Inflammation and stories on United Kingdom

Ethical TradingFair Trade is a buzzword these days, but what impact does it really have? As fair trade business models are around longer and grow in popularity, there is time to assess what positive impacts they actually have. The U.K.’s Ethical Trading Initiative is an alliance of organizations that work together to promote and support ethical codes of labor throughout the supply chain. Impacting the lives of more than 10 million workers every year, The Ethical Trading Initiative promotes giving a voice to local workers, transparent business practices and government intervention to protect workers’ rights. After 21 years of dedication to impoverished workers, people are able to measure the positive impacts of The Ethical Trading Initiative.

5 Positive Impacts of The Ethical Trading Initiative

  1. More Safety Regulations: One of the largest impacts has been on improving working conditions. This includes better training on emergency drills, improved fire safety and safer chemical use. Additionally, work environments have better hygienic standards as well as improved water and sanitation facilities. Changes in health and safety empower workers to feel safer at work and have better health, which improves their quality of life.
  2. Reasonable Working Hours: Overall, suppliers have reduced workers’ hours to be more reasonable although workers’ reactions to the reduced hours have been mixed. Those with families enjoy the extra free time while some single workers prefer to work (and thus earn) as much as possible. Additionally, workers are paid higher rates for overtime and earn double rates for working on Sundays. Ultimately, wages still need to be raised to combat the need to work as many hours as possible to support basic needs.
  3. A Reduction in Child Labor: Ethical codes and buyer pressure both aid in decreasing the employment of children. Specifically for children ages 16-17, an increase in checking age by official documents has contributed to lower rates in child employment. Poverty is the root cause of child labor. As ethical working conditions continue to improve, lifting more people out of poverty, child labor will continue to decrease.
  4. Worker & Manager Relations: Open, transparent dialogue between companies, managers and employees is key to establishing ethical working conditions. As a result of ethical labor codes, relations between management and workers continue to improve. On some sites, this has been the result of the establishment of workers’ committees that have improved communication practices. Establishing changes to increase communication and allow workers’ voices to be heard is foundational to deciding ethical labor codes.
  5. Physical and Social Well Being: As a result of all the previous improvements combined, workers’ physical and social well beings are increasing dramatically. Studies show that physical and social benefits are being felt by all workers and have effects not just in the workplace but also at home and on their long-term health. These improved and enforced ethical codes have a drastic impact on workers. Workers are less vulnerable to social problems resulting from income instability or health problems. This improves a worker’s ability to ultimately escape poverty.

In the face of increased demand for more products and faster production rates, the Ethical Trading Initiative helps raise awareness of ethical labor codes among managers. Ultimately, this awareness of codes pressures managers to adhere to more ethical practices. When companies take the time to think about the individuals behind every product produced as humans with rights, the ripple effects of change can begin. While there is still a lot of progress that needs to happen to empower impoverished workers globally, the positive impacts of the Ethical Trading Initiative continue to influence a consumer world that prioritizes human rights over profit.

Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr

Brexit and Poverty in Britain
In 2016, 51.9 percent of voters in The United Kingdom voted for Britain to leave The European Union. This controversial decision left many scholars and politicians scrambling to predict what social and economic consequences would follow for the country. Many significant studies have been conducted on the possible effects of Brexit and poverty in Britain, but it is impossible to definitively know what repercussions the transition will bring.

In March 2019, the transition out of the EU is set to begin. Many facets of British life, politics and economics will be impacted by this shift, yet the effect of Brexit on poverty in Britain remains complicated and vague. Some may claim that Brexit will not increase British poverty rates while others argue that it will. Some of the most influential determinants of national poverty are healthcare, food security, and household income and expenditure.

Health Care and Medical Services

The British National Healthcare System (NHS) has historically been dependent on non-U.K./ EU nationals to contribute to the medical workforce. In 2017, 60,000 workers in the NHS were non-U.K./EU nationals. Since Brexit, however, many medical professionals have left The U.K. due to uncertainty about legal status and protections post-Brexit. Leaving the EU also makes recruiting international employees more difficult as there will be less recognition of professional qualifications received in other countries.

Immediately after the Brexit vote, the number of non-U.K./EU nurses applying to join the British nursing register fell by about 96 percent. Patients are being forced to wait over longer periods of time for treatment simply because there are not enough medical professionals available. This is a dangerous and potentially fatal repercussion of Brexit.

Food security

In the case of a no-deal Brexit, food security would suffer as 30 percent of the national food supply comes from the EU The country does not have a clear food stockpiling location as it is accustomed to importing food and consuming it rather quickly afterward. The EU is such a large provider of food for Britain that no other country could easily replace this supply.

The U.K. itself will have trouble producing enough to make up for the deficit since it faces its own problems with food production as a result of things like changing weather conditions. Many are concerned that a no-deal Brexit could cause catastrophic food shortages in the country.

Household costs and incomes

Brexit will have a negative impact on the ability of the U.K. to import any kinds of foreign European goods and services. Because of this, the prices of goods and services will increase. Of course, this will affect all populations in Britain, but it will be felt most intensely by poorer households who will not be able to keep up with these price increases.

On the other hand, it is possible that if Brexit may lead non-U.K./EU workers to leave Britain, there may be an influx of job opportunities in the country. This could mean that some poor British citizens may be able to find more lucrative work.

As Brexit approaches, the United Kingdom is beginning to take precautions to ensure that the transition occurs smoothly. Though there is disagreement on what a proper Brexit would entail, all seem to agree that the priority should be the protection of the British citizenry. The political and partisan debates over what Brexit will mean for the country can only involve precaution and prediction as no one can be certain what March 2019 will bring or what the effect of Brexit on poverty in Britain will be. One can only hope that the well being of vulnerable citizens will be considered.

Julia Bloechl
Photo: Flickr

Top Five Nonprofits Combatting Human Trafficking
War Child, a nonprofit organization that supports and educate the children affected by wars, in association with British newspapers,
Evening Standard and Independent, launched the Learn to Live Campaign.

As a part of this campaign, students in the United Kingdom have connected with students in conflict areas around the world. By pairing U.K. classrooms with other classrooms worldwide, the campaign hopes to encourage empathy, understanding and support across borders. With this new understanding, students in the U.K. can learn about students around the world and become their advocates.

Education of Young People in Conflict Areas

According to the Global Partnership for Education, 21.5 million children, 15 million adolescents, and 26 million youth that are out-of-school worldwide live in 32 countries affected by conflict. Needless to say, these young people need educational support. Recently, humanitarian efforts have focused more on this need and over the past five years, requests for education funding in emergencies have risen by 21 percent.

Despite the desperate need for improvement of this situation, only 2.7 percent of humanitarian aid went towards education efforts in 2016. Education should be a focus for humanitarian efforts since access to education directly affects young people’s lives and their future.

Providing young people with quality education and support does only help them overcome the circumstances of war, but also lowers the risk of conflict. In fact, education helps make conflict less prevalent and reduces the risk of conflict by approximately 20 percent. Therefore, educating young people in conflict areas is an important investment not only to individual students but also to the future of conflict-stricken parts of the world.

The Work of Learn to Live Campaign

The Learn to Live Campaign aims to broaden understanding and compassion and it centers around facilitating communication between British students and students in conflict areas. Students send video messages and letters back and forth, detailing their personal lives and challenges.

This exchange of information enables students in U.K. to learn about the reality of students in other parts of the world. In conflict areas, these relationships can give students psychosocial support by making them feel heard and understood by their peers. As the campaign teaches U.K. students about other parts of the world, it also draws attention to the needs of students in conflict areas.

The Art Project

Recently, Andria Zafirakou, an art teacher who was named world’s best teacher in 2018, started an art project, incorporated in Learn to Live campaign, for students from all of the participating U.K. schools. Currently, four U.K. schools have paired with students affected by conflict in Jordan, Iraq and the Central African Republic. 

The art project challenges students to spell “Learn to Live” with materials found in their environments. Several schools are working on the art project, and their works will eventually be combined into one piece. As one of the participating students, Harriet Webster, commented, the art project “is something people will understand, as they will have seen something similar in newspapers or online all over the world.”

Zafirakou also notes the importance of the campaign in expanding British advocacy for global issues. In Zafirakou’s view, The Learn to Live Campaign will educate and empower British children, then those children will go on to raise awareness in their own school and communities, and become a really powerful force. Thus, the campaign’s effects have the potential to spread far beyond the classrooms and the students themselves.

Support for the Campaign

The Learn to Live Campaign has gained wide support in the U.K., from London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, to celebrities, such as Sam Smith and Richard Curtis. In addition to backing up the project, Khan has encouraged Londoners to get involved. In his words, “children living in areas of conflict deserve our unconditional compassion, as well as our solidarity and support.”

The growing visibility and reach of The Learn to Live Campaign will continue to foster empathy and support for students in conflict areas. Luckily, other students will follow the example and get in touch with their underprivileged peers.

– Morgan Harden
Photo: Flickr

ending modern slaverySlavery is not a widely accepted or legal practice nowadays, but it is far from extinct. In 2016, there were an estimated 40.3 million people trapped in modern slavery. This slavery can take the form of forced labor, domestic slavery and sexual exploitation among others with many of these slaves being young children. Although, sexual slavery is often what many people think of when they first hear the term “modern slavery,” nearly 25 million people have been exploited as slaves for forced labor.

This is an epidemic that can seem quite daunting at times but has gained more recognition in recent years. Now, nonprofits, businesses and governments around the world are working to end modern slavery. One nonprofit in particular has used technology to their advantage and, on July 30, launched an anti-slavery application for smartphones in The United Kingdom in the hopes of ending modern slavery.

Smartphones and Ending Modern Slavery

In 2016, The U.K. nonprofit, Unseen, started a nationwide Modern Slavery Helpline that individuals could call to report incidents that looked like slavery. This hotline saw a large increase in usage at the beginning of 2018 with an 80 percent increase in reports. In order to make reporting easier and raise awareness for this problem, Unseen developed a new smartphone app.

The app has easy-to-read guides on identifying the signs of modern slavery and is an easier version of their confidential hotline. It features graphics showing what slavery can look like in different contexts, such as in manufacturing, construction, agriculture or domestic work. The guides are even detailed enough to show users different physical signs or movements that may indicate slavery.

The nonprofit recognized that traffickers and pimps are using technology and all the resources available to them to recruit, exploit and control their slaves. In order to fight traffickers and slavery, this organization created its own app to be innovative in its solutions to fighting this problem, believing it is an important step in ending modern slavery.

As of right now, arrests solely based on the hotline have been low, but different agencies in The U.K. are embracing the app and will hopefully begin to rely on it more. Currently, the app is only available in The U.K., but slavery is a widespread problem that has a deep tie to global poverty.

The Tie Between Poverty and Slavery

There are many factors contributing to modern slavery, but one of the most prominent is poverty. The International Labour Organization (ILO) argues that poverty and income shocks are key to understanding forced labor and slavery.

The ILO articulates that people living in poverty are more likely to borrow money, which can make them vulnerable to exploitation.  When a family experiences extreme poverty they are more likely to rely on a third party for emergency funds. Oftentimes, due to a lack of financial resources, this dependence ends up being on a recruiter or trafficker and leads to manipulation, slavery and exploitation. Slavery traps its victims in a tragic cycle where they end up impoverished with little escape.

Other factors that The ILO highlights are education and illiteracy, which are often more common in impoverished societies. Often people who are less educated end up working in manual labor where forced labor and slavery is more common. It is also more challenging for these people to gain an understanding of their rights and protections against slavery or how to exercise these rights to defend themselves.

Although there is much progress to be made in ending modern slavery, innovative nonprofits like Unseen are creatively helping solve this problem and will hopefully inspire others to do the same. Being able to safely report incidents of slavery is the first step to ending this horrible exploitation.

Alexandra Eppenauer
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

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandThe United Kingdom is a long established world power with the sixth largest economy in the world. Therefore, these top 10 facts about hunger in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland may surprise many, as the U.K. suffers from a hidden hunger crisis. While hunger was a concern following World War II, it has since fallen off the political radar as economic conditions have improved. Following the 2008 global financial crisis, however, rising food bank usage and hospital admissions, as a result of malnutrition, have brought the topic of food security back into the public eye.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

  1. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) found that almost 8.4 million U.K. citizens suffer from food insecurity. This means that a significant amount of the population (equivalent to the size of London) experiences hunger daily or are unable to sufficiently feed themselves and their family. As of 2014, the U.K. ranks in the bottom half of the European countries with 10 percent of the population struggling with food insecurity.
  2. More than half of those suffering from food insecurity (4.7 million people) are classified as severely food insecure, sometimes going an entire day without any food at all. This disproportionately affects women because women are more likely to provide childcare than men. Single parents are twice as likely to live in poverty and suffer from food insecurity, and 89 percent of single parents are women.
  3. According to the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network, food bank usage continues to increase annually (26,000 people in the 2008/09 financial year vs. 128,697 in 2013/12). Low income, debt and universal credit are key factors attributing to this trend. Data suggests that the hunger level may be 17 times higher than estimated by the Trussell Trust because many afflicted people do not have access to food banks.
  4. The main reason for referral to a Trussell Trust food bank is a delay in benefit payments. Combined, benefit delays and benefit changes (the 3rd most common reason for referral) make up 42 percent of all food bank referrals in the U.K. Improvement of the benefits system would, therefore, significantly reduce the number of people reliant on food banks and alleviate food insecurity overall.
  5. The average U.K. citizen spends 20 percent more on food than they were five years ago, but consuming 7 percent less. Household incomes are declining while food prices continue to increase, which forces families to purchase less food out of financial necessity. Increased food prices also spark malnutrition, due to the lack of affordability of healthy options, which tend to be more expensive.
  6. The long-term health consequences associated with food insecurity will impact the economy and increase costs for healthcare systems in the U.K. Cheaper food options tend to be high in calories but lack nutrients, putting those living with food insecurity at a higher risk of obesity and diabetes. Additionally, growing up in a household without sufficient access to food can negatively impact child development and mental health.
  7. The U.K. wastes 1.9 million tons of food and drinks each year, over half of which (1.1mt) is avoidable. Surplus food occurs at every level of the food chain: overproduction at the farming stage, incorrect labeling during processing and manufacturing, and short shelf life for wholesale and retail. Redirecting food waste would save almost £1.9 billion ($2.5 billion) and could be used to feed the hungry, either directly or indirectly through repurposing the excess food as animal feed.
  8. The U.K. has committed to help alleviate global hunger through projects such as the Millennium Development Goals, the Scaling Up Nutrition movement, Voices of the Hungry and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. However, the government does not regularly or comprehensively measure national food security. Therefore, decision-makers are unaware of the depth of the domestic hunger crisis. Parliament currently has the Food Insecurity Measurement bill, which focuses on starting a program to collect data on food insecurity throughout the U.K.
  9. End Hunger U.K. is a coalition of food poverty organizations aimed at raising awareness for food insecurity to incentivize change. They have teamed up with Emma Lewell-Buck, author of the Food Insecurity Measurement bill, to add a validated survey method (the U.N. Food Insecurity Experience Survey or the USDA Food Insecurity Assessment) to existing government household surveys. This bill is now supported by more than 150 cross-party MPs and is set to be read in Parliament at the end of October.
  10. Individuals can increase pressure on the government to reduce hunger in the U.K. by reaching out to their government officials in support of the legislation, such as the Food Insecurity Measurement bill. Additionally, they can volunteer their time at a food bank or an organization that advocates for food security.

These top 10 facts about hunger in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are a glimpse into an issue beginning to gain traction in the media and at the government level. Efforts to collect more data will shed light on the extent of food insecurity in the U.K. and allow policymakers to create an informed solution to the problem.

– Georgia Orenstein
Photo: Flickr

Although the United Kingdom (U.K.) is one of the largest economies in the world, the persistent battle with poverty is one that has plagued the nation for decades. Both the need for work and the average income level are nearly stagnant with little room for growth.

Persistent poverty is defined as experiencing low income continually for three or more years. For solutions to become clearer, the general public must become acquainted with the top 10 facts about poverty in the U.K.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in the U.K.

  1. Britain has a lower proportion of its population living in relative poverty than most other European countries. Relative poverty is defined as a household with a disposable income rate of less than 60 percent, often referred to as “at risk” poverty.
  2. This means that most impoverished people living the in U.K. fall under the term “persistent poverty,” pointing to more households having an even smaller disposable income as well as experiencing poverty for an extended period of time.
  3. There are 13.3 million people in poverty in the U.K., and about 4.1 million of that population are children under the age of 18. Couples with children are five times more likely to raise them in an impoverished household than childless couples.
  4. Children in large families are at a far greater risk of poverty – 42 percent of children living in families with three or more children live in poverty. When accounted for childcare costs, an extra 130,000 children and their parents fall below the poverty line.
  5. Last year, around two-thirds of U.K. citizens took on jobs that paid less than a living wage, which resulted in more part-time work and more citizens needing to take multiple jobs. In recent years, there has been an economic push to increase the rate of pay for low-income workers, but progress is slow. In addition, once a family member is in a low-income job, it can be very difficult to move out.
  6. At least half of the U.K.’s impoverished population is working full-time and another 30 percent take part-time work. In Scotland alone, ten percent of working adults live in severe poverty.
  7. Many of the households on or near the poverty line (making less than £15,000 per year) spend more than a quarter of their income on housing. In fact, the poorest private renters and homeowners spend more than half of their income on housing. Around 5.8 million in the U.K. rent private housing — double since the last decade.
  8. Of the nine million people aged 14-24 living in the U.K., 2.7 million (30 percent) live in poverty — an amount higher than any other collective age group. Part of the reason that the rate among young people is higher is that they are more likely to live in privately-rented housing and spend a greater share of their income on housing costs.
  9. A higher proportion of women were persistently poor when compared to that of men — 8.2 percent compared to 6.3 percent, respectively.
  10. Women are 14 percent more likely to live in households with income levels that fall below the poverty line. As a result, single-parent homes lead by women are less likely to receive better healthcare, education and options to private housing.

A Bright Future

The United Kingdom continues to struggle in the terms of its poverty, but understanding these top 10 facts about poverty in the U.K. creates stepping-stones to a brighter future and helps alleviate people out of poverty.

– Tresa Rentler
Photo: Flickr

aid creates markets
As public sector debt in developed countries continues to rise, foreign aid has become a target for activists and policymakers seeking to cut spending. The aid budget of the United Kingdom is no exception, with critics claiming that spending on foreigners is wasteful and contrary to national interest.

The country’s Department for International Development (DFID), responsible for administering overseas aid, has rejected calls for cuts in spending by emphasizing that aid creates markets that will ultimately consume British goods and provide higher returns for British investment.

National Debate Over Aid Spending

As one of six countries to reach the United Nations target for international aid spending of 0.7 percent of gross national income, the U.K. is a major contributor to worldwide aid spending. The leadership role the country plays in international aid was bolstered by the passing of a 2015 bill that enshrined the spending target into law, committing the country to sustaining current levels of spending as a share of the economy’s size.

However, in a political environment where nationalist sentiment is rising, exemplified by the 2016 Brexit referendum, prominent U.K. politicians have called for a reduction in foreign aid spending. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Member of Parliament of the Conservative Party and potential future party leader, has said that with the government budget running a deficit, aid levels are an insane and a costly mistake.

Facing this criticism, Penny Mordaunt, the recently appointed head of DFID, has pushed back, contending that the aid is a moral obligation that also serves British interests. In an April 12 speech laying out her vision for U.K. aid, Mordaunt said that improving global health, security and income is linked to British prosperity and that promoting these goals abroad provides lasting benefits for the U.K.

Notably, Mordaunt emphasized that aid creates markets through the development of economies and human capital, citing DFID’s work in sub-Saharan Africa as having created jobs and growth, benefiting recipient countries but also benefiting British companies by creating new consumers.

Private Sector Partnerships a Key Way That Aid Creates Markets

Mordaunt’s speech also explained how aid creates markets in conjunction with the private sector. Aid will be directed to help African companies to acquire loans through British financial markets, encouraging British investors to direct more capital to the region and spurring economic development. By proposing an aid plan in which British investors could achieve higher returns, DFID is hoping to illustrate another channel through which an aid budget is mutually beneficial to both the donor and recipient countries.

Critics have cautioned of the dangers of conflating national and foreign interests in aid work. In response to Mordaunt’s speech, Tamsyn Barton, chief executive of an international development network representing NGOs called Bond, told Devex that aid programs focused on serving national interests are inherently less effective than those focused on the primary goal of improving conditions in affected countries.

Mordaunt does clarify that aid will not be conditional, stating in her speech that tied aid is bad for U.K. competitiveness and for the recipient nations, but observers such as Barton have warned that this distinction should be made explicit.

Even a country such as the United Kingdom, which has enshrined its commitment to foreign aid in law, faces pressure from domestic critics to redirect this funding home. In highlighting how aid creates markets that benefit the home country, Mordaunt and the DFID are seeking to show that the decision between spending at home and spending abroad is a false dilemma.

– Mark Fitzpatrick

Photo: Flickr

Five Countries That Give the Largest Foreign AidAccording to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) report, in 2016, 30 countries in Development Assistance Committee (DAC) contributed a total of $142.6 billion as financial assistance to poorer countries, with the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and France giving the largest foreign aid.

On average, the United States’ government has given approximately one percent of its federal budget — about $34 billion — each year over the past decade to countries in need of foreign aid.

Out of the aid amounts from all donor countries, U.S. foreign aid ranked at the top of the list. Non-DAC countries, like China, are also responsible for a significant part of the total aid amount.

Each year, developing countries receive aid in tens of billions of dollars from governments in other countries. From obtaining diplomatic approval to business access, this aid can serve various purposes for the donor countries. From agriculture, to education and public health, recipient countries use aid towards a wide variety of issues and projects.

Here is a rundown of the five countries that offered the largest foreign aid and how that aid was spent by its intended nations. Due to the lack of detailed information for 2017 fiscal year, the list will be based on previous-year statistics.

1. China

A surprise to many, the winner on the “aid list” is China rather than the United States. As a non-DAC country, China has not officially disclosed its aid information; however, in a recent publication, researchers from AidData at William & Mary claimed that during the year between 2000 and 2014, China offered $350 billion-worth of aid to 140 countries and territories, sponsoring more than 4000 projects – the largest foreign aid program in the world.

In 2009, China’s total financial commitment to development aid reached a whopping $69.9 billion, two times that of the U.S. foreign aid in the same year.

A large chunk of China’s aid is categorized by AidData as “Other Official Flows,” indicating that though counted as foreign aid, these financial assistances are primarily intended for commercial access rather than for development and welfare.

Top recipients of Chinese aid are largely members of the One Belt One Road Initiative, a program by President Xi that aims to reinforce trading routes across continents.

As a result, almost half of the aid was spent on infrastructure sectors including energy generation and supply, transportation, storage and communication. The spending on agriculture, forestry and fishing only took up 3 percent of the aid.

2. The United States

From 2002, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has gradually boosted the total foreign aid budget to a steady amount that rests around $32 billion. With the Department of State and USAID as the nation’s main donors, the U.S. government distributed — not counting fiscal worth of military assistance — $34 billion official development aid (ODA) to over 100 foreign governments during the 2016 fiscal year.

Such an amount makes the U.S. the largest foreign aid donor among DAC countries.

Israel, Afghanistan and Egypt are the largest recipients of the U.S. foreign aid, receiving $3.10 billion, $1.51 billion and $1.46 billion of assistance, respectively. More than one-third of the U.S. budget is spent on long-term projects that promote economic growth and public health programs.

About 23 percent of such aid is used as humanitarian aid, and aims to fund short-term disaster relief programs.

3. Germany

With a volume of $24.67 billion in 2016, Germany’s foreign aid ranked the second largest in OECD’s report. Compared to 2015, Germany’s aid budget experienced an impressive 36.1 percent increase, making Germany’s ODA to gross national income (GNI) ratio hit the 0.7 percent mark.

An important factor in accounting for this major boost is the wide-ranging social benefits provided to the large influx of refugees.

Starting from 2016, the German government reclassified this in-house spending on refugee assistance as international development aid, aiming to hit United Nations’ 0.7 percent ODA/GNI target.

4. The United Kingdom

Before it was made a legal obligation by the U.N., the U.K. hit the 0.7 percent ODA/GNI mark in 2013 and has since maintained this ratio very well.

In fiscal year 2016, the U.K. spent a total of $18.01 billion in development aid, thus becoming the third largest foreign aid donor among DAC countries.

Pakistan, Ethiopia and Afghanistan each received more than $300 million in U.K. aid, and Nigeria, Syria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Tanzania all received more than $200 million. The aid is largely used for humanitarian programs and other crisis-relief projects in nations close to the European Union.

5. Japan

As the third-largest economy in the world, Japan contributes the fourth-largest ODA among DAC countries. Though Japan ranked high on the list of total aid volume, its $10.37 billion aid in fiscal year 2016 merely took up 0.2 percent of its GNI compared to the United States’ criticized 0.18 percent.

As a close tie to China in overall economy, Japan also engages in competition with China for potential markets in developing countries by giving out development aid. While China desires more of natural resources in recipient countries of its aid, Japan wants cheap land and labor so that it can compete with the world’s leading manufacturing industry in China.

Humanitarian Aid is on the Rise

As OECD’s report indicates, the world’s total development aid is on the rise. This trend is so prominent that DAC Chair Charlotte Petri Gornitzka expressed her delight in the ever-increasing trend and the generous contributions of the largest foreign aid donors.

With an increasing amount of ODA being spent on short-term humanitarian and refugee aid, Gornitzka urged countries to also focus on long-term development programs.

Regardless of the purposes of aids, this healthy trend of increasing aid showcases the collective efforts of the world in reaching the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals

– Chaorong Wang

Photo: Google

Poverty Rate in the United Kingdom A recent study from the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown that the poverty rate in the United Kingdom fell slightly between 2014 and 2015, dropping from 16.8 percent to 16.7 percent. This rate puts the U.K. roughly in the middle of all E.U. member countries, and just below the E.U. average of 17.3 percent.

The report of a fall in the overall poverty rate in the United Kingdom also came with a reported rise in the persistent poverty rate. The persistent poverty rate is defined as being below the poverty line in the current year, as well as in 2 of the previous 3 years. The persistent poverty rate jumped from 6.5 percent in 2014 to 7.3 percent in 2015. The jump means that 700,000 more people were persistently poor in 2015 than 2014. However, this rate ties for the fifth-lowest in the E.U. and is well below the E.U. average of 10.9 percent.

The rise in the persistent poverty rate did lead to concern from different parties. Justin Watson, the head of the Oxfam U.K. Programme, welcomed the relatively low persistent poverty rate compared to the rest of the E.U. while expressing concern about the 4.6 million people experiencing persistent poverty. Others expressed concern about rising child poverty rates and a disparity between male and female persistent poverty rates.

Addressing the U.K.poverty rate will require more than employment expansion. Median earnings are down 5 percent in the U.K. since the 2008 global recession, even while employment is up 1.5 percent in that same period, hitting a record high in July 2017. A government official cited multiple steps being taken in addition to employment in the attempt to address the overall U.K. poverty rate. In fact, the government spends £90 billion a year  on working age benefits, the National Living Wage is rising and income tax is being lowered or eliminated for millions of people.

Erik Beck