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Worker Remittances and Poverty in the Arab World
The Arab world has one of the highest proportions of migrant to local workers in the world, with over 32 million migrant workers in the Arab states in 2015 alone. In addition, the region has one of the largest diasporas in the world. This means that many skilled workers are emigrating to wealthier countries and sending money home via remittances. But what do remittances in the Arab World mean for the region and its inhabitants?

Brain Drain vs. Gain

In Lebanon and Jordan, unskilled labor is provided by growing numbers of refugees and foreign workers, totaling over five million in 2015. However, as more foreign workers enter the country, growing numbers of high-skilled Lebanese and Jordanian nationals are emigrating. This often occurs when opportunities are limited, when unemployment is high and economic growth slows. The phenomenon is dubbed ‘brain drain’ as opposed to ‘brain gain’, whereby an increasing stock of human capital boosts economies. A drain occurs while poor countries lose their most high-skilled workers and wealthier countries in turn gain these educated professionals.

Remittances in the Arab World

These expatriates commonly work to improve their own living situations while also helping to support their friends and families. This is where remittances come into play. As defined by the Migration Data Portal, remittances are financial or in-kind transfers made by migrants to friends and relatives in their communities of origin. Remittances often exceed official development aid.  They are also frequently more effective in alleviating poverty. In 2014 alone, the Arab states remitted more than $109 billion, largely from the United States followed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

There is no denying that remittances can be a strong driving force for the socioeconomic stability of many Arab countries. But not all the influences are positive. Some experts argue that remittances can actually hurt the development of recipient countries. Their arguments cite potential negative effects of labor mobility and over-reliance on remittances. They emphasize that this can create dependency which undermines recipients’ incentive to find work. All this means an overall slowing of economic growth and a perpetuation of current socioeconomic status.

The Force of the Diaspora

The link between remittances in the Arab world and poverty is clear. Brain drain perpetuates and high amounts of remittance inflow and outflow persist if living conditions remain unchanged. Policymakers are therefore focusing efforts on enticing emigrants to return to their countries of origin. By strengthening ties with migrant networks, and implementing strategies like entrepreneurial start-up incentives and talent plans, the initial negative effects of brain drain could be curbed.

Overall, though brain drain and remittances can seem to hurt development in the short-term, if policies can draw high-skilled workers back, contributions to long-term economic development can erase these negative aspects altogether. Young populations that have emigrated to more developed countries acquire education and valuable experience that is essential to promote entrepreneurship in their home countries. Moreover, their experiences in advanced democracies can bolster their contribution to improved governance in their countries of origin. The Arab world’s greatest untapped potential is its diaspora, and it could be the key to a more prosperous future, if only it can be harnessed.

Natalie Marie Abdou
Photo: Flickr

New Industries UgandaThe Ugandan government recently announced the decision to draft a new national policy that will aid the country’s economic growth and assist in the creation of new industries in Uganda. Such development could draw more investment into the country and bolster the nation as a whole, and the silk industry might be the best way to achieve economic prosperity.

A New National Industrial Policy

In 2008, Uganda’s parliament passed the National Industrial Policy to combat the country’s slow economic growth. The policy was highly anticipated as it aimed to transform the structure of the country as a whole rather than just one specific industry. The National Industrial Policy was not only meant to lead to the creation of new industries in Uganda but it also to lead to the cooperation of the state by providing a plan of action.

Fast forward 10 years and many Ugandan citizens are disappointed with the policy’s impact. By 2018, only 30 percent of the policy has been realized. The main reason for this underachievement is the fact that the policy was not properly implemented. The plan and prediction were that GDP in Uganda would grow to 30 percent, but between 2008 and 2017, it only grew by 18.5 percent. The new policy seeks to rectify this situation by making investment easier, increasing funding to the industrial sector and strengthening existing laws that help industrial development.

Focus on Industrialization

Many economists and politicians believe that industrialization is a key component in lifting countries out of poverty and into a modern, industrial economy. The far-reaching goal of industrialization is to change the system, and such widespread aims can help lead to nationwide development.

One aim of the new industrial policy is the silk industry. Due to the high demand for silk, Uganda is looking to farm silkworms in a process called sericulture to produce more silk. Many hope to expand the silk industry through this new policy. China and India are the ultimate silk producers at this moment, but both are currently experiencing declines. Estimates state that Uganda could make almost $94 million and create up to 50,000 jobs every year in the silk industry; time will tell if such potential can be realized.

The Ugandan government is set to put in about $102 million into this endeavor over the course of five years with the hopes of making about $340 million. While the new national policy seeks the creation of new industries in Uganda, the silk industry has existed in the country before and had been implemented in the 2008 National Industrial Policy. Uganda has grown and produced silk since the 1920s and had had silkworm farms up until the late 1990s. Now, the nation seeks to revitalize the product and its process.

What’s Next?

While this new national policy has yet to be implemented in the Ugandan government, there is still the hope that this policy will create more domestic growth within the nation. It is necessary to wait and see the effects of the policy since the same problems that the 2008 policy faced could still exist. The effects are unknown, but now there is hope that the creation of new industries in Uganda is the start that the country needs.

Isabella Niemeyer
Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in ghana
Ghana is a small country located in West Africa along the Guinea Bay. The country is rich in natural resources, especially oil and gold, but nearly 45 percent of the country’s population is employed in the agricultural sector and agriculture makes up 18 percent of Ghana’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Coca, rice, cassava, peanuts, and bananas are some of the top agricultural products grown in Ghana. Coca is one of the country’s popular exports, alongside oil, gold and timber. Despite being resource-rich, Ghana’s economy has been contracting. Its current growth is around negative 6 percent. Countries and organizations around the world, alongside Ghana’s government and people, have recognized this problem and are currently promoting sustainable agriculture in Ghana so that they can carve a brighter future for this recovering African nation.

Feed the Future Program

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has chosen Ghana, specifically Northern Ghana, as one of its focus nations for its Feed the Future Program. USAID reports that the majority of farmers in this part of the country own small farms that are often less than five acres. Much of this land is covered in pour soil. Due to climate change and the inherent climate of the region, rain is unpredictable.

These challenges mean that malnutrition is high amongst the population. USAID’s Feed the Future Program aims to increase the productivity of these farms that mainly produce corn, rice and soybeans and promote sustainable agriculture in Ghana. Since 2012, Feed the Future has helped supply 156 thousand producers with better farming equipment and educate them on sustainable farming techniques. These techniques have led to the alleviation of some of the malnutrition and poverty issues. They also earned the farmers a total of $40 million and $16 million in private investment.

Governments Role in Sustainable Agriculture in Ghana

This private investment is important to the government’s idea for the future of sustainable agriculture in Ghana. The Ghanaian Times reports that the government of Ghana recognizes the United Nation’s latest report about the future of food security. The government wants to do its part on the world stage and at home by promoting sustainable agriculture in Ghana.

Ghana’s Shared Growth and Development Agenda mention a few ways in which the country plans to do this. The government works with organizations such as the USAID and many programs based in Africa, such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program. Sustainable agriculture in Ghana is seen as a way to strengthen food security, alleviate poverty in the country and promote private sector growth.

Trax Ghana

Trax Ghana is a small nongovernmental organization that promotes sustainable agriculture in Ghana for all of the reasons mentioned above. Like the USAID Feed the Future Program, Trax Ghana operates mainly in Northern Ghana. It promotes the nitty-gritty of sustainable agriculture. It teaches farmers about the importance of soil management and how to construct proper animal pens. The organization also promote gender equality, teach business skills and farming skills to both women and men for over 25 years, since the organization was founded.

Attacking the issue of poverty from multiple fronts and with multiple allies, the future of sustainable agriculture in Ghana looks bright. Ghana’s government is in collaboration with USAID to set up the Ghana Comprehensive Agriculture Project to increase private sector investment into the agriculture sector. It will take time and there will probably be some setbacks, but with so many people dedicated the practicing and promoting the practice of sustainable agriculture, the country has a good chance of succeeding.

– Nicholas DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Agriculture in Mauritania
Mauritania is a rather large country in western Africa that has abundant natural resources like iron, oil and natural gas. Unfortunately, water and arable land are not at the top of the list. Nearly two-thirds of the nation is desert. Despite the lack of water, nearly half of the nations 3.8 million people make a living from livestock and cereal grain farming. Sustainable agriculture in Mauritania is essential to put this land to its best use and help the rapidly urbanizing population economically.

Promoting Sustainable Agriculture in Mauritania

According to the FAO, the amount of food produced domestically in Mauritania each year only meets one-third of the country’s food needs, leaving the other 70 percent to be imported from other countries. The FAO has been working to increase crop output by promoting and supporting agriculture farming in Mauritania. One such program is the Integrated Production and Pest Managment Program (the IPPM) in Africa.

This program covers nine other countries in West Africa. Since its inception in 2001 as part of the United Nations new millennium programs, the program has reached over 180,000 farmers, 6,800 in Mauritania. In Mauritania, the IPPM program focuses on simple farming techniques to increase both the quantity and quality of the crop yield each year.

These techniques include teaching farmers how to chose the best seeds to plant along with the optimum distance to plant the seeds from one another. The program also educates farmers about the best use of fertilizers and pesticides. Overuse of these chemicals can pollute the already small water supply and harm the crops. The program also teaches good marketing practices to help with crop sales.

Programs Working With Government Support

It is not only outside actors that are promoting sustainable agriculture in Mauritania. The government has been helping as well. A report by the Guardian from 2012 explains the government’s new approach since 2011. The plan includes new irrigation techniques, the promotion of new crops, such as rice, and the training of college students in sustainable agriculture techniques through subsidies.

Data from the World Bank in 2013, showed that the program was slowly succeeding; however, too little water was still the biggest issue. The World Bank and the government of Mauritania are still working towards those goals by building off of the natural resources available. According to the CIA, a majority of the economy and foreign investment in Mauritania involves oil and minerals.

A Work In Progress

Data is not easy to find on the success of these programs after 2016. What can be noted, though, is that programs run by the FAO and other international organizations are still fighting for sustainable agriculture in Mauritania. They have been able to sustain using money from mining and oil that is coming in each year.

While these are certainly not the cleanest ways for a government to make money, it is a reliable way for the foreseeable future. The government has already proven that it is willing to spend this money on its people. Hopefully, the government will continue to invest in its people and sustainable agriculture in Mauritania.

Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Three Challenges of the Sustainable Development GoalsProposed in 2012 and officially adopted in January 2016, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replaced the Millennium Development Goals to set the priorities of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and to lead concrete actions on the ground. The goals call for the elimination of poverty and hunger by 2030, along with fifteen other targets concerning health, education, gender equality, sanitation, economic equality and climate change.

Some of the challenges encountered while trying to implement the 17 goals by 2030 include slower economic growth, long-lasting corruption and inequality, unfavorable demographics in various forms and widespread epidemics, but there are three surprising challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals that could be easily overlooked, yet require immediate attention.

Data Deprivation

Big data could only be of use if they are collected intelligently and interpreted meaningfully. If it is not known how many people are impoverished or which groups are the most vulnerable to economic adversity, it is not possible to act effectively against poverty. Furthermore, it would not be possible to know how much progress is made over time and, more importantly, which policies worked. This is not the most obvious challenge of the Sustainable Development Goals, yet a surprisingly large one. Proof for this is the statement of the director of the World Bank’s Innovation Labs, Aleem Walji, wrote in 2015 that out of the 155 countries that the World Bank observed and monitored, half of the countries lacked recent poverty estimates.

According to the IMF’s General Data Dissemination System, at least two data points are required within a decade-long interval to give poverty estimates every 3 to 5 years. A World Bank study conducted in 2015 noted that 57 countries out of 155 had less than two data points from 2002 to 2011, another 20 had two data points within one decade that are separated by more than five years, rendering the data inadequate for poverty estimates.

The lack of reliable poverty data makes it impossible for countries to design and implement appropriate policies. Nigeria, among other African countries severely deprived of timely data, represents the dramatic case, since this country was pronounced as the largest economy of the continent only by calculating its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with inadequate information, revealing that decades of policy-making was based on outdated data.

What to prioritize?

The SDGs contain as many as 17 main issues to be addressed, and which ones should governments respectively prioritize could be a tough question. While prioritizing certain SDGs help with other SDGs as well- for example, decreasing poverty could have a positive impact on the good health and well-being of citizens- certain SDGs could be conflicted by their nature. The most notable potential trade-off exists between the second goal, which is ending world hunger, and the 15th goal, which calls for sustainable management of forest land and other terrestrial resources.

As Africa’s population continues to grow, the continent will be in need of safe food sources, wood, and other natural resources more than ever. Agricultural expansion, however, with its high demand for water and land, could potentially invade forest areas and lead to soil degradation, posing significant challenges to the SDGs.

Fortunately, there are strategies that governments could adapt to at least curb the potentially harmful aspects of agriculture: looking for and employing advanced agricultural technology that increases sustainability, ensuring funding as well as sound legal frames to protect small-scale farmers and to ward off harmful agricultural practices, utilizing agricultural growth by ensuring that it not only produces food but also job opportunities as well.

Who is held accountable?

This is perhaps the most significant among the three challenges of the SDGs. All UN member states agreed in August of 2015 to endorse the SDGs, but many may have left the negotiations unsure of where accountability lies. The issues of accountability also have a complicated history, with many developing countries feeling the burden of meeting the given goals, unlike richer countries who are not obliged to support developing countries by providing needed resources or aid.

The “follow-up and review” section of the SDGs agenda is vague since the document itself does not actually contain indicators necessary for measuring progress, nor is there a systematic mechanism for tracking accountability.

Not only should governments be responsible for building the vision of development. The private sector should be accountable as well, especially since Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) are becoming an increasingly popular way of managing public resources via private means in developing countries. The private sector should aware of the impacts of their actions and policies on the planet and on global poverty.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals should not be mere talking points summoned at will. Instead, they need to lead concrete and intelligent actions that are actually impactful. Challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals are numerous, but acquiring reliable data, choosing reasonable and enforceable goals to prioritize and holding the most relevant parties accountable are challenges that the global community needs to address in the most urgent manner.

– Feng Ye
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in AngolaAs of 2016, Angola was the United States’ fourth largest African trading partner. This is primarily due to the vast oil reserves that exist within Angola’s borders. Because of the lucrative nature of oil exports, these reserves are a crutch that Angola’s economy relies heavily upon. Oil, as a commodity, has a predictive economic effect. The global economy experiences an ebb and flow that roughly mirrors oil prices. Angola, due to its heavy reliance on oil exports, is a microcosm of this pattern, meaning that its economy is at the mercy of shifting global oil prices. As of August 2, 2018, the price of a crude oil barrel was at a moderately strong $70. This is a slight boon to Angola’s economy, but will likely be short-lived as powerful global players such as the United States and China begin maneuvering to reduce their reliance on unclean energy sources.

Economic Diversification

Economic growth and longevity in Angola are reliant on sector diversification. If the nation continues to rely heavily on its oil production, then it will not be able to achieve economic stability and robustness in the coming years. Developing and growing new economic sectors often requires start-up capital in the form of investments and loans. Despite strong financial institutions, credit portfolios are limited in Angola across both the private and public sector. Increasing credit access options in Angola is key to its success as a developing nation.

A variety of institutions and initiatives exist that aim to increase credit access in Angola. Chief among them is Angola’s own governing body, the Government of the Republic of Angola (GRA). In 2015, the GRA created both new legislation and a new agency dedicated to investment and exports. Both these initiatives were established with the hope of employing start-up capital to bolster economic diversification and reduce reliance on oil in the nation.

Credit Access in Angola

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) began a program in 2014 aimed specifically at Angola’s small and medium business sectors. Credit access across these sectors is chronically low, which results in drastically reduced economic growth. USAID’s 2014 credit access program revolves around a partnership with Banco Keve, a bank headquartered in Angola’s capital, Luanda. This partnership provided the program with increased financial mobility, which allowed it to offer $4.8 million in loans to businesses lacking credit access in Angola. Ninety-six percent of these loans were utilized, and 38 percent went to women-led small- and medium-sized businesses.

Recently, credit access in Angola has received local support. This summer, the African Development Bank approved $100 million worth of credit to be received by Angola’s primary investment bank, Banco Angolano de Investimentos (BAI). This funding is to be focused on the development of a new facility dedicated to providing capital support for small and medium businesses involved in international trade. The timing of this deal is key, as banks in Angola have been facing difficulties of securing credit access dedicated to trade support for local businesses.           

Even as credit access in Angola has been buoyed by international and local support, it still faces significant challenges. Angola remains quite low on the World Bank’s 2018 Doing Business index, which reduces the potential for foreign investment. This is only compounded by steadily declining economic growth within the nation. Clearly, Angola is presented with a long road towards inclusive credit access and economic diversification. Luckily, more and more institutions and agencies are stepping in to contribute to the cause. With this growing support, Angola now wields an ever-expanding credit-based toolkit that will aid it in weathering an ever-changing global economic climate.   

Ian Greenwood
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in ChadLocated in Central Africa, Chad is a landlocked country with a population of approximately 12 million people. While the national poverty fell from 54.8% in 2002 to 46.7% in 2011, Chad remains 186th out of 188 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. Credit access in Chad stands out as one of the leading impediments to economic growth.

Financial Institutions in Chad

Chad’s financial depth is among the lowest in Africa. According to the World Bank’s Global Financial Development Database (GFDD, 2016), financial system deposits of commercial banks and other financial institutions made up 6.8% of GDP in 2014 in Chad, three times lower than the sub-Saharan African median of 24.6%, and the lowest in the sub-region that year.

Likewise, the ratios of private credit to GDP and deposit money banks’ assets to GDP were less than a half of the median in sub-Saharan Africa in 2014, coming at 6.6% and 8.1% respectively.

The role credit has in the growth of developing countries’ economies cannot be overstated. Increased credit access in Chad is essential for allowing farmers, businesses, and consumers across Chad to utilize investment capital and thus help expand economic activity.

Credit Access in Chad

There has been a marked decline in financial and credit access in Chad between 2011 and 2014, according to Global Findex Data. During that period, the proportion of adults with an account at a bank declined from 9% to 7.7%. In comparison, the average proportion of adults with an account at a financial institution in sub-Saharan Africa increased from 23.9% to 28.9%.

Borrowings and savings in Chad experienced a similar trend. Between 2011 and 2014, the number of adults who borrowed money from a bank declined from 6.2% to 2.4%, while the proportion of those who saved declined from 6.8% to 4.6%.

In order for people living in Chad to grow businesses, buy homes or purchase goods, the imperative is that they have access to financial institutions so that they can borrow and save money from those institutions. Credit is essential for building capital and achieving economic growth.

Progress is Being Made

While these statistics might suggest a rather grim financial situation, there is some progress that indicates an improvement of credit access in Chad for its citizens. IMF Financial Access Survey Data report from 2015 notes an increase in ATMs from 30 in 2011 to 64 in 2014. Borrowers at commercial banks have increased from 2.8 to 8.8 per 1000 adults. While these gains are modest and fall short of the sub-Saharan Africa average, they present a glimpse of hope for a country plagued by inaccessible credit and financial institutions.

As mobile banking proliferates throughout Chad’s financial sector, it offers increased access to credit. A Luxembourg based telecommunication firm, Tigo, and Airtel Money, an Indian telecommunications firm have helped facilitate the transition to mobile banking in Chad. They offer services that allow users to pay bills, conduct money transfers, and make everyday purchases. As of 2013, there are 50,000 Tigo Cash users and 53,000 Airtel Money users in Chad.

In addition, a recent U.N. initiative, the Chad Local Development and Inclusive Finance Program, works to promote access to financial institutions and foster sustainable development. The program aims to create 20 multifunctional centers for financial services and 20,000 micro-enterprises. These enterprises will help create jobs for at least 500,000 households.

While Chad’s financial woes are far from over, the proliferation of mobile banking and microfinance across the country have allowed more people to gain access to credit.

– McAfee Sheehan
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in KosovoThe Kosovo War in the late 1990’s destroyed much of country’s agricultural sector and infrastructure, and a large portion of the working population was crippled by war consequences. Currently, Kosovo’s total population is about two million. The scars of the war can still be seen in its high poverty rate and human development index (HDI) score compared to its neighbors. Here is the list of the top 10 facts about poverty in Kosovo.

  1. Kosovo’s GDP per capita or Gross Domestic Product (the number that gives an estimation of individual-based economic health) tripled from 2000 to 2017 and is currently at $3,902. However, Kosovo is still the third-poorest country in Europe.
  2. In 2015, approximately 17 percent of the population was living below the poverty line of $2.11 a day, and about five percent of the population was living below the extreme poverty line of $1.51 a day.
  3. UNICEF, based on 2006-2007 data, found that families in Kosovo with children were less likely to be poor than families without children. However, this research also concluded that children aged 0-19 were more likely to be at risk of poverty than the general population.
  4. Kosovo is rich in lignite (a type of coal) and many other natural resources, but the population’s energy needs exceed the production of the country’s two power plants. Less than 0.8 kW (kilowatts) is generated per person, which is under half of that in Slovenia and under a quarter of that in Austria.
  5. From December 2014 to February 2015, the number of migrants seeking asylum from Kosovo to the EU had grown by 40 percent.
  6. Economic growth in Kosovo is projected at between two to four percent for the period from 2018 to 2020. It has held a steady rate of growth since the 2008 global recession.
  7. Nearly two decades after the Kosovo War, ethnic tensions began to ramp up again. Local politicians are taking advantage of fear from potential conflicts and are using nationalist slogans for their political campaigns.
  8. Foreign aid and remittances from countries such as the United States, France, and others reached more than 700 million dollars in 2017, reducing poverty and trade deficits in Kosovo, according to the country’s Central Bank.
  9. Self-employment is widely recognized as one of the solutions to poverty in Kosovo, but conducted surveys show that the low investment capital and limited access to loans keep most of the people away from starting a business.
  10. Kosovo’s transportation infrastructure is very weak, with undeveloped networks of railways and motorways. It lags behind the EU average as well as other Balkan states, such as Macedonia and Albania.

Silver lining

Despite many domestic challenges Kosovo faces regarding the economy and its infrastructure, the country is back on track in economic growth and self-sustainability. Country’s quality of life has steadily improved, while poverty has decreased over the last two decades and this can be attributed to international aid and domestic policy reform.

If Kosovo can continue to maintain its growth rate and effectively integrate foreign aid and advising into both its public and private sectors, in addition to addressing its social issues, the country can expect a brighter future for its citizens in the upcoming decades.

Alex Qi
Photo: Flickr

How to Measure Women's Empowerment for EqualityInvesting in gender equality has proven to stimulate economic growth and create safer and healthier communities. If a woman is given the opportunity to work, her entry into the labor force initiates economic expansion. When given equal access to education, girls are able to become educated mothers and, in turn, create a more stable environment for the family.

Reasons to Invest in Gender Equality

With such good benefits, why wouldn’t someone invest in such equality? The problem is that the world needs an accurate way to measure women’s empowerment so it’s possible to create prosperous and efficient programs.

Multiple theories have arisen attempting to address this issue. Some believe a good way of assessing the level of empowerment in a woman’s society is to gauge how much she is able to participate in formal and informal social institutions.

Ability to make one’s own life choices is always emphasized as a factor of measurement. Having agency over decisions is an important part of everyone’s life that women in impoverished countries are often deprived.

Women’s Empowerment Framework

UNICEF uses its own method called the Women’s Empowerment Framework (WEF) that includes control, social participation, access to resources and welfare. According to this measurement system, supplying women with welfare will have a domino effect that will turn into mobilization and finally, control.

The WEF promotes women having careers and leadership positions so that they have an equal place in society to that of men. It also emphasizes the importance of having access to maternal healthcare and closing the gender wage gap.

J-PAL Approach

The most recent developments in methods to measure women’s empowerment comes from MIT’s Poverty Action Lab called J-PAL. This approach takes into account the local context of the girl’s community and how that affects her ability to makes choices in her own life.

According to J-PAL’s plan, there needs to be a logical way of measuring the amount of impact a program has on a woman and her community. Surveys are an option, but researchers acknowledge that sometimes women do not know how or cannot answer the question well. However, phrasing questions in simple, easy-to-answer ways can increase the accuracy of survey results.

Research studies to measure gender bias in communities is also a good way to gauge women’s freedom. J-PAL also addressed the gravity of properly collecting data from this research. Without an accurate and easy way to track results, it will not be possible to construct effective programs.

Achieving Gender Equality

J-PAL’s outline for conducting gender analysis can ultimately help a lot of women living in oppressed communities. Reliable systems need to be put into place in order to measure women’s empowerment and thus create real equality.

The approach is far from perfect, but with a constantly changing subject of research, it is near impossible to pin down a way to measure with 100 percent accuracy. Despite some flaws, the invention of this method helps women today and has the promising potential to change how people view and react to women’s empowerment across the world for years to come.  

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

BulgariaWhenever Bulgaria is mentioned in the media, coverage is generally skewed towards poverty and corruption, depicting it as one of the EU’s most troubled members. However, a closer look at the facts and figures of life in Bulgaria proves that how the media misrepresents Bulgaria does not entirely reflect reality.

Bulgaria and the EU

Bulgaria is the poorest member of the EU. This fact has not escaped the notice of the rest of Europe, and Bulgaria’s media representation has suffered for it. A 1984 study performed by Weaver and shows that the poorer a country is, the less coverage it is likely to gain in any given news outlet, and the more negative that coverage is liable to be. In contrast, richer countries such as the U.S. are much more likely to receive positive media attention, overshadowing poorer nations like Bulgaria.

Bulgaria in the Media

When the media mentions Bulgaria, it paints it as a corrupt Eastern European country that the rest of the EU wants nothing to do with. Media biases against Bulgaria frequently stem from the fact that Bulgaria was once part of the Soviet Bloc. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Bulgarians struggled to adjust to the fact that their country was no longer Communist, and it was not uncommon for Bulgarians to migrate west to try for a fresh start. However, they were often met with fear from their new neighbors, mostly due to their status as ex-Communists whose government was still somewhat corrupt and were subsequently dehumanized by many Western European nations. For example, Bulgaria has repeatedly been denied admission to the Schengen Zone, which would permit Bulgarians to work and travel freely in fellow Schengen countries within the EU. This, combined with the country’s comparatively low GDP, has led to media depictions in which they are given the same derogatory treatment that migrants are typically given by news outlets.

Bulgaria and the Rest of the World

How the media misrepresents Bulgaria becomes apparent when examining the economic and political conditions in Bulgaria. For starters, Bulgaria’s GDP is currently $18,900, having risen from $8.400 in 1991. Although this is, in fact, fairly low by EU standards, it is not low when thought of in the context of the rest of the world. The world is split into four income groups, ranging from Group One (extreme poverty) to Group Four (the U.S. standard). Bulgaria falls into Group Three (upper middle income); most of its people can afford decent beds, bikes, and maybe cheap cars, but not annual vacations or spacious houses. The average person is getting about 6570 kilowatt-hours of electricity, 48 percent of them have Internet access, and 99.4 percent have access to clean drinking water. In fact, as of 2014, no one in Bulgaria is living in extreme poverty. Meanwhile, the rest of the EU’s citizens are scattered throughout Groups 3 and 4.

Corruption in Bulgaria is also not as abundant as the media portrays it. For example, the Inequality Index (Gini) rated Bulgaria around 40, which is in the middle of the scale. Their first elections took place in 1990, and their current democracy score is 9 out of 10.

Overall, things are looking much better in Bulgaria than the media lets on. While the media would let its consumers believe that Bulgaria is a hopeless case of corruption and poverty, it is actually a free nation with a thriving economy. If one looks hard enough, one will find that how the media misrepresents Bulgaria is a true misrepresentation and nothing more.

– Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr