Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in MaltaLocated in the middle of the Mediterranean, south of Italy, Malta is a country made up of a small set of islands full of life and unique culture. Geographically, Malta is just smaller than twice the size of Washington, D.C. and home to nearly 450,000 inhabitants. From 1814 to 1964, Malta was a British colony but has since established itself as a republic, become a member of the European Union and adopted the euro as its currency. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Malta.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Malta

  1. Malta was the only member of the EU not to have legalized divorce up until 2011. Until then, if married couples wanted to divorce, they had to leave the country to do so. This is largely due to the Roman Catholic Church’s influence over the country’s more than 95 percent Catholic population. The legislation went into effect beginning October 2011, despite opposition from even the prime minister, who worried legalizing divorce would “weaken the family structure in Malta.”
  2. The most common form of transportation in Malta is driving by car. The country permits tourists to bring cars over to the islands for a maximum of six months. There are also rental cars available for those of age. Subsequently, traffic is highly congested. Alternative modes of transportation include taxis, buses and the karrozzin, traditional horse-drawn carriages that have been in use in Malta since the mid-19th century.
  3. Malta’s government offers comprehensive varieties of health care, as well as high-quality dental care, to citizens. People can find multiple pharmacies as well, along with two main hospitals and many health centers. Although Maltese is the main official language of the islands, people speak English across all hospitals, health care facilities and pharmacies.
  4. While Malta is not really a point of conflict or transnational problems, it does have a military branch named the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM). This military branch includes all aspects; air, naval and land. While there are not any real international relations issues, Malta does serve as a transshipment point for transportation of hashish — coming from cannabis — from North Africa into Western Europe.
  5. Britain’s military presence in Malta had a massive impact on the country’s economy up until its independence in 1964. Because Malta lacks enough natural resources and has a small, domestic economic market, it relies heavily on other nations for imports. The Maltese economy also leans on the shipbuilding and repair industry, but even that is becoming depleted further and further since gaining independence.
  6. In Malta, 29.8 percent of the population is obese, causing the country to rank 28th in the world for obesity. This is likely due to Maltese citizens’ heavy reliance on cars as opposed to walking or cycling. While some use bicycles, bicycling is largely unpopular due to the poor road conditions and heavy traffic. When not on main roads, it is a bit easier to navigate the streets on a bicycle, making it an increasingly popular mode of transportation.
  7. Literacy rates among citizens 15 years and older are essentially the same at 88 percent. The Maltese Constitution warrants that both men and women have equal rights in terms of employment. Malta established The Ministry of Social Development and Equal Status for Women and has allowed for more married women to participate in the workforce.
  8. Malta expanded education systems to include compulsory schooling for children ages five to 16 in the mid-1980s. As of 2005, Malta further reformed its the education system to include regional colleges that incorporated primary and secondary school educations in addition to a junior college. Malta also has two forms of higher education, the University of Malta at Msida and the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology.
  9. Malta imports an abundance of fossil fuels in order to supply its energy. As Malta’s only natural mineral resource is limestone, used in construction, it has extremely limited clean energy resources.
  10. The youth unemployment rate in Malta is 10.30 percent as of April 2019. While this is not a huge portion of the population, youths (those under the age of 24) make up 11.44 percent of the Maltese population.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Malta highlight that, in spite of the country’s tumultuous history, it has persisted. While there are aspects Malta must improve upon such as transportation reliance and employment rates, Malta is a tiny country with an impressive development story.

Emi Cormier
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

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in LichtensteinLiechtenstein is a little-known principality located between Austria and Switzerland. Despite its small size (roughly 38, 000 inhabitants) it has a growing economy, which allows for residents to have a high standard of living. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Liechtenstein.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Liechtenstein

  1. Liechtenstein provides its workers with some of the highest wages in Europe – Because of the growing economy, citizens of Liechtenstein benefit from one of the highest wage levels across Europe. On average, citizens make about $92,000 annually. When compared to the average gross salary of Germany’s citizens, Liechtenstein’s citizens have a higher income by about $15,000.
  2. Living costs are high – While the country has high wage levels, it also has high living expenses. The average citizen spends about half their monthly income on their fixed costs, which usually include housing, utilities, transportation and health insurance. Despite the high living costs, Liechtenstein has a zero percent poverty rate with poverty being defined as those living at or below $5.50/day.
  3. The country offers universal health care – Health insurance is required and guaranteed to all people living or working in Liechtenstein. Individuals’ insurance is financed by their insurance holder and their employer as well as by state subsidies. Although there is no current data with regards to the increase in healthcare costs over time in Liechtenstein, in 2016, the government spent $188 million on social welfare programs such as healthcare.
  4. The government provides its residents with a high-quality education – Liechtenstein relies on its excellent education system to provide the economy with highly qualified workers. After completing the mandatory schooling period of 11 years (from primary school to high school), individuals are left with a range of options to pursue further education. These options include vocational training, higher education (college or university), and apprenticeships.
  5. A high percentage of Liechtenstein labor force commutes into work – The Feldkirch-Buchs railway connects Switzerland to Austria, passing through Liechtenstein on the way. This railway allows workers to commute into Liechtenstein. Since a majority of the country’s workers, (55 percent) are from neighboring countries, this system is crucial in maintaining Liechtenstein’s labor force. The reason behind the high number of commuters is because Liechtenstein’s economy has grown so quickly over the past years that its domestic labor force has not been able to keep up.
  6. Liechtenstein has a strong economy – Liechtenstein has one of the highest measures of GDP per capita in the world ($168,146.02) and a low inflation rate of 0.5 percent. Although not officially recognized by the European Union, it does receive some of the monetary and economic benefits of the organization because of its deal with Switzerland, which stipulates that they import a large percentage of their energy requirements from the Swiss and use the Swiss Franc as their national currency.
  7. Residents have religious freedom – Although an overwhelming majority of the population is Roman Catholic (the official state religion), there remain many individuals in the country who practice other religions or other forms of Christianity. The state is currently in the process of separating itself from the church, however, this is largely considered a symbolic move, as the current union does not appear to affect adherents of other religions. The government is pursuing this initiative by creating a provisional constitutional amendment to establish new regulations between the state and the religious communities. Additionally, there has been mention of providing more equitable funding for all the different religious organizations, rather than solely giving the Catholic church more funding.
  8. The country provides immigrants with good living conditions – Immigrants make up about 65 percent of the total population in Liechtenstein.  Many of these immigrants come from nearby countries such as Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Although the requirements for the naturalization process are quite lengthy, (an individual has to live in Liechtenstein for 30 years before beginning the process) immigrants receive all the same benefits that natural-born citizens receive.
  9. Liechtenstein has low unemployment – Liechtenstein has an unemployment rate of 1.9 percent. Most of its labor force is employed in the services and goods sectors, with only 0.6 percent being employed in the agriculture sector. About 40 percent of the workforce is employed in the industrial sector, which, combined with the manufacturing sector, make up about 40 percent of the country’s gross value added. Its economy is focused primarily on high-quality exports, services and goods such as machine and plant construction, as well as precision tools and dental instruments, among other items.
  10. Liechtenstein has had issues with spreadable diseases in the past – Some of the most common diseases include influenza, hepatitis B and tick-borne encephalitis. The country has since introduced several initiatives to address these issues, signing treaties with Switzerland and Austria in order to provide its citizens with better healthcare options.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Liechtenstein demonstrate the quality of life with which residents of Liechtenstein experience on a daily basis. While the country certainly has some very positive trends going for it (namely, unemployment, wages, GDP, and its education system) it also has some things to improve upon, such as reducing living costs, which make it hard for many individuals to live in the country. Nevertheless, Liechtenstein appears to be in a good state presently, as it provides many services and freedoms that make it a desirable place to live.

– Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in the Pitcairn Islands
Pitcairn Islands are British Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 3,000 miles away from anywhere or anyone aside from its 50-or-so inhabitants. Crystal clear blue water surrounds its only settlement, the village of Adamstown, which is free of air pollution, but a lack of space and accessibility makes for tight quarters and close relationships. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions on the Pitcairn Islands.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in the Pitcairn Islands

  1. While the inhabitants of this tiny volcanic island are not a part of the 10 percent living in extreme poverty today, island life is not always a paradise. Pitcairn Islanders are able to live sustainable lives with the help of British financial aid which sums to over $3 million per year. The islanders boil water to serve all of their needs in copper pots over rose-apple firewood. Among the top 10 facts about living conditions in Pitcairn Islands, it is important to note that although job opportunities are in short supply, the Government of Pitcairn Islands or the Government of Private Enterprises employs most of the working residents in roles such as domestic work and gardening.
  2. Of the 50 islanders, most claim they descended from Fletcher Christian, one of the original settlers that took refuge on the island. However, artifacts and fossil evidence suggest that Polynesians inhabited the island prior to the otherwise-documented European discovery and colonization.
  3. The island’s main industry is tourism, as is the case for many small countries in the tropics. Because of its size and population, tourism is somewhat limited. There are roughly 10 cruise ships and several yachts that stop at Pitcairn every year, but some of the passengers are Pitcairners or their family members. Homemade soaps, purple sea urchin jewelry (fetuei) and bone and wood carvings are available to tourists. Islanders harvest their own coffee, cacao and award-winning tropical raw honey. They sell stamps, coins, postcards and other merchandise as well to subsidize their incomes.
  4. The Pitcairn Island Tourism Coordinator explains on its website that “…issues and differences pass as quickly as they arise on Pitcairn – smiles, cheek and laughter generally reign and in the face of adversity we all do what we do best, ‘Get off it and get on with it!’” This speaks largely to the culture that shapes the lives of Pitcairn Islanders, especially considering that generations of child abuse had ensued among native inhabitants and most islanders “looked the other way.”
  5. Lack of accessibility and quality with regards to medical care is still a prominent issue for the people of Pitcairn. The island is located 32 hours by yacht from Peru in the Northeast and New Zealand in the Southwest.
  6. Habitants of Pitcairn claim that they are not so isolated since technological advances, such as the phone and internet, reached their island in 2006. Now, Pitcairn Islands even has its products available globally via its official government website. Islanders hope that having an internet connection will help raise awareness about the island and what it can offer for tourists.
  7. Since the highest quality education is not available to the children of Adamstown, many children and teens go away to school. Pitcairners value education highly and so instead of homeschooling the children, the majority attend school in New Zealand to ensure a proper education.
  8. Within the top 10 facts about living conditions in Pitcairn Islands are parts of the island’s history that are not so fortunate. After the year 2000, trials occurred for multiple men on the island for forced sexual acts against children. The Government of Pitcairn Islands argued that this was the British Government’s attempt to depopulate the nearly desolate island, but as one might guess, Britain claimed otherwise. The latest sexual abuse act of Pitcairn occurred in the late 1990s; many changes have taken place since including the implementation of a full child protection system and the stationing of police officials on Pitcairn for additional protection.
  9. Pitcairn Islands once forbid holding hands in public, as well as dancing, drinking alcohol and smoking. Pitcairn has since abolished these laws and even legalized same-sex marriage in 2015. Still, certain behaviors have become uniquely normalized in Pitcairn Island’s culture; behaviors larger civilizations would not typically tolerate. Ever on the verge of extinction, a conventionally inappropriate form of survival sexual behavior has ensued between men and young girls on the island for years. This type of enforced “abstinence” indirectly contributes to the generations of secret rape culture and sexual abuse towards children that have taken place on this remote island getaway.
  10. Pitcairn Island has its own prison. With only two square miles to work with, Pitcairners found a way to seek justice for those who have been wronged. Of the top 10 facts about living conditions in Pitcairn Islands, the fact that it has a functioning prison system is impressive considering the population, or lack thereof. The prison offers accommodations for tourists. Pitcairn’s prison doubles as lodging for travelers for necessary spatial and efficiency purposes.

Pitcairn Islands faces real challenges, but most are due to a dwindling population as opposed to the extreme levels of poverty that exist elsewhere globally. As long as the island continues to receive financial aid from the British Government at the same rate with respect to inflation, the island should be able to stay afloat financially as long as its inhabitants and future immigrants are able to sustain a population.

– Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Living Conditions in Madagascar

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, still affected today by the aftermath of colonization and political violence. A history of conflicts has left most of its populace impoverished. These 10 facts about living conditions in Madagascar show some of the larger issues the country is facing, as well as what the future holds for the island.

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Madagascar

    1. More than two-thirds of the population in Madagascar lives below the poverty line, with most living on less than $1.90 a day. Three-quarters of the population live in rural areas, and only 13 percent of the population has access to electricity. The country has one of the lowest Human Capital Indexes in the world at 0.37.
    2. In 2009, Andry Rajoelina led a coup that overthrew the elected president at the time. Ever since then, the political system has been accused of corruption. The judicial system in the country is both slow and weak, and this hampers other systems of the government as well as the business sector.
    3. Madagascar is no stranger to natural disasters, and the island experiences three or four devastating cyclones each year. Cyclones cause massive structural and property damage. Madagascar is one of the countries most at risk of natural disasters in Africa. In 2016, a drought caused food shortages that caused widespread starvation, and this still affects the citizens today.
    4. Problems that plague children in poorer nations are unfortunately just as present in Madagascar. The country has the world’s fourth-highest rate of malnutrition, with 50 percent of children growing up stunted or undergrown. Education is in just as poor a situation. In 2012, approximately 1.4 million children dropped out of school because of political unrest in the region, and the numbers have struggled to rise since. Now, Madagascar has the fifth-lowest education rate in the world.
    5. Eighty percent of the population of Madagascar is employed in the agricultural field. Despite improvements to the economy in some areas, this sector has grown smaller by 0.8 percent every year since 2014. Most farmers are unable to use modern technologies, and weather shocks make farming difficult. However, Madagascar has an excellent climate for growing certain crops like clove and vanilla. Vanilla exports have increased significantly since 2017.
    6. Madagascar is the fifth-largest island in the world. It has a landmass of 587,000 square kilometers and 25.5 million inhabitants. The island is also rich in natural resources, including graphite, coal, quartz and salt.
    7. Madagascar has one of the largest numbers of endemic species on the planet with more than 250,000 on the island. But since the 19th century, the rainforests in Madagascar have been depleted by 80 percent. Eighteen million people in Madagascar depend on natural resources: 80 percent of the population uses the forests from everything from food to medicinal remedies. Conservationism aside, the deforestation in Madagascar represents a threat to the way of life of the people who live there.
    8. In more recent years, Madagascar’s economy has been slowly improving. The economy grew by 5.2 percent in 2018 and has seen similar growth these last five years. Inflation was at 8.3 percent in 2017 but went down to 7.3 percent the next year.
    9. The situation for Madagascar may seem bleak, but aid is currently being provided to multiple of its sectors. Some 12,704 schools have received grants in order to purchase new equipment, and 5.1 million students were also provided with much-needed study materials. Recently, 600 schools helped bring meals to 103,608 children, helping to combat the widespread malnutrition in the country.
    10. Between 2015 and 2017, multiple reforms designed to help the business climate have been implemented, and they have shown results in creating new entrepreneurs. Second Integrated Growth Poles and Corridors Project (PIC2) serves to reduce barriers around investing and business creation. So far, 400,000 businesses and business owners have benefitted from this, and there was an 85 percent increase in the number of new businesses in 2017.

– Owen Zinkweg
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Tokelau
Tokelau, a country between Hawaii and New Zealand, consists of three coral atolls and is home to a population of approximately 1,500 inhabitants. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Tokelau.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Tokelau

  1. Tokelau’s culture, maintained through civil unification and tradition, emphasizes language, arts, song and dance. There exists a strong sense of social unity in terms of care and protection among Tokelau’s people.
  2. The coral atolls which make up this Oceanian nation are a mere one to five meters above the sea level. As such, the global rise in seawater levels is a significant threat to the preservation of Tokelauan lands. As a part of the Tokelau Emergency Plan, the country has tasked villages with the construction and upkeep of seawalls to protect from flooding.
  3. Emigration to New Zealand, where Tokelauans can travel without restriction, has been largely common among the population since 1962. Additional communities of Tokelauans exist in Samoa and Australia.
  4. Poor soil quality on the atolls largely restricts the expansion of Tokelau’s agricultural economy. Tokelau successfully cultivates only a handful of tropical crops, including bananas and coconut. Since 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has assisted Tokelau on how to plan efficient land use to improve agriculture practices.
  5. The main source of animal protein in the atolls comes from fisheries located in the reefs and deep ocean. Additionally, the fisheries account for the majority of Tokelau’s annual income.
  6. The long-term health of the Tokelauan people has decreased over generations thus prompting the implementation of public health programs. This worsening health is due to an increase in noncommunicable diseases, particularly obesity. Despite this, the life expectancy in Tokelau, 69.1 years, is of the highest among small pacific locations.
  7. For international and inter-atoll travel, the people of Tokelau are limited to sea travel by the government ship, Mataliki. The ship travels to Tokelau every two weeks unless cases of medical or environmental emergencies disrupt the schedule. In the event that something disrupts the ship’s schedule, travelers must remain at their current locations until transit resumes.
  8. The 400 students living in Tokelau study in one of three schools, one on each atoll. The schools offer education from early childhood to year 13 with emphasis on Tokelau language, English, math, social sciences and science.
  9. Tokelau natives depend on solar panels for almost all electrical needs. In 2013, Tokelau became the first nation to go 100 percent solar. A reduced number of diesel generators remain as a contingency plan, though.
  10. Tokelauans do not currently have an established cell phone network available for use but landline installation is possible among households. Additionally, in 2017, Tokelau introduced a 4G broadband internet network to improve communication efforts. Education, health, commerce and transportation services have also been able to utilize the network for further efficiency.

As a result of Tokelau’s diminutive size and remoteness, the people of Tokelau live in accordingly interdependent communities. Extreme tropical weather and the effects of rising sea levels present challenges to life in the atolls. As a result, Tokelau has implemented plans for sustainability and preventative measures for emergencies to combat these issues. Recent advances in public services facilitate efforts to modernize the nation. As demonstrated by the top 10 facts about living conditions in Tokelau, the country and its people plan only to prosper.

– Bhavya Girotra
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

top 10 facts about living conditions in Hungary

Hungary is a country of 9.8 million people located in central Europe. It makes up a portion of the EU’s southern border and is a major immigration hub. Hungary is one of the EU’s poorer countries, with a GDP in the lower third of all member states, though it is still better off than many of its central European and Balkan neighbors. Below are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Hungary.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Hungary

  1. Impressive work-life balance
    Unemployment is high in Hungary, with only 68 percent of people age 15 to 64 employed. Of those employed, 75 percent are men and 61 percent are women. However, the number of employees working very long hours is less than 4 percent–much lower than the United States, where 11 percent of employees work long hours.
  2. Standards of living are nearly the lowest in the EU
    In terms of GDP, Hungary is ranked 23rd out of the EU’s 28 member states, at 68 percent of the EU’s average. In first place for the region is Austria, which produces at roughly twice Hungary’s capacity. Another metric used to determine the welfare of the consumer, Actual Individual Consumption (AIC), places Hungary second-to-last.
  3. Habitat for Humanity is raising awareness on housing inequality
    In 2015, the Hungarian government ended housing support to nearly half a million impoverished residents. Prior to that, several hundred thousand Hungarians were already experiencing housing poverty. A Habitat for Humanity report from 2014 noted that more than half a million Hungarians lived with leaky roofs and/or moldy walls. Just under half of the population (44.6 percent) live in overcrowded flats, and 52 percent of Hungarians not living in major cities have access to a sanitary sewer.
  4. Hungary has universal health care, but the rate and efficacy of coverage are low
    Although Hungary has had universal health care coverage since the 1940s, it still ranks in the bottom third in the EU in terms of quality of coverage. This is partly due to low salaries—medical professionals cannot expect to make as much money in Hungary as they would in other EU member states. The main issue is a focus on curative care in hospitals, rather than preventative care in other medical facilities.
  5. Hungary has received significant foreign investment
    As of 2018, Hungary has an annual inflow of $4.3 billion per capita of foreign direct investment (FDI), a full recovery from the stagnation of the 2009-10 financial crisis. While this is partly since Hungary has an ideal geographical position for foreign investment, foreign investors have also shifted focus from the relatively poor textile and food processing industries to more lucrative industries such as wholesale, retail trade and automotive repair.
  6. Primary and secondary education enrollment rates are high
    For primary school students, enrollment has varied slightly over the past two decades, but has remained above 95 percent overall. At its highest, the enrollment rate was 97.2 percent in 2009, and at its lowest in 2012, at 95.7 percent. For adolescents in school, the statistics are similarly good: though there has been a slight rise since 2014 of the number of adolescents out of school, the overall number has hovered at less than 5 percent.
  7. Tertiary education needs investment
    Only 13 percent of 25-64 year-olds have a bachelor’s degree, with 9 percent of that population holding a master’s degree or equivalent. These statistics are low, but the individuals who possess these degrees are reaping the benefits. Studies have shown that postsecondary education credentials can potentially double one’s earnings in Hungary: a bachelor’s degree is worth a wage premium of 72 percent, while a master’s or above can earn 140 percent more than the country’s respective average salaries.
  8. Investments in higher education are underway
    An initiative led by the NGO HEInnovate to invest in higher education has been taking place over the last decade, spurred by a decline in institutional funding from the state. The focus of this initiative has been to utilize Hungary’s educational system to boost economic and socio-cultural development at the local and national levels. This has led to a marked increase in venture capital and start-up creation among academics and has caused strong domestic economic growth.
  9. Many institutions have been consolidated by the federal government
    Since his election in 2010, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has taken steps to consolidate hundreds of pro-government media outlets into a propaganda conglomerate. These actions have been received well by some but not as well by others — Orban enjoys far more support from individuals living in rural areas of Hungary than he does from individuals living in Hungary’s urban centers.
  10. Hungary’s location has made it a major migration hub for refugees in the past
    Since a section of Hungary’s border forms the external border of the European Union, the country has received many migrants in the past. However, in recent years Hungary has adopted a harder stance on immigration, which has drastically reduced the number of asylum seekers from the Middle East.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Hungary demonstrate how the country remains at a crossroads in the European Union—geographically, economically and socially. While the country performs well in some areas, such as education and cost of living, it still faces more economic hardship than most other EU member states, and its status as a migration hub has led to entrenched xenophobia in the country’s political landscape.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in VietnamVietnam plans to eliminate all poor households and near-poor households by the end of 2020 through implementing vocational training, accessible quality education and affordable health care services. Poverty in Vietnam has been on a steady decline since 2010. In 2016, HCM City officials saw this decline in poverty as an opportunity to implement more poverty reduction efforts by taking multidimensional measures that tackle the main sources of poverty. Sustainable Poverty Reduction was created to eradicate all poor and near-poor households by 2020.

As of January, there were 103,000 poor and near-poor households in HCM City, less than five percent of all households. Since the project began, more than 60,620 poor households. Furthermore, 58,700 near-poor households in HCM City have risen above the poverty line.

Vocational Education and Training

One aspect of the Sustainable Poverty Reduction in Vietnam is vocational education and training (VET). This project is also known as “Renewal and Development of Vocational Training System by 2020.” It involves training rural workers and providing them information about employment trends and career advice. By 2020, this project predicts to increase the rate of skilled rural workers to 50 percent. Additionally, the plan aims to provide VET services to at least 90 percent of Vietnam’s working population and double rural incomes.

Vocational training has helped millions of people garner technical skills to utilize in the workforce. For instance, in 2017, more than 2 million people were enrolled in VET schools. To adapt to a rapidly growing economy, Vietnam’s workforce must transition from agriculture to service-oriented jobs. Similarly, VET services provide resources for rural workers to transition into more skillful and lucrative careers.

Employment in the agricultural sector has been dropping since 1997. About one million workers each year from 2011 to 2014 have transitioned to industry and service sectors.

Education

Along with VET services, Sustainable Poverty Reduction in Vietnam also includes other forms of education. City officials are working to further improve the quality and accessibility of education within poor communities. Education is vital to reducing poverty as most jobs in Vietnam require certain degrees and qualifications. Those with degrees in higher education are more likely to get hired. In 2017, among workers with professional and technical qualifications, 44.7 percent had university degrees and above, 15.8 percent had college degrees, 24 percent had intermediate degrees, and 15.6 percent had elementary certificates.

Education funding is Vietnam’s largest expenditure. It makes up 20 percent of the state budget. In 2012, Vietnam ranked 17th out of 65 countries in academic performance, ahead of countries such as the U.S. and France. Throughout 2015 and 2016, school enrollment was very high. Student enrollment numbers for early elementary students were eight million, five million lower-secondary students, and two million upper-secondary students. This is according to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam. Furthermore, in those same years, the upper-secondary school graduation rate was at 95 percent.

Health Care and Accommodation

This project also incorporates health care services and accommodation. More than 87 percent of the population has health care coverage. Furthermore, estimates indicate an increase to 90 percent by 2020. Health care is one of Vietnam’s weaker programs. However, it is gradually improving due to the increase in health care funding.

The government of Vietnam is dedicated to further expanding universal health care and ensuring poor and near-poor households have access to high-quality treatment and medicine. Vietnam’s Health Insurance Fund covers all hospital fees for poor ethnic minorities living in impoverished communities.

Future of the Vietnamese Economy

The poverty reduction in Vietnam is also attracting other nations to open up their markets to Vietnam. Vietnam is earning its place in the world stage as it begins to globalize its economy and develop trade relations. These relations are with major global players such as the country of China. The globalization of Vietnam’s economy may further expand job opportunities and continue to improve the standard of living. In 2017, there was a 6.7 percent increase in overseas employment. As a result, job opportunities are increasing in international labor markets.

Vietnam’s innovative approach proves a success story. In 1990, Vietnam was one of the poorest countries, facing the remnants of war and famine. In the following years, the country saw rapid economic growth and government officials utilized their resources to further strengthen the economy and lift Vietnam from decades of hardship and poverty. As 2020 approaches, poverty reduction in Vietnam continues as the country takes great measures and strides toward becoming a developed nation.

– Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Saint LuciaThe beautiful Caribbean isle of Saint Lucia is known for its natural amenities: a lush interior rainforest, volcanic mountains, sandy beaches and coastal reefs. More than 1.2 million tourists flocked to the tiny island in 2018 alone. Despite the country’s up-and-coming image as a sunny vacation spot, there are far more nuances to the daily lives of native Saint Lucians. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Saint Lucia.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Saint Lucia

  1. Tourism – Around 65 percent of Saint Lucia’s GDP is generated through tourism. The foreign-dependent nature of the tourism industry proved troubling for Saint Lucians, especially when the 2008 global financial crisis spurred a reduction of commercial flights to the island. However, recently the country began a new effort to boost cruise and yachting tourism through dock expansions and marketing campaigns. The total number of visitors increased by 10.2 percent from 2017 to 2018 alone.

  2. Education – According to UNICEF’s most recent data, Saint Lucia has a primary education gross enrollment rate of around 93 percent of children. The country’s secondary education enrollment rate is around 85 percent. As a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the country became a partner of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in 2016. The GPE is helping Saint Lucia strengthen its education system. The group has already disbursed more than $1.6 million dollars for teacher development, curriculum standardization and learning assessments.

  3. Hurricane Risk – Saint Lucia sits on the southeastern side of the Caribbean. That means it generally fares well during severe weather seasons because storms strengthen as they move northwards. For example, during Hurricane Maria in 2017, Saint Lucia only suffered minor road damage. Many neighboring islands, especially those to the north, faced complete devastation. However, the Saint Lucian economy does rely significantly on agricultural exports, which are often damaged in severe weather. For example, tropical storm Kirk damaged more than 80 percent of the island’s banana industry.

  4. Banana Industry – Saint Lucia’s agricultural industry employs over 20 percent of the island’s workforce. Bananas are the main export crop. Black Sigatoka Disease is also a serious concern. This disease damages the leaves of banana trees, rendering them unable to grow healthy fruit. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN is one organization that reached out to Saint Lucians, as well as other Caribbean nations, to provide expert support. The FAO holds training sessions in the management of the disease, including proper selection and administration of fungicides.

  5. Crime – Unfortunately, Saint Lucia’s homicide rates are notably high. In 2017, they peaked at nearly six times the global average (which is 6.2 per 100,000 people). The government of Saint Lucia recently released the county’s Medium Term Development Plan for 2019-2022. The plan established a goal of reducing serious crime by 45 percent. Prime Minister Hon. Allen Chastanet shared that the country will strive to meet that goal by improving prisoner rehabilitation services, the court infrastructure and resources for investigators.

  6. Public Health – Saint Lucia is among the healthier of the Caribbean countries, with an average life expectancy of nearly 75 years. That said, the country does have several serious health care issues. According to a 2016 survey, 92.5 percent of Saint Lucians felt “deprivations related to health insurance coverage.” Additionally, there are only 0.11 physicians per 1,000 people living in the country. The World Health Organization estimates that 2.3 health workers per 1,000 are necessary to cover primary healthcare needs. As a result, Saint Lucia is in need of change.

  7. Public Debt – Saint Lucia has a high level of public debt of 77 percent as of 2012. That is detrimentally high for a developing nation. The unemployment rate remains over 20 percent, as it has been since 2013. However, the recent spike in visitors to the island has encouraged Saint Lucians to capitalize on tourism. Industry officials expanded high-traffic port Pointe Seraphine to accommodate larger ships. The ministry of tourism also introduced new international marketing campaigns. The campaigns proved productive in the 10.2 percent visitor increase in 2018.

  8. Poverty – According to UNICEF, 25.1 percent of individuals and 18.7 percent of households live in poverty in Saint Lucia. This is largely due to the lack of diversity in the island’s domestic job market. Additionally, this is a result of an over-reliance on foreign markets. Economic expansion will be crucial in reducing poverty on the island and improving living conditions in Saint Lucia. Country officials are capitalizing on the increase of cruise and yachting tourism to create new jobs on the island.

  9. Sanitation – While some parts of Saint Lucia have relatively robust infrastructures, that is not the country-wide truth. There are several communities, largely in the north, that do not have access to electricity, potable water, flushable toilets or reliable roads. In 2015, the CIA World Factbook estimated that nearly 10 percent of Saint Lucians use unimproved sanitation systems. Consequently, there is a higher risk of preventable diseases. This is an example of poor living conditions in Saint Lucia.

  10. Erosion – The wearing away of mountains, hillsides and beaches is a dangerous problem for Saint Lucians. This is a result of particularly bad hurricanes, like with Hurricane Tomas in 2010. It is also due to poor agricultural practices, as erosion is a chief environmental concern on the island. Mudslides can ruin arable land, contaminate drinking supplies and shut down rural roads. Coastal erosion can damage houses and harm wildlife. Organizations like UNESCO promote better land management practices to mitigate these ill-effects.  The Saint Lucia National Trust also began a project in November 2016 to reduce coastal erosion through beach stabilization. The process is still ongoing.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Saint Lucia demonstrate how this island is more than just a scenic visitor spot. It is a complex country, balancing tourist growth and educational improvements with agricultural and infrastructural instabilities. With the right developmental strides, Saint Lucia can ensure the prosperity of all its citizens.

– Molly Power
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in PortugalLiving conditions in Portugal, as described by Marcel Rebelo de Sousa, the president of Portugal, are “disgraceful.” Rebelo defends the urgency to come up with a strategy to eradicate poverty in the country. He also states, “We must get this message through to the Portuguese society that no one is happy or could be happy pretending there is no poverty around them.”

With President Rebelo’s message in mind, here are the top 10 facts about the living conditions in Portugal that represent the significance of the need for change in the country.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Portugal

  1. In 2017 and 2018, Portugal had one of the widest wealth gaps. Wealthy citizens in the country are earning up to five times more money than those living in poverty. In fact, 18.7 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. In comparison to 2012, it has been increasing.
  2. Portugal was experiencing a recession illustrated by the economy growing 0 percent in 2008. The economy then fell 3 percent in 2009. Additionally, the government underwent a 3 percent budget deficit in 2008.
  3. According to Eurostat in 2019, people in Portugal work up to twelve hours per day. The average hourly rate for workers in Portugal has dropped to 12.10 euros. In comparison, the average pay per hour in European countries stands at €27.60.
  4. BBC News reports people in Portugal suffer pay cuts due to ongoing government reforms. Annual salaries have been cut down three quarters the usual wage. A majority of the population has seen their wages cut by 6 percent.
  5. Necessities such as water and electricity are increasing to an all-time high. When looking at annual income and the expenses necessary for survival, citizens of Portugal earn less than what is necessary to live comfortably.
  6. There are several factors for children misbehaving in schools For example, in addition to insufficient finances to buy food, water and clothing, there is a lack of parental guidance. In turn, these factors negatively impact the education of the youth in Portugal.
  7. Joao Carlos, the headteacher of a school in Rio Moro, notes that over the past year, violence has been increasing in schools. Similarily increasing, is the number of students arriving without having eaten breakfast. Carlos states, “If a child is going to perform well at school, they need to eat well at home and they need to stop growing up by themselves.”
  8. Child labor has become increasingly common in Portugal. Many kids under the age of 16 have to beg for jobs in order to help support the family. This is one result of children choosing not to attend school.
  9. According to Trading Economics, in January 2019, 6.8 percent of the country remains unemployed. This is a slight increase from the 6.7 percent that was unemployed in 2018.
  10. World HIV and Aids Epidemic Report states that Portugal has one of the highest incidence rates of HIV/AIDS in Europe. There are over 34,000 people infected with the virus. Of that number, 500 people died of the disease last year.

President Sousa has outlined a plan he hopes to implement in the coming years to reduce poverty in the country. Sousa’s main goal is to expand the job force while increasing wages. Additionally, he wants to provide a better education especially for women, more access to health care, and improving sanitation in the country.

In addition to Sousa’s efforts, non-profit organizations such as the ABIC- Associação dos Bolseiros de Investigação Científica and Habitat for Humanity are forming. ABIC’s main actions include forming funding agencies in Portugal while urging the government to open scientific job positions. On the contrary, Habitat for Humanity in Portugal helps low-income families by building new homes and renovating houses on family-owned land.

Although these 10 facts about the living conditions in Portugal appear devastating, the steps toward solutions have been initiated. More awareness around the issues suffocating the country is starting the process of reform for those in Portugal.

– Aaron Templin
Photo: Flickr