Homelessness in Spain
For many, Spain conjures images of sun-soaked beaches, mouthwatering paellas, mesmerizing flamenco dancers or idyllic windmills towering over Don Quixote. However, Spain is more than the stereotypes that attract its many tourists. It is a complex country with pressing social and economic issues. One such issue is the prevalence of homelessness. Although Spain is a developed country, many are living within its borders without a place to call home. Here are nine facts about homelessness in Spain.

9 Facts About Homelessness in Spain

  1. The Spanish Constitution guarantees shelter. Article 47 of the Constitution, ratified in 1978, clearly states that all Spanish citizens have the right to “decent and adequate housing.”
  2. Unfortunately, approximately 0.07% of Spaniards are homeless. Recent surveys on homelessness in Spain estimate the homeless population to be between 23,000 and 35,000 people.
  3. Most Spaniards spend about 20% of their income on housing. Access to safe and stable housing is the prerequisite for avoiding homelessness. The average Spanish worker takes home around 34,000 euros per year, meaning that 6,800 euros would go toward rent. However, in major cities like Madrid and Barcelona, housing prices are steeper.
  4. Homelessness in Spain is increasing. The aftermath of economic and financial crises coupled with growing unemployment have left many unable to pay for adequate housing. The unemployment rate in Spain is now 14.41% and climbing from 13.78% last year. Data from the Spanish National Statistics Institute (INE) shows that from 2016 to 2018, the average number of people sleeping in homeless shelters increased by 9.5%.
  5. Most homeless people in Spain are men. A survey from 2012 found that 80.3% of homeless Spaniards are men. However, certain cities like Segovia are reporting increased proportions of homeless women.
  6. Negative policy changes are exacerbating the homelessness problem. Many autonomous communities in Spain are making cuts to welfare and homelessness services. The support that remains may be harder for vulnerable Spaniards to access because of more stringent eligibility requirements.
  7. The Spanish capital is especially hard on its homeless population. The Madrid city government has enacted architectural changes making it more difficult for the homeless to sleep in public. For example, there are armrests on benches, sloping benches and spikes on ledges and in doorways. All of these changes are to prevent homeless persons from sleeping outside. These recent changes are likely an effort to protect businesses and tourism in the city.
  8. However, positive policy changes are taking place as well. In 2015, the Spanish government enacted the Comprehensive National Homelessness Strategy. This strategy includes research, an impact study and support for homelessness services in major cities such as Barcelona. In Barcelona, a comprehensive four-year strategy has emerged that emphasizes the recognition of the rights of the homeless, access to healthcare, prevention of overcrowding in homeless shelters and improving the social perception of the city’s homeless.
  9. Certain NGOs are picking up where the government falls short. One such organization is Hogar Sí, a group that uses a housing-first strategy to ensure access to healthcare, right to housing and eradication of hate crimes for the homeless in Spain.

Economic crises and rising housing costs during the last 15 years have left scars that continue to harm Spain’s homeless population. Additionally, the Spanish economy’s dependence on tourism has led some politicians to enact changes that push homeless people away from popular cities, like Madrid. However, the national government is taking steps to combat homelessness, and this will perhaps inspire mayors and leaders of autonomous communities to follow suit.

– Addison Collins 
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in MoroccoMorocco is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy in Northern Africa. Using its geographical proximity to Europe, the country is positioning itself to become the trade center of Africa. Combining this with low-cost labor, Morocco is moving toward an open market economy. Mohammed VI, the current sovereign of Morocco, has reigned over a steadily growing economy. However, poverty in Morocco is still a major issue that demands the government’s attention.

An Improving Economy

Morocco’s economy has enjoyed steady growth since 1960. Agriculture, tourism, aerospace, phosphates, textiles and sub-components are some of the major sectors that support the country’s economic expansion. In order to further support their increased industrial development and trade, Morocco built a new port and free trade zone near the city of Tangier. Due to these efforts, Morocco’s GDP rose from 2.03 billion in 1960 to 117.92 billion in 2018. However, even with this massive rise in the country’s GDP, income disparity is still an issue.

Income Inequality in Morocco

Income inequality is one of the main issues that reflects the state of poverty in Morocco. In 2018, the OECD published a report which observed the country’s alarming income inequality. The report found that Morocco’s Gini Coefficient, an index of a country’s income inequality, was the highest of all countries in Northern Africa, at 40.3%. This inequality has far-reaching implications in Morocco. In his interview with Reuters in 2019, Ahmed Lahlimi, the head of Morocco’s official statistics agency, stated that social “disparities often trigger protests because they are viewed as a result of an illegitimate accumulation of wealth.”

A report by Oxfam also found that Morocco’s income inequality has considerable consequences. In the report, Oxfam showed that it would take 154 years for a normal employee to earn what Moroccan billionaires can make in a year. This is especially concerning because an estimated 1.6 million Moroccan citizens live in poverty. Inequality is also made evident by the difference in literacy rates between urban areas and rural areas: as of 2011, urban children were 2.7 times more likely to learn reading skills than those living in rural areas. While the literacy rate in Morocco rose from 69% in 2012 to 73% in 2018, it is clear that more needs to be done to improve the differences between urban and rural access to quality education.

Alleviating Income Inequality

In 2005, King Mohammed VI launched the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH), which aims to reduce poverty in Morocco by improving living conditions, assisting vulnerable social groups and supporting Moroccan families. The third phase of INDH, which will last from 2019 to 2023, will use its 1.9 billion dollar budget to improve basic social services and infrastructure around Morocco. As of 2019, the initiative has created 44,000 projects, 17,000 actions and 9,400 income-generating activities in an effort to bridge the inequality gap in Morocco. The country also took on a loan from The World Bank to reduce unemployment in Morocco. The government plans to use the loan to improve private sector employment, human resources, accelerate digitalization and quality of education.

While Morocco’s economy is improving, it is clear that poverty is an issue that still affects many people. Although the developing economy of Morocco improved the lives of many, it also resulted in extreme income disparities. This inequality impacts many citizens, as made apparent by the difference in literacy rates between children in urban and rural areas. Luckily, King Mohammed VI and the Moroccan government have taken measures to alleviate income disparity and poverty in Morocco. With the beginning of INDH’s third phase, many people in Morocco hope for a better future.

– YongJin Yi 
Photo: Flickr

mushroom farming combats povertyIn the United States, mushrooms pop up on pizzas, in salads and as a side to any number of popular dishes. Most people do not give much thought to where the fungus on their fork came from. However, mushrooms are not an afterthought to many around the globe. Indeed, mushroom farming combats poverty globally, providing both a source of nutrition and income.

How Mushrooms are Farmed

Unlike most crops, mushrooms are not grown in a field. Instead, these edible fungi thrive in dark, warm places. Thus, many people farming mushrooms on a small scale do so in their homes or in an outbuilding.

Mushrooms thrive off decaying vegetation and other agricultural waste, and they can be raised in stacked beds, making them fairly low maintenance, especially compared to fruits or vegetables. They can also grow three times as quickly as some other crops, so they provide a steadier source of food or income.

Successfully cultivating mushrooms can yield a return of up to four times the initial investment. Additionally, mushrooms are a source of “potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron” as well as fiber and protein. This makes them an adaptable and potent tool in fighting malnutrition.

Successes in East Asia

Mushrooms provide an alternative income source for many women in Bangladesh. One such woman is Kajal. At a young age, both her legs were paralyzed. After she married, Kajal discovered Access Bangladesh, an initiative designed to teach disabled people practical skills they could use to earn money.

One such skill was mushroom cultivation, which provides Kajal and her family around 3,000 taka ($35) monthly. For a country with a GDP per capita of around $1,200, this additional income can be a deciding factor in a family’s subsistence. With funding from Canada, the Bangladesh Skills for Employment and Productivity Project and Access Bangladesh have helped nearly 600 people learn mushroom cultivation, around 300 of whom are women.

In Nepal, mushrooms possess the power to play a critical role in alleviating poverty. However, many communities lack the key resources needed to successfully cultivate mushrooms. These resources include sufficient upfront investment, current technologies and high-quality mushroom spawn.

To address these barriers, PHASE Worldwide, an NGO operating in Nepal, provides high-quality mushroom spawn and teaches cultivation methods to impoverished communities. In addition to their work with mushrooms, PHASE has trained more than 1,000 farmers in vegetable cultivation.

A Growing Market in Africa

As in East Asia, mushrooms are helping farmers in Africa combat poverty and create sustainable agriculture. In Rwanda, Laurent Demuynck, a former New York brewery operator, started Kigali Farms in 2010. His goal was to create a commercial mushroom enterprise in Rwanda. African mushroom farmers commonly ran into trouble with low yield and high costs, something Demuynck wanted to solve. Kigali Farms started growing oyster mushrooms, and in 2016, USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative partnered with Kigali to establish button mushroom production as well. Today, Kigali Farms is exporting mushrooms to Kenya and Uganda, as well as selling them locally.

One input needed for mushroom cultivation is straw, which Demuynck purchased from local wheat farmers, mainly women. This proved a boon for the wheat farmers since the straw left over after the harvest had previously held little value. USAID assisted in the effort and established three collection centers for farmers to store their straw before selling it to Kigali.

How Mushrooms Made One Girl Famous

In Tibet, matsutake mushrooms—one of the most valuable mushrooms in the world—grow at elevations of 13,000 feet or more. Faced with increasing bills, Geru Drolma went searching for matsutakes and live-streamed the search. That video received a large number of views in a short period of time and requests for matsutakes and cordyceps, another type of fungus, poured in.

This led Drolma and other villagers in her remote Tibetan community to set up a cooperative. They made more than $500,000 harvesting fungi in their first year. Drolma’s initial mushroom video also led her to concentrate on filming and posting snippets of Tibetan life. She has garnered 1.9 million followers since then.

Mushrooming Success

People like Laurent Demuynck and Geru Drolma all started with an idea that grew into something that impacted those around them. Additionally, initiatives in Bangladesh and Nepal also helped kickstart similar ideas. Thanks to ideas with backing, East Asian and African mushroom farming combats poverty at an extremely successful rate.

– Jonathan Helton
Photo: Pixabay

TikTok in Africa
TikTok, the popular video-sharing social media platform, has taken a unique approach to enter the African market by empowering young Africans to take a stance as influencers. Many users on the site share short entertaining videos of themselves or friends singing and dancing along to popular songs. They can connect to others based on shared viewing interests. Some users of TikTok in Africa have decided to take things a step further and use the platform to share their support for certain ideas or causes.

TikTok for Good

One way the company encourages activism on its platform is through the TikTok for Good program, where users receive encouragement to share hashtags across the site that promote causes they are passionate about. “TikTok wants to inspire and encourage a new generation to have a positive impact on the planet and those around them,” the company wrote in a statement on its website. By uploading videos with a hashtag that represents a specific cause or campaign, users can become influencers and advocates and continue to share videos within the trend.

Some of the most successful TikTok for Good trends in the past have been #PetBff and #CreateForACause. #PetBff celebrated International Homeless Animals’ Day in 2019 in partnership with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). TikTok encouraged users to share videos of their pets, and for every video that it posted from Aug. 19 to Aug. 22, 2019, the company donated $1 to the ASPCA. According to the TikTok website, the trend had over 490,000 videos created and raised $75,000, the company’s maximum pledge amount. Similarly, #CreateForACause encouraged users to use special holiday filters in their videos in support of DoSomething.org, a completely youth-led nonprofit organization that advocates for social change; Best Friends Animal Society, a nonprofit organization in support of animal welfare and Oceana, an international ocean conservation advocacy group. TikTok pledged a $2 million donation to the charities during the campaign.

#DanceforChange Inspires Advocacy

A popular advocacy trend on TikTok in Africa has been the #DanceforChange challenge in partnership with the United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). IFAD is a Rome-based U.N. agency that works to encourage individuals, companies and countries around the world to invest in more sustainable agriculture in order to improve food security across the globe. According to its website, IFAD has given $20.9 billion in loans and grants towards 1,069 sustainable agriculture projects that it has supported in partnership with 125 governments. In total, it has reached approximately 483 million people around the world with its programs.

The #DanceforChange challenge encourages users to post dancing content to the site with the hashtag. The videos act as a virtual petition that IFAD uses in support of greater investment in sustainable agriculture across rural African communities. “IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience,” the organization said in a statement on its website.

Sherrie Silver, IFAD’s advocate for rural youth and an MTV award-winning choreographer, partnered with the popular African recording artist Mr Eazi to highlight the TikTok campaign in the hopes of inspiring more African youth to take action using the site. “We are dancing to capture the world’s attention and to share a message with young people everywhere: our generation can end global hunger, but only if our leaders invest more in agriculture and the next generation of young farmers,” Silver said in an interview with IFAD.

The #DanceforChange challenge goes further than other TikTok for Good trends by both offering African youth a space to showcase its talents and giving them the opportunity to advocate for themselves and their communities to a global audience. The platform allows users of TikTok in Africa to catch the rest of the world’s attention and ask for help addressing issues like hunger and inefficient agricultural practices that they still face in poverty.

TikTok in Africa

The Chinese-based company quickly gained popularity in the United States and across Europe, though TikTok is now focusing on the African market. Along with the #DanceforChange challenge, TikTok has begun moving some company operations into Africa. For example, in 2018 TikTok partnered with Nairobi Garage, a co-working space in Nairobi that offers meeting rooms, club space and private offices, to offer educational sessions on creating content and safe practices while using the platform. The company also began hiring local staff for TikTok in Africa throughout Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa in order to both provide jobs within each country’s business sector and connect to the local African market from within.

By moving TikTok into Africa, the company has been able to offer formal employment opportunities at its new office spaces, which in turn helps to reduce poverty levels in those countries as incomes and quality of life increases. Additionally, TikTok is able to create a more inclusive audience as African creators and influencers join the platform to share their culture.

TikTok in Africa continues to make a positive impact both within the country and across the globe by connecting people from impoverished backgrounds to the same creative spaces the rest of the world is able to access. Not only does the app inspire users around the world to advocate for development in Africa, but it also empowers youth within Africa to take their own action to fight hunger because they have a chance for others to hear and see them.

– Myranda Campanella
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Cyprus
Cyprus is an island country in the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Turkey, with a population of 1.2 million. The Republic of Cyprus, the country’s only internationally recognized government and part of the European Union, controls 60% of the southern region of the island. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus controls 36% of land in the north region of the island. The division between the North and South republics of Cyprus has created a power struggle of high tension, leaving the island politically unstable. Despite this instability, Cyprus has seen an improvement in decreasing poverty rates, as well as an expanding economy. Here are seven facts about poverty in Cyprus.

7 Facts About Poverty in Cyprus

  1. Cyprus’s economy is growing and expanding. Its tourism sector saw a significant boost in 2018 when over four million travelers visited the island, a 7.8% increase from 2017. This increase in tourism correlates to its increase in GDP per capita, rising from 25,957.85 to 28,341.05 in 2018. Experts expect Cyprus’s GDP per capita to increase even more in 2020, with models estimating a 1.03% increase.
  2. When Cyprus gained independence in 1960, it began transitioning to a service economy. Cyprus’s economy started focusing more on its tourism and service sectors instead of agriculture. This allowed the GDP to rise. As of 2020, Cyprus’s GDP is $34.5 billion, a 3.9% growth since 2019.
  3. Cyprus’s unemployment rate has decreased. With the expansion of Cyprus’s economy came more jobs in the tourism and service sectors. As a result, unemployment rates have decreased.  Since 2015, the country has cut its unemployment rate almost in half, from 14.91% in 2015 to 7.92% in 2019.
  4. Education in Cyprus is growing. Today, Cyprus has five private universities and three public ones. Both are rapidly expanding and connecting with other institutions across the globe. These schools continuously put millions of dollars back into the local economy, thus, providing thousands of jobs for the community.
  5. Life-expectancy is increasing in Cyprus. As of 2020, the island’s life expectancy is 81.05 years, a 0.19% increase from 2019. Future projections from U.N. data predict a continuous upward trend.
  6. Cyprus does not have a standard minimum wage law for all workers. However, some occupations do have certain wage requirements set by the cabinet. These requirements are reviewed and revised annually in an effort to be fair to citizens. Since there is no countrywide minimum wage, however, this leaves room for many disparities in poverty and wealth.
  7. The Economic Interdependence Project is a partnership between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Cyprus Chambers of Commerce. Created in 2009, the project’s goal is to intervene and encourage partnerships between businesses of both parties. The project hopes to reveal the benefits of the two communities working together to improve Cyprus’s economic stability and growth. They have been able to open the first island-wide business directory with over 200 businesses. Additionally, the project also gave Market Research Grants to some businesses. 

Despite Cyprus’s political tensions between the southern and northern regions, the country has expanded its economy, increased tourism and implemented programs that encourage business relationships. These factors have allowed for an overall decrease in poverty in Cyprus. Hopefully, this progress will continue in the coming years.

– George Hashemi 
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty in Pakistan
Founded during the partition of India and located in South Asia, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world, with a population of more than 210 million. Cornerstones of Pakistani culture include incredible cuisine, iconic architecture and the popular game of cricket. However, like so many nations across the globe, Pakistani citizens are forced to confront the harsh reality of extreme poverty. Here are ten facts about poverty in Pakistan.

10 Facts About Poverty in Pakistan

  1. As of 2015, approximately 24% of Pakistani citizens lived below the national poverty line. This is more than twice the global percentage of people living in extreme poverty and amounts to more than 50 million people in Pakistan living in poverty.
  2. Nearly 4% of Pakistan lives below $1.90 a day. As a result, nearly 9 million Pakistani citizens live in extreme poverty. This puts them below the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) outlined in the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.
  3. As of 2018, almost 7% of babies died before their fifth birthday. Life in poverty makes it extremely difficult to have access to proper housing, nutrition and medication.
  4. The adult illiteracy rate in Pakistan is around 35%. Unequal access to proper and requisite education is inseparable from the reality of poverty.
  5. Pakistan also faces a severe overpopulation problem. While the nation has the fifth-highest population in the world, it takes up less than a percent of this planet’s surface. Overpopulation and unequal access to education amplify problems caused by poverty.
  6. Pakistan has a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.560. The nation ranks 152nd out of 189 countries and territories. In the last three decades, Pakistan’s HDI has increased by nearly 40%.
  7. Appproximately 38% of Pakistani citizens are living in multidimensional poverty. Another 13% are vulnerable to this status. From 2004 to 2015, the multidimensional poverty rate has dropped from 55% to its current rate at 38%.
  8. Poverty levels in Pakistan fluctuate throughout regions. In urban areas, poverty rates are around 9%, while in rural areas poverty rates rise all the way to 55%. This disparity can be seen among provinces in the Republic as well.
  9. About 25 million Pakistani families rely on wage workers. They have unfortunately become vulnerable due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Prime Minister has said that the pandemic is harder to deal with in countries facing the challenges of poverty.
  10. The Pakistani government hopes to receive $5 billion in financial aid. This would come from outside sources and countries, along with the $1.3 billion they have already received from the IMF.

With continued efforts, poverty in Pakistan will hopefully decrease. The Citizens Foundation is one of many non-profits that have been working to improve the quality of life for underprivileged Pakistani citizens. In 25 years, the Citizens Foundation has created 1,652 schools, providing a proper education to over 266,000 children who would not have had it otherwise. These schools also combat gender inequality in Pakistan, as they have all-female faculty and a 50% student gender ratio.

However, there is still work to be done. In Pakistan, gender disparities compound the unjust realities of poverty. Poverty rates in rural areas are more than five times higher than those in urban areas. Yet, similar to global trends, the amount of people living in poverty in Pakistan has clearly been decreasing in recent years. This is in large part due to individuals and organizations dedicating themselves to the cause of ending poverty. These continued efforts will help fight and eventually end poverty in Pakistan, and in turn will make the Republic a more just and equal country for all those who call it home.

Ehran Hodes
Photo: Flickr

poverty in switzerland
The media often refers to Switzerland as one of the wealthiest countries, a country that others “look to as a model in ‘liberal-market economy’ within Europe.” Many positively know Switzerland for its place in the human development index (HDI), overall being quite stable and prosperous in developments regarding wealth and happiness. Despite this, it still requires aid to support hundreds of thousands in Switzerland struggling to make ends meet, with the poverty index having grown from 7.5% in 2016 to 8.2% in 2017. Here is some information about poverty in Switzerland.

The Poverty Line

The poverty line, although low in comparison to the population of 8,651,647, affects more than 660,000 per year as of 2018. Around 3.2% of those people are reliant on welfare from the government. The welfare that they receive is better known as the ‘basket of goods,’ a monthly payment to provide for basic necessities. Basic needs include food and clothes, for which individuals will receive CHF1,000 ($961.70), as well as CHF1,000 for housing and CHF200 ($192.34) for health insurance as of 2020.

Welfare is not the only aid that the government offers. Persons who receive welfare may also have to meet with a budget advisor to help improve financial stability. Depending on personal status, one may have to continue looking for work or join an integration program.

People 18 and younger along with those who are 64 and older are more likely to struggle with poverty in Switzerland. Those older than 64 struggle the most as a result of lack of education, ability to work and limited resources. For many, life continues despite living paycheck to paycheck.

NGOs in Switzerland

There are 26 total NGOs providing assistance in Switzerland and neighboring countries. Caritas Switzerland is one of them, and is working to “reduce poverty in half.” Caritas is a global organization, with the goal to reduce poverty globally as well as provide emergency relief and post-natural disaster reconstruction. Caritas emerged in Switzerland in 1901, working to provide aid for those experience financial disadvantages such as single mothers, retirees and refugees. Caritas has been able to provide assistance to those battling with hunger, hygiene and humanitarian aid.  Additionally, it offers resources for debt relief education and income support.

Though the poverty line in Switzerland is significantly low, predictions determine that the rate of poverty will increase in the upcoming years. With the support of many NGOs, there is hope for the future. HEKS/EPER implemented 248 projects in 2019 to provide aid in Switzerland and 32 other countries in need. HEKS/EPER raised CHF31.2 million through donations from organizations and foundations as well as income from services, with a goal to assist social distress, poverty and post-natural disasters.

HEKS/EPER also created the project HEKS Wohnen, a program to assist those who may be socially disadvantaged find living quarters. Wohnen has the ability to provide a home and daily assistance if necessary. To date, it has helped 95 persons, with 93.7% of those having positive outcomes with families or persons finding sustainable housing and independence.

Despite projections that Switzerland’s poverty line will increase within the next couple of years, the support of NGOs such as HEKS/EPER, Caritas Switzerland and government welfare reform programs has presented positive opportunities to provide aid and assistance to those living in the country. Switzerland may have the ability to decrease its poverty projections with the support systems in place.

– Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in Thailand
With the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia, Thailand is a relatively wealthy country. Its vibrant culture, delicious food and beautiful scenery attract millions of visitors a year, greatly contributing to its economy. On top of the tourism industry, Thailand exports many commodities like rice, rubber and coconuts. The country also produces goods like textiles, cement and plastics. Though Thailand’s poverty rate has decreased by 65% since 1988, impoverished living conditions are still a pressing issue in the country. The poverty rate fluctuates and currently, it is on the uprise. Here are five facts about poverty in Thailand.

5 Facts About Poverty in Thailand

  1. Poverty is on the rise in Thailand. In 2015, the poverty rate was just 7.2%. This figure has risen to almost 10%. That amounts to 2 million more people living beneath the poverty line, a substantial increase in only a few years. The rise in poverty does not occur in only a few of the country’s regions. Since 61 out of 77 provinces have seen a rise in poverty, one cannot attribute the current situation regarding poverty in Thailand to one specific community or circumstance. It is a widespread problem with profound implications for the livelihood of all Thai people.
  2. The rise in poverty is mainly due to economic reasons. Honing a 4.1% GDP growth rate in 2018 (one of the lowest in the region), the lack of economic progression in Thailand greatly affects its citizens. Additionally, Thailand has the fourth highest wealth inequality rates in the world at 90.2%, meaning there is a huge disparity between the richest and poorest people in the country. Without economic development and wealth equality, cycles of impoverishment will continue to trap the people of the nation.
  3. Environmental disasters have pushed more Thai people into poverty. Agriculturists (who make up 31.8% of the workforce) are already a poor group in the country, but the recent droughts in the past year have impoverished them even more. This combination of economic and environmental factors pushes farmers into even more poverty. Droughts are not the only natural disaster devastating the country. The floods and tsunamis that hit the country throughout the 2000s perpetuated even more poverty in Thailand. These natural disasters are inevitable, yet the lack of safety nets in the country is damaging the livelihoods of farmers.
  4. One of the demographics that poverty affects the most in Thailand is children. As of 2012, 7% of children weighed in as underweight and 16% experience stunting (impaired physical or psychological development due to a lack of nourishment during adolescence). The severe lack of resources could greatly impair future generations in the country. UNICEF is quite active in Thailand, working to alleviate child mortality and malnourishment. Due to its work, the child mortality rate has decreased four-fold; yet, there is still more the country requires.
  5. A solution to the poverty crisis in the country is an increase in social safety nets. Considering that environmental disasters and economic factors contribute to the rise in poverty, government-sanctioned programs to protect the Thai people are one of the easiest solutions to this problem. If Thailand can pinpoint which demographics are most susceptible to poverty, the government can create specific jobs and policies to protect its most vulnerable people.

Despite these five facts about poverty in Thailand, there are still many success stories for the country in terms of poverty alleviation. According to the Asian Development Bank, nobody in Thailand lives in extreme poverty (under $1.90 a day). Everyone in the country has access to electricity, water sanitation is excellent and education rates are high. However, to ensure every single citizen of Thailand is free from poverty, the government must continue to invest in economic development and produce innovative jobs for vulnerable populations. Only then can all be free from the insufferable conditions that poverty produces.

Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Iraq
About 22% of Iraqis live in poverty. Poverty in Iraq is a dynamic issue, the facets of which have changed with the country’s progress and efforts at modernization. Urbanization and the discovery of vast oil reserves have adversely impacted Iraqis with corruption and conflict driving poverty rates up. The following are four exceedingly relevant facts about poverty in Iraq and what the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a nongovernmental organization that emerged in 1933 to respond to international humanitarian crises, has done to help since entering Iraq in 2003.

4 Facts About Poverty in Iraq

  1. Urbanization and Food Shortages: Recent conflict and economic change have caused Iraqis to concentrate in urban areas. Iraq is 70.7% urbanized and is nearly unrecognizable in comparison to its agricultural past. Poor agricultural policies have catalyzed this shift toward urbanization and overcrowding in cities. This, combined with military and economic crises, has resulted in as many as one in six households experiencing some form of food insecurity. Iraq has a universal food ration program called the Public Distribution System (PDS), which is its most extensive social assistance program, but it has not been enough. Many Iraqis who have either lost access to the PDS or find that it does not cover enough, have turned to humanitarian agencies like the IRC for aid. Since 2003, the IRC has helped hundreds of thousands of people: in 2018 alone, it assisted 95,000 Iraqis, providing financial, familial, educational and professional support.
  2. Corruption and Oil: According to Transparency International, Iraq is the 13th most corrupt country. The Iraqi government often subsidizes inefficient state industries, which has led many Iraqis to view government and business leaders as corrupt. With the rise in oil prices over the past decades, Iraq’s government had sufficient funds to complete significant reconstruction and aid projects. However, poverty in Iraq has not improved. The oil sector provides an estimated 85 to 95% of government revenue. High-level corruption in Iraq impedes the development of private, non-oil business sectors, spurring overdependence on oil. Protests were rampant in 2019 with Iraqis indignant that their economy was flush with oil money but their government was too corrupt to provide basic services. Average Iraqi citizens never see oil profits due to the corrupt nature of the Iraqi government, which empowers politicians through informal agreements and patronage. Leaders hand out government jobs to build their support networks and stifle dissent, making the public sector inefficient and draining oil profits such that there is little left over for investment in social programs. While federal social programs are lacking and corruption is still serious, NGOs like the IRC have stepped in to pick up the slack and somewhat lighten the suffering of many Iraqis.
  3. Poverty and Unemployment: Roughly 95% of young Iraqis believe they need strong connections to those in power in order to obtain employment. Overall, unemployment is at 11% with one-third of Iraqi youths unemployed and 22% of the population living in poverty. The aforementioned protests in 2019 involved young Iraqis frustrated at being unable to find work, and projections determine that unemployment and poverty will worsen even further in 2020. The United Nations expects the poverty rate to double to around 40%, with monthly oil revenues falling from $6 to 1.4 billion between February and April 2020 due to the recent collapse in global oil prices. To combat these figures, the International Rescue Committee has provided over 40,000 people with emergency supplies, business training and funding to help Iraqis rebuild their lives.
  4. War and Internal Displacement: Conflict with ISIS led to the displacement of over 6 million Iraqis from 2014 to 2017, and about 1.5 million Iraqis remain in camps despite the recent territorial defeat of the terrorist organization. The rise and conquest of ISIS was a primary driver behind the increase of the poverty rate to the current level of 22%, with forced displacement and brutal violence leading to the destruction of Iraqi homes, assets and livelihoods. The above factors have struck internally displaced persons (IDPs) the hardest — few IDPs have employment and most have to support an average of six other members in their household. On top of all this is the fact that many IDPs have lost access to what little the PDS food program does supply, illustrating the true humanitarian challenge of poverty in Iraq. While the displacement and refugee issue is still serious today, the International Rescue Committee has aided over 20,900 women and girls to recover from the violence, providing hope for a battered people.

Despite expansive oil profits flooding into the Iraqi system, this money does not reach ordinary Iraqis who struggle to provide for their families. The failure of urbanization, stark unemployment and violent conflict with ISIS have exacerbated the lack of action from corrupt business and political leaders to address the systemic issue of poverty.

Experts expect global poverty to worsen during the current COVID-19 pandemic, especially in Iraq. Combined with the recent crash in oil prices, this will likely lead to serious unrest in a country that has struggled for decades to bring about some semblance of effective governance. Despite the ongoing issues that these four facts about poverty in Iraq show, hope continues to live on thanks to organizations like the IRC that are able to provide aid.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: U.S. Department of Defense

women are more affected by global poverty
Women often make up the backbone of home and society, however, global poverty often affects women the most. Women across the globe are still fighting for equality in their workplaces, general society and in their own homes. This inequality is a significant factor why women make up the bulk of the impoverished population in the world.

According to data that the U.S. Census Bureau released in 2017, the maximum rate of poverty for men was 7% while the minimum poverty rate for women was 9.7%. Depending on the race and demographics, this rate only tends to increase. Here are five ways that global poverty affects women.

5 Ways that Global Poverty Affects Women

  1. Gender Wage Gap: The availability of equally paid jobs is critical in making women independent and hence improving any economy. According to the World Economic Forum, the annual average earnings of the men around the world was $23,000 in 2018. In contrast, the global average of annual earnings of women was only $12,000. The international intergovernmental economic organization G7 inferred from collected data that the gender wage gap is prevalent throughout the world. Furthermore, G7 determined that the gender wage gap does not depend on the current financial status of any country. The G7 claimed that the global average gender wage gap was still 17% in the year 2016. Moreover, discrepancies in the wages that employers paid to women, even in developed countries, affected women in economically weaker countries and low-paying jobs significantly.
  2. Job Segregation:  The International Labor Organization (ILO) found that nearly 80% of the female labor force works in the service sectors and less-paid clerical jobs contrary to managerial, professional or leadership roles. More women in administrative positions would bring in diverse and complementing perspectives into the idea pool. An increase in females in administrative positions would also allow an insight into the female consumers’ psyche. All of these benefits, plus an increase in creativity, would consequently increase revenue. In most countries, including many developed countries, the number of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is unquestionably lesser than men. Only 28% of employees in STEM fields, which are the fastest-growing with higher paid jobs, are women. In addition to conservative social norms and gender bias, the lack of female role models also contributes to the smaller women labor force in STEM fields.
  3. Motherhood: Pregnancy can often be the tipping point in any woman’s career path. While women may face wage penalties, men might win salary premiums. Women frequently choose to take time off to stay at home and care for their children. However, the career break adversely affects their salaries even after they return to work. From the data that a study in Denmark conducted, a country with high gender equality measures, the salary of women sharply dropped nearly 3% after the birth of the first child and never recovered.
  4. Unpaid Caregiving: Another way that global poverty affects women is that they often don the role of caregivers for the elders and children in a family more than men, which is unpaid work. This extra work, nearly twice to 10 times the work that men do, is worth almost $11 trillion per year. Although women’s unpaid work amounts to nearly four years more work than men, women still earn less at their paid jobs. This is most likely due to the fact that women prefer part-time and easily transferable jobs after having a baby, in order to provide proper care for the child. Policies targeting lower childcare costs might help women in the long run. Additionally, policies focusing on incentives for men in sharing the childcare and domestic chores would also help women greatly. In general, providing any sort of assistance to alleviate the extra work of women would help in the long run. For example, women in Malawi spend 54 minutes a day on average collecting water. Providing labor-saving infrastructure results in less time obtaining water and more paid hours for women. Gender inequality in developing countries costs their economies $9 trillion per year. In Latin America, women’s paid work increased between 2000 and 2010. This resulted in a 30% reduction in poverty.
  5. Gender-biased Illiteracy: In low-income countries, the average literacy rate of men is 70% and 50% for women. In the 2014 World Value Survey, 26% of people across the world said that university education is comparatively more essential for a boy than a girl. A 2016 study in Nepal revealed that the poorer households sacrificed the literacy of daughters for better job prospects for sons.

How Organizations are Helping

Countries around the world have begun to realize that the inclusion of women, especially in leadership roles, is necessary for sustained, overall development. LivelyHoods, a nonprofit organization, noticed that the women were mainly the ones who dealt with household energy. In Kenya, indoor pollution due to smoke from conventional stoves causes 13,000 deaths per year. In an effort to combat indoor pollution, LivelyHoods employed the rural women population in Kenya to distribute life-improving, affordable, clean-energy products to the local population. The network of saleswomen that the organization employed distributed eco-friendly products like solar products, clean-burning cookstoves and many others. Of the top 10% of the salesforce, 90% are women who earn up to $1,000 per month. Over 1,500 trained women employees have distributed 26,000 clean energy products so far. This is an inspiring example of how indispensable women are to global development.

Ideas for Moving Forward

To help impoverished women improve their quality of life, governments could offer publicly financed schemes of extended leaves of absence for new mothers; replace individual taxation with family taxation so that the burden on the secondary earners, who are mostly women, lifts; provide tax benefits for low-wage earners; reduce the childcare cost for working women; encourage businesses to develop better practices like pay transparency and regular wage assessment based on gender; conduct free workshops for women to impart vocational skills as well as to spread awareness of various available job opportunities; offer equal job opportunities to women; conduct workshops in the men’s workplaces to show them how their personal and nation’s economy will flourish by sharing the childcare and domestic duties. Even implementing just a few of these tactics could help reduce the inequality women around the world face.

– Nirkkuna Nagaraj 
Photo: Flickr