Karoshi Culture in AnimationJapan, known for its global economic power, has started developing solutions to Karoshi, or death by overwork. This phenomenon started in the late 1960s and gained media traction in the 1990s when several company executives died suddenly. Karoshi culture in animation, specifically, is a significant issue as workers experience unlivable wages and long hours.

How Prominent is Karoshi Culture?

The Hitotsubashi Journal of Social Studies suggests that the exploitation of Japanese workers is a Western disease that has caused as many deaths as motor vehicle accidents. This issue is specific to Japan because of the “workaholic” mindset of the Japanese economy. On average, Japanese workers do 100 to 200 more overtime hours than other developed nations.

Karoshi’s Effect on Animators

Karoshi culture in animation largely has to do with wage theft and overwork. In 2010, a 28-year-old animator committed suicide shortly after he quit his job. The animator worked hundreds of hours of overtime without pay for several months. An online journal that the animator kept documented that he had only taken three days off in 10 months and worked as late as 4 a.m.

Young workers are consistently the most exploited demographic as highly sought out animators still work for abysmal wages. The median wage for animators in 2019 was $36,000, with many low-end illustrators making as little as $200 per week. Comparatively, the average animator in the United States makes between $65,000 to $75,000.

Companies can get away with this because many animators are self-employed or freelance workers. Employees receive pay on a per-project basis, which means that employers can refuse to pay animators if they do not complete more work. This financial insecurity often drives workers to suicide or the hospital. Many workers have died from heart attacks or strokes.

Karoshi and the Japanese Economy

Many animators must choose between their job and starting families. Animator Ryosuke Hirakimoto told The Japan Times that he had never made more than $38 a day. He ultimately quit after his first child was born. Hirakimoto “started to wonder if this lifestyle was enough.”

Animators leaving, either by death or by choice, could ultimately hurt the global anime market. Most anime production is based in Tokyo and the industry is worth more than $20 billion. Anime provides great economic prosperity for Japan. The global pandemic has only increased sales and streaming as more individuals seek entertainment while stuck indoors.

Alongside workers leaving, the lack of pay means a lack of contributions to the economy. Animators will likely choose to spend their money on necessities because they cannot afford luxuries.

Recent Progress

Japanese citizens recently developed an organization called the National Defense Counsel for Victims of KAROSHI. It offers consultations on compensation for work-related stress, diseases, disabilities or death. Much of the organization’s work is dedicated to preventing Karoshi and helping those affected by Karoshi.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Japan reported that the average citizen worked 1,598 hours in 2020. This prompted the Japanese government to introduce a plan to encourage businesses to offer four-day workweeks.

Since overwork and pay discrepancies are leading causes of the phenomena, the implementation of a four-day workweek could solve many issues stemming from Karoshi culture in animation. Japan recommends that companies reduce their hours or keep better track of overtime to promote the educational and familial prospects of employees.

Moving Forward

Japan’s Karoshi culture in animation will not resolve easily. There is a lot that requires addressing beyond the economic factors, including the social stigma of taking time off. The next move for the government is implementing legislation to solidify shorter workweeks as the population ages and shrinks. 

– Camdyn Knox
Photo: Pixabay

Social inequality in GermanyResearch shows that levels of social inequality in Germany could increase COVID-19 transmission rates among people experiencing poor living and working conditions. Evidence does not conclusively determine that poverty directly causes Germany’s COVID-19 cases. However, it is apparent to scientists and medical professionals that a large number of COVID-19 patients come from low socioeconomic standing. In 2015, 2.8 million German children were at risk of poverty. The influx of migrants flowing into Germany has also increased rates of poverty in Germany.

Poverty and COVID-19

According to the CIA World Factbook, 14.8% of the German population lives below the poverty line as of June 2021. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), the North Rhine-Westphalia area has the highest number of COVID-19 cases. The area is home to Gelsenkirchen, the most impoverished German city based on a 2019 report by the Hans Böckler Foundation.

Risks of Overcrowding

Overcrowded living areas are more susceptible to airborne illnesses, medical sociologist Nico Dragono said in an interview with The Borgen Project. In 2019, 8% of Germans lived in overcrowded dwellings, meaning there were fewer rooms compared to inhabitants. This percentage has increased in recent years, according to Statistisches Bundesamt (German Federal Office of Statistics).

In November 2020, statistics showed that 12.7% of the population residing in cities lived in overcrowded dwellings. Comparatively, 5.5% reside in small cities or suburbs and 4% reside in rural areas. Dragono says that social inequality in Germany plays a significant role in the spread of disease across the country’s large cities. This especially impacts those living in close proximity to others. “Infections clustered in the areas of the city where the poor live because there simply was no space,” Dragono says. He says further that with many people living in one household, traveling to school, work and other places holds an increased risk of bringing infections into the home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated on February 26, 2021, that COVID-19 is transferable through respiratory droplets from people within close proximity of each other. This puts those in poverty at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Those living in areas such as refugee camps and impoverished neighborhoods are especially vulnerable. Therefore, social inequality in Germany may contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

Migrants Potentially at Higher Risk

Dragono says that, unlike the United States, Germany does not document patients’ ethnicities. In other words, Germany cannot collect the demographics of who contracts COVID-19. He said it appears the association between COVID-19 and social inequality in Germany is universal for migrants and non-migrants. However, many hospitals across Germany reported that close to 90% of COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit have an immigrant background, according to Deutsche Welle.

“Migrants are more often poor because they do many of the bad jobs,” Dragono says. There are indications that COVID-19 is more prevalent in the areas inhabited by migrants. “Migrant workers, as they grow older, many have diseases, because in general, they are doing hard work… so their hospitalization rates could be a bit higher.” Dragono says Germans’ social status and income determine how much access they have to quality resources. It is easier for upper-class citizens to purchase masks and use personal travel and they do not have to rely on public transportation or low-quality protective gear.

On June 5, 2021, the German health ministry came under fire regarding a report that dictated its plan to dispose of unusable face masks by giving them to impoverished populations. However, the health ministry released a statement that all of its masks are high quality and receive thorough testing. Any defective masks are put into storage.

Assistance From Caritas Germany

As the virus continues to spread, many organizations are extending assistance to disadvantaged citizens in Germany. Some services translate COVID-19 information into migrants’ languages or modify other services to fit COVID-19 guidelines. Caritas Germany, one of the largest German welfare organizations, typically operates childcare services, homeless shelters and counseling for migrants.

To comply with COVID-19, Caritas began offering online services such as therapy and counseling. The organization also travels to low-income areas and focuses on providing personal protective equipment to those working with the elderly. Many Caritas volunteers use technology to maintain distance while also maintaining communication with patients. Since the beginning of the pandemic, hundreds of volunteers have trained in online counseling.

However, Dragono says that while the country has systems in place to avoid broadening the poverty gap, the serious implications of COVID-19 on social inequality in Germany are yet to emerge. Fortunately, organizations are committed to mitigating some of the impacts of COVID-19 on disadvantaged people in Germany.

– Rachel Schilke
Photo: Unsplash

Zuma's Imprisonment
Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa from 2009 to 2018, has received 15 months in prison for contempt of court. Many South Africans, who viewed Zuma and his presidency as corrupt and harmful to their country’s democracy, have long awaited Zuma’s imprisonment and his willingness to serve his sentence. However, there are several factors in Zuma’s life that his supporters point out when contesting his arrest. These include his ties to Nelson Mandela and his role in fighting against apartheid. Those who do not support him accuse him of raising South Africa’s unemployment rates. This has subsequently created an impoverished, undemocratic society that encourages extreme inequalities.

Zuma’s Presidency

Jacob Zuma’s supporters point to the former president’s role in ending apartheid and the sacrifices he made to do so: being imprisoned for 10 years, going into exile in order to best serve the African National Congress (ANC) and finally becoming his nation’s president, all after he had grown up uneducated and impoverished. However, people are re-examining his efforts now that they have accused him of several heinous acts:

  • Many have alleged that Zuma “looted the state’s wealth on a grand scale.”
  • He transformed the ANC into “a vehicle of self-enrichment for many officials.”
  • Furthermore, people have accused him of assassinating rivals who threatened his then newly acquired power and money.
  • Finally, he evaded the South African authorities for years before finally giving himself up.

These acts help explain many public reactions to Zuma’s imprisonment.

Unemployment in South Africa

One of the major criticisms of Jacob Zuma was his unwillingness to address unemployment in South Africa. In 2017, towards the end of Zuma’s presidential term, the unemployment rate in South Africa was 27.7%, an increase from 24.9% since the start of his term. Debt was at an all-time high and businesses were failing. Zuma was unable to lift his country out of the recession that the global financial crash of 2008 spurred. The unemployment rates during his presidency show the push into poverty that many South Africans suffered under his governance. They also exemplify the stark inequalities between the South African public and those in power. Those in power ultimately grew wealthy through investing the country’s money into their own business ventures and lifestyles.

The Aftermath in South Africa

In terms of Zuma’s imprisonment, some South Africans have gone so far as to say that the nine years Zuma was president were “wasted years.” Magnus Heystek, a director and investment strategist, recognized the damage Zuma inflicted, saying that “it will take a stupendous effort by government and private sector to reverse the damage.” He provided a comprehensive list of things South Africa lost between 2009 and 2018 and he included per capita GDP which declined from “8,066 USD per annum in 2011 to 6,268 USD per annum in 2017.” He also includes South Africa’s total debt which stands at approximately 3 trillion rands or around $211 billion. Even more startling is the fact that “Poverty is increasingly visible on every street-corner, in declining car and retail sales, in empty rugby and soccer stadiums, in dwindling golf and bowling memberships. The list is almost endless,” Heystek says.

The Call for Imprisonment

Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment represents a victory for South Africans who believe in democracy and obeying their country’s rule of law. Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma’s successor, has vowed to “clean up the ANC and the government” while he is in office. His next steps will include building the South African economy back up to where it was before Zuma’s presidency. This is especially important after the COVID-19 further weakened the country’s economy. He will also be working to hold Zuma accountable for bribery and corruption, as well as upholding the notion that South Africa thrives thanks to the rule of law, not because of power and wealth-hungry presidents.

– Grace Manning
Photo: Flickr

Italy's Pandemic Recovery
Italy quickly became a coronavirus hot spot at the pandemic’s onset, and its healthcare system and economy have struggled ever since. In early 2021, the Italian government announced a €235 billion Resilience and Recovery Plan (RRP) that will launch several economic initiatives over the next five years. Prime Minister Mario Draghi seeks to emphasize institutional reform and GDP growth in Italy’s pandemic recovery process.

How Italy Handled the COVID-19 Pandemic

Italy has documented more than 4 million COVID-19 cases over the course of the pandemic. It has confirmed more than 127,000 deaths as of July 6, 2021. The pandemic hit Northern Italy the hardest and fastest, with nearly 80% of COVID-related deaths coming from the northern region in the first four months of the pandemic.

Italy’s unemployment rate rose from 9.2% in 2020 to 10.2% in 2021, with youth disproportionately affected. In the regions of Sicily, Calabria and Campania, youth unemployment climbed to 46%. Additionally, 45% of Italians agreed that the pandemic has impacted their personal income.

A four-level color-coded system sorts locations in Italy by infection risk. White and yellow areas have “total freedom, by day and night,” representing a lower risk of coronavirus infection. Orange represents a higher risk, and red represents an extreme risk. Orange and red regions observe a curfew between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. As of June 28, 2021, all regions are white areas. It is no longer mandatory to wear a mask outdoors, but the country is suggesting that people continue carrying one and observe safe social distancing rules.

Italy’s Plans for Tourism

Tourism is a vital component of the Italian GDP, and in just one year, the country saw a 60% drop in tourists due to COVID-19. Italy estimates a loss of around €120.6 billion in tourism revenue for 2020, and so far, 2021 has also been a lackluster year for tourism.

Italy’s pandemic recovery process includes once again allowing foreign visitors. In June 2021, the country opened to tourism from most European countries and a few others as well. Visitors from the U.S., Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates who arrive on COVID-tested flights can also enter the country. All tourists from outside the European Union, Israel or on COVID-tested flights must quarantine for 14 days and provide a negative COVID-19 test. However, most tourist attractions, including beaches, theaters and museums, are open to the public at limited capacity.

Italy’s Economic Recovery Plan

Draghi continues to work with the E.U. to secure aid for Italian citizens. As a result, Italy will receive the largest share of the E.U.’s €705 billion recovery fund because of the economic strain the pandemic placed on the country. The plan will offer environmentally conscious solutions for economic expansion.

The Italian government will allocate €18.5 billion to hospitals to reduce pressure on the healthcare system. The RRP will help hospitals digitize and will invest in “community hospitals” for patients not needing extensive care. It will also set aside €7 billion to strengthen home care. All these plans are efforts to relieve hospitals overwhelmed with patients.

Forty percent of the RRP is for green-related investments. A study by Scientific Reports found that Italy’s air pollution played a larger role in spreading the pandemic than population density, so Italy plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030. The RRP will also fund construction, which will offer many citizens job opportunities. The construction market is estimated to grow 3.5% in the COVID-19 recovery process.

Many Italians are looking forward to life returning to normal. Italy’s pandemic recovery plan offers hope that the country will succeed in its economic expansion and infrastructure development.

Camdyn Knox
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Poland
Poland has been a NATO member since 1999. It was not until five years later in 2004 that Poland became a member of the European Union (E.U.) after signing the Accession Treaty. In addition, Poland has been a member of the Schengen area since 2007. Poland’s cooperation and membership in these intergovernmental organizations continue to benefit its economic condition. E.U. membership, in particular, stimulated Poland’s economy towards sustainable development and helped in the fall of poverty in Poland.

Economic Situation of Poland (After and Before Accession to the European Union)

After Poland’s accession, E.U. regional policy programs guided the country through many beneficial investments over the years. Through these investments, Poland was able to develop and maintain its infrastructure, economy, tourism, education, healthcare and governance. In order to eliminate disparities between its regions, the E.U. fund seeks to build a stronger economy, stable territorial lines and cohesion in the union. During the 2014-2020 programming period, Poland managed to enforce hundreds of projects.

According to data from 2003 until 2018, the economy of Poland is continuously improving. In 2003, a year before E.U. membership, the total value of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Poland was $477.94 billion. After five years of being a member of the E.U., Poland’s economic growth for 2009 was $760.35 billion. In this case, membership in the E.U. benefited the economy of the region. According to the European Commission’s 2012 Aging Report projects during 2010-2060, Poland will be the second-fastest-growing economy in the E.U., following Bulgaria.

The strong economic performance over the years led to the rapid rising of GDP per capita in Poland. Its GDP per capita has risen from $5,693 in 2003 to $15,565 in 2019. In 2004, the annual growth rate of GDP per capita was 17.35% in comparison to 2003. It is also important to mention that, in 2009, the annual growth rate of GDP per capita declined by -17.67% compared to the previous year. The economy of Poland was under tension in 2009 and another sizeable fall in numbers occurred in 2015. In 2014, GDP per capita was $14,348 and in 2015, it decreased to $12,572. However, from 2017 to 2019, the numbers increased. In fact, in 2019, the GDP per capita in Poland reached the highest point ever in the country’s history at $15,565.

Unemployment in Poland

Various indicators estimate a trend of decreasing poverty in Poland. The unemployment rate demonstrates this well. After Poland regained its independence, unemployment was one of the most pressing social and economic issues. E.U. membership contributed to the decline in the unemployment rate. Foreign investments and the funds from the E.U. financing programs decreased the percentage of unemployment and created new jobs. At the same time, the opening of the European labor market created job opportunities outside of Poland for the unemployed, subsequently aiding the fall of poverty in Poland.

From the beginning of 2003 to 2009, the unemployment rate decreased significantly in Poland. The unemployment rate decreased from 19.07% in 2004 to 3.47% in 2019. According to some economists, if Poland never joined as an E.U. member, they would be at the same level as Ukraine, which had a slightly higher GDP than Poland in 1990.

Conclusion

Poland underwent a successful transition from a communist-state background to a stable and competitive European country. One of the main reasons for their success is that Poland joined. In 2007-2013 and 2014-2020, Poland was the largest beneficiary of the E.U. funds. Investments helped Poland improve its transport infrastructure, health, education, environment efficiency, network infrastructure, social cohesion, research and development.

– Tofig Ismayilzada
Photo: Flickr

Georgia's economic policiesGeorgia’s poverty and unemployment rates hit 13.3% and 18.5% respectively in 2020. A vast number of factors have contributed to these statistics. The Borgen Project spoke with Toby Davis, the former division chief for the Caucasus and Central Asia Office for the Analysis for Russia and Eurasia, to explore the economic landscape of Georgia and the factors impacting Georgia’s economic policies.

Unemployment and Poverty in Georgia

Davis explains that 70% of polled citizens will declare unemployment. However, when taking away pensioners, students and people who are not currently looking for work, only about a third of the 70% are actually unemployed. For example, many subsistence farmers register as unemployed because they are not currently working for a recognized business and thus do not consider their trade as a job.

Davis explains that “Unfortunately, this tilts the balance of the statistics, resulting in government decisions that may not always be the best for those who are genuinely unemployed and struggling to find work.” Despite a sometimes inaccurate reflection of statistics, Georgia is nevertheless working to improve the level of poverty and unemployment within the country with solutions that can bring Georgia’s citizens out of their current state of poverty.

Causes of Georgia’s Economic State

Two main factors impact Georgia’s economic state. First, Davis states that Georgia’s economic problems stem from the establishment of the Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party in 2012. Billionaire politician, Bidzina Ivanishvili, established Georgia’s previous state of government, changing the motives of politicians within the country.

Teona Zurabashvili, policy analyst at the Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP), explains that when the Georgian Dream came into power, it “squandered the political capital” it accumulated and supporters “never received the social justice they were promised.” She explains that the political climate reflected “an unfocused economic program, clannish rule in the judiciary system, rampant nepotism in the civil service, decreased direct foreign investments, a devaluation of the national currency and clear signs of state capture.”

Due to poor governance, poverty in Georgia has largely gone unaddressed. Davis reaffirms that because of political interests and weak governance, many of Georgia’s economic policies do not help the economy reach its fullest potential.

The second major contributor to Georgia’s economic state is the imbalance between exports and imports. Currently, Georgia spends more than it sells and produces, with export levels barely making one-third of the number of imports. The statistics show that the total exports are around 3.3 million, whereas its imports are at approximately 9.1 million. In 2016, Georgia imported most of its oil and natural gas to satisfy the energy demand in Georgia. With a transition to renewable energy, Georgia may be able to reduce these imports.

Past Plans and Current Projects

The Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Programme was a past proposal to fix Georgia’s poverty. It was approved in 2003 but was never implemented. Although the plan had funding from the World Bank and the IMF, Georgia’s government lacked interest and never followed through with it. Davis seconds this point, stating that, “there are individual party projects trying to fix [poverty rates], but nothing ever reaches the grand government scale. The projects improve it in increments, but there are a lot of questions as to why it isn’t improving faster.”

The Namakhvani HPP project aims to help Georgia gain “energy independence” through hydropower. The project’s goal is to satisfy 20% of the energy demand in Georgia, increasing domestic annual generation by 15%. A large portion of Georgia’s spending goes toward importing oil and fuel for energy demands. Therefore, Namakhvani HPP would reduce these expenditures. Wealth from this project would allow Georgia to gain energy independence and focus on implementing poverty reduction programs.

Reviving the Deep Sea Port Project

Another option regarding Georgia’s economic policies is the revival of the canceled deep sea port construction that would have taken place on the coast of the Black Sea. The project has the potential to generate cargo trade with China and Central Asia, with the potential to bring in significant revenue. The project was canceled due to a lack of funding. Thus, if the project were able to garner the international support and funding it needs, the project could positively impact the import and export sector.

The government of Georgia needs to prioritize developing the economy and reducing poverty, which should be reflected in Georgia’s economic policies. With politics aside, Georgia has the potential to thrive.

Seren Dere
Photo: Flickr

Job Shortage in IraqGetting a college degree in Iraq doesn’t mean that you have a guaranteed job in your field after graduating, let alone a job in any field. The job shortage in Iraq has led to an increase in poverty and has destroyed the dreams of many graduates. This job shortage is an ongoing conflict that impacts the goals of the young generations in Iraq. According to the World Bank, 22% of men and almost 64% of women between 15-24 years are unemployed in Iraq.

Iraq’s Economy

With billions going yearly to its public service, the nation is in an economic vise. It has been estimated that public employees get about 17 minutes of work done every day. Currently, Iraq is the seventh-largest country producing oil, but oil revenue has been decreasing. The nation spends little of the income it generates on potential economic development of the implementation of projects. Iraq is unable to pay its bills due to a lack of funds. This led to a financial meltdown, which resulted in the fall of the government after widespread movements against corruption and unemployment. The marches were centered against high state officials in a community where unemployment hovers about 15% and one in every four people lives in poverty, earning as little as $2.20 per day.

Youth Unemployment

Approximately 700,000 young Iraqis join the employment market every year. A primer published for the World Bank on job development in Iraq listed the youth unemployment rate at 36%. There is no noticeable difference in the rate of unemployment between young people with primary education and those with higher degrees. Because of this, Iraqi youth have been at the frontline of occupation riots in Iraq. Similar to Iran, the country’s poor budget management and corruption have been central to their outrage.

Iraq’s prosperity is largely dependent on its ability to build employment for the young population. This is particularly true of university-educated young people. A study by the World Bank estimates that Iraq needs to increase the number of jobs by 100 to 180% to address its workforce needs sufficiently.

Decent Work Country Programmes (DWCPs)

The International Labor Organization (ILO), together with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of Iraq (MOLSA), is implementing DWCPs in Iraq. DWCPs are systems for financial guidance that focus on creating jobs through the growth of the private sector. They also assist with the expansion of social security coverage, freedom of association and National Employment Policy design and implementation. In March 2020, in response to a request by MOLSA, the ILO formed the first cooperation department for Iraqi counties in the city of Baghdad. With a budget of $17.5 million, the program is implementing five projects to encourage quality work and increase job opportunities. These projects will help Iraq’s government, employees and employers.

Overall, there are high hopes for the country’s future. The youth are not going to stop demanding change until they get it. With big changes the government is hoping to make in the next decade, there could be a possible decrease in the rate of unemployment.

– Rand Lateef
Photo: Flickr

Gender Poverty in Japan
Despite its economically advanced status, Japanese society continues to struggle with lessening the gender gap for women. Gender poverty in Japan has become a major concern. Experts predict poverty rates for elderly women will double or triple in the next 40 years. Governmental leadership is well aware of the need to enact policies to address issues of poverty. However, it has been slow to implement changes.

5 Facts About Gender Poverty in Japan

  1. High Employment Rates, Low Wages: Overall, female employment has risen to 71% in recent years. However, Japanese mothers work in part-time jobs that cap out at relatively low salaries compared to full-time careers. Japanese women in the workforce also earn nearly 30% less than men.
  2. Higher Expectations of Unpaid Work: On average, women in Japan participate in 224 minutes of unpaid work per day while their male counterparts only participate in 41 minutes. This amount of unpaid work time for men is the lowest among countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
  3. Child Custody Falls on Women: In cases of divorce, many primarily expect women to take custody of their children. Taking a break from the workforce or maintaining long-term, low-paying part-time work makes it difficult for women in Japan to access higher-paying jobs in addition to providing childcare that Japanese people typically do not expect of men.
  4. High Rates of Poverty for Single-Parent Families: The rate of poverty for single-parent families is an alarming 56% which is the highest among OECD countries. COVID-19 has presented additional challenges as a majority of job cuts in the early stages of the pandemic were part-time jobs predominantly employing women, including single mothers.
  5. Lack of Access to Leadership Positions: Women hold only 15% of senior and leadership positions in Japan, of which their salaries are half of those of their male counterparts. Additionally, Japan has a mere 10% female representation in its parliament. The country also has not had a female head of state for 50 years.

Addressing Gender Poverty in Japan

The government under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attempted to address gender poverty in Japan under an economic plan called Womenomics. During his tenure, overall employment rates for women rose. Additionally, Abe enacted a plan to increase female leadership positions to 30% by 2020. Abe did not achieve this goal but it is still in place under new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Abe also enacted generous maternity and paternity leave reforms along with access to free early education and childcare for toddlers. Only 6% of Japanese men take advantage of paternity leave, citing workplace stigma for not doing so. Before leaving office due to health reasons, Abe enacted a wide-ranging five-year plan. He implemented this plan to address gender inequality and it has continued under his successor.

In recent years, there have been some important victories for women’s rights in Japan. In addition, there are new social movements related to the #MeToo movement. Journalist Ito Shiori won a landmark rape case against a television reporter with close ties to Abe, bringing more attention to gender-based violence and discrimination in the country.

The Japanese #MeToo movement gained more traction in 2019 when actress Yumi Ishikawa took to social media to question why her part-time job at a funeral home required her to wear high heels. This set off the #KuToo social movement which is a play on words for “shoes” and “pain” in Japanese. Although the movement has experienced some backlash from men and women in Japan, it raises important societal questions about rigid gender norms in the country and has broadened public debate about gender inequality.

Conclusion

Some are implementing efforts to address gender poverty in Japan. It is a positive sign that significantly higher numbers of women are now experiencing representation in the workforce. Moreover, a public discussion is occurring to challenge traditional gender roles and expectations.

– Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr

Way to Support Albania
Since the beginning of COVID-19, the unemployment rate in Albania increased from 12.33% to 12.81%. As thousands of Albanian people have entered poverty, UNICEF Albania and other humanitarian organizations are leading the way to support Albania during these trying times.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Albania started its COVID-19 response on March 9, 2020, by helping the Regional Local Democracy Programme (ReLOaD). The ReLOaD program helps update projects that deliver hygiene packages to vulnerable households. It also supports Albanian farmers with seeds and Albanian children with online learning materials. Support has reached 11 areas from Tirana to Lezhë, Albania. The UNDP even created an International Romani Day campaign where approximately 1,150 Albanian households received food and hygiene packages in April 2020.

UNICEF Albania

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Albania works to protect child rights with government and organization partners. Through programs supporting social and child protection, education and early childhood development, UNICEF Albania has three priorities: respecting child rights while implementing social inclusion through maintaining family access to the Albanian justice system, reforming the social care system and keeping children in school with NGO support.

In April 2020 and amid the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF Albania supported a child protection organization statement about how thousands of children can receive protection from violence. This can occur through phone helplines, temporary shelters and professional workforces in Albania. In response to the call to action, child protection helplines underwent initiation in June 2020 through UNICEF and The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPIHA) support.

Educational Support in Albania

World Vision Albania and Kosovo Education and Youth Technical Advisor Brisida Jahaj told The Borgen Project that, “There was a huge challenge with families in poorer households.” This is because the families do not have the IT equipment or the internet for children to continue their education in Albania. The Ministry of Education in Albania found that 10,000 children lost educational resources over COVID-19.

Regarding education, UNICEF Albania has partnered and supported the Akademi.al online learning platform since 2019. Plans intend to implement it online and on television for all students by 2021. Funding from UNICEF and support from the Ministry of Education in Albania gave Akademi.al the opportunity to put approximately 1,100 lessons online for students taking Matura exams in Albania. Jahaj describes the platform as a “backup plan that if we go into the third level scenario,” wherein Albanian schools shut down in 2021.

In August 2020, UNICEF Albania worked to combat poverty due to COVID-19 by initiating its first Albanian cash transfer program to approximately 1,700 vulnerable families in Shkodër, Korçë and Durrës, Albania.

UNICEF Albania and the World Health Organization (WHO) also established an online training program to teach professionals about Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) and how to implement support to vulnerable populations during emergencies from May to July 2020. The eight module training course helps professionals master how to support mental health and psychosocial issues during emergencies. Approximately 230 frontline professionals obtained certification by September 2020.

Red Cross and World Vision

Albania experienced a series of earthquakes on November 26, 2019, which impacted approximately 200,000 Albanians. The Albania Red Cross responded to the earthquakes by sending 160 volunteers and providing 4,500 shelter relief packages to families who lost homes. The Albanian Red Cross received a 2020 Coca-Cola Company $100,000 grant in the wake of the pandemic to give community food aid and medical equipment to Albanian hospitals.

The Qatar Red Crescent Society partnered with the Albanian Red Cross to provide food package relief to 700 vulnerable families as a way to support Albania. Following the initial response, the Albanian Red Cross collaborated with Better Shelter. A total of 52 Better Shelters underwent construction in Durrës, Krujë, Laç, Shijak and Tirana, Albania, while home reconstruction continues through 2021.

World Vision Albania also helped with the earthquake response in Durrës, Lezhë, Kamëz and Kurbin, Albania by giving food and hygiene aid to 1,019 families and materials to help 27 families with home reconstruction. Jahaj told The Borgen Project that food and hygiene aid will continue in 2021 as World Vision and other humanitarian organizations including Save the Children and UNICEF provide “a lot of the masks and hand sanitizers for the schools” in Albania.

Where is Albania Now?

As of 2021, several humanitarian organizations are working to protect children and vulnerable individuals from the impact of the Albanian earthquakes and COVID-19 on the ground and online. Jahaj explained how World Vision Albania utilizes the Building Secure Livelihoods economic development program to help alleviate poverty while helping parents provide for their children from 2019 until 2023.

On all fronts, UNICEF, World Vision, Save the Children and the Albanian Red Cross responded to Albanian communities. By providing everything from medical care, earthquake shelter, child protection and online learning directly to families, these organizations have found a way to support Albania. As of January 2021, humanitarian organizations continue to work on home reconstruction, mental health support and flood response. Furthermore, Albania acquired 500,000 COVID-19 vaccines to distribute in 2021.

– Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr

 Poverty in Scotland
At only 19% or roughly 1 million people, Scotland has the second-lowest rate of poverty in the U.K. with only Northern Ireland beating it. What has kept poverty in Scotland lower than in other parts of the U.K.? Moreover, how can the rest of the U.K. learn from it?

Scotland Compared to the Rest of the UK

Scotland’s poverty rate has decreased from 23% in the 1980s to 18% in the mid to early 2000s. The entire United Kingdom sits at a 22% poverty rate and Wales has a 23% rate, while London has the highest rate of poverty of any area in the U.K. In comparison, Scotland has a poverty rate that is 3% lower. Poverty amongst youth is 6% lower in Scotland in comparison to the rest of the U.K., though poverty in Scotland has increased in youth by 3% in the past five years.

Scotland is lower in poverty in comparison to the rest of the U.K. but it is something that could change rather quickly. In February 2020, Scotland pushed for a new budget plan in order to increase the quality of life. The budget included £1.8 billion to help reduce emissions and push for better eco-friendly travel. The budget also set aside £15 billion for health care services, £117 million for mental health support and £180 million to close the attainment gap in schools.

Poverty Levels and Housing

The U.K. has a private renting sector, a larger sector of housing that is a primary source of housing for lower-income households. This housing is under private ownership and has seen a steady increase in cost since 2002. Private renting allows for the owners of said properties to continuously raise prices, putting a strain on lower-income households.

Scotland has not fallen into this trend, providing more social housing instead. Social housing is a form of housing that the government, state or nonprofits regulate to make sure rates stay at an affordable level and to help keep people off the streets.

Social housing allows lower-income households to maintain their homes, without fearing the strain of rent increases. It also allows people to keep themselves out of poverty while they receive support from the government.

In comparison to the rest of the U.K., more lower-income households in Scotland live in social housing than other parts of the U.K. Unfortunately, 45% of households in Scotland live in unfit dwellings, which could be due to household budget restraints.

Scotland has just passed a plan to ensure that all houses provide safe, warm and accessible places to live. The plan will ensure that all houses, whether rented or not, fit a national standard by 2040. This standard will ensure that regardless of how much the place costs, it will offer the same level of comfort and accessibility as other types of housing.

Unemployment and Wages in Scotland

Unemployment has steadily decreased across Scotland in the past 20 years. Additionally, Scotland has seen fewer layoffs while better work compensation has helped people stayed employed.

The U.K. increased wages by 20p in 2020 to £9.50 across the U.K. Scotland, in partnership with Real Living, is working with Scotland’s top employers, Brewdog, SSE and Standard Life Aberdeen to ensure living wages and benefits are in order and to keep those at risk out of poverty above the poverty line. The year 2020 saw an additional £240 million thanks to the partnership with Living Wages to ensure that those in need continue to get benefits as the COVID-19 outbreak continues.

Scotland, while not perfect, is a good example of ways that one’s government can help people get out and stay out of poverty. This kind of support from the government is not necessarily going to erase poverty, but it is pushing in the right direction.

– Claire Olmstead
Photo: Flickr