starving to death
Whale hunting in Japan is immaterial to feeding the population. As a result, many wonder why the nation continues to practice the antiquated ritual, while a bulk of its citizens are starving and fighting an uphill battle against the national welfare program. Japan’s current poverty rate is 15.3 percent, and more than 19 million citizens are living below the poverty line.

Welfare and Whale Hunting in Japan

The Japanese government has defended whaling practices by claiming that the practice is a part of the ancient Japanese culture. From the 1940s to the mid-1960s, whales were the biggest source of meat for the Japanese people. This was due to food shortages throughout the country. The government found an inexpensive solution in canning whale meat and serving in the government-funded national school lunch programs. At the highest point of the hunt, 24,000 whales were killed in just one year.

However, the economic climate has shifted. Japan has one of the wealthiest economies in the world and can easily afford to import meat from the United States or Australia. Currently, with Japan leaving the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the financial burden of whaling will again fall on taxpayers. Expenditure of citizens’ tax money on whaling is justified by classifying whaling as research. The International Court of Justice has disproved Japan’s research claims, yet, funding that could be allocated to other benefits, like welfare, continues to be allocated to the practice.

According to a poll in 2015, the average consumption by the Japanese people of whale meat was just one ounce per person. Whale meat in Japanese cuisine has only been popular post World War II, and it would be categorized as nostalgia food by older generations. Nevertheless, Japan continues to fund whaling with $50 million annually. Regarding the Japanese welfare system, the central government acknowledges 75 percent of the costs, and Japan is planning on cutting back even further to their system.

When it comes to welfare,  Japanese citizens do not have the right to be taken care of by the government. Welfare in Japan is most commonly utilized by either the elderly, single mothers or handicapped citizens. Currently, there are five million unemployed Japanese citizens. Since 2008, the Japanese government has tried to make acquiring government assistance more manageable. However, most applicants are obliged to ask their family for help before applying, and impoverished people who are physically capable of working are still ineligible.  Professor Hiroshi Sugimura from Hoesei University in Tokyo said: “Local governments tend to believe that using taxpayer money to help people in need is doing a disservice to the citizens, only those who pay taxes are citizens.” The government currently gives 3.4 trillion Yen to welfare a year, but this only amounts to 10 percent of all tax revenues.

With the strict guidelines of the welfare program, people in need often slip through the cracks. Just in the past ten years alone, 700 Japanese citizens have starved to death, most of them elderly people. While the poverty rate in Japan does not reach the global levels (nearly 3.4 billion people, or half of the world’s population, struggle to meet basic needs),  Japan is currently in the lowest category of children in need, with the OECD estimating there are 3.5 million Japanese children who are living in relative poverty.

What Is Being Done?

An organization called Second Harvest provides the only nationwide food bank in Japan. Since 2002, Second Harvest has been food security for the needy. It delivers to children’s homes, women’s shelters and handicapped facilities. Second Harvest also works tirelessly with companies to acquires left-over food that is still edible and recycles it into free meals.

The Japanese government supports the Sustainable Development Goals, one of which is to bring hunger to zero by the year 2030. Japan is putting forth procedures that will help build a sustainable society and help with social improvements. By incorporating the Sustainable Development Goals, Japan is hoping to prioritize ancillary benefits, far removed from previous oversight, promoting human rights for every citizen.

The heated issue of whale hunting in Japan and the hunger of its citizens has been recognized by the Japanese government. Acknowledging the fact that many citizens are starving to death, and few are interested in eating whale meat, is an impetus for the government to remedy the issue. Solutions are being established and proposed on a regular basis, and with time. these two issues will be combatted and Japan’s healing as a nation will happen quickly.

– Jennifer O’Brien
Photo: Google

Facts About Poverty in Sweden

Scandinavian countries such as Sweden can often be seen as the golden standard of the struggle against poverty. With such low levels of poverty, Sweden has implemented many successful strategies to eradicate poverty. However, a deeper look into the reality of poverty in Sweden reveals that the country is not the utopia it is often made out to be.

Six Facts About Poverty in Sweden

  1. While Sweden prides itself on transparency, the country’s poverty statistics have been called into question. Although recent government reports have indicated zero absolute poverty, a recent Sweden City Missions report suggests that many basic poverty interventions still involve delivery of essential food and clothing needs. According to Sveriges Stadsmissioner, 62 percent of Sweden’s 200,000 basic interventions still focus on providing basic sustenance.
  2. According to the Swedish government, programs addressing poverty in Sweden take a multifaceted approach. They include long-term benefits such as pension, healthcare and expansive family benefits. These programs do an excellent job of addressing poverty, not with a one-size-fits-all solution, but with various approaches adapting to different beneficiaries.
  3. Despite these programs, a recent University College study suggests that many of those who receive short-term, “get back on your feet” benefits, which are designed for short-term empowerment, use these benefits for anywhere from 5 to fifteen years. The National Board of Health and Welfare indicates that a third of short-term benefit recipients end up receiving these benefits for longer than intended.
  4. Statistics portraying poverty in Sweden can also ignore citizens that qualify for benefits but do not receive them. This is one of the downfalls of the nation’s robust welfare state. With such a massive bureaucracy to navigate, many citizens are simply unable to complete the necessary forms to receive the benefits they qualify for.
  5. Poverty in Sweden is not just limited to its citizens. With nearly 1,500 refugees entering Sweden every week, the government’s welfare system is being stretched. If the current rate of immigration continues, nearly 2 percent of the Swedish population will soon be refugees. In desperate need of help, these refugees have completed arduous journeys often stretching for thousands of miles and many months. Since they have little to begin with, refugees who settle in Sweden need welfare to assist with nearly every facet of life.
  6. Sweden measures its poverty in terms of absolute poverty (income of $2 per day), rather than relative poverty (less than 60 percent of median income). This means that those who are making barely enough to eat two meals a day are not considered to be in absolute poverty. While a zero absolute poverty level is commendable, statistics portraying poverty in Sweden do not necessarily discuss those who live in relative poverty – many of these people cannot afford much more than a single bottle of water.

Sweden can be looked to and praised for its expansive welfare state and statistical lack of poverty. However, poverty in Sweden still exists, and the country’s official statistics often fail to reflect the reality.

– Sam Kennedy
Photo: Flickr



Social Safety Nets in Asia
Regardless of its title—alms, gifts, handouts, welfare, aid—the true meaning of social safety nets is not universally accepted in the developing world. As a useful form of poverty reduction, there are several purported reasons as to why “charity” is regarded as wasteful spending. One is the belief that social assistance programs diminish incentives to work and create dependency on the program’s benefits into the foreseeable future.

The Issues with Social Safety Nets in Asia

The myth of “crutch economies” being the bane of current work ethic and the cause of further, more established and resilient poverty, appears to be losing its already slippery empirical footing. Recent studies conducted by the World Bank in countries such as Mexico, Indonesia and the Philippines have found no evidence that workers who receive assistance go on to work less. Instead, social safety nets routinely form a stable barrier for further slides into economic degradation in developing countries.

But spending on them still appears to be minimal. Although the levels of spending as a percentage of GDP varies across countries, spending on social safety nets in Asia, South and East Asia especially, is relatively low. The developing world on average spends 1.5 percent of its GDP on some form of welfare programs. South Asia, meanwhile, spends only 0.9 percent of GDP on social safety nets.

In lieu of more conventional welfare programs, the region has relied instead on more customary and time-tested economic assistance programs. A mix of ample growth, a youthful population and a devoted and helping family has filled the void of official government social safety nets in Asia.

While an admirable economic support system, there are more modern social safety net programs that do not become victim to the “crutch economy” fears. A unique pension plan in Mexico is disproving both the myth of diminishing work ethic and future drags on the economy due to dependency.

The Older Adults Program in Mexico

Pension plans provide better well-being later in life, as they allow people to project their current earnings into the future. But the regency of informal labor in developing countries has made large-scale worker contribution plans rather toothless in practice. Instead, Latin American countries are trying a pension program that targets age and income and does not rely on the contributions of workers. This form of social security could encourage Asian countries to provide a more substantial safety net at home.

Removing the fear of falling into abject poverty, or burdening close relatives once workers are removed from the labor market, is the goal of the Older Adults Program (OAP) in Mexico. The OAP is a noncontributory universal pension system for elderly Mexicans living in small towns. Initiated in 2007, the program took only four years to cover 2.1 million elderly people in 76,000 communities in Mexico. A recent study of the OAP by the International Development Bank (IDB) helps dispel the myth of crutch economies.

One concern of social safety nets in Asia is that they instill a sense of complacency in the younger population. Expecting to receive future income from the program’s benefits, the pension warps the savings and work ethic of the younger generations. The IDB’s study, however, found no evidence of such dependence. These “anticipation effects” that are widely feared and cited by critics of social safety nets were not backed up with any empirical findings. Negative labor supply effects of working age citizens was not a side effect of the pension plan for the elderly.

Work ethic among the elderly was not negatively affected either. Although beneficiaries working for pay in the official labor force dropped, this was more than compensated for by the rise in informal, unpaid family business employment. Rather than sapping their willingness to work, the pension program transferred those efforts to where families deemed most urgent.

The Coming of Age in Asia

But despite the lack of spending, there is hope that social safety nets in Asia will soon grow in usage and acceptance. This is already the case in Indonesia and the Philippines, even if they are outliers in the region.

A cash-transfer scheme in the Philippines, having covered four percent of the population in 2009, increased coverage to 20 percent in 2015. A similar scheme in Indonesia has grown in coverage from two percent of the population in 2009 to nine percent in 2016 with help from the World Bank.

In Indonesia, the payments from the Family Hope Program provide benefits to those in the bottom 10 percent of income distribution. Benefits are available to households with a pregnant mother or a child between the ages of zero to 18. Assistance focuses on promoting education and health of the family. The cash payments are made only if beneficiary households keep children enrolled in school and respond to health issues by taking children to clinics.

As promising as the Family Hope Program is, other countries in Asia have yet to adequately address welfare programs relative to other regions of the world. A fear of diminishing labor supply motivation and perpetual dependency on benefits should not deter the acceptance and administration of social safety nets.

Other than evidence-based research, there is one persuasive reason for adopting more widespread social safety nets in Asia: human kindness. Harry Truman, commenting in 1946, said, “The word ‘charity’ has regained its old, true meaning—that of goodwill toward one’s fellowman; of brotherhood, of mutual help, of love.” Until that is realized, the world will have to rely on empirical arguments to persuade decision makers that social safety nets are necessary.

– Nathan Ghelli
Photo: Flickr

Welfare Programs in Ethiopia
Policy in Ethiopia has overwhelmingly been focused on combating and eliminating poverty in recent years. Many programs in Ethiopia have helped to further the country’s station in terms of poverty reduction. Programs such as the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), the Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Program (SDPRP) and the Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP) have been implemented recently to help Ethiopia meet its short and long-term goals. These goals, known as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, are to:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Gender equality and women empowerment
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Reduce maternal mortality
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

Correspondingly, according to the United Nations, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in Ethiopia report, the World Health Organization and the World Food Programme, Ethiopia has worked towards these goals for several years now and is on track to achieve six of the eight goals listed above so far. The goal of reducing child mortality has already been achieved, and progress is being made on many of the others thanks to the work of the welfare programs in Ethiopia.

Goal One: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger

Ethiopia is on course to reduce extreme poverty in the country by half. The percentage of people living under the poverty line has decreased from 45.5 percent in 1996 to 29.6 percent in 2010. The welfare programs in Ethiopia have contributed to this progress in different ways. The PSNP has helped families avoid food shortages. The SDPRP focuses on increasing water resource utilization to ensure food security. The PASDEP strengthens human resource development, manages risk and creates employment opportunities.

Goal Two: Achieve Universal Primary Education

The net enrollment ratio for education in grades one through eight has increased from 77.5 percent in 2006 to 85.4 percent in 2011. The attendance ratio has also risen from 30.2 percent in 2001 to 64.5 percent in 2010.

Goal Six: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases

Ethiopia has achieved a greater decrease in disease prevalence than anticipated. In 2010, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS was an estimated 1.5 percent, lower than the Millennium Development Goal of 2.5 percent.

Goal Seven: Ensure Environmental Sustainability

With the Climate Resilient Green Economy strategy, Ethiopia has taken necessary steps towards integrating the principles of sustainable agricultural development. The SDPRP has aided the progress of governance and the transformation of society by improving the framework and provisions enabling environmental and private sector growth. It also focuses on agricultural research, water harvesting and small-scale irrigation.

Goals three and five of the Millennium Development Goals lack progress and are struggling to be realized. Entrenched traditional views of women in the nation are among the obstacles that these programs encounter. However, on the whole, the employment of these programs in Ethiopia has decreased the overall issue of poverty and have moved the country forward in terms of development.

– Lydia Lamm

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Denmark

In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Denmark and other Scandinavian countries gained attention for their extraordinarily equitable economies. Candidate Bernie Sanders often pointed to the Danish education and healthcare systems as models to be followed by the U.S.

Rather than asking how to help people in Denmark, Sanders and other social democrats focused on how the rest of the world could benefit from understanding the ways in which the Danish government already helps its own people.

In addition to free education and healthcare, the Danish government provides all citizens with a minimum income guarantee of about $100 per day. As a result, Denmark has achieved the fourth lowest inequality rate in the world.

Such a world-class safety net is supported by one of the world’s highest tax rates. All sales in Denmark include a 25 percent tax and the highest income earners give upwards of 60 percent of their income to the state.

The high tax rate has motivated some economists like Rasmus Landerso and James Heckman to frame the Danish economy as equitable only insofar as it compresses the range between high and low incomes, not because it has a high index of social mobility.

Indeed, their recent study found that intergenerational social mobility in Denmark mirrors that in the U.S. A child from a lower-class background, for example, whose parents did not finish college in Denmark is just as unlikely to attend college and become middle-class as his or her American counterpart, despite the fact that Danish higher education is free.

The difference, then, between the two countries is that the Danish government compensates for low social mobility by providing significant welfare benefits to the poor.

In the end, while there may still remain a question about how to help people in Denmark ascend out of their generational social classes, it is clear that the Danish people already receive sufficient amounts of help from their own government.

Nathaniel Sher

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in RomaniaSituated on the Black Sea, Romania is the largest of the Balkan countries. Romania has a population of 21.4 million, one of the biggest in the EU. Unfortunately, poverty in Romania exists at one of the highest rates in the EU as well.

Poverty in Romania is stunning and widespread, affecting millions of people. Two measures of poverty in Romania are relative poverty and absolute poverty. Relative poverty is the number of citizens whose disposable income is lower than 60 percent of the population’s median income. In 2014, Romania ranked first in the EU for highest relative poverty rate, with 25 percent of its citizens facing relative poverty.

Absolute poverty is the lack of basic human needs such as food, safe drinking water, shelter, health, education, facilities and access to services. In 2000, the rate of absolute poverty in Romania was 35.9 percent and dropped to 13.8 percent in just six years, showing that progress has indeed been made in the country.

Several populations in Romania are vulnerable to poverty. More than 50 percent of children in Romania are at risk for poverty. This statistic places Romania as the country in the EU with the greatest risk of children facing poverty. Poverty in Romania is also at its highest in rural areas, where 45 percent of the population lives. This is the highest population in the EU to live in rural areas in a given country. The majority of Romanians who live in rural areas are subsistence farmers or unemployed rural workers, which is why 70 percent of the rural population in Romania lives in poverty. Finally, the populations most susceptible to poverty in terms of households are single persons, single parent families, families with three or more children and single people over the age of 65.

Romania’s history and changing governments affected change in poverty levels. After World War II, Romania became a socialist state in a communist regime, which entailed widespread social welfare. In 1990, right before the fall of communism, the poverty level in Romania was only seven percent. After the fall of communism in 1990, however, generalized social welfare was reduced.

Other causes of poverty in Romania include poor infrastructure, which affects everything from schools to medical centers. Regarding widespread rural poverty, there are more employment and educational opportunities in urban areas, as more money is invested in urban areas. Romania also suffers the consequences of bad foreign exchange rates as it does not use the euro and five to six percent of its GDP comes from remittances.

Progress has been made in decreasing poverty and growing a successful economy. Romania joined NATO in 2004 and joined the EU in 2007. Romania has enjoyed significant economic growth from 2013 to 2016 as a result of industrial exports, optimal agriculture harvests and trade within the EU.

Social welfare also benefits many poor Romanians. Today, social welfare is divided into multiple categories. Some benefits of Romania’s current social welfare system include free maternity care, an allowance for children and mothers, free education, subsidies for heat and electricity, unemployment aid and pension. It is important to note that certain benefits vary depending on the case.

The rate of poverty in Romania is very high for a country in the EU, but Romania continues to make progress in reducing poverty rates, providing social welfare and stabilizing its economy.

Christiana Lano

Photo: Flickr

Germany and Its Dedication to Improving Welfare Efforts

Although Germany is experiencing record-low unemployment and the economy has been improving over the years, overall poverty in Germany is increasing. Since Germany’s reunification in 1990, the poverty rate has never been higher than its current state. Ulrich Schneider — chief executive of Germany’s Equal Welfare Organization — was quoted in an article by the “Deutsche Welle” saying “Poverty has never been as high and the regional disunity has never run as deep.”

In 2013, a survey titled “Living in Europe” released results showing that 16.2 million people in Germany were victims of poverty. That astounding number makes up 20.3% of the German population. As previously stated, poverty in Germany has been increasing over the years and the statistics only support that fact. The percentage of the impoverished German population has ranged from 19.6 to 21.9 since 2008. The poverty issue in Germany has affected men and women alike, but it has affected children more than anything.

In 2014, there were an estimated 1.9 million minors growing up in impoverished households in Germany. Surprisingly, that number shot up by 52,000 in the span of one year. This horrific statistic will haunt the lives of many for years to come. Statistics show “that 57.2 percent of children between the ages of seven and 15 had been supported by basic welfare for a period of at least three years.” Anette Stein — an expert working at the Bertelsmann Foundation — knows from work experience: “The longer that a child lives on welfare, the worse the consequences are.”

The consequences of welfare are horrible because welfare-dependent children are not just affected financially, but also physically and socially. Welfare dependent children have higher chances of struggling in social situations, struggling with health issues and struggling with education.

How Germany is Trying to Appease Poverty

Schneider is aware of Germany’s current status and has proposed to appease the situation by increasing welfare rates and creating more employment opportunities. It was decided in 2015 that in order to create thousands of new jobs for poverty-stricken German citizens, a substantial amount of money would have to be spent. Andre Nahles — a German Labor Minister — stated Germany “will use 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion) from the European Social Fund, plus 4.3 billion euros from within Germany.”

This plan will create 26 different programs within Germany and run until the year 2020. The German labor industry claims that almost 40% of the money will be invested in “the promotion of social integration and the battle against poverty.”

Although Germany is currently in a poor position, their current state does not come as much of a surprise. Statisticians have reported that the European Union as a whole is in worse shape than Germany. Twenty-four point five percent of the EU’s population is facing poverty and social exclusion. Additionally, “16.7 percent of the population was at risk of poverty, 9.6 percent significantly material-disadvantaged and 10.7 percent were living in households with very low labor market participation.”

Germany has a lot of improvements to make before it can get back on track as a country, but it is attacking its problems head-on. The Germans have not shied away from improving welfare efforts and have implemented plans for progression. With Germany’s economy on the rise and the unemployment rate on the decline, it should only be a matter of time before poverty in Germany takes a turn for the better.

Terry J. Halloran

Photo: Flickr

Reunion, an Indian Ocean island and overseas department of France, is a small and ethnically diverse nation.  However, Reunion’s dominant sugarcane industry results in poorly-distributed prosperity. As a result, poverty in Reunion affects its 840,000 inhabitants disproportionately.

While striking volcanic activity and frequent shark attacks lend the island fame, everyday activity in the country depends on agricultural exports and tourism.

When assessing poverty in Reunion, social gaps between economic groups and higher poverty among minorities are prevalent issues.

The resulting social tensions have manifested through riots and other demonstrations in recent decades, particularly the 1990’s.

However, groups like All Together in Dignity Fourth World have made progress. Aid organizations create youth groups, cultural activities and human rights support. Consequently, they help bridge the gap between economic and social incorporation for impoverished groups.

6 Things to Know About Poverty in Reunion

  1. Much of the population lives near or below poverty line. While conclusive data remains difficult to locate for the small country, by some estimates, nearly 50 percent of the country’s population lives below the poverty line. Minority groups face particular disadvantages. Young people are also more likely to face poverty due to the growing number of 15-25 year olds competing for scarce employment.
  2. 60 percent of the population receives welfare benefits. For many inhabitants of the island, state welfare benefits remain crucial to their wellbeing. High unemployment rates force over half of the population to utilize these programs.
  3. Low employment rates are a cause of concern for the young population. Due to high birth rates and low death rates, Reunion is home to a large young population. Unemployment is therefore a large issue: in 2013, the overall unemployment rate was 29.6 percent. As a result, the government has worked with other organizations to establish programs that will integrate individuals into the workforce. These programs can include assisted contracts and other specific measures. This is especially important because 26 percent of Reunion’s population is under the age of 15 and will soon enter the workforce.
  4. Education is affected by drop-out rates and brain drain. Reunion’s education problems only contribute to the unemployment and poverty issues. After the age of 16, school is no longer mandatory for Reunion’s students. Only 84 percent of students remain in school past this point: a rate much lower than France’s 93 percent. As of 2009, 15 percent of 16-35 year old inhabitants in Reunion were illiterate. Brain drain also affects the education level of the country’s workforce. It is not uncommon for 35-40 percent of island-born residents with tertiary education to move to mainland France.
  5. Tensions often amount to riots. In 2012, a four-day series of riots spread through half of Reunion, sparked by discontent with the cost of living and lack of affordable petrol. These demonstrations are not uncommon on the island. A combination of social and economic unrest has led to rioting several times before, most notably 1991 and 2009.
  6. Wage gaps perpetuate inequality. The disparity between wages felt by various classes causes much of the social tension and rioting. Minimum-wage workers in Reunion make 10 percent less than those in mainland France. Caucasian and Indian residents tend to be notably wealthier than residents of African descent. In addition, French immigrants typically hold the high-ranking administrative positions. Closer assessment of socioeconomic trends in Reunion reveals inequality stemming from a variety of causes.

Understanding the role of ethnicity, education background and wage division provides a platform for assessing poverty in Reunion. With increased awareness of these factors and foundational support for ameliorating inequality, the potential for progress will only grow.

Charlotte Bellomy

Photo: CTV News

The Netherlands to Experiment with Universal Cash Benefits for All
A month ago, Utrecht, the second largest city in the Netherlands, announced it would implement a state funded Universal Benefit Income (UBI) program, which allocates a certain monthly sum to every resident who wishes to partake in the scheme, no strings attached.

The program, which will begin after the summer holidays, aims to provide a basic income that can cover living costs to residents; with the goal of enabling people to work more flexible hours and to devote more time to care, volunteering, and education.

While UBI programs have never been implemented nationwide, various localized UBI programs have been attempted in the past; such as in the small Canadian town of Dauphin, where the city’s poorest citizens received cash sums from 1974 to 1979.

Utrecht’s decision to utilize UBI has also caused the movement to gain traction within the Netherlands, with seven other towns in the Netherlands currently considering similar schemes.

In Utrecht, the exact value of the cash disbursements has yet to be settled, but officials say it will range between 900 and 1,300 euros per month, depending upon the size of household. Most crucially, UBI also follows an income, or resident ‘blind’ selection process; meaning that all residents–even non-Dutch citizens, such as migrants–are entitled to receive the sum.

The take-off of the UBI idea in the Netherlands marks a seismic shift in the nation’s historic location on the fringes of Europe’s political agenda.

Traditionally, the UBI concept has only found support among left-wing and uber-liberal parties such as the Finnish Greens in Finland, which focuses its political policy primarily on climate change, or the Podemos, a radical party in Spain which supports a communist solution to the country’s economic ills.

Growing support for UBI within the Netherlands and among political parties has thus thrust the idea into the mainstream political agenda for the first time.

UBI’s sudden shift into the political centerfold also marks an interesting move away from the reaction that many welfare-state and socialist countries (such as Scandinavian countries) have had to increase levels of immigration: which has been to tighten and restrict welfare benefits for non-natives.

In light of this, the fact that UBI would be granted and money disbursed to migrants marks a surprising shift away from the anti-immigrant sentiment which is currently sweeping across Europe–and towards more inclusive notions of society and community.

While Utrecht prepares to implement UBI in the coming weeks, and other Dutch cities mull over the idea, Utrecht says it has paired up with University College Utrecht to see how effective UBI will be in a welfare state constituted by an ever-increasing multicultural population.

The team also hopes to discover whether UBI, granted to all residents who wish to receive it–including migrants–will help to produce a more effective, creative, and inspiring society in Utrecht, and whether the idea could take off within the Netherlands (and possibly, within the European Union) as a positive way to counter the threat of increasing anti-immigrant sentiment and increasing social exclusivity, throughout the region.

Ana Powell

Sources: Al Jazeera, The Independent, The Guardian, Vihreat
Photo: Flickr


Alberta Canada is enacting poverty reduction measures that have been long talked about by many experts in the field. The proposed “mincome” program guarantees a minimum income to people who need it. The program would give between $900 and $1,450 per month to households currently receiving welfare. Unlike other programs aimed at boosting household incomes, the mincome program allocates the funds without set guidelines on how to spend it, allowing the process to be streamlined—an attractive idea in comparison to multiple binding and restricting programs for different allowances. The mincome would be implemented as a “negative income tax,” working as the reverse of a regular income tax, helping to boost those below a designated amount.

In a few Canadian towns and U.S. cities, similar programs have been piloted in the past. The results suggest that although, as expected, hours worked generally decreased as a result of the stipend, there were promising social benefits. Most common benefits seen were higher levels of educational attainment and fewer hospital visits, related specifically to mental health. The findings suggest that granting the poor a regulated guaranteed income alleviates high stress and gives children who often feel the need to help support their families in times of economic turbulence enough stability to stay in school and receive an education. These results have, or course, tremendous benefits for the country in the long-run. Higher educational attainment is associated with lower crime rates and higher workforce and political participation. Among many economists, particularly left-wing anti-poverty activists, the idea of a guaranteed income for those below the poverty line has been a popular topic for many years. However, the new findings have brought the idea back into light.

Still, critics remain. Most commonly, the fear is that the program will allow those who do nor work to continue doing so, comfortably. Also, the fact that the mincome would be funded by higher taxes could bring back the very problems that the policy is trying to eliminate. Still, many experts agree that the benefits outweigh the risks. While the program is still relatively new and therefore lacks the abundant research needed for fierce backing, if implemented in Alberta, more data can be collected to be analyzed for the potential for more widespread implementation. Although the program may seem only feasible for developed countries like Canada and the United States, similar programs have been tested in countries such as India and Malawi. Tailoring the program to fit the needs of the country and of the people could allow for widespread growth and poverty reduction. The program is still experimental, but if the data continues to support the policy, more and more political leaders could be convinced of program’s benefits and broader use.

Emma Dowd

Sources: National Post, PRI, The Star
Photo: The Globe and Mail