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Labor Unions in MexicoIn May 2019, workers won the right to form labor unions in Mexico. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), seven out of 10 Mexicans live in poverty or vulnerability. Meanwhile, the country’s minimum wage is $5.40 a day. Below are 10 facts about labor unions in Mexico and the promise of their implementation to alleviate Mexican poverty.

10 Facts About Labor Unions in Mexico

  1. Before the start of labor reform, thousands of Mexican workers went on strike for better pay, safer working conditions and union representation. The strikes shut down dozens of factories, resulting in 48 assembly plants agreeing to the workers’ demands.
  2. By granting workers the right to form labor unions, they can now engage in collective bargaining. This means that workers in Mexico, organized in a union, can negotiate their own pay, benefits and workplace conditions. Furthermore, they can provide a safeguard against workplace harassment and unlawful business practices.
  3. Many Mexican workers are already members of a union. Due to the fact that these unions completely exclude workers from their processes, however, others have dubbed them ghost unions. Employers establish these unions and they largely exist only on paper. Upon hiring, companies make workers join their union, which prevents workers from forming their own union and negotiating terms themselves. In fact, companies in Mexico force nine out of 10 union contracts without the consent, and sometimes knowledge, of their workers.
  4. Mexican President López Obrador implemented the new labor laws. He did this along with both branches of the Mexican congress in order to raise living standards, reduce crime and discourage migration to the United States. The left-wing president promises to carry out a “radical transformation” in Mexico, focusing on the needs of the poor and rooting out corruption.
  5. Wages in Mexico have fallen far behind the rate of inflation. The average hourly wage for a factory worker in Mexico, traditionally a unionized job, is approximately $2. Collective bargaining gives workers the right to negotiate wages, ensuring that workers have the efficacy to reduce the gap between inflation and pay.
  6. Depending on the collective bargaining contract, many unions provide protections against workplace harassment and unjust employee termination. Human Rights Watch (HRW) identifies forced pregnancy tests and mistreatment of migrant workers as areas of particular concern in Mexico. Employee complaints led to no change in business practices, but union contracts give workers the opportunity to push the issue in order to protect the most vulnerable among them.
  7. HRW and Mexican workers cite unsafe workplace conditions. These indicate employees need more robust labor protections. President Obrador campaigned on a promise to improve workers’ conditions through union representation. The need for better conditions is clear; HRW described some workplaces in Mexico as “life-threatening.”
  8. According to the OECD, 71 percent of the value created by corporations in Mexico goes to shareholders. On the other hand, workers receive only 28 percent. Employees in the United States, on the other hand, have a 69 percent share, and shareholders receive 21 percent of the value created. The disproportionate share exists as evidence of a lack of workers’ representation and labor unions in Mexico can help reverse the trend.
  9. The North American Free Trade Agreement included provisions in order to protect workers’ rights. According to HRW, people often ignored those provisions, especially in Mexico. The recent labor reform comes on the heels of a renegotiated trade deal, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The USMCA seeks to, among other things, reduce the gap between workers’ protections in all three signatories.
  10. While labor unions will not completely alleviate Mexican poverty, the country can expect to make some gains. As the share of the value created by corporations becomes more evenly distributed among workers, the Mexican economy will benefit as a whole. Put simply, a larger share of the money will remain in Mexico due to union representation.

Stronger worker protections in Mexico promise to strengthen its middle-class and help the poor. By reducing the degree of poverty, Mexico can also expect to enjoy greater stability. Labor unions in Mexico present an opportunity for economic expansion, foreign investment and an entirely new market for consumer goods.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Google Images

Life Expectancy in the United States
The United States is most known for its freedom, economic predominance and technological advancement. However, compared to other developed countries in the world, the United States ranks at or near the bottom in terms of mortality and life expectancy while surpassing other countries in health spending.

Rank of US in OECD

Along with the United States, 35 other countries make up the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental economic organization that keeps track of developed countries’ economic and human development progress.

In comparison to other OECD countries, the United States ranks 29 for infant mortality and 26 for overall life expectancy. While the life expectancy in the United States has dropped for the second year in a row, this is not surprising as the life expectancy of the country has been dropping for decades.

In 1960, the United States had the highest life expectancy, 2.4 years higher than the average of OECD countries. However, in 1998, the United States dropped below the OECD average and plateaued since. The new average life expectancy in the United States is 78.7 years, which is 1.5 years less than the average life of all OECD countries of 80.3.

To get a better understanding of the life expectancy in the United States, similarities and differences between the United States and other developed countries, the factors that affect the life expectancy rate in the United States and the improvements that can be made to increase the life expectancy have to be taken into consideration.

Factors That Affect the Life Expectancy in the United States

The National Research Council and Institute of Medicine studied the reasons as to why the life expectancy in the United States continue to fall below the OECD average. The researchers found a plethora of problems including obesity, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and homicides.

However, they also found drugs to be one of the main contributing factors with a 137 percent increase in fatal drug overdoses between 2000 and 2014. To emphasize the significance of fatal drug overdoses in the United States- the average of 115 Americans dies every day from an opioid overdose.

On top of that, Fortune reports that six Americans die from alcohol abuse daily, the highest rate in 35 years.

Besides drugs and alcohol, the United States faces health obstacles as well. According to CNN, the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, suicide and unintentional injuries. These causes account for 74.1 percent of all deaths in the United States.

However, the chances of having any of these problems can be reduced by taking care of oneself physically and mentally through exercise, eating right and in overall, living a positive and healthy lifestyle.

Despite the increase of the deaths in the United States, seven of the top 10 leading causes have decreased in recent years: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia and kidney disease.

Organizations Improving the Situation

  • World Health Organization (WHO). This is one of the many organization dedicated to building a healthier future for people all over the world. WHO works with 194 member states, across six regions, from more than 150 offices, working to combat diseases such as influenza, HIV, cancer and heart disease. WHO’s mission is to provide leadership on matters pertaining to health, improve norms and standards to fit a healthier lifestyle and monitor health situations and trends. Its work in the U.S. is crucial for the country.
  • Save the Children. This organization works in the United States and in many other countries around the world with a goal to save as many children as possible from an unhealthy and dangerous lifestyle. Save the Children reported that in 2017 alone, it worked with more than 155 million children in 120 countries. Out of this number, 237,000 were children in the United States.

With the help of organizations such as the World Health Organization and Save the Children, the United States, along with other countries, can continue to make economic and human developmental progress. The question of improvement in the quality of life is one most important questions that the United States has to address in the upcoming years.

– Kristen Uedoi
Photo: Flickr

Education in Slovakia
Education in Slovakia has a lot of similarities to the education system in the U.S., however there are a few key differences worth noting.

The first one of these major differences is the years of preschool education. In America, most schools have one year each of pre-school and kindergarten, which most students attend at the ages of four and five, respectively. However, Slovakia has a few years of kindergarten education. Most students attend this when they are between three and six years old. Although this level of schooling is not required, kindergarten is a period where students learn numbers, nature, colors, how to draw, shapes and names of the days and months.

The next level beyond kindergarten is primary school, which is required by law. In America, primary school is called elementary school and is six years long, and leads into two years of middle school. In Slovakia, primary school is split into two sections. The first section starts at age six and is four years long (first to fourth grade) and the second section is five years long (fifth to ninth grade). By the time students finish this level of education, they should be about 15 years old. In America, at 15 years old, students would already be halfway into their high school education.

Secondary schools are where the most differences show between American and Slovakia. High school education in America is still focused on core subjects like history, science and math, although they usually delve deeper into the subject matter. Rather than general subjects, you can specialize in certain subjects. For example, it is no longer just science class – you can usually pick between biology, chemistry or physics. Secondary education in Slovakia focuses not only on higher education in these subjects, but vocational training is a key aspect. This better prepares students for the future job market, and also this blend of general education and vocational training is what makes education in Slovakia so effective. The Legatum Institute releases a yearly ranking of countries based on certain aspects. In 2016, according to the Legatum Prosperity Index, Slovakia ranked 30th out of 149 countries evaluated, compared to the U.S., which was ranked eighth.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), attending secondary education gives students a significant advantage in the job market. Employment rates for those who complete upper secondary education is 70 percent and that rises to 82 percent if they complete tertiary education as well. However, the rate of employment for those without upper secondary education is 30 percent, which is against the OECD average of 55 percent.

Slovakia and America have different ideologies about education, but it is clear that Slovakia’s focus on higher education and vocational training especially have hugely benefitted Slovakia in terms of education for its citizens.

Scott Kesselring

Photo: Flickr

Uruguay Poverty Rate
Uruguay has made great progress in reducing poverty since the mid-1980s, mainly due to the country’s extensive social policy and macroeconomic stability in the 1990s. The country is also notable in Latin America for its equitable distribution of income. However, the Uruguay poverty rate remains a concern for some Uruguayan communities.

Uruguay’s impoverished residents typically have a critical combination of low skills, weak demand and high family dependency that makes them vulnerable to financial struggles. A dual strategy that improves Uruguay’s investment climate and enhances growth is one method that could help the country’s poor. Investing in human capital via education could assist impoverished residents as well.

Uruguay’s poor are also marginalized. Impoverished Uruguayans are increasingly concentrated in specific neighborhoods, challenging poverty reduction efforts and implying changes to social services. Uruguayan children have become a significant portion of the country’s poor, with 40 percent born into poor families — a fact that foreshadows an intergenerational poverty problem.

Teenage mothers, inactive youths and unemployed adult males (40 to 50 years old) with low skillsets are vulnerable to the Uruguay poverty rate as well. While this demographic is relatively small, it could increase given Uruguay’s past social problems. However, this problem is still manageable in scope and depth. Uruguay would require a change to conventional social programs in order to help this vulnerable demographic.

Uruguayan children are the country’s most vulnerable demographic to impoverished conditions. However, Uruguay’s elderly population are at the least risk due to the country’s pension benefits and increasing job salaries. Uruguay’s constitutional change in 1989 permitted the indexation of pensions to wages, helping the country’s elderly to have higher income deciles and lower poverty rates as well.

Income inequality is another reason for the Uruguay poverty rate. Inequality in workers’ wages was on an upward trend from the 1990s to 2007. Since 2008, increases in labor income have helped lower Uruguay’s income inequality problems. However, Uruguay’s income inequality rate is still relatively high by OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) standards.

Thankfully, Uruguay’s poverty rate is continuing to decrease. The country’s poverty rate was 11.5 percent in 2013 and dropped to 9.7 percent in 2014. Uruguay’s homelessness rate of 0.5 percent dropped to 0.3 percent within the same years. The country’s Central Bank stated that Uruguay’s economy grew by 3.5 percent and slightly above market expectations.

While the Uruguay poverty rate continues to decrease, the country’s impoverished communities will require opportunities for income equality. Uruguay has a literacy rate of 96 percent (the highest rate among Latin American countries) and a social contract that stresses the importance of accessing education.

Uruguayans with low skillsets may be able to escape poverty by taking advantage of the country’s educational opportunities, and therefore creating a brighter Uruguayan future for all.

Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in ChileChile is an elongated country in South America, located adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, as of June 2016 the population in Chile was 17,650,114, which is about 5.3 percent of the population of South America.

About 14 percent of this Spanish-speaking nation is below the poverty rate. Although the government has been working to improve conditions and livelihoods for Chile’s residents, the anti-poverty organizations currently in place have not been particularly helpful.

United Nations Special Rapporteur, Philip Alston, stated that Chile “continues to tolerate levels of poverty and inequality which are very high for a country belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).”

Chile needs support in the areas of education, income equality and human rights in order to prosper in today’s society. Here are just a few ways to help people in Chile:

1. Educate

In Chile, 99.5 percent of the population speaks Spanish, whereas 10.2 percent speak English. In a changing global society, Chile has realized that it is important to educate children in the English language so that they can be more communicative and productive in their future endeavors.

The English Open Doors Program is an organization that is looking for English teachers to volunteer four months of their time in Chile. Literacy rates in Chile are already very high – 96 percent – and therefore just need a little extra help to become extremely successful.

2. Equality For All

Gender inequality in the workforce is a huge issue in Chile. Alston says, “Women’s participation in the workforce needs to be facilitated by a range of measures that include better community care facilities, and better economic rewards for currently unpaid female care workers.”

To help eliminate this discrimination in the workforce, labor laws and reform programs are needed. If you’re wondering how to help people in Chile with this issue even though you live thousands of miles away, there is a simple solution: advocating. Even though you may not be able to picket on Chilean streets, you can raise awareness by posting signs around town, for instance, and getting people to talk about this issue.

3. Human Rights

Aside from the inequality in the workplace in Chile, discrimination in regards to human rights has also been a pressing issue. According to Alston, “There is a deep need for an entity with the responsibility, authority, funds and resources to coordinate government-wide human rights policies.”

Whether this is in regard to sexual education for young women or protection rights for the poorest in Chile, “Mr. Alston called for a specific, integrated plan to tackle both poverty and extreme poverty and for more effective coordination mechanisms.”

Chile’s government and reform programs have been working hard to reduce inequalities and human rights issues, but have so far proven to be insufficient. Are you wondering how to help people in Chile with these issues? The simplest way to work toward equality and peace in Chile is to raise awareness of these problems. Post signs on the walls of your local coffee shop, talk to your co-workers or even contact your congressional leaders about supplying aid to the Chilean people who need it most.

Sydney Missigman

Photo: Flickr

American_PovertyWith the 2016 Presidential election approaching rapidly, candidates are beginning to differentiate themselves from the competition by advocating for unique platforms. While some candidates have built a large portion of their campaign around illegal immigration, one candidate has made it clear that he will focus on an issue here at home. Bernie Sanders has emerged as the champion for reducing poverty here in the United States.

Sanders uses the increasing disparity between the wealth classes in America to illustrate his point on the problem of American poverty. Continuing to hammer his point home, Sanders then puts the blame on Wall Street’s influence over economic poverty, unfairly favoring those with more income. Sanders is directly quoted as saying, “There are a lot of great public servants out there, great economists who for years have been standing up for the middle class and the working families of this country, who know that it is an international embarrassment that we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on Earth.” Sanders makes a bold claim with this statement, but one that is shockingly valid.

Sanders’ campaign website lists some alarming figures about overall U.S. poverty as well as child poverty on an international scale. According to the site, 46.5 million Americans live below the poverty line making that figure the largest in U.S. history. In addition to this number, Sanders’ website cites a 21.8 percent child poverty rate, the “highest of any major country on earth.” It is important to distinguish here that by “major country,” he is referring to all countries part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED).

In March of 2014 Sanders organized a subcommittee to examine in depth the differences in life expectancy across the United Sates as a direct result of varying poverty levels. Some of the findings reported that almost as many people die from poverty as from lung cancer. Life expectancy was also shown to have decreased over the past 20 years in 313 U.S. counties, and the United States has 6 million more people in poverty today than it did in 2004.

Poverty is as crucial an issue as any from presidential hopefuls this elections. Senator Bernie Sanders has made it one of his top campaign priorities to reduce this number drastically if elected, by working vigorously to improve the system of the American economy and reduce the vast gap between wealth classes in America.

Diego Catala

Sources: PolitiFact, Senate
Photo: Bernie Sanders

foreign_aid

On June 2, 2015, Iraqi Prime Minister Heider Al-Abadi spoke to an international coalition of over 20 countries in Paris in a bid to refresh the coalition’s strategy on combating violent extremists such as the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS.

The Iraqi leader requested more foreign aid, specifically intelligence and weapons, and blamed Western nations for not doing enough to stop foreign fighters from joining ISIS.

The next day, at a United Nations forum discussing the role of the media in combating terrorism, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman said, “Groups like ISIS succeed because they offer young people opportunities to engage with their peers and provide a space where they can bond over their grievances, hopes and deeply held desire for a world that is just and fair.”

The fighting that has raged throughout Iraq has left many families desolute and has taken a tremendous toll on children. According to the UNICEF, violations against children has increased by 75% over the last year. This includes abduction and the recruitment of child soldiers.

Missing amidst the talks of military and media foreign aid strategies to combat ISIS is the lack of humanitarian aid investments for displaced Iraqis. U.N. officials warn that millions of Iraqis caught between ISIS and the Iraqi Army could be without food or shelter over the next six months unless $497 million is raised in emergency funds.

As if the current demands are not hard-pressing, on June 23, the World Health Organization has asked for an additional $60 million to prevent 77 healthcare clinics from shutting down. The lack of water and soaring temperatures have led to a rise in dehydration among displaced Iraqis. With desperation mounting, Iraqis are looking for alternatives to extremist groups to find support. However, these alternatives often do not exist.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has shown that when the Iraqi government provides service provisions across the socioeconomic spectrum, there is a reduction in violent insurgency. According to the NBER, a 10% increase in labor-related spending generated a 15% to 20% decline in labor-intensive violence in Iraq. As the violence decreases, social and economic stability ensues.

Unfortunately, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, official development assistance to the poorest countries fell by 8% between 2013 and 2014, excluding debt relief nations where the figures are higher at 16%. Iraq oversaw a spike in violence over that same period of time.

Providing intelligence and weapons may help to slow down ISIS. However, continued foreign aid investments into social and economic programs in Iraq and Syria are needed to ultimately reduce global threats.

If the international community does not supply the necessary foreign aid to Iraq, if people are not fed and do not have their basic health needs met, they will have no choice but to turn to ISIS, a group ready to supply them with work and food. This outcome would be catastrophic for the Iraqi government as well as the United States and our allies.

Adnan Khalid

Sources: National Bureau of Economic Research 1, National Bureau of Economic Research 2, The Guardian, The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, UN 1, UN 2, UNICEF, Wall Street Journal
Photo: NY Post

health_growth_slows
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has reported slow health-spending as economies continue to struggle. Further, Reuters reported that total health spending fell in one in three OECD countries between 2009 and 2011 with the poor from these countries being the ones hardest hit.

Those living in poverty within those hard-hit countries are at a larger risk of longer-term problems and have lessened access to regular medicines and checkups, the OECD explained on Nov. 14.

This drop in health spending is a “sharp reversal” compared to the years prior to the financial crisis. The OECD said this makes it “all the more important that governments work to make healthcare systems more productive, efficient and affordable.”

The OECD further stated that longer-term impacts on health and health spending are important to focus on in contrast to short-term benefits to budgets.

Reuters then explained that personal spending per capita “fell in 11 of the 33 OECD countries between 2009 and 2011, according to the 2013 Health at a Glance report.”

As it stands, Japan and Israel are the only countries that saw their health spending rise since 2009, when compared to the previous decade.  On the other hand, growth in the U.S. fell 1.3% and 0.8% in Canada.

In fact, a third of what the OECD claims to be “rich countries” cut their health spending between 2009 and 2011. The report states that budget cuts in “austerity hit countries for the drop in healthcare spending.”

The OECD said that “Governments have worked to lower spending through cutting prices of medical goods, especially pharmaceuticals, and by budget restrictions and wage cuts in hospitals.”

Some of the other findings in the Health at a Glance 2013 report are:

1. “Chronic diseases such as diabetes and dementia are increasingly prevalent. In 2011, close to 7% of 20-79 year-olds in OECD countries, or over 85 million people, had diabetes. This number is likely to increase in the years ahead, given the high and often growing rates of obesity across the developed world.”

2. “The market share of generic drugs has increased significantly over the past decade in many countries. However, generics still represent less than 25% of the market in Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland, Switzerland, Japan and France, compared with about 75% in Germany and the United Kingdom.”

3. “The burden of out-of-pocket spending creates barriers to health care access in some countries. On average in the OECD, 20% of health spending is paid directly by patients; this ranges from less than 10% in the Netherlands and France to over 35% in Chile, Korea and Mexico.”

3. “Across OECD countries, more than 15% of people aged 50 and older provide care for a dependent relative or friend, and most informal carers are women.”

– Alycia Rock

Sources: OECD, Huffington Post, Reuters