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Elderly Poverty in Palestine
According to a 2021 report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), only 5% of the population in Palestine is 60 or older. The World Bank reports that Palestine’s poverty rate stood at 27.3% in 2021, a decrease of around 2% from the previous year when the economy deteriorated as a consequence of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Elderly people have an increased risk of falling into poverty and the absence of adequate social protection systems exacerbates this vulnerability. The U.N. states that “in most countries, the risk of poverty increases with age.” OECD countries’ data from 2015 indicates that people in the age category of above 75 report poverty levels higher than those in the 66-75 age group. In 2017, the prevalence of elderly poverty in Palestine stood at 27%, equating to 5% of Palestine’s total number of impoverished persons.

4 Facts About Elderly Poverty in Palestine

  1. Uneven distribution. Elderly poverty in Palestine is not evenly distributed across the country. In fact, according to data gathered in 2017 by the PCBS, the percentage of older people living in poverty in the Gaza Strip stood at 47%, which is almost 29% more than in the West Bank. The Gaza Strip notes higher poverty rates in general due to the now 15-year-long Israel-led blockade of Gaza, which has brought severe economic and humanitarian consequences to Gaza.
  2. Low education levels contribute to elderly poverty. Slightly more than 40% of the elderly in Palestine have no educational attainment. Given the relationship between education and economic well-being, this could be one of the factors affecting the financial stability of older individuals in the country. Moreover, lack of education significantly affects the transmission of poverty from generation to generation and education is often a key determinant of financial success. PCBS data from 2019 shows that illiteracy rates are highest among the elderly age group of 65 and older.
  3. Lack of economic independence increases vulnerability to poverty. Another significant fact about the demographic profile of older individuals in Palestine is that only 13% of them engaged in employment in 2018, with a stark contrast between the West Bank (16%) and Gaza (7%). This suggests that a large majority of the elder community is not financially independent, making them more vulnerable to poverty. As a matter of fact, senior citizens in Palestine typically depend on other family members to meet their needs.
  4. Health and disability. Approximately 48% of Palestine’s elderly had to deal with at least one impairment or disability in 2020. Mobility difficulties are the most common, followed by visual impairments. In addition, “33% of the elderly in Palestine suffer from at least one chronic disease according to a medical diagnosis (36% in the West Bank and 27% in Gaza Strip).” For elderly people living in poverty, a lack of access to essential goods and services could easily exacerbate health conditions, PCBS reports.

Looking Ahead

A lack of adequate social safety nets exacerbates elderly poverty in Palestine. In 2020, following the negative impacts of the pandemic on the country, the U.N.’s Joint Sustainable Development Goal Fund, the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and the International Labour Organization (ILO) worked with the Palestinian Ministry of Social Development to improve the social protection system. The Joint SDG Fund says, “While the existing Palestinian social protection system is among the most advanced in the region, it is not sufficient to address the needs of the most vulnerable groups.” The collaboration aims to strengthen the social protection system and make it “more inclusive and accessible to older people, particularly women.”

In June 2022, Palestine’s GDP rose by 1.1%. A stronger financial performance may improve the living standards of the population overall.

– Caterina Rossi
Photo: Unsplash

Gender Wage Gap in Mexico
The wages men and women receive vary in most parts of the world. Mexico is a prime example of this; women in Mexico have significantly lower wages than men. Women’s protests have shed light on the inequity of the gender wage gap in Mexico, prompting government officials to work to protect their right to equal pay and employment access.

Tradition and the Economy

Across the globe, women on average are paid on average 20% less than men, even when they are working the same jobs. In Mexico, that gap is roughly 15.6%. Unequal pay creates significant impacts on the number of women who choose to work. Gender pay inequality also contributes to greater oppression of women in the workforce.

The culture of a given community contributes greatly to female labor force participation. Traditional Mexican culture promotes a patriarchal ideology where society expects women to be caretakers. It is because of this that most women take on domestic jobs, such as childcare or cleaning, which are often unpaid. Women also find themselves working in street markets, selling their home-grown produce to provide additional income to support their families.

The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the economic conditions that the lack of female employment caused. The pandemic caused inflation in Mexico to rise to its highest point in 20 years. Having increased by 5% since 2020, Mexican households are having to pay more for necessities such as food and gas.

In Mexico, women compromise less than half of the total labor force. When women are paid 85 pesos per every 100 pesos made by working-class men for the same work, it seems more financially prudent for mothers to stay home rather than pay for childcare. To put this in perspective, in a given job, a man may earn $5.13 per hour, whereas a woman will earn $4.36 despite performing the same labor. This disproportion in wages has made it extremely difficult for women to become financially independent.

Women that do make it into the labor force also find more barriers to advancement than their male counterparts. Women in entry-level positions in industries such as retail do not obtain promotions as often as men do. Recent data that McKinsey and Company collected determined that only 8% of women receive promotions to higher positions within their given field. This inevitable glass ceiling hinders women’s ability for upward mobility.

Bridging the Gender Wage Gap in Mexico

Recent awareness on this topic has led to the development of federal programs that assist women wishing to progress in male-dominated industries. Now, more than ever, working-class women are being more aware of their rights to paid labor as well as the gender wage gap. Moreover, the Mexican Supreme Court is also promoting specific legislation that would protect women employees and ensure equal pay. In 2019, the Mexican government enacted the Social Protection Program. The International Labor Organization (ILO) funded the Social Protection Program which ensures that working-class women receive a minimum wage while also having access to benefits such as health care and pensions. This protection serves as an important stepping stone to ensuring women receive equal treatment in the workplace.

A recent survey that the firm ManpowerGroup conducted found that 64% of Mexican organizations are aiming to increase the number of women in positions that men traditionally held. One example is the Mexican Football Federation which has set strict salary constraints for female athletes. Before, men in the Mexican Football league made nearly 200 times more than women. The updated conditions ensure female athletes a wage equal to that of male players.

The gender wage gap in Mexico has been slowly decreasing over the past two decades. Increasing awareness of the inequality between working men and women is helping to shed light on the disparities in Mexican society. The actions of the government have inspired hope that Mexican legislation will continue to promote gender inclusivity in the workplace and reduce the pay gap.

– Micaela Carrillo
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in The Gambia
The Gambia is a small country in West Africa with a population of only 2.4 million people. The most recent statistics from the World Bank have indicated that as of 2015, 10.3% of the population was living below the poverty line. The pandemic has had a devastating impact on The Gambia, both in terms of its people and the country’s economic stability.

The U.N. has been working with the Gambian government, development partners and other stakeholders to nurture a comprehensive partnership to build back for the better. This is part of a global effort to ensure that the disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic caused does not lead to more challenges than the virus itself.

The Impact on Employment in The Gambia

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on employment in The Gambia. For example, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has predicted that unemployment rates increased from 9.5% to 11.2% from 2019 to 2021. This is because many businesses had to close or reduce operations in response to the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic in The Gambia has led to a reduction in economic activity since people’s incomes have decreased and the prices of goods and services have increased.

Additionally, COVID-19 in The Gambia has led to the decline of many economic sectors including the tourism industry. For example, the number of tourists in the country dropped to 53.7% from February to March 2020. According to the Gambian Bureau of Statistics, out of 266 formal tourism establishments, 167 had to reduce their trained staff while the other 65 establishments reduced the pay of their staff.

The Economic Impacts

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on poverty in The Gambia. The country was already struggling with high levels of poverty, and the pandemic has made it even harder for people to make ends meet.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in The Gambia has led to slower economic growth in the country. The Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs indicated that the economic impact of COVID-19 would lead to a loss of 2.5 million Gambian dalasis equivalent to almost $50,000. As a result, the economy would shrink from 6.3% in 2020 to 3.3%.

Solutions

The government of The Gambia has responded to the outbreak by implementing a number of measures to support those the pandemic has affected. These include providing financial assistance to households impacted by job losses, increasing food production and expanding access to health care.

In April 2020, the government started a food relief program to help almost 84% of the population, providing them with 50 kg of rice, cooking oil and sugar. Additionally, The Gambia provided loans to small and medium Enterprises (SME) so that they do not lay off their staff members and can boost their business.

The impact of COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic socio-economic impact on poverty in The Gambia. This is mainly due to the fact that the pandemic has caused a decline in economic activity. However, with the help and support from the government, The Gambia was able to stabilize after the pandemic also with the help from donors such as WHO who were able to provide masks and vaccines to people and also aid from USAID that helped improve the livelihood of people from The Gambia.

Without this support, many more people would live in poverty in the Gambia. While the pandemic has been a tragedy for so many, it is heartening to see that there are some people and organizations who are working to make a difference.

– Frida Sendoro
Photo: Flickr

Support to Bangladeshi Women
Poverty has been disproportionately affecting women in Bangladesh in the aftermath of natural disasters such as Cyclone Amphan. In commitment to the Generation Equality Compact on Women Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action (WPS-HA), U.N. Women has worked with local partners in Bangladesh to aid in economic recovery and provide support to Bangladeshi women, especially post-natural disasters, by issuing grants and providing vocational training to local women.

Gender and Economic Disparity in Bangladesh

In 2019, 20.5% of Bangladesh’s citizens fell under the national poverty line, according to the Asian Development Bank. Furthermore, the unemployment rate for Bangladeshi females in 2021 stood at almost 8% whereas the unemployment rate for males in Bangladesh stood at 4.1% in 2021, according to International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates. In 2019, the workforce participation rate for Bangladeshi males aged 15-64 stood at 84% but only 38% for females in the same age group. Furthermore, in 2022, the literacy rate among men stood at 76.56% whereas for women it stood at 72.82%.

When comparing the margin of difference between literacy rates and employment rates among Bangladeshi men and women, it is clear that women face inequalities that result in their exclusion and marginalization, pushing them deeper into poverty.

Story of Mahmuda Khatun

When Cyclone Amphan hit Bangladesh in 2020, many people lost their livelihoods and fell deeper into poverty, including Mahmuda Khatun’s household. Khatun wished to start a small business to help support her family but she faced barriers such as “a lack of banking history” and inadequate financial literacy. She reached out to the Prerona Foundation for help, “a local women’s organization supported by U.N. Women.”

The Prerona Foundation works with vulnerable women to improve their economic resilience, especially in crisis-prone areas. The Foundation helped Khatun establish a livelihood by providing training and a loan for her to start a poultry farm to generate income. Khatun now provides for her two daughters and husband by raising poultry. Since its beginnings, her business has flourished and Khatun now earns about 17,000 takas ($200 USD) per month.

Multi-Industry Glass Ceilings

Organizations like the Prerona Foundation and U.N. Women recognize the importance of involving and providing support to Bangladeshi women in the wake of humanitarian crises and natural disasters. Women are a key catalyst in a community’s response and recovery and are often end up out of the equation albeit being valuable agents.

Furthermore, when one woman receives uplifting, the benefits do not stop there. Khatun is now looking to help other women in her community by providing vocational training and championing women’s empowerment in Bangladesh. According to U.N. Women, in 2020, “less than 60% of Bangladeshi women have access to credit,” which stands as a significant barrier to their entrepreneurial potential. Moreover, about a third of the nation’s labor force consists of female employees and less than 5% of them hold formal positions. Bangladeshi women also “earn 21% less than their male counterparts.”

Rising Through Recovery

Given such statistics, it can seem daunting for women in Bangladesh to assume financial independence and see success, especially amid a natural disaster like Cyclone Amphan. However, U.N. Women continues to work with dozens of civil society and local women’s organizations on the ground to help address these systemic issues.

In 2022, U.N. Women has also partnered with the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) to further “gender equality and women’s empowerment in Bangladesh.” Both institutions have “signed an inter-agency agreement” for 2022-2026 to establish “gender-responsive inclusive governance,” reduce discrimination against women, and advance “women’s economic empowerment and access to justice,” among other aims.

Going forward, the focus will be on starting a normative agenda, establishing gender-inclusive legislation, providing financing to advance gender equality and supporting women-led businesses. This partnership also stresses the importance of addressing gender-based violence in Cox’s Bazar, placing women in leadership roles and providing females with the skills training, services and resources to thrive.

Given the commitment, both at a local and international level, there is hope for more Bangladeshi women to rise out of poverty despite the impacts of Cyclone Amphan.

– Samyudha Rajesh
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in PanamaIn 2019, in Panama, a country in Central America, authorities identified 61 potential human trafficking victims. Out of the 61 victims, sex trafficking victims accounted for 33, labor trafficking victims accounted for 26 and the remaining two victims endured exploitation in “other forms of trafficking.” In comparison, in 2020, authorities identified only six victims —  three sex trafficking victims, one labor trafficking victim and two victims of “slavery.” The U.S. Department of State provides insight into the steps the Panamanian government is taking to address human trafficking in Panama.

How Panama Compares to Other Countries

In 2016, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that there were 24.9 million victims of human trafficking across the world.  Since then, the ILO has not followed up with new estimates, but it is likely that the number has increased, especially with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which increased people’s economic vulnerabilities, resulting in higher susceptibility to exploitation. Traffickers target victims of all ages and genders for many reasons but the three most common types of human trafficking are for the purpose of sex work, debt bondage and forced labor.

The U.S. Department of State produces annual country-specific Trafficking in Persons Reports to assess the progress of countries in eliminating human trafficking. Countries that completely meet the minimum standards of the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) are classified as Tier 1 countries. The standards assess steps taken to protect victims of trafficking, prevent instances of trafficking and prosecute traffickers.

The 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report on Panama classifies Panama as a Tier 2 country, meaning it is not completely meeting the minimum standards of the TVPA but is actively working toward that goal.

According to trafficking reports from the U.S. Department of State, human trafficking in Panama is most common in bars and brothels. However, official reports note an increase in human trafficking offenses taking place in beauty salons and spas as well as private residences and rented homes.

It is also very common for other Central Americans to be trafficked into Panama when passing through the Panama Canal. As of 2020, foreign women accounted for most identified human trafficking victims in Panama.

Panama’s Shortcomings

The most significant obstacles that prevent Panama from becoming a Tier 1 country in terms of human trafficking are Panama’s lack of prosecution against human traffickers and inadequate protection of trafficking victims. Article 456 of Panama’s Penal Code states that human trafficking is punishable by 15-20 years in jail and 20-30 years if the victim is a minor.

However, Panama’s human trafficking investigations can at times lack efficiency. In 2020, Panamanian authorities initiated 29 trafficking cases but only convicted three traffickers. Whereas, in 2019, authorities only initiated five investigations but convicted 13 traffickers. The rate at which Panama convicts human traffickers is not on par with Tier 1 countries.

In addition, after courts in Panama reopened following the COVID-19 pandemic, many trafficking cases proceeded at an even slower rate than before. Restrictions, such as closing commercial establishments, have hindered police from solving trafficking cases.

Panama is also not performing at its full potential in terms of victim protection. In 2020, “the government did not allocate funding specific to the anti-trafficking commission or victim services.” And, the government did not establish shelters for victims of human trafficking specifically.

Child victims are sometimes placed in designated shelters. However, within these shelters, there have been reported and confirmed cases of sexual abuse and mistreatment against children with disabilities.

Panama’s Fight against Human Trafficking

In terms of the three Ps, Panama has been the most effective in its prevention efforts for trafficking. Panama’s Anti-Trafficking Commission has focused its efforts on bringing awareness to human trafficking by organizing an anti-trafficking drawing contest for schoolchildren, raising awareness about trafficking through flyers, radio and television and running a trafficking hotline. The Commission is also conducting anti-trafficking seminars and held an awareness walk for human trafficking in Panama back in 2019.  In 2020, a victim who attended a seminar later called a hotline to identify as a human trafficking victim.

CONAPREDES

Panama’s National Commission for the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation Crimes (CONAPREDES), a governing body founded in 2004, aims to prevent sexual exploitation in Panama. A notable accomplishment of CONAPREDES is enacting the “National Plan for the Prevention of Elimination of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Boys, Girls and Adolescents” in 2008. The plan has four main focal points: “prevention, attention to victims, investigations and sanctions for offenders.”

Funding for the National Plan under CONAPREDES comes from the government and a Sexual Exploitation Fund. The Fund’s finances come from taxes on foreigners leaving the Tocumen National Airport and taxes placed on film rental shops and theatres regarding the “sale, rental or exhibition of legal pornographic movies.”

Since early 2019, CONAPREDES has collaborated with the University of Panama to open an Observatory of Sexual Exploitation of Boys, Girls and Adolescents. The observatory allows for further research into the sexual exploitation of minors to assist CONAPREDES in its design of policies to combat these crimes and related human trafficking offenses.

Panama’s Tier 2 placement is promising. With more focus on the prosecution of traffickers and protection of human trafficking victims, Panama can reach the goal of Tier 1 placement.

– Luke Sherrill
Photo: Unsplash

Gender Wage Gap in Brazil
Despite having the same legal rights as men, Brazilian women continue to fight for equality in the workplace. The gender wage gap in Brazil is one of the largest in Latin America, and women earn an average of 30% less than men.

Today, societal norms and the lack of gender representation in Congress contribute to this gap. As a result, the pay gap affects minority women the most and they earn approximately half the wage of the average white man. Despite the pay gap between women and men, Brazil has made advances toward gender equality in the past few decades.

Gender Inequality in Brazil

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 78% of men hold jobs in comparison to 56% of women in Brazil. Yet, the majority of women in the survey said that they would prefer a paid job to staying at home.

In Brazil, most women have access to the same educational opportunities as men. However, their degree does not necessarily translate into a higher salary. For example, women account for more than 60% of the workforce with college degrees. However, they receive 36% less pay than men with college degrees. Therefore, the gender wage gap in Brazil impacts women of all educational and economic backgrounds.

The Issue

Traditionally, Brazilian culture expects women to stay at home while men support the family. As a result, women who break cultural norms by working outside the home find it difficult to establish successful careers. Though women make up roughly half of the workforce in Brazil, only 16% of companies have a female CEO and less than 20% of women hold middle management positions. These statistics illustrate Brazil’s well-established social hierarchy where women rank second to men.

Women’s underrepresentation in Congress also allows men to hold the majority of political power within the Brazilian government. Women held fewer than 15% of Congressional seats until 2018. The male-dominated Congress failed to pass legislation that would address the gender wage gap in Brazil. Even though women have held 30% of Congressional seats following the 2018 election, women still experience stigma for challenging cultural norms.

How the Gender Wage Gap Affects Minorities

Afro-Brazilian women suffer the most from the lack of female representation in Congress. There are few government officials to represent their best interests. The average income for Afro-Brazilian women is $2.50 per hour. The average income for white women is $4.02 per hour. These salaries compare to the average for white men, which is $5 per hour.

The gender wage gap in Brazil affects women of all socio-economic backgrounds. In 2015, Afro-Brazilians made up 76% of the lower class, and only 17% was among the country’s richest 1%. Even more, minority women with secondary education earn less than their white counterparts with the same qualifications, showing how the wage gap adversely affects minority women.

The Progress

Local organizations are actively working within the Brazilian community to bridge the gender wage gap. For example, the Associação the Comunitária dos Moradores de Mandassaia (Community Association of Residents of Mandassaia) promotes gender equality by empowering women in the small town of Mandassaia, Brazil.

Mandassaia is a rural town where job opportunities are scarce. Typically, Mandassaia women work in sugar cane fields or stay home to raise their children. In 2017, the Community Association of Residents of Mandassaia partnered with the National School Feeding Program to help a small group of women profit off of Mandassaia’s sugar cane production. The Program teaches women cake baking and jam production so they can make money selling baked goods. Through the Community Association of Residents of Mandassaia, these women were able to increase their income by 425% and earn a livable wage.

Mandassaia’s bakers now have a community farming seal, which allows them to expand their business and provide more job opportunities for women. By helping women become financially independent in local communities, the Community Association of Residents of Mandassaia is reducing the wage gap in Brazil.

Looking Ahead

The pay gap has decreased over the last few decades, and the Brazilian government is participating in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to achieve equal pay by 2030. The Brazilian government has also agreed to work toward reducing gender inequality in the workforce by 25% by 2025. Although Brazil continues to struggle with bridging the wage gap in the workplace, the efforts of the Brazilian government and community to eliminate gender inequality represent an encouraging step forward.

Abby Adu
Photo: Flickr

Job Shortage in IraqGetting a college degree in Iraq doesn’t mean that you have a guaranteed job in your field after graduating, let alone a job in any field. The job shortage in Iraq has led to an increase in poverty and has destroyed the dreams of many graduates. This job shortage is an ongoing conflict that impacts the goals of the young generations in Iraq. According to the World Bank, 22% of men and almost 64% of women between 15-24 years are unemployed in Iraq.

Iraq’s Economy

With billions going yearly to its public service, the nation is in an economic vise. It has been estimated that public employees get about 17 minutes of work done every day. Currently, Iraq is the seventh-largest country producing oil, but oil revenue has been decreasing. The nation spends little of the income it generates on potential economic development of the implementation of projects. Iraq is unable to pay its bills due to a lack of funds. This led to a financial meltdown, which resulted in the fall of the government after widespread movements against corruption and unemployment. The marches were centered against high state officials in a community where unemployment hovers about 15% and one in every four people lives in poverty, earning as little as $2.20 per day.

Youth Unemployment

Approximately 700,000 young Iraqis join the employment market every year. A primer published for the World Bank on job development in Iraq listed the youth unemployment rate at 36%. There is no noticeable difference in the rate of unemployment between young people with primary education and those with higher degrees. Because of this, Iraqi youth have been at the frontline of occupation riots in Iraq. Similar to Iran, the country’s poor budget management and corruption have been central to their outrage.

Iraq’s prosperity is largely dependent on its ability to build employment for the young population. This is particularly true of university-educated young people. A study by the World Bank estimates that Iraq needs to increase the number of jobs by 100 to 180% to address its workforce needs sufficiently.

Decent Work Country Programmes (DWCPs)

The International Labor Organization (ILO), together with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of Iraq (MOLSA), is implementing DWCPs in Iraq. DWCPs are systems for financial guidance that focus on creating jobs through the growth of the private sector. They also assist with the expansion of social security coverage, freedom of association and National Employment Policy design and implementation. In March 2020, in response to a request by MOLSA, the ILO formed the first cooperation department for Iraqi counties in the city of Baghdad. With a budget of $17.5 million, the program is implementing five projects to encourage quality work and increase job opportunities. These projects will help Iraq’s government, employees and employers.

Overall, there are high hopes for the country’s future. The youth are not going to stop demanding change until they get it. With big changes the government is hoping to make in the next decade, there could be a possible decrease in the rate of unemployment.

– Rand Lateef
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Costa Rica
Known as one of the ultimate vacation destinations, Costa Rica is a place of beautiful scenery, tourist hotspots and lively culture. However, Costa Rica needs to address human trafficking. Human trafficking in Costa Rica is one of the only areas in which the country falls short in comparison to its Central American neighbors. When it comes to GDP, level of happiness, human development and corruption, Costa Rica performs quite well. Here is some insight into human trafficking in Costa Rica and why it is so prevalent.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 aids the U.S. government’s anti-trafficking efforts by providing the implements necessary to monitor and combat trafficking across the world and in the United States. The amended act authorized the establishment of The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF) as well as the Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP).

Every year, the Secretary of State submits a TIP report ranking a list of countries requiring special scrutiny. The Secretary of State ranks each country or territory in one out of four tiers.

  • Tier 1: Countries and territories that have governments that fully comply with the TVPAs minimum standards.
  • Tier 2: Countries and territories that have governments that do not fully comply with the TVPAs minimum standards, but are taking significant steps to meet the requirements.
  • Tier 2 Watchlist: Countries and territories that are in Tier 2 and are increasing in the estimated number of trafficking victims without taking proportional actions or the country or territory’s government and failing to provide sufficient evidence of increasing efforts in combating human trafficking from the previous year.
  • Tier 3: Countries and territories that possess governments that do not fully comply with TVPAs minimum standards and are not making any efforts to do so.

The Situation in Costa Rica

In 2020, Costa Rica was in Tier 2 under the TVPA. If human trafficking in Costa Rica does not show increasing progress over the next few years, it could fall to Tier 3. Not only does Tier 3 mean international disrepute, but it has serious economic consequences in regards to foreign assistance. Efforts to decrease human trafficking in Costa Rica include:

  • Increasing victim identification.
  • Investigating and convicting more traffickers.
  • Making human trafficking cases among its top priorities.
  • Using a larger percentage of its anti-trafficking budget.

Prioritized Recommendations for the Costa Rican Government

Although these steps by the Costa Rican government are significant, the country is falling short in some areas. The TIP report for Costa Rica includes “Prioritized Recommendations.” Here are some recommendations that Costa Rica could undertake:

  • Increase anti-trafficking training for police, prosecutors and judges.
  • Intensify investigation efforts to prosecute trafficking offenses.
  • Fund and implement a judicial action plan for investigations and prosecutions.
  • Coordinate with civil society to increase victim identification.
  • Reduce the number of trafficking cases that are experiencing a backlog in the judicial system.
  • Strengthen efforts to convict child sex tourists.

Factors of Human Trafficking in Costa Rica

Due to a lack of resources and job opportunities, systematic inequality and poverty most frequently link to human trafficking. Even though Costa Rica is among the least poor countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, it has not seen much economic growth since 2010, and about 21% of its population lives in poverty.

Another factor contributing to human trafficking in Costa Rica is its prostitution laws. Although the facilitation and promotion of prostitution are illegal, the act of prostitution is not a crime. This makes Costa Rica reputable as a sex tourism destination. It is the number one destination in Central America for sex tourism. The legality of prostitution makes corruption easy in regards to trafficking minors as well as making sex establishments more accessible.

Behind drugs, human trafficking is the second-most profitable illegal industry. According to The International Labor Organization (ILO), profits from human trafficking are around $150 billion annually. The high earnings of the industry are another factor that promotes human trafficking in Costa Rica.

There are also cultural factors that affect human trafficking in Costa Rica. For instance, Costa Rica has a strong presence of masculinity. As a result, many men in Costa Rica view women as sexual objects. Factors such as traditional gender views, sexual harassment and domestic violence strengthen the systematic inequality in Costa Rica and put women at more risk for exploitation.

Taking Action

Multiple institutions are coordinating together to prevent human trafficking in Costa Rica. The National Coalition against Illicit Smuggling and Trafficking of Migrants (CONATT) coordinates short and long-term assistance to trafficking victims in the form of shelter, food and medical care. Chaired by Migration Authority, CONATT comprises 22 public institutions, key NGOs and international organizations. They meet periodically to review progression in areas such as research, prevention, protection and prosecution. They take action to raise awareness via workshops, fairs, advertisements and training on how to identify and prevent trafficking. As these preventative measures continue, Costa Rica could be on its way to Tier 1 placement under the TVPA.

– Addison Franklin
Photo: Flickr

Thai Fishing Industry
In recent weeks, Thailand experienced a new wave of COVID-19 cases originating from a large seafood market near Bangkok. The Prime Minister of Thailand wasted no time in blaming the outbreak on human smuggling networks and illegal immigrants. Most of those working at this particular market are from neighboring Myanmar. This ongoing outbreak brings Thailand’s fishing industry back into focus. The industry faces international pressure to address findings of horrific working conditions, unfair wages and forced labor. This article discusses the importance of the Thai fishing industry, the human rights abuses uncovered in recent years and what some are doing to address these issues.

Thai Fishing Industry

The Thai fishing industry exports more than $6 billion worth of products annually and employs more than 800,000 people. It is the world’s third-largest seafood exporter and the world’s leading exporter of shrimp. The industry came under fire in the E.U. in 2014 due to reports uncovering widespread forced labor, worker abuses and environmental degradation in the industry.

Burmese immigrants represent a majority of those working in the Thai fishing industry, followed by a smaller percentage of Thais, Cambodians and Laotians. Workers on fishing vessels are exclusively men, while men and women each work in the seafood processing sector. There is a mixture of regular and irregular workers, which makes ascertaining the true number of immigrants in the fishing industry difficult. About 3 million labor migrants legally live in Thailand and an estimated two million more are undocumented.

Poor Working Conditions

Working conditions on Thai fishing vessels are notoriously challenging. In multiple reports, workers discuss working 18-20 hour days with inadequate food, water and medical supplies. Between 14% and 18% of migrants report being victims of forced labor. Among these victims of human trafficking, over half report seeing a coworker killed in front of them. Threats from employers and beatings are common, along with working at sea for years at a time without being allowed to leave the vessel. These conditions affect all nationalities in the Thai fishing industry, but undocumented immigrants are the most vulnerable to mistreatment.

Solutions

Although much work is necessary to address issues in the Thai fishing industry, Thailand has been largely receptive to suggestions that organizations such as the ILO and other national and international human rights NGOs have made. The government has improved legal frameworks and compliance measures for fishing companies. Additionally, wages have increased and housing conditions are improving, according to respondents in a recent ILO survey released in 2020.

Specific laws that have gone into place include the elimination of recruitment fees that workers pay, banning the practice of employers withholding identity documents from workers and banning child labor in the fishing industry. Going forward, regional compliance will be essential in enforcing these legal frameworks. Thailand is attempting to set that precedent in the ASEAN region. In response, the E.U. lifted its “yellow card” rating for the industry and continues to accept seafood imports.

The Labor Protection Network

For more than 15 years, the Labor Protection Network (LPN) has been spearheading efforts to clean up the Thai fishing industry. LPN conducts direct action raids on illegal fishing boats, provides short- and long-term shelter for victims and educates children in its centers. Additionally, LPN has brought international attention to the industry through its advocacy campaigns. A notable part of these efforts is the appearance of co-founder Patima Tungpuchayakul in the documentary “Ghost Fleet.” In 2017, Tungpuchayakul received a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in human rights.

Each year, LPN also provides legal assistance to more than 3,000 migrants. It provides assistance in Thai, Burmese, Khmer or Lao, depending on migrants’ needs. Victims of human trafficking in Thailand have a right to government protection and legal assistance. LPN plays a crucial role in identifying victims of human trafficking that grants these protections, as the Thai authorities sometimes struggle to identify victims through its enforcement procedures.

Through the work of the government, LPN and other NGOs, the Thai fishing industry is improving its standards to meet international demands. With this spotlight on the human rights issues involved in the industry, funding and monitoring remain critical to building on current progress.

Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr

women are more affected by global poverty
Women often make up the backbone of home and society, however, global poverty often affects women the most. Women across the globe are still fighting for equality in their workplaces, general society and in their own homes. This inequality is a significant factor why women make up the bulk of the impoverished population in the world.

According to data that the U.S. Census Bureau released in 2017, the maximum rate of poverty for men was 7% while the minimum poverty rate for women was 9.7%. Depending on the race and demographics, this rate only tends to increase. Here are five ways that global poverty affects women.

5 Ways that Global Poverty Affects Women

  1. Gender Wage Gap: The availability of equally paid jobs is critical in making women independent and hence improving any economy. According to the World Economic Forum, the annual average earnings of the men around the world was $23,000 in 2018. In contrast, the global average of annual earnings of women was only $12,000. The international intergovernmental economic organization G7 inferred from collected data that the gender wage gap is prevalent throughout the world. Furthermore, G7 determined that the gender wage gap does not depend on the current financial status of any country. The G7 claimed that the global average gender wage gap was still 17% in the year 2016. Moreover, discrepancies in the wages that employers paid to women, even in developed countries, affected women in economically weaker countries and low-paying jobs significantly.
  2. Job Segregation:  The International Labor Organization (ILO) found that nearly 80% of the female labor force works in the service sectors and less-paid clerical jobs contrary to managerial, professional or leadership roles. More women in administrative positions would bring in diverse and complementing perspectives into the idea pool. An increase in females in administrative positions would also allow an insight into the female consumers’ psyche. All of these benefits, plus an increase in creativity, would consequently increase revenue. In most countries, including many developed countries, the number of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is unquestionably lesser than men. Only 28% of employees in STEM fields, which are the fastest-growing with higher paid jobs, are women. In addition to conservative social norms and gender bias, the lack of female role models also contributes to the smaller women labor force in STEM fields.
  3. Motherhood: Pregnancy can often be the tipping point in any woman’s career path. While women may face wage penalties, men might win salary premiums. Women frequently choose to take time off to stay at home and care for their children. However, the career break adversely affects their salaries even after they return to work. From the data that a study in Denmark conducted, a country with high gender equality measures, the salary of women sharply dropped nearly 3% after the birth of the first child and never recovered.
  4. Unpaid Caregiving: Another way that global poverty affects women is that they often don the role of caregivers for the elders and children in a family more than men, which is unpaid work. This extra work, nearly twice to 10 times the work that men do, is worth almost $11 trillion per year. Although women’s unpaid work amounts to nearly four years more work than men, women still earn less at their paid jobs. This is most likely due to the fact that women prefer part-time and easily transferable jobs after having a baby, in order to provide proper care for the child. Policies targeting lower childcare costs might help women in the long run. Additionally, policies focusing on incentives for men in sharing the childcare and domestic chores would also help women greatly. In general, providing any sort of assistance to alleviate the extra work of women would help in the long run. For example, women in Malawi spend 54 minutes a day on average collecting water. Providing labor-saving infrastructure results in less time obtaining water and more paid hours for women. Gender inequality in developing countries costs their economies $9 trillion per year. In Latin America, women’s paid work increased between 2000 and 2010. This resulted in a 30% reduction in poverty.
  5. Gender-biased Illiteracy: In low-income countries, the average literacy rate of men is 70% and 50% for women. In the 2014 World Value Survey, 26% of people across the world said that university education is comparatively more essential for a boy than a girl. A 2016 study in Nepal revealed that the poorer households sacrificed the literacy of daughters for better job prospects for sons.

How Organizations are Helping

Countries around the world have begun to realize that the inclusion of women, especially in leadership roles, is necessary for sustained, overall development. LivelyHoods, a nonprofit organization, noticed that the women were mainly the ones who dealt with household energy. In Kenya, indoor pollution due to smoke from conventional stoves causes 13,000 deaths per year. In an effort to combat indoor pollution, LivelyHoods employed the rural women population in Kenya to distribute life-improving, affordable, clean-energy products to the local population. The network of saleswomen that the organization employed distributed eco-friendly products like solar products, clean-burning cookstoves and many others. Of the top 10% of the salesforce, 90% are women who earn up to $1,000 per month. Over 1,500 trained women employees have distributed 26,000 clean energy products so far. This is an inspiring example of how indispensable women are to global development.

Ideas for Moving Forward

To help impoverished women improve their quality of life, governments could offer publicly financed schemes of extended leaves of absence for new mothers; replace individual taxation with family taxation so that the burden on the secondary earners, who are mostly women, lifts; provide tax benefits for low-wage earners; reduce the childcare cost for working women; encourage businesses to develop better practices like pay transparency and regular wage assessment based on gender; conduct free workshops for women to impart vocational skills as well as to spread awareness of various available job opportunities; offer equal job opportunities to women; conduct workshops in the men’s workplaces to show them how their personal and nation’s economy will flourish by sharing the childcare and domestic duties. Even implementing just a few of these tactics could help reduce the inequality women around the world face.

– Nirkkuna Nagaraj 
Photo: Flickr