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

Global Agricultural Market
In July 2017, the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published the 2017-2026 OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook. The report predicted many positive developments in the global agricultural market for the next decade. Most important among these were lower food prices, increased productivity and reduced malnutrition.

According to the report, recent government initiatives and market changes are likely to create higher availability of nutritious food; stable food prices; high production rates of maize, meat and dairy; and lower demand for food. This high level of production can be achieved through significantly higher crop yields, using only slightly more land. As demand in developed countries lowers and crop yields increase, developing countries will be able to attain higher-calorie, nutritious diets.

While these predictions suggest a decade of stability for the global agricultural market, they can only be achieved with constant government upkeep and a continued focus on developing nations and environmental impact. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, about one in nine people globally were suffering from chronic undernourishment from 2014 to 2016. Additionally, many of the production techniques in developing countries are beginning to deplete natural resources. Consequently, creative and sustainable production and trade practices need more attention in order to improve food access and alleviate pressure on natural resources.

Although the Agricultural Outlook report focuses on the global agricultural market, the end of the report looks particularly at sustainability issues in Southeast Asia. The region had a significant amount of economic growth in the past few years, primarily due to the booming agriculture and fish sectors. This growth helped address undernourishment in the area.

However, such immense growth in these sectors put a significant amount of strain on the environment. Because of this, the next decade will require a scaling-back of the fishing and palm-oil exports from the region. According to the report, “improved resource management and increased [research and development] will be needed to achieve sustainable productivity growth.” For example, the report suggests expanding the rice industry to promote diversification.

Essentially, the report states that while the global agricultural market is looking towards a period of stability and low cost, maintaining this requires a watchful eye. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría stated, “unexpected events can easily take markets away from these central trends, so it is essential that governments continue joint efforts to provide stability to world food markets.”

Julia Morrison

Photo: Flickr

Economic hardships in Mexico have been on the rise for many years. As of 2014, nearly half of Mexicans were living in impoverished states due to increased inequalities among social classes within the country.

Economic disparities are prevalent between Mexico’s upper-class and lower-class citizens. According to research done by Business Insider in conjunction with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) the country’s richest 10 percent earn more than 30 times what the poorest 10 percent make. This places Mexico as the most unequal of the organization’s 34 countries. In 2014, the bottom 20 percent of workers in Mexico averaged only $12,850 for the year. As a result, these workers were unable to adequately supply the needs of their families.

The large gap in wealth between the rich and the poor has been a long-standing problem, with the current minimum wage rate for lower-income individuals set at $4.50 per day. Because the top one percent owns nearly half of the country’s total wealth, increased economic hardships in Mexico have resulted in longer workdays for lower-class citizens who try and compensate for their extremely low wages.

For example, according to the OECD, the average American works slightly more than 1,700 hours in one year, while the average worker in Mexico works over 2,300 hours. However, despite this substantial increase in the average hours worked per year, it has not been enough to overcome the burden of economic hardships.

Concerned citizens have begun to voice their discontent over the rising wealth of the rich at the expense of the poor. Further, they have urged Congress in Mexico to develop policies and social programs that would help to rectify the situation.

Among the suggested solutions to help in the fight against wealth disparity and resulting poverty include raising the minimum wage amount, tax transparency and changing fiscal policies to provide for better public spending tactics. Furthermore, a petition by Oxfam has urged Congress to “end the vicious cycle of inequality by prioritizing public spending on education, healthcare and other basic services.”

Lael Pierce

Photo: Flickr

Due to Finland’s high standard of living, based on the nation’s welfare system, poverty rates are low. In such a system, the Finnish enjoy an exceptional education system, strong health standards, and safe, connected communities, all of which combine to limit the presence of hunger in Finland.

Finland is one of the top-performing countries in education, measured in the fields of reading literacy, math and science by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). According to the National Center on Education and the Economy, education is made publicly available from the primary level through upper secondary level.

Naturally, education has been shown to reduce the likelihood of poverty, which remains especially true for Finland, where both the quality and availability of the system is widespread. The same is true for healthcare, where the standard of treatment in Finland ranks highly among other OECD nations.

The Finnish also live in safe communities, where 86 percent of respondents claim that they “feel safe walking alone at night,” compared to the OECD average of 68 percent. A low crime rate reflects the nation’s lack of poverty, due to the elements provided in Finland’s welfare system.

In more specific terms, Finland has the fourth lowest poverty rate among OECD nations, according to a 2016 report. It is unsurprising, then, that the issue of hunger is practically nonexistent within the country. As the organization Trading Economics reports, undernourishment affected only five percent of the Finnish population in 2008.

Moreover, Finland aims to end hunger worldwide, evident through the nation’s consistent donations to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Such donations have contributed to hunger relief in countries such as Lebanon, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic.

“Thanks to Finland’s flexible and predictable multi-year commitment of €29 million,” wrote the WFP in a 2014 report, “we are able to respond to the needs of vulnerable people using innovative tools that increase dignity and efficiency.”

Assuming Finland continues to meet the demands of its citizens, let alone providing assistance elsewhere, hunger in Finland will not be a concern anytime soon.

Genevieve DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr