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Seoul, South Korea

Since the Korean War, South Korea has emerged as one of the more politically and economically free nations in the world. Home to companies like Samsung and Hyundai, South Korea’s economy has been growing for years. While South Korea has become a model for other countries in southeastern Asia, the country is also facing new challenges that a strong economy alone cannot fix. Here is a list of the top 10 facts about living conditions in South Korea.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in South Korea

  1. Life Expectancy: The life expectancy rate is one of the highest in the world. South Koreans, on average, have a life expectancy range that goes into the mid-80s for men and into the 90s for women. This means the country has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, a benefit to having free, universal healthcare coverage. Koreans’ diets consist of steam-cooked rice, vegetables and meat, constituting a healthy meal and contributing to a long and healthy life.
  2. Credit Access: South Korea is among the world’s top countries with high credit card usage. South Koreans averaged almost 130 credit card transactions per person in 2011, according to the Bank of Korea. Additionally, it is illegal for businesses to refuse credit cards, even for smaller purchases. This has created a bustling tourism and shopping industry in South Korea.
  3. High Suicide Rate: The suicide rate in South Korea is among the highest in the world. It is believed that the high suicide rate is due to the long work hours and stress in the workplace. Another factor contributing to these high rates is the level of poverty and loneliness among the elderly. The country has taken preventative measures to combat such a tragic statistic. Korean legislature continues to update and improve the Mental Health Act. The Act for the Prevention of Suicide and the Creation of Culture of Respect for Life went into effect in 2011, which sets forth policies to help prevent suicides.
  4. Youth Unemployment: The country’s economy is strong, but it is slowly declining. With such large companies like Samsung, LG and Hyundai in South Korea, many smaller businesses are having trouble cementing themselves into Korean society. These larger companies then offer less than ideal contracts to smaller companies who must accept them or risk going out of business. This is disabling young people’s ability to find jobs with a smaller market of opportunities. More than 11 percent of young people between the ages of 15 and 29 are unable to find jobs. President Moon Jae-in promises to combat the unemployment of young people during his presidency.
  5. Universal Healthcare: South Korea has adopted an affordable, universal healthcare system. It was first introduced in 1989. As mentioned above, this may be a key factor in the increase in life expectancy in South Korea. The country also created plans to help its citizens treat certain forms of dementia. It is projected that the percentage of South Koreans age 65 or older will increase to 40 percent by the year 2060.
  6. Plans to Boost the Economy: South Korea has decreased its infrastructure spending, but is increasing its minimum wage. President Moon has planned to drastically increase South Korea’s spending budget by around $420 billion in 2019. The goal is to increase the number of jobs available and to raise the minimum wage; however, these programs will also create budget cuts for infrastructure spending.
  7. Climate Change: The country is taking action on climate change. In an effort to learn more about climate change, the Korean National Institute of Environmental Research began working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other organizations in 2016. These organizations have been focusing on monitoring air quality throughout East Asia. Citizens of South Korea are affected by smog and concentrations of particulate matter that lead to respiratory illnesses. South Korean air is twice as polluted as some other countries.
  8. Low Violence Rates: South Korea has low rates of terrorism and violence. South Koreans have great respect for the rule of law, according to data from the World Bank. Citizens also have a great deal of respect for the courts and rules of society. It is possible that the impeachment of former President Park Geun-Hye in 2017 also increased confidence in the South Korean legal system.
  9. Expensive Housing: The already expensive housing prices in South Korea are increasing even more. The nation’s capital, Seoul, is the most expensive city to live in South Korea. It’s twice as expensive to live there than anywhere else in the country. During the past year, housing prices have risen 23 percent in Seoul and 12.5 percent outside of the city. To encourage young people to live in the city, the government offered 70,000 homes to newlyweds in December 2018.
  10. Long Work Weeks: South Koreans work more than the majority of other countries. In 2018, South Korea changed the maximum limit that employees may work from 68 hours to 52 per week. This change was put into effect to improve health conditions and keep laborers from becoming overworked. This bill limited the work week of South Koreans to 40 hours per week with 12 hours of optional overtime at 50 to 100 percent normal pay rate. As the last fact on this list of top 10 facts about living conditions in South Korea, it shows South Korea is prioritizing mental health and the well-being of its citizens.

South Korean has made great advancements in the quality of living conditions, but there is still room for improvement. Many younger Koreans believe that President Moon’s policies will lead to more benefits and a fairer society. These top 10 facts about living conditions in South Korea outline a promising future, but making mental health and financial stability a priority is necessary for the country’s citizens.

Jodie Ann Filenius

Photo: Flickr

top 10 switzerland

Switzerland is a great example of how addressing poverty and encouraging economic growth can lead to a multitude of positive outcomes. It is a country full of history, rich culture and magnificent mountains. Recently, the country has popped up on the radar as its general state of living has risen to a considerably high level. Many have started to consider moving to the alpine country as a result. Below are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Switzerland.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Switzerland

  1. The cost of living in Switzerland is extremely high. The value of the franc increased when the country switched to a floating exchange rate. Bern, Zurich, and Geneva were ranked among the most expensive 15 cities in the world.
  2. The high cost of living isn’t a huge problem for Swiss citizens as the net financial wealth of the average household in Switzerland is $128,415, compared to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Developments reported an average of $90,570. The net adjusted disposable income for the average household sits at $36,378 compared to the OECD reported an average of $30,563. This means that Swiss households have over $6,000 more to spend per year on goods and services. Switzerland was placed third on the scale of the highest amount of disposable income in Europe.
  3. Overall poverty is low. Only 6.6 percent of the population is reported to live in poverty, and only 4.6 percent live in extreme poverty. The rate of poverty has been decreasing steadily since 2007.
  4. Healthcare in Switzerland has gained a reputation of its own. Their combination of private, subsidized private and public healthcare systems experience no wait-lists, highly qualified doctors, hospitals and medicals facilities with the best equipment seen around Europe. However, the universal healthcare system is not free, nor is it tax-based. Health insurance in Switzerland is mandatory, and the out of pocket payments and monthly premiums are pricey for the individual. Swiss health insurance is reported to cost around 10 percent of the average Swiss salary.
  5. Switzerland has a high-quality education system as well. The country comes in at nine out of 65 countries in an educational standards survey given to 15-year-olds. Unlike most countries, the Swiss have a decentralized education system that is not paid for by the government. The 26 member states that make up the country are primarily responsible for the system. Education has a multilingual focus, which encourages international students and the option for public, private, bilingual and international schools.
  6. The country has a life expectancy of 83 years, which is three years higher than the OECD average of 80 years. The life expectancy is high despite the slightly higher than average level of atmospheric pollutants that are damaging to the lungs. Reports measure the rate of pollutants at 14.5 micrograms per cubic meter, whereas the average is 13.9 micrograms per cubic meter.
  7. Switzerland ranks below average in civic engagement. It has one of the lowest levels of voter turnout in the OECD at 49 percent; whereas, the reported average is 69 percent. The gap between voters is large as well. Fifty-nine percent of the top 20 percent of the population participates, in comparison to 41 percent of the lowest 20 percent of the population. This is a larger gap than the average.
  8. Crime continues to fall to lower rates in Switzerland. In fact, in 2017, crime was down by more than 6 percent. Burglaries are the most common offense in Switzerland, making up two-thirds of the reported criminal offenses. Burglaries had also decreased by 6 percent, but police threats and cybercrime were reported to rise last year.
  9. Childcare was also quite expensive in Switzerland. As a result of this, a temporary programme has set out to increase the number of child care facilities in the country. This will increase the number of options parents have for childcare and lower the rate as supply and demand will encourage competition and lower prices.
  10. Overall, Swiss are much more satisfied with their living conditions than most. They scored a 7.5 out of 10 on the scale for satisfaction, compared to the OECD average of 6.5.

Switzerland is doing quite well. The economic growth along with the decline of poverty rates have resulted in better childcare, education, rates of disposable income and increased safety. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Switzerland act as a clear paradigm of how addressing poverty and encouraging economic growth has a positive domino effect on other aspects of life. Not only do people live better but they also feel happier and enjoy a closer sense of community. Addressing global poverty does much more than just save lives, it betters the individual, the country, the economy and the impact on the rest of the world.

Mary Spindler

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Switzerland Swiss Poor Areas Poverty RatePoverty in Switzerland remains lower than many of its European neighbors. However, rates still affect a large part of the population. So, why are the Swiss poor? In the country, a lack of awareness about poverty combined with a high cost of living compounds the struggles felt by impoverished residents. Below are are the leading facts about poverty in Switzerland.

 

Top 7 Facts about Poverty in Switzerland

 

1. One in 13 Swiss Residents Live Below the Poverty Line

Switzerland is one of the world’s wealthiest nations. However, data shows that one in 13 residents of Switzerland are still living in poverty. The rate ian come as a surprise to many, as Switzerland is often associated with economic stability.  By comparison, an estimated one in five residents of Britain lives in poverty, while the average resident of Zurich makes 21 times more per hour than the average resident of Kiev, Ukraine. Switzerland’s poverty rate is significantly lower than nearby European nations, however 6.6 percent of the Swiss population still lives in poverty.

2. High Cost of Living Amplifies the Issue

Residents of Switzerland must account for high cost of living; food prices and the cost of housing make daily financial needs quite high. Mandatory private health insurance adds further expense. Recent reports show Zurich and Geneva as two of the most expensive cities in the world in terms of cost of living, with certain reports placing the cities above New York City. However, higher incomes in the cities typically offset this cost, with high purchasing power reported. As a result, Zurich and Geneva rank second and third respectively in terms of purchasing power (surpassed only by Luxembourg.)

3. Poverty Line is Set to Incorporate Cost of Living

In order to account for the high cost of living in Switzerland, the poverty rate has been set to incorporate the financial demands of living in the country. For a single person, the poverty line is set as making less than 2,200 francs per month (equal to slightly more than $2,200 in the U.S.) A couple living with two children is considered below the poverty line if earning less than 4,050 francs per month. Poverty in Switzerland is understood as the inability to afford the goods and social services necessary to a healthy and socially integrated life. The Swiss Conference for Social Statistics sets poverty line thresholds based upon meeting those needs.

4. Elderly, Immigrant and Single-Parent Populations are Especially Vulnerable

Certain populations in Switzerland are especially vulnerable to poverty. These populations are much like the vulnerable populations in many countries, including families with only one parent, elderly residents, the unemployed, unskilled laborers and people living alone. Rates of poverty among these populations are significantly higher than other demographics. For example, those over the age of 60 are nearly three times more likely to live in poverty.

5. Trial and Error Approach to Solutions, Including Universal Basic Income

As Switzerland seeks to address the levels of poverty which remain in the country, a referendum was voted on which would have paid each Swiss family a weekly guaranteed income. While the referendum failed in a vote this June, it represents innovation in seeking solutions to poverty. Switzerland is the first country to consider a solution of this kind. Some consider the failure an important step, nonetheless, as it provides a platform for discussing the meaning of basic income.

6. Wages and Income Can Be Quite High Relative to European Neighbors

Incomes in Swiss cities are often quite high, with the average resident of Zurich earning $41 per hour or more. This level of earning is often what leads to association of Switzerland with a lifestyle of security and contributes to offsetting high costs of living. However, for the 6.6 percent of Swiss residents who do live in poverty, keeping up with city living costs (dependent on similar wages) can lead to daily struggle.

7. Poverty in Switzerland is Decreasing

The good news for addressing poverty in Switzerland is a recent decrease in numbers of those living in poverty. Since 2007, rates have decreased from 9.3 percent to 6.6 percent.

Assessing poverty in Switzerland demonstrates the importance of not allowing a minority impoverished population to go overlooked. The country’s innovative and consistent efforts to address poverty represent a democratic model for the discussion surrounding poverty in developed nations.

Charlotte Bellomy

Photo: Flickr