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Vulnerable Children in KenyaOrganizations like UNICEF and ACAKORO have been providing educational resources to Kenyan students despite the immense difficulties in the country due to COVID-19 and 2020’s locust invasion. On March 15, 2020, the Kenyan Government forced schools to shut down due to COVID-19. Due to school closures, millions of students risk losing out on education during the pandemic. Organizations stepped in to provide resources, remote learning services and sanitation facilities to vulnerable children in Kenya.

Education in Kenya

Over the past decade, poverty in Kenya has improved due to the country meeting many of its Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals are goals created by the United Nations to help underdeveloped nations improve and one of these goals is to achieve universal primary education. A key issue that Kenya needs to address is education disparities. According to a UNICEF study conducted in 2014, low educational attainment of the household head and living in rural areas is the highest indicator that predicts child poverty.

Impoverished children struggle to gain an education. More than 1.2 million primary-school-age children do not attend school. Even more vulnerable children like orphans have increased susceptibility to experiencing education disparities.

Employment in Kenya

Young people in search of employment experience difficulties finding a job that lifts them out of poverty. Only 1% of Kenyan youth have a university education and many young people are entering a job market with few hirable skills. A whole 40% of the youth in Kenya either did not go to school or failed to complete primary education and the largest percentage of people unemployed in Kenya is represented by those aged between 15 and 24. Higher education in Kenya is expensive and not accessible to disadvantaged children.

UNICEF Provides Aid

Nationwide access to quality education is key in reducing poverty and investing in the futures of vulnerable children in Kenya. UNICEF alleviated education burdens during the COVID-19 crisis by providing remote learning to students and giving solar-powered radios and textbooks to vulnerable families. Through UNICEF’s solar-powered radios, 40,000 vulnerable children were reached with educational resources that are necessary for remote learning. On December 23, 2020, UNICEF provided 700,000 masks to be distributed in time for schools to reopen on January 4, 2021. Improved access to sanitation is an ongoing issue, and due to the pandemic, the need for sanitation is of crucial importance. UNICEF foresaw the issue and provided handwashing facilities to hundred of schools.

ACAKORO

ACAKORO is a community-based organization, supported by UNICEF, that uses football as a tool for development. ACAKORO works with the community of the Korogocho slum and has been tutoring vulnerable children during COVID-19 so that they can continue their learning. UNICEF is also supporting the government and the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) with remote learning and getting schools ready to reopen safely.

The Kenya Jua Kali Voucher Programme

The Kenya Jua Kali Voucher Programme, implemented between 1997 and 2001, was a revolutionary comprehensive policy designed to provide vulnerable youth with vouchers to pay for training courses. A similar modern-day strategy can be put in place in order to address the lack of access to essential education in Kenya. Providing equal access to education for all children in Kenya is essential to lift people out of poverty.

Organizations such as UNICEF and ACAKORO are addressing education-related disparities amid the pandemic, thereby addressing overall poverty in the nation.

– Hannah Brock
Photo: Flickr

AlNourWomen’s agency and equal rights can help to significantly reduce poverty. When evaluating the development of a country, the role of women should not be overlooked. When women are empowered through literacy and education, they become more productive members of society that contribute to global poverty reduction. AlNour is a Moroccan business that allows women in Morocco to be part of the labor force, especially disabled women.

Cultural Norms Limit Women

Oftentimes women do not have the same opportunities as their male counterparts to receive education, engage in the labor force or own property. This is partly because of cultural norms that limit women to domestic responsibilities. By reducing unpaid domestic work, women become empowered and capable of obtaining income security and sustainable livelihoods, which significantly diminishes poverty levels.

Gender Inequality in Morocco

Gender inequality and the lack of women in the labor force in Morocco are related and ongoing issues. The nation, which is located in northwestern Africa, ranked 137 out of 149 countries according to the 2018 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report and ranked 141 out of 149 countries for women’s economic participation and opportunity. Although there were reforms in 2011 to increase the participation of women in the labor force in Morocco, and specifically within the government, women largely remain underrepresented in elected positions.

The economy would benefit from an increase in women’s participation. The IMF examined the relationship between gender inequality and growth and found that policies that better integrate women into the economy would greatly improve growth. As of 2019, if as many women worked as men worked, “income per capita could be almost 50% higher than it is now.”

The participation of women in the labor force in Morocco increases economic development and therefore reduces global poverty. But, how can women become more active citizens in society? The answer can be found by examining an organization called AlNour, which serves as an important example of how to best empower women.

AlNour: A Women’s Empowerment Organization

AlNour is a textile and embroidery business that provides an outlet for women to participate in the labor force in Morocco, thereby contributing to the economic development of the country as a whole. AlNour, which means “the light” in Arabic, began in 2013 after Patricia Kahane, originally from Austria, began the enterprise as a means of offering disabled Moroccan women sources of income through textile production and embroidery. The business employs disabled female workers who face a double disadvantage in Morocco due to their disabilities and gender.

The organization not only provides women with work but also offers training programs for languages, professional and artisan skills. The company has a van that allows women to easily and safely travel to and from work and also has a child care center for working mothers. Furthermore, the company offers free breakfast and lunch daily. The business has partnered with local shops to distribute its products and it also has a website, which features a range of items from home accessories to clothing.

AlNour serves as a rich example of how an organization can alter the lives of many and even impact an entire country. By developing sustainable solutions that not only invest in education but also emotional and financial support, women can break free from traditional roles and gender stereotypes, while simultaneously promoting financial inclusivity and bettering the nation entirely.

Gender Equality Progress in Morocco

There is light and hope for women in Morocco, as significant progress has been made. For example, the revision of the family code to expand the rights of women in marriage, guardianship, child custody and access to divorce is a monumental stride. The creation of a 14-week paid maternity leave clause was also introduced. Additionally, “the first and most advanced gender budgeting initiative in the Middle East and Central Asia region was launched in Morocco in 2002.”

While policies and laws that support gender equality such as the gender budget initiative are undoubtedly important, creating sustainable organizations like AlNour is an equally essential step in order to create a system that allows women to personally and professionally prosper from the ground level upward, consequently helping the economic development of Morocco as a whole.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

Private Sector JobsThe private sector makes up nine out of 10 jobs in the global market and with about 735 million people living at or below the extreme poverty line, it is essential that this vulnerable population has access to private sector jobs. The private sector, also known as the citizen sector, is owned by private corporations rather than the government and companies all around the world make up the majority of the economy with private sector jobs. Companies within the private sector can greatly benefit from providing people living in poverty with jobs as an investment that will lead to global poverty reduction.

The Role of the Private Sector in Poverty Reduction

It is crucial that the private sector takes responsibility for providing jobs, even in situations that require extensive training and infrastructure, as an investment in people living in poverty will lead to competition within the market as well as exponential growth within the company. The Global Impact Sourcing Coalition (GISC) created a toolkit to provide private sector companies with the skills and knowledge necessary to reduce poverty through employment. This toolkit outlines the benefits of workplace inclusion for people living in extreme poverty, not only from an economic standpoint but as a social responsibility as well. Outlined in the toolkit is the importance of networking and creating opportunities for people to fight poverty.

Microlending as a Poverty Reduction Tool

The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) prioritizes microlending from the private sector as a source of poverty alleviation. Microlending is the act of loaning out very small amounts of money to self-employed individuals living in developing countries by banks and institutions. The FEE highlights a famous example of this, Grameen Bank, founded by Muhammed Yunus in Bangladesh in 1983. The Grameen Bank makes loans of $30 to $200 per person and has been able to reach millions, majority of whom are females who use the money to buy supplies in order to make and distribute their products. This is just one example of private sector work being done to connect people with limited access to resources to the job market and create opportunities.

Social Impact Matters

Traditionally, poverty has been a focus of governments rather than private companies and institutions, however, recently, partnerships between these two have been sought as the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals are focused on poverty alleviation. These partnerships between governments and private organizations are focused in areas of development, education, health, agriculture and climate change, all of which prioritize private sector jobs to fight poverty. One motivation for the private sector to participate in expanding its labor force to vulnerable communities is that of reducing reputational risks and beneficial brand awareness. PYXERA Global looks into the opportunities provided by public-private partnerships through the lens of economic development and explains that customers are now more than ever likely to consider the social impact of a specific company when it comes to purchasing products.

Social Responsibilities of the Private Sector

In order for private sector jobs to fight poverty, it is essential that organizations and corporations take social responsibility to invest in vulnerable populations that will lead to long-term positive impacts for the global economy. Strategies to employ impoverished communities in the private sector workforce have already been put in place and will continue to be essential in both alleviating poverty and expanding the global economy.

– Caroline Pierce
Photo: Flickr

Disability in Palestine
Palestine has one of the highest poverty rates in the world. The country has endured decades of political and violent conflict with Israel. Palestinians must also battle increasing unemployment as well as a lack of resources. These factors are particularly detrimental for Palestinians with disabilities. Disability in Palestine is an ongoing issue, and poverty influences it further.

The Challenge of Disability

Over 15% of the world’s population suffers from some form of disability. These range from impairment in vision, hearing, and mobility to trouble with memory and communication. However, developing countries are more vulnerable to disabilities due to their limited access to health care, education, water, sanitation, and electricity.

The World Health Organization estimates that one billion people worldwide live with disability or impairment. About 130,000 of these individuals live in Palestine. Of the 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA within Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria, 795,000 of them have a disability. In Occupied Palestine, 31.2% of elderly Palestinian have one or more kinds of disability. Additionally, more males suffer from disabilities than females, and about 20% of individuals with a disability in Palestine are under 18 years old.

Much of the disability in Palestine is a result of limited resources and an increase in violence. Insufficient prenatal and postnatal care, malnutrition, and inadequate medical services all contribute to prolonged disability and impairment. This lack of proper and adequate services is a result of the Israeli blockade and occupation, which prevents Palestinians from accessing goods and services.

The increase in violence also has a direct effect on the number of disabled individuals. There have been recent waves of violence and aggression in Palestine in 2009, 2012, and 2014. As a result, large numbers of Palestinians have been serious injuries. Out of the 11,231 Palestinians affected by these outbursts of violence, 10% experienced injuries that resulted in life-long disabilities.

The Effects of Disability

Disability can dramatically affect the livelihood of afflicted individuals. The education and health care systems are largely operated by UNRWA and USAID related programs through humanitarian assistance and funds. UNRWA has developed Disability Inclusion Programs, but very few of these initiatives focus on individuals with disabilities or increasing access to necessary services. In 2011, 42.2% of Palestinians with disabilities in Gaza and 35.5% in the West Bank never enrolled in school. Further, 27.1% of Palestinians with disabilities dropped out of school and 56.3% were illiterate.

Acquiring access to health care and rehabilitation is very difficult, especially in Gaza due to restricted movement and blockades. The same is true for access to medicine, supplies, and staffing. Having a disability, without the proper resources to acquire treatment, education, or income, can greatly increase the risk of poverty for an individual and their family. If an individual with a disability is already below the poverty line, their chances of escaping poverty are greatly reduced.

Having a disability in Palestine also hinders employment. The poverty rate in Palestine is 25%, and unemployment reached about 29% across the board. Over 90% of individuals with disabilities in Gaza don’t have employment. This is mostly because of the lack of accessible infrastructure, transport, toilets, and assistive devices and services in these workplaces. The presence of disability, especially an insufficiently treated disability, prevents individuals from completing education and finding employment, which lends itself to poverty.

Wrap Up

Disability is a challenge in every country. Palestine in particular is not unfamiliar with the hurdles facing individuals with disabilities. From the lack of adequate health care services to the lack of education and employment accessibility, individuals with a disability in Palestine are continuously vulnerable. Employers, educators, governmental organizations. and NGOs should work together to create a much more inclusive environment. There needs to be improvements in infrastructure and providing more resources and accessibility for Palestinians with disabilities.

Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

Education and poverty crisis in SudanOver three million children in Sudan do not attend school. The severe gap in the education system continues the cycle of poverty in the country. Chronic underdevelopment and conflict are two of the most significant reasons children in Sudan are out of school. Girls face additional hurdles such as cultural pressures and traditional views that prevent them from receiving an education. While 76% of primary age children attend school, in secondary, the number drops drastically to 28%. The Sudanese government and organizations such as UNICEF have stepped in to resolve the education and poverty crisis in Sudan.

The Education Crisis in Sudan

In South and East Darfur, there are 7,315 employed teachers, 3,692 of which are unqualified. In essence, half of the teachers that are employed in South and East Darfur are unqualified. Furthermore, many teachers in Sudan were  found to be “untrained, under supervised and unequally distributed between rural and urban areas.” Not only do schools often have teachers who are unqualified but the curriculum lacks active learning and teaching materials are either outdated or nonexistent.

The Relationship Between Education and Poverty

In their haste to escape poverty, people drop out of school in search of employment so that they can provide for themselves and their families. While a higher education often proves fruitful in finding a good-paying job, those in poverty do not have time to wait. Without an education, people living in poverty lack literacy and numeracy skills which are needed to advance in the working world. This cycle is repeated generation after generation, inextricably linking education and poverty.

Families living in this cycle of poverty often make the choice for their children, otherwise, they will not be able to provide food, water or shelter. And while some schools may be free of cost, the added costs of uniforms, books and supplies must be taken into consideration.

While poverty may have a negative effect on education, education has an increasingly positive effect on poverty. Proper education will increase one’s skill set and open the door to a world of new employment opportunities and increase the potential for higher income. With each additional year of schooling, earnings increase by about 10%. And for every dollar invested in an additional year of schooling “earnings increase by $5 in low-income countries and $2.5 in lower-middle-income countries.” UNESCO found that if all adults had two more years of schooling or completed secondary school, nearly 60 million people could escape poverty and 420 million could be lifted out of poverty, respectively.

Improving Education in the Region

The Federal Ministry of Education will implement nine strategies to improve the education and poverty crisis in Sudan. Based on these strategies, the following has been projected for the years 2018-2023: pre-school coverage will increase by 19%, basic education by 16% and secondary education by 7%.

Sudan will invest in enrollment programs and work to retain those already enrolled. The government will expand opportunities for education at every level to ensure that students do not drop out due to a lack of space. And in collaboration with global partners, the Federal Ministry of Education will work toward quality education that is accessible to all.

UNICEF’s Educational Efforts

By 2021, UNICEF intends to provide more children with the opportunity to have a quality education starting at a young age, in a learning environment that is inclusive and safe.

The organization will work with communities, parents, teachers and children to promote a socially cohesive atmosphere that even the most vulnerable of children can access. The Learning and Development Programme and the Ministries of Education will advocate for evidence-based surveys, field reports, community discussions and evaluations to mold policy reform in favor of inclusion. UNICEF and its partners will ensure the safety of schools by providing water, health and sanitation facilities. Additionally, children will be taught the proper behaviors surrounding health, nutrition and child protection. Schools will receive the support needed to ensure schools are free of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.

The undeniable education and poverty crisis in Sudan has prevented most people from achieving a proper education and reaching their true earning potential. While most agree that education is important, many Sudanese people find that it is a luxury outweighed by life’s bare necessities. With the five-year plan developed by the Federal Ministry of Education and the help of organizations like UNICEF, the toxic cycle between education and poverty will come to an end.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr

GR for GRowth initiative in GreeceUnemployment in Greece has remained a concern among Greeks since the financial crisis that devastated the economy. During the financial crisis, the Greek economy experienced a 25% decline. While the economy has attempted to recover, the economy continues to experience the impact of the financial crisis, and now the COVID-19 pandemic, which is expected to reduce the economy by another 8.2%. In July 2020, the unemployment rate in Greece reached 16.8%. While many Greeks fight to withstand the struggling economy, Microsoft is creating solutions through its GR for GRowth initiative in Greece. The Greek government anticipates that this initiative will rebalance the economy during the pandemic, shifting its heavy reliance from tourism to further developments in energy, tech and defense sectors.

GR for GRowth Initiative and the Economy

In October 2020, Microsoft announced an initiative in Greece that will create opportunities in technology. Microsoft’s ongoing investment is expected to reach approximately $1.17 billion. This will be the largest investment Microsoft has made over 28 years when it first began operations in Greece. The GR for GRowth initiative in Greece will build data centers in the country and develop resources in the economy that will promote growth opportunities that support the people of Greece, government and businesses. The leverage Greece will acquire through this initiative will attract other large corporations that will promote future investments in the Greek economy.

Currently, Microsoft operates data centers in 26 countries, including seven in the European Union. With this initiative, Microsoft will build new data centers that will create a Microsoft Cloud within the country that will provide Greece with a competitive edge as one of the world’s largest cloud infrastructures with access to effective and efficient cloud services. It is anticipated that by 2025, Microsoft will run all data centers on renewable energy sources.

Potential Impact of GR for GRowth

The GR for GRowth initiative in Greece will enhance cloud computing for local companies, startups and institutions. The services delivered through Microsoft Cloud will allow for more efficient networking, computing, intelligent business applications, cybersecurity, data residency and compliance standards. Microsoft has already implemented processes to increase user satisfaction and has collaborated with businesses in Greece for the development of cloud services. Alpha Bank, Eurobank, National Bank of Greece, OTE Group, Piraeus Bank and Public Power Corporation are anticipating the expansion of cloud services in Greece.

While the data center is Microsoft’s largest investment in Greece in 28 years, Microsoft has been paramount in building partnerships with over 3,000 businesses and customers throughout the years. The GR for GRowth initiative will stimulate innovation and growth within the Greek economy. Microsoft President, Brad Smith, believes this investment will positively influence the optimism about the future of Greece, government decisionmaking and economic recovery.

GR for GRowth and the Workforce

While unemployment has plagued the Greek economy, through this initiative, Microsoft will offer training opportunities that will equip more than 100,0000 people with skills in digital technologies by 2025. Over the next five years, Microsoft plans to invest in enhancing digital competencies across the public sector, among business and IT professionals, educators and students. The program will consist of online and in-person courses and workshops. Microsoft’s program objectives will focus on upskilling customers and partners, collaborating with public sector government entities and the expansion of the ReGeneration program that provides services to youth, unemployed and underserved communities.

According to the prime minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the GR for GRowth initiative in Greece gives hope to the people of Greece for rebuilding its workforce. While the economy in Greece continues to struggle, this initiative hopes to solve economic battles and create a sustainable and prosperous economy.

– Brandi Hale
Photo: Flickr

The United Kingdom is known for being a popular city for tourists with sites, such as Big Ben, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace. However, what may not be as well-known is the fact that the UK struggles with a significant class difference. It has an ever-widening gap between the poor and the affluent, which leads to high rates of poverty in the UK, specifically for children.

Child Poverty

Child poverty is one of the most notable effects of overall poverty in the UK. This poverty crisis struck Britain hard in 1999. Its child poverty proportion became the highest out of all of the western European countries.

In 2016-17, poverty impacted nearly 30% of children — 4.1 million — in the UK. In the following year — 2018-19, the number of children in poverty in the UK increased by 100,000. The trend is on an upward spike rather than its 2003 downward rate when child poverty was made a priority. Poverty in the UK needs to be addressed, especially among the youth. It leads to increased hardships in life from education to mental and physical health to employment and so much more.

Use of the Film Industry

Films produce major results in ending poverty. The film industry has positively impacted poverty in the UK in many ways. For one, the film industry creates many job opportunities. In 2009, the core UK film industry created or impacted nearly 100,000 jobs relating to film production, sales and tourism. Furthermore, portrayals of the UK in films contribute heavily to tourism and yearly account for about £1.9 billion. That brings the total UK film industry contribution in 2009 to raising the GDP by more than £4.5 billion.

The improved economy can be a promising solution for aiding the UK’s children out of poverty. The country can use the funds to help out the struggling citizens, focusing specifically on the poor. In this way, films pose as a promising solution for poverty aid in other countries as well.

“Poor Kids”

The amount of money and the impact the film industry has on the UK is astounding and a promising solution for poverty. However, the impact one film made for children in poverty is even more remarkable.

The film, “Poor Kids,” has made great strides toward improving the lives of impoverished UK children. The film illustrates the living situations of three families in poverty through the lens of the children. Courtney (age 8), Paige (age 10) and Sam (age 11) give detailed and heart-wrenching accounts of their experiences growing up in poverty. The film received much acclaim. It was a Broadcast Best Documentary Nominee, a Learning on Screen Nominee, a Televisual Bulldog Best Documentary Nominee and received the Chicago Film Festival Gold Plaque for Social and Political Documentary in 2012.

Films awards aside, “Poor Kids” sparked change in the community. Make Lunch is a program that began after Poor Kids debuted as a direct result of the film. The program contributes free meals to children during the times when school is not in session and when children could potentially go for a long period without food. In the summer of 2012, as many as 13 lunch kitchens were providing the free lunches.

And That’s A Wrap

The effects of poverty in the UK are prevalent, notably in the large number of impoverished children. The worsening situation provides a sense of sorrow to the country, but a solution presents itself. Films not only contribute to the wealth of a country, but they provide jobs as well. Both of these aspects could be potential resources to utilize when fighting poverty.

Additionally, films bring about emotion, and that creates change. The inspiration that “Poor Kids” ignited contributed to a charity that helps the children in poverty. With results, such as the Make Lunch program, films can yield great benefits for poverty in the UK and the world.

Hailee Shores
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Mongolia
Mongolia is a country in East Asia with more than 3 million people. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Mongolia experienced varied periods of social change and growth. After dispelling the controlling Communist Party in the early 1990s, social and economic policies rapidly transformed the nation’s outlook and prospects. Consequently, opportunities for women also changed. To understand this issue better, here are six facts about women’s rights in Mongolia.

6 Facts About Women’s Rights in Mongolia

  1. The communist party provided new opportunities for women in the twentieth century. In 1921, the Mongol nationalists established a communist party, in tandem with the Soviet Union, which essentially proclaimed equality between men and women. As a result, women received an education, entered the workforce and had political power. The government provided generous benefits and healthcare, and female literacy rates dramatically increased.
  2. The fall of the Soviet Union presented opportunities and challenges for women’s rights. The political transition in Mongolia came with newfound hardships, particularly economic ones. The new government removed subsidies assisting Mongolians, leaving many without financial assistance. From 1991 to the mid-200s, women faced higher unemployment levels, and more than 30% lived in poverty.
  3. With men working in the fields, women have turned to cities for employment and have found success. In recent years, as agriculture was deemed a male endeavor, women were forced to turn to other places to earn an income. Parents subsequently invested in their daughters’ education, and now, with women more educated than men, they are more likely to be employed. This phenomenon is now being deemed a “reverse gender gap.”
  4. The female unemployment rate is 2.6%, while male unemployment is 7.1%. This might not be a good thing for women’s rights in Mongolia, however. With higher alcoholism rates for Mongolian men in recent years, there is a clear connection between unemployment, alcoholism and violence within the home. Approximately one-third of Mongolian women suffer from domestic violence, a staggering statistic for a country whose economy relies so heavily on female labor.
  5. Sexual harassment remains a serious issue. With an estimated 63% of women experiencing sexual harassment of some form, the need for reform is evident. There is not a law in Mongolia protecting women from male harassment. Even in the workplace, where women are significant contributors, there is no legal defense against unwanted harassment.
  6. Despite female education rates, women are subject to massive inequities in pay. On average, women are more likely to be better educated than their male counterparts; however, traditional norms and values prevent women from fully achieving equality. A lack of childcare and social benefits, partnered with patriarchal values, gets in the way of opportunities for women. Furthermore, the gender pay gap stands at more than 12.6%, an increase from previous years. Even when women persevere through their society’s social limits, they do not receive as much pay as men of the same standing.

The unique history of Mongolia has altered the standing of women in Mongolian society multiple times. Despite Mongolia’s patriarchal values, the investment in female education has proven to be fruitful as women are well-educated and seeking work within the commercial setting. However, there is still much work to be done, as women face lower wages, sexual abuse and inequalities.

There is room to be hopeful, though, as rising levels of education and employment mean that there will be continued improvement within Mongolia’s social and economic spheres. Hopefully, women’s rights in Mongolia will continue to improve, and all Mongolians will soon embrace female contributions to society.

Eliza Cochran
Photo: Flickr

Croatia is a country in Eastern Europe, part of the former Yugoslavia. It gained independence in 1991 after the Homeland War. As a result, the country struggles with poverty. It joined NATO in 2009 and the European Union (EU) in 2013, helping it advance as a country. In 2008, there was an abrupt economic slowdown that lasted into 2014, which plunged many into poverty. Now, poverty in Croatia is one of its biggest problems.

Croatia’s Economy

Croatia has high poverty rates. In 2015, an estimated 19.5% of the population was below the poverty line. Further, 15% of people were unable to even afford basic necessities, such as food, shelter and water. Poverty in Croatia increased when it left Yugoslavia during the Homeland War, changing from a communist to a free-market country.

Unemployment rates in Croatia are also high. The average unemployment rate is 12.4% (2017 estimate), which ranks Croatia 164 in the world. For youth, the unemployment rate is 23.7%. This is largely due to a lack of qualifications for jobs. Skilled professionals have moved to work elsewhere in the EU, and those remaining do not have the qualifications for the jobs that need filling.

Living in Poverty

Poverty is influenced by geography due to uneven developments throughout different regions. Small towns and other rural areas in the east and southeast, primarily near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, are the poorest areas in Croatia. There is a 5.9% poverty rate in cities, while there is up to a 34.3% poverty rate in small towns and rural areas.

Similar to the discrepancy between urban and country is the disparity between the rich and the poor. The previous government did not allow such imbalances to occur. However, those in government positions received favored treatment. As Croatia recovered from war in its new free-market system, the status of those who were previously disadvantaged worsened. After Croatia became independent, the rich received advantages while the poor received disadvantages. This created a large gap between the poor and rich. It was estimated in 2015 that the poorest 10% of households in Croatia earn only 2.7% of all income, while the richest 10% earned 23%.

Some groups are more likely to live in poverty than others. Older people, single-person households and single-parent households, large families of four or more people, children lacking parental care, people with lower education, war veterans, victims of war and their families, displaced people and ethnic minorities are most likely to live in poverty in Croatia.

Additionally, retired people are also more likely to live in poverty. Retired people are one-fifth of Croatia’s population. As a result, pension is becoming overburdened, and people on pensions are not given enough money to live. Those on pension receive less than 50% of the average Croatian salary.

Working Towards a Better Future

Croatia is working on alleviating poverty. Croatia is participating in the EU’s Europe 2020 strategy. The strategy aims to create sustainable and inclusive growth in the economy and employment while also reducing poverty and improving education. Because of regional disparities, Croatia is implementing a regional-based version of this strategy.

As a result, Croatia’s employment rate has improved from 60.6% of the population to 66.7% in last five years. This figure even includes those who wish not to work. Also, the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion has gone down from 29.1% of the population to 23.3%.

After its economic slowdown in 2008, Croatia struggled with an increase in poverty. While it has the highest poverty rate in its region, Croatia is working to address this problem. The country strives to decrease the gap between rural and urban areas as well as the divide between different social groups.

Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr

Extreme Poverty in MoldovaFrom 1999 to 2015, Moldova went from a 36% extreme poverty rate to zero, effectively ending extreme poverty in Moldova. By analyzing Moldova’s poverty reduction strategies, organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank can form a blueprint to fight extreme poverty globally.

IMF Focus on Poverty Reduction

In 2000, the IMF instituted a three-pronged approach for ending extreme poverty in Moldova, which involved major reforms in governance and the public sector. Economic development, healthcare changes, educational developments and social safety nets were the primary focus to kickstart growth in the country.

  • The IMF’s focus on economic development revolved around public spending and lack of private business. Aside from ensuring fiscal responsibility from the government, government retirement plans and debt were swallowing the countries budgetary resources. The IMF advised Moldova to revise its tax system to be more equitable while strengthening its private sector by easing regulations and tax burdens on small and medium businesses.
  • Education was a foundational part of the reform process. The IMF ensured Moldova improved its education system through guidance from the World Bank. The primary focus was on improving education standards and increase the availability of secondary education to needy students.
  • The health sector developed more substantial healthcare access to reduce long-term expenses and to involve the private sector.
  • Developing better social safety nets was a key pillar for the IMF in Moldova. Most importantly, the goal of the program is to keep children out of poverty. This included food security and funding to access human development services. Also on the agenda was reforming the nation’s pension system to protect aging populations.

Impact of Changes in Moldova

These changes were to be implemented by no later than 2003 and most changes are ongoing. How well did the changes work? In 2000, Moldova’s GDP per capita was at $1,439 and by 2019 the GDP per capita rose to $3,715, doubling the nation’s economic growth. The secondary education enrollment rate was 48% in 1999 and grew to an 86% enrollment rate by 2019. Though absolute poverty remains high, these strategies were instrumental in ending extreme poverty in Moldova. Even by 2006, the extreme poverty rate was down to 4.5%.

The World Bank’s Evaluation

The World Bank processed an analysis from 2007 to 2014 using data to determine how ending extreme poverty in Moldova was effective. Compared to most of Europe, Moldova is still impoverished, but extreme poverty no longer plagued the country by 2014. There were four primary factors that the World Bank determined to be the cause of this success. Economic expansion, advanced opportunities for workers, better retirement fiscal responsibility for aging populations and international work being funneled back into Moldova’s economy, were the most effective tools for alleviating extreme poverty.

  • Despite a setback during the financial crisis in 2009, Moldova has seen steady GDP growth up until the COVID-19 pandemic. Of significant note is that Moldova showed continued growth rather than ups and downs experienced in most impoverished nations. Moldova’s commitment to attaining the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals and effectively using guidance from the World Bank and IMF are reasons for this growth. Responsible governance and low corruption were instrumental in ending extreme poverty in Moldova.
  • Moldova’s workforce lowered from 2007 to 2014, primarily due to migration; however, wage growth was significant in jobs outside of the agricultural sector. Growth in food processing, manufacturing and ICT industry jobs increased wages exponentially, while the agricultural sector still struggled. These higher-skill jobs are attributable to the country’s focus on improving secondary education access, as outlined by the IMF, providing upward mobility.
  • Responsible pension disbursement was a chief agent for ending extreme poverty in Moldova. The significant increase in distributions to aging rural citizens living in extreme poverty was an essential investment by Moldova’s government.
  • The World Bank also found that after the economic crisis, remittances from Moldovan migrant workers sent back disposable income. Most of these migrants were from low-income rural areas of Moldova. From 2007 to 2014, rural households’ disposable income from migrant transfers rose from 16% to 23%. In Moldova, remittances played a considerable role in poverty reduction.

Using Moldova as a Blueprint Worldwide

Evaluating the success in ending extreme poverty in Moldova helps pave the way to implement similar strategies globally. So, what is the blueprint for ending extreme poverty?

  • The most crucial aspect is government accountability and a strong commitment to attain Millennium Development Goals. Strong oversight to prevent corruption and ensure fiscal responsibility to follow through with plans laid out by organizations like the United Nations, the World Bank and the IMF.
  • A commitment to make secondary education more accessible, especially in rural areas, advances what a nation’s workforce is capable of and helps create job and wage growth.
  • Protecting vulnerable populations by distributing funds where they are most needed reduces extreme poverty.
  • The success of remittances in Moldova is a necessary imperative. An analysis across countries worldwide shows the significant poverty reduction effects of remittances

Ending Extreme Poverty by 2030

The U.N. aims to end extreme poverty by 2030, and when looking at Moldova’s success, it is not an outrageously unrealistic goal. With fiscal oversight, dedication to protecting the impoverished and the world’s willingness to engage, extreme poverty can be eradicated.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: pxfuel