Agriculture in AfricaAfrica is expected to double its population by 2050, raising some alarms of the possibility of increasing already high poverty, unemployment and food insecurity rates. In response to these worrisome predictions, and capitalizing on Africa’s burgeoning industrial and technological industries, one company, Gambia’s Tropingo Foods, has established a business plan that sets out to tackle these issues and modernize agriculture in Africa

The Current State of Africa

Africa is no stranger to poverty. In fact, more than 40 percent of Africans still live below the poverty line. Part of the high rates of poverty can be explained by the unemployment rate since six of the top ten countries with the highest unemployment rates are in Africa. Poverty and unemployment have led to a huge problem with food insecurity. More than a quarter of sub-Saharan Africa’s population over the age of 15 suffer from food insecurity. Though farming accounts for 60 percent of jobs in Africa, production must increase dramatically to match population grown in the coming years.

While the continent has made and continues to make technological strides across a variety of markets, production processes for agriculture in Africa have remained, for the most part, as they have been for years. As African farmers face population growth, changes in climate that may reduce rainfall, which accounts for 90 percent of agricultural irrigation, and the high cost of essential fertilizer, they will need to adapt and utilize technology for their industry to sustain these changes.

Tropingo Foods and Agriculture in Africa

Despite a large amount of farming in Africa, the continent only accounts for two percent of the world’s agricultural exports. Aware of this gap, Mommar Mass Taal, a young Gambian entrepreneur, created Tropingo Foods in order to pragmatically and sustainably address these problems. With a background in economics and market development, Taal has created a business that makes use of modern technologies vital to success. In just a few years, Taal has turned Tropingo Foods into Gambia’s largest processor and exporter of groundnuts, producing dried mangoes in the offseason.

As his business grows, he acknowledges that he will need to increase the number of employees, with 120 of the current 140 employees being women, as well as increase partnerships with local farmers. While Taal has had success in the industry, he is pushing the Gambian government to fund vocational training to better prepare citizens for the workforce. In order to support the growing population, agriculture in Africa must increase by 60 percent over the next 15 years and the industry must begin to utilize modern technologies.

Looking Forward

As African agricultural companies such as Tropingo Foods grow, they will increase the demand for employment and local farm production. However, investment from both within Africa and abroad will be necessary for this growth to be beneficial and sustainable. The World Bank has detailed a plan calling for $16 billion to fund agriculture in Africa in the face of climate change. While there will undoubtedly be challenges as the agriculture industry in Africa adapts to internal and external changes, if companies such as Tropingo Foods continue to seek pragmatic solutions, Africa may find itself playing a vital role in the world food export market.

– Rob Lee
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in MogadishuMogadishu is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, withstanding famine, drought, war and terrorist occupations to earn this title. Mogadishu is also a budding tech hub, home to coffee shops, new colleges and even a TedX conference. Underneath these contrasting descriptions of Somalia’s capital city lie two issues that continue the cycle of poverty for the majority of residents, famine and terrorism. The root causes of many of the following 10 facts about poverty in Mogadishu can be traced back to these two underlying issues.

10 Facts About Poverty in Mogadishu

  1. The issue of poverty in Mogadishu is being worsened by famine in Somalia’s countryside. More than 500,00 Somalis have been heading toward Mogadishu in search of food, water, and shelter, and around 100,000 have reached the borders of Mogadishu. They are desperately in need of food assistance.
  2. Camps have been set up around Mogadishu to deal with the influx of famine refugees; however, they have been described as “no man’s land”. Leftover members of the Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab have attacked international humanitarian workers trying to provide basic services to those living in the camps. For example, a convoy from the World Food Programme was hit by a roadside bomb on May 15, 2017.
  3. This is not the first time a famine has affected the quality of life and poverty rates in Mogadishu. In 2011, a deadly famine raged the Horn of Africa, with Somalia unable to escape its effects. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people moved to Mogadishu to escape the famine’s effects and few have plans to return home. Even though the economy is said to be rapidly growing, most who fled to the city live in settlements and subsist on odd jobs to meet their basic needs. There are concerns that the huge number of young, unemployed people in camps may provide the opportunity for extremism to take hold.
  4. The unemployment rate in Mogadishu in 2016 was 66 percent with 74 percent being women. This high unemployment rate, paired with large population growth and the constant threat of violence, has earned Mogadishu the title of the “world’s most fragile city”.
  5. Organizations like the World Food Programme (WFP) work in Mogadishu to support some of the most impoverished parts of the population. Namely, female-headed households, families with children under age 5 and the elderly. Their soup-kitchen style meal centers serve approximately 80,000 a day. WFP is also working with the European Union’s humanitarian aid and civil protection department (ECHO) to provide financial assistance to families in need.
  6. There is concern over disease outbreaks, such as cholera, migrating from the countryside to Mogadishu along with those escaping the famine. One employee of the Mercy Corps describes the hospital conditions in Mogadishu as “overwhelming”. When dealing with outbreaks of cholera overcrowding and a lack of resources prove deadly: “The hospital is so overstretched that there is no room or time to properly screen and separate or quarantine the incoming patients, so kids with measles and cholera are side-by-side with kids who are malnourished, but not infected — yet.”
  7. Around 5,000 boys live on the streets of Mogadishu. This group of boys is part of a number children who have been left in the city to fend for themselves. One boy who was interviewed said his family lost everything in the 2011 famine and as a consequence, he was left because they could no longer provide for him.
  8. The terrorist group Al-Shabaab, Somalia’s Al-Qaeda franchise, occupied the capital for almost a quarter of a century. To this day, they continue to have control over two neighborhoods of the city where it is impossible for police and government forces to enter. The group often attacks the international airport.
  9. Despite progress being made, terror attacks continue to disrupt the lives of millions. In 2016, Mogadishu suffered at least 46 terrorist attacks. In 2017, al-Shabaab attacks have killed or wounded more than 771 people.
  10. Poverty and climate change are intimately connected in Mogadishu. Just last year, six people died due to some of the heaviest rainfalls the country has seen in over three decades, with more than 750,000 having been affected through property loss. The U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq underscored the importance of getting to the root of the consequences climate change has had on poverty

Looking Towards Mogadishu’s Future

While these 10 facts about poverty in Mogadishu suggest a bleak future, that is not entirely the case. Some experts believe that the rapid growth of Mogadishu will actually spur economic transformation as long as it is accompanied by international aid and careful management. Michael Keating, the U.N. special representative in Somalia, argues that “The massive shift into urban areas can be an opportunity. It is the way of the future, it is what needs to be done to build a different economy, a different country. But that needs huge investment.” More support needs to be given to reduce the suffering of the Somalian population.

Georgie Giannopoulos
Photo: Flickr

Youth Unemployment in South AfricaAccording to a report of the International Labor Organization, 71 million youth were unemployed in 2017 globally.

In South Africa, youth unemployment is particularly high and has been so for decades, with 5.5 million young people currently searching for work.

In response to high youth unemployment in South Africa, a social enterprise known as Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator was created to help connect young people seeking work with employers.

Formed in 2011 in Johannesburg, Harambee now services youth across the nation and has helped more than 50,000 young South Africans obtain their first job.

The Numbers

With 26.7 percent of the population unemployed, South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. The unemployment rate for youths, defined as those aged 15 to 34, is much higher and was estimated to be 38.2 percent in the first quarter of 2018.

South Africa has a large youth population since 63 percent of South Africans are under the age of 35. This fact further increases the impact of youth unemployment on the nation. Over 63 percent of the unemployed population is youth and each year 1.1 million South African youths enter the labor market.

Of this number, only 6 percent enter formal employment, with an additional 8 percent becoming informally employed. The remaining 86 percent either continue their education, look for jobs or become discouraged by the system.

The Reasons for Youth Unemployment

High youth unemployment in South Africa is caused by a variety of factors, including high public education drop-out rates, a lack of significant economic growth and the nation’s legacy of apartheid.

With many of the poor people still living in townships located far away from urban centers, finding work remains difficult. Even if they are qualified for certain positions, they may lack the ability to travel into the city, particularly in the face of inadequate public transportation.

Harambee Work for Youth Unemployment in South Africa

In order to provide opportunities to youths outside the city, Harambee hires recruiters who go to the townships and record contact information for young people who are searching for jobs.

From there, some youths are given an invitation to come to a Harambee office to discuss their skills and interests. A trained job coach then helps them through the process of creating a CV (biography) and preparing for job interviews. Harambee even provides free interview clothes for those unable to afford it.

Harambee has partnered with 450 employers, ranging from small businesses to large corporations. Many of these employers are looking to fill entry-level positions, providing opportunities for South African youths without any prior job experience to become employed.

When deciding on matches between employees and employers, Harambee considers the needs of the company, as well as the skills of the potential employee and their proximity to the job. Transportation costs must be considered, and if they are too high, workers may have to go into debt, in spite of being employed.

As another way of connecting with job-seeking youth in order to reduce youth unemployment in South Africa, Harambee offers an application on their website.

By filling this application, young South Africans indicate their skills and what kinds of work they are interested in, making it easier for Harambee to successfully match them with an employer.

For those who have the potential to get hired for more rigorous jobs, Harambee provides vocational training for up to eight weeks to prepare them for employment.

Since many of the youths, Harambee works with come from poor backgrounds and they often lack needed knowledge and skills, Harambee does what it can to ensure the young people will be successful upon becoming employed.

Harambee Successful Stories

One South African youth, 23-year-old Thabo Ngwato, was unemployed and had little success filling out job applications until his friend recommended Harambee to him.

Through Harambee, Ngwato found work at a call center in Johannesburg, allowing him to support his mother and nephew and purchase his first car. Ngwarto told Reuters that thanks to Harambee he now knows how to network and look for employment, which are the skills he can take anywhere.

Similarly, 29-year-old Oratile Phekoayane was hired as a Web help worker due to Harambee. The services Harambee provided helped her be less nervous in interviews and develop interpersonal skills.

According to Reuters, Phekoayane stated, “I see myself as a business partner here. I’m looking to grow, maybe join the executive side.” Due to Harambee, she was able to gain employment, develop her skills and become successful, with the potential for mobility.

Harambee is not alone in addressing youth unemployment in South Africa, however.

Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president since February 2018, has made youth unemployment a priority. Ramaphosa has worked to convince companies to reinvest 1.5 percent of their profits into providing paid work experience to young South Africans.

Currently, Harambee has a goal of helping at least 10,000 young South Africans find employment each year. By 2022, they want to match 500,000 young people with employers, requiring a significant increase in the number of youths they help become employed each year.

Harambee’s success and continuous growth, however, indicate that this goal may be attainable. And even if it is not achieved, Harambee will still have made a significant impact on reducing youth unemployment in South Africa, providing a model for other organizations in the country.

– Sara Olk

Photo: Flickr

United Kingdom living conditionsWhile enjoying one of the most advanced economies in the world today, The United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is not without its problems. This list examines the top 10 facts about living conditions in the U.K.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in the UK

  1. It’s expensive to live in the United Kingdom. The Price Index for the city of London is 222. This score indicates that food, rent and other necessities are more than twice as expensive in London than they are in the average global city. Sheffield, the lowest ranked British city by this index has a price index of 132. Average rent for a small studio apartment in the U.K. is $972.96, and a dozen eggs cost $3.49.
  2. U.K. unemployment is low. Unemployment in the U.K. was 4.2 percent during March-May 2018, while Northern Ireland nearly broke a new record with the low rate of 3.5 percent. For comparison, Northern Ireland’s rate shortly after the recession of 2008 was 8.2 percent.
  3. U.K. poverty is also low. According to the Office for National Statistics, 7.3 percent of the U.K.’s population experience persistent poverty. Conditions are slightly worse for women, since 8.2 percent of the female population experience persistent poverty, compared to only 6.3 percent of the male population. Great Britain and Northern Ireland overall have a poverty rate of 16.7 percent, and this is slightly lower than 17.3 percent, the average for the European Union.
  4. U.K. quality of life is quite high. A recent study on the quality of life ranked the United Kingdom at the fifth place out of all European nations. This list looked at broadband speed, pollution, cost of living and many other factors. Out of everyone in the study, the U.K. spent the most percentage of its GDP on recreation and culture.
  5. Absolute poverty is rising among U.K. children. Children in the U.K. are at risk for rising absolute child poverty. Absolute poverty is defined as residing in a household that cannot maintain a basic standard of living (shelter, clothing and food) due to a low income. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Economic & Social Research Council found that absolute child poverty in U.K. is predicted to increase by four points. This rise is likely caused by a recent cut in government benefits for low-income families with children.
  6. It’s safer for women to give birth outside the U.K. According to Save the Children’s annual State of the World’s Mothers Report, women giving birth in the U.K. have more than double the chance of dying during pregnancy or childbirth than women in Poland. Out of the top 25 countries in the world for mothers, the U.K. ranked 24th.
  7. According to the Centre of Economic and Business Research, it costs £230,000 (almost $300,000) to raise a child in the U.K. For a comparison, it costs roughly $234,000 to raise a child in the United States. There are several factors that could contribute to this, including lower food costs in the United States and greater land resources.
  8. The U.K. ranks highly in women’s equality. The World Economic Forum publishes an annual Global Gender Gap Report that ranks nations from best to worst in terms of women’s “economic participation, educational attainment, health and political empowerment”. In Western Europe, the United Kingdom took 15th place.
  9. The average woman makes 20 percent less than the average man. Beyond incomes, 80 percent of women in the U.K. engage in some sort of daily house upkeep while one out of three men engages in the same work. About half of working women and a third of working men also spend at least an hour a day caring for children or an elderly or disabled person. Not only are women making less money at work, but they’re also engaging in a lot of strenuous, unpaid work. However, many leaders actively fight against this. London Mayor Sadiq Khan published the first “gender pay audit” to make the government pay completely transparent. He also implemented programs to ensure flexibility and fair recruitment.
  10. The U.K. has a lot of work to do in terms of racial equality. To understand diversity and equality, Prime Minister Theresa May ordered research on this subject. While 4 percent of white Brits were unemployed, 10 percent of black and mixed Brits were unemployed. Black males were most likely to remain in custody rather than let out on bail. Organizations like Equality and Diversity Forum are combating these trends through policy work. This organization is a national group bringing together different peoples and organizations to combat oppression and fight for human rights in the country.

Despite a high cost of living, the U.K. has a thriving and diverse country. While it could certainly do better in terms of racial and gender equality it certainly represents one of the best places to live in the world. Although not entirely positive, the top 10 facts about living conditions in the United Kingdom show a thriving, healthy country.

– Sarah Stanley
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in IranPoverty in Iran has been fluctuating over the years. There are many reasons for this, but also many solutions that the government, citizens and other countries can take to make changes and help those in poverty. The current population of Iran is around 82 million, and in 2017,  28.40 percent were unemployed youth.

According to a World Bank study, poverty in Iran is estimated to have fallen from 13.1 percent to 8.1 percent between 2009 and 2013. This was most likely because of a universal cash transfer program in late 2010 that focused on eliminating the subsidies on energy and bread. However, poverty is still a major issue. According to another World Bank study, poverty increased again in 2014 and declining social assistance could be a potential reason.

Poverty in Iran is not only affecting citizens’ ability to afford basic necessities, but is also causing negative issues related to mental health, including suicide, in Iran’s youth. Regardless of all the causes of poverty, there are actions being made to make changes.

Income Gap Causing Problems

Unemployment is a major problem in Iran. Many individuals are working more than one job to afford basic necessities and pull themselves and their families out of poverty, while others are barely working at all. According to an Iranian economist, “there are currently 3.3 million jobless people in the country.” This is due to the increasing income gap between the rich and the poor. The minimum wage jobs of many individuals with lower incomes can not help them move out of poverty and the wealth gap has been expanding. On top of this, there aren’t enough jobs to go around.

According to World Bank statistics, unemployment in Iran was 11.26 percent in 2016, 11.06 percent in 2015 and 10.57 percent in 2014. There is hope that the unemployment rate will keep going down by creating more jobs and having the government adopt new approaches to pull individuals out of poverty.

In 2017, President Rouhani stated that his government wants to prioritize reducing unemployment and creating around 900,000 job opportunities per year. On the other hand, Labor Minister Ali Rabiei said that realistically his government can create 300,000 to 400,000 job opportunities annually.

Sanctions Hurt the People Too

U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran don’t only affect the politicians but the citizens too. Sanctions are seen as one of the major causes of food insecurity, mass suffering and eventual high poverty rates. According to The Economist, 75 million Iranians are suffering from the U.S. sanctions imposed on them. Oil, for instance, is the largest source of income for Iran. When there is no oil coming, there are no U.S. dollars, and everything purchased in Iran is with U.S. dollars. With no U.S. dollars, the value of Iranian rial is falling drastically, causing many companies to go bankrupt. Therefore, they have to let a lot of employees go.

The World Bank released a report on the economic improvement in Iran and stated that many of the economic developments in Iran are due to the removal of the sanctions over the country’s nuclear energy program enforced in 2016. Removing the sanctions will make living conditions for Iranian citizens in poverty less difficult. However, as of November 2018, the U.S. is imposing the sanctions again and informing and requesting all other countries, including India, China and the European Union countries, to stop working with Iran. With reinforced sanctions that were in place before 2016, there is a lot of unrest and fear among citizens for more unemployment and more people going into poverty.  

Action to Reduce Poverty

Poverty in Iran can be seen as a major issue, exasperated by the upcoming sanctions on businesses and oil in the country as well as the increasing gap between the rich and poor in society.  However, statistics show that creating jobs and removing sanctions can significantly improve the lives of Iranians living in poverty. Communication is key to global change.

– Negin Nia
Photo: Flickr

MinoritiesIn countries all around the world, rates of poverty among minorities are distressingly high. There are many different types of minorities: racial and ethnic, national and linguistic, cultural and tribal, political and religious, gender and sexual. There are immigrants and refugees. People with disabilities and mental health disorders.

Poverty, unemployment and incarceration rates are typically much higher among these populations than among majorities. Physical and mental health is poorer. Educational attainment is lower.

Examples of Poverty Among Minorites

  1. Ethnic minorities account for only 15 percent of Vietnam’s population, but 70 percent of the population living in extreme poverty. There are great discrepancies in educational attainment as well: 18.8 percent of ethnic majorities have completed university or upper-secondary education, compared to 8.5 percent of ethnic minorities.
  2. In the United States, Latinos and Hispanics are incarcerated at 1.4 times the rate of white Americans, and African Americans at an average of 5.1 times white Americans. Though the unemployment rates for Hispanics and blacks have been declining since 2010, they are still higher than that of white Americans: the unemployment rate of blacks is nearly double that of whites.
  3. LGBT+ individuals are severely persecuted in many nations. In Turkey, 78 percent of people say that society should not accept homosexuality. Same-sex marriage is unrecognized, same-sex adoptions are prohibited and LGBT+ individuals face severe discrimination in obtaining employment and housing. Violence against these people is widespread and often goes unpunished.
  4. Indigenous people are among the most discriminated-against people in the world, and many populations experience high rates of poverty and health problems. For example, the diabetes prevalence rate among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, indigenous people in Australia, is six times that of the national average. The suicide rates among the Inuit in Canada is 11 times the national average and one of the highest in the world.
  5. In many countries where a vast majority of the population belongs to a certain religion, those who practice a different faith experience strong discrimination and high rates of poverty. In Nepal, the poverty rate among Muslims, a minority in the mainly Hindu country (approximately 81 percent of Nepali are Hindu) is 41 percent, about 10 percent higher than the national average. In Bangladesh, where 89 percent of the population is Muslim, Hindus face serious barriers in obtaining education and employment and are often subject to displacement and arbitrary seizure of their property.

High Rates of Poverty Among Minorities

Why do these disparities in poverty, prison, education and employment exist? Why do minorities tend to have poorer health and experience more violence? Prejudice, discrimination, social exclusion and marginalization are major factors.

Institutional discrimination in governments, corporations and education systems, exists in countries around the world. This discrimination breeds inequality, and inequality restricts people’s ability to obtain jobs and education, to access housing and healthcare, or to enjoy judicial and legal protections.

Sociological and psychological research has demonstrated that discrimination and social exclusion can contribute to poor mental and physical health, which impact an individual’s ability to work and earn an income. All of these factors contribute to the high levels of poverty among minorities.

How We Can Solve this Problem

Eliminating institutional discrimination and individual prejudices can reduce poverty among minorities. Though not an easy task, it is vital to the pursuit of a world without poverty. Governments, educational institutions, corporations and the media, which often use prejudicial rhetoric and discriminatory practices, must be held to a higher standard.

Education should highlight instead of hiding the discrimination that exists around the world. It should teach the importance of human rights and promote equality and respect of others.

Various social movements and nonprofit organizations attempt to do this. They strive to raise awareness of discrimination and inequality and eliminate these from society. The Black Lives Matter, MeToo, Sanctuary Campus, feminist and LGBT+ movements serve as examples. The Human Rights Campaign, Equal Rights Advocates, Race Forward and Global Rights are just a few of the many organizations that fight for equality for different minorities.

All of these movements and organizations and the many others that exist are crucial to the elimination of discrimination as well as reduction of global poverty. And so are individuals.

Individuals have a prominent role to play in the fight for equality. Every person has the ability to make a difference. You can help reduce poverty among minorities by supporting movements and organizations that advocate for minorities. You can speak up when you see discriminatory actions or hear prejudicial remarks. As Nelson Mandela said, “as long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest”.

Laura Turner

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Greece
In 2010, Europe fell into a deep financial crisis that brought Greece to the edge of bankruptcy and “triggered a surge in unemployment [and] poverty.” For the past eight years, the situation has remained bleak. However, a new Eurozone debt-relief deal reached on June 22, 2018, offers the potential to reduce poverty in Greece.

The Crisis Explained

The financial crisis in Greece began after the global recession of 2007 to 2009; a recession that was sparked by the United States’ housing market crisis and which affected countries around the world. A few months after the end of the recession, the Greek government announced that for years it had been underreporting its budget deficit. This created a loss of confidence in the Greek economy and led the country to be shut out of financial markets. As a result, Greece was unable to pay its increasing debts.

With the threat of Greek bankruptcy and another European-wide financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank and the European Commission began an international bailout program for Greece.

Greece received international bailouts three times, in 2010, 2012 and 2015. However, these bailouts came with conditions: Greece was required to overhaul its economy and implement harsh austerity measures including severe budget cuts and steep tax increases. Pensions were cut and public assets were sold. Though these measures kept Greece from descending into bankruptcy, its economy continued to suffer and unemployment and poverty rates surged.

The Crisis’ Effect on Poverty in Greece

Only 2.2 percent of the population lived in extreme poverty in 2009. By 2013, this number reached 17.1 percent. Between 2008 and 2016, the rate of unemployment increased dramatically, from 7.8 percent of the population to 23.6 percent. Hundreds of thousands who are employed hold low-paying, temporary jobs.

In addition, household incomes have dropped by one-third since the beginning of the financial crisis, and the number of people who are homeless leaped from 11,000 in 2008 to 40,000 in 2016. The dire financial situation has greatly impacted a majority of Greeks: in 2014, 95 percent of Greece’s population stated it had difficulty coping financially.

Over the past eight years, many local and national organizations have formed to aid poor people and provide them with food and shelter. However, these organizations do not have the resources to aid everyone and are unable to create the large-scale economic change that is required to improve Greek lives. The Eurozone debt-relief deal reached on June 22, 2018, has this ability.

The New Debt Relief Deal

Greece’s third international bailout program is set to end in August 2018. In preparation for the end of this program, Eurozone finance ministers met to discuss possibilities to address the continuing crisis. During talks in Luxembourg on June 21 through 22, 2018, 19 Eurozone nations reached an agreement that the European Union Economic Affairs Commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, signify the end of the Greek crisis.

The new debt-relief package has been hailed as both “historic” and “momentous.” The deal will provide Greece with an extra 15 billion euros in loans during July and August 2018. In addition, the Greek government will receive a 10-year extension to pay back its loans from the three international bailouts, which includes low-interest rates. The deal will ultimately reduce the country’s dependence on the IMF and other European countries. There is also hope that it will reduce poverty in Greece.

Though Greece’s debt is still 180 percent of its GDP and progress will take time, the new deal can positively impact the country’s financial situation. The broad improvements in Greece’s economy can stimulate job growth and ultimately reduce the number of people in poverty.

– Laura Turner
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in BelarusThe prevalence of poverty in Belarus has made a significant shift in the past decades, for the better. The number of people living in poverty dropped from 60 percent in 2000 to less than 1 percent in 2013. This dramatic change was largely due to an economic boom in Belarus. Fast forward a few years later to a period of less economic growth and one in which poverty is a problem once more. The following is a look at the progress made in addressing poverty in Belarus once more.

Current Economy in Belarus

Great economic growth has allowed Belarus to preserve high levels of employment and good wages for workers. A recent recession, however, has contributed to rates of poverty climbing once again. The economies of the Vitsiebsk region declined by 3.2 percent during the first half of 2017 and the Mahiliou region’s declined by 2.6 percent. In 2014, the average Belarus citizen made $7,500 annually but now the average Belarusan makes $4,000.

According to the World Bank, there are four major factors that contribute to poverty:

  • living in rural areas
  • youth
  • unemployment
  • lack of education

Unemployment and Current Poverty Crisis

In Belarus, unemployment is the most prevalent factor that affects poverty. Many complain that Belarus does not have an adequate social protection program for the unemployed. Additionally, the World Bank deduced in 2012 that the reported employment rate in Belarus, 0.5 percent, was actually seven times higherMany Belarusians opt to not register as unemployed precisely because of the lack of government benefits. It is due to this that the World Bank reported the unemployment numbers as so skewed.

In the winter of 2017, around 20,000 Belarusians gathered to march against their government’s tax on the unemployed. The law required people who work less than 183 days out of the year to pay the government $250 each year. Thanks to the protests, however, the Belarusian government opted not to require citizens to pay that year. Unemployment is clearly still contributing to poverty levels, as can be seen from the number of people who protested the unemployment tax. Those living below the poverty line were not being provided for by their government.

Thankfully, the unemployment tax was officially canceled in January of this year. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka canceled the tax, announcing that instead, unemployed citizens will have to pay in full for government services and they will not receive subsidies.

A Focus on the Positive

Belarus would benefit substantially from alleviating the issue of poverty in the nation. With poverty comes a higher rate of disease and a perpetual cycle that locks families into low-income statuses for generations. Although poverty in Belarus has ameliorated significantly, the country is not entirely out of the dark. The good news, however, is that conditions in Belarus are significantly better than the 1990s when poverty levels were much higher.

The amount of people living in poverty in Belarus is now 10 times less than it was in the 1990s. The country has come a long way but must continue to do everything in its power to keep poverty levels low. The government is a powerful tool in this fight, and they have the ability to create instant change such as amending laws surrounding the benefits unemployed people receive.

With a lack of government assistance, those unemployed in Belarus will have no ability to mobilize themselves out of poverty. An amendment to the program provided for the unemployed in Belarus could considerably contribute to progress against poverty. This is just one of many steps to be taken that would positively influence poverty rates in Belarus.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in South America
Substantial parts of Africa, Western Asia, South America and the Caribbean are regions that grapple with scant economic growth and poverty. South America alone consists of twelve sovereign states, most of which are subject to low per capita GDP and high rates of poverty. Here are ten facts about poverty in South America:

10 Facts About Poverty in South America

  1. South America (SA) suffered the onslaught of European colonization roughly from the 15th to the 17th Centuries. The Iberian colonial policies led to uneven distribution of land and insecure property rights, which in turn contributed to persistent economic and political inequality until the 19th and 20th Centuries. Oxfam reported in 2016 that Latin America still has the most unequal distribution of land in the world, which in turn “limits employment; increases urban poverty belts, as people are expelled from rural areas; undermines social cohesion, the quality of democracy, environmental health; and destabilizes local, national and global food systems.”
  2. In 2016, there was an estimated rise in poverty in SA from 28.5 percent in 2014 to 30.7 percent. In fact, 61 million people live in extreme poverty and 220 million people live on less that $10 a day in this region.
  3. The entire region of SA was majorly affected by the economic crises of the two largest countries on the continent — Brazil and Argentina between 1998-2002. By 2001, the IMF feared that Argentina’s fiscal policy, public debt and currency board would become unsustainable. The holdouts case in Argentina (2005) and the Petrobras scandal in Brazil (2014) later created a chaotic and fragile economic scenario. In fact, Argentina is still trying to recover from high inflation and its currency crunch. Brazil’s external debt in 2017 was 26.5 percent of its nominal GDP and government debt was 74.04 percent of the GDP. Venezuela’s wavering economic policies, economic collapse and inflation have also contributed to the scale of poverty in the region.
  4. Of the ten facts about poverty in South America, eco-political causes hold a special mention. Discovery of rampant corruption and bribery in Brazil’s state-controlled oil giant, Petrobras, and other industries led to largescale arrests of company officials and many politicians. This in turn caused a loss of jobs for thousands of employees and a huge economic set-back. A dip in international oil prices further affected the Brazilian economy, as did the the arrest of Odebrecht’s chief executive and lay-offs in 2015. The unemployment rate in Brazil remains at a high of 11.8 percent. Argentina, too, has suffered the economic consequences of a sovereign debt default since 2001. It has encountered a decline in GDP and inflation, resulting in recession. The MIT Billions Project in 2014 quoted an annual inflation rate of 40 percent in Argentina. Venezuela is on the verge of defaulting its foreign debt and has encountered a massive decline in its GDP accompanied by inflation. Ever since the 2014 economic recession, Venezuelans have been suffering from poverty, high mortality rates, unemployment, lack of medical facilities and hunger.
  5. Large-scale unemployment followed by economic recession, strict government regulations, corruption and other factors have led to the creation of a parallel or informal economy in many of these SA countries. These illegal businesses evade state-regulations, taxation, social security contributions, market standards, minimum wage/work hour policies and thrive as shadow economy. While a certain portion of the money earned is spent directly on the official economy, these underground businesses lead to tax evasion, reduced tax revenue, increased tax rates, lower wages and work hours, corruption and inflation.
  6. According to the World Hunger Report, despite being successful in tackling food insufficiency, SA saw a rise in undernutrition from 5 percent in 2015, to 5.6 percent in 2016. As of 2018, the economic crisis in Venezuela led to devastating food shortage and starvation. The United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture estimates that more than 42 million people in South America are suffering from hunger.
  7. The Word Bank observes that while more children have started going to school, there still remains a disparity in access to education based on the huge income gap in these countries. The other factor affecting education lies in the urban-rural divide, with the latter having lower rates of secondary-school enrolment.
  8. Brazil and Colombia, which make up a large portion of the region’s population, have been experiencing a decline in fertility and mortality rates alongside new health problems from industrialization and urbanization. The health infrastructure in these countries are not up-to-date and people have limited access to safe water and sanitation facilities. Economic inequality adds to the lack of equal distribution of health services and access to healthcare.
  9. Despite the scale of poverty in SA, consistent steps are being taken to ameliorate poverty across the region. Oxfam has been urging the governments to redistribute land evenly, protect territorial rights of indigenous communities, prevent depletion of natural resource and establish fair taxation. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development have been proposing ways to end rural poverty and increase employment. Since the 1990s, attempts have been made by the governments to improve the healthcare system through reforms. Several banks have been trying to ease the monetary policies and rates of interests.
  10. The 2018 World Economic Situation Prospects Report states that the region’s economy has grown by one percent in 2017 and is expected to increase to 2.5 percent in 2019. The recovery will be largely a result of improved economic activity in SA.

Future Efforts

The ten facts about poverty in South America listed here provide a general yet critical understanding of aspects of poverty in the region. Unequal land/wealth distribution, corruption and eco-political instability still remain some of the common and overarching reasons behind the region’s struggle with poverty and its aftereffects.

– Jayendrina Singha Ray
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in EuropeAlthough the European Union (EU) largely consists of many advanced nations, it is important to remember that these nations are still affected by poverty. Many countries were affected by the euro crisis that began in 2008 and are still suffering its consequences.

12 Facts About Poverty in Europe

  1. One in four Europeans experiences at least one form of poverty. Forms of poverty include income poverty, severe material deprivation, very low work intensity and social exclusion. Income poverty is the most common form of poverty in Europe, affecting 17.3 percent of people. One hundred eighteen million people (23.5 percent) of the EU-28 population were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, with 43 million of those not able to afford a quality meal every second day. This is known as severe material deprivation.
  2. Social exclusion is the lack of social resources and rights available to most people as a result of poverty or being part of a minority group. In 2015, more than a third of the population was at risk of poverty or social exclusion in three EU countries: 41.3 percent in Bulgaria, 37 percent in Romania and 35.7 percent in Greece. The countries with the lowest risk were the Czech Republic at 14 percent and Sweden at 16 percent.
  3. The poverty line is the minimum level of income needed to secure the necessities of life and differs greatly for each European country. An average of 9.8 percent of people in the EU live below the poverty line. The country with the lowest amount of people living below the poverty line is Austria at four percent, and the highest is Greece at 36 percent. This is one of the 12 facts about poverty in Europe that reveals the enormous gap between wealthier and poorer countries in Europe.
  4. The unemployment rate in Europe is only around seven percent. According to Eurostat, some countries rank above this average with Greece at 20.9 percent and Spain at 16.3 percent. In 2016, 48.7 percent of people who were unemployed were at risk of poverty. Unemployment also makes people more at risk of severe material deprivation.
  5. Poverty in Europe is not limited to those who are unemployed. In 2015, 7.7 percent of the EU population was at risk of poverty despite working full-time, with men more at risk than women. Romania has Europe’s highest risk of in-work poverty with a rate of 18.9 percent. Spain and Greece follow with 13.1 percent and 14.1 percent, respectively. Additionally, the in-work poverty risk has increased from 8.3 percent in 2010 to 9.6 percent in 2016.
  6. Women have a higher risk of poverty in Europe. The number of women suffering from poverty or social exclusion in the EU was 1.9 percent higher than men in 2015. Additionally, young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are more at risk of poverty or social inclusion with a risk of 30.6 percent.
  7. In 2015, almost 50 percent of all single parents in Europe were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, which is twice as much as the risk for any other household.
  8. Foreigner-born residents (39.2 percent) are at a higher risk of poverty or social exclusion than native citizens (21.6 percent). In Italy, the number of foreigners at risk is particularly high at 55 percent.
  9. Children below the age of 18 also have a high rate of poverty or social exclusion, at 47 percent, with 26 million children in the EU living at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Child poverty in the U.K. has reached its highest level since 2010, reaching 30 percent.
  10. Even with the economy improving, one in three people in Spain still lives in poverty, which is defined as living on €8,000 or less per year. Children are also at a higher risk of poverty in Spain. In Andalusia, a Spanish province, child poverty reached 44 percent.
  11. Italy has the most people at risk of poverty in Europe. This amount rose from 15 million to 18 million people since the 2008 crisis, with over 4 million people living in absolute poverty.
  12. The heads of government in the EU adopted the Europe 2020 Strategy in 2010 to address poverty. The goal of this was to lift at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty and social exclusion by 2020.  Unfortunately, this goal has not been reached and the situation has gotten worse instead of better. There has been an increase in poverty in the EU over the past years. In 2009, there were 117 million people and 27 EU member states at risk of poverty or social inclusion in the EU Since then, there has been an increase of 1.6 million people and one country.

Although these 12 facts about poverty in Europe may introduce a growing problem, the EU along with the European governments are taking active steps to fight this problem. Several countries’ economies are now expanding and showing improvement since the crisis. This includes Spain’s economy, which now has a predicted growth of 2.5 percent in 2018. It is imperative to continue to provide foreign aid and assistance in order to ensure that U.S. allies continue to grow and move past the repercussions suffered after the crisis.

– Luz Solano-Flórez
Photo: Flickr