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Poverty Rate in FinlandFinland is a country in Europe with a population of 5.5 million. The nation borders Sweden, Norway and Russia. Despite the nation’s small population, Finland is extremely impressive on the global scale. The nation is known for high quality education, equality and a national social welfare system. The poverty rate in Finland is also among the best in the world.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines poverty rate as “the ratio of the number of people (in a given age group) whose income falls below the poverty line; taken as half the median household income of the total population.” As of 2014, Finland’s total poverty rate of .068 is the fourth best in the world, trailing Denmark, the Czech Republic and Iceland. For people under the age of 17 in poverty, Finland does even better, ranking second in the world.

The poverty rate in Finland is not among the world’s best by accident. The nation’s economy is open and transparent. It has well-maintained laws and a very low tolerance for corruption.

The nation’s many successes does not mean that everything is perfect. The economy struggled in recent years, forcing the government to take measures to bring back economic growth and reduce public debt.

 

Maintaining a Low Poverty Rate in Finland

 

Fortunately, things are already starting to turn around. In 2015, the economy grew for the first time since 2011, and that growth continued in 2016. In January of this year, Finland began a new program designed to help the nation’s people and economy. The trial, which will last for two years, will pay 2,000 randomly-selected citizens unemployment benefits of 560 euros every month.

The experiment aims to limit bureaucracy, reduce poverty and increase employment. At the moment, we cannot know for sure how effective this program will be. Critics argue that the program may encourage laziness, since people will be receiving a paycheck without working. However, there is hope that it can accomplish its goals.

Looking forward, Finland must work hard to strengthen its economy, which will include lowering labor costs and increasing demand for its exports. The population of Finland is aging and the nation is experiencing a decrease in productivity in traditional industries. All of this threatens the nation’s economy.

Nevertheless, the poverty rate in Finland is something to be admired. The country has and will continue to face many challenges, economic and otherwise, but its unique actions may be what it needs to stay ahead of the curve.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Flickr

Thailand Poverty RateIn recent years, Thailand has made tremendous strides in pulling itself out of poverty. In 2011, Thailand became classified as an upper middle-income economy as the Thailand poverty rate has been steadily falling since the 1980s.

In 2015, according to the World Bank, the Thailand poverty rate was 7.2 percent, a tremendous change from 67 percent in 1986. While the Asian Development Bank reported a slightly higher poverty rate of 10.5 percent, the decrease in poverty in Thailand is undeniable. In comparison to the rest of Southeast Asia, Thailand boasts the third-lowest poverty rate right behind Malaysia and Vietnam.

However, poverty in Thailand tends to concentrate in two main groups: those living in rural areas and the elderly. Of the roughly 7-10 percent that live in poverty, a majority of those live outside of metropolitan areas. As of 2014, more than 80 percent of those living below the poverty line resided in rural towns.

The poverty rate in Thailand is also high among those over the age of 60. Thailand’s population has peaked and is expected to begin decreasing by 2030, which means that the number of working-age people is decreasing. Poverty affects those over the age of 60 at a higher rate than the national average at 10.9 percent.

Many point to significant economic growth as a catalyst to Thailand’s falling poverty rate. Thailand’s economy has been steadily growing since the 1960s, creating jobs that have helped millions escape from poverty. Although growth has slowed down slightly, the World Bank expects it to pick up once again in 2017.

As a result of economic growth, many have experienced improvements in welfare. Many Thai children have had their quality of life improved. Literacy rates have increased while the rate of childhood death and disease have decreased. Most people are covered by health insurance and social security has increased as well.

This is not to say that poverty is no longer an issue within Thailand. Many still live without access to basic social services and the poor continue to be more vulnerable to illness and unemployment. However, it is important to understand the Thailand poverty rate — and how it has fallen dramatically — in order for the country to continue its trend away from poverty.

Jennifer Faulkner

Photo: Flickr

El Salvador Poverty Rate
El Salvador, a tiny county in Central America, has struggled with corruption and poverty for centuries. The El Salvador poverty rate is one of the highest in the world.

In fact, the most recent official statistics reported that the poverty rate in El Salvador is above a third of the entire population. In 2015, the CIA established that almost 35 percent of El Salvador’s population lived below the poverty line. Other recent data has shown it could be above 40 percent.

One standardized way of measuring poverty thresholds is contrasting a household’s income with the price of a basic family basket of food sufficient to feed the whole household.

A study into the El Salvador poverty rate defines living in poverty as any household whose income does not reach two times the price of a basic family basket of food.

Most data places the price of a basic family basket of food at somewhere between $130 and $184, depending on the rurality of the area. Therefore, if a basket were to be priced at $170 nationwide, then the number of households with a monthly income below $340 would make up the poverty rate.

The El Salvador poverty rate logically goes hand-in-hand with the issue of violent gangs, who have plagued the country since the end of the civil war. A report out of El Salvador has attributed 84 percent of forced displacement to gang violence and crime.

The World Bank and others have pointed to a declining poverty rate in El Salvador, citing a possible seven percent fall since 2000. However, this data has been contradicted.

With a fluctuating GDP, it is difficult to observe any real patterns of economic growth in the nation. This is predominantly because of large-scale corruption.

In fact, just last year former President of El Salvador, Antonio Saca, was arrested on corruption charges. He has been accused of misusing public funds and money laundering. These accusations have come in light of him acquiring five to six million dollars while in office.

The United Nations announced the establishment of a program that will tackle corruption in El Salvador. By working with existing institutions, the anti-corruption program will investigate existing cases while attempting to uncover more.

Most analysts share the belief that before the El Salvador poverty rate can be effectively addressed and significantly shifted, the country must rid itself of the levels of corruption evident today.

Cornell Holland

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in Guatemala
The poverty rate in Guatemala is high by most standards. Guatemala is a country in Central America that is bordered by El Salvador, Honduras, Belize and Mexico. It is known for its massive Lake Atitlán and ancient Mayan ruins. It is home to 16.5 million, people making it the most populous country in Central America. Although Guatemala’s official language is Spanish, 40% of its inhabitants speak Indigenous languages.

The poverty rate in Guatemala is very high. According to the World Bank, 59.3% of the population lives below the poverty line. In addition, 23% live in extreme poverty.

The indigenous people in Guatemala are most affected by poverty. In fact, 79% of them live in poverty, while 40% of them live in extreme poverty. Eight in ten indigenous children suffer from chronic malnutrition, a condition that weakens their immune system and does not allow their bodies to fully develop.

The indigenous population also suffers from discrimination and exclusion in Guatemalan society, which makes it difficult for them to rise out of poverty. The country’s topography also keeps indigenous people living in rural areas isolated from the rest of society, making it more difficult for them to receive help.

Income inequality is high in Guatemala. According to a study conducted by the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), 260 Guatemalans own 56% of the national economy. This means that 0.001% of the population owns more than half of the country’s wealth.

Agriculture is a very important source of revenue for Guatemala. It accounts for 20% of the GDP and employs more than 40% of the population. Main food exports include sugar, bananas, coffee and vegetables. However, due to the country’s susceptibility to natural disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and landslides, many citizens are in a constant struggle to survive and make a living.

Many NGOs stepped in to help improve the poverty rate in Guatemala. For example, The World Food Programme (WFP) delivers emergency food supplies to Guatemalans and teaches farmers how to grow more crops and better market the food they harvest. The NGO Food for The Poor brings food, medicine, and education supplies to needy communities in Guatemala.

Anna Gargiulo

Poverty Rate in Lebanon
The poverty rate in Lebanon is increasing, but so is the GDP, although not to its full potential, according to the World Bank. The influx of refugees has caused some challenges to the country’s GDP and strain public finances. But Lebanon remains one of the wealthiest economies in the South Mediterranean region.

Lebanon is a free market economy that relies on service-oriented businesses such as banking and tourism for its income. A civil war in Lebanon from 1975-1990 slowed economic progress. In the years that followed, Lebanon’s government struggled to maintain its economy which resulted in heavy borrowing in the 1990s. But in the early 2000s, the government made improvements to the economy. Foreign investment still has many restrictions, delays and obstacles, and the main source of income is tourism.

The GDP of Lebanon increased an estimated 1.8% in 2016, improving from the 1.3% increase in 2015. With that said, the influx of Syrian refugees in Lebanon created challenges with the economy. According to independent Lebanese government sources, up to 1.5 million Syrian refugees (equal to a quarter of the population of Lebanon) have taken refuge in Lebanon since 2011.

This influx of people strained public finances, service delivery and the environment in Lebanon. The poverty rate in Lebanon is expected to worsen because of increasing income inequality. About 200,000 Lebanese became impoverished due to the Syrian crisis, adding to the one million already classified as poor. Additionally, another 250,000 to 300,000 people became unemployed.

Even though the Syrian crisis caused the poverty rate in Lebanon to increase, the GDP is also increasing. There need to be some solutions of where and how to take care of refugees, while also distributing money to Lebanese citizens.

Deanna Wetmore

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate of Venezuela
Venezuela, once expected to be one of the richest countries in South America, has been crippled by socialist dictators and now suffers from widespread poverty. In fact, 82% of the population lives in poverty. With the largest oil reserves in the world, Venezuela’s economy has become solely dependent on oil.

Venezuela has relied on high oil prices to bolster their exports and pay for importing basic goods, including food and medicine. However, with the price of oil dropping dramatically in the last few years, Venezuela’s economy has taken a major hit and caused drastic inflation. As inflation skyrocketed and political turmoil brewed, investors and businesses drained out of the country.

Currently, Venezuela leads the world with the highest inflation. In December of 2016, it reached a high of 800% inflation and has not significantly decreased since. According to the LA Times, it cost $150 to buy a dozen eggs in Venezuela in 2016. This hyperinflation has caused Venezuela’s currency, the Bolivar Fuerte, to depreciate. This has caused the poverty rate of Venezuela to jump to more than 80%.

 

Poverty in Venezuela

 

The face of poverty in Venezuela is also changing. With such a staggeringly high poverty rate, poverty now affects citizens with degrees who cannot find jobs and more urban people, in addition to the already rural poor.

Long lines at supermarkets have developed as people seek the most basic and necessary means of survival. According to CNBC, Venezuelans are eating two or fewer meals a day and around three-fourths of the population have watched their weight decrease throughout the years.

In 2016, President Nicolas Maduro increased the minimum wage by 40%. With inflation, this means that citizens who receive minimum wage earn just $67 a month. The explosive poverty rate and lack of proper government response have prompted protests, as this issue is now being seen as a clear violation of human rights.

However, opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez, his wife, Lilian Tintori and Capriles Radonski acknowledge the situation and have been fighting for a better Venezuela. A Venezuela with democratic power, basic goods and luxuries everyone can afford, a Venezuela with jobs for everyone, lower crime rates and better health care.

The high poverty rate in Venezuela has reached the attention of the world. Raising awareness has been part of finding hope for Venezuela. The hashtag #SOSVenezuela has been used over the last few years to protest corruption and has acted as a rallying cry to bring global attention to the people affected by Venezuela’s dire political situation.

Francis Hurtado

Photo: Google

Canada's Poverty Rate
Although Canada stands as one of the world’s wealthiest nations, with above-average health care and education systems and a strong government, there is one deficit – its unbelievably high poverty rate. In fact, it was estimated in 2009 that 1 in 10 Canadians lived below the poverty line and half of Canadians were subsisting on less than $25,400. This is substantially less than a typical comfortable wage, which is $50,000. For a nation with a GDP of $1.674 trillion, the 17th best in the world, this number is startling. Considering Canada’s wealth, how can they use their financial situation in order to improve the lives of the nation’s poor?

There is no simple solution that can launch the impoverished into a better financial situation. Positive programs must be introduced in order to build a community that is focused on upward mobility and even then the process can be difficult. However, there are some proven methods to help decrease the homeless population and feed citizens who are hungry. The most important avenue towards lowering Canada’s poverty rate is through government assistance programs. As of 2014, Canada spent 15 % of its federal budget on welfare programs that include disability, housing, education, family and pension benefits.

Government aid in Canada is split into two categories: social security programs and social and welfare services. The first, social security, is used as a generic term referring to many different programs from health and education to family assistance, unemployment and old-age benefits. Old age social security benefits are especially helpful in Canada. The country’s Public Pensions System has three efficient components that ensure elderly citizens do not suffer in poverty. The first, Canada Pension Plan (CPP), is a compulsory and earnings-related program that provides income for retired and disabled workers and survivors. This is a very similar system to the United States’ Social Security program. However, the other two components of the Public Pensions system go a step further. Old Age Security (OAS) is nearly universal and is financed from general revenues and paid to almost every Canadian over the age of 65. This provides an extra step to make retirement more comfortable than the income supplied through the CPP.

Finally, the last component of the Public Pensions System tackles poverty head-on. The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) is a benefit program that pays non-taxable income to low and moderate-income citizens over the age of 65. This guaranteed annual income is vital to keeping the elderly population above the poverty line, and Canada’s poverty rate relatively manageable. However, it could also be useful for the rest of Canada’s working population in the low to moderate-income bracket. Since this program is not financed by tax revenue, it would not hurt the rest of the population, and it would be a way for state and local government to use their revenue to truly help the citizens who are in need. This program only finances workers and retired former workers, so there would also be an incentive for Canadian citizens to work, rather than live off of government welfare.

While these social security programs provide benefits for all and are helpful at helping Canadians rise above the poverty line, the government’s social welfare or “personal” services are also available. These services operate under the assumption that, in order to ensure that Canada’s poverty rate continues to stay low, communities need to invest in their fellow citizens. Community-based services include daycare, home-delivered meals and even counseling. Through these programs, the government has developed the tools necessary to lower the poverty rate and keep its citizens happy and healthy. From healthcare to unemployment benefits, there are resources in place for Canadians at any time of their lives.

While Canada’s poverty rate is still relatively high, there is room for positive growth. If the government continues to invest in its citizens and Canadians invest in each other, there is a great chance that the poverty rate will continue to drop, and Canada will become an example for the rest of the world.

Rachael Blandau

Photo: Google

Russia Poverty Rate
According to The Guardian, the poverty rate in Russia in 2016 was 13.4%, the highest it’s been since 2006. In spite of this, the poverty rate in Russia has decreased significantly since Vladimir Putin took office in 2000.

 

Factors Contributing to the Poverty Rate in Russia

 

One of the largest contributors to Russian poverty is the sanctions put on the country in 2014 by Western countries, as discussed in Radio Free Europe/Radio Library. These sanctions were condemnations for some of Russia’s recent actions, including the annexation of Crimea.

Another factor in the increase in the poverty rate in Russia is the shrinking economy. Much of this deals with the diminished prices of oil, on which the Russian economy heavily depends.

Debt is another contributor to the poverty rate. According to MarketWatch, many of Russia’s 85 regions are in debt due to the local governments relying heavily on commercial loans from Russian banks: “[M]ore than 25 Russian regions had debt-to-revenue ratios of over 85%.”

Local governments also have to pay high taxes to the national government, which many struggle to do. Several of the regions have even defaulted on national loans, causing both frustration and government instability on both sides.

These factors coincide with the rising cost of Russian goods and the decrease of Russian wages. Because of this, Russians are less inclined or able to spend much money, which is reflected by the 5.9% decrease in retail.

Regardless, by the first quarter of 2017, Russia has decreased its poverty rate by nearly 7%. According to Tatiana Golikova, chief of Russia’s Audit Chamber, “[There are] 1.4 million people less [living in poverty] than in the first quarter of last year.”

Moreover, according to MarketWatch, Russia is expected to end its regression in 2017. Reasons for this include a stricter budget and more realistic market expectations.

Cortney Rowe

 

Photo: Flickr

Brazil's Poverty Rate
In a mere decade, Brazil’s extreme poverty rate has dropped dramatically. In fact, among the BRIC nations, Brazil has the second-lowest percentage of its population living under the poverty line. Former President Lula’s unprecedented Bolsa Família Program (BF) is modestly responsible for this success.  In 2003, Brazil’s poverty rate stood at 9.7%; in 2013, that percentage was down to 4.3.

The concept of the Bolsa Família program is straightforward and trusting. The BF gives low-income families small cash transfers and in return, the families attend preventative health care visits and keep their children in school.  Bolsa Família has both short and long term goals. In the short term, BF has exceeded expectations.

Not only has BF help halve the poverty rate, but it has also improved income equality by 15%. Historically, Brazil has struggled with social and economic equality. As recent as the 1980s and 1990s, the nation’s poorest 60 percent of the population had only four percent of the total wealth.

The BF’s long term goals are grounded in sustainability, for it provides a more promising future for the youth generation. Through education and health, the BF works to give children opportunities to prosper later in life.  This work breaks the cycle of poverty that many in Brazil face.

The likelihood of a 15-year-old girl being in school has already increased by 21%, and infant mortality rates have significantly dropped. Long term monitoring is required to see the actual long term benefits of the program, but thus far the evidence is encouraging.

Aside from the economic advantages of the program, Bolsa Família has also restored integrity and hope to Brazil’s poor. Most of the beneficiaries of BF are women, and female empowerment leads to a more educated, efficient and modern society.

The first of its kind of such a large scale, BF is an example for the rest of the world. By 2013, 120 different delegations had visited Brazil to find out more about the program, and similar cash transfer programs have already popped up in 40 countries.

BF may be a simple concept, but its innovation and success are far-reaching. By providing 50 million people, or ¼ of the population, with small, monthly cash transfers, Bolsa Família has slashed Brazil’s poverty rate and given poor children better futures.

However, Bolsa Familia is only one part of the government’s four-pronged solution for fighting poverty in Brazil. Other strategies include setting the minimum wage, providing support for rural families, and creating a more formalized employment system.

Catherine Fredette

Photo: Flickr

Palestine Poverty Rate
Israeli blockades, land restrictions and a drop in foreign aid have ensured that Palestine’s poverty rate remains high, according to reports from the U.N. and the World Bank. However, new Israeli policies give Palestine some hope.

Palestine’s poverty rate is at 25%, and, among the youth, it is at 56%, which is the highest youth poverty rate in the world. Unemployment is at 40%, and last year 1,100 people were left homeless. While the population has increased steadily, the economy has not improved much. Over the last decade, the GDP growth rate has not exceeded 1.44%, but the population rose by 38.4%. Additionally, the business sector has lost between 50 and 60% of their pre-2014 assets, production, exports and employment.

Israeli policy is primarily responsible for Palestine’s poverty rate. Israel has blockaded the Gaza region for the 11th year in a row.  The Israeli government has also declared a third of the arable land in the area and half of Gaza’s fishing waters to be high-risk no-go zones. Additionally, last year Israel destroyed 780 Palestinian homes.

Palestine has not received much of the foreign aid that was pledged to it. The U.S. pledged $3.5 billion in 2014 but is far behind its aid plan, as 51% of the money has been disbursed. The U.S. drew up a recovery plan, but only 17% of the $3.9 billion of the recovery plan’s funds have been allocated to financial needs in the area. Moreover, 1.6 million tons of construction materials, which is only seven percent of what is necessary, was brought to Gaza since the 2014 summer war.

Israel has taken steps to better relations in the region. The Israeli government is instituting a plan to rebuild and reconstruct Palestine to combat Palestine’s poverty rate. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign affairs reported that 100,513 homes have been repaired and that 2,733 have been rebuilt. This plan will hopefully heal the political divide in the region.

While Palestine’s poverty rate remains high, political tensions ensure a stagnant economy and there is little incoming foreign aid, there may be room for a political compromise in the future. The international community remains dedicated to easing the situation in Palestine, ending the Israeli blockade around Gaza and ending land restrictions. With the help of the international community and more support from the Israeli government, Palestine’s poverty rate could drop significantly.

Bruce Edwin Ayres Truax

Photo: Flickr