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Indigenous PovertyGuatemala is one of Latin America’s most unequal countries, with an indigenous population that has been especially impacted by COVID-19. Indigenous groups make up more than 40% of Guatemala’s population, which equates to more than 6.5 million people. Poverty rates average 79% among indigenous groups, with 35% suffering from food insecurity.

COVID-19 Exacerbates Indigenous Poverty in Guatemala

COVID-19 has only exacerbated the suffering of indigenous Guatemalans. Not only have indigenous families been pushed further into poverty, but reports of gender-based and intrafamily violence, murders and child pregnancies have also increased during Guatemala’s stay-at-home orders, which were intended to control the spread of COVID-19. The only exception to note is that there has been a drop in violent crime since lockdowns were imposed.

Child labor rates have increased, which is a concern since a child’s education is their channel to achieve social mobility and is key to reducing poverty. At the start of the lockdown, remote learning was promoted. However, less than 30% of Guatemala’s population has internet access. Only 21% of the population has access to a computer. In effect, COVID-19 is widening the economic gap between the indigenous population and those in urban Guatemala.

OCHA, the United Nations emergency aid coordination body, reported in April 2020 that seasonal hunger rates have worsened in eastern Guatemala due to lockdown measures. Compared to a year ago, health ministry figures point out that acute malnutrition cases in the department of Chiquimula increased by roughly 56%.

Oxfam Assists Guatemala

Oxfam, a confederation working to alleviate global poverty, has been on the ground in Guatemala, delivering food, sanitary and medical products, particularly to Guatemala’s indigenous communities.  However, Oxfam is working a little differently than in the past due to COVID-19 measures. Instead of risking the spread of the virus by sending outside people in, Oxfam is employing local Guatemalans by transferring credit to their phones and having them collect and distribute two months’ worth of necessary goods to those requiring assistance.

Insufficient Governmental Support

Guatemala’s government offers little help to relieve the effects of COVID-19 in its rural zones. In 2017, a study by the Guatemalan health ministry reported that the government spends fractions of its health budget in its rural zones compared to its wealthiest, urban cities.

The United States has increased its level of deportations under COVID-19-related regulations, leading Guatemala to trace 20% of its infections to those returnees. With the lack of governmental support and social safety nets, many poor Guatemalans are looking to flee the country.

Hopes for an Inclusive Society

Although the indigenous in Guatemala are creating their own solutions, using traditional knowledge and practices to contain COVID-19, the Guatemalan government must treat its indigenous population equally and include those who have been historically excluded by implementing strategies and operations to prevent and contain COVID-19 as well as alleviate its indigenous poverty rates overall.

– Danielle Lindenbaum
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

Poverty in PanamaPanama — the narrow bridge of land that connects North and South America. The tropical country is renowned for its natural beauty and diverse plant, animal and bird life. Yet, all that sparkles, is not glitter. Panama’s economy is highly unequal and there’s a wide gap between the rich and the poor. Poverty in Panama is as much of a prominent feature of the country as its landscape.

Rural Poverty

Ethnicity and geographic location determine one’s poverty in Panama. Panamanians who live in rural areas do not have adequate access to resources, such as hospitals and schools. This is a result of the lack of professional doctors and teachers or mentors in rural areas.

Panama is the second worst in income distribution in Latin America, which leads to sector-specific poverty. Unpaved roads in the country make it are especially difficult for farmers. Accordingly, they do not end up selling their crops in big cities where they can earn a large income. Thus, begins a chain of poverty in Panama that devolves into poor hygiene, sanitation, child labor, malnutrition and eventually yet another generation submerged in loans.

Child Poverty

About 27.7% of Panamanian children live in poverty and 12% experience malnutrition. Failure to register children at birth causes many to go without citizenship. Thus, the government is ignorant on its exact child population and cannot justly allocate money to the “nonexistent.”

Around 15% of children are victims to early marriages. The legal age to marry in Panama is 16 for boys and 14 for girls. However, most of these children are not registered with the government, so kids are married off at ages as young as 10.

The minimum age for working in Panama is 15. Even with this being the case, 5-year-old children can be seen carrying bricks in construction sites. Severally underage workers — child laborers — even appear in big cities like Panama City and Tocumen. To earn a few dollars more, families force their children to work. However, it’s at the cost of children being mentally and physically exploited.

The Rays of Light

Panama has done much to fight poverty. From 2015-2017, poverty in Panama declined from 15.4%  to 14.1%. In the same time span, extreme poverty decreased from 6.7% to 6.6%. Additionally, there are currently multiple NGOs working to help poverty and other problems in Panama. One is to Educate Women in Panama. The organization’s goal is to help lower poverty in the future through more women and girls getting their education. Education will help these women find jobs easier, lowering the poverty rate.

The country, with aid of NGOs and the government, has the potential to bridge the income inequality gap and make itself an equitable society for all, regardless of class, region or ethnicity. Panama can be as bright and colorful as its beaches for not only the urbanites but also the rurals.

Riddhi Bhattacharya
Photo: Flickr

The Nike Foundation’s Girl EffectAround the world, many young girls are without access to basic health and educational resources. Research has shown that gender equality and women’s empowerment initiatives are key to alleviating global poverty. Over the years, organizations have developed across the globe committed to providing such resources in order to improve the quality of life for millions. One of those organizations is The Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect. This organization is a creative nonprofit working where girls are marginalized and vulnerable.

4 Facts About Girl Effect

1. Girl Effect has been in operation for 12 years. The Nike Foundation launched Girl Effect in 2008 at the World Economic Forum. According to its website, “The Girl Effect is about the unique potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.” Nike designed the organization to inspire the most influential leaders in the world to get girls in vulnerable nations on the global development agenda and help increase the drive of resources to them. Girl Effect also aims to create media resources for girls around the world in order to increase their access to resources surrounding education and healthcare. Through partnerships with prominent organizations and creating branded media content, Girl Effect has provided millions of girls access to life-saving information.

2. It uses media and the internet to reach girls in developing nations. Girl Effect creates branded media for girls around the world that helps to “navigate the pivotal time of adolescence so they can make positive choices about their health, education and economic future.” Girl Effect currently operates seven different digital programs to reach girls around the world; Chhaa Jaa, Ni Nyampinga, Springster, TEGA, Tujibebe, Yegna and Zathu. The Chhaa Jaa program, which means “go forth and shine” in Hindi, is a “digital-first youth brand that inspires, informs and equips girls in India with the right skills and confidence to navigate adolescence.” These resources include helping girls access information about sexual and reproductive health, how to negotiate with parents about their choices for continuing their education, and how to prepare for their first job. Tujibebe is a program that was born from Tanzanian culture and is a mobile-based brand focused on helping provide adolescent girls with information and resources they need to make positive choices about their future. This includes how to finish their education and setting up their own small business.

3. It partners with numerous organizations to share its message. Girl Effect has worked with organizations from a variety of industries, from nonprofits to social media networks, to help effectively spread its message to girls across the world. One of the largest nonprofit organizations that it partners with is UNICEF. Together the organizations support and promote the Ni Nyampinga program in Rwanda. Through this partnership, UNICEF and Girl Effect have been able to make Ni Nyampinga a nation-wide movement with 80% of the population of Rwanda aware of it, which is almost 6.6 million Rwandans. Another prominent partner of the organization is Facebook. Through the use of Facebook’s Free Basics platform, which provides people with full access to services on their mobile phones, Girl Effect is able to promote its Springster program on a worldwide scale. Through this partnership, Facebook and Girl Effect have been able to reach over 12 million users in the past year alone. The program is available in over 50 countries, including South Africa, Nigeria, the Philippines and Indonesia. A few additional Girl Effect partners include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gavi and Mastercard Foundation.

4.  The Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect made great strides reaching developing countries. Since its introduction in 2008, Girl Effect has been able to reach millions of girls in developing nations to provide education and resources. In India and South Africa, its online chatbots have responded to over 1.2 million messages asking for advice on sex and healthy relationships. It has helped connect over 15,000 girls in India with efficient sexual and reproductive health information and services online. In Malawi, girls who read Girl Effect magazine are 32% more likely than non-readers to go to a medical provider and receive their first dose of HPV medication. In Indonesia, those who have seen Girl Effect’s digital nutrition campaign are 32% more likely to make healthier food choices than those who did not view it.

Girl Effect Closes the Gender Gap

Since its beginning, The Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect has helped to create media for girls around the world to provide resources on how to improve their education, healthcare and well-being. For years, the world has struggled to include girls in the many advances that have been made in healthcare and education. However, organizations like Girl Effect help to close this gap.

– Sara Holm
Photo: Flickr

Women in CubaWomen have experienced oppression at the hands of men for centuries. The world is continually reminded of this fact in current cultural and societal practices. Different nations have made progress in recent years, but this is still a common and enduring problem. However, the information dispersed regarding this topic is commonly obscured by those in charge. Women in Cuba have faced these issues head-on for decades in their fight for equal rights. The long and complex history of women’s right makes it difficult to distill the reality of the situation. However, there is potential for improvement. Here are the key things to know about this pivotal issue.

Education

Compared to other nations, Cuba may appear to be far more progressive on women’s rights. According to the Havana Times, women comprise 53% of the congressional body, and they account for 60% of college graduates. These numbers portray a clear female dominance in areas of higher education and are much higher compared to other developed nations.

Women’s Organizations

“Women’s organizations” are still not welcome in the nation. A new state constitution took effect after the 1960s Cuban revolution that barred the legalization of women’s organizations. An exception was made for the already established FMC.

The FMC, the Federation of Cuban Women, is a communist-controlled organization intended for the advancement of the women in Cuba. This is not inherently indicative of any corruption. However, women are prevented from assembling themselves and are dependent upon the state-sanctioned organization due to the lack of organizational options.

The Workplace

Societal standards are still oppressive to women. Numbers depict women moving out of their roles in the household to earn degrees and serve in the congressional body. The caveat is that women are still expected to perform all the duties that come with running a household. This includes cooking, cleaning and childcare.

This “machismo” mindset is heavily prevalent in Latin American nations. Essentially, this relegates women to the stereotypical domestic roles. This is even applied to women who are practicing doctors, lawyers and teachers. This societal standard burdens working women as well as those who choose to not enter the workforce or pursue higher education.

Discrimination in the workplace is another struggle women in Cuba must face. Women still face societal barriers in how they are compensated and employed. Female physicians and professors are typically paid the governmental base wage because most hospitals and universities are state-owned. This means that women are usually earning $30/hour in these typically high-paying fields. Further, the congressional body that women composed the majority of does not have any actual legislative power. That power is found within the Communist Party, which is only 7% female.

A Positive Outlook

The situation for women in Cuba is difficult to navigate. However, there are statutes in place to assist women in their quest to achieve equal rights within their society. For example, the constitution has an article that specifically protects maternity leave as a right for mothers in the workforce. Furthermore, the accessibility of higher education promises benefits to women of all classes that will last for generations. In essence, there is a long way to go, but that does not diminish how far the women’s rights movement in Cuba has come already.

Allison Moss
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in ParaguayParaguay is one of the smallest countries in South America but is still home to more than seven million residents. Many Paraguayans residing in the landlocked region struggle to survive, with nearly 17% of the population living in poverty. The poverty rate is even higher among rural and indigenous communities. As a result, hunger in Paraguay continues to be a significant problem.

The Causes of Hunger: Exports and Inequality

A prominent yet paradoxical cause of hunger in Paraguay is its growing export rates. As the UN reports, “Only 6% of agricultural land is available for domestic food production, whilst 94% is used for export crops.” While the country produces considerable agricultural resources each year, exporters ship most of this produce and livestock overseas and leave very little in the country. This lack of domestic production means that many Paraguayans cannot afford expensive imports. As a result, many must contend with food insecurity and hunger in Paraguay.

To make matters worse, the divide between the wealthy and the working class in Paraguay is drastic. Roughly 3% of the population owns more than 85% of its land and resources. This unequal distribution of land and resources leaves small landowners impoverished and unable to compete, with many turning to urban areas in search of marginal work.

Agricultural Industry

The Paraguayan agricultural industry’s oligarchical nature makes it challenging to reallocate Paraguay’s land and natural resources. The 3% of landowners hold tremendous financial and political influence in the country, making it difficult for the Paraguayan government to reallocate resources or reappropriate land toward domestic production. The extremely wealthy are also only interested in producing a handful of different crops that do well in the global market.

However, this makes Paraguay’s economy and exporting gains very dependent on a temperamental world market. The market’s fluctuations can be particularly tricky and potentially harmful for the underserved and impoverished in the country, who are already struggling to survive. Without much opportunity for social mobility, those threatened by hunger in Paraguay must routinely find cheap alternatives to sustenance. High-quality, nutritious food remains an unaffordable commodity for many Paraguayans.

Hunger and Malnutrition

Poverty leads to food insecurity and malnutrition, two issues symptomatic of hunger in Paraguay. As nutritionist Nadia Quintana notes, “About 15% of Paraguayan children suffer from malnutrition. And that is if you do not count the children from indigenous groups. According to a United Nations estimate, if we include indigenous tribes, more than 45% of Paraguay children are at risk of hunger or malnutrition. But the problem is not lack of food. The problem here is poverty and lack of work and education. And housing is very precarious.”

While instances of undernutrition and starvation are trending downward, malnutrition and obesity rates are rising in Paraguay as poverty forces impoverished citizens to subsist on cheaper, less nutritious foods. These low-nutrient, high-calorie options may be cheap, but they have had an outsized impact on an average Paraguayan’s diet. Residents are in an impossible situation, forced to choose between going hungry or eating foods correlated with increased vulnerability to chronic diseases.

Global Pandemic and Rising Unemployment Rates

The COVID-19 global pandemic has further complicated hunger in Paraguay. While the small Latin American country was one of the first to begin quarantining measures to counteract the March 2020 outbreaks, the nationwide lockdown has crippled many of the country’s workers. Although the country has the fewest coronavirus cases in the region, many of its workers have lost their primary sources of income. The loss of employment means that nearly 60% of the population is without access to any benefits or financial support during the ongoing pandemic.

According to the Guardian, though the government has secured $1.6 billion in pandemic crisis loans, a tiny percentage of Paraguayans have received the promised $76 and food packs. As a result, the dependence on cheap, non-nutritious foods and correlated instances of malnutrition and obesity continue to rise. Rising unemployment rates and lack of federal support will inevitably exacerbate the ever-present issues poverty of hunger in Paraguay.

Indigenous Communities and Hunger in Paraguay

Among the most affected by poverty, pandemic and hunger in Paraguay are indigenous peoples with minimal economic and social resources to combat their current circumstances. Under the lockdown, many are unable to secure food and must rely on communal meals and donations to survive. The Paraguayan government has offered aid but has struggled to deliver it as it has to the rest of its people. Amnesty International has partnered with local initiatives to lobby for sufficient assistance to these indigenous communities waiting and hungry for action.

Moving forward, the Paraguayan government faces an uphill battle in providing its citizens with adequate resources to sustain healthy diets. The government finds itself in a difficult place as it struggles to assist and feed its people amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, especially as its workers are out of jobs. With so much of its economy tied to a small minority of extremely wealthy agricultural exports, Paraguay must find a way to help those who are not part of the top 3%, especially those living in indigenous, underserved and impoverished areas. Though extreme poverty trends downward, malnutrition and obesity will continue to characterize hunger in Paraguay.

Andrew Giang
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in peruPeru carries a heavy history of periodic instability that has made the establishment of an accessible healthcare system perilous. The country suffers from an inequitable distribution of healthcare workers. It also struggles with the partition between private and governmentally-sponsored healthcare, the provisions of which skew inequitably toward the wealthy. Peru’s wealth gap shows the richest 20% in the nation controlling nearly half of its income and the poorest 20% earning less than 5%. This inequality is quite literally killing Peruvians. According to the 2007 National Census of Indigenous Peoples conducted by the Peruvian government, over 50% of census-interviewed communities did not have access to any form of health care facility.

Healthcare in Peru by the Numbers

  • The life expectancy in Peru is 74 years, landing the country at 126 out of 224 countries.
  • The probability of a child in Peru dying before the age of five is 1.4%, compared to 0.1% in the United States.
  • Peru spends 5.5% of its GDP on healthcare, compared to the U.S.’s 17.1%, ranking the country at 128 out of 224 countries.
  • In Peru, there are one and a half hospital beds available per 1,000 individuals. This is a number that is especially dire during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Peru clocks in at just under one and one-quarter of a physician per every 1,000 Peruvians in need of medical care.

Structure of Healthcare in Peru

Due in part to fluctuating governmental structures and rulers, Peru currently operates with a decentralized health care system administered by five entities. Two of these entities provide 90% of the nation’s healthcare services publicly, while three provide 10% of the nation’s healthcare in the private sector. This distribution results in considerable overlap and little coordination, depleting the healthcare system of resources and providers. In fact, many healthcare providers in Peru work an assortment of jobs across different subsectors.

As healthcare is a necessary sector of the economy, Peru’s healthcare worker density is increasing, even as health worker outmigration also increases. But since these workers are not equitably distributed, coastal and urban areas monopolize the majority of these providers. Lima and tourist coasts boast the highest distribution of healthcare workers, while rural and remote areas such as Piura and Loreto are home to few health providers.

Impact of the Healthcare Structure on Women

The detrimental effects of inequitable healthcare distribution are most visible in the country’s astonishing maternal mortality rate. In Peru, 185 out of 100,000 mothers dying from pregnancy-related causes, one of the highest in the Americas. The burden of maternal mortality rests squarely upon the shoulders of poor, rural, and Indigenous women. They are dying from largely preventable causes in a massive breach of human rights. These women disproportionately face countless barriers to pregnancy wellness and birth healthcare, including a dearth of emergency obstetric and neonatal services, language barriers and a lack of information regarding maternal health. Peru has implemented policies in recent years to reduce the rate of maternal mortality, such as the increase of maternal waiting houses for rural pregnant women to reside in as they approach birth. Unfortunately, women and health professionals attest that these measures are inadequate and improperly implemented.

The only cause of premature death that precedes neonatal disorders as a result of inadequate neonatal obstetrics is lower respiratory infections. This type of infection is the most likely cause of premature death, and it has remained so since 2007. This illness, too, disproportionately impacts women and children. They are the most likely groups to die from household air pollution, a type of pollution caused by the burning of solid fuels for cooking and heating purposes. In Peru, 429 out of an estimated 1,110 yearly childhood deaths are caused by acute lower respiratory infections resulting from household air pollution. Combined, neonatal disorders and lower respiratory infections cause more death and disability than any other factor in Peru. These are shortening the lives of Peruvian women and children by almost 20%.

Moving Forward with Healthcare in Peru

The healthcare system in Peru is one that suffers many flaws. It is straining to support its people, especially in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. While the going is slow, the country is striving to reform its healthcare system. Peru is doing this by reforming its healthcare system in the direction of universal coverage – an achievable but certainly strenuous goal. Since vigorously implementing healthcare reform in the late 90s, Peru reports coverage of 80% of its population with some form of health services. While this number is far from ideal, it is evidence that the Peruvian government is not only cognizant of but concerned about its healthcare failures, and it is striving for a fuller coverage future.

 

– Annie Iezzi
Photo: NeedPix

Eggs & Bread in London

Based in Walthamstow in East London, Eggs & Bread is a cafe like no other. It boasts “the smallest menu on Wood Street” that includes boiled eggs, jam, porridge, tea and coffee. Eggs & Bread in London is a “pay what you like” cafe, whereby those who overpay for a cup of tea and a boiled egg allow the less well-off to eat for free, or pay a reduced rate for breakfast. A report written by U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston on extreme poverty and human rights stipulated that homelessness is on the rise in London, austerity being the main cause. ​

Austerity is a Mindset

“Austerity is a mindset, which is now fully reflected in how the government operates,” Alston reports. The evidence seen on the report points to the conclusion that the driving force has not been economic but rather a commitment to achieving radical social re-engineering. Because of this, people have been relying more on food banks and charities for their next meal, which makes Eggs & Bread in London even more special.​

Thirty-seven percent of all children, 24 percent of all working-age adults and 19 percent of all pensioners live in poverty. While the poverty rate fell over the last few years, the depth of poverty increased.

London, the Capital of Poverty

London remains the capital of poverty in the United Kingdom. Another factor that adds to this is the high rents paid by half of all households who rent their homes. Those who rent from a private landlord have long faced high rents. More recently, housing association and council tenants have seen their rents go up rapidly. This is also due to wealth inequality, predominant in London.

Wealth inequality, which is higher than income inequality, increased over the years. Wealth for someone just in the top 10 percent is now 295 times higher than someone in the bottom 10 percent. In 2010–12 it was 160 times higher, a significant increase.​

As inequality in the capital rises whilst wages stagnate and many are forced to food banks to feed themselves and their families, social ventures like Eggs & Bread in London become ever more vital. As Eggs & Bread’s website states, “Everyone’s welcome, no matter if you are a city broker or simply broke.”

These sorts of cafes existed before, such as the Brixton Pound and The People’s Fridge, but the sheer amount of attention Eggs & Bread has had bodes well for its success, and will hopefully inspire other like-minded projects. With an estimated 28 percent of Londoners living in poverty, Eggs & Bread aims to balance out the inequality seen so often in big cities.

If one wants to pay, the donation box is discreetly placed next to where one puts the dirty plates. If one can afford to put something in the box, one can also pay for the breakfast of others who might not be able to pay. As Eggs & Bread in London states, “Everyone deserves a good start to the day.” ​

– Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in Nigeria
Nigeria, a country located on the western coast of Africa, makes up to 47 percent of the population of Africa. With the rising amount of people surrounding the area, there has been a vast amount of poverty overtaking the country. Recently, the economic growth of Nigeria has risen due to many factors such as its production of oil. However, no matter how much the economy grows, poverty continues to rise as well due to the inequality between the poor and rich.

Economic Growth

In 2018, the oil and gas sector allowed the economic growth in Nigeria to grow 1.9 percent higher than the previous year when it only grew to 0.8 percent. Although that is where more of the growth is, the oil sector does not have physical bodies working to ensure that the industry continues to grow. This leaves no growth in the stock of jobs, leaving the unemployment rate to rise to 2.7 percent since the end of 2017. Many hope that the new Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) will promote economic resilience and strengthen growth.

ERGP

ERGP projects that there will a growth rate of 4.5 percent in 2019, but within the first quarter, there was only a growth of 2.01 percent. Charles Robertson, the global head of the research at Renaissance Captial, believes that ERGP’s 4.5 percent target was not unrealistic, especially since Nigeria was unable to meet those projections. Because most of the country’s economic growth comes from oil, there have not been many other non-oil jobs that have made a lot of profit.

The plan not only focuses on the rate of economic growth but also makes predictions that the unemployment rate will decrease to 12.9 percent. With the lack of available jobs, there has been little to no change in this rate as well. Many of the individuals that do have jobs, however, are earning up to $1.25 or less per day, which is not enough to pay for one household.

Inequality

As the economic growth in Nigeria grows, so does the gap between the poor and the rich. With the poor as the bottom 23 percent, the gap between the two has widened to 16 percent. A lot of the high-paying jobs are looking for people that have received high-quality degrees. If one does not have the money to pay for a good education, then they automatically miss out on the job opportunities that are out there. This means, that the children that come from rich families are the only ones that will be able to get the best jobs in the market.

The current government has been running a cash transfer program that provides 5,000 nairas to each household per month, which is approximately $14. This amount is not enough to relieve any household expenses because “less than 1 percent of poor people are benefiting.” Without any increase in money for each household, one cannot do much to decrease poverty.

Although there is economic growth in Nigeria, poverty is still on the rise. Many countries have faced this problem with trying to break the balance between the two and found it has not helped to decrease poverty as much. Hopefully, as the ERGP continues, it will help make changes.

Emilia Rivera
Photo: Flickr

Regional Inequality
China’s regional inequality has historically been an issue. It is common for developed countries to have regional wealth and income disparity between rural and urban areas. Enormous wealth inequality exists between rural and urban regions of China with 90 percent of all poverty being rural poverty.

The Current State of Regional Inequality in China

Along with China’s regional poverty, an educational disparity has widened within China. The government has supported and subsidized education in urban centers but neglected to invest in opportunities for rural education. Since the 1950s, rural attendance at the Universities of Tsinghua and Peking has declined from over 50 percent to less than 20 percent in 2005 despite the rural population making up the majority of China’s population at that time. The lack of educational opportunities in rural communities in China has fed into the downward spiral of stagnation for such regions, as an educated populace is a crucial asset for creating economic growth.

Previous Efforts to Combat Regional Inequality in China

Recently, the Chinese government has recognized the need to address the growing problem of China’s regional inequality and has enacted a series of relatively new but ambitious policies to tackle the crisis.

China proposed the first of these in 1999. The Great Western Development Strategy is a $1 trillion (Chinese Yuan) development plan that aims at investing in development and growth in the inland Western Regions of the country. The plan slowly began in the early 2000s with spending on infrastructure projects in the west.

One of the most major projects was the construction of the West-East gas pipeline which began in 2002 and ended in 2005. This was a very ambitious project that created numerous jobs and revenue for the west while also benefitting the east coast. Other energy initiatives focused largely on the creation of hydropower plants throughout the region. Other infrastructure projects have focused on transportation. The Qinghai-Tibet Railway and the Southern Xinjiang Railway finished in the mid-2000s as a part of the strategy. These new railways employed many people and improved transportation substantially in their respective regions.

The Great Western Development Strategy also hopes to entice foreign investments in the region. The primary strategies for this objective are environmental conservation and improvement in educational opportunities. The plan has waived tuition fees for compulsory education in west China in hopes of improving the overall education of its citizens. Huge ecological conservation policies, such as Returning Grazing Land to Grassland seek to convert vast swaths of farmland into natural grasslands, as well as protect and expand forestry.

Recent Efforts to Combat Regional Inequality in China

The Northeast Revitalization Plan aims to rebuild traditional industries in the northeast, but with added economic and environmental regulations. The plan has also abolished taxes on agricultural workers and farmers, hoping this policy will be favorable towards the regions declining agricultural industry.

The new proposal, the Rise of Central China Plan, focusses on improving China’s agricultural heartland. Many often refer to Central China as “China’s Breadbasket.” The region has experienced only a fraction of the growth that coastal regions have undergone. As of 2002, the region’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was only 75 percent the national average. The Rise of Central China Plan will promote investment in advancements in agricultural techniques and technology with the hopes of increasing farming efficiency and creating larger yields in the region.

This is especially important for China as the issue of food security has risen for the highly populated nation. The Rise of Central China Plan also focuses on the development of transportation infrastructure in central China. A huge reason for central China’s economic stagnation has been lack of sufficient transportation, which has stifled its growth despite the region’s abundance of natural resources such as coal and its massive population.

Regional inequality in China has deep roots in past policies. The rural-urban divide has prompted a wave of bold new reforms aimed at combatting rural poverty and though the effort has just begun, these programs are showing promising results.

Karl Haider
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