Cambodian art
Worldwide, COVID-19 has impacted many countries and peoples’ daily lives. While not all countries have been affected in the same manner due to their respective population demographics, economies, etc. — places with a contained outbreak are far from lucky. As of the beginning of July 2020, Cambodia has had 141 confirmed cases of the new virus and zero deaths; possessing one of the world’s most desirable records for disease containment. However, citizens canceled many gatherings and traditions due to the constant spread of the new virus, in order to stave off the increasing numbers of infected. In a country filled with culture and art, postponing annual festivals poses a significant threat to society — both from an emotional and economic standpoint. As a result, many long-standing art troupes are facing closures and this, in turn, is negatively affecting the Cambodian art industry.

A Brief History

In the past, Cambodia faced a difficult battle with its culture. The country underwent a prolonged civil war and genocidal regime, forcing many traditional forms of Cambodian culture to the brink of vanishing. In addition to the political stress on the art industry, many artists faced financial struggles and gave up their passions in return for a stable outcome. Although the Cambodian arts encountered numerous obstacles, certain traditions have outlasted these struggles. Albeit, the impact of COVID-19 stands to be the most difficult obstacle for these troupes yet.

Kok Thlok Association of Artists

One of the most popular forms of Cambodian art is through traditional shadow puppet plays. Kok Thlok Association of Artists is a group of artists that includes a majority of French nationals performing this art form. Since March of 2019, this troupe has been entertaining the public by putting on shadow puppet plays (also known as a Sbek Touch) and Yike (a Cambodian art form of Khmer musical theatre). They perform these traditional art forms to showcase and instill their culture into the younger generation and earn income for the artists. With theatre being their primary source of income and the new virus spreading, no performances occur, which in turn prevents these artists from earning their wages.

A Drastic Decrease in Income

Soon after the discovery of Cambodia’s first COVID-19 case in January of 2020, the government ordered the temporary shutdown of places such as schools, museums and cinemas. The government canceled public events, including art performances and heavily encouraged people to refrain from gathering in crowds. As a result, the Kok Thlok Association of Artists was unable to perform and gain income. With this drastic decrease in income, these artists are finding it difficult to feed themselves and pay for expenses like rent. Even in these severe circumstances, however, the association is still committed to preserving the art form.

Siem Reap’s Phare Cambodian Circus

In addition to collecting revenue from Cambodian residents, many art performances have a large following of tourists. Due to the new virus, tourism has halted — which has consequently impacted many other industries and companies as well. The Siem Reap’s Phare Cambodian circus is popular for its ability to combine the Cambodian art of storytelling effectively and artistically with dance, music and other forms of performing arts; the circus is a very popular tourist attraction. With almost no tourist arrivals, establishments like the Phare circus have been deeply affected. The effects of COVID-19 will have a long-lasting impact on the economy and the tourism industry, meaning that entertainers and artists will remain in this situation for some time.

With most of the artists’ primary and part-time jobs lost, many participants are attempting to stay above the poverty line by moving to cheaper areas and by selling goods. In addition to their dire circumstances, there is the aforementioned cultural battle in Cambodia which leaves local residents unable or unwilling to provide monetary support. Apart from monetary issues, these performances helped artists from challenging backgrounds to put aside their problems and focus on the art form. Now, with their primary outlet of expression gone, many artists are facing both financial and emotional problems.

An Adaptive Look to the Future

While these artists are managing to barely stay afloat, many theatres are unable to do so. The long-standing Sovanna Phum Theatre — a shadow puppet theatre that blends puppetry with traditional Khmer dance — closed down in May 2020. However, the ministry provides alternate ways for these artists to make money, e.g. through media outlets and other online platforms. In fact, The Sovanna Phum Theatre relocated to the School of Fine Arts. Although their performances are online and difficult for the performers to adjust to — the government has provided them with a temporary solution. It is unknown how long this solution will last, but the Cambodian artists hope for the best and pray that COVID-19 does not hurt their chances of performing in the future.

– Aditi Prasad
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Decreasing Poverty in South Africa
Bolt, a ridesharing app formerly known as Taxify, is creating jobs for people living in poverty in South Africa. The mobile app recently created a category of rides called Bolt Go, which offers rides exclusively by hatchback cars at a 20% discount. Hatchback cars are cheaper, more fuel-efficient and have lower maintenance costs than Bolt’s usual sedans, making it a cheaper option for rideshare drivers. As a result, Bolt Go may play a role in decreasing poverty in South Africa.

Bolt Go

Bolt Go’s trips will be cheaper, but will still offer the same quality of service that users have come to depend on. Bolt Go rides will include trip protection in case of accidents. Additionally, hatchback cars will need to be in good condition, have a low starting mileage and pass a 45-point safety inspection.

The desire to allow South African drivers to earn an income, even if they cannot afford a “typical” ridesharing car, fueled Bolt’s decision to offer this new service. In addition, hatchbacks’ low price points allow Bolt to offer cheaper rides. After drivers invest in a hatchback or use an existing one, Bolt helps the drivers connect to passengers, and allows them to make money based on their own hours.

Will Ridesharing Be Successful at Decreasing Poverty in South Africa?

Poverty in South Africa is still a prevalent issue, even in a post-apartheid state. A 2015 study found that nearly 56% of the South African population is below the poverty line, living on about 992 rand ($75) a month. While poverty has been slowly declining since the end of apartheid, the numbers are still bleak: about 25% of South Africans live in extreme poverty, down only 3% since 2006.

Bolt Go is thus a solution that can help to empower impoverished people to rise above the poverty line. For many people, ridesharing can serve as a second source of income, in which drivers can work any hours they are able to. Paired with the fact that Bolt is creating opportunities for drivers to use cheaper cars, it seems likely that many living in poverty will now have access to a new source of income.

The Resistance

Some driver organizations, such as the South African E-Hailing Organization, are concerned that this program may hurt rideshare drivers in the long-run. The South African E-Hailing Organization’s biggest critique is the 20% discounted fare, which it believes will quickly become the preferred option of all riders. With these lower fares come lower paychecks for drivers, who already struggle to break even. These organizations claim that Bolt is taking advantage of the failing economy and the fact that many poor citizens are desperate for a job.

While the Bolt Go program is currently rolling out in a few select counties, it is not clear whether the program will be a success in substantially decreasing poverty in South Africa. Though some view the new service as potentially exploitative, the Bolt company has made its priorities clear. In a statement released by the company, a staff member at Bolt said that the company’s “focus is on the thousands of South African drivers who rely on Bolt to connect them with passengers and earn a steady income – and enabling them to continue to earn that income to care for their families and loved ones.”

Hannah Daniel
Photo: Flickr

street vendors As the first country affected by COVID-19, China is now recovering from the pandemic. Businesses are reopening gradually and people are slowly returning to their normal day-to-day life. However, the pandemic triggered an increase in unemployment, rising from 5.7% to 6.2% in February. Since then, the government has been working to address this rapid rise. In addition to the expansion of civil servants and enterprises, the government is encouraging street vendors to help solve the problem of employment.

Economic Disparity

China has a large population of low-income citizens whose vulnerability is increased during times of crisis. This problem is not only an economic problem but also an issue of stability of sovereignty. During last month’s parliament session, Prime Minister Li Keqiang discussed civilian livelihood, reporting that 600 million citizens were still only making a monthly income of around 1,000 yuan ($140). This shows that there is still a large number of people in China who are unable to fill their basic needs without an increase in their income. As a result, China has begun to recognize the importance of developing the street vendor economy, which can help decrease unemployment and drive up higher consumption.

Street Vending in Public Policy

With the target of eliminating poverty by 2020, the approval of street vendors has become a necessary choice. Street stalls were previously thought to clash with the modern urban landscape of cities. However, the Chinese government had a change in attitude following the successful street stall experiment in Chengdu, China. The government found that reintroducing street stalls in Chengdu created 100,000 new jobs and largely increased people’s interest in entrepreneurship. Thus, the policy was implemented across the country.

Additionally, many large companies from a variety of sectors are stepping in and showing their support for street vending. Alibaba is one of the largest online shopping platforms in China. It pledged to sell merchandise to stall owners at a reduced price. Additionally, Dongfeng Motor Group and Jiangling Motors Corp (JMC) said its “vans can be modified to suit vegetable sellers or BBQ street food vendors.”

Effect on Unemployment

In June, unemployment was at  5.7%, which was a decrease of two points from the previous month. At that time, China had also created 5.64 million jobs. The increased use of street vendors is contributing to the stimulation of China’s economy and encouraging cash fl0w. Street vendors are aiding in the absorption of the labor force. They are helping those who have been unable to find work and who have not yet received aid due to the pandemic.

There is still some debate in areas like Bejing as to whether street vendors will help the economy. However, Chengdu created 100,00 jobs in May by opening “tens of thousands of street stalls.” Other local governments are following suit. Lanzhou announced its plans to open 11,000 more vendors with the possibility of providing an additional 300,000 jobs. By July, the unemployment rate had not lowered, but it also did not go up.

In a time when many countries are facing a spike in unemployment, China’s use of innovative solutions sets an encouraging example. By using street vendors as a way to stimulate the economy, China is supporting small businesses and improving consumer confidence. 

Dihan Chen
Photo: Flickr

lack of tourism
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, international travel has been at a standstill, affecting many developing countries in Africa that rely heavily on the funds that tourism generates. The aftermath of the lack of tourism has resulted in the loss of jobs for locals, decreased funding for conservation and a plummet in economic stability.

Effects on Tourism Revenue

The pandemic has affected people worldwide, especially in impoverished African countries where the tourism industry has flourished, becoming the second-fastest growing tourism industry in the world, noted in 2019. Conservation, safari and other nature-based tourism activities closely relate to each other, creating a large industry for Africa to economically capitalize and grow upon. With the ban on international travel, though, the country has not been able to yield the same amount of tourism profits as in 2018, when it brought in $194.2 billion.

Projections determine that profits will not be nearly as high in 2020 as they were in 2018. In 12 months, predictions are that Africa will lose over $30-$50 million in tourism revenue due to cancelations and rescheduling of international travel. The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is detrimental to Africa in 2020 as the U.N. estimated the people have lost 2 million jobs, directly affecting funding for businesses.

Loss of jobs and businesses, directly linked to lack of tourism and COVID-19, has changed the estimates on the poverty line in 2020. While projections determined that poverty in 2020 would decrease to 7.8%, loss of work and an increase in COVID-19 cases has now estimated that the poverty rate will increase from 8.2% in 2019 to 8.6% in 2020.

Poaching on the Rise

Anti-poaching laws went into effect in 2013 to abolish wildlife crimes in an effort to help the wildlife remain. The loss of funding and lack of tourism has affected many industries but poaching specifically has continued to be an ethical issue that Africa’s wildlife conservation and implementation of anti-poaching laws continue to battle.

With tourism on the decline during the pandemic, wildlife conservation efforts and parks have become drastically underfunded and unsupervised, with the termination of income and jobs for many residents. Lack of supervision within the parks has allowed for poachers to find loopholes and become inconspicuous as supervision in the parks decreases due to employment cuts.

With approximately 2 million residents out of work, it was not unexpected for Africa’s wildlife to become the cheapest option for food. In fact, estimates determine that 49 million people will fall below the poverty line due to COVID-19’s effect on employment opportunities.

Solutions and Partners

Though conservationists have a potentially destructive crisis at hand, many organizations will continue to use reserved funds in hopes of donations from private sectors and the assistance of other organizations. Conservation NGO African Parks commits 100% of its donations to 17 other parks who are partnered with the organization. However, due to the decrease in tourism, the park has lost 10% of its budget.

The World Health Organization has set forth the Global Humanitarian Response Plan, which has raised $7.6 billion as of April from funding inside and outside of Global Health Outreach base funding. This funding will allow for the Humanitarian Response Plan to assist not only Africa but 53 other struggling countries, regions and continents globally. In January 2020, the Global Humanitarian Response Plan sent “300 metric tons of humanitarian and medical cargo to 89 countries.” It will continue to assist with meals, water and medical supplies.

Severe food insecurity is not a new issue for residents in African regions: nearly 27.4% of the population was already severely food insecure in 2016. Urban areas will be heavily affected by these shortages. The World Food Program (WFP) is assessing the situation for food shortages. Knowing that many children receive food at school, WFP says it is working to provide “take-home rations” to assist with food insecurity. Furthermore, WFP positively stated that as of April 16, 2020, food assistance and movement remain normal for the time being and it is continuing to deliver food throughout South Africa.

– Allison Lloyd
Photo: Pexels

A photo of people in the country to represent who hunger in Spain can impact.
With more than 10 years of recovery from the eurozone crisis that was particularly devastating to Spain, the nation’s economy has been relatively successful and demonstrated steady growth. Despite this recovery, Spain’s poverty rate has risen since the crisis. Its unemployment rate is also more than double the EU average, with concerning levels of youth unemployment. Lockdowns due to COVID-19 have only worsened conditions, causing food insecurity for millions of Spaniards. Prior to the pandemic, Spain had maintained a consistent low hunger rate similar to those of other EU countries at just 2.5%. Amid the COVID-19 lockdowns, Spain’s government and outside organizations are trying to help those who have been impacted by hunger in Spain.

The Impact of Lockdowns

Prior to the pandemic, Spain had high poverty or near poverty rates as well as high unemployment rates. While hunger rates had been kept low, there is a fine line between poverty and going hungry.

Since Spain went into lockdown, 1.6 million people have been assisted by The Red Cross in order to feed themselves and their families. This is more than five times the amount helped in 2019. In Madrid, more than 100,00 people are looking to neighborhood charities and government services for aid. The demand for basic necessities has also risen by more than 30% since the pandemic hit.

Governmental Response

In May 2020, Spain’s government, led by Pedro Sanchez, introduced a minimum monthly payment to protect vulnerable families. The plan “will cost around €3 billion per year, will help four out of five people in severe poverty and benefit close to 850,000 households, half of which include children.” Since his election in 2018, the prime minister had spoken of plans to implement this subsidy, but the pandemic accelerated this process.

Accessing Government Aid

Local organizations report that accessing government services is difficult and can be a source of shame for newly affected families. These government systems can also become overwhelmed, thereby more difficult to access. People can also be blocked from registering if they do not have adequate documentation. This leaves charities and neighborhood organizations to provide additional food and supplies for those who cannot access government aid. Foodbank providers also report that an influx of informal economy workers and tourism employees have been turning to food banks since Spain implemented its strict lockdown.

Looking to the Future

The government responded to increased hunger in Spain with subsidies to help citizens put food on the table. However, Spain is also a popular destination for a record number of immigrants, many of whom do not have access to these subsidies due to the lack of documentation. The service industry, which suffered immensely under lockdowns, was also the primary employer of foreigners in Spain. This is where local groups can and are stepping in to make a positive change, trying to reach those who lack access to governmental resources. 

– Elizabeth Stankovits
Photo: Flickr

Higher Education

South Korea has some of the highest education rates out of all the nations in the developed world; however, the distortion in their public higher education system has created a massive trap in unemployment for many young South Koreans straight out of college. Over the past three years, the South Korean government has made vital reforms to extend and deepen its teachings in higher education. This way, university students can reap all the benefits of their education, attaining financial and mental stability.

The Moon Administration

South Korea’s occupational and economic market is ruled with an iron fist by families and partners of chaebol — gigantic oliguric companies and corporations who use complete nepotistic bias when employing young South Koreans, holding grotesque control over both financial and political sectors of their society. In May of 2017, President Moon Jae-in was elected into power. He promised South Koreans that the corruption the chaebol had caused in their society was to be renounced, diminished and abandoned, leading the way for South Korea to be more equal and equitable in employment and social politics.

Moon knew the most effective way to bring a major change in the job market was to make adjustments to the higher education system to decrease favoritism and competition between universities and employers. One form of action Moon pushed was “blind hiring,” or limiting the amount of information employers could request concerning an individual’s university ranking and GPA in their initial application. This would decrease the amount of profiling and preference which has been rooted in the South Korean occupational world.

SKY Universities

More than 80% of higher education institutions in South Korea are privately owned and have rigorous admissions, requiring students to pass a test that most individuals can pass only with a professional tutor or prior private specialty science and mathematics schooling. The three most prestigious universities in South Korea, known as SKY, are Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University. These schools are the only noted educational institutions for chaebol employers. This makes it extremely difficult for individuals from low-income homes to ever attain such professions because they don’t have the funds for a private tutor or prior elite schooling to be admitted to a SKY university.

In attempts to have a more socioeconomic diverse population of students at SKY universities, in 2018, the Moon administration ordered the SKY universities to make their admissions testing far less extensive and detailed to increase the number of applicants who would be able to pass the entry exam. The current government administration also put limitations on the number of students the SKY universities could accept so that more public universities in South Korea could build their reputations on the job market. Both of the SKY initiatives placed by Moon were very innovative in disassembling the distorted educational promises of South Korean society.

Elimination of Elite Education

The Moon administration has aimed to eliminate all elite high schools to equalize the kind of education that young South Koreans are receiving, creating a more fair college admissions process by 2025. Thirteen universities in Seoul that had more than 25% of students from elite secondary schools were evaluated to examine their admissions systems level of integrity by being impartial when admitting students.

How Education Will Repair the Job Market

President Moon has made a tremendous effort by being the first political leader to go against the ancient, corrupt societal standards in employment and hiring practices. By placing more regulations on the educational private sector, both the political and social sectors will begin to be dismantled as well, creating even more building blocks for young South Koreans to move up the socioeconomic ladder. With the inequality of private educational institutions becoming more publicized through governmental action, a more secure and bright future is developing for the classist poverty trap of South Korea.

– Nicolettea Rose Daskaloudi
Photo: Flickr

Unemployment in South Africa
Although South Africa’s GDP is the second-highest in Africa, more than 50% of the population lives in poverty. One of the factors preventing people from escaping poverty is the nation’s staggering unemployment rate. With over 28.18% of the population looking for work in 2019, South Africa’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in the world. Giraffe is a job recruitment platform that Anish Shivdasani created in 2015 with the mission of alleviating unemployment in South Africa.

3 Causes of Unemployment in South Africa

  1. Apartheid systematically excluded black people from the educational system and the skilled workforce throughout the 20th century. Recently, there are more women and people of color participating in the education system and receiving training. As a result, there are more job seekers in South Africa than there are hiring employers.
  2. South Africa’s labor market favors highly skilled workers. This results in few accessible jobs for the general public. The nation’s labor laws, which include high wages and policies that constrain employers from letting employees go, discourage employers from hiring young workers with minimal experience.
  3. Despite the government’s increased spending on education, the South African education system does not provide students with adequate training or skills necessary for the type of employment available in the formal sector. Additionally, many students are unable to finish school and are, therefore, highly likely to experience unemployment. The problems within the nation’s education system resulted in a youth unemployment rate of 55.97% in 2019.

Giraffe: A Solution

More than 1 million job seekers use Giraffe’s platform, and the software has invited more than 500,000 applicants for an interview in the last five years. The app is convenient for both employers and applicants, as it takes just a few minutes to post a job with the employer’s desired criteria. Here are three ways Giraffe addresses the problem of unemployment in South Africa.

3 Ways Giraffe Addresses Unemployment

  1. Giraffe aims to empower its employers by focusing on the problem of job retention in South Africa. The technology screens candidates so that employers only have to assess applicants that meet their qualifications. Giraffe even provides an option for a voice recording through which applicants respond to a question that the employer poses. Therefore, when candidates receive a request to come in for an interview, employers are confident that they have picked the right person for the job.
  2. Giraffe is the platform with the most medium-skilled workers in South Africa, including recent graduates and students. The app offers jobs for many levels of training rather than just providing jobs to wealthy, highly educated applicants. This could eventually serve to reduce the youth unemployment rate by providing opportunities to young people with mid-level training.
  3. In 2019, Giraffe announced that it would provide its services “for free to exempted micro-enterprises (EMEs) who are willing to hire first-time job-seekers.” This helps small businesses who are often unable to afford job-recruitment technology. In South Africa, where economic competition is rare and small businesses struggle to gain traction, Giraffe’s services could serve to invigorate entrepreneurial culture while actively reducing unemployment.

Impact of COVID-19

With more than 380,000 cases and over 5,000 deaths, COVID-19 has taken a toll on unemployment in South Africa, which experts expect to increase to 35.31% by December 2020. Additionally, 8.1% of people reported having closed their businesses or lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 lockdown in May 2020.

Giraffe’s platform will be integral to the thousands of people who lose their jobs in the wake of COVID-19, as more people will be looking for work once the virus subsides. The company also adapted to COVID-19 by educating other start-ups about how to conduct business productively from home.

Looking Forward

In the future, Giraffe aims to provide job training through its app. This should provide even more opportunities for job seekers to improve their skills, become qualified for higher-paying jobs and to meet more employers’ criteria. The start-up also intends to expand internationally and to continue to narrow its focus on small businesses.

Giraffe is a fast-growing company using modern technology that has garnered support and funding from around the world. Unemployment remains one of the most pressing issues in South Africa. However, companies like Giraffe provide tangible solutions that will help address the issue of unemployment in South Africa.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Zimbabwe
Caroline Richards first saw homelessness in Zimbabwe in the nation’s capital, Harare. As a 19-year-old girl from the western United States, she had never witnessed anything like it before. “Some people had large tumors on their legs, or others were blind,” she said. “I was shocked when I first saw a tumor on someone’s leg that was around the size of a cantaloupe. I had never seen [anything] like that.” Richards left her home state of Utah in March 2016 to spend 18 months in Zimbabwe as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While there, she often interacted with the locals, entered their homes and saw how they lived.

Zimbabwe is a nation in sub-Saharan Africa with a population of over 14.8 million people, located south of Zambia and Malawi. More than 72% of the population lives below the poverty line, a rate that has unfortunately worsened over the years. Homelessness in Zimbabwe is an ongoing crisis, with the national housing shortage estimated at more than 1 million and over 1.2 million people on the government’s national housing waiting list. From Richards’ perspective, homelessness in Zimbabwe is often caused by a physical inability, unlike homelessness in the United States. “Most of the homelessness I saw was because of physical ailment or impairment,” she said. “There are some people who just haven’t been able to make it in the economy because every odd is against them.”

Unemployment and Homelessness

It is reported that the unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is as high as 90%. Richards said she thinks this is a major contributor to homelessness in Zimbabwe. “The government doesn’t take as good of care of the Zimbabwean people as they should. The economy is in disarray all of the time which makes it difficult for the people to make ends meet,” she said. For example, in 2005, the government of Zimbabwe started a campaign, “Operation Restore Order,” to destroy slums across the country, leaving 700,000 people homeless. Former President Robert Mugabe and his government officials claimed the operation was a crackdown against illegal housing. The campaign was met with strong condemnation from several groups and organizations, including the United Nations. 

A Dense Population

Richards added that the housing shortage is also due to Zimbabwe being densely populated. “There are a lot of people in small quarters,” she said. “Because of the poor economy, it’s not uncommon for families to rent one room from a house with a communal bathroom shared with 4-6 families because that’s all they can afford.”

Richards described the Zimbabwean homes she entered as “made of concrete” and “well-kept.” Since many houses throughout the country don’t have electricity, they leave their windows open to let in natural light. Throughout her time in Zimbabwe, Richards lived in some of the smaller rural areas and shared homes with local Zimbabweans. Though she often witnessed the negative impact of homelessness on these citizens, she also learned from how they lived. “Living in Zimbabwe taught me that it’s possible to live comfortably in the most humble of circumstances,” she reflected. “Zimbabweans have very impressive hygiene, and even if a whole family of 6 was living in one little room, it would be perfectly clean, all their clothes would be ironed, and the children bathed. They made the most out of what they had and are creative in the things they do to make ends meet.”

Help for the Homeless

Though housing shortages and homelessness in Zimbabwe are still very prevalent, some organizations are striving to eliminate them. Homeless International, The Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and the Dialogue on Shelter for the Homeless in Zimbabwe Trust are working together to address issues of homelessness in Zimbabwe, particularly low-income housing. In partnership with the city of Harare, the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and the Dialogue on Shelter, which acts as the technical partner for the Federation, are working on the Harare Slum Upgrading Project. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project began in 2010 as a pilot project to accommodate 16 families and provide infrastructural services for 480 families in a certain Zimbabwean suburb. The project is still ongoing and impacts many community members, seeking to improve their living conditions. Homelessness in Zimbabwe is still a serious problem, but these and other organizations are doing their part to conquer it.

Emma Benson
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Namibia
Even as one of the eight countries in Africa classified as an upper-middle-income country, Namibia is still striving overall to eliminate extreme poverty and inequality. The implementation of new socioeconomic structures from the Namibian government and partnering initiatives will soon make the vision of no poverty in Namibia a reality.

Living Below the Poverty Line

Of the nation’s population of 2.5 million people, 17.4% were living below the poverty line in 2015 and 2016. This is a drastic decrease of over 11% between 2009 and 2010 when 28.7% of the population lived below the poverty line. This progress aside, environmental conditions and employment rates have inhibited the growth of economic status and societal wealth in Namibia.

Although the poverty line decreased in 2016, unemployment remained at a steady rate of 34%. Women were more likely to be affected by unemployment at 38.3%, and youth counterparts suffered at a rate of 43.4%. The rates of poverty and unemployment are dependent on people’s surroundings. Youth living in rural areas are likely to experience more difficulty finding a job than those living in an urban setting.

Education in Namibia

Education in Namibia, similar to in the U.S., is a primary skill to have when looking for work. Therefore, poverty in Namibia significantly affects people who may not have access to education. This includes those living in rural areas, those affected by disabilities and women. People living in rural areas are more likely to be affected by inadequate access to education due to a lack of resources. Rural communities often have limited access to management, funding, technology and information. In many cases, these resources directly affect employment opportunities.

Unfortunately, one-third of students drop out of school before the tenth grade. This issue correlates to the lack of teaching qualifications, as more than 20% of teachers in Namibia have no formal qualifications. The number of students that continue to higher education also remains at a low estimate of 19%.

To combat these challenges, there is a need for mobilization of employment policies to rural areas in Namibia.

The High-Level Panel on the Namibian Economy (HLPNE)

The HLPNE was appointed by the Namibian government in March 2019 to respond to issues regarding “the path toward recovery and growth.” The seminar discussed economic inequalities, examining the investments and policies for the creation of jobs. According to the ILO, “The HLPNE has four pillars of work that include building a $1 billion investment portfolio, removing policy impediments, promoting Namibia for tourism and investment and creating employment opportunities.”

Honourable Erkki Nghimtina, Namibia’s labour minister, and Chair of the HLPNE Johannes Gawaxab both spoke during the seminar. They believe that the economy needs funding to gradually allow for job creation. In turn, this would balance the socioeconomic disproportion in Namibia. Tax incentives and government funding from private sectors and organizations would provide the ability to implement this, allowing the country’s economy to respond properly.

Vision 2030

Along with this, the Namibian government has created a developmental agenda to combat poverty in Namibia: Vision 2030. Vision 2030 enacts targets to create new and improved policies to form a more unified government between all sectors, both rural and urban. This agenda focuses on healthcare, education, housing and more in order to provide equal opportunity for those living in poverty in Namibia. Modernizing the economy within rural sectors will provide more funding and resources between schools. This will allow students to receive appropriate education, specifically developing skills needed for work in Namibia.

With help from new initiatives and improved policies and targets, awareness is being brought to poverty in Namibia. This awareness will allow for improvement upon the inequalities that still affect rural and urban sectors. These contributions will enable Namibia to continue making positive strides to eliminate poverty by 2030.

– Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in NorwayNorway, a European nation known for its beautiful national parks, winter sports and northern lights, is ranked eighth by USA Today on the list of Top 25 Richest Countries in the World. The average life expectancy for a Norwegian at birth is 82.5 years, over a decade more than the global average. Norway is also one of the countries with the lowest child mortality rate. Impressively, Norway also has a very low poverty rate (at 0.5% as of 2017). However, contrary to the conventional image of Norway being a very affluent country, many Norwegians still live in poverty. Here are five facts about poverty in Norway.

5 Facts About Poverty in Norway

  1. Due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, the unemployment rate in Norway is 15.7% as of June 2020. The unemployment rate in Norway is at its highest since WWII. Pre-COVID-19, however, the unemployment rate in Norway had been already decreasing since 2016, from 4.68% (the nation’s highest unemployment rate since 2005) to 3.97% in a matter of 3 years. The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration has a website for unemployed Norwegians to use in order to seek unemployment benefits.
  2. As of 2016, 36% of children born to immigrants live in poverty in Norway, compared to 5% of children with parents native to Norway.  This economic discrepancy is due to Norwegian immigrants often having large families but only one source of income. Many immigrants also have skills that were considered valuable in their home countries but inapplicable in the Norwegian job market. Another factor to consider is how common it is for Norwegian children in poverty to lack access to proper education, perpetuating issues related to poverty as they become adults and for families of their own.
  3. As of 2017, around 60% of children in Oslo, Norway’s capital city with the most residents, live in poverty. Researcher Ingar Brattbakk from the Labour Research Institute at Oslo University College led a study that concluded that “nowhere else in Norway is near that figure.” However, it seems to be a universal issue that cities with high populations are more likely to have more poor people than those with lower populations. Raymond Johansen, current Governing Mayor of Oslo and a member of the Norwegian Labor Party, had stated in 2018 that more funds will go toward area-based initiatives, such as crisis packages for people in increasingly affected districts.
  4. The age range with the highest risk of being in poverty in Norway is 18-34 years of age. Many people in this age group are more affected by poverty because they are graduating from universities with debt, have large families and/or cannot find suitable employment within the Norwegian job market. There is also a sharp increase in poverty rates for elderly Norwegians (from 70 to 90 years of age) because they are past the typical working age. Other determinants of poverty include education level, family size, employment and marital status.
  5. Poverty is low in Norway due to the nation’s emphasis on collectivism and efficiency with job placement. The nation places major significance on cultural identity, values and practices, all of which add to their homogenous society that allows for many native Norwegian people to prosper socioeconomically. The country also has a rather small population (5.4 million as of 2020) even though Norway has a large amount of landmass. Norway also significantly contributes to petroleum export, which improves its economy greatly. Sustained tourism also positively adds to the nation’s wealth. Norway has a lesser rate of migration compared to other nations such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The nation has a stable democratic system of government with highly effective and trustworthy politicians who are extremely proactive in handling the welfare system. Reasons such as these have contributed to recent miscellaneous surveys citing Norway as “the best country to live in.” While this may be true for some, this ranking does not take into account the voices of those who live in poverty.

Although Norway has a very small poverty rate, the nation still experiences poverty: more specifically, poverty in Norway’s immigrant communities. One way Norway can address poverty is by helping ease the transition of immigrants. Potential methods include more school funding, free or low-cost language lessons and an expansion of the job market. An example of a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Norway’s poor is Care International’s Norwegian chapter, a global group whose volunteers participate in humanitarian aid and poverty-fighting projects. Being such an affluent and progressive country, with some more money, time and energy, Norway can be on the track to lowering its poverty rate to zero.

Kia Wallace
Photo: Pixabay