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Elderly Poverty in Palestine
According to a 2021 report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), only 5% of the population in Palestine is 60 or older. The World Bank reports that Palestine’s poverty rate stood at 27.3% in 2021, a decrease of around 2% from the previous year when the economy deteriorated as a consequence of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Elderly people have an increased risk of falling into poverty and the absence of adequate social protection systems exacerbates this vulnerability. The U.N. states that “in most countries, the risk of poverty increases with age.” OECD countries’ data from 2015 indicates that people in the age category of above 75 report poverty levels higher than those in the 66-75 age group. In 2017, the prevalence of elderly poverty in Palestine stood at 27%, equating to 5% of Palestine’s total number of impoverished persons.

4 Facts About Elderly Poverty in Palestine

  1. Uneven distribution. Elderly poverty in Palestine is not evenly distributed across the country. In fact, according to data gathered in 2017 by the PCBS, the percentage of older people living in poverty in the Gaza Strip stood at 47%, which is almost 29% more than in the West Bank. The Gaza Strip notes higher poverty rates in general due to the now 15-year-long Israel-led blockade of Gaza, which has brought severe economic and humanitarian consequences to Gaza.
  2. Low education levels contribute to elderly poverty. Slightly more than 40% of the elderly in Palestine have no educational attainment. Given the relationship between education and economic well-being, this could be one of the factors affecting the financial stability of older individuals in the country. Moreover, lack of education significantly affects the transmission of poverty from generation to generation and education is often a key determinant of financial success. PCBS data from 2019 shows that illiteracy rates are highest among the elderly age group of 65 and older.
  3. Lack of economic independence increases vulnerability to poverty. Another significant fact about the demographic profile of older individuals in Palestine is that only 13% of them engaged in employment in 2018, with a stark contrast between the West Bank (16%) and Gaza (7%). This suggests that a large majority of the elder community is not financially independent, making them more vulnerable to poverty. As a matter of fact, senior citizens in Palestine typically depend on other family members to meet their needs.
  4. Health and disability. Approximately 48% of Palestine’s elderly had to deal with at least one impairment or disability in 2020. Mobility difficulties are the most common, followed by visual impairments. In addition, “33% of the elderly in Palestine suffer from at least one chronic disease according to a medical diagnosis (36% in the West Bank and 27% in Gaza Strip).” For elderly people living in poverty, a lack of access to essential goods and services could easily exacerbate health conditions, PCBS reports.

Looking Ahead

A lack of adequate social safety nets exacerbates elderly poverty in Palestine. In 2020, following the negative impacts of the pandemic on the country, the U.N.’s Joint Sustainable Development Goal Fund, the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and the International Labour Organization (ILO) worked with the Palestinian Ministry of Social Development to improve the social protection system. The Joint SDG Fund says, “While the existing Palestinian social protection system is among the most advanced in the region, it is not sufficient to address the needs of the most vulnerable groups.” The collaboration aims to strengthen the social protection system and make it “more inclusive and accessible to older people, particularly women.”

In June 2022, Palestine’s GDP rose by 1.1%. A stronger financial performance may improve the living standards of the population overall.

– Caterina Rossi
Photo: Unsplash

Virtual Education in Peru
“It feels new, well, very new, but we are adapting to the situation,” said the Peruvian child when the CGTN America reporter asked him about his experience with Peru’s I Learn at Home virtual education program. For a country in which only 24% of households have consistent internet access, virtual education is certainly a new experience. Peru launched the Aprendo en Casa (I Learn at Home) program shortly after the Peruvian government closed down schools in 2020 in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ever since the program has consolidated various low and high-tech solutions to broadcast an interactive learning environment on multiple media. Here is the story of Peru’s Ministry of Education’s promotion of virtual education in Peru.

Pandemic Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic hits hard around the globe and Peru is one of the worst-impacted countries in the world. In response to the pandemic, the Peruvian government imposed the strictest shutdown in South America since March 2020. However, the shutdown, compounded with Peru’s low connectivity, imposed a particularly harsh challenge.

Among the many challenges is the challenge in education. Under the shutdown, switching to virtual learning was not as simple as moving classes online. In response to Peru’s particular challenges, Peru’s Ministry of Education launched the I Learn at Home virtual learning program shortly after the lockdown, according to OECD.

In response to the sudden COVID-19 shutdown, the Ministry of Education launched the program with equal rapidity only 12 days after the shutdown, OECD reported. To ensure the constant improvement of the program, Peru’s Ministry of Education collaborated with Innovation for Poverty Action which uses machine learning to survey the needs of hard-to-reach students. The Ministry then used this data to develop the program to ensure maximum outreach and maximum classroom engagement, in the shortest possible timeline.

About I Learn at Home

To ensure the maximum outreach of the program in low connectivity regions, Peru’s Ministry of Education strives to diversify the channel of access to learning materials. According to OECD, the Peruvian government teams up with major private telecommunications companies to produce and broadcast the learning materials on TV and radio, in addition to the internet.

To maximize internet travel to the I Learn at Home webpage, Microsoft and Amazon help design the web page with “web-light” and “mobile-responsive” technologies so that people can access the webpage through smartphones and from areas with slower internet. For parts of the country that lack household electricity access, loudspeakers at community centers broadcast learning materials so kids can hear their teacher giving lectures in their homes.

Through the multi-media platform, the virtual classroom brought children back to an interactive learning environment. Teachers and actors go back and forth on the learning materials with actors asking questions during classes and doing learning activities making it look like a classroom. According to OECD, WhatsApp helps organize teachers and parents into classroom groupings. Teachers distribute homework materials either online or through mailing in print materials. Teachers and families then communicate feedback through those channels.

The Impact of Virtual Education in Peru

The result of Peru’s Ministry of Education’s promotion of virtual education in Peru is significant. OECD has indicated that after a month of the debut of the I Learn at Home initiative, 95% of children reconnected to their education through one channel or another and that another month after that, 82% of the kids expressed happiness about the learning program. According to UNICEF, the innovative joint initiative reached 145,628 children living in hard-to-reach areas. As Peru reopened its schools in March 2022, its precious experience in virtual education showcases how innovation and technology can help education to reach those who are at a material disadvantage.

– Peiyi Yu
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Chile
Depression and anxiety have risen in post-COVID-19 Chile. Prolonged confinement, uncertainty and lack of social contact triggered a dramatic increase in these pathologies. However, these frightening figures have made these diseases visible at levels never seen before, which is the first step to achieving important changes.

Depression and Anxiety on the Rise

Mental health is often a silenced topic in Chile, as well as in most parts of the world. One can see the unequal treatment that patients suffering from mental illness compared to physical illnesses received by the lack of services dedicated to these and the discrimination that mentally ill individuals have suffered. These are diseases that the media has traditionally not highlighted and that many treat as minor problems. Undoubtedly, this generates mistrust on the part of the affected person when seeking help.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, depression and anxiety are some of the most worrying results of the lockdown. A study that the Catholic University of Chile conducted, in collaboration with the Chilean Safety Association (ACHS), indicated that mental health issues were among 35% of respondents by 2020. While, in 2020, the number of people that some symptoms of depression affected was 13%, in 2022, it rose to 16% due to unemployment and economic instability due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, as many as 28% suffered from anxiety.

Despite the problems with mental health in Chile, the total budget dedicated to mental health is currently at 2%, which is the lowest among all OECD countries. Without a doubt, this situation requires governmental action to achieve a change in strategy and an increase in the budget.

Mental Health: Challenges and Solutions

The impact that mental instability has on one’s performance and on society reaches consequences that affect the whole country. Giving these illnesses the importance they require and establishing a prompt response can have a positive impact on society’s well-being but also on reducing poverty. For example, mental issues have massive indirect costs that have links to the lack of productivity and motivation of the affected person. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), mental health problems are the main cause of disability in Chile. Chile is also one of the Latin American countries with the highest depression rates, especially among the lowest-income groups. This suggests that chronic depression or severe anxiety disorders cause the inability to perform well in society, increasing the possibility of unemployment, drug addiction, and therefore, the risk of poverty.

Thus, mental health problems increase the levels of poverty while poverty increases the chances of suffering from mental issues. In order to break this vicious cycle, mental illnesses ought to receive treatment in time. Accepting the reality that mental health is equally important to physical health and making this reality visible, not only brings urgency to the matter but also incentivizes people to reach out without being scared or shameful to do so. Breaking the social stigma that mental instability is a symbol of weakness or insanity is the first step toward an effective response.

The First Signs of Grass Shoots

Fortunately, there is a change for the better. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stressed the importance of mental health in a series of guidelines that it published earlier in 2022. These are in the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030. In fact, the WHO argues that every country can move towards progress simply by making the problem visible. It promotes:

  • Raising awareness about mental health so that everyone understands the importance of it.
  • Eliminating the stigma of mental illness.
  • Improving access to mental health treatment.

Mental health in Chile became more visible since COVID-19. In 2021, Chile increases its budget by 310% compared to the previous year. The funds go toward:

  • Strengthening the human resources in mental health care for children and teenagers.
  • Improving primary health care in mental health.
  • The introduction of the Remote Brief Psychological Intervention Program, which people can use to communicate with a doctor through a video call.

Some of the most recent updates in Chile show even more positive progress. The national budget for public spending in 2023 that the President of the Republic, Gabriel Boric, announced dedicated more than $18 billion to strengthen Chile’s response to mental diseases.

As Boric stated “mental health matters and we are not going to leave them alone.” Meanwhile, global mental health day was celebrated on October 10, 2022, and the Health Minister from Chile, Ximena Aguilar, reaffirmed the same idea stating that people will no longer have to face their mental health issues alone. The Government of Chile establishes as a priority to advance the improvement of the treatment of mental illnesses while protecting the rights of the people who suffer from them.

– Carla Tomas Laserna
Photo: Unsplash

Education in NorwayAccording to the World Bank, Norway’s poverty rate stood at approximately 13% in 2019 and, in 2021, the unemployment rate stood at just 4%. Norway has made commitments to reducing poverty by prioritizing education in the nation. Education in Norway is also key to maintaining high employment rates. In 2018, Norway spent 7.6% of its GDP on education, exceeding the recommended allocation of 4-6%.

More About Education in Norway

Education in Norway is state-supported and even college is cost-free. Students in Norway generally go through three levels of education before the college level:

  1. Elementary school (ages 6-13)
  2. Lower secondary school (ages 13-16)
  3. Upper secondary school or “high school” (ages 16-19)

Attending primary and lower secondary school is compulsory in Norway and high school is “a statutory right.” There is no upper age limit to entering high school, but most students start at age 16. According to statistics from 2019, about 80% of Norwegians have completed upper secondary education, which is higher than the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average.

Different Types of Learning for Different People

There are several options for education in Norway, depending on one’s background and needs. Below are some of these options:

  • Adult learning. Adults ages 25 and older have the right to finish upper secondary school and/or vocational training as well as the right to have an education program custom-fit to their needs. Additionally, “for newly arrived immigrants,” the state provides classes in social studies and the Norwegian language. According to the OECD in 2004, Norway had one of the highest vocational training participation rates among European countries.
  • Folk schools. Norway also has the option of folk schools. Folk schools are for learners who want to focus on a specific subject and put their learning into practice. There are no tests or curricula and teachers do not give grades. Students are eligible to attend these schools after finishing high school. However, for folk schools, students have to pay room and board and purchase any required learning supplies.
  • The Qualification Program. The Qualification Program, a two-year program introduced in 2007 that is still active today, helps build vocational skills for people who are “at risk of prolonged unemployment.” By working with a counselor, the program is personalized for the individual’s needs. Participants may also receive benefits, financial aid, holiday entitlements and childcare assistance.

The more educated a population is, the less likely they are to experience poverty. When personalized approaches to education are available, learners can focus their studies on what is most important for them and advance their natural skills and abilities, thereby improving employability.

Diversity

The systems of education in Norway are diverse. In fact, the country has some of the most socio-economically diverse schools in the world. Norway is also doing well with regard to closing the gender gap, ensuring equitable access to education and creating a diverse workforce. In 2017, the World Economic Forum ranked Norway as the most inclusive advanced economy in the world.

To further explain how education in Norway reduces class barriers, The Borgen Project interviewed Ingunn Jakobsen, a veteran senior high school teacher of English and Norwegian with 40 years of experience. Jakobsen states that every year, secondary schools evaluate their progress in terms of providing equal opportunities to all socioeconomic groups. She explains that these schools then “apply statistics where each school is measured in its contribution to [raising] pupils from lower income groups to a high-performing group of pupils.”

Regardless of what country workers live in, Indeed states that having a diverse workforce means a wider recruitment pool, better decision-making in the workplace, improved employee satisfaction and expanded profits.

Impact on Poverty Reduction

When education is made accessible to poor populations, it breaks the cycle of generational poverty by opening doors to greater employment opportunities. Additionally, learning skills such as reading, writing and math significantly increase marginalized groups’ incomes and strengthen the economy.

– Ava Ronning
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty in Australia
As a signatory of the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs), Australia aims to completely eradicate poverty by 2030. Unfortunately, the country is yet to reach the goal of zero poverty and the problem persists for the nation coming out of COVID-19 restrictions. Presently, Australia has a comparatively higher-than-average poverty rate when considering the other 34 wealthiest countries in the OECD. With the general fall of average income across the nation and the cuts on income support for poorer families coming out of the pandemic, poverty in Australia is not going to disappear any time soon. Here are several facts to know about poverty in Australia.

The Poverty Line

In order to get to grips with everything you need to know about poverty in Australia, one must become familiar with the specified criteria the nation has for quantifying poverty. Due to its reputation as a developed nation, the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) and UNSW classify poverty through a measure of the number of people living below the country’s poverty line. This amounts to the number of people living below the 50% median household after-tax income, or $489 a week for a single adult and $1,027 a week for a couple with two children. Unfortunately, as of the most recent 2022 report, one in eight Australians are living below this minimum. In other words, poverty in Australia disproportionately impacts more than 3.3 million people.

How Income Support Lifted Australians Out of Poverty During the Pandemic

According to the latest 2022 report by ACOSS, the number of people living below the poverty line fell drastically after the introduction of temporary income support payments to mediate the aftereffects of COVID-19 restrictions. From the start of the pandemic, 13.4% of Australians lived below the poverty line, this soared in the March quarter of 2020 to 14.6%. However, the supplementary payments granted citizens the necessary support required to lift themselves out of poverty. A consequence of the increased income support saw an additional 646,000 people or 2.6% of Australians rise out of poverty, with overall poverty in Australia falling to just 12%.

The effects these payments had on the overall number of children living below the poverty line are even more dramatic. The child poverty rate fell from 19% in March 2020 to an impressive feat of 13.7% in June of the same year, effectively managing to lift 245,000 children out of poverty.

As of April 2021, however, the Australian government has retracted these income support payments, feeling they are no longer necessary after coming out of the pandemic. The “coronavirus supplement” has been entirely redacted and in its place, the JobSeeker payment has been increased by only $25 a week. The Senate has launched an inquiry into the rates and main drivers of poverty in the nation, however, welfare advocates argue that the state has all the evidence necessary to make a change. Instead, they believe that the subsequent inaction is a deliberate means of neglecting the most vulnerable. Some have taken it further and equated the reduction to a “political choice.”

An Influential Organization

The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) is an organization that facilitates the eradication of poverty and inequality throughout the continent. Working to ensure that Australia complies with the targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they advocate for the nation’s most vulnerable, while mobilizing governments and communities to contribute to the discourse surrounding poverty.

ACOSS’ main areas of focus include access to employment services for the disadvantaged, an impartial social security system and ensuring governments are accountable for an equitable tax system. Its research papers have been pivotal to the understanding and further implementation of poverty-reducing measures. Key organizations now hold a deeper insight into everything you need to know about poverty in Australia as a result.

– Namra Tahir
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Inflation in Italy
Inflation has been surging worldwide, especially hitting hard Italy. Already facing economic stagnation and record unemployment, the supply chain halt and economic crisis that the Russia-Ukraine crisis has particularly impacted Italy. In fact, inflation in Italy has risen so dramatically that the main industry lobby is warning of an “economic earthquake.”

Rising Inflation and the Economic Crisis

Like most of the EU, energy costs have been surging in Italy. Prices have been rising at an annual rate of 38.3%. This is largely due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis, as Ukraine had previously supplied most of Europe’s natural gas supply. Inflation in Italy is also at an all-time high in Italy; in fact, Italy has the third-highest inflation rate in the EU. In August 2022, the inflation rate jumped to 9%, likely due to the increase in energy and electricity prices.

Increasing inflation will have ramifications for Italy. Unlike the rest of the EU, Italian wages have been stagnant for the past decade. In fact, data that the OECD collected found that Italy was the only country in the EU where wages actually declined.

Moreover, unemployment is also at an all-time high in Italy. Currently, the unemployment rate is 7.8%, but things are far worse for Italy’s youth, who have an unemployment rate of almost 21.2%. It is the highest youth unemployment rate in the EU. and one can attribute it to poor education and a largely stagnant economy. In fact, the past decade has had the worst economic gain in Italy since 1861. 

Inflation & Poverty

The poor in Italy have felt the brunt of the economic impact caused by rising inflation. The decline of the Italian economy noticeably correlates with a rising poverty rate. Poverty has increased sharply in recent years, largely due to the pandemic. The recent increase in the cost of living has also pushed many people into poverty, with almost a 10th of the Italian population living below the poverty line.

Governmental Action

Although things may look bleak for Italy’s economy, its government has been working to prevent a catastrophe. Recently, the Italian government approved an aid package worth $17.4 billion. This package aims to curbe energy prices to protect families from rising prices. The nation has budgeted around 35 billion euros to reduce the impact of rising energy and electricity prices.

In addition, the government has also extended bonuses to low and middle-income citizens, including migrants, because they are more susceptible to falling into poverty during this economic crisis.

Like many other countries in Europe and around the world, Italy has faced considerable detriment as a country from recent crises like the global pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Despite this, things like the unemployment rate and poverty have still been decreasing according to the most recent estimates. Furthermore, considerable government action has seen to it that Italian citizens are protected from rising prices, shielding them from further economic crises.

– Padma Balaji
Photo: Unsplash

Foreign Aid to Palestine
There is no escaping the fact that the West Bank has significant indicators of improved living conditions and infrastructure. Roads that were once rough dirt trails have been smoothed out over the past three decades. Standard childhood vaccination rates have reached nearly 100%. Boys and girls are attending school and reading at record levels.

Since the Oslo Accords in the mid-1990s, a treaty that was meant to deliver peace and a Palestinian state, significant sums of foreign aid to Palestine made possible many of these changes: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that between 1994 and 2020, funding to the Palestinians totaled more than $40 billion. 

Poverty-Affected Citizens

Due to the embargo on the Gaza Strip since 2007, which has caused a resurgence of hostilities and political divides, the Palestinian economy has suffered. A total of 2.1 million Palestinians—out of a total population of 5.3 million—need humanitarian aid. Parallelly, 80% of Gaza’s populace is aid-dependent.

A cycle of poverty, unemployment and food insecurity has mired people, which the rise in food and gasoline prices as a result of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has exacerbated. In the West Bank, where more than 60% of the land is under Israeli control and home to East Jerusalem, Area C and H2, 800,000 Palestinians require greater access to basic amenities like electricity, water and health care yet there is still little prospect for education or economic opportunity.

Individual States

Between 1994 and 2020, Germany, France, Norway, the U.K. and Japan provided more than 20% of all foreign aid to Palestine. Along with their contributions to UNRWA, Germany and other European nations were anticipated to invest up to €80 million ($70 million) in water projects in Gaza in 2021.

The European Union

In 2021, the European Commission rapidly redirected €100,000 from current World Health Organization (WHO) initiatives to address the first emergency health requirements in reaction to the violence raging throughout Palestine and the high number of civilian deaths. The Palestinian Authority launched the COVID-19 immunization program on March 21, 2021, following the receipt of vaccinations from the COVAX facility.

With more than €2.2 billion, the EU and its member states are one of the largest funders of COVAX. Since 2000, the European Union has contributed more than €818 million in humanitarian aid to support the Palestinian people with their most basic needs.

The United Nations

U.N. organizations spent nearly $4.5 billion, including $600 million in 2020 alone, in Gaza between 2014 and 2020. Three-quarters of Gaza’s population are Palestinian refugees, who receive more than 80% of that funding through the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees. UNRWA, which also offers food assistance and health services, runs schools for some 280,000 students in Gaza.

The World Bank

The World Bank granted a $30 million Development Policy Grant for the Palestinian Territories to assist reforms in the areas of inclusiveness, transparency and the green economy on July 7, 2022. Additionally, the World Bank will give $7 million to Gaza’s most vulnerable populations.

While the Gaza Emergency Support for Social Services Project offers access to a variety of social services, short-term funding for services, and online work possibilities, 80% of recipients of a comparable intervention under the Gaza Emergency Cash for Work and Self-Employment Support fund contracts worth more than $500,000, demonstrating the effectiveness of this modality in fostering employment prospects for adolescents and women in particular.

The Arab Nations

Between 1994 and 2020, five Arab nations gave the Palestinians the majority of the $8.5 billion in Arab funding. Their abundance in oil and gas plays a crucial role in maintaining the welfare of Palestinians, which also increases their capacity to have an influence on the Palestinian cause. Saudi Arabia received $4 billion in donations during this time, followed by the UAE ($2.1 billion), Algeria ($908 million), Qatar ($766 million) and Kuwait ($758 million) as the top five donors.

Since 2012, Qatar has given Gaza $1.3 billion in aid for infrastructure, health care and agriculture. This includes the $360 million allocated in January for 2021 and the additional $500 million pledged in May for post-war rehabilitation. The money from Qatar also helps pay the wages of the Hamas leadership and supports needy families. According to the Palestinian Authority, $1.7 billion will go to Gaza, with it primarily going toward pay for the tens of thousands of government officials who had to leave their jobs in 2007 when Hamas assumed power.

Conclusion

Foreign aid to Palestinians came in a variety of forms and sizes, for a variety of reasons. These included crisis relief, development projects, budget support, donations to grassroots groups, loans and technical help. Regardless of the aims or types of help that Palestinians have received over the past 20 years, this aid has had a substantial impact on the country’s political, social and economic landscape.

Although there have been substantial socioeconomic improvements, more foreign aid in Palestine is necessary to promote the establishment of institutions necessary for a two-state solution and to fulfill Palestinian aspirations for their economy to be on the road to sustainable growth.

– Karisma Maran
Photo: Flickr

English Learning in Latin AmericaLatin America notes large numbers of extreme poverty across its population. In 2021, extreme poverty hit 86 million, under the pressures of COVID-19. This is a 5 million increase from 2020 — the Social Panorama of Latin America report highlights that this is a setback equivalent to 27 years. English learning in Latin America could help reduce poverty across the region by opening up more economic opportunities.

English Learning in Latin America

According to the English Proficiency Index, “Latin America is the region [with] the lowest levels of English” as of 2020. Low English proficiency rates stem from a “low quality of language teaching programs in public education and the difficulties in accessing alternative training” as a result of the scarcity of language training institutions and the expensive costs of such programs.

According to the index, some of the Latin American countries with the lowest rates of English proficiency are Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Mexico. In Mexico, less than 10% of schools have English as part of the education curriculum. Furthermore, in 2015, Latin America lagged 2.5 years behind Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations in schooling development.

The Importance of English Skills

According to the report “Work in Progress: English Teaching and Teachers in Latin America, “Many, if not most, English teachers in Latin America lack either the necessary English skills, the necessary pedagogical skills, or both, to be effective educators in the classroom.” Yet, most Latin American countries do not have programs in place to ensure English educators receive the training necessary for high-quality English education.

The Inter-American Dialogue highlights that one of the top “21st-century skills for most countries in [Latin America] is English language proficiency.” It says further, “English proficiency is increasingly necessary for business and international communication and, in that regard, linked with prospects for economic competitiveness and growth in the global economy.”

Learning English in Latin America offers many new opportunities, sources of revenue and securities. There are clear benefits to learning and speaking more than one language. In particular, English speaking skills open up a greater range of job opportunities. On top of this, English is commonly used as “a trade language or diplomatic language.” In fields such as tourism, science and computers, English is the dominant language.

Opportunities in and out of Latin America

Firstly, tourism is booming in Latin America, bringing significant income to the region. Considering the proximity of the United States and Canada to Mexico, it is no surprise that Mexico is a popular destination for tourists from these English-speaking countries.

In 2019 alone, 55 million U.S. citizens traveled to Latin America. Speaking English would likely enable locals in Latin America to do business more effectively in the tourism market. Locals could conduct tours in English or provide translation services.

English is growing as the language of choice for international business and trade, known as “business English.” As much as 80% of jobs offered in Latin America require proficiency in English. Considering only 20% of professionals in Latin America can speak English, a lack of English proficiency is concerning for labor markets. As international commerce expands, if Latin America wants to draw in more money and attain greater job security and revenue, it needs to promote greater education in English. This will persuade more multinational corporations to relocate to Latin America or hire individuals within Latin America.

Lastly, speaking English provides individuals with the opportunity to apply for jobs in countries that offer better wages and job security. The minimum wage in Mexico is 172 pesos for one day of work, which converts to around $8 a day.

The Positives of the Pandemic: Education, Policies and Technology

The restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a rise in education software that people across the world can access remotely. This expands people’s access to opportunities for English learning. With the added pressure on governments to provide online services for schooling, in Latin America, there are now 12 million adults accessing online education, UNESCO says.

Many Latin American countries are recognizing the importance of providing English language learning opportunities. Costa Rica has made English learning compulsory and launched an initiative in 2018 where teachers across the country enter into English learning courses.

Following the increased pressures of COVID-19, resulting in about a third of Latin America living below the extreme poverty line as of May 2021, English learning in Latin America appears to offer a window for many to access new opportunities in a wider job market with higher pay and more security. If Latin America continues to prioritize English learning, this skill could translate to economic growth across the region.

– Reuben Cochrane
Photo: Unsplash

Single mothers in Japan
In Japan, 56% of families headed by single mothers are living below the poverty line. This is the highest of all the OECD nations, with the U.S. coming in a faraway second at 33.5%. Single mothers in Japan struggle enormously, despite living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. This is the result of a toxic confluence of social expectations, corporate stigma and government negligence.

The Cause of Poverty Among Single Mothers in Japan

The original cause of this high level of poverty has roots in expectations about family environments. The social structure in Japan is very specific and well-established. There is an assumption, especially from the government, that every household consists of two people raising their children. In addition, it is widely expected and common for women to give up their careers and stay home to raise children. About 70% of Japanese women do just that. 

However, as the divorce rate rises in Japan, this expectation is becoming a direct driver of poverty. There is no existence of the legal concept of joint custody in Japan and women are most commonly fully responsible for their children post-divorce. Less than half of the women receive any alimony or child support payments at all.

As a growing proportion of Japanese women become the sole provider for their families, they are taking on more economic responsibility. However, their economic rights and opportunity have not increased in tandem. This is what leads directly to poverty for single mothers in Japan. Women usually are only able to secure low-paying and part-time work, if they can get a job at all. Only 43% of Japanese mothers that want to return to the workforce are able to. Even if the mothers manage to snag a job, women earn 30% less than men for the same work in Japan. 

Government Response to Divorce-Related Public Benefits

The government’s response to the issue worsened this phenomenon. As divorce rates rose and more single women applied for public benefits, the government implemented reforms to cut back on these social safety nets. In 2003, the government reduced allowances and tacked income and time limits to benefits. Even when available to mothers, twin stigmas about being poor and being divorced disincentivize struggling mothers from even accepting public benefits. Activists maintain that this stigma has led to only 200,000 of the 3.5 million eligible children receiving the financial assistance they are entitled to.  

Left with extremely limited employment options and meager government support, single mothers in Japan and their children are vulnerable to falling below the poverty line. 

Little Ones

Luckily, a nonprofit operating in the Tokyo area known as Little Ones is directly assisting single mothers and children in the everyday struggles they face. Little Ones focuses on supporting impoverished children by providing employment, housing and networking services to single parents in the country. Kunihisa Koyama, a social activist in Japan, founded the organization in 2008. The organization has since been able to house upwards of 300 single mothers

Little Ones has identified isolation as a key factor in mothers’ poverty and the organization hosts regular gatherings and barbecues to allow single mothers to connect and create a supportive community amongst themselves. Further, the organization supports employment by helping single mothers secure and prepare for interviews, even assisting with such small details as makeup techniques. To support mothers in housing, Little Ones assists with the housing search, ensuring that mothers can be in a place that meets their needs.

Looking Ahead

Finally, on top of all this meaningful work to reduce poverty among single mothers in Japan, Little Ones also works to raise awareness about this little-known issue. As there is not much coverage of the hardships that single mothers in Japan face, this organization is doing important work by getting the word out. It is inspiring to know that someone is working to support these mothers who face so many social and economic roadblocks. With continued work and progress on this issue, poverty in Japan will be sure to decline.

– Grace Ramsey
Photo: Flickr

Elderly poverty in SpainMillions of tourists visit Spain each year, experiencing the country’s rich culture and beautiful architecture. On the surface, Spain might seem like a perfect place, an escape from everyday hardship. But, deeper down, the country is not immune from economic troubles as poverty marches through Spain. The nation’s problem with poverty is especially relevant for the country’s senior citizens. Elderly poverty in Spain threatens the well-being of the nation’s seniors, and recent events might exacerbate this problem.

The Current Problem

Most recently, people in Spain are experiencing higher poverty rates due to the unforeseen circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic consequences. Although the nation’s pension system works to keep millions of older people out of poverty, it is still critical to recognize poverty’s impact on the most vulnerable elders.

Even though state-provided pensions help curtail old-age poverty, 20.5% of Spanish seniors are at risk of poverty and exclusion. Many elders receive incomes below the poverty threshold, which leads to unnecessary hardship for the aging population. Spain’s social safety net is a helpful tool in the war against poverty. However, many elders still lack adequate resources to thwart economic hardship completely.

It is worth noting that Spain is doing relatively well compared to the rest of the world. The Global AgeWatch Index ranked Spain as the 25th best nation for elders’ social and economic well-being in 2015. Additionally, only 9.4% of individuals aged over 65 live in relative income poverty in Spain compared to 13.5% for the average OECD nation.

Gender Inequities

Spain’s problem with old-age poverty might appear relatively better off than many other nations. However, there are entrenched inequities, particularly those based on gender.

There are 10.6% of older Spanish women with income poverty rate. Compared to 7.8% of men, this gender gap persists despite any progress to reduce elderly poverty. Two primary contributors to this discrepancy are women’s, on average, lower lifetime earnings and higher life expectancy, according to OECD.

Changing Demographics

Interestingly, elderly poverty in Spain is lower than the poverty rate for the total population, which stands at 15.5%, according to the OECD. In this case, while one might think that Madrid may shift its attention to the poverty facing young adults, the well-being of elders faces a precarious trajectory given changes in demographics.

Spain’s life expectancy is on the rise with an average of 84 years, three years higher than the OECD average. Its fertility rate is also reaching new lows with only 1.2 births per woman. The nation’s high life expectancy and low fertility rates work in tandem to spell out a disaster for old-age poverty. A growing population of elders threatens the stability of old-age pensions since fewer workers will be supporting the elder safety net. With a lower ratio of workers to retirees, the Spanish economy will suffer trying to keep up with the burden of paying for more expensive social insurance.

These changing demographics will have a disproportionate impact on its rural residents. With more elders in Spain’s rural towns and villages, the fight to eliminate old-age poverty tackles a new obstacle: an isolated aging population.

Rural areas already have reduced access to stable health infrastructure and as senior residents get older, many Spaniards will be unable to drive to necessary facilities, according to the European Anti Poverty Network. This inequity in access forewarns higher poverty rates, lower well-being and increased social isolation for vulnerable elders. Without easily accessible resources, rural Spanish elders will suffer.

Novel Threats

The COVID-19 pandemic pinpointed the weaknesses in Spain’s care for the elderly. Notably, many hospitals refused to provide care for seniors and many nursing homes lacked the resources to navigate the pandemic.

Even though COVID-19 cases have fallen from their peak, pandemic-related issues may aggravate elderly poverty in Spain. The resulting economic instability risks growing inflation, diluting the purchasing power of elders.

Spain’s inflation reached 10.2% in June 2022 and this high number does not bode well for senior citizens. Higher inflation weakens the purchasing power of government-paid pensions for the elderly, which may reverse the tide in reducing old-age poverty.

Crafting Solutions

The news on Spain’s poverty rate may seem bleak, however, the public and private sectors could help present new solutions to continue mitigating old-age poverty. Reducing elderly poverty in Spain could emerge from a wide array of tactics. For instance, the government could increase investments in the social safety net, ensuring higher purchasing power for elders receiving pensions.

Additionally, new independent initiatives could target increasing accessibility to proper resources by bridging the digital divide and expanding access to high-quality health infrastructure to safeguard elders from falling into poverty. The next steps in this fight could aim to combat inequities in elderly poverty, especially for women and rural residents.

The work of non-governmental organizations like United Way Spain offers hope for Spain’s impoverished elderly. Starting in 2016, United Way Spain aids the country’s most vulnerable citizens with projects focused on education, health and employability. The organization’s MENCÍA Program operates to combat elder loneliness, bringing in volunteers to accompany seniors, assist in daily tasks and foster intergenerational connections.

Working exclusively on the local level, United Way Spain is bettering the lives of its most vulnerable elders by crafting new initiatives to advance the prosperity of its elders.

Even though Spain may already be ahead of most of the world in tackling elderly poverty, many efforts are still needed to eradicate global poverty. Supporting the work of an NGO like United Way Spain showcases one of the many ways to get involved in the fight against elderly poverty.

– Michael Cardamone
Photo: Unsplash