UN Report on Global Unemployment
Global unemployment plays a key role in global poverty. After all, the logic goes that employment leads to prosperity, even if little by little. Development economists proclaim the efficacy of providing jobs, however low paying, as the means to the end of escaping poverty, regardless of location. There is some evidence for this. According to the Brookings Institute, increasing work rates impacted poverty most, with education being second. With that said, a recent U.N. report on global unemployment clouds the future of international job growth since, for the first time in nearly a decade, the global unemployment rate has risen.

Previous Global Unemployment Rise

In 2008 and 2009, the Great Recession hamstrung the United States economy in the worst way since the Great Depression nearly 70 years prior. Unemployment soared, reaching 13.2 percent nationally and 5.6 percent globally. Between 2008 and 2009, the last time the U.N. reported on global unemployment rate increases, it increased by nearly a full percentage point, according to the World Bank. The stock market crash in the United States and Europe clearly caused this, but thankfully the rate recovered and surpassed the 2009 point in 2019, returning to about 4.9 percent.

Reasons for the Present Situation

A U.N. report on global unemployment in January 2020 indicated that this rise in the global unemployment rate was due largely to trade tensions. The United Nations said that these conflicts could seriously inhibit international efforts to address concerns of poverty in developing countries and shift focus away from efforts to decarbonize the global economy. Due to these strains, the report claims that 473 million people lack adequate job opportunities to accommodate their needs. Of those, some 190 million people are out of work, a rise of more than 2.5 million from last year. In addition, approximately 165 million people found employment, but in an insufficient amount of hours to garner wages to support themselves. These numbers pale in comparison to the 5.7 billion working-age people across the world but they concern economists nonetheless.

To compound the issue, the International Labor Organization said that vulnerable employment is on the rise as well, as people that do have jobs may find themselves out of one in the near future. A 2018 report estimated that nearly 1.4 billion workers lived in the world in 2017, and expected that 35 million more would join them by 2019.

The Implications

A rise in global unemployment, like that which the U.N. report on global unemployment forecasts, assuredly has an impact on global poverty. More people out of work necessarily means more people struggling to make ends meet. The World Economic and Social Outlook places this trend in a bigger context. Labor underutilization, meaning people working fewer hours than they would like or finding it difficult to access paid work, combined with deficits in work and persisting inequalities in labor markets means an overall stagnating global economy, according to the report.

Hope for the Future

First of all, stagnation is not a decline, and a trend of one year to the next does not necessarily indicate a predestined change for the years ahead. In fact, the World Bank points toward statistics that it issued at the end of the year to support the claim that every year, poverty reduces. In 2019, nearly 800 million people overcame extreme poverty from a sample of only 15 countries: Tanzania, Tajikistan, Chad, Republic of Congo, Kyrgyz Republic, China, India, Moldova, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Namibia. Over a 15-year period, roughly from 2000 to 2015, these 15 countries showed the greatest improvements in global poverty, contributing greatly to the reduction of the global rate of people living on $1.90 a day or less to below 10 percent. Additionally, efforts by organizations such as the International Development Association have funded the needs of the 76 poorest countries to the tune of $82 billion, promoting continued economic growth and assisting in making them more resilient to climate shocks and natural disasters.

While the U.N. report on global unemployment forecasts a hindrance to these improvements, hope is far from lost. The fight against global poverty continues with plenty of evidence of success and optimism for the future.

– Alex Myers
Photo: Flickr

5 Consequences of Not Having Access to Education
Growing up, many individuals assume that education is unlimited and that everyone has easy access; however, not receiving a proper education can have a major impact on an individual. Across the world, more than 72 million children are not able to gain access to an adequate education. In addition, almost 759 million adults remain illiterate. Part of this includes a lack of awareness to pursue an education. Further, many people who do have access to education typically take it for granted when many children cannot. It is important to understand the value of learning and the potential repercussions without it. Here are five consequences of not having access to education.

5 Consequences of Not Having Access to Education

  1. Lack of Representation. First and foremost, not receiving an education can have major consequences on an individual’s voice. It can hinder the development of the skills necessary to represent oneself. This is further evident through the continuing oppression of women in developing countries. These women typically marry at a young age and must work at accomplishing domestic chores. In nations such as Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, many women without an education struggle to find jobs. Additionally, these women typically cannot read or write and often grow reliant on their husband’s income. In the end, the lack of access robs women of their potential. To add, gender disparity in youth literacy remains prevalent in almost one in five countries.

  2. Unemployment. In many nations, education often determines employability. These nations rely on well-educated workers to promote their economy and workforce. Employers also use these credentials to differentiate applicants and potential employees. Today, many organizations fighting this issue focus on educating the youth as approximately 71 million 15 to 24-year-olds do not have employment around the world. Without access to education, individuals are more prone to remain at the bottom of the list when it comes to obtaining a job. Even as little as a high school diploma can open up many opportunities for employment.

  3. Promotes Exploitation. Many individuals must resort to incredibly dangerous jobs just to make a living if they have limited education. Specifically, women and girls in developing countries often resort to various methods of exploitation to provide for themselves and their families. Education can provide secure work, but without it, people might have a difficult time getting ahead. Exploitation can include sweatshop labor, prostitution and child marriage.

  4. Difficulty Raising Children. Children often rely on their parents when it comes to their own education; however, it can be quite difficult for a parent to assist their child if they never had access to education. It is important to understand how the lack of education can have consequences on future generations. Uneducated parents face issues such as the inability to help children with their homework or not knowing how to help them find their full potential. According to the American Psychological Association, children of uneducated parents are typically behind their peers when it comes to cognitive development and literacy levels. The effects of this issue were evident in 2014 when approximately 61 million children of primary school age did not attend school.

  5. Poverty Trap. Ultimately, lacking access to a proper education puts an individual at risk of falling into the poverty trap. The poverty trap involves the inability to escape poverty due to a lack of resources. This can also lead to an intergenerational poverty gap, meaning children of those already in the trap are more likely to be at risk as well. Education provides the ability for one to access the knowledge necessary to make a living. Without it, it is difficult to escape the trap. According to the Brookings Institute study, each year of education provides an average 10 percent increase in wages.

In order to avoid these five consequences pf not having access to education, citizens around the world need to take action to increase access to education. Through advocacy and campaigns, there can be a change for the better. Once again, it is important to highlight the importance of education as it provides many opportunities for the future.

Srihita Adabala
Photo: Flickr

Democracy and Economic Performance
A nation’s political structure is one of the biggest predictors of its success in a number of areas, including governance, security, peace and economics. According to a recent analysis by the Brookings Institute, democracy might be the best government form to optimize the economic performance of emerging powers.

The relationship between democracy and economic performance can be determined after considering democratic ideals. These include civil liberties, free elections, minority protection and government accountability to the public, among others.

A move towards democratization signals more freedom for people, markets and trading policies. Unlike non-democratic governments, more liberal governance relies on institutions and policies to lay the framework for society. These policies are often beneficial for the private industry and therefore stimulate growth. Further, democracy in conjunction with free market allows for healthy competition between markets and people, compounding growth.

Five emerging economies in particular — India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and Indonesia — have made strides in creating a more liberal political climate and practicing democratic ideals. As a result of this transition towards greater transparency, each has seen economic growth and a consistently narrowing gap between inequality among their populations.

From an international perspective, liberalization leads to more open trade and immigration laws across transnational borders. One example of this phenomenon is South Africa, where democratization has reduced the time required to import and export goods. The movement toward free trade facilitates faster transaction execution for neighboring countries and helps make South Africa a more attractive trading partner.

One benefit of this growth is governments having more funds to increase welfare and entitlement spending. This investment in human capital through increased spending on education and healthcare is made evident in increased literacy and decreased mortality rates across the board. In India, for example, literacy rates have increased by 54% since 1991.

Other democratic ideals such as intellectual property rights increase the incentive to innovate because it is less likely for novel products to be infringed upon, making it a safer investment by reducing this risk. As a result, countries as a whole make greater strides in technological advancement which leads to stronger economic performance in the long run.

Overall, the links are striking between democracy and economic performance, as power moves away from government authorities and into the hands of the general public. However, there is no exact equation for economic growth. As Winston Churchill famously said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” This viewpoint is also relevant in terms of the relationship between democracy and economic performance. While there is no direct causation, liberal regimes have shown great success in economic development.

Sarah Coiro

Photo: Flickr

Energy poverty
Energy poverty is a global issue. Access to energy, especially in developing areas, is severely lacking. Globally, an estimated 1.2 billion people have absolutely no access to electricity, and an additional 2.7 billion rely on the use of traditional biomass to cook.

Burning traditional biomass, which includes wood, agricultural by-products and dung, causes respiratory diseases that kill over 3.5 million annually, which is twice the amount of deaths caused by malaria every year.

Solving the problem of energy poverty is central to the goal of eliminating global poverty, but there is an extensive and politically-charged debate on the best way to approach solutions.

Tensions can run high in renewable sources such as hydro, solar and wind energy versus fossil fuels such as coal and oil. The potential role of nuclear power is also a significant consideration in the mix. Even beyond issues of energy sources, questions remain about whether energy generation should be largely centralized, or be more locally distributed?

This aspect of the question was highlighted in a recent debate held by the Brookings Institute. Ted Nordhaus is the co-founder and Research Director of the Breakthrough institute that is in favor of a more centralized model of energy development.

Nordhaus pointed out that in the past no country has had universal access to energy without the majority of the population moving out of agriculture and into cities, pointing out that growth in off-farm employment is crucial to this development.

In response, Daniel Kamme, Director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC Berkley described the numerous technology innovations such as micro-grids and improved batteries that make a more distributed energy model more viable.

He emphasized that both centralized and distributed grids can coexist, and that rejection of smaller grids in favor of larger centralized ones is “to bet on the past, not bet on the future.”

A centralized model is more in line with coal-fired power plants and other fossil-fuel reliant methods, while a more dispersed approach has a higher reliance on renewable resources.

Proponents of fossil fuels such as Dr. Robert Bezdek, president of the consulting firm MISI, argue that the tried-and-true method of using coal is a much more reliable way to solve energy poverty, and that better scrubbing technology has improved the cleanliness of coal so that it is more sustainable.

Opponents of this viewpoint argue that this perception is an antiquated, one-size-fits-all model, and neglects to consider the level of innovation that exists now in contrast to the industrial revolution.

It is true according to World Bank data that least developed countries on average use renewable sources for 40.8 percent of their power generation, which is about twice as much as high-income countries.

Overall, the correct approach to solving energy poverty will continue to be debated until a solution is found. The answer to energy poverty must be sufficient to provide energy for both personal and commercial use in a sustainable manner.

Adam Gonzalez

Photo: Pixabay

Global partnership for education
The Global Partnership for Education met recently in Brussels hoping to not only raise $3.5 billion for education, but implement a new strategy in order to attract funding where it is needed most.

Funding raised at the meeting benefits the world’s children who are the least able to access a proper education.

The Global Partnership for Education’s mission is to “galvanize and coordinate a global effort to deliver a good, quality education to all girls and boys, prioritizing the poorest and most vulnerable.” Established in 2002, the Global Partnership for Education is comprised of close to 60 developing countries, donor governments, international organizations, the private sector, teachers and NGO groups.

Countries furthest from the Education for All and Millennium Development Goals are also places with fragile political stability. This is a problem, as Overseas Development Assistance is channeled primarily toward “good performers” who have records of effective governance. This logic comes in the assumption that investment in education is only wise once good governance has been established.

The Global Partnership for Education has adjusted its philosophy, however, emphasizing that investing in education now can strengthen governance in a country in the future.

This relationship is more than a theory. Brookings Institute has found evidence of the connection between universal education and good governance, finding an unmistakable relationship between the two. Brookings has gathered that education allows for improvement in three elements of governing: voice and accountability, control of corruption and political instability and violence.

Education promotes the development of an increasingly informed population, promoting citizens to hold their governments accountable. Education is necessary for citizens to both access and act on information. These skills come through not only literacy, but math and reasoning skills—all necessary ingredients to influence policy and reform.

Apart from raw skills, education socializes people, opening more opportunities for community conversation. Increasing levels of socialization may lead to a greater attachment between the culture and its nation state. With greater attachment to the homeland comes a greater expectation from citizens for honest governance. Strong government institutions are less likely to experience corruption and will hopefully give back to the education system with increasing levels of stability.

Education is also positive for levels of individual productivity, which in turn can create conditions for economic equality. Economic equality is associated with political stability and low levels of violence.

Because “education” is a broad term, it is imperative that the education provided to these marginalized children is the right kind of education, the kind that will have a positive effect on governance. In this way, the content must be quality rather than propaganda.

The Global Partnership for Education’s new strategy will ensure that children are getting the resources they need to be educated, without waiting on their governments to get their act together first. After all, children have the potential to grow up into positive influences with the potential to change the world.

– Caroline Logan

Sources: Brookings, Global Partnership
Sources: UNESCO

As the expiration date for the Millennium Development Goals nears there is much discussion and debate surrounding the post-2015 agenda. With the release of the High Level Panel Report there has been commentary galore about the nature of the new framework and the goals it encompasses. The Brookings Institution, a research institution focused on innovative policy solutions, provided a comprehensive analysis of the Report.

In brief the High Level Panel Report established the purpose of the post-2015 agenda being, “to end extreme poverty in all its forms in the context of sustainable development and to have in place the building blocks of sustained prosperity for all.” The Report concludes that the post-2015 agenda must focus on five main issues: Leave no one behind, put sustainable development at the core, transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth, build peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all, and forge a new global partnership. The Panel believes these five elements are the key to ending poverty sustainably in the very near future.

The Brookings Institution has a cautiously positive and optimistic analysis of the High Level Panel Report. The focus on not only educational access but the substantive learning process is welcomed. Despite not directly articulating a strategy for combating inequality Brookings acknowledges the first prong “Leave no one behind” as a potentially effective method of encompassing this issue.

Brookings Institute also applauds the emphasis on data and measurement as a good lesson learned from the MDGs. Having definite goals and timelines is key to success. As the analysis says there is still a long way to go in defining the post-2015 agenda but the comprehensive and inclusive focus of the High Level Panel Report is a very encouraging step towards a poverty free future.

– Zoë Meroney

Sources: Brookings Institution, post2015hlp
Photo: Interaction

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Martin Ravallion of World Bank argues that countries with an average income above $4,000 dollars could resolve their own domestic poverty crisis by taxing residents who earn more than $13 a day. Laurence Chandy and Geoffrey Gertz of the Brookings Institution suggest a way to complement Ravallion’s plan, which would end extreme poverty completely. They estimate that by 2015, there may be only 586 million people living below the absolute poverty line, and suggest that the world’s wealthier countries could aid those unable to fix their own economic situations, for only $40 billion dollars. We could live in a world where none of our nearly 7 billion neighbors is forced to face the dehumanizing reality of absolute poverty, for less than the annual budget of New York City.

So what’s the catch?

Unfortunately, what Ravallion, Chandy and Gertz suggest is only a theory. Tracking the exact number of people in need of help would be impossible, therefore estimating the exact cost of helping is impossible. There are less exact ways to monitor a household’s income, such as tracking ownership of assests such as bicycles or land, but no precise method.

So, since we can’t assign concrete numbers, let’s assume that it would actually cost much more than the theoretical $40 billion proposed by Chandy and Gertz. Let’s be conservative and double it. No, for argument’s sake, let’s go even higher; let’s estimate $100 billion dollars. $100 billion sounds like much more than the world’s wealthier countries would be willing to contribute to end another country’s struggle, right?

Now consider that in President Obama’s 2013 fiscal budget, foreign aid accounts for around 1% of our country’s federal spending. That 1% equals about $70 billion dollars.

The bottom line is this; eradicating extreme poverty is possible, and it can be accomplished for a fraction of a percent of our Gross Domestic Product, if we can just unite with other countries and attack this problem as a team. One world, one mission: end absolute poverty.

– Dana Johnson

Sources: Foreign Policy, National Priorities
Sources: Echwalu