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Healthcare in TurkmenistanTurkmenistan is a Central Asian country with a population of 6.1 million. Healthcare in Turkmenistan has a complicated history, beginning when the country’s first post-Soviet president, Saparmurat Niyazov, fired 15,000 healthcare workers and shut down regional hospitals around 2005. However, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, Niyazov’s successor, flipped the script and invested tens of millions of dollars into the country’s healthcare sector starting in 2006. While the investments were substantial, including a $56 million ophthalmology complex, the overall quality of healthcare in Turkmenistan lagged behind. Maral Nedirova, a Turkmen doctor, explains that medical services in the Turkmen provinces have not progressed since the 1970s.

The Effects of Dictatorship

Dictatorship in the 2000s had a lasting, negative impact on healthcare in Turkmenistan. As previously noted, Turkmenistan was under the dictatorial rule of president Niyazov until his death in 2006. The dictatorship resulted in direct harm to healthcare. Imprisonment and torture of those who opposed the administration combined with over-incarceration in overcrowded facilities hurt healthcare in Turkmenistan. The rule of president Niyazov, however, also indirectly contributed to the country’s healthcare struggle. This occurred primarily due to the government’s focus on secrecy rather than prevention, meaning that the dictatorship was more concerned with limiting the exposure of the healthcare crisis in Turkmenistan than actually addressing it. These failures have had lasting, adverse effects on healthcare in Turkmenistan.

Corruption Undermines Healthcare

While Niyazov’s rule came to an end in 2006, the corruption of the healthcare system in Turkmenistan is yet to cease. Bribery is commonplace in the healthcare system, with doctors being forced to pay an unofficial penalty “for every incident of an undocumented health problem that surfaces among the population of the district that they are responsible for.” Local administrations then use this money to bribe health inspectors “to ensure positive reports about their work.”

Additionally, the legacy of secrecy and coverup remains today. Despite being bordered by a country with 500,000 COVID-19 cases in April 2020, and having taken no formal quarantine measures, the Turkmenistan officials repeatedly reported no official cases around this period. Even within the country’s health departments, few people knew the real risk that COVID-19 posed due to the government’s secrecy. False reports and large-scale coverups likely make it most challenging to address the reality of healthcare in Turkmenistan as the truth is often unclear.

Poor Air Quality

The air pollution in Turkmenistan is “considered moderately unsafe” under guidelines put forward by the World Health Organization. While 10 µg/m3 of PM2.5, the fine particulate matter that pollutes the air and can cause health issues, is the maximum recommended level for air pollutants, Turkmenistan has a mean of 22 µg/m3. In the short term, this air pollution can cause typical symptoms like shortness of breath and lung and nose irritation while also worsening the effects of asthma and emphysema. In the long term, however, the risks become more severe, inducing lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory illness and more.

The Future of Healthcare in Turkmenistan

Partnerships with other countries and international organizations provide hope for the future of healthcare in Turkmenistan. A new project started by Japan and the U.N. Office for Project Services (UNOPS) aims to deliver medical equipment and supplies to aid the country’s healthcare system. The project Enhancing the Healthcare System through the Provision of Medical Equipment in Turkmenistan will invest $2.8 million into the Turkmenistan healthcare system.

Moreover, a WHO-EU joining project titled Crisis Response for Central Asian Countries is a €3 million project involving Turkmenistan and neighboring countries that aims to assist in the response to COVID-19 as well as strengthen emergency response preparedness and detection efforts. Thus far, the project held a virtual training seminar led by international experts to train healthcare workers and provide them with hands-on skills. While Turkmenistan’s past was defined by its secrecy and closed-off posture regarding its healthcare system, the trend appears to be reversing as international aid in cooperation has been invited to help revitalize healthcare in Turkmenistan.

Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in JapanYear after year, Japan consistently ranks as one of the top countries for life expectancy. These top 10 facts about life expectancy in Japan is a reflection of economic developments that occurred since World War II.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Japan

  1. Japan ranks second in the world for life expectancy, with the average Japanese citizen living to 85.0 years. The life expectancy for the average female in Japan is 88.1 years and 81.9 years for males. There has been a fairly consistent difference in the life expectancy between women and men in Japan. Currently, women are expected to live around 6.2 years longer than men. Prior to 1990, the country had not even made the list of the top 100 countries with the highest life expectancies.
  2. The fertility rate in 1955 for Japan was 3.0 live births per women, which has decreased to 1.4 in 2020. A decrease may appear worrisome but there is a clear correlation between fertility rates and wealth. Poorer nations tend to have high fertility rates which continues a cycle of poverty but intermediate levels of fertility tend to represent an economically stable, wealthy country.
  3. Infant mortality and overall child mortality rates have greatly decreased since the 1950s. In 1950, the infant mortality rate was roughly 47 deaths per 1,000 births and the number of deaths for children under 5 was 72 per 1,000 births. As of 2020, the infant mortality rate and deaths for children under the age 5 is 1.6 and 2.2 per 1,000 births, respectively. These statistics display growth that has contributed to a higher life expectancy in Japan.
  4. Diet and lifestyle are major contributors as well. Japanese people tend to enjoy well-balanced, nutritious meals that consist of vegetables, fruits, fish and high-grain based foods. This diet is low in saturated fats and includes mainly natural, unprocessed foods. In addition, the country has succeeded in promoting a healthy and active lifestyle. Even in their old age, many Japanese seniors continue to exercise regularly.
  5. Rapid economic growth was seen in the country in the 1960s and the Japanese Government made great efforts to invest in the country’s healthcare system. In 1961 the country adopted universal health insurance for their citizens which included vaccination programs and medical treatments that greatly decreased both adult and child mortality rates.
  6. Increased economic prosperity is a contributing factor. After World War II, Japan experienced an extremely rapid growth in its economy. Increased economic prosperity led to medical technology advancements, universal healthcare access, improved diets and lifestyles, decrease in disease and deaths, improvements in education and lower mortality rates. Economic prosperity and life expectancy rates are related, as seen in Japan.
  7. A smaller poverty gap can also account for life expectancy in Japan. In the 1970s, Japan had a smaller income and wealth gap in the population compared to many other developed countries and it has been proven that a higher inequality in wealth correlates to higher mortality rates.
  8. Successful health education and a well-established health culture is what Japan is known for. Majority of citizens engage in regular physician check-ups and receive vaccinations and immunizations. Furthermore, Japanese people are encouraged to reduce their salt intake and red meat consumption, advice the people take seriously.
  9. Practice of good hygiene is another factor in explaining the high life expectancy in Japan. Common practices such as handwashing and cleanliness is normal in Japan but the country also has sufficient access to clean, safe water and sewage systems as well.
  10. Decreased cerebrovascular diseases. Historically, Japan has always had low rates of ischemic heart disease and cancer compared to other developed, high GDP countries. However, Japan had one of the highest rates for cerebrovascular disease from the 1970s-1980s. Thanks to health developments, Japan has greatly decreased their rates of cerebrovascular diseases within the past 20 years.

– Bolorzul Dorjsuren
Photo: Flickr

Farming Innovations in JapanAgri-tech, a growing term used to describe Japan’s digital farming technology has greatly advanced farming systems in the country in order to combat a potential water shortage by 2030. Both experienced and inexperienced farmers in Japan are using new technologies to limit the overuse of water and fertilizer, which in turn, is fighting food insecurity and poverty for the entire population. Professor Kiyoshi Ozawa, from Meiji University Kurokawa Field Science Center, summarizes the system, “instead of spraying a large amount of water with sprinklers or the like, fertigation uses narrow pipes to place drops of water and fertilizer at the roots of the growing crops.” Farming innovations in Japan aim to reduce overall poverty in the country.

Farming Innovations in Japan

There are several innovations to take note of that have eased the labor intensity and climate impact of farming in Japan, such as heat-resistant varieties, delayed transplanting and specialized application of fertilizers, to combat both climate change and poverty in the face of a potentially grave water and food shortages.

Japan Today, an esteemed magazine based in Japan, also highlights the main goal of this growing agri-tech business as a collaboration between experts, advanced farmers and younger generations to create permanent, sustainable solutions and share knowledge about the most efficient farming techniques. “The valuable experience and techniques of veteran farmers could also be more accessible to newer farmers via the web,” explains writer Allen Croft, “such as learning resources about harvesting times with databases and photos.”

Factors Affecting Farming in Japan

Not only do these farming innovations in Japan help to alleviate poverty in vulnerable communities but they also fight climate change issues by directly limiting water and fertilizer usage and combatting overproduction. Climate change has caused tension in the agricultural world of Japan, as unpredictable water levels cause heightened food prices, specifically in terms of rice production. Several other factors are contributing to pressure on Japan’s farming industry, including a decline in labor force participation as fewer young people are becoming farmers as well as Japan’s reliance on food imports.

These new technological farming innovations in Japan are working to alleviate the problems outlined above and are bringing new uses to AI and loT technology in a way the farming communities have never seen before. Through data analysis and observation of traditional farming structures, farmers can maintain exact water measurements and maximize soil fertility in order to maintain consistent crop growth. The main goal of these digital solutions to farming in Japan is to create permanently sustainable agricultural practices for generations to come.

The Japan Social Development Fund

Specifically from the standpoint of poverty alleviation, the World Bank has implemented a project, the Japan Social Development Fund, that aids impoverished communities while focusing on education, adaptation to climate change, health and sanitation services as well as environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. While most vulnerable communities in Japan do not have access to the digital technology innovations that farmers have developed, a social shift towards awareness of water usage has allowed farmers with limited resources to implement certain practices.

The Future of Digital Agriculture

There are a variety of growing measures set in place to make the agriculture business in Japan more sustainable in the face of both climate change and poverty. Digital agriculture is growing at an immense rate and it is predicted that the global market, specifically for agricultural robots, will reach $73.9 billion by 2024, which will vastly change the structure of food production and the labor force. The scope of digital farming innovations in Japan is broad and could potentially create a basis for agriculture in other countries struggling with water and food shortages as well.

– Caroline Pierce
Photo: Flickr

Elder Poverty in JapanWith a robust elderly population that only continues to grow, Japan faces an unconventional problem concerning its impoverished elder populations. Food security and homelessness have resurfaced as an increasing number of Japan’s older residents find themselves strapped for money and without access to basic needs. The number of those reliant on public assistance had been steadily decreasing since the mid-90s; however, recent socio-economic issues like COVID-19 have increased elderly poverty in Japan.

Home to an elderly population of 18.1%, Japan boasts one of the highest life expectancies in the world, at 81 and 87 years for men and women respectively. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Japan is expected to maintain and grow this high life expectancy. Since 2008, when Japan’s population peaked, it’s gradually been decreasing and aging as the number of elderly increases and the rate of births slow. Those older than 65 comprise 28.4% of the population—a number that’s projected to reach 35.3% by 2040.

Japan’s Welfare System

Japan’s public pension system ensures at least all citizens are covered to a certain standard, and as such, has improved securing basic daily needs for their elderly population. After a 1994 bill passed to reform public pensions in Japan, the amount of the population on public assistance rose from 1.6% in 1995 to 2.9% in 2015. While some attribute a slowing economy to this, nuances of poverty that can’t be fixed by the income security Japan’s public pension program provides seems to be prevalent among the elderly.

One such issue that can’t be addressed by the pension system, is the amount of elderly in Japan that live alone—a number that’s much higher in Japan than in other countries.

Poverty and Dependence

Elderly poverty is particularly a concern among adults older than 75 years old with severe income disparities observable starting at the age of 65 years, and many of them live alone.

At this age, many are retiring or unable to work, while some who may have been married to the provider in the family find themselves without an income when the provider passes. While it used to be custom for the elderly to move in with their children, who could care for their aging parents, the slowing rate of births means that an increasing number of the aging population do not have kids who can take care of them, and even those who do might be reluctant, not wanting to impose on the life their children have made for themselves.

A study conducted on the living conditions of Japan’s elderly population showed several factors associated closely with mortality, including no air conditioning, no refrigerator and the cut-off of several essential services due to costliness. Out of the 7614 participants in the study, 12% struggled with one of these factors while 3.3% struggled with at least two.

The elderly are one of the more vulnerable populations that fall under the poverty umbrella as they’re more likely to have health conditions and income disparities. Moreover, the poor and elderly who get sick or injured don’t have any means of being helped; not only is there no one to attend to them and make sure they get access to the healthcare they need, but those who can’t afford to meet their daily needs—which makes them more susceptible to illness and injury—will also struggle to pay for healthcare. A deficiency in being able to maintain their lifestyle resulted in 27,000 early deaths among elderly Japanese every year.

Women and Elder Poverty

A study of Japan’s pension anticipates that 25% of elderly women in Japan will be living below the poverty line, with this rate rising to 50% in never-married and divorced women. Additionally, 10% of elderly men are predicted to live below the poverty line.

The government designed the original pension system under the assumption that many women quit their jobs to take care of their children after marrying, and as such, the pension takes care to cater to women. However, divorce and never-married populations have become more prevalent since, leaving women who are not married to receive only a small portion of what a married woman would receive, which isn’t enough to maintain a sustainable living standard. Currently, the poverty rate of women over the age of 65, is 22%.

Long-term Care Insurance

Introduced to the public in 2000, this brand of socialized medical care deploys mandatory health coverage to everyone in Japan older than 65, according to their mental and physical health needs.

Due to the mandatory nature of this coverage, its flexibility and accessibility are its key components, with the coverage extending to a variety of types of healthcare according to an individual’s needs in both the public and private sectors. Long-term Care Insurance also tries to focus on cultivating community support, attributing to the ease of isolation many of the elderly find themselves in, to alleviate premature deaths.

While elderly poverty in Japan is expected to increase due to the country’s rising life expectancy rate and declining birth rate, the government is taking steps to ensure elderly poverty is addressed, such as implementing the public pension plan and the Long-term Care Insurance.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in present-day Japan
The film titled, “Nobody Knows” or “Dare Mo Shiranai” in Japanese, shows the issues of poverty in present-day Japan — even though the film was made in 2004. The film, based on a child abandonment case, takes off when the single-mother, Keiko, leaves her boyfriend’s apartment. The oldest child, who is just 12 years old, had to care for his younger siblings (whose existence is hidden from neighbors and the landlord). The film depicts the struggle of poor children as well as a poor, single mother in a Japanese society where people are not willing to take decisive action to help others. Although Japan is one of the most developed countries in the world, 14% of children experienced poverty in 2018.

The Struggle of Single-Parent Households

About 56% of children raised by a single-parent live in poverty. In the film, the mother struggles financially. She explains that she has difficulties finding an apartment because of her status as a single parent of four kids. Finding a stable job can be difficult in current Japanese society because of the common perception that single mothers are unreliable.

Employers are hesitant to hire single-mothers because they may not be able to work when a child gets sick, for example. They end up working as irregular or part-time workers — a status that garners a lower income and less stability when compared with full-time. Irregular workers make up 40% of the workforce in Japan. Many single mothers have to work at two or more places in order to feed their children. In the film, the mother has no financial support from the fathers of her children. The reality of a single mother is often the same and due to current laws in Japan — single-mothers are often unable to obtain financial support from the fathers of their children. These factors all lead to the existence of subtle poverty in present-day Japan.

Ramifications for the Children

Although the children in the film cannot go to school, children from single-parent households who do go to school tend to struggle academically. The percentage of children who perform below average at school is higher for children who have single-parents when compared with those who have both parents. These children are more likely to be unable to attend “cram school” — where many Japanese students study for exams, after regular school. These factors regarding academic performance affect the earnings and job potential of these children’s future. In this way, the poverty of the current generation is passed on to the next generation. Furthermore, it is difficult to distinguish which children are struggling with poverty. This makes the issue of child poverty in present-day Japan even more elusive.

COVID-19’s Effects on Single Mothers and Children

Because of the current economic situation due to COVID-19, non-regular employees are at risk. The law does not protect them from getting fired and unemployment insurance may not be available for some. The request to stay home from the government has affected certain teenagers who have nowhere to go due to poverty or other family issues. Moreover, the closing of school negatively affected the children who rely on school meals.

Actions of Nonprofit Organizations

Several nonprofit organizations and volunteers have worked to help the people in need. Colabo, an organization helping girls in need, has provided food and shelter to teenage girls who have nowhere to turn — due to poverty, abusive parents or other personal reasons. Colabo reaches out to these girls in the city at night to let them know of its free service. In 2019, more than 500 girls used its bus café, where it provides free food and counseling services. Also, Colabo rents apartments at cheap prices for the girls’ use.

Kodomo Shokudo is a cafeteria that provides children with food — either for free or at a cheap price. In 2018, there were more than 2,200 locations across the country. These locations each have different programs to help children in need and many also provide a place where children can study and play. One of these locations even helps children learn how to cook. Kodomo Shokudo unfortunately cannot open presently due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Some locations recently started delivering food to people in need and children who came to the cafeteria often. These initiatives by nonprofit organizations and their volunteers help poor children and spread awareness of child poverty in present-day Japan.

Addressing the Problem

The film “Nobody Knows” is more than 10 years old. However, the invisibility of poverty in present-day Japan and the struggle of single mothers are still prevalent in Japanese society. Raising awareness around poverty in present-day Japan is crucial to effectively address and solve the issue.

Sayaka Ojima
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Japan

On the surface, Japan seems to successfully avoid the hardships and setbacks that can plague powerful economies. However, Japan actually employs costly efforts to hide its growing economic struggles. Here’s what you should know about poverty in Japan.

10 Facts About Poverty in Japan

  1. Less than one percent of Japan is homeless. As of 2018, Japan has a population of 126.5 million people. According to the latest Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare statistics, Japan’s current homelessness figure stands below 5,000. This is a steady decline from nearly 26,000 people without homes in 2003. While this appears to be a remarkable feat of social reform, the truth is that the Japanese government commits millions of dollars every year to ensure homelessness remains low. The goal is to ensure that the Japanese economy appears strong. In reality, poverty in Japan is increasing. The dozens of government reforms Japan enacts each year are extremely costly and are approaching unsustainability.
  2. Japan is “the most equal major society” in terms of wealth distribution. According to the Statista Research Department, a total of 92% of the Japanese population has anywhere from $10,000 to $1 million in either assets or wealth. On paper, these figures appear to demonstrate an extremely healthy economy; however, they hide the fact that poverty in Japan is well over 16%. The notion that 92% of Japanese citizens fall into some category of “wealthy” may be misleading, serving as a straw-man statistic booster.
  3. A rising percentage of individuals in Japan are poverty-stricken. Japan has seen a huge and sudden rise in poverty and poor economic conditions, especially since 2012. According to The Guardian, 3.5 million Japanese children live in poverty-stricken homes. Since 1991, poverty has increased as a systemic problem for Japan, reaching 16.3% this past year. This figure is expected to continue to rise dramatically as the working population decreases.
  4. Japan is caught in an economic game of “cat and mouse.” Ever since Japan experienced a major increase in retired citizens, poverty in Japan has become a greater issue. As a result, Japan has had to increase the retirement age to 70, shift focus to labor force participation (which breeds unequal disbursement of employment opportunity), and implement expensive government reforms to cope with the declining workforce population and the increasing retired population.
  5. Japan pours a ton of resources into battling unemployment. Poverty in Japan entered an unprecedented era of severity after a major drop in workforce members in 1991. Before 1991, unemployment hovered just below 2% for decades, then rose drastically to nearly 6% by 2002. In fact, this singular event nearly toppled Japan as a world economic leader. Today, Japan has returned to a nearly 2% unemployment rate, although the country has had to pour a huge amount of financial resources in order to accomplish this stabilization. The country still has not fully recovered.
  6. One-third of Japan is retired, and the government doesn’t know what to do. Currently, around a third of Japan’s population is 65 or over. Japan actually has the oldest population in the world. This is partly why Japan has become one of the slowest growing major economies. Aggressive government spending is needed to care for a huge portion of Japan’s population, and the problem is only getting worse as the population continues to age.
  7. Japan suffers from an imbalanced ratio of employed citizens and recipients of social benefits. Much like the United States, Japan’s social benefits system is increasingly problematic. Japan’s “Baby Boom” generation nearly all receive social security. Meanwhile, the section of the economy that pays for social security benefits is not keeping up with financial demands. Japan’s birth rate is likewise falling behind the number of new social benefit recipients. In fact, Japan is expecting to see an unsustainable ratio of ‘recipient to payer’ in social benefit programs by 2025.
  8. Japanese single mothers carry disproportionately heavy financial burdens. In Japanese culture, if a divorce occurs, the mother receives full child custody in nearly 80% of divorce cases. Right now, there is no enforcement of child support programs — meaning that single mothers in Japan may take on 100% of the financial burden of raising children. As a result, thousands of single mothers are left in poor economic standing and are forced to seek government assistance. Because the subject of single motherhood due to divorce is taboo, thousands of women live without assistance. This leaves many of them in extreme poverty.
  9. Abandoned houses have become a common phenomenon. “Akiya” is a term to define a house that has been vacated or abandoned and remains empty. According to World Habitat, there are currently around 9 million abandoned homes in Japan, with an expected increase of up to 21 million abandoned homes by 2033. This adversely affects poverty in Japan because the government is forced to repurpose and upkeep vacant houses; this is an enormous financial burden.
  10. Japanese poverty affects women differently than men. Japan has made some remarkable advancements towards equality in the workforce in recent years. 71% of women are employed, versus the 58% female employment rate a decade ago. Women in Japan also enjoy long and generous parental leaves. However, despite these progressive advances, the female workforce is facing an uncertain future, with prospective poverty rates for older women expected to reach 25% by 2040. With rapidly declining birthrates and increasing retirement rates, current female employment levels won’t be able to combat another wave of retirement recipients and the social benefit impacts.

Why This Knowledge is Important

The Japanese economy is the third-largest in the world, and Japan is regarded a global example of economic strength and prosperity. However, the hard reality is that Japan is a struggling country that is finding it harder to support its citizens every year. Without aid, Japan may find itself unable to provide and maintain its population without making drastic sacrifices — which would not only decrease the strength of Japan but also impact the wider global economy.

Donovan McDonald

Photo: Flickr

Education in Japan
Despite spending less on education than many other developed countries, Japan has one of the best education systems in the world. To better understand how this is achieved, here are 10 facts about education in Japan.

10 Facts About Education in Japan

  1. High school dropout rate: Japan’s high school dropout rate is at a low 1.27%. In contrast, the average high school dropout rate in the U.S. is at 4.7%.
  2. Equality in education: Japan ranks highly in providing equal educational opportunities for students, regardless of socioeconomic status. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Japan ranks as one of the highest in education equity. In Japan, only nine percent of the variation in student performance results from students’ socioeconomic background. In comparison, the average variation in the OECD is 14%, while the average variation in the U.S. is 17%.
  3. Teacher mobility: Japan assigns teachers to schools in a different way than most education systems. Unlike most countries, individual schools do not have the power to hire teachers. Instead, prefectures assign teachers to the schools and students who need them most. At the beginning of teachers’ careers, they move schools every three years. This helps teachers work in various environments instead of staying in one socioeconomic group of schools. As teachers advance in their careers, they move around less.
  4. Frugal spending: Japan does not spend a lot of money on its education system, with the Japanese government investing 3.3% of its GDP on education. This is over one percentage point less than other developed countries and is a result of Japan’s frugal spending. For example, the Japanese government invests in simple school buildings, rather than decorative ones. The country also requires paperback textbooks and fewer on-campus administrators. Finally, students and faculty take care of cleaning the school, resulting in no need for janitors.
  5. Teaching entrance exams: The teaching entrance exam in Japan is extremely difficult. It is of similar difficulty to the U.S. bar exam. Passing the exam results in job security until the age of 60, a stable salary and a guaranteed pension.
  6. Personal energy: Japanese education requires that teachers put in a great amount of personal energy. More common than not, many teachers work 12 or 13 hours a day. Sometimes teachers even work until nine at night.
  7. Emphasis on problem-solving: Teachers focus on teaching students how to think. Unlike some other countries that lean towards teaching students exactly what will be on standardized tests, Japan focuses on teaching students how to problem-solve. By emphasizing critical thinking, Japanese students are better able to solve problems they have never seen before on tests.
  8. Teacher collaboration: Japanese education highlights pedagogy development. Teachers design new lessons, and then present those to fellow educators in order to receive feedback. Teachers also work to identify school-wide problems and band together to find solutions. The education system constantly encourages teachers to think of new ways to better education in Japan and engage students.
  9. Grade progression: Japanese students cannot be held back. Every student can progress to the next grade regardless of their attendance or grades. The only test scores that truly matter are the high school and university entrance exams. Despite this seemingly unregulated structure, Japan’s high school graduation rate is 96.7%, while the U.S. (where attendance and good grades are necessary to proceed to the next grade) has a graduation rate of 83%.
  10. Traditional teaching methods: Despite being one of the most progressive countries in science and technology, Japan does not use much technology in schools. Many schools prefer pen and paper. To save money, schools use electric fans instead of air conditioning and kerosene heaters instead of central heating. However, technology is now slowly being introduced into classrooms with more use of the internet and computers for assignments.

Through these methods, Japan has established that teaching and schooling are highly regarded aspects of society. By looking at what Japan has done, other countries might be able to learn and adapt to this minimalistic, equitable education model.

– Emily Joy Oomen
Photo: Flickr

Wake Island

Wake Island is a small island located between Hawaii and Guam. Though people know the island as Wake Island, it is actually an atoll consisting of three smaller islands: Wake, Wilkes and Peale. Together, these islands create a 12-mile long coastline. The island is an “unincorporated territory of the United States” with restricted access. Here are 10 facts about living conditions on Wake Island.

10 Facts About Living Conditions on Wake Island

  1. Climate: Wake Island is a tropical area that receives fewer than 40 inches of rainfall annually. This contributes to why Wake Island has never had a population. Due to the lack of rainfall, “rainwater catchments and a distillation plant for seawater” provide the necessary water for the U.S. Army and military and contractors on the island. The island’s wet season runs from July to October with temperatures ranging from 74°F to 95°F.
  2. Population: In August 2006, a typhoon caused severe damage to structures on the land. The few inhabitants on the island had to evacuate to Hawaii. Wake Island has never been known to have a set population. It has been occupied by the military dating back to World War II. The island was previously used as a meeting ground between U.S. President Harry S. Truman and General Douglas MacArthur. After that, it served as a refugee camp for Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon.
  3. Economy: All food and manufactured goods are imported to Wake and all economic activity is highly restricted by the United States Army and military. Activity is limited to providing for military personnel and contractors located on the island.
  4. Healthcare System: Aside from the one doctor and nurse, there are no medical facilities available on the island. Inhabitants must travel to nearby hospitals located in Honolulu, almost 3,000 miles away.
  5. Vegetation: The three islands of the atoll are covered with smooth fragments of coral. The island has tropical trees and grasses scattered throughout that provide shelter for the island’s inhabitants. Though trees are found throughout, the island does not have any trees that provide food.
  6. Inhabitants: Besides the United States Army and military, Wake Island is not home to any other humans except for few contractors. The island’s largest inhabitants are rats and hermit crabs. At one point, rats counted for two million of the island’s population. Due to the overpopulation of rats, night rat hunting has become a popular sport on Wake. A project in 2012 was supposed to completely eradicate the rats, but it wasn’t entirely successful.
  7. Environment: The nearest disposal facility, located more than two-thousand miles across the ocean, makes ridding the island of solid waste difficult. Wake Island has accumulated large amounts of waste in open dumps. Since the island only stretches 12 miles across the coastline, waste takes up a majority of the island. This has been a contributing factor to the rat population. In 2014, the Department of Defense decided to calculate the amount of solid waste on Wake Island, and it determined that several thousand tons of waste are festering on the island, some of which dated back to WWII.
  8. Rehabilitation: Before environmental rehabilitation could begin, the AFCEC/611th Civil Engineer Squadron surveyed the waste first in bird nests because of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. After surveying, they found that 80 percent of the waste was wrapped in vegetation. The squadron removed the affected trees and shrubbery and collected and cleaned the waste.
  9. Waste Disposal: After they inspected, cleaned and sorted the waste, they brought barges to the island to assist in removal. Every barge used and filled was sent out to Seattle for disposal and recycling. In total, it took three barge seasons to remove a total of more than 3,000 tons of waste from Wake Island.
  10. Wake Island Now: As of now, the entire atoll has been named a National Historic Landmark because of the WWII battle that took place on the island in 1941. In order to protect the landmark and any surrounding wildlife, the United States Air Force has taken on the responsibility of preservation under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

These 10 facts about living conditions on Wake Island provide a little more insight into day-to-day life on the islands. Although this tropical island may look like paradise, it is simply a small military-run operation. Its historical significance will help to preserve the island as a Historic Landmark.

Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

Pros of Immigration

While many view immigration as a cultural crisis, the pros of immigration are significant. Immigration is a point of contention as immigrants change the face of a population and bring their own culture with them. Moreover, immigrants receive criticism if they do not fully integrate, by not speaking the country’s primary language. Some people simply feel there’s no room for immigrants. They fear their jobs will be taken or undercut by the low wages some immigrants are willing to work for.

In spite of these concerns, it is undeniable that immigrants infuse much needed vitality into the economy. They build businesses, create jobs and bring new perspectives. Most importantly, welcoming immigrants supports and promotes an international standard of human rights. Everyone should be able to settle somewhere safe, healthy and stable—especially if their native country is not so.

Below is an immigration case study of sorts, demonstrating the economic benefits of immigration in Japan, the U.S., and Western Europe.

Japan

Plagued by an aging population and declining birth rates, immigration provides Japan with a new source of young workers. The Japanese Health Ministry predicts that by 2060, the country’s population will fall to 86.74 million. This is a 40 million decrease since 2010. Currently, 20 percent of Japan’s population is over 65 years old. As a result, this burdens Japan’s shrinking workforce with the funds for their pensions and healthcare. But immigration into Japan ensures the nation’s economy can maintain itself as people retire.

Japan is historically unwelcoming to immigrants, believing peace and harmony to be rooted in homogeneity. As such, the nation’s immigration policy reflects this. Japan only allows a small number of highly skilled workers into the country. This policy has been in place since 1988 to combat labor shortages. However, this is no longer enough to combat Japan’s worsening economy. In 2018, labor shortages in the nation were the highest they had been in 40 years.

However, the pros of immigration in Japan are clear. Without it, Japan faces an incredibly insecure economic future. With no sign of population growth, the nation’s perpetually shrinking workforce will become unable to support its retired citizens. However, immigrants can round out the workforce in Japan. And they can neutralize any economic woes the nation might face in the future by preventing labor shortages.

USA

The cultural and economic contributions immigrants have made to America are vast, overwhelmingly advantageous and long-lasting.

A study done by economists at Harvard, Yale and the London School of Economics found US counties that accepted more immigrants between 1860 and 1920 are doing better today as a result. These counties have significantly higher incomes, higher educational achievement, less poverty and lower unemployment because immigrants provided the low-skilled labor needed to support rapid industrialization. Undeniably, immigrants have always and still continue to increase economic growth in America.

Similarly, immigrants in the U.S. have been integral to innovation and entrepreneurship. Half of all startups in America worth over a billion dollars have been founded by immigrants. Eleven of these startups employ more than 17,000 people in the U.S. Some of these companies, such as Uber and WeWork, have significantly changed American culture. They modify the way Americans live their daily lives. Therefore, the pros of immigration in the U.S. are grounded in the diversity of thought brought by immigrants, necessary to further American innovation and economic growth.

Western Europe

Like Japan, Western Europe is battling an aging population and declining birth rates. Fertility rates are expected to hit zero in the next decade. Consequently, this region may not be able to sustain its expansive social welfare programs as its workforce shrinks and retired populations grow. In Germany, the median age is 47.1 years, the oldest in Western Europe. This is only slightly younger than Japan’s 47.3 years. Besides convincing its native populations to have more children, immigration is their only alternative.

Immigration into Western Europe is an undeniable win for both the immigrants and the host countries. Many new immigrants in Western Europe have escaped unstable regimes, religious persecution, and economic downturn in North African and Middle Eastern countries. Thus, immigrants give the region a younger workforce that is able to sustain the region’s expensive social benefits. In return, Western Europe provides immigrants with jobs, stability, and a safe place to live.

While still a very divisive topic, the pros of immigration lie in its plethora of economic benefits. It is undeniable that immigration has always been the driver of economic growth, despite all of the criticism. Immigration provides immigrants with an alternative to oppressive regimes and other instability, of course. And the pros of immigration for nations absolutely outweigh the cons.

Jillian Baxter
Photo: Pixabay

female entrepreneursIn countries like the United States, female entrepreneurs account for 46.8 percent of the total businesses. The majority of these businesses are classified as small businesses, having fewer than 500 employees, but they generate almost $500 billion in payroll annually. This situation is worse in developing countries since women’s rights are not fully achieved and the opportunities for women to develop their own businesses are much more difficult to come by.

The reasons for Fewer Female Entrepreneurs

Why are there still fewer amounts of businesswomen than men not just in developing but in developed countries as well? Although developing countries may advocate more for women’s economic development, little is actually being done to provide more opportunities to change it. Since women’s failure rates are not that significantly different from those of men, researchers believe that gender bias is at fault and, thus, inhibiting the growth of women in the economy.

There is evidence that suggests that there are many reasons for the differences in the attitude about gender in business. One reason is that women and men often have different socioeconomic characteristics. If economists were to reform education, wealth, family and work status, those differences would disappear.

The Obstacles for Female Entrepreneurs

Africa remains one of the most successful leaders for efforts regarding female entrepreneurs. But, even the most successful countries still lack leadership, capital and professionalism, not to mention the inability to find affordable solutions in regard to childcare.

Countries like Japan have taken these shortcomings and transformed them into positive aspects of the economy. Womenomics is the idea that the advancement of women and economic development are necessarily linked. This philosophy is becoming widespread among developing nations. In Japan, these sorts of reformations can be credited to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Since taking office, Abe has generated a larger female labor force rate than that of the United States.

Some other countries have also made several reformations propelling womenomics. Jordan has increased women’s enrollment in schools by 37 percent. Turning these rates into economic success, however, still remains a challenge. Many studies suggest that economic growth for women needs to be viewed as desirable and attainable for the majority of society.

Female entrepreneurs also struggle with the duality of a society that places more value on a familial lifestyle. For example, a woman may own a business, but her time at work is often limited by her duties at home. Data in developing countries assert that many women leave the business lifestyle to return to familial duties.

A study regarding the results of holding executive positions for women in Norway revealed that the majority of people believe there should be established quotas to include women in management in companies. The results of the pole were 74 percent in favor of those quotas. Later studies showed that as women in the workplace reach a certain age, the stigma associated with their work duties do too.

Curbing the Stigma

Shifting the thought process among thousands of different demographic structures isn’t easy, but it is clear that the majority of the world needs higher female entrepreneurial participation rates. Reforming education, wealth, family and work status are not projects that take only months to complete, rather they need a comprehensive and flexible government that is willing to take on the challenge for years to come.

There are several ways to start thinking about reforming the factors for female entrepreneurs. Creating workshops to propel female economic empowerment is a start. The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is doing just that. They are working to find projects for investment as well as provide training to work under the Women’s Economic Empowerment Index (WEEI).

By ending the stigma associated duties deemed appropriate for females, both developing and thriving countries can further increase the chances of positive economic outcomes. Education and awareness programs are important components to overcoming these gender-related stigmas.

Financial Inclusion

Governmental structure and large economic aid can advance female economic empowerment too. We’ve known for a long time that access to financial services can be a powerful driver to help people lift themselves out of poverty. With a concerted push from governments, the private sector, and multilateral institutions including the World Bank Group, we believe we can close this gap,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in a meeting attempting to accelerate the growth of women’s empowerment.

The World Bank also states that simple financial education can greatly increase the chances of creating female entrepreneurs. There are so many aspects that can improve. For example, according to the World Bank, fewer than 10 percent of women in developing countries own a bank account. Access to financial institutions is an essential part of a successful business, which is why the organization started the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative. This initiative will provide financing opportunities for women who own businesses in developing countries.

Donations from the World Bank Group, education and female empowerment workshops to end stigmas are some of the best ways in which the women can become involved and empowered in the workforce. It won’t happen quickly, but when it does, the economic benefits will surpass previous stigmas surrounding women in business.

– Logan Moore

Photo: Flickr