day has dropped from 39.1 percent in 1999 to zero. At its peak, the poverty rate for those living on $5 a day was at 90.4 percent in the year 2000. It has since dropped to 16.3 percent.

Remittance and pensions are responsible for lifting 51.6 percent of families out of poverty, and pensions are sustaining the aging population.

These two factors are acknowledged as the main drivers of economic growth. In fact, the Republic of Moldova is one of the few European countries that recognizes remittances as a main influencer of the economy, accounting for 26 percent of gross domestic product in 2014.

Challenges Halting Further Progress
Unfortunately, exporting labor leads to the issue of weak labor markets. Labor and demand are some of the challenges that plague Moldova and inhibit its economic progress, keeping poverty a constant.

Dependence on remittance weakens the industrial market and keeps the Moldovan economy in a cycle that increases the trade deficit and proves remittance to be untenable.

Despite an increase in those attaining higher education, younger generations are having a difficult time finding specialized occupations that are not farm-based. Post-secondary education is not a guarantee of a better job, as the business industry is not creating long-lasting positions and many firms do not typically subsist themselves.

Moving Forward
Improving the industrial state of affairs in the nation will continue to decrease poverty in Moldova.

Alex Kremer, the Country Manager for Moldova, told the World Bank that “urbanization, connectivity and off-farm jobs are the best escape routes from poverty”.

The United Nations Development Programme has innovative business development in place for local sustainable economic growth. This project is designed to facilitative innovative business development for new and existing businesses to generate internal economic development and growth in the job market.

So far, the program has already granted 83 private sector companies innovation awards and produced a campaign focused on the employability of Moldovan youth.

The initiative is scheduled to end in 2017, but with movements like this, the future of poverty in Moldova will surely improve.

Sloan Bousselaire

Photo: Flickr

 ChinaThree days after President Trump’s inauguration, he executed one of his major campaign promises: withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Whether or not the TPP will outlast the U.S. withdrawal, China and fifteen other regional partners have forged ahead with a free-trade agreement of their own, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

One of the differences between the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is that the former was slated to account for almost 40 percent of the world’s GDP and 10 percent of its population, while the latter comprises nearly 40 percent of GDP and almost half of the global population.

Many analysts have framed the differences between the TPP and the RCEP in terms of the balance of power between the U.S. and China, but for many of the countries involved, free trade is first and foremost an economic issue. Like most free-trade agreements, TPP and the RCEP center on tariff reductions. By liberalizing the international exchange of goods, many economists believe increased competition will stimulate growth in each country’s comparative advantage.

While the TPP aimed to remove tariffs completely on over 90 percent of traded goods, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership attempts to merely reduce tariffs on only 80 percent of goods. The TPP also went further in attempting to curtail government-subsidized industrialization and implement environmental and labor regulations.

Despite the projected benefits for all countries involved, free trade agreements have been criticized for their potential harm to workers. Not only President Trump, but presidential candidate Bernie Sanders advocated for leaving the TPP. Senator Sanders held valid concerns about the continued widening of the international labor pool for American companies.

Indeed, despite the TPP’s projected contribution of 0.6 percent to U.S. GDP, this growth would have occurred in only the country’s comparatively advantageous sectors such as agriculture and advanced technologies, at the expense of every other sector. In the process, workers in less efficient sectors would experience displacement and, without a safety net, suffer in the near-term. On the flipside, the TPP would have contributed more than 10 percent GDP growth to countries like Vietnam and Malaysia, each willing to capitalize on their low labor costs.

In India, though, one of the potential signatories of RCEP, concerns about the displacement of its agriculture industry have slowed negotiations. The Indian parliament is hesitant to liberalize trade and capital flows for fear of allowing large agribusinesses to displace millions of small farmers. Though the end result of structural change may very well be improved efficiency and cheaper food, the transition will inevitably feature dispossession.

Despite minor setbacks, one of the final differences between the TPP and the RCEP is that the latter has a greater chance of coming to fruition. If it does, and only time will tell, economic integration will certainly bring growth, and disruption, to its signatories.

Nathaniel Sher

Photo: Flickr