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women's rights in Canada
In 1884, Ontario became the first Canadian province to grant women the same legal rights as men through the Married Women’s Property Act. In 1900, Manitoba became the second province to recognize the act. While this proved to be a turning point for women’s rights in Canada, a great deal of work remained.

In 1928, five women, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Emily Murphy and Irene Parlby, petitioned the Canadian government to have the Supreme Court decide whether the British North America Act recognized women as “persons.” The court initially ruled that women were not considered “persons” under the act, but in 1929 it reversed its ruling. While this was a huge advancement of women’s rights in Canada, it was advantageous mainly for white women. It wasn’t until 1960 that women belonging to minority groups received full legal rights, including the right to vote.

Canada’s Gender Wage Gap

Through the years, the Canadian government has striven to promote gender equality across the country. However, plenty of work remains. In 2015, a U.N. Human Rights Report raised concerns about Canada’s economic inequality and in particular cited “persisting inequalities between women and men.” Similarly, in 2016, a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked Canada as having the eighth-highest gender pay gap out of 43 surveyed countries.

Women in Office

Women make up an estimated 50% of Canada’s population, and representatives should reflect their constituents. Following the 1929 clarification of “persons” in the British North America Act, women eventually began holding elected office. However, decades passed before women of color received the same legal rights as white women. Even today, the Canadian government struggles with a lack of diversity.

Fortunately, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made it his goal to change this trend. In July 2021, Trudeau appointed Mary Simon, Canada’s first Indigenous governor general. Her appointment marks a major milestone for Canada as the country continues to grapple with past and current discriminatory practices against Indigenous communities.

Women in the Workforce during COVID-19

As the world continues to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Canadians remain unemployed, and women have experienced higher rates of job loss than men. According to the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), almost half a million women who lost their jobs during the pandemic have been unable to return to the workforce as of January 2021. Among those most impacted were women of color, immigrants, young professionals and new mothers. The pandemic forced many companies to downsize, and experts warn that these changes could permanently and disproportionately impact women.

Progress in Recent Years

Despite lingering uncertainties, Prime Minister Trudeau still believes the country can “smash one of the defining inequalities of our time.” Recently, Canada has pledged $100 million to address inequalities in both unpaid and paid care work internationally, as well as $80 million to support feminist movements and organizations around the world.

In July, Canada also announced the creation of the Pay Equity Act, which will go into effect on August 31, 2021. The new law will promote gender equality and help close the gender wage gap. It will also apply to parliamentary workplaces. Under the Pay Equity Act, employers will inform their employees of an upcoming new pay equity plan by November 1, 2021, create a pay equity committee and then share their pay equity plan with employees by September 1, 2024.

Canada’s ability to acknowledge its flaws will open new opportunities for the country to end gender inequality. The government’s commitment to advancing women’s rights in Canada and around the world will bring about needed change and serve as a blueprint for other countries hoping to improve women’s rights.

Jordyn Gilliard
Photo: Flickr

Gender Poverty in Japan
Despite its economically advanced status, Japanese society continues to struggle with lessening the gender gap for women. Gender poverty in Japan has become a major concern. Experts predict poverty rates for elderly women will double or triple in the next 40 years. Governmental leadership is well aware of the need to enact policies to address issues of poverty. However, it has been slow to implement changes.

5 Facts About Gender Poverty in Japan

  1. High Employment Rates, Low Wages: Overall, female employment has risen to 71% in recent years. However, Japanese mothers work in part-time jobs that cap out at relatively low salaries compared to full-time careers. Japanese women in the workforce also earn nearly 30% less than men.
  2. Higher Expectations of Unpaid Work: On average, women in Japan participate in 224 minutes of unpaid work per day while their male counterparts only participate in 41 minutes. This amount of unpaid work time for men is the lowest among countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
  3. Child Custody Falls on Women: In cases of divorce, many primarily expect women to take custody of their children. Taking a break from the workforce or maintaining long-term, low-paying part-time work makes it difficult for women in Japan to access higher-paying jobs in addition to providing childcare that Japanese people typically do not expect of men.
  4. High Rates of Poverty for Single-Parent Families: The rate of poverty for single-parent families is an alarming 56% which is the highest among OECD countries. COVID-19 has presented additional challenges as a majority of job cuts in the early stages of the pandemic were part-time jobs predominantly employing women, including single mothers.
  5. Lack of Access to Leadership Positions: Women hold only 15% of senior and leadership positions in Japan, of which their salaries are half of those of their male counterparts. Additionally, Japan has a mere 10% female representation in its parliament. The country also has not had a female head of state for 50 years.

Addressing Gender Poverty in Japan

The government under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attempted to address gender poverty in Japan under an economic plan called Womenomics. During his tenure, overall employment rates for women rose. Additionally, Abe enacted a plan to increase female leadership positions to 30% by 2020. Abe did not achieve this goal but it is still in place under new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Abe also enacted generous maternity and paternity leave reforms along with access to free early education and childcare for toddlers. Only 6% of Japanese men take advantage of paternity leave, citing workplace stigma for not doing so. Before leaving office due to health reasons, Abe enacted a wide-ranging five-year plan. He implemented this plan to address gender inequality and it has continued under his successor.

In recent years, there have been some important victories for women’s rights in Japan. In addition, there are new social movements related to the #MeToo movement. Journalist Ito Shiori won a landmark rape case against a television reporter with close ties to Abe, bringing more attention to gender-based violence and discrimination in the country.

The Japanese #MeToo movement gained more traction in 2019 when actress Yumi Ishikawa took to social media to question why her part-time job at a funeral home required her to wear high heels. This set off the #KuToo social movement which is a play on words for “shoes” and “pain” in Japanese. Although the movement has experienced some backlash from men and women in Japan, it raises important societal questions about rigid gender norms in the country and has broadened public debate about gender inequality.

Conclusion

Some are implementing efforts to address gender poverty in Japan. It is a positive sign that significantly higher numbers of women are now experiencing representation in the workforce. Moreover, a public discussion is occurring to challenge traditional gender roles and expectations.

– Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in the NetherlandsThe Netherlands had the fifth lowest poverty rate in the world in 2019 at 13%, with an excepted decrease down to only 7% by the end of 2020. The Dutch maintain a high standard of living. They also maintain a low unemployment rate with the sixth largest economy in the European Union. There is a relatively high standard of living and a low poverty rate. However, the Dutch continue to face hurdles of social exclusion in efforts to combat poverty. Poverty rates are lower in the Netherlands than in many surrounding nations. Nonetheless, well over one million Dutch citizens are still living below the poverty line. The National Reform Programme, discussed below, outlines some of the ways the Dutch have worked toward poverty eradication in the Netherlands.

Tax Breaks to Benefit Education and Innovation

Each year, the Netherlands releases a National Reform Programme that reports on the state of the economy, the budget, future changes and reforms. Included in the 2019 program is the plan to reduce tax burden on citizens and small businesses while increasing taxes on large corporations. All of this is in addition to creating additional investments in the public sector. This plan intends to strengthen households and the Dutch economy as a whole with specific attention to fostering innovation and promoting entrepreneurship. In addition to tax cuts for citizens, the program proposes an increased investment in research of €400 million. The investment works to expand innovation, strengthen the economy and move toward poverty eradication in the Netherlands. Much of the investment will benefit research specifically through the education system.

Housing Inequality

Despite relatively low poverty levels in the Netherlands, social exclusion pervades many Dutch communities since it excludes them from participating in various associations. Not only are these associations economic but they also have to do health, welfare and education. This phenomenon leads to a deficient citizenship when citizens are unable to fully enjoy the rights and privileges the majority of the country has access to. This issue pervades the housing market in the Netherlands as the wealthy country sees continuous rises in housing prices that alienate low-income populations.

In order to combat this, the National Reform Programme lays out measures to ensure accessible, affordable and stable housing. Creating equal housing opportunities is essential to poverty eradication in the Netherlands. This program is underlined by a mortgage debt repayment plan that aims to incentivize paying off mortgages through interest deductions of 3 percentage points per year. It begins this year and plans on reaching a maximum of 37%. Additionally, the government plans to incentivize the accelerated construction of new homes as the housing supply is scarce.

Refugee Crisis

Many of those living in poverty in the Netherlands are asylum seekers, often from the war-torn region of Syria. The Dutch government is working to support the refugee population in the Netherlands. They suffer from much higher levels of poverty than their nationals. In order to do this, it has committed to creating special programs. These programs will ensure the safe reception of asylum seekers as poverty eradication in the Netherlands stars abroad. Internationally, the Netherlands supports education programs for refugee children. It supports housing opportunities for refugees in countries in their region of origin. It supports other rights protection programs as well.

Additionally, the Netherlands encourages businesses to hire from refugee populations. It also offers additional support to startups that benefit asylum-seeking populations. Further plans for assisting refugees and other vulnerable populations within the nation are laid out in the National Reform Programme. Investment and individualized support will be offered through pathway guidance and job training to aid these populations in their participation in the labor market and to increase financial freedom.

Jazmin Johnson
Photo: Unsplash

Education in SpainThe Spanish education system does not match up to the standards of the rest of Europe or other developed nations. However, the government is doing its best to put measures in place aimed at improving these standards. Below are eight facts about education in Spain:

8 Facts About Education in Spain

  1. The current system of education in Spain, also known as the Ley Orgánica de Educación (LOE), or the Fundamental Law of Education, means that education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. This system also typically requires parents to pay for books and other materials such as uniforms.
  2. It is estimated that as of 2016, 98.3 percent of the population in Spain is literate. This is largely attributable to the 10 years of compulsory education.
  3. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport generally oversees education in Spain. However, each of the 17 autonomous regions in the country can make most of the decisions regarding their systems.
  4. Schools are categorized in three ways, there are state schools that are fully funded by the state, privately-run schools which are funded partly by the state and partly by private investors and purely private schools. A majority of Spanish students, 68 percent to be exact, attend state schools. This compares to only 6 percent of students who attend purely private schools.
  5. There are four levels of education in Spain. The first is a nursery or preschool, which is optional. Next comes six years of primary, which is the first stage of compulsory education, followed by compulsory secondary education for four years. Finally, there is an optional level of upper secondary education. At the primary level, the average number of students per class is around 25. While in secondary, the average number of students per class is around 30.
  6. A 2019 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that Spain experiences more class time than both the European Union and OECD averages. The difference is more pronounced in high school, where Spain’s class time per year is 1,045 hours. This compares to the EU average of 893 hours, while the OECD average consists of 910 hours. This doesn’t seem to have any positive outcome, considering Spanish students perform worse on average than other students regarding the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. PISA experts believe the problem lies in the teaching methods, as Spanish students tend to memorize information instead of trying to find their own solution to problems.
  7. From pre-primary to secondary education, the enrollment rate was above 90 percent at each level in 2017. However, for tertiary education, the enrollment rate falls to 88.85 percent during the same period. Again, this is attributable to the fact that tertiary education is neither compulsory nor free. Interestingly, more girls than boys enrolled at each stage of education. This includes a marked difference at the tertiary level where the enrolment rate for females is 97 percent compared to 81 percent for males.  However, Spain also faces the greatest number of school dropouts in the EU.
  8. The government expenditure on education has steadily declined since 2009, including spending of 4.87 percent of the GDP on education, compared to 4.21 percent in 2016. This puts makes Spain on the tail-end of European countries when it comes to governmental education spending

While there are positives surrounding education in Spain, the situation requires additional efforts. With increased investment by the government and improved policies, schools will be able to afford more resources, hire more teachers and reduce the ratio of students to teachers. In doing so, students can receive more personalized attention and a better academic experience. Further, this will improve the quality of education and possibly reduce the time spent by students in the class. Finally, these enhancements will likely decrease the unemployment rate and greatly improve the quality of life in Spain.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty Rate in AustriaAustria is a nation with nearly 8.7 million citizens that lies in the center of Europe. In 2015, Austria was deemed one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Because of this large statistic, only four percent of the population fall beneath the poverty line. Consequently, the poverty rate in Austria very small.

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the poverty rate is the ratio of the number of people whose earnings fall below the poverty line. The poverty line is half the median household revenue of the total population. The World Factbook shows poverty is on the minor end of the spectrum in Austria but, despite low percentages, continues to exist.

Children 17 years old and younger are most affected. A 2016 OECD report shows that 9.1 percent of Austrian children live in a household with a disposable income of less than half of the Austrian median income. This number was seven percent in 2007. It is also interesting to note that among children living in Austria, 17.5 percent say that they have been bullied in the last two months. This is the second highest share in the OECD area.

In an evaluation of Austria’s well-being for 2016, the country performed close to the OECD average. Austrian households have higher net adjusted disposable income and experience lower work insecurity.

However, The Economic Survey of Austria of 2017 shows Austria is struggling to adjust towards digitalization. Digital transformation is altering the relationship between the wealthy and the poor. Well-educated people are adjusting quickly to global trends in technology, while older generations, the less educated and immigrants are falling behind. This creates unequal opportunity within the country and raises questions about those on the lower end entering the future workforce.

While Austria continues to struggle with growing child poverty rates and the digital era, 94.4 percent of Austrians are satisfied with the quality of water and air in the region. In regard to support, 92.5 percent of Austrians report having friends or relatives that they can rely on in times of trouble.

Based on economic status and results of well-being, the poverty rate in Austria can be drastically reduced. A possible solution to Austria’s largest problems could be an increase in the state budget for welfare assistance. The State could also create support structures for children being bullied or coming into school systems from low-income families. Equal opportunity and digital training must also be available for anyone entering the workforce so that older generations, the less educated and immigrants don’t get left behind.

Emilee Wessel

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in Iceland
Iceland is a small country in Northern Europe home to about 332,000 people. The nation, which is a bit smaller than Cuba, is a Nordic island nation governed by a parliamentary constitutional republic. Iceland‘s size has not held the country back from becoming a world leader. In fact, the poverty rate in Iceland is one of the best in the world.

Poverty rates help us to understand people’s economic circumstances by looking at the ratio of people whose income is below poverty line and taking that as half the median household income of the total population, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The total poverty rate ratio in Iceland is 0.065. Many of the other Nordic countries, such as Norway and Finland, also post very impressive poverty rates.

Iceland’s unemployment rate, another key economic indicator, is also very low. These successes can be at least in part attributed to the nation’s robust commitment to open-market policies, which result in outstanding flows of trade and investment.

It is important to remember that Iceland’s economy was not always so strong. About 10 years ago, Iceland’s stock market lost 80 percent of its value overnight. However, in recent years, the economy has received a tremendous boost thanks to tourism.

Why has tourism become so big in Iceland? Many indicators point to the hit TV show, “Game of Thrones.” Iceland’s beautiful landscape, which includes volcanoes, is where much of “Game of Thrones” is filmed. According to Newsweek, some locals are even calling it a “tourism boom” due to the show.

Iceland’s economic success is the result of more than just an increase in tourism; government actions have also proven to be extremely beneficial. An example of this includes a government program intended to “stimulate a previously frozen housing market and reduce household debt.” It has been quite successful, as housing debt has dropped from 124 percent of the GDP to 77 percent.

Despite Iceland’s many economic successes, there are still people who are struggling. According to Iceland Review Online, over 6,000 Icelanders live in severe poverty. In order to improve the situation, Siv Friðleifsdóttir, who is the head of the Welfare Watch and former minister for the Progressive Party, wants Iceland to follow the lead of other Nordic countries by paying a base amount in child benefits.

The poverty rate in Iceland demonstrates that the country is a world leader in combating poverty. There is still work to be done, but Iceland is taking the necessary steps to improve the situation.

Adam Braunstein
Photo: Flickr

Indonesia Compact investment
The U.S. foreign aid organization, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), invested $600 million in economic stimulus to reduce poverty in Indonesia that entered into force in 2013. The MCC forms five-year compact grants for countries that meet eligibility criteria and displays “good governance, economic freedom and investment in their citizens”.

According to the MCC, the Indonesia Compact consists of three projects, which aim to facilitate the increased quality of “health and nutrition, sustainable land and energy management, and modernizing the system of government procurement of public goods and services.”

To assist with the goal of “sustainable land and energy management,” part of the Indonesia Compact is the Green Prosperity project. This project accounts for $332.5 million of the Indonesia Compact investment funding, encapsulating efforts to expand economic conduits while decreasing emissions of greenhouse gases. Indonesia’s elimination of fuel subsidies has been positive and growth is expected to reach 5.5 percent in 2017. The regime’s ability to set fuel prices, however, is still a point of concern, as cited in a June 2016 report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Another part of the Indonesia Compact is the Community-Based Health and Nutrition to Reduce Stunting Project, which is a child and youth-based initiative aiming to decrease incidents of malnutrition that impact Indonesians across 5,400 villages. The World Food Programme cites that the nation loses more than $5 billion per year due to lost productivity as a result of malnutrition. An investment of $134.2 million of the $600 million is going towards the Community-Based Health and Nutrition to Reduce Stunting Project.

The World Bank notes that 37.2 percent of children under the age of five experience stunting. These developmental hindrances are pivotal to providing transparency into the double burden of malnutrition. Paired with an increased risk of developing non-communicable diseases like heart disease, stunting at a young age can reduce productivity beginning in adolescence.

The MCC has allocated $65 million of the Indonesia Compact investment to the Procurement Modernization Project. The goal of this project is to strengthen the country’s public procurement system. The OECD reported that provinces and districts in Indonesia are spending 40 percent of total public funds, a rate of fiscal decentralization higher than any other East Asian country apart from China.

The compact also accounts for inequality by the implementation of the Social and Gender Integration Plan (SGIP) that ensures equal opportunity across genders and social structures for those participating in compact programs.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr