Poverty in Argentina
Currently, 37% of people live below the poverty line in Argentina and are struggling due to the inconsistency of prices and jobs from inflation and changes in unemployment. Poverty in Argentina affects over 17 million people in the country, learn more about the unique struggles in Argentina.

Historic Inflation and Recent Economic Disaster

Argentina has felt the effects of intense inflation since the 1980s, but in recent months has seen record increases in these rates. The year-on-year inflation rate is the highest it has been in the past 30 years, exceeding 60 points, according to Peoples Dispatch. This increase has hurt those in the lowest income bracket the most, but the poverty rate is on the rise. It is estimated that 2,800 people are forced into poverty every day.

Despite that alarming amount, economists predict more could be hurt as the inflation rate could reach 90% by the end of 2022. The instability of inflation has made prices different on a variety of items that change weekly. This hurts those struggling to afford groceries and other necessities. The recent economic instability is a huge threat to those living in Argentina.

Unemployment, the Working Poor and the COVID-19 Pandemic

World events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic further impacted poverty in Argentina. The poverty rate hit between 46% and 47% towards the end of June 2020, at the height of the COVID-19-induced shutdown. The high poverty rate was due in part to the 3.5 million jobs lost during the pandemic. In 2020, the poverty rate related to an income of 14,718 pesos, or $193, per month.

The unemployment rate dropped to 7% at the beginning of 2022, however, the poverty rate includes 28% of Argentinians who hold jobs. The research found that from 2018 to 2022 that due to inflation and a combination of currency devaluation wages lost 20% of their purchasing power. The increase in unemployment during the pandemic increased the poverty rate, but as the unemployment rate decreased, the poverty rate did not.

The effects of outside events, like war or pandemics are global, but Argentina’s sensitive economy sees drastic changes easily. Changes in habitable actions and consumption also show the increase in poverty. For example, in 2021, Argentinians consumed the lowest amount of beef per capita (47.8 kilos) since the 1920s, Peoples Dispatch reported. The changes in unemployment and the increase in the working poor are changing poverty in Argentina.

The Future of Poverty in Argentina

The IMF began working with the Argentinian government in May 2018 and has a plan to help those most at risk. This calls for actions like the central banks to be independent and protect social spending. Those in poverty in Argentina need help since they are sinking even deeper into poverty.

Additionally, in May 2022, the Total Basic Food Basket increased by 4.6%. This means that a family of two adults and two children in Greater Buenos Aires must require an income of 99,677 pesos (or $796) per month to stay above the poverty line, according to Peoples Dispatch. This increase shows how difficult it is to survive in Argentina due to the fickle movements of the economy.

Changing economy and the socioeconomic inequalities that often affect employment rates further complicate poverty in Argentina. The recent increase in inflation implies there is a strong need for stability to save those falling below the poverty line every day.

– Ann Shick
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Unemployment in Japan
Reports at the end of May 2022 showed that unemployment in Japan had been on a decreasing trend for three consecutive months, with the job-to-applicant ratio rising for four months in a row to 1.23. Noting that, this country’s unemployment rate is also significantly lower than in many other wealthy states.

Experience of Japan’s Job Market During COVID-19

It is reasonable to imagine a harsh hit on job seekers everywhere as COVID-19 spreads globally. By July 2021, the pandemic had taken 22 million working positions away from people in advanced countries. However, many have figured out how to cope with the impact of COVID-19. Japan is a country that has done so.

On the one hand, Japan could not entirely escape the adverse effects on employment during the pandemic. In April 2020, approximately three months after China experienced the first significant breakout of COVID-19, the Japanese government ordered emergency acts that postponed many paid employment. Within a month, the unemployment rate in Japan rose by 0.1%, reaching 2.6%.

On the other hand, the Japanese job market started to revive and the unemployment rate in Japan has generally been decreasing since then, despite some ups and downs. According to MENAFN, by April 2022, Japan’s unemployment rate was 2.5%, even lower than it had been two years earlier.

Among all the members of the OECD, the unemployment rate in Japan is low and steady even in the pandemic era. The U.S. youth unemployment rate reached 15.1% in 2020 and the Euro area’s rate has never gone below 7% since the COVID-19 breakout. However, Japan’s unemployment has never exceeded 4% during that same period.

What Has Given the Japanese Job Market Relative Stability?

Japanese enterprises do not easily place the need of shareholders over employees’ welfare as they prioritize the long-term sustainability of the business instead of maximizing growth. Therefore, this resulted in fewer people losing their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

The social context of Japan is very different from that of Western countries. The Japanese working environment is very high-pressure. Twenty-two percent of Japanese workers had to work more than 50 hours a week despite the fact that the official working hour is 40 hours per week.

The Japanese government implemented effective measures to ensure its citizens’ job security. The government provided subsidies for employers. Subsidies paid for part of the compensation to the workers who had to go on leave, so the companies would not have to fire them. Additionally, the application process for the subsidies was easy.

One should note that people who are still holding occupations but are not practically working do not count as unemployed. For example, if an employer postponed some of his workers’ work (i.e. force them to take on leave), these people would not be unemployed. Thus, the employment rate indicator does not address many families with difficulties, according to Nippon.com

Overall, the pandemic affected the unemployment rate in Japan to a much smaller extent due to both Japan’s unique social background and the governmental effort. This rate is still steadily declining.

– Ella Li
Photo: Flickr

Unemployment in South AfricaUnemployment in South Africa reached new highs at the end of 2021, equating to more than 7.9 million individuals between October and December 2021. Typically, high unemployment rates spur predictions of economic decrease and little mobility for the coming fiscal year. The finance ministry expects South Africa’s economic growth rate to reach 2.1% in 2022, however, experts say this is insufficient “to make a meaningful dent in unemployment and poverty.” Despite the economic downturn that South Africans face, especially South African manufacturing and construction workers, there is some hope.

History of Unemployment in South Africa

Unemployment in South Africa has an extensive history and myriad reasons. The unemployment rate is dependent on which unemployment type one is referring to. There is the “standard definition” by which people between 15 and 64 actively search for employment while without a job for a specific time. Then, the expanded definition of unemployment refers to the unemployed “who have stopped looking for work.”

By the end of 2021’s third quarter, unemployment in South Africa stood at 34.9%, according to the standard definition, but stood at 46.6%, according to the expanded definition. Countless factors contribute to unemployment in South Africa. The most significant factors stem from the nation’s “legacy of apartheid,” shortages of jobs and “slow economic growth.”

Unemployment began to drop in South Africa after 2002 when the nation’s unemployment rate was about 34% if using the standard definition. It fell to 22%, the lowest percentage for decades, in 2008, but then, the unemployment rate began to rise again over the years. The 2008 recession hit the global economy and impacted jobs worldwide. South Africa has yet to recover from its losses in 2008. Furthermore, COVID-19 exacerbated the economic downturn and unemployment issues in South Africa.

COVID-19’s Impact on Construction and Manufacturing Workers

Specifically, the losses seem to be impacting the construction and manufacturing industries most in South Africa. Across South Africa, all the provinces had more than 1.3 million employees in the construction industry in the first quarter of 2020. By the last quarter of 2021, the construction industry lost at least 25,000 jobs.

Manufacturing in South Africa is suffering just as much economic downturn as construction, though, having lost 80,000 jobs in the last quarter of 2021. The manufacturing sector faced a 3.3% economic contraction in 2008. Like many areas of South Africa’s economy after the recession, manufacturing is still working to bring back more jobs and support all its workers. Though the outlook may be grim, critical steps can address South Africa’s unemployment drop.

How South Africa Can Recover

According to the standard and expanded definitions of unemployment, South Africa has many courses of action that can help those facing unemployment. The most significant hope across South Africa is that the government will intervene and create policies to help all business sectors in South Africa, not only construction and manufacturing.

There are hopes that more trade in 2022 with the U.S. and China will secure enough work for the country to help the manufacturing industry rebound.

Experts predict that the construction sector will bounce back. Projections indicate that the industry will “rebound in 2022 and expand by 9.1% in real terms.” Then, the construction sector will “stabilize at an annual average growth of 3.1% between 2023-2025, although output will not return to pre-pandemic levels during the entire forecast period.” Government investments in large-scale projects will support this recovery.

Presidential Employment Stimulus

The South African government initiated the Presidential Employment Stimulus (PES) in response to COVID-19’s impact on employment in South Africa. Overall, the program’s “aim is to create jobs and strengthen livelihoods, supporting meaningful work while the labor market recovers.”

The government implemented the PES in October 2020 to provide economic support to publicly-funded jobs. The stimulus has two phases. Phase 1 worked with regional and national departments to invest in job creation to provide the unemployed with new skills in jobs that could lead to long-term employment. As of January 2022, the PES created more than 673,000 jobs while supporting more than 140,000 livelihoods. Youths made up 85% of the program beneficiaries and females made up 63% of all program beneficiaries.

Officially, Phase 2 is currently in progress with no specific end date as yet. Overall, the PES is beneficial to South Africa in combating unemployment. PES encapsulates several different unemployment-fighting programs in South Africa, which serve to boost the economy and reduce poverty.

Looking Ahead

Several strategies have the potential to decrease unemployment and, in the long run, reduce poverty. In April 2020, the poverty rate in South Africa stood at 55.5% and the predicted economic growth in 2022 is only 2%, which would not significantly improve South Africa’s poverty levels. However, if the government continues to prioritize programs to provide employment opportunities and fund projects to ignite growth in struggling sectors, 2022 may hold greater improvements.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Burkina FasoBurkina Faso is a former French colony in the Sahel region of Africa. Burkina Faso has an estimated population of 21 million people. The country shares borders with five francophone-speaking countries — Mali to the northwest, Niger to the northeast, Benin to the southeast, Ivory Coast to the southwest and Togo to the south. Here is some information about the impact of COVID-19 on Burkina Faso.

About the Situation in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is an agrarian society. In fact, more than 80% of the nation’s households depend on income from agricultural products. Cotton is one of the major exports and sources of revenue for the country. The country is endowed with natural resources including gold, limestone, marble and salt. Burkina Faso’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 1.9% from $16 billion in 2019 to $17.9 billion in 2020.

Burkina Faso has experienced political unrest in the past decades. The incessant regime changes among government officials have led to leadership crises that have contributed significantly to the poor economic and security challenges that Burkinabe people experience. Regional alliances of the Economic Community of West Africa States and the African Union suspended the country due to political instability. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened living conditions in Burkina Faso, severely affecting the nearly 40% who live below the poverty line. Inflation has risen by 3.2% in 2020, which has driven up food prices.

COVID-19 Cases

In 2020, due to rising cases of COVID-19, Burkina Faso closed its air, land and sea borders to control the spread of infection. Border closure restrictions occurred in response to the country’s weak health infrastructure and resources stretched thin and overwhelmed by the pandemic. While the interventions showed efficacy in limiting the spread of coronavirus, the social and economic impact of restrictions takes a toll on Burkina Faso. By February 22, 2022, Burkina Faso noted more than 20,751 confirmed cases and 375 deaths and the nation administered more than 2.3 million vaccines.

Rising Unemployment

At the height of the pandemic, some of the lockdown restrictions, among which were the closure of markets, schools, tourist centers and other places of economic activity in the country, were effective against COVID-19’s spread but negatively impacted the workforce. The restrictions affected production, resulting in loss of employment, supply shocks and a decrease in economic growth.

International border closures and supply chain disruption led to a sharp decrease in economic activity for the country as Burkina Faso could not export most of its products. These factors significantly affected trade in Burkina Faso, leading to shocks in household income and plunging families into poverty.

Diaspora Earnings

The country is among the top four countries that depend heavily on diaspora earnings. The effect of COVID-19 globally has affected foreign remittances from abroad to families back home. Burkina Faso’s earnings have reduced by 10% and these have affected vulnerable households whose mainstay income depends on these remittances. These diaspora remittances have become insufficient due to rising food prices from a 3.2% increase in inflation.

 Food Insecurity

The combined impact of the pandemic, coupled with security unrest, has resulted in more than 1.4 million Burkinabe citizens facing internal displacement. Civil unrest and the climatic drought challenges the country faces worsen food insecurity. The humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by COVID-19, has reached alarming levels. Estimates from the World Food Programme (WFP) determine that about 2.1 million people are in need of food in Burkina Faso.

Alleviating the Impact of COVID-19 on Burkina Faso

The global impact of the pandemic has been far-reaching. The WFP has continued to play a leading role in fighting global hunger. The organization deployed resources to mitigate some of the challenges in Burkina Faso by providing school feeding programs to support the education of children. Internally displaced Burkinabe receive support with a monthly food ratio, equivalent to $8 per person. About 700,000 of the population have benefited from the food and cash assistance program of the WFP, but more resources are necessary to abate hunger and poverty and stabilize conflict in the region.

Sylvia Eimieho
Photo: Flickr

Unemployment Rates in Africa
Rising unemployment rates in Africa have impacted many African nations over the past couple of years. However, certain regions and countries of Africa have taken a proverbial beating to their employment rates. Unemployment rates in sub-Saharan Africa were surprisingly low at 6.6% in 2020. This can mislead some into believing that Africa does not have an unemployment issue. However, in reality, this number is inflated due to the fact that the majority of these workers are underemployed, vulnerably employed and are simply not making a living wage.

Unemployment rates in Northern Africa stood at more than 30% in 2019. This region has a combined 57.4% unemployment rate for women and 37.7% for men. To reduce such massive percentages, unique programs that ensure employment are arising. As of 2021, Africa’s two largest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, have published labor force data indicating that unemployment is at an all-time high with a steady rise. Throughout these most fruitful ends of the continent, close to one in two individuals between the ages of 15 and 34 do not have a job.

7 Programs that Tackle Unemployment Rates in Africa

  1. The African Development Bank’s Coding for Employment Program: The African Development Bank’s Coding for Employment program holds training modules that promote peer-to-peer collaborative learning and expand digital skills to rural African youth. Coding for Employment partners with Microsoft Philanthropies, providing digital ambassadors an intensive three-month program that teaches web design, digital marketing, critical thinking, project management and communication. This boot camp guarantees in-demand skills that employers require. During the peak of the pandemic, the program had a combined total of 130,000 students with a completion rate of more than 80%.
  2. The FAIRWAY Programme: The FAIRWAY programme addresses key sources of work shortages via nationwide interventions in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Morocco. The Program also holds these interventions across the Arab States, building on the work of the Fairway Middle East project (2016-2019) that targets low-skilled migrant workers. These interventions work with employers to provide workspaces for African and Middle Eastern people from all regions.
  3. The Egypt Youth Employment Program (EYE): The Egypt Youth Employment Program (EYE) “focuses on economic insecurity, aiming to tackle the root causes of irregular migration, increasing decent employment opportunities for young women and men” as well as increasing the participation of “government and the private sector” in creating employment opportunities in Egypt. Another significant goal this program upholds is teaching Egyptian youth about self-employment skills and financial services. This program could benefit approximately 18,500 young men and women with under-developed working skills.
  4. SIRAYE: SIRAYE kickstarts employment that respects the rights of the individual as well as the rights of workers in terms of conditions of work and safety by promoting inclusive industrialization in Ethiopia. To achieve these goals, the SIRAYE program will focus on further developing local worker’s rights organizations to improve respect for workers’ rights to create greater incomes and compensation, enhanced safety, equality, voice and representation. Beneficiaries of the program include 62,000 workers and employers in factories, officials of government, employers’ and workers’ associations at the national and sectoral level.
  5. Skills Initiative for Africa Project: Skills Initiative for Africa Project concocts Rapid Skills Assessment Toolkits for Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The initiative creates these toolkits after extensive research on imbalances between the demand and supply of skills that contribute to costly economic inefficacies. This will allow member states to anticipate present and future labor demands in their respective nations and to respond with appropriate skill training.
  6. The Promoting Employment in Nigeria (PEN) Project: The Promoting Employment in Nigeria (PEN) Project will analyze Nigeria’s current labor market situation, and in turn, will work with the Federal Government of Nigeria and any relevant stakeholders in revising the national employment governance framework and institutional capacity for the transition to better jobs.
  7. The SKILL-UP Ghana Project: The SKILL-UP Ghana Project focuses on upgrading skills systems for Ghanaian civilians to ultimately include Ghana in trade and economic growth. This program engages institutions to find a better understanding of what career skills are necessary and where to acquire them. As of October 30, 2021, 102 local teachers at the Asuasi Technical Institute have received training from the project to deliver online training to the institution’s students.

All of these projects have recently launched or will be taking place in the near future. The projects have the same goal to help African countries to increase employment rates and become competitive in the international economic arena.

– Fidelia Gavrilenko
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19’s Impact on Ireland
After introducing one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, Ireland ranked first on Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking in September 2021. According to the Financial Post, “Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking scores the largest 53 economies on their success at containing the virus with the least amount of social and economic disruption.” Ireland’s high vaccination rates and economic plans likely contribute to it securing the first-place ranking. By September 10, 2021, 90% of Ireland’s adult population was fully vaccinated. However, as Ireland slowly eases its restrictions, there are concerns that COVID-19’s impact on Ireland may be lasting.

COVID-19’s Far-Reaching Impact

By November 27, 2021, Ireland reported more than 556,000 COVID-19 cases and 5,652 deaths. However, the death toll is not the only measurement of COVID-19’s impact on Ireland. As the government attempts to combat the pandemic, there is evidence that COVID-19 also impacts Ireland in several other ways:

  1. High unemployment rates plague Ireland. In 2020, the unemployment rate in Ireland reached an all-time high of 31.5%. However, despite COVID-19’s impact on Ireland last year, unemployment has dropped to 7.9% in October 2021. Ireland’s Finance Ministry estimates that the rate will reduce further to 7.2% in 2022.
  2. COVID-19 harshly impacts certain industries. Across the world, the tourism and hospitality sectors faced the most severe impacts of COVID-19. Border closures, travel restrictions and limitations on gatherings significantly impact these sectors. According to the Northern Ireland Hotel Federation, in April 2020, about 90% of hotel staff in Northern Ireland were “furloughed or laid off.”
  3. COVID-19 impacts education in Ireland. In September 2021, Irish schools noted a high absence of school children due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases. In the second week of September alone, 12,000 children in Ireland missed school because of close contact with COVID-19 positive individuals. One official describes the school system as “overwhelmed,” prompting the Northern Ireland Assembly to schedule an urgent meeting to address the situation.
  4. Ireland’s health care system is under pressure. A sudden surge in COVID-19 cases has led to absent health care workers. In October 2021, approximately 2,700 infected health workers did not attend work due to COVID-19. The decreasing staff numbers in hospitals has major consequences. Hospitals across Ireland had to cancel more than 400 medical procedures in October 2021 due to staff shortages.

A Hopeful Look to the Future

Despite COVID-19’s Impact on Ireland, hope is on the horizon. In June 2021, the Irish government revealed its National Economic Recovery Plan. The plan commits €3.6 billion to assist employees and businesses enduring the harsh impacts of COVID-19. The plan also involves “a phased ending to pandemic unemployment payments, property tax increases for some and an emphasis on the green economy.”

One of the plan’s most salient features is its attempt to combat the unemployment rate. The plan extends the Public Employment service, increasing its caseload by 100,000 per year. The strategy also supports the upskilling and reskilling of the labor force. The plan also seeks to increase incentives for recruiting unemployed youth.

In October 2021, the Irish unemployment rate fell to a level of 10%, which is the nation’s lowest rate since the inception of the pandemic. The represents a sharp decline from not just the previous month’s 12.4% unemployment rate but also the 31% all-time high from the previous year. In addition, the youth unemployment rate is falling and the Central Bank predicts that Ireland’s recovery plan could create 160,000 jobs before the end of 2023.

– Richard J. Vieira
Photo: Flickr

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