Posts

Poverty in France
France, the world’s 7th largest economy, has gained national media attention as the “Yellow Vest” protest hits its 10th consecutive weekend. The protesters — originally citizens of the countries rural areas — came to Paris to protest higher taxes on fuel. Now, three months into the protest, the movement has changed its message to target many economic problems the poor of the country struggle with.

Poverty in France

This unrest has pressured French President Emmanuel Macron to do more to help the nation’s poor. He has now announced an 8 billion-euro ($9.3 billion) anti-poverty plan aimed at appeasing the protestors and increasing the fight against poverty in France. He hopes it will get people into work and help the young. Specifically, this plan includes increasing: schooling until the age of 18, nurseries to get mothers into work, emergency accommodation with a priority for women and children, and breakfast for students in the poorest areas.

Additionally, the package includes wage increases and tax relief for low earners and retirees. Macron also launched a “national debate” to talk to the public about their economic situation. This period is to last two months, and end with a “new contract for the nation.”

Steps to Improvement

Poverty in France affects nine million of the country’s 67 million people with a third of these figures being children. Macron has stated the previous welfare system “does not do enough to prevent people from falling into poverty, does not do enough to eradicate poverty.” He has expressed frustration at previous plans, saying they “plow a wad of cash” into benefits, but produce very few results. Macron also plans to make these earlier systems more simple, as one in three people eligible for core benefits do not apply.

These low application rates are well known, but so are the very real struggles of applying. A story on Expatica, a website made to help immigrants in Europe settle into their new countries, has a very telling story on a citizen’s attempt to apply for aid. The author describes the process of applying for three state programs providing assistance. Describing the welfare system as “tricky,” they share that one of their claims had boomeranged back to them four times and that this experience is something everyone applying should expect.

Complex Issues, Concrete Solutions

According to the author, the complexity of the process is well known to the administration, which is exactly why they request documents multiple times. This repetitive behavior requires applicants to deal with huge stacks of paperwork and multiple trips to state offices. Stories such as these may explain the low application numbers and also act as some of the issues Macron hopes to address in his new programs.

Although many of the protesters express concern over Macron’s national debate, it is extremely clear many people in the country need help, and many of the programs need reforming. With the debates and planning still in the works, it can be hard to tell exactly what is going to be done. However, the people are talking, and it appears the government is listening. The fight against French poverty is clearly still on-going, but progress is steadily being made.

– Zachary Sparks
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the United States
According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2014, 47 million people — or 15% of the U.S. population — were living in poverty. Additionally, poverty in the United States is 2.3 percentage points higher than in 2007, the year before the recession hit in 2008.

Furthermore, 2014 was the fourth consecutive year that the poverty rate has remained stagnant. While conditions are not worsening, they are not improving either.

What Defines Poverty in the United States?

The federal government’s official poverty threshold for 2015 was as follows:

  • Household of four (two children, two adults): $24,444
  • Household of three (one child, two adults): $18,540
  • Household of two (over 65): $14,326
  • Household of two (under 65): $15,871
  • One person (over 65): $11,376
  • One person (under 65): $12,331

Click here to see additional information regarding the poverty threshold.

Who Lives in Poverty in the United States?

Poverty does not affect all demographics equally. Numbers from 2014  show that 13% of men lived in poverty, as compared to 16% of women. Poverty numbers for married couples were at six percent, while single-parent families with no wife were at 16%. Single-parent families with no husband saw a poverty rate of 31%.

As of 2014, 21% of all children in the United States lived in poverty. About 15.5 million children, more than the entire population of Ecuador, lacked the required resources to ensure even a basic level of comfort and freedom from distress.

What Can We Do To End Poverty in the United States?

There are several things that can be done to help bridge the gap between the richest and poorest Americans. Here is a list of five tips to help get you started:

1. Volunteer

Be giving of yourself. Find a local Open Heart Kitchen to work in. You can also volunteer with an organization that provides tutoring or afterschool programs for children living in impoverished areas. Your compassion can help immensely.

2. Donate

Find an organization that helps fight poverty in the United States. Additionally, it is important to find one that expresses values and a mission that you care about. The Borgen Project may be focused on fighting poverty abroad, but the work that they do helps create jobs and stimulate the already-struggling American economy. As nonprofits, these organizations also rely heavily on donations to fund their philanthropic and humanitarian endeavors.

3. Contact Your Congressional Representatives

Congress is supposed to represent its constituents, so contacting them can make a difference. Writing a simple letter or email, or making a phone call to your representative’s office lets them know that you are a concerned citizen. If enough people contact a representative in support of a particular issue, it sends the message that it is something that he or she should fight for. Above all, representatives speak for the people who elected them, so your voice does matter.

4. Support Local Small Businesses

Shopping local helps stimulate the economy in your area. When independent businesses are successful, they create jobs. Donating and volunteering are great ways to help fight poverty, and they can be very fulfilling. But providing a person with the opportunity to work and learn business skills sets that person up for future success.

5. Support and Use Public Transportation

For many people, buses and trains are a primary means of transportation. Getting to and from work and school would be impossible without these things. It is also an industry that employs over 400,000 people and generates $58 billion in revenue annually. According to publictransportation.org, every dollar invested in public transportation yields around $4 in economic returns. In addition, public transportation also creates and sustains 1.1 million each year.

In order to eradicate poverty in the United States, we need to work together. We need to invest in people, providing them with the necessary skills and resources. As a result, they can better provide for themselves and their families. Contact your congressional representatives, serve your community or buy from a local small business. These are all simple things that you can do to assist in the fight against poverty at home.

-Aaron Parr

Photo: Ivarfjeld

Ghana

The Government of Ghana will be expanding the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty, or the LEAP program, which will provide cash grants to 216 districts in demand of basic needs.

The Government of Ghana has been focusing on poverty alleviation by accomplishing the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. One of these goals included introducing the National Social Protection Strategy, (NSPS).

The NSPS works to achieve government objectives by providing protections to people living in extreme poverty, susceptibility and marginalization. There are three main components to the strategy, which include: a grant scheme which provides secure incomes to vulnerable households, social protection programs and complimentary inputs for those that currently receive benefits from social protection programs.

Sprouting the NSPS, the LEAP program has flourished. Developed in 2008, the LEAP program is a cash transfer program that works to enable those disadvantaged and vulnerable populations living in extreme poverty throughout Ghana.

The Government of Ghana projects that the LEAP program will reach 216 districts by the end of the year. Currently, the program resides in 186 districts.

Mr. Eugene Nuamah, the Operations Office of the Ministry of Gender and Children, spoke in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Mr. Nuamah explained that farmers were particularly affected by a recent fire disaster. The farmers received money to replenish their destroyed crops under the Emergency LEAP Cash Transfer program.

The goal o the Emergency LEAP Cash Transfer program is to provide necessary grants, which address the needs of affected households. Mr. Nuamah also advised farmers to take fire precautions to avoid future crop destructions.

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture additionally works towards ensuring that farmers receive crop seeds to replenish their harvests as soon as possible. Some of the most demanded seeds are cocoa and plantain.

Since its introduction in 2008, the LEAP program has expanded its beneficiary households from 1,654 to 250,000. By the end of the 2016, the program projects that it will reach 350,000 household enrollments throughout Ghana.

The households that will be selected to enroll as beneficiaries to the LEAP program will be determined by a nationwide monitoring exercise. This strategy has been used in the past, as research showed that local economies of LEAP communities were thriving. Children were attending school at a higher rate and more people had access to health care.

In addition, the LEAP program has been modernizing its program through the introduction of electronic payments. The Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement System allows beneficiaries to use online payment platforms to ensure greater control over the management of grant funds.

LEAP beneficiaries will have the chance to enroll for online payments. They will be available in all LEAP districts to replace the manual system of transferring cash grants, increasing the efficiency and security of cash transfers.

The LEAP program is administered by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and managed by the Department of Social Welfare.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Flickr

Philippine Anti-Poverty
On Feb. 20, 2016, the World Bank approved a $450 million conditional cash transfer (CCT) to the Philippine anti-poverty program, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4PS).

Five months earlier at a conference held in Cebu entitled “Global Economic and Financial Outlook, Growing Inequality and Regional Connectivity,” the World Bank’s Vice President Axel van Trotsenburg advocated for the bolstering of the region’s CTT program to set higher education, health and nutrition standards.

“Primary and secondary education systems should increasingly focus on quality teaching and better learning outcomes, by strengthening the autonomy and accountability of educational institutions,” he said, according to a World Bank press release. He called for dramatic government attention towards Filipinos currently living below the minimum wage, almost 800 million people.

Since it was founded in 2008, 4PS has worked to provide poor Filipinos with greater access to healthcare, adequate nutrition and education. In partnership with the Commission on Higher Education, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges, 4PS allocates funds into two types of cash grants: health and education.

The grants are distributed to beneficiaries—pending a family’s qualification—through the Land Bank of the Philippines. The cash grants can reach up to a maximum of P1,400.00 (1,400 pesos) per household, or roughly 18 percent of a family’s expenses, depending on size and need. For this reason, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) assures that these benefit amounts effectively boost community development without fostering dependency.

The role of 4PS has been tenuous, but ultimately effective. In 2012, The Philippine Institute for Development Studies published a research discussion paper, written by Celia M. Reyes and Aubrey D. Tabuga, detailing the history, implementation and progress of the program since its rollout four years earlier. The study brought to light several key issues in the program’s early stages and the ways in which the CTT would best serve a population of both transient and chronically impoverished benefactors.

Four years later, necessary considerations have been taken to ensure a multi-dimensional approach in decreasing the nation’s poor populations.

The number of beneficiaries, for example, have increased nearly every year since the CTT’s inception, from 2.3 million in 2011 to 3.93 million in 2013, to over 4 million in August 2015. This is largely due to consideration of supply-side allocations—improving health facilities and providing jobs—and a more detailed process of beneficiary selection.

Ultimately, 4PS is an influential program because of its long-term payoff. Its specific focus on health and education in children provides a spectrum of disadvantaged citizens with subsistence aid, while also undoing a poverty cycle present in the country’s chronically poor.

In 2013, AusAID consultant Dr. Tarcisio Castaneda surveyed the program’s progress, both in its hard data and on-the-ground effects. In an interview with Southeast Asian news source, Rappler, he commented that the program could prove to be an example for other countries.

With 82 percent of its benefits going to the bottom 40 percent of the population, according to the World Bank, 4PS is a strong Philippine anti-poverty measure. One worthy, the World Bank confirms, of its generous funding.

Nora Harless

Sources: GovPH Official Gazette, Philippine Institute for Development Studies, Philippine Statistics Authority, Rappler, Reuters, USAID, The World Bank
Photo: Thomson Reuters Foundation

Poverty Eradication PlanAt a meeting held late last year in central Beijing, President Xi Jinping and his associates in the Communist Party of China (CPC) made an important decision about confronting poverty in the country.

Though China, which contains one-fifth of the world’s population, successfully met the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), lifting 470 million people out of extreme poverty, there are still 70 million individuals living in extreme adversity and whom a new poverty eradication plan would greatly benefit.

China’s ruling party has asserted that it will take all necessary measures to eliminate extreme poverty within the country. “No single poor region nor an individual living in poverty will be left behind” when the country accomplishes the goal of “building a moderately prosperous society” by 2020, said President Xi Jinping at the meeting, according to an article in the Business Standard.

Rachel Middleton noted in the International Business Times that economic reform in the last 35 years has amplified the gap between the country’s rich and poor. Hence, the government realizes its collective responsibility to implement a poverty eradication plan that will lift the remaining 70 million individuals out of poverty by 2020.

Fu Ying, Chairperson of the National People’s Congress Foreign Affairs Committee, who attended the meeting, said Xi appealed to all levels of government to undertake measures to ensure the poor in rural areas, who make up the majority of individuals living below the poverty line, have access to food, clothing, housing, health care and education. Xi specifically underscored the urgency of local level involvement in poverty reduction and development.

Sub-group discussions during the meeting focused on goal achieving initiatives that would transform the poverty dynamic in China within five years. In one discussion group attended by Fu Ying, there was a suggestion that detailed surveys would allow for individual plans equipped to meet diverse local conditions.

According to Fu, information disseminated via localized surveys would, in turn, help working-age individuals find income enhancing employment, give a safety net to aid those unable to work, relocate individuals living in extremely harsh environments and provide adequate health care and education.

Stamping out extreme poverty in China will be challenging but to meet that goal in five years, 22 heads of provinces and cities located in western China have signed letters of responsibility with the central government and they will be held accountable for falling short of the target.

China’s economic achievements over the last several decades are extraordinary; however, they do have obstacles to overcome: IMF data states the per capita GDP of China is only one-seventh of the U.S. and it will take over 50 years for that gap to close between the two. China makes up 22 percent of the world’s population but only has a 2 percent share of global spending on healthcare. The U.S. percentage of global healthcare spending, by comparison, is 13.6 percent.

China’s task will be challenging but the government understands the enormous risk of failing to implement a poverty eradication plan to address extreme poverty.

Heidi Grossman

Sources: Business-Standard, Huffington Post, IB Times
Photo: Flickr

MicroSaveThe MicroSave international consulting agency has been operating for more than 20 years. The organization uses micro-financing techniques to create value-led projects and organizations in India in order to counter poverty.

Their team consists of more than 175 professionals in the field, who use their skills to assist professionals in underdeveloped countries. Their work focuses on a market-led approach, which allows them to find customer-driven solutions. They take the time to visit low-income customers personally and to learn about their interests, strengths and circumstances to better help their clients target these customers, along with helping them hone their skills and implement maximum impact in their field.

The MicroSave team aspires to create a world where everyone from different backgrounds and cultures can obtain financial services tailored to their needs, and use these services to create anti-poverty solutions.

Their mission is to strengthen the capacity of institutions in underdeveloped countries through a series of financial inclusion models that help deliver financial services to people in a more effective manner. MicroSave has created a large number of these models to cover multiple fields of business, including sales and retail, small and medium enterprise financing, energy financing and digital financial services. The models connect people with a large range of stakeholders including self-help groups, banking correspondents and community-based financial organizations.

MicroSave also offers training and workshops that teach leaders how to build strong institutions, by effectively reaching out to customers through proper services, marketing, product development and innovation. These workshops provide clients with the knowledge needed to successfully become businessmen and women.

MircoSave’s team is divided into four groups to help apply services effectively. These groups include training, research, finance and risk management. The training group ensures knowledge is leveraged among their clients through preparatory materials, classroom training and certification.

The group responsible for research helps keep MicroSave and its clients afloat by making sure tactics are up to date and reliable in the specific industry they are working in.

The finance team teaches responsibility in finances to their clients, so money is used properly during and after their time with their clients.

Lastly, the risk management group focuses on training clients to work efficiently, decreasing their margin of error.

Over the last few years, MicroSave has expanded its services throughout Asia and Africa, working toward the goal of spreading proper financing techniques, and decreasing poverty throughout the world.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: MicroSave, Bloomberg, Microfinance Focus
Photo: Madhyame