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Elderly Poverty in South Korea

While South Korea is home to great technological developments and world-famous rising trends, it also has one of the highest numbers of impoverished elderly in a single developed country. Around half of the senior citizens are living in poverty with little to no support from relatives or the government. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, consists of over 30 countries that work with one another to encourage economic development. Unfortunately, despite all the economic progress it has made, South Korea has the highest elderly poverty rate of all OECD countries.

How Elderly Poverty in South Korea Came to Be

In the 1970s, a financial crisis hit South Korea that caused around 2 million people to be unemployed, many of these workers being senior citizens today. When the country began building its economy back up, many companies decided to replace the older generation of workers with younger ones. While the younger workers did not cost as much, the newly jobless population was left with no other choice but to retire earlier than expected.

In the present day, the now elderly population who was affected by the financial crisis have to support themselves by working non-conventional jobs. These jobs include picking trash off the street, cleaning or in the most extreme cases, elderly prostitution. Since this way of living is detrimental to the mental wellbeing of the older population, senior suicide rates have risen over time. Just three years ago, for senior citizens around 70 years old, nearly 50 people out of 100,000 committed suicide. For senior citizens around 80 years old, that number went up to 70 people per 100,000.

South Korea’s Welfare Programs

  • Comprehensive Welfare Program: In 2012, South Korea began the Comprehensive Welfare Program to benefit the impoverished elderly population. Senior citizens who are physically compromised were given assistance in everyday routines, such as housework or laundry. Meals are provided at senior citizen dining halls and even delivered for those who cannot make it to a meal service location. Social service and activity programs were implemented as well, which helps boost the mood of the elderly who would not have otherwise gotten a form of entertainment anywhere else.
  • Community Care Program: In 2019, South Korea announced the Community Care Program to aid senior citizens as well as other vulnerable groups. This program is spread all throughout South Korea, with application booths in plenty of local areas. Similar to the Comprehensive Welfare Program, the Community Care Program also provides in-home care services for physically compromised seniors, as well as food deliveries. This program also provides public housing and elderly daycare for those in need of special assistance and care. Additionally, 12 million won (nearly $12,000) will be provided as subsidies for senior citizens who continue to reside in the Community Care Program.

Creating Jobs for Seniors

In late 2019, South Korea’s employment rate continued to grow over 300,000 new jobs every month. Employment in late 2019 was around 27.5 million jobs, which is over 330,000 more jobs from the previous year. This hiring growth was because of the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s plans to increase senior jobs using the over 1.5 trillion won (nearly $1.5 billion) from their budget. Those who were out of a job previously were able to get a chance at improving their lives and livelihoods through becoming employed again.

– Karina Wong
Photo: Needpix

Food Supply Chains
Despite immense stress due to COVID-19, food supply chains have demonstrated resilience by offering a potential avenue for long-term poverty alleviation. The pandemic has threatened food security around the globe, with Feeding America reporting that as many as 17 million people could experience food insecurity in its wake. As such, food supply chains play an important role in assuring individuals’ access to food.

The Resilience of Food Supply Chains Amidst COVID-19

Food supply chains are the mechanism by which raw food becomes consumer-ready. These supply chains consist of farm production, processing, transportation and consumption. There are two primary categories of food supply chains. Firstly, domestic chains, in which food is produced and consumed in the same country. Second, international chains, in which food is transported across borders. Both domestic and international chains have been severely affected by the pandemic. However, there are notable differences in the impact on the two systems. This is due to their unique types of labor, transportation, and consumer demand among other conditions.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) explained that food supply chain complications disproportionately affect low- and middle-income countries. Wealthier countries, which use large-scale international chains, have more capital- and knowledge-intensive structures. These international supply chains have shown greater resilience amidst the pandemic. The recovery of international chains helps explain why low-income countries are experiencing disproportionate effects of the pandemic on food security.

In comparison, low-income countries primarily rely on small and medium domestic chains. Small domestic chains are more labor-intensive and thus affected more heavily by pandemic labor restrictions. Furthermore, the labor-intensive components of food supply chains are the hardest-hit by COVID-19. This impact stems from mobility restrictions, reduced workplace capacities and illness that limits employees’ ability to complete their jobs.

The Potential to Fight Poverty

Ensuring logistical flexibility and employee health is imperative in mitigating harm to domestic food chains. Social innovations are emerging to address the labor needs created by the pandemic. These innovations aim to increase the “flexibility of labor sourcing and timing,” by improving access to transportation, decreasing reliance on physical labor in certain production zones and improving hygiene and health education to avoid outbreaks in densely populated work areas.

Far beyond social innovation in labor, though, many believe the COVID-induced threat to food supply chains could provide an incredible opportunity for long-term poverty alleviation. One contributor to the International Food Policy Research Institute wrote: “During COVID-19, the bureaucratic, financial, logistical and technological reasons that always seemed to make actions impossible or improbable have fallen away.”

Food supply chain innovations have also addressed financial, managerial and health complications. These issues affect supply chains both in the short and long terms. For instance, digital innovation and the growth of e-commerce have played significant roles in enabling supply chains to overcome previously existing complications in the face of the pandemic.

Every type of food supply chain has increased e-commerce use. E-commerce decreases contact between workers and consumers and allows for easier food access around the globe. Apps developed by governments and businesses in places like India and China have allowed consumers direct access to food providers. Overall, these changes simplify the transportation process for food producers in countries around the world.

Innovations in Food Supply Chains

Large-scale supply chains and companies have also supported small and medium domestic supply chains with kick-starter financial support for COVID-19. Aid has also been provided to families and communities through voucher programs. Additionally, the World Bank has been working to stabilize prices across the various supply chains. By investing in the infrastructure and labor flexibility of domestic supply chains, governments and development partners have the power to strengthen global food security.

The threats to food supply chains have considerable policy implications, the OECD explains, underscoring the importance of open borders for importing and exporting food items. The World Bank released a joint statement calling for the free international movement of food to prevent a food insecurity emergency, calling on countries to cooperate to ensure food accessibility around the world. The statement also emphasizes the importance of making every step of food logistics accessible to prevent all people from going hungry, especially during pandemic lockdowns and restrictions.

– Emily Rahhal
Photo: Flickr

poverty in Uruguay
Situated on the Atlantic coast of South America is Uruguay, the second smallest country on the continent. With a population of more than 3.4 million and about 60% of them comprising the middle class, Uruguay stands as one of the most economically stable countries in the region. In fact, Uruguay has the lowest poverty rate in South America and is ranked high on such well-being indices as the Human Development Index. In building a secure place as a country, Uruguay has witnessed improvements as well as hindrances in various aspects of its society. Here are six facts about poverty in Uruguay.

6 Facts About Poverty in Uruguay

  1. Life is improving: The percentage of the population living on less than $3.20 per day in Uruguay significantly decreased from 2006 to 2017. While the rate peaked at 3.7% in 2006, it dropped to 0.4% by 2017. In accordance with the near eradication of extreme poverty, the moderate poverty in Uruguay also decreased from 32.5% in 2006 to 8.1% in 2018.

  2. Child labor: In Uruguay, child labor affects 8% of the 8 to 14 year olds. These children work long hours for low wages. In order to make meager earnings to financially support their families, many children in Uruguay forgo school education to work under unfavorable conditions. There has been little progress made to reduce child labor, as the percentage of children ages 5 to 14 in the workforce remained at a relatively constant rate of 6.1% in 2016. Nonetheless, certain organizations like the Telefónica Foundation have been working to raise awareness of and prevent child labor in Uruguay. One program under the organization is ProChild, which was established in 2000 and has developed since then to include a network of 10,000 participants. Another organization that helps children shift out of labor is the MIDES Youth Affairs Bureau. It employs various programs that keep children from entering the workforce at a young age by implementing education services and training.

  3. Higher quality of water sanitation: With the help of the World Bank Group, Obras Sanitarias del Estado (OSE) is now able to provide drinking water to 98% of Uruguayans. In previous years, there had been a chronic shortage of water supply and sanitation services in Uruguay due to the combined effect of low labor productivity and severe floods and droughts. However, with financial support from the World Bank Group, OSE has been able to significantly reduce water loss and continue its upward trajectory of water and sanitation quality.

  4. Decrease in unemployment: In 2002, Uruguay experienced an economic crisis that significantly impacted the country and created widespread unemployment, However, the unemployment rate decreased significantly over the next decade. It was estimated to be 7.6% in 2017 and remains low to this day. Still, the unemployment rate among the young generation has not fared well and continues to rise.

  5. Equitable income levels: There are still disproportionate rates of child- and afro-descendent-Uruguayan populations living below the national poverty. However, income levels in general have seen improvements. Among the poorest 40% of the population, average income levels have risen faster in comparison to the entire population’s average growth rates.

  6. Low gender inequality: The labor market participation ratio between female and male workers in Uruguay is the fourth highest in Latin America. Although the salary gap still exists, as in many of the OECD countries, there has been a steady flow of both female and male laborers into the workforce of Uruguay.

Multiple organizations have stepped up to address and improve the issue of poverty in Uruguay. One such organization is Caritas, which works to provide aid for the poor, from those who have been deprived of liberty to those who lack access to education. Especially through education, training and counseling, the organization has been able to help the most vulnerable groups in Uruguay to cope with their challenging situations.

Despite the recent progress made toward the issue of poverty in Uruguay, certain fundamental limitations in the funding of systems like infrastructure and education have constrained the maximum potential for growth. Certain groups like children and women remain more vulnerable to poverty. Nevertheless, the government has successfully implemented policies and efforts to close the gap between classes over the past years. Now, Uruguay stands on par with many other well-positioned countries around the world with relatively little aid from organizations.

Seunghee Han

Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Chile
Healthcare in Chile primarily comes from the state-funded insurance National Health Fund (Fondo National de Salud – FONASA) or from private companies collectively known as Las Instituciones de Salud Previsional (ISAPRE). According to a 2019 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 78% of the population participate in FONASA and around 17-18% enroll in ISAPREs, while 3-4% receive coverage from the armed forces insurance program. A number of newly implemented government reforms in Chile have challenged healthcare inequity to ensure universal healthcare for all.

Morbidity and Mortality

In the 1980s, a series of successful reforms decreased infant mortality rates (from 33 per 1,000 live births in 1980 to only eight per 1,000 in 2013) and improved communicable disease rates, nutrition and maternal and child health. While the health status of Chileans consistently fell below average among OECD nations in recent decades, the life expectancy in Chile in 2015 rose to 79.1 years in the last 40 years, nearly on par with its OECD peers. Determinants of health status include life expectancy, avoidable mortality rates, morbidity rates from chronic diseases and percentage of the population in poor health.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart diseases are identified as the burden of disease in Chile, accounting for 85% of all deaths. Key risk factors include high obesity rates, heavy tobacco use and increasing rates of alcohol consumption. The infant mortality rate is improving but remains high, as are mortality rates from cancer compared to cancer incidence.

Some Effective Government Measures

The Chilean government has undertaken effective measures to address the nation’s most urgent issues through a multi-intervention strategy that targets different population groups and settings:

  • Obesity: According to a 2016 WHO report, 39.8% of the Chilean population was overweight, and another 34.4% was obese. Childhood overweight and obesity rate is particularly problematic at 45%, with no reduction in prevalence over the past 15 years. Chile has implemented nationwide policies to tackle behaviors that cause obesity, especially inadequate physical inactivity and unhealthy diets. At the national level, mass media, such as websites, Twitter, TV and radio adverts, educates the public on healthy food choices and emphasizes the consumption of vegetables and fruits. The government has also mandated labels on packed foods that indicate high caloric content in salt, sugar and fat.
  • Tobacco Use: Tobacco consumption rates in Chile in 2016 stood at 37% (41% among men and 32% among women) of the adult population. Adult smoking rates have declined from 45.3% in 2003 and 39.8% in 2009, a percentage below average in comparison to other nations. Since joining the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 2005, Chile has implemented various tobacco control policies, such as prohibiting smoking in public spaces, requiring health warnings on tobacco products and raising taxes on these products.
  • Cancer Care: The OECD projected that cancer could soon become the leading cause of mortality in Chile. Among men, prostate, stomach, lung, colorectal and liver cancer have the highest mortality rates. In women, breast, colorectal, lung, stomach and pancreas cancer account for high mortality rates. To lessen the burden of cancer, Chile has reinforced its cancer care system and launched nationwide programs focused on cervical and breast cancer and cancer drugs for adults and children. From 2011 to 2015, Chile reduced cancer by 4.1%.

Challenging Inequity

The establishment of the National Health System (NHS) in 1952, subsequent expansions and reforms together enabled Chile’s move towards universal coverage with more than 98% of the population having some kind of health insurance. However, inequality remains one of the main challenges in Chile’s two-tier healthcare system, mainly due to the unequal distribution of resources between the underfunded public facilities and the elitist private clinics. Equity monitoring shows less insurance coverage for less educated people, low-income quintiles, residents from rural areas and those with state insurance.

Significant inequalities due to socioeconomic position and residence area persist. According to a study that PLOS Medicine published, the infant mortality rate among the highest educated women was 2.3 times lower than the least educated, while the ratio was 1.4 between urban and rural residence. Risk factors like obesity, alcohol use disorders and cardiovascular risks also disproportionately affected the least educated segment of the population.

Moving Forward

Despite tremendous challenges, healthcare in Chile has improved thanks to the government’s effort to prioritize health reforms. In 2005, Chile launched Universal Access with Explicit Guarantees (AUGE) program that sought to improve access, timeliness and quality of care in the public sector. The OECD assessed that the system of healthcare in Chile is overall “well-functioning, well-organized and effectively governed,” with a particularly robust public healthcare program that operates efficiently on both the central and regional levels. Although challenges such as rising rates of certain NCDs and inequities between sectors and populations persist, the country’s ambitious reforms demonstrate its preparedness to tackle these issues.

– Alice Nguyen
Photo: Flickr

Pest ControlAgriculture is often crucial to the economies of lower-income nations. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 60% of the population is smallholding farmers and about 23% of the GDP comes from agriculture. Because of the importance of this industry, pest control can become a major issue in a lot of countries.

Influence of Pesticides

When pests are not properly handled, produce is damaged, which leads to reduced yields and profits. If crops are drastically damaged, it can lead to a decrease in food supply and an increase in prices. When pesticides were first introduced to farmers in Africa, it seemed to be a quick and easy form of pest control to fix their infestation problems. Pesticides increased yields, which led to higher household incomes and more trading. However, pesticides present their own set of obstacles. When mishandled, pesticides can be very dangerous. Many farmers lack the proper knowledge and equipment to safely administer the chemicals. This can cause health problems among farmers, contaminate soil and water sources, and result in pesticide-resistant insects.

Pesticidal Pollution in Kenya

A study conducted in 2016 that tested the water quality of Lake Victoria in Kenya revealed the negative impact pesticides had on the environment in the area.In May 1999, the European Union imposed a fish import ban on all fish from Lake Victoria when it was discovered 0rganochlorine pesticides were being used to fish in the lake. This ban resulted in an estimated $300 million loss for Kenya.

Organochlorine pesticides are mostly banned in high-income nations, but they are still used illegally in East Africa. Sometimes organochlorine pesticides are also used in East Africa for “public health vector control,” meaning to control the population of pests that spread diseases. The continued use of these pesticides is cited as a reason why pesticidal pollution was still found in Lake Victoria in 2016. Testing the water revealed that the pesticide concentrations in the lake were higher during the rainy seasons compared to the dry seasons. This led to the conclusion that the pesticides were entering the lake from contaminated runoff from surrounding farms. Those conducting the study concluded that the lake contaminations presented an immediate danger to the animals and humans relying on the lake as a food and water supply, due to the pesticide bioaccumulation entering the food chain.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Cases such as Lake Victoria’s are why the government, academic and public agricultural agencies have been promoting the use of IPM. IPM is a system that aims to decrease the need for pesticides by “incorporating non-chemical techniques, such as pruning strategies or soil amendments that make plants less inviting to pests, using insect traps that monitor pest populations so growers can be more precise with chemical sprays or adopting pest-resistant crop varieties.” The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have all supported the IPM process. Still, IMP has been slower to spread to the low-income nations of the world.

Whereas pesticides are made to be harmful and heavy-handed, IPM requires more finesse and care. IPM requires farmers to possess significant pest management knowledge in order to be effective. They must closely monitor their crops and keep detailed records. This is a difficult change for a farmer to make, especially when failure can have dire consequences, as they rely on their farms for food and income. However, with proper training and knowledge, IPM can present a good alternative for pest control to farmers who lack easy access to pesticides or can’t afford them.

The FAO has been using the Farmer Field School program to try to teach IPM and other sustainable farming practices to farmers in low-income nations. Programs like these are likely the most effective way to teach farmers about alternatives to pesticides. They may be able to help farmers in low-income nations find the resources necessary for safe and successful pest control.

Agriculture is often very important to the economies of lower-income nations. Improper use of pesticides, due to a lack of resources, can end up negatively impacting the environment in those areas where people are trying to grow crops. Programs like the Farmer Field School Program may be able to help lower-income nations transition to safer pesticide methods, such as IPM.

– Lindsey Shinkle
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in SwitzerlandMany know Switzerland for its high standard of living and hail its healthcare system as one of the best in the world—in fact, it often ranks as one of the top 10 healthcare systems worldwide. However, while healthcare in Switzerland is universal, it is not free or public, which makes it very expensive.

How It Works

All residents pay for their own health insurance. Unlike other countries, healthcare does not receive funding from government taxes. Even children and retirees must have their own individual health plan. The Swiss government mandates that health insurance providers cannot reject applicants for any reason and that all insurance providers offer a basic level of healthcare coverage to ensure that all citizens can obtain insurance.

The basic level of health insurance is identical across all Swiss insurance providers, covering expenses such as general check-ups and treatments, prescription costs, vaccinations, hospital visits and more. A basic healthcare plan covers around 80-90% of a person’s medical costs.

Health Insurance Companies

The role of health insurance companies in Switzerland is complicated. As private companies, they are competitive and seek profit. However, since law dictates that they all have to offer the same medical services under the mandatory basic health insurance, companies have limited competition.

Healthcare insurance companies have decreased in number within the past 20 years, from over 1,000 to less than 100. Their influence on political decisions is high since many government officials represent and defend their interests.

Pros and Cons

The Swiss government legally requires anyone staying in Switzerland for over 90 days to acquire health insurance, no matter the total length of stay. Healthcare in Switzerland is expensive, and people pay for most treatments out-of-pocket rather than receiving reimbursement later.

Switzerland’s high healthcare costs partially come from the fact that the government-mandated private insurance premiums largely fund the healthcare system. Healthcare providers charge more money from individuals to cover medical costs and business expenses since the government does not fund healthcare.

However, healthcare standards are high and citizens can receive excellent quality care across the country. Since basic healthcare is mandatory for all residents, every person has an entitlement to the same coverage and standard of care.

Swiss health insurance companies cannot deny insurance or charge inflated insurance rates for those with pre-existing conditions. Depending on customers’ age and insurance package of choice, some health insurance companies also will charge the same fee for the duration of the residency in Switzerland. Insurance rates may not increase even in the event of sickness or injury.

Comparison with Other Countries

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) compared healthcare in Switzerland with healthcare in the 37 other OECD countries. It found that Switzerland’s model of universal health insurance coverage provides a wide variety of medical services and high patient satisfaction, but the percentage of Switzerland’s GDP that goes towards health is the second-highest in the OECD area.

Other OECD countries perform equally as well or even better in terms of healthcare at a lower cost. Switzerland spends the highest GDP, around 12%, on healthcare in comparison to other European countries. Swiss residents also spend an average of 10% of their salary on health insurance.

– Kathy Wei
Photo: Unsplash

The Societal Consequences Of Climate Change
In this day and age, climate change has grown to be one of the largest issues around the world and it is important to understand its environmental impacts. First, the increase in average temperatures contributes to the phenomenon of global warming that affects millions of species and plants. In addition, extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, have become too common and far more destructive than before. Another primary consequence of climate change is the reduction of Arctic sea ice. Ice melts have contributed to sea levels rising, mainly in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. According to the EPA, sea levels have risen approximately 8 inches since 1870. The world should take action to stop climate change before it is too late. The consequences of climate change could worsen in the coming years.

Many mainly focus on the environmental effects of climate change. Now, it is time for the world to shift its focus towards the societal effects that climate change has on all ages. Specifically, individuals who live poor livelihoods are more prone to poverty due to the climatic disasters that occur around the world. Living in vulnerable regions with limited resources affects people the most as it is more difficult to recover. As the repercussions of climate change worsen, escaping poverty becomes more and more difficult. As a result, issues like food insecurity and the lack of access to water become more prevalent. Here are some societal consequences of climate change.

Food Insecurity

Climate change has become a benefactor for global poverty by contributing to the issue of food security. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the climate affects all four dimensions of food security including food availability, food accessibility, food utilization and food system stability. Typically, the consequences of climate change mostly affect those who are most vulnerable to food insecurity. By experiencing the immediate risk of increased crop failure, new patterns of pests and diseases and loss of livestock, these individuals are not able to depend on stable food supply. To add, almost 60 percent of the world’s population depends on the agriculture industry in respective areas. When climate phenomenons hinder agricultural productivity, food insecurity puts risks on the livelihood of many individuals.

With this being said, leaders, such as the United States of America, have taken action to help combat this issue in developing nations. For example, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee supplied over $2 billion in climate-sensitive development support to developing countries in 2017. This included approximately $300 million targeted towards the food security sector. Moreover, projects like these provide an opportunity for global powers to display leadership qualities and allow countries that need aid in the food security sector to receive it. With proper access to food and stability within this industry, undernourishment will be an improving problem.

Access to Water in Developing Countries

Climate change seems to have a major impact on water access in developing countries. According to The New York Times, The number of months with record-high rainfall increased in the central and Eastern United States by more than 25 percent between 1980 and 2013. With this statistic being even higher in the eastern hemisphere, it is evident that floods have become a serious issue that many are concerned about. Climate scientists state that the soil and farmland absorb the excess water. Consequently, this means that the Earth could become contaminated with fertilizers and other chemicals. This polluted water typically travels to larger bodies of water such as the ocean, ultimately limiting water access for humans.

In addition, droughts are a growing issue in areas with hotter climates, limiting access to clean water. The lack of access to water can lead to health issues such as diarrhea and cholera. It can also affect the business sector in many nations. The Lifewater organization touches on this subject and explains that water is an essential component processing raw goods for food and textiles. This process provides jobs for millions and helps produce products such as coffee and chocolate. By understanding the importance of water to the health and economy, organizations such as UNICEF have implemented programs to educate the public on how to find access to clean water when natural disasters like floods and droughts occur. In the future, this action will also help alleviate poverty in areas that are at risk.

It is important that the international community shifts its focus on the societal consequences of climate change. Individuals such as Greta Thunberg and Christina Figueres already addressed this throughout the current fight against climate change. Hopefully, this will push governments around the world to implement policies that are more climate-sensitive. People need to view the current crisis from a larger perspective as it affects millions of individuals and their lifestyles. According to an article by BBC News, the world only has approximately 18 months before the effects of environmental change become permanent. In that period of time, it must highlight both environmental and societal consequences, and implement climate-sensitive policies. Additionally, individuals should believe in these improvements as they can lead to other positive changes such as alleviating poverty in lower developed nations.

Srihita Adabala
Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About Education in Slovakia
Slovakia is a landlocked nation in Central Europe and the easternmost territory that comprised former Czechoslovakia. Slovakia obtained independence and recognition as a sovereign state in 1993, three years after the downfall of Czechoslovakia’s Communist government. As is the case in most of the developed world, Slovakia’s economy is primarily white-collar in nature, so the country relies on high education standards to maintain a population of qualified workers. Here are 8 facts about education in Slovakia.

8 Facts About Education in Slovakia

  1. The Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic determines the broad strokes of the national curriculum. However, the implementation falls under the purview of Slovakia’s eight administrative regions. The local municipalities also create their own guidelines for upper secondary education standards. Although most schools use Slovak as their language of instruction, ethnic and linguistic minorities are free to attend schools with teachers fluent in other languages. German, Hungarian and Ruthenian are among the more common alternatives.
  2. Primary and secondary education is free to all Slovaks, so long as they attend a public institution. Universities are also free of charge, but students who fail to graduate within the expected length of time must pay for any courses they haven’t yet taken. The state mandates that all teachers hold a post-graduate degree as a job requisite.
  3. Some Slovakians opt to send their children to private or church-run schools instead of the nationally managed public school system. Private schools must comply with the same state education requirements and while they do not generally offer free tuition, the Slovakian government does provide them with the same funding public schools receive. Currently, 13 Slovakian universities operate independently.
  4. Education in Slovakia is compulsory from ages 6 to 15. Kindergarten is a voluntary phase of Slovakia’s education system intended for students aged 3 to 6. Kindergarten students learn how to communicate properly, as well as rudimentary knowledge and skills that will prepare them for primary school.
  5. Slovaks enroll in primary school the year they turn six and continue for nine years. Primary school students are separated into two age classes: Junior Students (grades 1 – 4) and Middle Students (grades 5 – 9). Secondary schools specialize in either vocational training or university preparation, and all provide a sequence of general education courses. Pending graduates must pass final exams in order to progress with or complete their education.
  6. As mentioned above, students have a choice between vocational training or college preparatory programs. Following successful completion of their secondary school examinations, vocational students receive advanced training in one of a variety of mechanical and technical disciplines, while college-prep students generally matriculate at universities. Slovakia’s 33 universities offer education within an array of subject areas at the bachelor’s, masters and doctoral levels.
  7. As of 2016, Slovakia’s education funding stood at 3.9 percent of the national GDP, ranking 109th worldwide. In 2019, London think-tank The Legatum Institute ranked Slovakia’s education system 48th out of 167 countries evaluated, and 2019 data from The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) noted an upward trend in education spending ($15.87 per student). However, the OECD also identified a decline in Slovakian students’ math, reading, and science scores.
  8. Some Slovaks have expressed dissatisfaction with the national education system. A survey conducted by researchers at Bratislava’s Comenius university revealed that around 50 percent of the respondents would rather receive their higher education abroad than at home. They complain the Slovakian schools rely on rote memorization rather than critical thinking and experiential learning, and also indicate that Romani students and those with disabilities feel underserved and marginalized.

These 8 facts about education in Slovakia highlight the accessibility of Slovakian education, as well as some areas that still need improvement. Moving forward, the Slovakian government must address these concerns as it continues to refine its education system.

Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Wikimedia

Girls' Education in Macedonia
The Republic of North Macedonia, commonly referred to as Macedonia, is a republic in the Balkan Peninsula. After the country’s independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Macedonia had a tumultuous relationship with Greece. Macedonia became a U.N. member in 1993, and in 1995, Greece and Macedonia agreed to ease tensions in their relationship. After Macedonia’s 29 years of existence as a nation, girls’ education in Macedonia is coming into the spotlight as part of the country’s initiative to improve its education system. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Macedonia.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Macedonia

  1. Mandatory Education: Both primary and secondary education is mandatory in Macedonia. Primary education lasts for nine years for all children aged 6 to 15. Secondary education lasts for four years for teenagers aged 15 to 19 for both general and vocational education. General secondary education is compulsory between the ages of 6 to 19 and 6 to 17, and vocational training is compulsory for ages 17, 18 or 19.
  2. Decentralized Education System: The education system in Macedonia is decentralized. Except for the secondary schools in Skopje, the capital, Macedonia’s decentralized education system places both the administrative and financial responsibilities of public education in the hands of local governments. The national government provides financial resources for education in each municipality, and local municipality councils are responsible for distributing these resources.
  3. Roma Girls: Early marriage makes Roma girls’ education in Macedonia more challenging. The Romani people, commonly called Roma, are one of the ethnic minorities in Macedonia. In 2002, an estimated 2.7 percent of the Macedonian population was Romani. USAID reported that Roma girls are especially vulnerable to early marriages. This results in lower school-completion rates compared to other ethnic groups in Macedonia.
  4. Roma Women’s Illiteracy: Illiteracy among Roma women is high. UNICEF’s 2013 report highlighted illiteracy among Roma women as one of the key education issues in Macedonia. This Romani education issue parallels with Macedonia’s gender discrimination issues. In 2013, UNICEF stated that only 77 percent of Romani women were literate. The report attributes this to their 86 percent primary school enrollment rate.
  5. Gender and Socio-Economic Situations: Gender, socio-economic situations and race play a role in girls’ education in Macedonia. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported that in 2011, the NAR (net attendance ratio) of Roma girls rose from 21 percent to 35 percent. This rise is still a lackluster number of enrollments compared to the 85 percent NAR of Macedonian and Albanian children. This 35 percent NAR showed that the lowest attendance was in both extremely poor and extremely wealthy families. Nearly 60 percent of Romani children did not attend secondary school. This lack of secondary education attendance is the root cause of the continuing cycle of unemployment and social exclusion.
  6. Girls in Rural Areas: USAID’s Gender Analysis Report found that 31 percent of girls in Macedonia between the ages of 14 to 15 do not continue their education after primary schooling, and this is especially in rural areas. In rural areas, 42 percent of secondary school-aged children are out of school. To remedy this, USAID recommends the Macedonian government target girls and boys in rural areas with a high population of ethnic minorities when planning their education projects.
  7. Increasing Girls’ Education: Girls’ education in Macedonia is on the rise. UNESCO’s country profile of Macedonia noted an upward trend in Macedonian children’s participation in education. True to the trend in the data, girls’ education in Macedonia is on the rise along with the general education ratio in the country. Compared to 2009, when 4,862 girls were out of school, there were only 2,927 children who were out of school in 2019.
  8. Inclusive Education: The Macedonian government is striving to improve inclusive education. Inclusive education aims to provide quality education to all children regardless of their gender, socio-economic background, disability or race. Working closely with UNICEF and the OECD, the Macedonian Ministry of Education and Science is training teachers according to the inclusive education guidelines provided by UNICEF.
  9. The Macedonian Government’s Commitment: The Macedonian government has committed itself to the improvement of access to quality pre-primary education. The Macedonian government committed to improving and expanding access to pre-primary school education in the country because around 61 percent of pre-primary aged children do not attend preschools. In April 2019, Mila Carovska, Minister of Labor and Social Policy, told UNICEF that her ministry’s budget for capital investment increased by 300 percent, which shows the Macedonian government’s commitment to the project.
  10. Girls Versus Boys: According to the OECD’s 2019 of review and assessment of North Macedonia’s education system, girls in Macedonia are outperforming boys in school. According to the report, Macedonian girls are outperforming boys by 20 score points in science and seven score points in mathematics.

While there is certainly room for improvement in girls’ education in Macedonia, it is clear that the Macedonian government is taking steps toward improving education. Girls’ education in Macedonia is not a singular issue of gender discrimination. Rather, it is a diverse issue that has its roots in socio-economic backgrounds and race of the girls in Macedonia. With the help of international groups such as OECD and UNICEF, the Macedonian government is improving the education of girls.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

eating plant-based
Many people (820 million) around the world fall asleep hungry every night. Some have taken significant steps to help feed those who lack the significant food necessary to survive, but those steps have not yet been enough to completely combat hunger and poverty. One easy step that every person could take to make a small difference in helping the hungry, though, would be eating plant-based. Studies show that decreasing one’s meat intake could ultimately help save lives and feed those who cannot afford to feed themselves.

The Effects of Meat-Eating on Poverty

Estimates determine that global meat production will steadily increase due to a rise in the pork and poultry industry in developing countries. According to Livestock Production Science, almost two-thirds of all livestock around the world are in developing countries. Yet many of these farms are industrial animal farms that require the importation of grains, animal units, tractors and other necessary processors necessary to raise livestock. Because of inadequate wages for farmers and the excess of tools needed to produce and sell meat, the rise of poultry and livestock farms is creating more poverty in developing countries.

In addition to insignificant wages for farmers, industrial animal agriculture creates problems such as how it can detrimentally affect the environment and human health, put small family-run farms out of business and use food sources inefficiently. According to a joint report of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the U.N. (FAO), cheap food, such as legumes and cereal, could feed hungry people, but instead feeds livestock. The result of eating more plant-based is that one will waste less energy, save more water and gain additional space and money.

Fighting Poverty

Although the rise of meat production is doing more harm than good, the rise of veganism and vegetarianism is uncovering data that highlights the benefits of eating plant-based. According to a report in The Lancet, “almost two-thirds of all soybeans, maize, barley, and about a third of all grains are used as feed for animals.” Another study highlights that eating less beef and more legumes would open up 42 percent more croplands, which could grow plant-based foods to feed more people.

In addition to opening up more croplands, eating more plant-based can allow farmers to grow more food with the land that they have. According to the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, it takes 56 million acres of land to grow feed for animals in the United States alone, while farmers use only 4 million acres to produce plants for humans to actually eat. By using this land for plant-based foods rather than meat, farmers could harvest a much larger quantity of food and feed those who are hungry and in poverty.

Every Step Makes a Difference

Scientific research has found that eating plant-based can make a huge impact on human health, the environment and poverty. Although veganism and vegetarianism may not be an option for everybody, every small step can make a huge difference in feeding the hungry and saving lives.

– Paige Regan
Photo: Wikimedia