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the effects of the Olympic gamesThe ancient Olympic Games took place centuries ago on a relatively small scale. Today, the games bring together the world’s best athletes to compete on behalf of their respective countries. To a serious athlete, there is no greater goal and accomplishment than to come home with an Olympic medal. Countries each take turns hosting the Olympic Games and often spend billions of dollars preparing for and running the event. For athletes and viewers, the Olympic Games creates a time of elite competition; however, the event often has different effects on the host nation’s impoverished.

Effects on a Host City’s Impoverished

The effects of the Olympic Games on the impoverished do not receive high recognition while the grandeur of the event remains highly publicized. While the Olympic Games can provide a sense of awe for those with a stable income and fulfilled basic needs, this is not always the case for people living in poverty. Impoverished people worldwide face eviction and a large diaspora every four years as host cities evict them to use the land for Olympic stadiums and parking lots.

The Washington Post writes that in 1988 “720,000 people were forcibly moved [in Seoul].” The impoverished people of Seoul were not alone in this experience as 1.5 million impoverished Chinese citizens were forcibly relocated before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. In addition, the impoverished of London, Rio and many other host countries have been relocated to make way for Olympic stadiums as well. In Rio, the effects of the Olympic Games translated into whole towns and communities giving way to media centers and Olympic pools.

Effects on a Host Country’s Economy

The Olympic Games forcibly removes the impoverished from their homes but also requires public taxpayer money for new or revamped venues. On average, budgets for the setup and running of the Olympics cost well into the billions. Activists and those in poverty sometimes express frustration over this fact. Though estimates range widely, some research estimates that it costs less than $10 a year to end “world hunger and undernutrition.” The 2021 Tokyo Olympics is said to have cost $15.4 billion. Many Japanese citizens expressed outrage as the country is still trying to recover from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A U.S. News and World Report article estimates that these funds could have built 1,200 Japanese elementary schools.

The 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games faced an unusually high amount of controversy as the COVID-19 pandemic significantly lowered any potential revenue. The effects of the Olympic games also limit a city in a different sense. The New York Times highlighted this: “[T]he city has been reduced to a mere vessel for a megaevent that has demanded much but provided little in return.”

Pandemic Impacts

Furthermore, the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games has caused backlash as the event risked the health of Japanese citizens. The number of COVID-19 cases seen in Japan has already skyrocketed after the Olympics. The spread of COVID-19 also disproportionately affects the impoverished who lose potential benefits from money spent on the games instead of social welfare programs. Furthermore, the impoverished worldwide have already suffered greatly from the pandemic as they face greater hardships upon contracting the COVID-19 virus. This is due to the fact that severely impoverished people often lack sufficient health insurance and the financial resources required to pay for treatment.

Benefits of Hosting the Olympics

While the Olympic Games puts burdens on host countries, the event also has positive impacts. The Olympics leads to the following:

  1. An increase in jobs supporting the event.
  2. A rise in tourism and hospitality services (during non-pandemic years).
  3. An increase in trade, which can yield an increase in foreign investment.
  4. Improvement to infrastructure.
  5. Improvement to transportation systems.

During non-pandemic years, host cities often see an influx of foreign dollars as tourism and increased travel send more money into the local economy. Furthermore, the effects of the Olympic Games can be positive for host communities through job creation as the event requires massive support staff to prepare for and run the games. The Beijing Olympic Games allowed for the creation of nearly two million jobs to facilitate the event. While this influx in job creation benefits the Olympic Games host cities, it is often temporary and only lasts for the duration of the Olympics. Furthermore, this creation of jobs does not necessarily benefit the nation’s impoverished as many jobs require certain skills like a background in construction, IT or security.

While the event does have some positive impacts on host cities, the negative impacts disproportionately affect the impoverished. The sporting event is a time of celebration and patriotism for those fortunate enough to have the resources to enjoy it, but this is not the case for all. Moving forward, greater recognition of this fact is crucial. With this and real long-term change, the Olympics could bring both international athleticism and significant poverty reduction to a host city.

Lily Vassalo
Photo: Unsplash

gender wage gap in germanyData from May 2019 indicates that German women receive an average of 21% less wages than German men. Germany holds one of the largest gender pay gaps in the European Union, a gap that has since widened due to COVID-19.  As a consequence of the gender wage gap in Germany, German women endure poverty at a higher rate than German men. However, recent policies, lawmaking proposals and continued strong stimulus provide hope and solutions for a future of gender equality within Germany’s workforce.

The Gender Wage Gap in Germany

Despite the presence of Germany’s long-standing female chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the country’s overall reputation of upholding socially progressive policies, Germany holds the third-largest pay gap in the European Union as of 2017, ranking just behind Estonia and the Czech Republic. As of March 15, 2019, for every two lawmakers in Germany’s parliament, there exists only one female.

These pay gap inequalities force German women into poverty at a rate disproportional to men in Germany, much like the rest of the world. According to the European Union’s statistics office, 7.1 million German women faced poverty in 2017 compared to 6.1 million men. Furthermore, German women face a 16.6% risk of falling into poverty compared to a 15.2% risk for men, according to a 2021 report.

The correlation of a gender pay gap and poverty exists on an international scale as well. On September 14, 2020, the U.N. reported a global gender pay gap of 16%, meaning that female employees earn 84% of the amount their male equivalents earn globally. The global gender wage gap is especially divisive for women of color, immigrant women and mothers.

COVID-19 and Pay Inequality

According to a U.N. estimate on September 2, 2020, the U.N. expects the poverty rate for women to increase by  9.1% due to COVID-19. Germany is no exception to this global prediction. According to a Reuters report from May 14, 2020, 27% of women in Germany have had to reduce their working hours for child care purposes. In contrast, this percentage is more than the reported 16% of men (in households with at least one child younger than 14) who had to cut their working hours.

In addition, Reuters reports that this disparity is more likely in households with low or medium incomes rather than higher incomes. According to a BBC poll, German women reported facing higher financial impacts of COVID-19 than men. Roughly 32% of German women reported experiencing financial impacts of the novel coronavirus compared with 24% of men.

Closing the Gap

As the gender wage gap increases with the effects of COVID-19 both across the world and throughout Germany, hope comes in the form of advocacy, legislation and awareness. On March 4, 2021, the European Union proposed a law to compel companies to close gender pay gaps. The law also allows candidates access to salary information during interviews.

The law goes as far as imposing possible sanctions on companies that fail to comply. Under this proposed law, women employees can challenge employers when not equally compensated. The challenges then go through independent monitors with the goal to seek proper payment or treatment of all female employees.

Germany’s Successes

Additionally, Germany’s consistent social stimulus throughout 2020 and into 2021 provided great economic protections for the country as a whole. Germany excels in stimulus protections and aid when compared to the majority of the world. According to The New York Times, when the primary jobholder in a family of two parents and two children loses a job in the United States, the family retains 28% of their previous income. Contrastingly, the same family would maintain 75% of their income in Germany. The New York Times describes this as a “reflection of the country’s far more generous social safety net,” listing this outcome as one of the many benefits of strong, continued economic stimulus.

Overall, while Germany continues to combat the gender pay gap as an increasing number of women and girls enter poverty due to COVID-19, recent policies surrounding transparency, accountability and fiscal stimulus in the workforce provide much hope for the future.

Lillian Ellis
Photo: Flickr

Solar Panels in SyriaSolar panels in Syria have shone a light on a dark corner of the country. In the Syrian province of Idlib, locals and refugees shield their eyes from the sun glinting off their solar panels. Even though solar panels are considered a luxury across the globe, the area of war-torn Idlib is full of solar panels. These solar panels are many citizens’ only source of electricity and heat.

Electricity Issues in Idlib

Idlib is also the stronghold of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which has been labeled a terrorist organization. Due to conflict, citizens of Idlib have struggled to get by. At first, after the Syrian government cut off power to the province due to the presence of HTS, residents relied upon fuel-powered generators for electricity. For years, people suffered through the noxious fumes and roaring strain of the generators’ motors.

As time went by, the fuel for the generators became far too expensive. Additionally, the unclean, locally-refined oil prompted frequent and expensive generator maintenance. In 2017, solar panels in Syria began to supplant generators as locals’ main source of electricity. However, locals did not use solar panels out of ecological concern. People just needed an affordable source of electricity because the fuel to power generators became prohibitively expensive.

The Solar Panel Solution

Locals value the solar panels in Syria despite a high initial investment cost. In interviews with The New York Times, many locals described the panels as “god-sent.” After the initial investment, solar panels are a virtually cost-free source of electricity. Thousands of locals now use solar panels to power their lights and electronics. On cold nights, the power of solar panels provides heat.

The Humanitarian Crisis in Syria

As of March 2021, 13.4 million people require humanitarian aid in Syria, representing about a 20% increase from 2020. In neighboring Jordan, just south of Syria, more than half a million people are living in exile: some in refugee camps, some outside in the elements. In Jordan, almost 80% of Syrian refugees were living under the national poverty line before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

In a March 2021 interview with Reuters, U.N. aid chief, Mark Lowcock, summarized the grim situation in Syria: “Things are getting worse. We’ve had a decade of death, destruction, displacement, disease, dread and despair.” He went on to add, though, that the United Nations was planning its largest-ever response strategy in order to safeguard lives in the region.

Foreign Aid to Syria

According to The New York Times, Germany provided many second-hand solar panels in Idlib. Germany has extended further assistance by pledging around $2 billion to go toward humanitarian aid in Syria. The U.S. and Qatar agreed to provide funding as well, pledging $600 million and $100 million respectively. While Britain’s pledge of around $281 million is lower than its pledge in 2020, the combined global assistance will make a significant difference in the lives of Syrians.

While the situation in Syria remains dire, the world’s eyes are on the region. With aid coming from all around the globe and solar panels lighting up homes in Idlib, there is both light and hope in Northwestern Syria.

Thomas McCall
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in NepalNepal, a landlocked country in South Western Asia, is one of the few places in the world where rates of child marriage are not slowing. In certain areas, they are increasing. Although child marriage in Nepal has been illegal for over fifty years, 40% of Nepalese women between the ages of 20 and 24 were illegally married before their eighteenth birthday. Young boys are equally at risk. The number of child grooms is disproportionately high when compared to the rest of the world.

Contributions to Child Marriage in Nepal

Several factors contribute to child marriage in developing countries. Nepal has a patriarchal society that values girls significantly less than boys. Limited access to education and a negative outlook towards a sexual expression motivates adolescents to marry early. The most massive motivator, however, is poverty. Countries with a higher percentage of the population living on under $1.90 per day, including Nepal, frequently experience higher rates of child marriage. Poverty correlates to the high rates of child marriage in Nepal, including dowries and financial benefits, economic hardship of schooling and “love marriages” to escape poverty.

The Struggle with Poverty

Although rates have decreased over the past few years, Nepal continues to struggle with poverty. While poverty in Nepal has reduced from 15% to 8% in the last decade, the country remains one of the most impoverished in Asia and ranks 147th on the Human Development Index. Nepal is mostly made up of a landscape dominated by mountains. Being rural makes development difficult. The country also struggles with rapid population growth, political instability and a growing wealth gap between the very rich and the very poor. They all contribute to a high poverty rate.

Considering the Financial Reasons

Nepalese families often arrange marriages for their children for financial reasons. Girls who live under the poverty line are more likely to enter a child marriage in Nepal than girls who do not. This dilemma is due to the concept of a dowry. A bride’s family will provide the groom’s family with money or gifts to establish the marriage. Dowries increase the societal value of boys who receive them. They decrease the value of girls whose families must pay. Impoverished families rely on dowries as a source of income, incentivizing them to marry their sons, especially at young ages. In some areas in Southern Nepal, the dowry increases with the age of the bride. This motivates families to arrange marriages for their daughters quickly and early.

Additionally, many married girls stop attending school to care for their husband and start a family. Tuition and materials are costly, and keeping girls in school creates a financial strain on families. This strain is relieved when a match leads to an established marriage.

Escaping Poverty

Child marriage also functions as a means to escape poverty. ‘Love marriages,’ or those not sanctioned by parents, are also common in impoverished Nepal. Young girls and boys often establish ‘love marriages’ as a way to leave their families. This can be done for many reasons, yet a common one is poverty. Matches form quickly to escape impoverished homes and enter a more secure situation.

The Nepalese government has implemented some strategies to decrease the high rates of child marriage in Nepal. The country recently increased their minimum legal marrying age to 20. Families who kept their daughters in school instead of arranging a wedding for them received cash incentives and bicycles in January 2019. Nepal has promised to eradicate child marriage by the year 2030. Although it is a daunting task, it is incredibly crucial for the health and wellbeing of Nepalese girls.

Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

Media Coverage of Global Poverty
Many U.S. citizens have misconceptions about the extent of global poverty and how the government is acting to remedy the issue. However, this may not be at the fault of the general public. Media coverage of global poverty largely contributes to the information gaps in the minds of many Americans.

A survey done by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that Americans assume more than 20% of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid. In reality, non-military assistance composes just about 0.2% of the federal budget. This assumption is especially pertinent, as it may give Americans the impression that global poverty is constantly decreasing. For the first time since 1998, that is no longer true. COVID-19 is pushing millions into extreme poverty, counteracting years of progress.

Limited Media Coverage

In 2014, another study found that three major network newscasts devoted just 0.2% of their programming to poverty in 14 months. Recently, with politics and public health consuming the majority of airtime, this number has fallen. Media coverage of global poverty is taking a back seat to other topics. Consequently, it is no surprise that many Americans have warped perceptions of poverty overseas.

General, mainstream media outlets tend to shy away from discussing global poverty in great depth. This is because the topic may not test well with viewers. As a result, when there are reports on these issues, they often take the form of stories or opinion pieces rather than formal news stories. While these pieces still spread awareness, they do not relay to Americans, the facts of what occurs overseas. In turn, this limits the opportunity for readers to develop sufficiently informed opinions of their own.

Mainstream Media Coverage?

Even The New York Times, a reputable news outlet, is not immune to this phenomenon. A Google search for “global poverty New York Times” yields an opinion piece before any formal article on the subject. These results may deter readers from trusting information in the opinion article (first search result) as opinion pieces outwardly inform readers of bias. The second article, titled “Millions Have Risen Out of Poverty. Coronavirus is Pulling them Back” begins with a narrative of a woman in Bangladesh escaping poverty, then falling back into its grasp due to the side effects of COVID-19. Using devices like storytelling to convey facts can be effective, but it does not always present the most detailed information. Just three articles on the Google search results page are from 2020. This represents  only 30% of the initial search results. Any other non-opinion pieces are from 2015 or earlier (at the time of this article’s publication).

However, it may not even be the news outlets that are at fault for the sporadic nature of their reports on poverty. Censorship proves to be its own problem. Many impoverished countries tend to withhold the information for which journalists may be looking. The extra steps or inability to access these kinds of facts may prove difficult for some news outlets.

Other Outlets

The irregular nature of the reports on poverty explains why the issue is not on the radar of many Americans. Yet, still, the information does exist. News outlets such as Borgen Magazine and Global Citizen consistently release articles in the interests of the world’s poor — simultaneously educating Americans on foreign affairs. However, this does not make up for mainstream news outlets’ lack of coverage.

There have been efforts to remedy the lack of media coverage of global poverty, including publications and initiatives dedicated to aiding the world’s poor. For instance, the Global Investigative Journalism Network released tips on covering poverty back in 2014. However, knowledge of poverty and how to combat it cannot spread unless two things occur. First, citizens must take the initiative to seek it out themselves. Alternatively (and arguably more beneficially), mainstream media outlets can find a way to integrate it into their news releases on a more regular basis.

Ava Roberts
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Microfinance Blogs
Blogs are a great way to hear a variety of voices and experience an issue from diverse perspectives, and there are a variety of sites full of information, opinions, and more. Below are 10 interesting blogs that present unique perspectives on the topic of microfinance.

  1. The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) Microfinance Blog discusses the benefits and challenges of various tools used in microfinance and provides a forum to learn more about new microfinance initiatives. There is a variety of contributing writers who share their expertise on the nuances of microfinance, and CGAP also presents fact-based blog entries in addition to opinions on how to improve the industry.
  2. The Nicholas D. Kristof blog is a favorite of many readers of The New York Times. This blog is not directly related to microfinance but discusses many of the world problems that microfinance addresses.  It tackles many development issues around the world and discusses issues ranging from hunger to education to women’s rights.
  3. A Grameen Foundation blog (Creating a World Without Poverty) discusses Grameen’s work in microfinance and showcases thoughts and feelings from the organization’s volunteers in the field. It provides a variety of voices experiencing microfinance in action around the world.
  4. The Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time blog provides a “daily pulse for the world’s largest democracy.” This blog is not solely about microfinance or poverty eradication but it does provide many articles related to daily life and the economic growth of India. It offers regular comments and critiques of the Indian microfinance industry.
  5. The Center for Financial Inclusion blog from ACCION International covers and comments on the many new ventures currently in progress in the field of microfinance. It also discusses methods for how to enable more people to access microfinance services in the future.
  6. Defeat Poverty provides reviews on current books in the field of development and microfinance, in addition to covering many other issues related to poverty eradication.
  7. The India Microfinance blog discusses the issues and triumphs of the microfinance industry in India. It discusses many specifics on the financial tools used. India’s microfinance industry is critiqued by many and this blog provides voices that speak on either side of the issue.
  8. Banking with the Poor Network blog discusses microfinance in Asia and around the world, with a focus on a wide variety of organizations.
  9. The MF Transparency blog deals with some of the challenges faced by for-profit and nonprofit microfinance organizations and offers information and resources that encourage transparent pricing.
  10. The myKRO blog serves as an online community where microfinance organizations can raise awareness about their work, offering and receiving commentary about their actions with other players in the field.

 – Katie Brockman

Source: Opportunity International
Photo: Fairview High School