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7 facts about living conditions in australia
In 2015, Australia was ranked as the second-best country in the world in terms of quality of life. This report was based on a number of living condition factors, including financial indicators, like average income, and health standards, education and life expectancy. The following 7 facts about living conditions in Australia further illustrate what life is like in the Land Down Under. Many of these facts are based upon data retrieved from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), comprised of 36 member countries and founded to stimulate world trade.

7 Facts About Living Conditions in Australia

  1. Children Are an Impoverished Group: As of 2018, 13.2 percent of Australians (around three million people) were living below the poverty line, 730,000 of which are children under the age of 15. According to the Poverty in Australia 2018 report, a large reason for the overwhelming number of impoverished children is the high poverty rate among single-parent families relying on a single income. In terms of money, living below the poverty line in Australia translates to earning $433 per week for a single adult, or $909 per week for a married couple with two children. Most individuals experiencing poverty in Australia rely on Government allowance payments, like Youth Allowance and Newstart.
  2. Sanitation is Good: The percentage of homes in Australia that have access to an indoor flushing toilet is more than 95.6 percent, which is the OECD average. Additionally, more than 90% of Australians report satisfaction with their water quality. Access to running water and the high quality of water makes Australia above average in relation to the other 36 OECD member countries.
  3. A Wage Gap Exists: The gap in income between the rich and poor in Australia is quite large; the wealthiest 20 percent of Australians earn almost six times as much as the poorest 20 percent of Australians. This income inequality has been steadily rising since the mid-1990’s. One attempt to remedy income inequality in Australia is a progressive system of income tax, meaning that as an individual’s income increases, they will pay a higher amount of their income in tax. Additionally, social welfare payments account for around 35 percent of the Australian government’s budget. In 2017-2018, this translated to a $164 billion budget for social security and welfare.
  4. Australians Are Staying Employed: Seventy-three percent of Australians aged 15 to 64 have paid jobs, while the percentage of Australians who have been unemployed for one year or longer is 1.3 percent. The percentage of employed Australians is higher than the OECD average. Though the Australian job market thrives, Australians have a below-average ranking in work-life balance.
  5. Strong Education: The average Australian citizen will receive 21 years of education between the ages of 5 and 39, which is the highest amount of education in the OECD. Roughly 64 percent of children in Australia attend public schools, while 34 percent attend private or Catholic schools. Additionally, not only is the education system strong for Australian citizens, but international education offered to foreign students is Australia’s third largest export, valued at $19.9 billion.
  6. Rising Crime Rates: Over the past 2 decades, the number of reported crimes has risen dramatically; for example, from 1977-1978, the number of reported break-ins was 880 per thousand. From 1997-1998, this number rose to 2,125 per thousand. In the same period, assaults have risen from 90 to 689 per thousand of population and robberies have risen from 23 to 113 per thousand. While many of these 7 facts about living conditions in Australia indicate increasing quality of life for citizens, rising crime rates affect feelings of security, which has a negative effect on standards of living in Australia.
  7. Improving Health Standards: Health standards in Australia have risen substantially since 1947. From 1947 to 1989, the life expectancy of women increased by 10.9 years, while the life expectancy of men has risen by 9.8 years. Since 1990, life expectancy has risen even more, increasing by another 1.4 years for women and 2 years for men.

With one of the strongest performing economies in the world, Australians experience thriving, stable financial conditions. The education system is well organized and accessible, and health standards have increased and driven the life expectancies of Australians up over the last 70 years.

Yet, despite the tremendous growth and development in Australia, there are areas in standards of living that demand improvement. Perhaps most importantly, income inequality in Australia is alarmingly high, and poverty rates of citizens, and especially children, plagues the strength of Australian society. These 7 facts about living conditions in Australia indicate a thriving and desirable country with a need for concentrated focus on income inequality to eradicate staggering poverty in the lower class.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

tax evasion in sub-Saharan Africa

Tax evasion, while a global issue, particularly hinders sub-Saharan Africa economic growth. In fact, the total amount of lost taxes exceeds the amount of foreign aid sent to the region. Tax evasion in Sub-Saharan Africa deprives governments of the ability to provide vital services, such as healthcare, education and disaster relief, to the 413 million people living below the poverty line.

By the Numbers

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that Africa loses $50 billion to tax evasion annually. Some place the figure much higher; for example, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that $100 billion is lost.  Compared with the total amount of foreign aid sent in 2017, $43.5 billion, the region experiences a net loss of approximately $6.5 billion, while using the more conservative OECD estimate.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) found that a wide financing gap exists in Africa. A financing gap refers to the difference between the amount needed to achieve Sustainable Development Growth (SDG) and actual government revenue. The UNCTAD estimates that there is a financing gap of $210 billion for key government initiatives, including infrastructure, food security, healthcare and education.

Resource Extraction Drives Tax Evasion in Sub-Saharan Africa

Multinational companies involved in resource extraction are particularly effective at paying only a small share of the taxes that they owe. Mineral and oil extraction companies are responsible for much of the tax evasion in Sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for total annual losses of up to 6 percent of African GDP. The Southern African Catholics Bishops Conference recently wrote a letter to 21 mining companies operating in South Africa; they asked each to explain their use of tax havens, the purpose of their subsidiaries, and if tax evasion was consistent with their corporate social responsibility policies.

The OECD launched the Africa Initiative Report in 2014, which includes 29 of the 46 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, as a means to combat tax evasion. The OECD hopes to increase cooperation between member countries, which will provide greater transparency. The progress being made is incremental, but most member countries are meeting the requirements set out by the OECD. The first and among the most important steps is for African countries to develop Exchange of Information (EOI) systems. EOIs allow for member countries to request relevant profit and tax information from one another. The 29 countries had a total of 23 people on EOI staff in 2014; in 2018, that number has grown to 79 staff members, prompting the OECD to describe the situation as “greatly improved.”

Tax Justice Network Africa

Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA) is a research and advocacy organization working to promote “equitable, inclusive and sustainable development”. They point to tax evasion in Sub-Saharan Africa as a major cause of revenue loss. To stymie tax loss, TJNA calls for a more transparent global financial network; tax havens, or countries with very low effective tax rates, present an obstacle to achieve this goal. However, TJNA hopes to establish an Intergovernmental Tax Commission (ITC) in the United Nations in order to set international tax standards. The ITC, according to TJNA, would allow for greater conformity and make it more difficult for businesses to evade taxation.

A Broad Coalition

Tax evasion in Sub-Saharan Africa is a major cause of concern. However, international organizations and African countries are partnering to tackle it. If successful, Africa can expect to reap an additional $50-100 billion in annual tax revenue. While the 413 million people living in poverty will benefit significantly from higher rates of tax compliance, business can expect to benefit as well. As African economies continue to develop, businesses will have more opportunity for investment in emerging markets. Capital currently flows out of African economies. If the trend is reversed, governments, citizens and businesses will all benefit.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Germany
The world knows Germany, a Western European nation, for its rich history spanning back two millennia, famous cities, such as Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt and a festive culture that includes famous events, like Oktoberfest. However, the living conditions in Germany may surprise those who have not lived there.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Germany

  1. Most German cities have a strong sense of order, influenced by a strict and efficient bureaucracy. People keep cities clean due to sanitary rules. There are many regulations concerning everyday life, especially in small cities. For example, Swabia, a region of Germany, has laws for cleaning that go back to 1492. Swabia has the tradition of Kehrwoche, which translates to sweep week and involves residents taking up the responsibility of cleaning their homes and neighborhoods.
  2. PM2.5 describes a measurement of particulate matter in the air that can cause damage to the lungs. The PM2.5 in Germany is “14 mg per cubic meter” which is higher than the average. The particulate can come from “power generation, domestic heating and in vehicle engines.” Germany does not use significant amounts of renewable energy, so the use of coal is causing a high amount of PM2.5 to be present. Germany’s water quality, however, is great with “91% of people [saying] they satisfied” with their water quality.
  3. A sense of community tends to be strong for the average German citizen, and a survey by the OECD found that “90% of [Germans] believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need.” This strong support for others is an integral part of German culture.
  4. The average German household has a “relatively high average household disposable income per capita,” and the families are able to spend more on wants over needs. This is due to the fact that the average German worker has higher job security and earnings than in other countries.
  5. In general, children have high-quality living conditions. “However, 31.7% of German children live in homes with self-reported poor environmental conditions,” which means that these children are missing many things that their peers are able to enjoy, such as homes with outdoor “areas to play…winter clothing…seeing a film once a month.” Though children in upper-class families tend to have overall high-quality lives, people tend to bully their low socio-economic counterparts more frequently, who often have a lower quality of life at home.
  6. The life expectancy in Germany is approximately 81 years, which is close to the European average of 80 years. “Life expectancy for women is 84 years, compared with 79 for men.” This shows improvement over time since the life expectancy in 2002 was 81 years for women and 75 years for men. Easy access to good health care and high food and water security may contribute to this.
  7. For education, 86.3 percent of German adult workers have finished an upper secondary education. Adults have literacy and numeracy skills that are similar to other European nations. Also, “about 75% of people aged 15 to 64” have employment in Germany.
  8. The positive living conditions of the average citizen are drastically better than asylum seekers, who are living in horribly dirty conditions in refugee centers. They do not have access to clean bathrooms and reside in overcrowded bedrooms. Some fear that Germany is keeping the conditions unlivable in order to deter refugees from seeking asylum in the country.
  9. Rural towns in Germany are rife with unemployment, and a majority of citizens are moving to cities in search of jobs. The main types of jobs for a rural town, such as farming, are starting to lose value. According to the Federal Statistical Office, “more and more people are moving into the towns as new jobs in our knowledge society become available.”
  10. The population is aging, with more people dying than being born. The baby boomer generation, which includes 50 to 60-year-olds, are starting to retire, but there are not adequate numbers of youth to fill the growing vacancy in the average workplace. A study found that “Germany will need at least 260,000 immigrants a year…to meet increasing demand for labour.”

Germany has a culture that focuses on efficiency, cleanliness and high living conditions. The population is falling, but the life expectancy is rising, while many educated Germans are able to join the growing knowledge sector in many major cities. Though the situation in the refugee centers is grim, Germany is processing many refugees every day to join the millions of people who enjoy the living conditions in Germany.

– Anish Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

Health Care Reform in Turkey
In a very revolutionary move, Turkey has made cancer treatment essentially accessible for all. Labour and Social Security Minister Jülide Sarıeroğlu announced in a written statement that the country has abolished all extra fees that were charged in treatment, surgery and medication of cancer.

This new shift in policy is part of a longstanding effort to improve health care in Turkey and make health care coverage available for all, particularly the nation’s poor.

Universal Health Care in Turkey

The policy was approved earlier this year and shows further commitment to universal health care in Turkey. Sarıeroğlu added that Turkey will continue to make improvements to its health care system regardless of costs.

The impact this will have on the population is significant as 20 percent of deaths in Turkey are caused by cancer and 450 individuals are diagnosed with cancer on a daily basis, totaling to approximately 164,000 cases every year. As part of the shift, the government also increased cancer treatment payments in private hospitals by 200 percent for those with social benefits.

The Labour and Social Security minister has additionally committed to improving the conditions of public health care providers and state universities. Lastly, to avoid overcrowding, hospitals owned by the Health Ministry and the Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu (Social Security Institution) were merged.

The History of Health Care in Turkey

In 2002, Turkey’s health care system was riddled with inefficiencies. The country’s allocation towards cancer treatment was a paltry 3 percent in overall spending. The infant mortality rate was at 26.1 per 1,000 live births, and two-thirds of the population had no access to health insurance.

With the support of the World Bank Group, the Health Transformation Programme was initiated. The programme’s main goal was to overhaul the previous health care infrastructure and equalize access to health facilities in rural and urban areas alike. Along with addressing systemic regional imbalances, the World Bank has helped Turkey confront non-communicable diseases, including but not limited to cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Reform of the Health Care in Turkey

Since the implementation of better and more comprehensive health care in Turkey, the citizens of the country have seen an increase in insurance coverage from 2.4 million people in 2003 to 10.2 million people in 2011. Coverage specifically for Turkey’s poorest decile jumped from 24 percent in 2003 to 85 percent in 2011. The enhanced financial protection provided by insurance has reduced the relative number of out-of-pocket payments, especially for lowest-income households, subsequently leading to a decline in exorbitant health expenditures.

Furthermore, life expectancy at birth is now close to the average level proposed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). An average Turkish newborn in 2014 has the chance to live 6 years longer than a Turkish baby born in 2002. This is an increase from 71.9 to 77.7 years. Only 39 percent of the population was content with health services in 2003, whereas 2011 saw satisfaction bloom to 75.9 percent.

This upward trajectory of health care in Turkey has validated the optimism of citizens looking forward to universal health care. The country’s existing hospitals are experiencing a reformation period and 500 new hospitals have opened in recent years. In her written statement, Jülide Sarıeroğlu assured that there are more improvements to come in the future period.

Yumi Wilson
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in South Korea
South Korea is home to beautiful great plains, cherry blossom trees and charming architecture of centuries worth of history and many other awe-inspiring attractions.

Along with its rich cultural heritage, the average life expectancy in South Korea is rising rapidly due to advanced medical and technological innovation.

This list of 10 facts about life expectancy in South Korea articulates the importance of the nation’s universal health care system and how it contributes to the rising impoverished elderly population and the rapidly increasing average life expectancy.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in South Korea

  1. The National Institute of Biomedical Information conducted a study that researched the cause of life expectancy in South Korea increasing over the past few decades. The study compared life table data and mortality statistics to observe the age and cause-specific contributions to life expectancy. It concluded that the rapid increase of life expectancy in South Korea can be attributed to the reductions in infant mortality rate, cardiovascular diseases (especially stroke and hypertension diseases), stomach cancer, liver cancer and tuberculosis through the advancement of medicine and technology.
  2. With life expectancy increasing at a rapid rate, the quality of life also contributes to its growth. South Korea achieved a universal health care plan called the National Health Insurance Program that allows medical aid to anyone who needs it without worrying about cost. In 2010, all private insurance companies were integrated into the National Health Insurance Program.
  3. Funding for the National Health Insurance Program comes from contributions, government subsidies and tobacco surcharges. Employee insured individuals are required to contribute 5 percent of their salary. Self-employed individuals’ contributions are based on their level of income. The contributions calculations take into account gender, age, motor vehicle and private property of an individual. Those living on islands or remote areas have reduced contribution percentages.
  4. The Medical Aid Program covers about 3.7 percent of the South Korean population. It was established in 1979 for low-income households and provides paid expenses for those who could not afford high medical costs. After 2004, the program expanded to cover rare and chronic disease and those under the age of 18. It is jointly funded by the local and federal government, with the local government choosing beneficiaries based on a set of criteria set forth by the South Korean Ministry.
  5. Nongovernment organizations such as the Federation of Evicted People of Seoul (FEPS), the Federation of National Street Vendors (FNSV), the Korean Coalition for Housing Rights (KCHR), the Korea Centre for City and Environment Research (KOCER) and the Korea National Association of the Urban Poor focus attention on low-income areas and housing difficulties. They aim to secure housing of tenants and demand that the government stops evicting residents from their homes without offering proper compensation. These organizations also take action in the form of public demonstrations in front of government buildings, lectures with different approaches to solving housing crises and host anti-eviction movements.
  6. An international team of scientists in the summer of 2017 predicted that by 2030, the life expectancy of women and men in South Korea on average would rise up to 90 and 83, respectively. However, according to the OECD, older adults over the age of 65 still live in poverty. A survey concluded that 48.6 percent of the elderly were in poverty, the highest level of the 36 OECD countries.
  7. Elders who live in poverty are not in absolute poverty, but relative poverty. They live below 50 percent of the South Korea median income. With access to universal health care and free treatment, they are able to live longer due to easily accessible medical intervention.
  8. With the ideals of Confucianism fading away, the traditions of filial piety disappear along with it. Many elders refuse financial support from their children because they do not want to burden them. Those over 65 with social security often live on most of their meager monthly pension.
  9. Almost a quarter of the impoverished elderly live in isolation and many commit suicide in fear of being a burden to their family. This results in high levels of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. South Korea has the 10th highest rate of suicide in the world and elderly suicide has risen from 34 per 100,000 people in 2000 to 72 per 100,000 people in 2010.
  10. Facilities such as the Buddhist temple that offers free lunches in Tapgol Park in Seoul serve about 140 people a day. The economy and market strain possibility of elders finding work, resulting in them begging for food or waiting in long lines in facilities such as the one in Tagpol Park. Some elders will work past the retirement age in order to live with basic necessities such as food and water because monthly pension plans are not sustainable enough.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in South Korea show that the majority of the impoverished people in the country are from the elderly community.

Despite the fact that the elderly live on low pension wages in poor living conditions, they also receive universal health care that covers medical expenses.

The list above highlights how the universal health care system in South Korea affects growing impoverished, elderly population and how does it increase the life expectancy and improves living conditions in the country.

– Aria Ma
Photo: Flickr

Development Assistance CommitteeThe Development Assistance Committee is an arm of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Founded in 1961 by the OECD to better organize and execute its agenda, the Development Assistance Committee also has the duty of innovating and monitoring future and ongoing development projects.

These projects target sustainable economic growth in countries who seek the committee’s aid. It also monitors how members of the committee and the OECD use development aid. The Development Assistance Committee is made up of 30 member nations, as opposed to the OECD’s 35 members.

The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the UNDP are all observing members of the committee. The members, along with the observing members of the Development Assistance Committee form the world’s leading forum for bilateral economic development and cooperation. It is known for its neutrality.

Official Development Assistance is the or ODA is the term used by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) to define all assistance rendered by member nations that target sustainable economic development. Due to the fact that the Committee is dedicated to furthering bilateral relations between member nations and nations it deems in need of assistance, ODA is not the only form of aid.

Member nations foster development in areas that are important to their national agendas. For example, Canada, which is a member of the DAC, will focus its foreign aid towards girls’ and women’s rights over the next five years. Denmark, another member nation, will be spending much of its aid in combating the refugee crisis.

This is not the only difference between member nations. Because there is no legally binding agreement holding a nation to the amount of money it must spend each year, there is a wide range in the percentage of assistance money spent. The DAC uses a percentage of a nation’s gross national income.

In 2014, Sweden, Luxembourg, Norway and Denmark all donated more than 0.07 percent of their GNI, a target set in 1974 by the DAC. Germany spent 0.04 percent of its GNI on foreign aid and South Korea spent just 0.01 percent.

The OECD agenda is mostly economic. They focus on economic stability within nations. Currently, it is focusing on re-establishing confidence in markets, promoting public financing as a strong driver of economic growth, developing green strategies for economic growth and ensuring job growth and security for people of all ages.

In 2016, saw the appointment of a new chair of the DAC, Petri Gornitzka, who was the former head of the Swedish Foreign Aid Agency. Gornitzka is pushing for reform within the DAC and she hopes to bring smaller member nations into the fold when making decisions about future projects and funding. She also plans to make the private sector a more viable partner.

In the 2016 DAC Global Plan, the DAC also states that it wants to survey nations who receive aid linked to the DAC on what can be improved. The DAC also plans to bring the smaller donors into the fold by helping them improve the effectiveness of their aid. This is also one of the incentives that the DAC boast to countries who wish to become members.

The last members who joined the committee were Iceland, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Poland and Slovenia in 2013 and Hungary in 2016. The European Union has made it a goal of all member nations to work towards joining the DAC.

Although the DAC does not do much direct work, its work behind the scenes promoting cooperation greatly benefits the world. The continued growth of the organization will also benefit the world. 

– Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

 

One of the former Soviet bloc countries in Europe, the Czech Republic has a robust economy and a low poverty rate. But education in the country is still very much in a transitional phase. Czech students continue to face challenges in improving their performance as the country slowly moves to a more inclusive education provided to all.

The provision of education in the Czech Republic is controlled by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which is a part of the Constitution. Education is compulsory for all children at the age of 6 to 15 years.

Compulsory education in the Czech Republic was first instituted in 1774. Though the official language of instruction is Czech, which belongs to the western Slavic family of languages, several international schools teach in English and other languages. Grading levels in instruction range from výborný, the best grade, through to nedostatečný, the lowest.

The system of education in the country is broken down into pre-primary, primary and lower secondary, higher secondary, post-secondary (non-tertiary) and tertiary education. Education in the Czech Republic follows the standards of UNESCO’s 1997 International Standard Classification of Education.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports administers education in the country, determining national education policy and the long-term policy objectives of education at all levels. It also accredits all study programs and grants those accreditations based on a decision by the Accreditation Committee.

Public, private, state and denominational schools make up the educational institutions. Public education in the Czech Republic is offered free of charge to all children, including foreigners attending primary and secondary schools.

Education policy in the country has undergone significant reforms in the last two decades. The Education Act controls the quality and administration of schools by establishing a self-evaluation program in a two-level structure.

Framework Educational Programmes (FEPs) govern every aspect of education, including its objectives, length, conditions for implementation, and special needs of some students. These FEPs are published by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic. Furthermore, each school delineates its potential under the School Educational Programme.

The Czech Republic has one of the lowest participation rates of higher education in the European Union. Still, enrollment in higher education has doubled since the 1990s. It is worth noting that higher education is free for all, and institutions are able to approve their own programs accredited by the independent Accreditation Commission. Bachelor, master and doctoral degrees are awarded to qualified students.

The Czech Republic has increased investments in education but still lags in financing near the average levels of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Public funding is the major source of expenditure for these investments, and even an increase in private funding is not enough to replace public funding. Budget cuts have strained the government’s resources and affected the ability to provide quality education for all, mostly affecting non-teaching staff.

OECD has also noted that though the Czech Republic has made significant efforts to provide quality and equitable education to students, there is much room for improvement. Low performance, socioeconomic background of students, disadvantaged schools, student dropout rates and the benefits of education have all been assessed and analyzed by the OECD.

The Czech Republic has made important efforts to improve its education system and brought many necessary reforms in establishing a relatively autonomous national education policy. Inclusivity and equity need to be an important part of the process. By following the recommendations of OECD and continuing to address the educational needs of its students, this small nation can make a big difference in students’ lives.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr

Education in CanadaEducation in Canada ranks among the highest in the world according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This is despite the fact that performance in math, reading and science has gone down in recent years.

Although performance in these three subjects has gone down, the impact of socioeconomic status is lower than the OECD average and students from immigrant backgrounds score similarly to their peers. Every Canadian province and territory provides pre-primary education for children who are five years old. Education in Canada is mandatory until the age of 16 or 18, depending on the province or territory, and grade repetition is lower than the average among OECD nations.

Education in Canada is decentralized. There are one or two departments in each of Canada’s 13 districts that are charged with organization, delivery and evaluation of the education system. Education is primarily provided by institutions that are supported through public funds from each of the jurisdictions. Canada’s federal government provides a portion of the funding needed for post-secondary education. In addition to that, it also provides programs which support the development of skills.

Canada also ranks above the OECD average in high school graduation rate, and it ranks the highest among OECD nations in tertiary education. Despite this, the Huffington Post reported that there are still some problems when it comes to education in Canada. “Pumping out post-secondary students doesn’t say much about the health of a country’s education system,” Mehrnaz Bassiri wrote.

The good news it, post-secondary education in Canada is more widely available because the cost is not as high as it is in places like the United States and United Kingdom. However, Canada’s low population density accompanied by the sufficient presence of universities allows for a greater percentage of Canadians to obtain a degree from a university, which has thus brought down the value of a degree.

While the benefits of a highly educated workforce have had detrimental effects on the value of college degrees, education in Canada is ranked among the highest of OECD nations, and should be applauded for its continued efforts toward inclusion and accessibility.

Fernando Vazquez

Photo: Flickr

Hungary Poverty Rate
Hungary’s poverty rate has been increasing over the past few years. Many consequences stem from this fact, including overcrowded housing and high unemployment rates. Overwhelmed with bad statistics, in 2015 the Hungarian government chose not to publish any more poverty-related statistics. With estimates of the poverty rate continuing to increase, Hungary must find ways to improve its economy.

In 2013, it was estimated that almost half the population of Hungary lived below the poverty line. Four out of five households had no savings, and the gap between incomes of the top 10 percent and lowest 10 percent had increased by 25 percent. The unemployment rate also had fallen to 9.3 percent, which was a new low for the country. Additionally, an estimated 250,000 children in Hungary were undernourished and the birth rate was on the decline.

In 2015, statistics showed a little improvement, with just over 35 percent of people living below the poverty line. Young adults have found it increasingly more difficult to leave home, resulting in overcrowded apartments. Child poverty continues to increase as well as child hunger. According to OECD reports, Hungary is number eight on the international list of countries with the highest number of working hours; however, despite the hard work ethic of Hungarian people, the GDP of Hungary still seems to be decreasing.

The Hungarian Central Statistical Office stated in this same year that it would stop publishing statistics about poverty and refer to people below the poverty line a demographic of people with modest income. This is discouraging, as it does not accurately depict the amount and seriousness of the poverty rate in Hungary.

Another group called the Hungarian Socialist party claims that the poverty rate is slightly higher than what The Hungarian Central Statistical Office has claimed the poverty rate to be. The Hungarian Socialist party estimates 4.2 million people live under the poverty line, approximately 40 percent of the population.

It is clear that statistics are focused on unemployment rates when the real issues lie elsewhere. The focus should be on raising wages for workers to have a sustainable income. Additionally, reduction in taxes may be a solution to alleviate some of Hungary’s poverty rate. Regional development or putting resources in communities, especially resources that better education, in Hungary can also be beneficial since it can foster skills necessary for the workforce.

Hungary’s poverty rate is definitely concerning, especially when there are less statistics being shared about the poverty rates. The more people know about the poverty rate and what is causing the poverty rate to decrease the more solutions can be created.

Deanna Wetmore

Photo: Flickr

How to Help Impoverished People in South KoreaBefore 1980, The U.S. contributed $3 billion in aid to revive the post war economy of South Korea – and it worked. The country soon became an example of growth, joining other powerful democracies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1996. The number of impoverished people in South Korea then began to drop and now is lower than in the U.S. Despite decrease, income inequality is rising and the solution may have as much to do with culture as with commerce.

South Koreans’ life expectancies are among the highest in the world; they live 82.4 years on average, by The World Factbook’s 2016 estimate. But while people live nearly twice as long as they would have in the 1950s, the birth rate is four times lower. The elderly population in South Korea is projected to be 10.7 million by 2026 – about 20.5 percent of the population – and right now half of them are living in poverty.

OECD data estimates that South Korea’s working class population (ages 25 to 49) peaked in 2009, and just this year the Korean government made the decision to raise the retirement age from 55 to 60. The young are competing for jobs with the people their culture once expected them to care for and the already weak Confucian sentiment of past generations may entirely disappear as they do.

While family support for the elderly is not as it once was, a number of programs dedicate themselves to providing universal needs to South Korea’s poor. Habitat for Humanity builds residential complexes that emphasize communal cooperation, encouraging a culture of care while tackling the issue that Seoul is home to half of the population and has a cost of living comparable to that of Los Angeles.

Habitat for Humanity has helped more than 3,300 families and individuals in South Korea and are one of the few organizations that tailor their efforts particularly to the elderly. Once they are housed, the biggest obstacles remaining are healthcare and food.

Churches and other local groups frequently distribute food or money to the elderly and other impoverished people in South Korea. A group of nine entrepreneurs recently created the Korea Legacy Committee and have raised $20,000 for the Seoul Senior Welfare Center’s meal programs. These local, independent efforts often make a more direct impact than Korea’s National Pension Service (NPS), described by Bloomberg Business as “passive,” despite being the third largest in the world.

Legal conflicts have put the NPS’s economic and political ties under scrutiny recently. With its legitimacy in question, public trust that was already low is now almost entirely lost. The best hope is that local organizations’ aid and advocacy in the government will stop South Korea’s oldest generation from being lost as well.

Brooke Clayton
Photo: Flickr