Elderly Care in Iran
The Iranian government recently turned an eye towards aiding development and putting the nation back on track after the Iraq war. There is still a great deal of room for social reform in this improved state of development, especially in the area of elderly care in Iran.

Aid for the elderly population in Iran is projected to become a large issue, as the country experienced a baby boom in the years of the Iraq-Iran war (1980 to 1988) which will lead to an increased elderly population in the future. The rising rate of unemployment in Iran has made it difficult for the elderly to find and hold jobs, and most elderly people are unable to provide for themselves in their old age.

Elderly People in Iran

One-third of the Iranian elderly population is not covered by any health insurance; meanwhile, the Iranian government diminished the elderly retirement pension — only one-third of the elderly population receives a pension — while 20 percent of families are economically dependent on the senior householder. The elderly demographic has a very low socioeconomic status and basic insurance policies fail to cover most elderly care costs. Without the money to afford the extra costs, older people often fail to receive the help they need.

There are currently five main governmental organizations taxed with elderly care in Iran:

  • The Social Security Organization
  • The State Welfare Organization
  • The Red Crescent
  • The Imam Khumeini Relief Foundation
  • The Martyrs Foundation

However, there are no clear developed policies on elderly care, and no single organization responsible for addressing this crucial societal need. As a result, ambiguity and uncertainty surround specific organizational responsibility.

Challenges of Elderly Care in Iran

Policy-making is one identified challenge of the elderly care process in addition to access, technical infrastructure, integrity and coordination and lastly, health-based care services. In regards to access, there are no transportation facilities and many of the elderly are entirely stuck at home due to physical reasons or an inability to pay for transportation costs.

Also, 70 percent of elderly people in Iran are illiterate, which impacts their awareness of access to resources. Currently, Iran does not have the physical, human and informational resources to implement an elderly care policy. This is concerning as the country is projected to experience fast demographic changes and a huge increase in the elderly population in the near future.

The country does have community-based services for the elderly such as nursing homes, adult daycare centers, cultural centers and meals on wheels; unfortunately, the distribution is sparse and these services are intended for mainly elderly people with disabilities. However, on a more positive note, the fact that this issue is being qualitatively and quantitatively studied is considered progress.

Need for Action

Historically, little attention has been paid to elderly care in Iran, but new studies and scenario exercises will thankfully aid the government in creating a sturdy policy framework for addressing elderly care in Iran.

The country is still developing and many other issues surrounding poverty are the main focus of the government right now. There is still time to address the problem of elderly care in Iran before it becomes too big to handle, but the Iranian government will need to start taking action immediately.

– Mary Spindler

Photo: Pixabay

How Saudi Arabia Plans to Tackle Unemployment
Unemployment in Saudi Arabia reached a record high 12.9 percent in the first fiscal quarter of 2018. To alleviate this number and the ever-present wealth gap, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has announced various social and economic reforms he hopes will mark a turning point in Saudi Arabian growth.

How Saudi Arabia Plans to Tackle Unemployment

Consistently one of the world’s top oil producers, Saudi Arabia hopes to lessen its dependence on the financially unstable resource to create a more diverse economy and to generate more jobs for its citizens.

The Saudi government will, however, continue to rely on oil for the foreseeable future in order to generate the capital that will allow them to invest in non-oil industry, ultimately alleviating the country’s reliance on oil.

Moving Away from Oil

Saudi Arabia has already shown a significant shift toward non-oil markets, specifically in the form of entertainment. The ban on movie theaters was recently lifted, and AMC Theaters proposed a plan to construct 40 theatres across 15 Saudi Arabian cities within the next five years, and a total of 100 theatres by 2030.

By introducing leisure-centric businesses, the Saudi government hopes to encourage spending by wealthy citizens while simultaneously providing jobs for the country’s impoverished citizens.

Incentivize Employment of Citizens

A major component affecting unemployment in Saudi Arabia is the number of foreign workers employed by private companies. Non-nationals account for 80 percent of the workforce, as they are typically migrants from neighboring countries willing to work for less than asked by Saudi Arabian citizens.

The Saudi Arabian government has announced in a series of reform plans, including the ambitious Vision 2030, that the country will invest in education for its people to prepare them to participate in the workforce. Additionally, the kingdom proposed strict nationalization quotas in the private sectors, meaning businesses will be required to hire a much higher rate of citizen workers.

By the end of the next decade, Saudi Arabia hopes that by investing in private enterprises and encouraging those enterprises to prioritize hiring Saudi nationals, they may increase the GDP generated by small businesses from 20 percent to 35 percent while simultaneously lowering the unemployment rate to 7 percent.

Social Reform

Beyond the humanitarian benefits that come from Saudi Arabia granting women many previously-withheld privileges, this key piece of social reform has the potential to bolster the economy by creating a new demographic of workers and consumers.

With nearly half the population of Saudi Arabia being female, introducing women to the workforce will allow for supplemental income in lower-class homes and help to fill the demand once nationalization quotas for small businesses are implemented.

The Saudi government expects social and economic reform to work cyclically, meaning that as previously marginalized people are introduced to the workforce, these members of society will help to grow the economy. This will then, in turn, create new businesses in need of more workers.

Looking Forward

Although Saudi Arabia is making very notable progress in terms of economic and social growth, it may take time for its efforts to translate to noticeable change. Many foreign and domestic investors remain wary of investing in Saudi Arabia, which are sentiments to be expected when a country announces major renovation.

However, once changes begin to take place and progress starts to show, investors may see the country as a place of economic potential. If the plans put forth in Vision 2030 come to fruition, unemployment in Saudi Arabia may dramatically decrease, and the country may find itself in a place of great economic development.

– Rob Lee
Photo: Flickr

Earned income tax credit, or EITC for short, is a program instituted by the federal government to give refundable tax credit to low- or moderate-income households. The amount of refundable tax credit varies by household according to specific incomes and whether or not the recipients have children. The EITC helps accomplish several crucial goals in the government’s mission of reducing poverty nationwide.

According to the Bloomberg Review, “EITC (along with the federal child tax credit) has lifted more than 10 million people out of poverty (including more than 5 million children).” In addition to giving back money to struggling households, EITC has also been linked to several recent improvements in overall health. Earned income tax credit “is associated with reductions in cardiovascular diseases and metabolic disorders among mothers [and] with significantly reduced levels of premature births and low birth weight.” By providing low-income homes at or below the poverty line with a viable financial source, these families are afforded better-quality healthcare.

EITC also helps develop other key social issues, such as employment for women and higher rates of education for children. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “The research shows that by boosting the employment of single mothers, the EITC reduces the number of female-headed households receiving cash welfare assistance.”

Concerning education, the CBPP says, “For each $1,000 increase in annual income over two to five years, children’s school performance improves on a variety of measures, including academic test scores. A credit that’s worth about $3,000 (in 2005 dollars) during a child’s early years may boost his or her achievement by the equivalent of about two extra months of schooling.” EITC spurs poverty reduction by people taking initiative in their lives and in turn receiving better aid.

Earned income tax credit is accomplishing on its own many of the goals that politicians say they will themselves. The statistics support the success of EITC, as evident by the rapidly improving conditions in various social reforms.

Diego Catala

Sources: Bloomberg View, CBPP

After a long-standing 20 years, a would-be abandoned bank in Caracas, Venezuela will be demolished. In most cases, the destruction of an abandoned building is hardly notable. However, this abandoned building, commonly called the Tower of David, is home to 1,145 families.

This unfinished building has become a home to hundreds of homeless people and families, creating a community that fully depends on the existence of this empty 45 story tower.

In Venezuela, few squatters find safety in the slums within the city borders. The Tower of David is a vertical beacon, offering refuge to those seeking a long term way of living in the streets.

The future of the bank tower is unclear, with Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro telling media, “Some are proposing its demolition. Others are proposing turning it into an economic center. Some are proposing building homes there.” Maduro acknowledges the purpose it serves to many, while still acknowledging that this building represents the failed hopes of deceased dictator Hugo Chavez, whose goal was to create a dominant economy within Venezuela.

The building now holds social significance, appearing in multiple films and television shows as the Tower of David, the symbolic slum of Venezuela. Yet this has not coerced leaders into leaving the structure as is; the evacuation of residents has already begun.

The demolition project was suggested after several children were killed falling out of the building, proving it as a safety hazard to Venezuelans. With evacuations beginning on July 22, occupants have agreed to peacefully leave with the promise of homes and aid.

The refuge sought by the inhabitants will not be forgotten, as many reminisce on the solace the tower offered them. One resident, Yuraima Perra, 27, tells NPR, “Necessity brought me here, and the tower gave me a good home,” as the soldiers removed her valuables and belongings from her makeshift apartment.

Parra is one of what many Venezuelans call “invaders” that staked claim in the tower. These “invaders” rigged up electricity and controlled the elevators, essentially turning the abandoned building into subsidized housing for those in need. Due to the fact that there was little internal violence within the tower, civilians respected it, and  thus families were allowed to safely flourish in a protected area.

President Maduro recognizes the tower as, “a symbol of a strange situation, a vertical ‘barrio’.” With regrets of allowing its continuation for so long with little monitoring and even less consideration, Maduro looks to the people for suggestions as to what should happen to this symbolic tower. One thing is clear: the end of the era may have come for the Tower of David, but those who called it home will forge on in search of another safe refuge in the dangerous streets of Caracas.

Elena Lopez

Sources: Reuters, NPR
Photo: Flickr

Heroes of AdvocacyEvery wrong in the world has been addressed and corrected through some kind of advocacy, the most prominent kind of which is social advocacy. Well-known leaders throughout time from all over the world have led social movements, revolutions, and non-violent protests all in the face of injustice. Here are some of the most influential social leaders; the heroes of advocacy:

  1. Mahatma Gandhi: Named “Mahatma” by one of India’s best-known writers, Tagore; the title ‘Mahatma’ stood for ‘Great Soul.’ It was in South Africa, while serving as an Indian businessman’s legal adviser, that he became aware of European racism and injustice. While in South Africa, Gandhi found himself “politically awakened” and began to use non-violent strategies to fight injustice. He wrote a book about the Indians’ struggles to claim their rights in South Africa. He returned to India in 1915 and found himself involved in several local struggles involving workers and working conditions. He then went on to initiate the non-cooperation movement, advising Indians to be self-reliant and withdraw from British institutions. In February 1922, when Indian policemen were killed by a crowd, Gandhi was arrested, and the movement was suspended. At his ‘Great Trial,’ where he was tried for sedition, he delivered a powerful indictment of British rule. After his release from prison, he worked hard towards maintaining relations between Hindus and Muslims in India. Gandhi was the most prominent figure in his engagement in the constructive reform of Indian society. Gandhi used “satyagraha,” systems of non-violence, to try and make the oppressor and the oppressed identify with one another as humans. Gandhi recognized that “freedom is only freedom when it is indivisible.”
  2. Nelson Mandela: Born in Transkei, South Africa, Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1944 and engaged in resistance against the racist apartheid government of the ruling National Party. The African National Congress sought to create democratic political change in South Africa. In 1956, he was tried for treason. It was during his time in prison on Robben Island, from 1964 to 1982, that Mandela’s reputation became more famous. “He consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom.” Upon his release from prison in 1990, he dedicated himself to achieve the goals that were sought after four decades earlier. In 1991, he was elected President of the African National Congress (ANC). He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his work for the “peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa” – Official Nobel Prize Website
  3. Martin Luther King Jr.: Known for boycotts, demonstrations and civil movements to express civil disobedience, King was the symbol of a nonviolent civil rights revolution. He changed politics. According to The King Center, African Americans achieved “more genuine racial equality” under the leadership of Dr. King with the American Civil Rights Movement than they did before him. King was heavily influenced by his Christian faith and the teachings of Gandhi, both of which guided him to lead nonviolent movements in the 1950s and 60s to achieve African American equality in the United States. Martin Luther King was quoted during his delivery of the “I Have a Dream” speech, saying that African Americans were still not free, that they still lived in poverty and segregation, that they are exiles, and so now they had to “dramatize a shameful condition.” This is precisely what the Borgen Project is doing by fighting global poverty.
  4. César Chávez: The Mexican-American who brought on agricultural reform and whose works led to the creation of the National Farm Workers Association, later named the United Farm Workers. He witnessed the harsh labor conditions that farmers had to endure and the employers’ exploitation of workers: they were unpaid, had poor living conditions in return for their services and had no medical or basic privileges. He organized marches, boycotts and strikes, forcing employers to provide adequate payment/wages to workers and provide them with benefits. Chávez was recognized for his commitment to social justice and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

There are many more social activists or heroes of advocacy who dedicated their lives to social reform and political change by fighting for people’s rights and freedoms. The activists listed above were a few of the most prominent and most influential throughout history.

Today, we’re fighting for a different kind of freedom, although it is not any less important: we’re fighting to end global poverty and free people from the shackles of poverty. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” during his fight for equal rights for colored people in the United States.

With advocacy, we deliver information and vital knowledge to the masses, thereby engaging them and mobilizing them to stand up for an issue and demand justice as the heroes of advocacy did.

– Leen Abdallah

Sources: Gandhi, Nelson Mandela: Biography, Mandela: Nobel Peace Prize, The King Center, I Have a Dream, Nobel Peace Laureates
Photo: Daily Good