Parental Leave Policies
In a family setting with parents or guardians caring for young children, climbing out of poverty can be extremely difficult. In these situations, parents or guardians often struggle to balance the need to financially provide for the family while ensuring the well-being of the children. Within countries that do not provide adequate parental leave by law, this struggle heightens as parents often have to prioritize income over crucial child care time. In a 2012 survey, about 46% of employees did not take essential medical or family leave because they could not afford it. Working women may also face workplace discrimination if there are no parental leave protections. For instance, an employer may unfairly dismiss a worker due to pregnancy. In order for parents to successfully lift their families out of poverty, they need supportive parental leave policies that allow them more financial freedom and job assurance.

Parental Leave Policies

Britannica defines parental leave as an “employee benefit that provides job-protected leave from employment to care for a child following its birth or adoption.” Policies surrounding parental leave vary drastically across countries. For instance, in The Bahamas, women may only take “maternity leave once every three years.” On the other hand, Germany allows new parents to take “up to three years of parental leave to take care of a newborn until the child turns 3 years old.”

However, the International Labour Organization (ILO), an agency of the United Nations, has set recommendations for parental leave. The ILO “calls for a minimum 12-week leave” but recommends a 14-week leave ideally. In countries that offer paid parental leave, the ILO recommends that the payment amounts to “no less than two-thirds” of the parent’s previous salary, with complete coverage of health benefits. Another standard that the ILO set is the guarantee that a woman will not lose her job because of pregnancy.

The Importance of Parental Leave

According to Katrin Schulz of the World Bank Group, “ensuring that mothers and fathers have adequate paid leave for the birth of a child should be a priority for economic development.” To understand this better, Schulz says it is important to note that “adequate maternity leave can lead to lower infant mortality rates, health benefits for the mother, higher female labor force participation and increased breastfeeding rates.”

On the other hand, paternity leave also has a wide range of advantages in terms of development outcomes, such as “health and economic benefits to the mother, more equitable division of household labor and increased child bonding.” In fact, studies specifically link paternity leave allowances to “increased earnings for the mother, reduced mother-absenteeism due to sickness and higher female employment in private firms.” All of these factors, in the long run, will improve the family’s well-being and ability to rise out of poverty.

Parental leave laws play an important role in poverty reduction. For impoverished families, paid parental leave proves essential for their economic well-being. Additionally, in its cross-national comparison of parental leave, the World Policy Center found that more extensive parental leave policies correlate with a decreased risk of poverty for both two-parent households and single mothers. The extra money that some parental leave programs may provide support the family economically and may also boost income following parental leave.

Progress in Parental Leave

Some of the most successful parental leave programs come from European and Nordic countries. Norway is one of the more generous countries in terms of paternal leave. Its policy allows 12 months of leave for each birth and a “parental benefit,” which stands as a source of income for new parents during the leave period. Both parents can take leave until the child reaches age 3.

Norway’s leave policy has helped narrow the gender income gap down to 13%. “The retention of women” in the workforce has also helped Norway collect higher tax revenue, strengthening the economy. These tax benefits contribute to Norway’s high GDP per capita, which now stands at $89,741, a representation of the country’s economic prosperity. Nordic countries aimed to reduce the stigma surrounding paternal leave with a campaign to normalize paternal leave. Now, about “90% of Norweigan fathers” take paternal leave, bringing wide-ranging benefits on a household level as well as a national level.

Norway’s example shows how parental leave policies can be beneficial not only for the families raising children but the economy surrounding them. Better parental leave is a small push toward building a more prosperous future. When children receive proper care in the first years of life, they have a better chance of breaking generational cycles of poverty.

– Hariana Sethi
Photo: Unsplash

The North-South Expressway
Vietnam has experienced incredible economic growth since its reforms in 1986. Over three decades, these new economic policies have resulted in an explosion of economic activity and a slash in the rate of poverty. However, Vietnam’s transportation infrastructure is woefully behind many other developed economies. The government responded to this need by creating a nationwide connectivity project, the North-South Expressway.

The Infrastructure Issue

Vietnam has inadequate transportation networks and requires development and investment. Empirically, Vietnam’s 2020 target goal of $27 billion for public investment, mainly dedicated to transportation infrastructure, shows this. The country’s transportation needs have steadily risen since the economic reforms. Road usage in Vietnam has been on an incline with congested streets and car accidents constituting Vietnam’s hidden epidemic. However, transportation investments have lagged behind. An increase in funding is necessary for the country to reap the benefits of efficient transportation.

The North-South Expressway

The North-South Expressway is the solution to this transportation problem. The $17.9 billion project looks to connect all of Vietnam from Lang Son to Ca Mau. The road system will be an expanse of 1,811 kilometers with a toll collection system and a smart traffic system. Travel to important tourism sites, economic zones and other transportation areas will now be feasible with the new expressway. This high-speed travel throughout diverse geographical regions will revitalize the country’s transportation infrastructure. For the first time in Vietnam’s history, the country will be well connected.

Unfortunately, the central government has run into issues with financing the project. Originally, the government split the project into 11 sub-projects, with five being a public-private partnership (PPP). However, only three of the five received financial backing; the remaining two had no investor bids. The government then changed the two unfunded projects to public projects. However, the government’s ability to finance the project on its own is uncertain. The much-needed outside investments have proven hard to obtain. The project itself is attractive but legal ambiguity within the country causes caution and concern in investors. As such, Vietnam’s government has been spurred into implementing new legislation.

Public-Private Partnership Law

The Public-Private Partnership Law (PPPL) aims to fix the legal barriers preventing the execution of The North-South Expressway. The PPPL will be in effect as of January 2021. The law will clarify the process of investing in Vietnam by creating standard form contracts and government guarantees of project fulfillment. The law will also enforce proper foreign currency payment from foreign investors and the use of a risk-sharing mechanism. Essentially, the PPPL elevates and integrates the previously passed laws, decrees and circulars that regulated PPPs into one authoritative law. It will make private and foreign investment in government-sponsored infrastructure projects simpler, less risky and more appealing.

The Light at the End of the Road

Improving transportation networks will have a profound impact on Vietnam. It will increase economic activity through improved connections between consumers and producers and decrease transportation costs. The World Economic Forum estimates a 5% to 25% economic return on every dollar that goes toward infrastructure, such as transportation. More succinctly, developed roads lubricate the flow of goods and people across regions, which increases economic activity.

Additionally, developing transportation networks directly affects society’s most impoverished members. Areas with little economic opportunity would become connected to vital economic centers. As a result, connectivity to social services, such as health care and education, would increase along with economic and social mobility. The economic rewards are well worth the financial investment into transportation infrastructure. The North-South Expressway — with the help of the PPPL — indicates significant poverty reduction for Vietnam in the near future.

Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Flickr

fair solutions against global poverty
Lawyers and organizations are creating fair solutions against global poverty. The Junior Lawyers Against Poverty (JLAP) is one organization that aims to eradicate global poverty. University students and junior lawyers participate in seeking the betterment of justice and legal education on a global scale. Additionally, JLAP fundraises and donates to the LAP’s Justice Fund to promote access to justice and the rule of law. Its students and junior lawyers build real-world skills and careers through global projects that focus on human rights, sustainable development and reducing poverty. Furthermore, the organization works with many universities in Afghanistan, England and Uganda.

JLAP and LAP

Lawyers Against Poverty (LAP) is another organization finding fair solutions against global poverty. It believes that injustice and inequality are two large factors that result in poverty. Therefore, LAP focuses on issues such as women’s rights. The organization created a project to provide women living in rural Tajikstan with economic and legal support. Additionally, LAP focuses on issues such as land rights and refugee rights.

Legal Aid for Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Morocco is one country that offers legal assistance for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Lawyers work to educate people on their rights within new countries. Oftentimes, people seek refuge in Morocco or European countries. Eventually, these refugees search for job opportunities. Thus, lawyers use their expertise to aid migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

However, migrants often succumb to deportation due to governmental policies that control illegal migration. Individuals experience starvation and even death in their journey to safety. There were more than 900 deaths among migrants in the Mediterranean and more than 200 deaths along the Morrocan Coast and the Canary Islands in 2020.

The 2030 Agenda and Justice

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development works for fair solutions against global poverty. It focuses on many crucial areas including legal assistance and aid for the poor. In addition, the United Nations Secretary-General states that the agenda’s goal is to end poverty in all forms and to ensure that no one is left behind. Unfortunately, the 2000 Millenium Development Goals did not accomplish as much as intended. Thus, the 2030 agenda is focusing on building more on justice and governance. The 2030 agenda’s 16th goal prioritizes rule of law and access to justice.

More countries, law firms and organizations are realizing the importance of finding solutions against poverty. It is crucial to offer legal assistance to improve opportunities and quality of life. Furthermore, programs motivate more individuals to study and practice law all around the world.

– Amanda Ortiz
Photo: Flickr

Migrants in ItalyIllegal immigration to Italy had been dropping significantly in recent years. The numbers went down from 181,000 in 2016 to 11,500 in 2019. However, in 2020, the number of migrants who landed in Italy by boat had risen by roughly 148%. This increase in numbers reignited negative attitudes toward immigration, which in the past had led to large-scale protests that called for stricter and more intensive migrant laws. In 2014, a mere 3% of people from a 999-person survey were bothered by migrants in Italy, however, by 2017, that number rose to 35% of those interviewed. The additional strain of COVID-19 increased the negative views already present, despite government insistence that migrants were but a smaller portion of the problem.

Immigration Policy in Italy

During the late 2010s, it was found that many in the Italian government were in favor of pushing for more emphasis on a migration-focused dialogue among the EU member states. The Italian government hoped that by communicating more with the countries of origin, it would be able to support migrants in a more humane manner that would give more control over the number of people on Italian land. The EU accepted several suggestions put forth by the non-paper called the Migration Contact. Some of these recommendations include urging greater investments in border control and security while also reaching out to readmission and resettlement programs to improve upon local asylum systems. This would give migrants better opportunities to return home should they be unable to stay or attain citizenship in Italy.

Slow Yet Steady Progress

Although the anti-immigration policies were strict, late 2020 and early 2021 have seen a slow but steady change to improve the laws that cracked down on those seeking asylum and any who tried to help them. The new legislation is currently taking steps to make it easier for migrants to become citizens and withdrawing orders given to coastal guards to harass those attempting to come ashore. One such action would be the reintroduction of special protection permits. This would be given to those who have relations with established Italian citizens, those with serious health issues (mental and physical) and people who do not meet asylum requirements but are escaping inhumane treatment in their homelands.

Current Migrant Policies

The political view toward immigration and migrants was originally negative, however, many in the government did not want to withdraw the extended helping hand from those who needed it. Italy’s current migrant laws have designated funds for integration policies, funding for language courses as well as intercultural activities, housing and educational purposes. The newer policies also want to focus on the risks involved when migrants come to Italy. This includes personal preferences such as refusing regular fingerprint collection, which used to lead to an immediate rejection of any requests for asylum.

Organizations Helping Migrants and Refugees in Italy

Organizations within Italy are working to provide the support that the government has not yet granted to refugees. Groups such as Choose Love, Donne di Benin City and Baobab Experience work within Rome and Palermo to ensure that migrants receive accommodation, food and clothing. The organizations also offer legal assistance so that individuals have better chances of gaining citizenship.

Choose Love has reached more than one million people through more than 120 projects in Italy and 14 other countries. These organizations help to fulfill the essential needs of migrants in Italy who are unable to return to their homelands and have no other means of support.

Seren Dere
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Bhutan Over the last 14 years, poverty in Bhutan has substantially decreased. This is a result of the nation’s philosophy of Gross National Happiness and its developmental Five Year Plans. Support from other nations has also helped make Bhutan’s successes possible. With further support, the nation could eradicate poverty within its borders. 

History

Bhutan, officially named the “Kingdom of Bhutan,” is a small nation in South-Central Asia. Historically, poverty in Bhutan has been an ongoing struggle. In 2003, the poverty rate in Bhutan was well above 25%, and the proportion of the population in extreme poverty (living on less than $1.90 a day) was 17.6%. 

However, there have since been major successes in the fight against poverty in Bhutan. As of 2017, poverty in Bhutan was 8.2%, less than a third of what it was 14 years prior. More impressively, the proportion of Bhutan’s population living in extreme poverty dropped to 1.5%. 

Gross National Happiness

The key to success in fighting poverty in Bhutan can be attributed to the nation’s developmental philosophy. The nation does not believe in measuring its progress through the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) lens used by other countries. Rather, Bhutan evaluates its success through Gross National Happiness (GNH) indexing.

The GNH system directs Bhutan’s government to step in and present the country with the best path to maximize the happiness of its citizens. The nation places a high priority on taking the initiative to fight poverty and inequality for this reason. In the country’s 1629 legal code, it states: “If the government cannot create happiness for its people, there is no purpose for the government to exist.” This sentiment still stands today in Bhutan. The government continues to direct its focus on allowing more and more people to pursue happy and healthy lives. 

Five Year Plans

To combat poverty in Bhutan, the country began a series of five-year development plans in 1961. Fittingly named “Five Year Plans,” each successive half-decade strategy sets forward a targeted initiative to address the largest assessed proponent of poverty in Bhutan.

Part of the success of the Five Year Plans was derived from its flexibility. As Bhutan continued to develop and change, the development strategies were able to shift with it. Each new implementation of the Five Year Plans would involve recreating the successes of the previous plan. Thus, any practices that proved to be inefficient could be replaced.

Nevertheless, all of the Five Year Plans initiatives had some commonality that greatly boosted the fight against poverty in Bhutan. The strategies all pushed for increased sources of income generation, expanded social resources, and rural development.

Bhutan’s strategic development planning, in combination with its GNH philosophy, was crucial toward its successes against poverty. However, Bhutan’s vast success would not have been possible without assistance from foreign nations. Further global efforts will continue to play a large role in the fight to eradicate poverty in Bhutan. 

Asa Scott
Photo: Flickr

Anti-Global Poverty Policies
Oftentimes, when one thinks of ending global hunger and poverty, raising and donating money comes to mind. However, analysis of anti-global poverty policies and programs has shown that ending global poverty is so much more than just giving money to individuals and communities. As much as money is important to the creation and implementation of effective programs, giving money directly to the poor is not always the best way to lift people out of poverty in the long term. Rather, it is important not only to invest in the programs that actually work well but also to invest in analysis of ongoing programs to recognize those who do have a positive impact. Moreover, pre-existing programs must constantly undergo updates and improvements as more education emerges about the populations they serve.

In reality, poverty is a much more complicated issue than just a lack of money and thus it requires a more elaborate solution than just pledging cash. Successful anti-poverty programs usually target social infrastructures such as access to health care, education and financial resources. Additionally, anti-poverty policies aim to help citizens not fall prey to exploitation and poor financial decisions. However, in the end, these programs are not successful unless they receive proper implementation and maintenance.

The Problem with Some Anti-Global Poverty Policies

The Borgen Project spoke with Dr. Gabriela Salvador, the Regional Director of Latin America and the Caribbean at AmeriCares; a health-focused poverty and disaster relief organization. Dr. Salvador argues that anti-global poverty policies fail because of a lack of understanding of the problems of individuals living in poverty, as well as a lack of proper implementation of such policies. Her emphasis on understanding the needs of the individual and their living situation stems from her firsthand experience with impoverished communities.

Salvador began her career as a pediatric eye surgeon in Mexico but soon realized that she was only scratching the tip of the iceberg with her work. She believed that it was too late for most of the serious cases and a lot of them could have experienced prevention to begin with. The lack of access to health care systems in impoverished communities blocked people from getting proper care in the first place, and thus, the cases she faced were much worse than they could have been.

Being one person alone, Salvador felt that she could make more of a difference by implementing programs to strengthen weak health care systems and provide relief to struggling communities. She returned to school to study global health and business to learn how to create effective and creative financial solutions to complicated health issues. With over five years of experience working in Latin America designing financially responsible health delivery programs, Salvador now creates and heads a wide variety of programs that include direct provision of services and emergency relief for natural and humanitarian crises.

Collaborating with Communities

Salvador believes that when stripped of religion and culture, the issues facing impoverished individuals are essentially the same globally. Salvador explains that although many programs have the best interest of their target community at heart, they often fail to recognize the barriers that prevent individuals from participating in them. For example, if a sexual health testing and medicine distribution clinic exists in an impoverished community, women may not utilize its resources because they have competing priorities such as child and elderly care, domestic abuse, lack of transportation and other domestic responsibilities. Additionally, Salvador explains that the programs that people launch and leave to work without experiencing proper integration into the local infrastructure of the community do not turn out to be very effective.

She finds that the most effective programs are those that emerge when local officials and professionals collaborate with international aid to understand how to overcome the barriers of individuals in the area. When approaching a new problem, Salvador explains that she first asks the client who the patients are and what their priorities are so that she can best tailor a treatment solution to them. Her goals in targeting global health issues are to generate pragmatic solutions that create direct benefit and resiliency in communities.

The Challenges of Implementing Anti-Poverty Programs

The implementation challenge of anti-poverty programs is clearly one of the biggest reasons why fighting global poverty is such a difficult issue. Connecting with impoverished individuals and identifying their barriers is difficult because of the lack of access to information about specific populations and the abundant funding it takes to collect that information. There is also the issue of choosing who gets the benefit of certain programs; incredibly tough decisions that Salvador cites as perhaps the hardest part of her job. Yet, there is still a way to try and understand the plight of impoverished individuals through human experience.

Salvador emphasizes empathy and an understanding of her privileges as key components of her job. She believes that people need to “roll up their sleeves” and do the work themselves since many are prone to entitlement.

In a 2018 study of Challenges to Global Development Education, researchers Buchanan and Varadharajan underlined the importance of community engagement and individual agency as well. The study also advised strategies that implement drawing attention to understanding the misinformation and closed-mindedness around social and political conditions of impoverished communities. Similar to Salvador, the study suggests creating partnerships between organizations and local communities as well as providing resources to create resilience as an effective way to alleviate poverty issues.

Concluding Thoughts

In the end, people must make an effort to understand more about creating and implementing effective solutions to fight global poverty. However, it is clear that no matter how well designed anti-poverty programs are, they cannot be truly effective unless the communities they are targeting are engaged in their creation and implementation processes.

Data collection and the continued monitoring and analysis of current anti-global poverty policies and programs are impertinent to the future understanding and implementation of successful programs as well. As Dr. Salvador stresses, it is important to remember that impoverished communities contain individuals who have unique problems and issues that may be difficult to understand and relate to. Open-mindedness and a willingness to empathize with and learn about diverse populations is key to creating effective anti-poverty programs. At this time, Salvador continues to combat the COVID-19 stigma and prioritize resiliency and relief as she mitigates the effects of the global downturn of the economy and health care systems due to the pandemic.

– Giulia Silver
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the former Soviet Union
The Soviet Union, also known as the USSR, was a state including several socialist republics in Eurasia. The USSR formed in 1922 following the first successful communist revolution in world history. The Soviet Union disbanded in 1991 and resulted in the formation of 15 independent nations. Meanwhile, poverty in the former Soviet Union nations ensued.

Life Before the Collapse

The Soviet government in each of the republics aspired to equally distribute services and goods within the formal sector. However, gross inequality existed within the Soviet Union, which was similar to the amount of inequality that capitalist countries faced at the time. This inequality combined with shortages in labor and goods in the final years of the Soviet Union led many people to join the informal sector where people could not regulate distribution.

The government’s control over the centralized state dwindled. The structural frameworks were able to do just enough to keep most people out of poverty. However, the Soviet government signed itself out of existence in 1991. Millions of people fell below the poverty line overnight. Additionally, crime, corruption and unemployment became increasingly prominent.

One of the most foreign outcomes of the worsening economy was inequality. An oligarchic class quickly formed, as people made and lost fortunes seemingly out of nowhere.

Poverty Factors

Following the dissolution, market forces overwhelmed a state that had virtually no market involvement for almost 70 years. In addition, funding for government-provided services declined, which left many people without the resources to survive.

Social services that the government provided tended to be poor in quality in order to meet a universal standard. The framework inherited from the former Soviet government proved unsuitable for helping transitioning economies.

The Policies

Poverty in the former Soviet Union was most prominent in the working population. Several of the newly independent states used this to their advantage when making reforms. For example, a labor market reform that had a major impact was engaging the private sector in employment. As a result, the new governments introduced welfare-to-work programs to build self-sufficiency among the people. In addition, private companies were in competition with labor offices to find jobs for the unemployed.

These newly independent states also improved through reform to social benefits. As a result of decentralized government services, the demographics of a specific state or region received better-suited services. One of the most successful forms of social benefit reform was pairing conditional cash benefits with behaviors that encourage social mobility. This way, people could use the resources they received to specifically help their economic status.

The Results

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the soaring poverty rates have steadily declined. Around 40 million people escaped poverty from 1998 to 2003, although there is some disparity in growth between urban and rural areas as well as between different economic classes.

The nations continue to move from a centrally controlled state economy to a privatized economy. Economic growth has been most lucrative for helping people in the former Soviet Union escape poverty.

While poverty continues to be a widespread issue around the world, countries with transitioning economies can look to the new governments in the former Soviet Union. They are a framework for how the government can use its demographic strengths to promote economic benefit for the people.

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Flickr

Social movements in Argentina
There is a vibrant culture of using social movements in Argentina to achieve political change. In recent years, Argentines have created community movements that push change related to hunger, sanitation, gender equality, same-sex rights, psychosocial and emotional treatment reform and much more. Notorious social movements throughout the country’s history of political and economic hardship have led to transformative policies around poverty, inequity and inequality. Here are three notable social movements in Argentina that have fostered attention to human rights and political reform.

Mothers of The Plaza de Mayo and Demilitarization

Between 1976 and 1983, Argentina experienced a period referred to as the “dirty war,” which resulted from a highly-militarized junta ruling under President Jorge Rafael Videla. This militarized dictatorship imposed extreme violence, regular kidnappings and killings of Argentinian citizens. On 30 April 1977, 14 mothers of disappeared children took to the Plaza de Mayo, located directly outside the presidential palace, to protest both the mystery behind their children’s disappearances and state violence. These 14 mothers inspired Argentines with their bravery, encouraging many to speak up about personal sufferings at the hands of the standing government. Eventually, oppositional parties, leading labor groups and other community leaders overthrew this militarized system. Democracy returned in 1983 under elected President Raúl Alfonsín — a long-term result of the heroism of The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo.

The Piquetero Movement

The 2001 Piquetero social movement in Argentina brought destructive neoliberal policies to an end. The neoliberal ideals of President De La Rúa threatened the rights of many Argentines suffering from systemic injustices. Many working-class Argentines lost jobs without governmental support, which rippled to affect local neighborhood living standards. Neoliberal policies perpetuated poor living conditions, unemployment and governmental neglect of basic human rights. Many Argentines had to demonstrate for their own lives.

Neoliberal policy oppressed the primary voices involved in this social movement in Argentina. These groups included the unemployed, labor unions and even middle-class workers. As the Piquetero protests broke out in December 2001, economic minister Domingo Cavallo and President De La Rúa both chose to resign. This allowed local communities to band together with newfound power. Solidarity, equality and equity of need-based opportunity were cultivated across classes, communities and neighborhoods, resulting in permanent, unionized local powers. In 2003, the president-elect of Argentina, Néstor Kirchner, rejected Argentina’s former neoliberal economic system. Still, he brought little reform to systematized social and economic issues within the country.

The Evita Movement

Named after former Argentine first lady Eva Perón, the Evita movement responded to vestigial aggressions of neoliberal economics. Eva Perón championed multiple labor and feminist movements during her husband’s 1946 presidency. Now, Perón is a popular culture idol within the country. Her values are the face of this social movement in Argentina, which fights for the redistribution of wealth and access to human rights.

The movement started in 2003 in support of President Kirchner’s plans for economic and social reform. Although President Kirchner did not reform systemic issues of oppression, the Evita movement is committed to addressing systemic poverty that resulted from Argentina’s debilitating period of neoliberalism. Inspired by Eva Perón’s ideals, the Evita movement works to redistribute wealth and power to people burdened by systemic violence.

Argentina is rich with a history of powerful unions, leaders and communities. With courage, the country has achieved full governmental renewal multiple times and worked to empower oppressed voices. The Argentinian population provides inspiration for social and political change across the globe.

Lilia Wilson
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Morocco
Social and political unrest often take the blame for rising poverty rates in the Arab world. However, unrest alone cannot explain why poverty in Morocco has continued to fall after the Arab Spring protests. It also cannot express why Egypt has seen a relative rise in poverty. However, it is possible to relate the reasons behind the countries’ two trajectories by examining the recent policies of each. Here are five reasons for Morocco’s falling poverty rate. Also included are a few reasons why the poverty rate is climbing in Egypt. This article will highlight the differences between poverty in Morocco and Egypt.

Reasons for Declining Poverty in Morocco

  1. Morocco announced the National Human Development Initiative Support Project (INDH) in 2005. The project had $1  billion budget and a five-year timeline to improve the living conditions of citizens, reduce poverty in Morocco  and assist the most vulnerable families. Unfortunately, much of the funds did not reach the most vulnerable. However, the share of its rural population in poverty that the project targeted was 32 percent while 28 percent of the targeted urban population was in poverty.
  2. Population growth has slowed.Fertility dropped from 5.5 to 2.3 children per adult woman during the past three decades, which settled the population growth rate to 1.7 percent. The result of reduced pressure on public services and better living standards overall occurred due to a changing population structure. Better access to education could be one cause.
  3. The Moroccan government invested in basic infrastructure programs.This included an expansion of the drinking water supply, the electricity network and the road system. In addition, social programs existed for decades that provided free education, access to health care and basic food commodities.
  4. Policymakers shifted from universal public spending to targeted public spending. Prior to this 1996 program designed jointly with the World Bank, policymakers allocated only 1 percent of Morocco’s GDP toward programs that target those living in poverty in Morocco. The Social Priority Program marked a shift from universal public spending to targeted public spending. The program focused on 14 of the poorest provinces with projects in basic education, job creation and social assistance.
  5. NGOs in local development helped people move out of poverty in Morocco. This benefitted the poor in areas such as  water and electricity management and literacy programs. Since a 2002 amendment that allowed NGOs to receive foreign funding, the number of NGOs increased to 40,000 over a period of two decades. Government officials have tolerated NGOs with the understanding that they stay out of local political issues. 

Egypt and the Rise of Poverty

In looking at some of the causes of the falling rate of poverty in Morocco, it is possible to compare it to other nearby countries, as well as examine what policies have not been working in said countries. Egypt is a country that has seen the opposite trend in its overall poverty rate, now climbing to 32.5 percent in 2018, up from 16.7 percent in 2000. However, it is not fair to say that the social and political situations of the countries are equivalent. Egypt faced the removal of two presidents within two years. Still, there are many parallels between the two countries that make a comparison relevant between poverty in Morocco and Egypt. 

Egypt has had a growth rate of 2.15 percent over the past three decades. To give some understanding of what this difference means, Morocco’s population would have been 36 million in 2010 if its growth rates were that of Egypt’s over the same period of timeIn 2010, Morocco’s population was only around 32 million. Providing better access to education may reduce the growth rate, as Egypt’s education system is underfunded and in need of reform.

Policies Impacting Poverty Rates in Egypt

  1. Economic Policies: In terms of economic policies, Egypt has taken a much different approach that has harmed the country’s poor in favor of macroeconomic improvement. It has slashed subsidies for essentials and fuel, a move that helped the government cut its enormous deficit but that has  hit the poor particularly hard. This is somewhat in contrast with the policies of Morocco as the government hiked prices on the essentials of drinking water and electricity. 
  2. NGOs: NGOs have not been able to operate freely due to a 2017 bill hampering their ability to provide social and developmental work. The detainment of many NGO workers has occurred because of their engagement in behavior that some see as morally upsetting.
  3. Infrastructure: Egypt has also invested in infrastructure projects like Morocco but primarily in the private sector. The result has had an insulating effect on the rich. The construction of gated communities and shopping malls continues while public schools and hospitals fall into disrepair. Areas often bulldoze slums and poor housing areas  in favor of upscale complexes that add to a growing housing crisis. 
  4. Floating the Currency: Perhaps the most damaging policy was the decision to float the currency in November 2016 in another effort to strengthen the economy. Prices went up and imports became particularly unaffordable for anyone outside of the upper class. The move occurred in order to secure a $12 billion IMF loan over a threeyear period.

The comparison between poverty in Morocco and Egypt has highlighted useful information about the best policies to eradicate poverty. Poverty in Morocco has decreased dramatically in the past three decades due to a few policies. The policy measures that Egypt has taken unsurprisingly show that slashing subsidies that benefit the poor have had a negative impact on poverty rates. Investing in infrastructure that benefits the poor, subsidizing basic needs and a lenient stance toward foreign NGOs are just a few policies that Arab governments and otherscould enact in order to achieve the results that Morocco has seen.

Caleb Steven Carr
Photo: Pixabay

Education in North Korea
North Korea is a prime example of a hermit kingdom and one of the last remaining communist states. The centralized ideology and oppressive domestic policy closed the society off from the rest of the world, shrouding itself with mystery. How is it possible for the Kim dynasty to maintain its ruling power for so long despite international skepticism? The answer may lie in the careful censorship and indoctrination of the education that shapes the minds of its citizens. Here are the top 10 facts about education in North Korea.

10 Facts About Education in North Korea

  1. Education in North Korea is free and mandatory until the secondary level. North Korea requires students to attend one year of preschool before enrolling in four years of primary school, known as “people’s school.” Depending on their specialties, the students will proceed to either a regular secondary school or a special secondary school from the ages of 10 to 16.
  2. The North Korean education curricula consist of subjects in both academic and political matters. Subjects such as the Korean language, physical education, mathematics and arts make up the majority of instruction in people’s school. North Korea devotes over 8 percent of instruction to the teaching of the “Great Kim Il Sung” and “Communist Morality.” The teaching of these political subjects comprises 5.8 percent of instruction when students get to senior middle schools.
  3. Education in North Korea has claimed the highest literacy rates in the world. There are statistics that claim that all North Koreans over 15 years of age have a 100 percent literacy rate. However, actual statistics might be lower.
  4. Children learn to love and believe in the godlike virtues of the ruling Kim family as early as kindergarten. By the age of 5, North Korean children devote two hours each week to learning about their leaders. By the time they get to secondary school, students spend six classes per week on the subject. The schools and textbooks often tell outlandish stories about the Kim family to deify them. For example, one story tells of how Kim Il-Sung made grenades with pinecones, bullets and sand. Another story tells of how Kim Il-Sung used teleportation when he annihilated the Japanese.
  5. A lot of education in North Korea is propaganda. The system indoctrinates citizens into the system and teaches them to idolize the Kim family as revolutionaries. Distortion of history is another means that the government uses to legitimize the dictatorial regime and accentuate the claims of North Korean greatness. With the careful censorship of outside information, it is not difficult for the regime to change contemporary Korean history or to glorify the Kim family.
  6. Admission to universities is selective and competitive in North Korea. Only students who receive recommendations from their instructors are able to continue their studies at the university level. To receive recommendations, the students must have good senior middle school grades, be from a desirable social class and show high loyalty to the party. Those without recommendations instead go to work in the farms or mines or join the military.
  7. Students start learning foreign languages in secondary school. The most common language is English and then Russian. As the government deems the textbooks from the United Kingdom and Russia as containing too much “dangerous” information, North Korea uses its own textbooks. However, the quality of education is poor as the textbooks have poor writing and include mistakes. Students learn phrases such as “Long live Great Leader Generalissimo Kim Il-sung” before “Hello, how are you?”
  8. Education in North Korea continues even for adults. In rural areas, North Korea organizes people into five-family teams. Schoolteachers or other intellectuals supervise the people for surveillance and educational purposes. Office and factory workers also have to attend study sessions after work each day for two hours. They have to study both technical and political subjects.
  9. North Korea has a special purpose school for children from the elite class and gifted children. Depending on their specialties, children enter one of the four types of schools for special purposes. These include the revolutionary school (also known as the elite school), schools for arts and sports, schools for foreign language and schools for science.
  10. Private tutors or other forms of paying for education in North Korea is technically illegal. The state only trusts itself to properly indoctrinate the young minds into the communist regime. However, since the famine in the 1990s, families have had to provide some type of payment for teachers in order for them to show up to work. This can involve paying money, providing firewood or helping teachers harvest crops. Tutoring has evolved within the grey economy of North Korea as a means for state-school teachers to make ends meet. The regime is willing to turn a blind eye as long as the teachers are not too ostentatious about it.

These top 10 facts about education in North Korea shows the important role of education in indoctrinating citizens and instilling in them unconditional loyalty to the regime. As long as education in North Korea continues to be this way, it is likely that the nation will continue to suffer from the tyranny and suppression from its great leaders.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr