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poverty_in_madrid
Due to the economic crisis and government spending cuts, family incomes have fallen to the levels of 10 years ago, placing three million people in extreme poverty in Madrid. According to the national income data, 60 percent of the population is living in poverty.

In Madrid, more than one million people live on 484 euros per month. Approximately 760,000 live on only 242 euros. Overall, there are 1.3 million people who are at risk of poverty, included those who are under the poverty threshold; an estimated total of 20.3 percent of the population, many of whom are women.

Around 17 percent of the population is suffering from severe poverty; from absolute poverty, 12 percent. Rates have since increased due to this crisis.

The annual wage per family is 7,300 euros. For each adult that is a part of the family unit, half of the annual wage is included, leaving 30 percent for each child. Therefore, a family with two children is living lower than the relative poverty line if they have an annual income of 15,330 euros.

As of 2007, the number of people living in extreme poverty was over 29 percent with the average annual income being 3,650 euros. The range continues to increase and is four percent higher than in 2008. Single parent homes with one or more children are living under the poverty line and exceed 37 percent of the population. Of that number, 11.7 percent are considered to be living in extreme poverty.

As of 2012 the spending power of Spain was 18,500 euros per capita. It has decreased since 2001. There has been a steady decrease in income that primarily affects those who live among what are considered standards of impoverished living known as “relative poverty.” Almost 22 percent of, or 10 million, Spaniards live in relative poverty. This is a figure that is 2.2 percent higher since 2008.

As of 2006, the amount of resources that have been available has dropped by five percent. And since the economic collapse in 2007, the income of the bottom poor has decreased by 30 percent, while the wealthy have increased their income by 20 percent.

Equilibrium needs to be restored by refocusing on Millennium Development Goal 1, as well as preparing to implement and follow the successors of the MDGs: the Sustainable Development Goals. Based on the above numbers, it is obvious that there remains a lot of work to be done in order to reverse, and eventually eradicate, extreme poverty and hunger in Madrid.

– Erika Wright

Sources: El Pais, West-Info
Photo: Flickr

poverty_in_bangkok
As of 2013, there are an estimated 7.3 million people that are considered to be in poverty in Thailand, according to the World Bank.

Lack of opportunities, education and income inequality have been major contributors to the cause of such high poverty numbers. Although it is claimed the number of the poor has decreased in recent years, the rate overall remains consistently high.

Basic needs are not the biggest problem that families face. It is that the difference between the income of the lower and upper classes is increasing. Thirty percent of the population possess the wealth, most of which was obtained in the 1980s and 1990s. However, the earning capacity of the remaining 70 percent remains relatively low.

Beginning in 1997 and lasting throughout 1998, what is commonly referred to as the “Asian Crisis” took place. Prior to this, Thailand was experiencing an abundance of economic growth. In 2011, a flood occurred just after the global financial crisis of 2008. From 2013 to 2015, political turmoil further contributed to the problem. Since then there has been less and less global demand for Thailand’s chief exports, such as shrimp. Currently, growth is predicted to increase this year at 3.5 percent.

The Millennium Developmental Goals can be reached in Thailand on an aggregate basis. The rates of maternal and under-five mortality rates have decreased. Efforts have also been made to increase access to clean water and sanitation in urban and rural areas alike. The biggest concern is environmental sustainability. There is a need to make more employment opportunities available to those in rural areas. In addition, educational resources for parents to assist their children or micro-enterprise business opportunities need to be made available.

At its worst, the top 20 percent earned 15.8 times more in contrast to the lowest 20 percent. At times, the average income is found in the most impoverished region in the northeast; it has been recorded as being 11.9 times lower than Bangkok. This has driven rural workers to seek work in urban areas like Bangkok. It is a contributing factor to the slum areas in cities. Bangkok is considered a concentration of economic activity, services and goods. This is evident given that 50 percent of Thailand’s GDP is from Bangkok.

An additional reason for poverty is the government’s lack of responsibility during its financial and industrial reforms. During these times there has been a lack of social services implemented. Another reason stems from the failure of the Thai government to provide social safety nets amid the country’s rapid growth and industrialization.

Since the 1990s the government in Thailand has embraced the MDGs. It has adopted more aggressive methods in confronting the root problems of poverty and income gaps. In addition, programs to utilize rural workers have been developed. As the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post-2015 development agenda near, and will eventually replace and advance the progress of the MDGs, Thailand and other countries will have the opportunity for renewed efforts to combat poverty and inequality.

– Erika Wright

Sources: Nations Encyclopedia, World Bank
Photo: Flickr

Social Inclusion
Latin America is known for its poor record of income equality, but the 2014 Social Inclusion Index from Americas Quarterly reveals that in terms of civil, women’s and LGBT rights, several Latin American nations outstrip even the United States.

The Index pulls together data on 21 different variables, including GDP growth, enrollment in secondary school, access to housing and formal employment, financial inclusion by gender and political rights, to name a few.

The Social Inclusion Index approaches development from a multidimensional perspective, considering many factors that go beyond the scope of cut-and-dried economic growth.  This year’s report is the third in the Americas Quarterly series and it reveals an encouraging amount of poverty reduction and social inclusion in the region.

Uruguay remains at the top of the Index, receiving high scores in women’s rights, civil rights, LGBT rights and formal job access. According to the Index, the U.S. lags behind four Latin American countries on women’s rights, including Uruguay, Costa Rica, Argentina and Peru.

Argentina and Costa Rica are tied in second place, scoring well due to high spending on social programs and women’s rights. The United States falls into fourth place because, although its social spending is the highest in the region, murder rates, particularly femicide, remain high, as well.

The report also points out that some of the region’s larger economic powers like Brazil and Mexico could greatly improve their scores by placing more emphasis on women’s rights, access to education and access to formal jobs. For example, only 37 percent of the working population in Mexico has access to formal employment. Increasing this number has great potential to reduce poverty.

Significant economic growth and increasing stability in Latin America means that more and more people are emerging from poverty and entering the middle class. This trend is allowing for important conversations on social inclusion to take place.

There are still many gaps in security, gender equality and inclusiveness in Latin America. The region remains the planet’s murder capital and violence against women is rampant. Yet the Social Inclusion Index does reveal positive change and provides valuable direction for further progress.

-Kayla Strickland

Sources: Americas Quarterly, VOXXI, Wall Street Journal
Photo: Global Public Square


The range of wealth in Colombia is vast. The richest people are six socioeconomic brackets higher than the poorest, and a fraction of the size. 88 percent of the population belong to the lower half of the pyramid.

The Colombian government wants to erase the gap between the wealthy and the poor and they want to use the Internet to do so. The plan is to connect 63 percent of the population to the Internet by 2018.

When the initiative began in 2010, 2.2 million people were connected to the Internet. Today, Colombia’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology’s Live Digital Plan (Vive Digital) has increased that number to 8.8 million.

Diego Molano is Colombia’s minister for information and communications technology. He attributes the 2.5 million people lifted out of poverty in Colombia in the past three years to the program.

“When we connect, for example…a small school in the middle of the jungle to the Internet, those kids…have effectively the same opportunity to access the whole of information society—just like any kid in New York, London, or Paris,” Molano explains.

Molano recognizes, however, that connecting people to the Internet is not all that is needed. The Internet, he explains, is designed for the wealthy. It does not have applications for the rural shop-owner. “If you tried to sell Internet to them today…they say, ‘Why?’…no applications that impact their daily cash flow.”

The challenge becomes finding a way to provide Internet to Colombia’s poor rural populations as well as make it useful for them. To help with the challenge, Colombia has reached out to U.S. tech companies such as SAP, Google, Oracle and Facebook.

“Colombia is the perfect lab for them because poor people are already connected in this country,” Molano says.

One major issue, Molano has not addressed is that of electricity. In order to have Internet there needs to be access to electricity, and many parts of the country do not have that. An anonymous employee of Vive Digital told Colombia Reports that while he has delivered many computers to schools, a substantial portion have not been used because there was no access to electricity.

Colombia’s Internet initiative sees the equalizing power of the Internet, but is also finding challenges in its application.
“When you connect a potato grower in the Andean mountains, and he doubles his income thanks to Internet, you are reducing inequality,” Morano says, describing the ideal situation.

Julianne O’Connor

Sources: Colombia Reports, Washington Post
Photo: Elespectador

gina_din_kariuki_kenya
While women in Kenya take care of the majority of the agricultural and produce market work, they only earn a fraction of the income their male counterparts do. As an outcome of wage discrimination for women, 40 percent of households in Kenya that are run solely by women are in poverty.

Women’s reliance on men has greatly increased within the past few years, due to state and resource conflicts during wartime. For instance, even though Kenya suffers droughts throughout the year, women are afraid to travel to collect water for their families due to gender-based violence. As a result, young girls cannot gain an adequate education due to the deficiency of proper hygiene and clean water within the school, resulting in low literacy rates. In addition, pregnant adult females who do not have access to clean water are more likely to acquire a water-borne disease, harming both the mother and unborn child.

Women in Kenya are not only restricted in the private realm, but also face restrictions in the public realm. For example, women cannot gain any property or land regardless of their social rank. In fact, after their husband’s death, several widows lost their homes and families because of these harsh gender-based rules. If a woman tries to acquire any property or land for her family, she will be exiled from the household, or even worse, from the community.

Kenyan cultural practices also influence the threat of HIV and AIDS that plague the country. Further, in addition to the medical threats of this disease, it also lowers  women’s self-esteem. Forced sex and inheritance of a widow by male relatives is part of Kenyan culture, yet 1 in 5 adults have HIV, a rate even higher for women.

Besides the negative effects of some cultural practices, women also have a higher rate of experiencing gender inequality, discrimination, gender-based violence and rape. In particular, practices such as gang rapes or forced sexual mutilations continue to be a major issue in communities across the country. Unfortunately, even when these women file rape complaints, police often do not prosecute their perpetrators. Thus, there is no support for victims and survivors of violence.

While there have been reforms to the Kenyan constitution within the past year, such as more rights for female business owners to help grow the economy, they constantly fight to keep their business afloat to support their families. The laws may vary, yet the traditional codes are nevertheless in effect within some communities and villages.

Kenya needs to improve its legal assistance and medical care for women, while ensuring all women receive the highest degree of protection and representation. In addition, girls must have better access to education to improve literacy rates. Even though women voters make up the bulk of the voting population in Kenya, they continue to be seriously underrepresented in politics, making it difficult to achieve these tangible goals. Overall, if women are more included in Kenya’s economy, the country can progress from severe poverty. By bringing women and young girls out of poverty and providing basic political and socio-economic rights, the country can and will grow for the better.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: The Water Project, Foundation for Sustainable Development
Photo: Buzz Kenya

latin_america_middle_class
When people are asked to picture Latin America, an image of poverty usually comes to mind. Yet while it is true that Latin America has historically been a region of high rates of poverty and income inequality, income inequality has in fact declined in 13 of 17 countries as measured by the Gini coefficient. The Gini coefficient is used to determine the level of income inequality in a country wherein a score of 0 is given to countries with complete equality (countries whose citizens have the same income) while a score of 1 is given to perfectly unequal countries (those in which one person owns all the income).

Recent data by the World Bank suggests that there has been a successful push to reduce poverty in the region, with the number of people living in extreme poverty (defined as those living on less than $2.50 a day) halved to 12.3 percent between 2003 and 2012. The largest proportion of the population, at 38 percent, includes those that are most vulnerable to falling back into poverty. This last part includes those making between $4-$10 a day. The middle class in Latin America is growing extremely rapidly at 34.3 percent of the population and is set to overtake the most vulnerable to become the largest segment of Latin America. The middle class is defined as the number of people who earn between $10-$50 a day.

Yet these numbers are a bit misleading. There continues to be a large degree of inequality between Latin Americans of different ethnicities. In Brazil, 76.4 percent of primary school children who are descended from Europeans are enrolled in school, while only 65.3 percent of indigenous or African children are enrolled. Similarly, in Chile 97 percent of families of European descent are enrolled in school, while 74.4 percent of children of indigenous or African descent are enrolled.

This is significant because as the middle class expands, it’s going to be able to expend more money on disposable goods and fuel economic growth. It will also be interesting to see what happens as the middle class demands more of a stake in the political process.

– Jeff Meyer

Sources: World Bank, IARIW
Photo: Not Adam and Steve

downton_abbey_british_rich
Income inequality is one of the biggest issues facing the world today. There is not a nation on Earth that is not affected by it in some way or another. The United Kingdom is currently facing a food crisis of national proportions with hundreds of thousands having to access emergency shelter food. Income inequality is also driving a wedge deeper and deeper in the British economy, making daily life even more difficult for working class families.

According to a study that was published by the charity organization Oxfam, the United Kingdom’s richest .1% have had their own personal incomes grow by over four times what the lowest 90% of Britain’s population have. Oxfam’s study used Forbe’s latest list of billionaires, and goes on to say that the United Kingdom’s five richest families have a total worth of over 28.2 billion pounds while the lowest 20% of the United Kingdom’s population only accumulated 28.1 billion pounds.

The Duke of Westminster topped the list of the top richest families in the United Kingdom. Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor is worth over 7.9 billion pounds and owns over 100 acres in London and Belgravia. The second highest were the Reuben brothers who are deal in extremely profitable metal business deals. Their company Trans World Metals, at its peak, controlled over 5% of the world aluminum supply. The third family on the list are the Hinduja Brothers who are worth over 6 billion pounds. The Hinduja brothers gained their fortunate by creating the Hinduja Group, which is conglomerate that oversees more than 21 companies that range from banks, to transportation systems, to chemical plants.

The fourth richest family in Britain is the Cadogan Family; the Viscount and Viscountess of Chelsea and their net worth of over 4 billion pounds. The fifth name on the list is Mike Ashley, owner of the prestigious football club Newcastle United who brought up the rear at 3.3 billion pounds.

The wealth that these families have accumulated is both astounding and impressive. However, in 2014 one of the biggest issues to both world leaders and citizens alike is the ever present issue of income inequality. The World Economic Forum declared that income inequality is one of the biggest threats that the world is facing today. Jennifer Blanke, the World Economic Forum’s Chief Economist cited the Arab Spring, as well as recent issues in both Brazil and South Africa as examples of how “…people are not going to stand for it anymore.”

The news that the top five richest families in Britain have accrued as much wealth as the bottom 20% is another piece of the income inequality puzzle that needs to be addressed and examined in a timely manner. The continuing rift between the rich and poor in every country around the world must be a main focus for the world’s leaders in order to take steps to address this issue.

– Arthur Fuller

Sources: The Guardian, The Independent, The Independent, The Guardian
Photo: Salon

Poverty in Israel
Poverty in Israel? Yes. Israel has one of the world’s more advanced economies. It has a vibrant service industry and the recent discovery of immense natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, which have been estimated to hold billions of dollars of natural gas make Israel’s economic future look quite bright and prosperous.

Given all of this, one would not expect Israel to have the highest poverty rate among developed countries.

The Israeli National Central Bureau of Statistics published a study in which it noted that Israel’s poverty rate stands at 20.9 percent among countries who are members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD.) This places Israel as the country with the highest rate of poverty of the member countries. Israel also placed fifth out of all member countries in terms of income inequality.

While many countries have been hit hard by the global financial crisis, according to the OECD’s report, one of the reasons for Israel abnormally high poverty rate is due to the fact that a large majority of those of the working age in Israel do not in fact work.

The numbers are surprising: about 40 percent of Israeli’s between the ages of 15 and 64 are not working. By comparison, 33 percent of those in other OECD countries are not working.

The number of those in poverty is also expected to rise as Israel plans to cut benefits for child allowances as well. According to the OECD report, 30,000 to 40,000 more children will be placed under the poverty line. This all come on the heels of criticisms of the Benjamin Netanyahu administration due to lavish spending on various items. One particular example given by the Huffington Post is Netanyahu’s spending $127,000 of public funds on a sleeping cabin while visiting London.

The Netanyahu administration has also shot up spending by 80 percent since taking office in 2009, according to the Huffington Post.

The natural gas reserves that have been discovered in the eastern Mediterranean are likely to give Israel a boost in both its overall economic rank and the number of jobs it creates.

According to Forbes, it will likely bring over $60 billion in the next 20 years.

Israel is one of the more wealthy countries in the world, and with its natural gas fields in the works, it stands to fundamentally change the shape of both Middle Eastern economics and politics the world over. However, as Israel moves forward with this significant improvement in its countries, it cannot forget its citizens who are falling under the poverty line.

Arthur Fuller

Sources: Forbes, Haaretz, OECD, The Times of Israel, Forbes, CIA World Factbook, New York Times, Huffington Post
Photo: Two Rivers

Congressional_Black_Caucus
An event hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus has sparked a national effort to confront inequality around the world. As reported by the Baltimore Afro-American weekly newspaper, also known as the Afro, the National Day of Prayer to End Poverty and Income Inequality on February 6 was intended to bring awareness to high rates of poverty among African-Americans.

“The specter of poverty has long haunted communities of color,” reports the Afro. “Nearly 10 million African-Americans, including four in 10 Black children, live in poverty and almost 12 percent of African Americans are unemployed.”

While the event focused on African-Americans, 25.8% of whose income falls below the poverty level (just behind Native Americans,) it also investigated how global trends in wealth disparity negatively affects already disempowered communities around the world. The World Economic Forum’s “Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014,” published in November 2013, listed expanding income disparities as the second greatest trend facing the world today.

“Widening wealth disparity affects every part of our lives,” states the report. “It’s impacting social stability within countries and threatening security on a global scale [and] it’s essential that we devise innovative solutions to the causes and consequences of a world becoming ever more unequal.”

Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima underscores the importance of addressing global inequality and emphasized its relationship with reducing poverty.

“We cannot hope to win the fight against poverty without tackling inequality. Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table,” she said.

“Without a concerted effort to tackle inequality, the cascade of privilege and of disadvantage will continue down the generations [and] we will soon live in a world where equality of opportunity is just a dream,” she added. “In too many countries, economic growth already amounts to little more than a ‘winner takes all’ windfall for the richest.”

– Emily Bajet

Sources: Census, Afro, World Economic Forum, Daily Mail

education_india
India is known for having one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Currently, the growth for GDP within India rests at 4.9 percent, but this is far below its potential.

Similarly to the United States, India is another one of the world’s largest democracies. However, they both also have some of the worst cases of income inequality. In the past 15 years, the net worth of India’s top billionaires have increased 12 times, enough to eliminate poverty in India twice.

The public infrastructure of India is developing at a decent pace, but there are problems that are often left unaccounted for by the Indian government. For example, education in India is a system in dire need of improvement.

According to UNESCO’s Education For All global monitoring report, “At 287 million, India has 37 percent of the total population of illiterate adults across the world.” The report also asserts that the poorest of India will not expect to receive universal education until around the year 2080.

In regards to the specific problems that India faces with education, access and quality are two of the greatest concerns. Much of it is tied to the proper functioning and funding of Indian government, which may not be reliable in certain instances.

90% of people do not continue to college in India, 58% do not finish primary school and 4% never even have the opportunity to start.

The extensive lack of universal education in India also goes on to provide problems for India’s human capital in general. Out of 122 total countries released by the World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Index, India is ranked a measly 78.th The problems India faces may require the nation to make steps toward realizing more inclusive growth and development.

Income inequality ought to be addressed in India for their human capital to rise.

This means core public services including basic healthcare, education and power or water supply must be established by Indian government at multiple levels. Investment in people has proven a successful method to national development. In other words, India still has a ways to go in realizing its full potential.

– Jugal Patel

Sources: World Bank, India Times, Teach For India, Live Mint, Outlook India
Photo: The New York Times