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Brexit and Poverty in Britain
In 2016, 51.9 percent of voters in The United Kingdom voted for Britain to leave The European Union. This controversial decision left many scholars and politicians scrambling to predict what social and economic consequences would follow for the country. Many significant studies have been conducted on the possible effects of Brexit and poverty in Britain, but it is impossible to definitively know what repercussions the transition will bring.

In March 2019, the transition out of the EU is set to begin. Many facets of British life, politics and economics will be impacted by this shift, yet the effect of Brexit on poverty in Britain remains complicated and vague. Some may claim that Brexit will not increase British poverty rates while others argue that it will. Some of the most influential determinants of national poverty are healthcare, food security, and household income and expenditure.

Health Care and Medical Services

The British National Healthcare System (NHS) has historically been dependent on non-U.K./ EU nationals to contribute to the medical workforce. In 2017, 60,000 workers in the NHS were non-U.K./EU nationals. Since Brexit, however, many medical professionals have left The U.K. due to uncertainty about legal status and protections post-Brexit. Leaving the EU also makes recruiting international employees more difficult as there will be less recognition of professional qualifications received in other countries.

Immediately after the Brexit vote, the number of non-U.K./EU nurses applying to join the British nursing register fell by about 96 percent. Patients are being forced to wait over longer periods of time for treatment simply because there are not enough medical professionals available. This is a dangerous and potentially fatal repercussion of Brexit.

Food security

In the case of a no-deal Brexit, food security would suffer as 30 percent of the national food supply comes from the EU The country does not have a clear food stockpiling location as it is accustomed to importing food and consuming it rather quickly afterward. The EU is such a large provider of food for Britain that no other country could easily replace this supply.

The U.K. itself will have trouble producing enough to make up for the deficit since it faces its own problems with food production as a result of things like changing weather conditions. Many are concerned that a no-deal Brexit could cause catastrophic food shortages in the country.

Household costs and incomes

Brexit will have a negative impact on the ability of the U.K. to import any kinds of foreign European goods and services. Because of this, the prices of goods and services will increase. Of course, this will affect all populations in Britain, but it will be felt most intensely by poorer households who will not be able to keep up with these price increases.

On the other hand, it is possible that if Brexit may lead non-U.K./EU workers to leave Britain, there may be an influx of job opportunities in the country. This could mean that some poor British citizens may be able to find more lucrative work.

As Brexit approaches, the United Kingdom is beginning to take precautions to ensure that the transition occurs smoothly. Though there is disagreement on what a proper Brexit would entail, all seem to agree that the priority should be the protection of the British citizenry. The political and partisan debates over what Brexit will mean for the country can only involve precaution and prediction as no one can be certain what March 2019 will bring or what the effect of Brexit on poverty in Britain will be. One can only hope that the well being of vulnerable citizens will be considered.

Julia Bloechl
Photo: Flickr

Development Assistance CommitteeThe Development Assistance Committee is an arm of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Founded in 1961 by the OECD to better organize and execute its agenda, the Development Assistance Committee also has the duty of innovating and monitoring future and ongoing development projects.

These projects target sustainable economic growth in countries who seek the committee’s aid. It also monitors how members of the committee and the OECD use development aid. The Development Assistance Committee is made up of 30 member nations, as opposed to the OECD’s 35 members.

The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the UNDP are all observing members of the committee. The members, along with the observing members of the Development Assistance Committee form the world’s leading forum for bilateral economic development and cooperation. It is known for its neutrality.

Official Development Assistance is the or ODA is the term used by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) to define all assistance rendered by member nations that target sustainable economic development. Due to the fact that the Committee is dedicated to furthering bilateral relations between member nations and nations it deems in need of assistance, ODA is not the only form of aid.

Member nations foster development in areas that are important to their national agendas. For example, Canada, which is a member of the DAC, will focus its foreign aid towards girls’ and women’s rights over the next five years. Denmark, another member nation, will be spending much of its aid in combating the refugee crisis.

This is not the only difference between member nations. Because there is no legally binding agreement holding a nation to the amount of money it must spend each year, there is a wide range in the percentage of assistance money spent. The DAC uses a percentage of a nation’s gross national income.

In 2014, Sweden, Luxembourg, Norway and Denmark all donated more than 0.07 percent of their GNI, a target set in 1974 by the DAC. Germany spent 0.04 percent of its GNI on foreign aid and South Korea spent just 0.01 percent.

The OECD agenda is mostly economic. They focus on economic stability within nations. Currently, it is focusing on re-establishing confidence in markets, promoting public financing as a strong driver of economic growth, developing green strategies for economic growth and ensuring job growth and security for people of all ages.

In 2016, saw the appointment of a new chair of the DAC, Petri Gornitzka, who was the former head of the Swedish Foreign Aid Agency. Gornitzka is pushing for reform within the DAC and she hopes to bring smaller member nations into the fold when making decisions about future projects and funding. She also plans to make the private sector a more viable partner.

In the 2016 DAC Global Plan, the DAC also states that it wants to survey nations who receive aid linked to the DAC on what can be improved. The DAC also plans to bring the smaller donors into the fold by helping them improve the effectiveness of their aid. This is also one of the incentives that the DAC boast to countries who wish to become members.

The last members who joined the committee were Iceland, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Poland and Slovenia in 2013 and Hungary in 2016. The European Union has made it a goal of all member nations to work towards joining the DAC.

Although the DAC does not do much direct work, its work behind the scenes promoting cooperation greatly benefits the world. The continued growth of the organization will also benefit the world. 

– Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

 

Parliamentary Democracy Government
There are several types of democracies, and here we will explain what a parliamentary democracy is by comparing it to a presidential democracy, which we have in the United States.

In short, a parliamentary democracy is a system of government in which citizens elect representatives to a legislative parliament to make the necessary laws and decisions for the country. This parliament directly represents the people.

In a presidential democracy, the leader is called a President, and he or she is elected by citizens to lead a branch of government separate from the legislative branch. If you remember back to government class, you will remember that the United States has three branches of the government: the executive, the judicial, and the legislative. The President leads the executive branch of government.

 

Role of Parliamentary Democracy

 

In a parliamentary democracy, you have a Prime Minister, who is first elected as a member of parliament, then elected Prime Minister by the other members of the parliamentary legislature. However, the Prime Minister remains a part of the legislature. The legislative branch makes the laws, and thus the Prime Minister has a hand in law-making decisions. The Prime Minister works directly with other people in the legislature to write and pass these laws.

In our presidential democracy, we still have a legislature, but we also have a president. He is separate from the legislature, so although he works with them, it is not as direct as if he were a Prime Minister. The laws that the legislature wants to pass must first go through the president; he can sign them into being or he can veto them. The President can go to the legislative branch and suggest laws, but they ultimately write them for his approval.

Furthermore, in parliamentary systems, the legislature has the right to dismiss a Prime Minister at any time if they feel that he or she is not doing the job as well as expected. This is called a “motion of no confidence,” and is not as much of a drawn out process. In the US, impeachment is an extensive, formal process in which an official is accused of doing something illegal.

Some countries with a parliamentary system are constitutional monarchies, which still have a king and queen. A few examples of these are the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Japan.

It is important to remember that both of these systems of government are democracies. Ultimately, the citizens who vote have the voice.

– Alycia Rock

Sources: Wise Geek, Scholastic, How Stuff Works
Photo: Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants

 

parliamentary democracy government

Poverty Rate in the United Kingdom A recent study from the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown that the poverty rate in the United Kingdom fell slightly between 2014 and 2015, dropping from 16.8 percent to 16.7 percent. This rate puts the U.K. roughly in the middle of all E.U. member countries, and just below the E.U. average of 17.3 percent.

The report of a fall in the overall poverty rate in the United Kingdom also came with a reported rise in the persistent poverty rate. The persistent poverty rate is defined as being below the poverty line in the current year, as well as in 2 of the previous 3 years. The persistent poverty rate jumped from 6.5 percent in 2014 to 7.3 percent in 2015. The jump means that 700,000 more people were persistently poor in 2015 than 2014. However, this rate ties for the fifth-lowest in the E.U. and is well below the E.U. average of 10.9 percent.

The rise in the persistent poverty rate did lead to concern from different parties. Justin Watson, the head of the Oxfam U.K. Programme, welcomed the relatively low persistent poverty rate compared to the rest of the E.U. while expressing concern about the 4.6 million people experiencing persistent poverty. Others expressed concern about rising child poverty rates and a disparity between male and female persistent poverty rates.

Addressing the U.K.poverty rate will require more than employment expansion. Median earnings are down 5 percent in the U.K. since the 2008 global recession, even while employment is up 1.5 percent in that same period, hitting a record high in July 2017. A government official cited multiple steps being taken in addition to employment in the attempt to address the overall U.K. poverty rate. In fact, the government spends £90 billion a year  on working age benefits, the National Living Wage is rising and income tax is being lowered or eliminated for millions of people.

Erik Beck

Human Rights in the United KingdomThe United Kingdom of Great Britain is a constitutional monarchy with parliamentary democracy. A range of political parties participate in free and fair elections. Freedom of the press and human rights are, generally, constitutionally guaranteed and respected in practice.

However, in the recent past, reports on human rights in the United Kingdom show the development of some disturbing practices. Such trends were further complicated by Brexit U.K.’s vote out of the European Union (EU) and the victory of conservatives in the general election of June 2017, which changed the state of human rights in the country.

Here are nine of the most troubling facts about human rights in the United Kingdom that have gone unaddressed by the authorities.

  1. The new counter-terrorism policy seems to have trumped human rights and the freedoms of people. Prime Minister Theresa May, during her first party conference speech, said that left-wing human rights lawyers will no longer be allowed to pursue claims of victims of human rights by the British Armed Forces. Benjamin Ward from Human Rights Watch says “judging from the comments by Prime Minister May… you would think human rights are a dangerous and alien construct.”
  2. In 2015, the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom killed three people, including one British citizen, in a drone strike in al-Raqqa, Syria. In May 2016, the Joint Committee for Human Rights published its inquiry which called on the government to clarify the use of drones for targeted killings.
  3. In 2004, the U.S. and Libyan governments —with the knowledge and cooperation of the U.K. government—had subjected two Libyan families to rendition, torture and other ill treatment. In June 2016, the Crown Prosecution Service, the principal public criminal prosecuting agency in England and Wales, decided not to bring any criminal charges relating to the allegations by the families.
  4. Abuse and mistreatment by the British Armed Forces also loomed large in reports on human rights in the United Kingdom. In September 2016, it emerged that between 2005 and 2013 the Royal Military Police investigated approximately 600 cases of alleged mistreatment of those in detention in Afghanistan. Similarly, the Iraq Historic Allegations Team had concluded investigations into 2,356 of 3,389 allegations received. These allegations were related to abuse of Iraqi civilians by British Armed Forces personnel.
  5. Following Brexit and the conservative victory in recent U.K. elections, there has been a substantial increase in hate crimes. Member of Parliament Jo Cox, who had campaigned vigorously on behalf of asylum seekers, was murdered. There was also a marked rise in xenophobia and arson attacks against EU citizens, particularly those from Eastern Europe.
  6. Despite some progress, the U.K. government has generally not been immigrant-friendly lately. It passed the Immigration Act into law in May 2016, which “extended sanctions against landlords whose tenants’ immigration status disqualifies them from renting while increasing landlords’ eviction powers…” The government continued to resist calls for hosting more refugees, although it announced its plan to resettle up to 3,000 refugees from the Middle East and North Africa by 2020.
  7. Violence against women and girls remains a serious concern. There is a lack of funding of specialized services for women who have undergone domestic violence and abuse. Research by Women Aid shows that shelters were being forced to turn away two out of three survivors due to lack of space and resources. The rate among women who are ethnic minorities was four out of five.
  8. In November 2016, the U.K. Parliament approved the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA). This has entrenched and broadened the State’s surveillance powers both at home and abroad. The IPA increased the powers of public authorities to interfere with private communications and information. It also permitted “a broad range of vaguely defined interception, interference and data retention practices” without adequate safeguards for protecting the right to privacy.
  9. The government continued to refuse to set up an independent inquiry into the 1989 killing of Patrick Finucane—an Irish politician—although it was previously acknowledged that there had been a “collusion” in the case. This is one of the historical and structural issues of injustice, abuse and torture of Northern Ireland that has been systematically neglected for decades.

Aslam Kakar

Photo: Flickr

Cost of Living in the United KingdomThe cost of living in the United Kingdom tends to vary depending on the location, but can be affordable. In the U.K., a large amount of an individual’s salary will be spent on rent. On average, renting a furnished, two-bedroom apartment will cost about £1,900 per month ($2,607) in an expensive location such as London.

When it comes to the cost of transportation, if one wanted to purchase a Volkswagen Golf (or equivalent) off-the-lot and brand new with no extras, it would be £18,364 ($24,317). However, if an individual prefers the more economical option of public transportation, the United Kingdom is served by a nationwide network of trains as well as long distance buses. With the growth of airlines becoming more and more relatively low-cost in Europe, it is also possible to fly to various cities in Europe at a reasonable cost.

The cost of living in the United Kingdom is less burdened by one of Britain’s greatest assets: the National Health Service (NHS). As of now, healthcare in the U.K. is free to all British citizens, as well as expats from countries such as Australia, New Zealand and EU member states.

Unfortunately, according to Business Insider, the cost of living in the United Kingdom, after Brexit, is finally causing regular Brits to feel the pinch of the slowdown of Britain’s economy, which grew by just 0.3 percent in the second quarter. This is causing individuals to spend less, slowing the consumer boom that had propelled the nation’s economy for the past few years.

In particular, Wales is now facing the cost of living “squeeze.” According to BBC, Andy Haldane, who sits on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, said that certain issues like economic inactivity need to be tackled in Wales; “the pay is flat but the price of goods has gone up… and issues there have included affordable housing, the living wages, mortgages, poverty and transport.”

Sara Venusti

Photo: Pixabay

Common diseases in the United Kingdom
According to the CIA World Factbook, the United Kingdom is home to 64,430,428 people, many of whom fall victim to various illnesses. The list of common diseases in the United Kingdom includes the following:

  1. Coronary heart disease causes nearly 74,000 deaths each year, which amounts to approximately 200 individuals dying every day from the disease. A significant amount of people with coronary heart disease are younger than 75, and, as such, additional health checks are being emphasized in the country.
  2. Respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are categorized as some of the most common diseases in the United Kingdom. In fact, England has one of the highest rates of asthma prevalence in the world. While the primary cause of COPD is smoking, a small percentage of cases are triggered by exposure to fumes, chemicals and dust at work.
  3. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United Kingdom and the leading cause of disability, with more than 150,000 people suffering from strokes every year.
  4. Cancer has become incredibly common, partly due to the fact that the United Kingdom falls behind other European countries in terms of accessible treatment and cancer survival. It is estimated that, by 2030, three million people in England will have had some form of cancer.
  5. The number of deaths from chronic liver disease in people under 65 has risen about 20 percent in England, while other European countries have seen improvement and a decrease in diagnoses.
  6. Health inequalities continue to play a role in poor health outcomes for those in the lowest socio-economic groups. Tuberculosis (TB) is one major infectious disease concentrated in the most deprived areas of the United Kingdom. In 2015, the rate of TB was 20.5 per 100,000 people in the 10 percent of the population living in the most deprived areas, compared to only 3.6 per 100,000 in the 10 percent in the least deprived areas.

With the pervasiveness of such diseases, immunization and cost-effective healthcare are highly prioritized in the U.K. Nevertheless, most common diseases in the United Kingdom are preventable, and individuals should consider taking the necessary steps and precautions to follow healthier lifestyles. According to a country profile health report conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), a few adult risk factors responsible for contributing to the increase in common diseases in United Kingdom include tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, raised blood pressure and obesity.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr

Facts and Figures in the United KingdomA recent report from the U.K. has produced the shocking finding that those working in the U.K.’s gig economy could be earning as little as £2.50 ($3.26) or less an hour. The gig economy refers to those in work who are considered independent workers, usually on short-term contracts. Uber drivers or people working for food delivery services are typical examples of those who make up the workforce in the gig economy.

Long-standing Member of Parliament for Birkenhead, Frank Field, carried out the report. Field served as the chair of the Work and Pensions Committee until May 2017.

Still, in the aftermath of a surprising general election result, facts and figures in the United Kingdom shed light on growing economic inequality. Opponents of the current conservative government find these statistics especially crucial.

This report comes in the context of Prime Minister Theresa May placing a heavy focus on employment protection and the quality of self-employment in the U.K. The pressure on the government to prioritize employment regulation came amid a storm of controversy surrounding zero-hour contracts. Zero-hour contracts are “a type of contract used by employers whereby workers agree to be potentially available for work although have no guaranteed hours.”

It was not just the facts and figures in the United Kingdom relating to wages that this report addressed. In addition to some workers earning less than £2.22 an hour—£5 less than the national minimum wage—workers have reported being fined hundreds of pounds for refusing to work while being ill.

This includes accounts of people turning up to work with serious physical injuries or a bucket to throw-up in on a shift.

Furthermore, workers reported a requirement to sign contracts which subsidize company profit. This prevents them from being able to contest their own employment status. Once they sign these contracts, workers give up full employment status and thus render themselves subject to harsher treatment with fewer workers’ rights.

The percentage of Britain’s workforce under the status of self-employed was reported to be nearing 16 percent at the beginning of last year. In the same year, it was reported that over five million workers in the U.K. were being paid less than the voluntary living wage.

As Britain’s gig economy grows, more and more companies encourage employees to abandon full employment status for the promise of flexibility and better pay. While this often falls short, the government must address the growing issue of poverty pay and the mistreatment of gig workers.

The Trade Union Congress has conducted research which concluded that 40 percent of self-employed earners are considered low-paid. They also found that a disproportionate number of gig workers were more likely to rely on tax credits or housing benefits.

Though they boasted the second highest GDP in Europe last year, the U.K. also held the 13th highest poverty rate, at 16.7 percent. Pressure, therefore, is on the U.K. government to address the flaws of the gig economy. They are evidently plunging many workers into poverty.

The government has commissioned a report on modern employment, which has just been published. While the report includes recommendations which could go a long way in securing higher wages and more stability for the self-employed, it is yet to be seen how much of the advice provided by the report will be implemented.

Support for the government is declining and has been since the election in June. In order to provide facts and figures in the United Kingdom that showcase an economy working for all, Theresa May must tackle poverty pay in the gig economy.

Cornell Holland

Photo: Google


A new study of the working poor in the United Kingdom demonstrates that finding work does not always lift families out of poverty. Poverty in working families is on the rise, according to Rod Hick and Alba Lanau, professors at Cardiff University. In a report containing the results of their research project, they said that about 60 percent of impoverished families in the U.K. had at least one working individual in the household.

This study begs the question, “Why do working individuals still live in poverty?” It also points to a hot political topic—raising the minimum wage.

The research done by Hick and Lanau demonstrates that the number of individuals working in a household is a better indicator of in-work poverty than low pay. Part of the reasoning behind this is that less than half of adults experiencing in-work poverty have a low-paid worker in their household. Furthermore, most low-paid workers belong to households that are above the poverty line. Therefore, raising the minimum wage may not be a quick fix solution to in-work poverty.

Another key finding of Hick and Lanau’s research is that the rise of in-work poverty is concentrated in households living in the private rented sector and social housing. This indicates that housing costs heavily affect a household’s relationship to poverty.

Hick and Lanau provide three solutions to tackling in-work poverty in their report: supporting families through free or affordable childcare, helping to ease households’ financial burden with tax credits and lowering the cost of housing.

The second solution, which focuses on tax credits, has been utilized for decades. Since 2003, the U.K. has used the Working Tax Credit (WTC) to help low-income working households. Essentially, the WTC provides households with extra cash needed to survive. Other benefits and tax credits include Child Tax Credit and the Housing Benefit.

2017 will be a big year for the U.K. where benefits and tax credits are concerned. A more recent form of government aid, Universal Credit, is set to start replacing existing programs. Some are concerned about the UC’s benefit cap, which is £350 per individual.

The U.K. has made creative attempts at lessening in-work poverty. The reality is that 6.1 million people living in poverty in the U.K. are a part of working households, whereas 5.1 million households in poverty are workless.

Hick and Lanau’s research demonstrates an important phenomenon that is characteristic of the poor in developed countries. It pushes against the idea that finding a job will immediately elevate economic status. These findings encourage innovative and nuanced thinking to combat poverty in working families.

Rebeca Ilisoi

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About United Kingdom Refugees
In response to the Syrian refugee crisis, the United Kingdom initially had a policy of offering a generous amount of humanitarian aid to Syria’s neighbors instead of accepting Syrian refugees in the U.K. The logic behind this policy is that it is safer for refugees to remain where they are instead of making dangerous trips across Europe. Here are 10 facts about United Kingdom refugees:

  1. The U.K. government said in 2016 that it had contributed £1.1 billion since 2012 on food, tents and other humanitarian aid to Syria.
  2. The Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme (VPRP) was established in 2014 to provide a route for chosen Syrian refugees to go to the U.K.
  3. Under the Syrian VPRP, the U.K. plans to resettle as many as 20,000 refugees by the end of the current Parliament.
  4. The U.K. committed to resettling approximately 3,000 vulnerable children currently in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as 350 unaccompanied children already in Europe. This number includes Syrian nationals.
  5. When first implemented, the VPRP gave priority to refugees that were elderly, disabled or victims of sexual violence or torture. No cap was set on the number, but several hundred refugees are expected in the U.K. in the next three years.
  6. In order to help refugees integrate into British society, a community sponsorship program was started in July 2016.
  7. Refugees resettled in the U.K. are provided with five years Humanitarian Protection status, along with permission to work and access public funds. By September 2016, under the VPRP, 4,414 people had been given Humanitarian Protection status.
  8. The U.K. will provide resettlement for approximately 3,000 vulnerable children and their families from conflict situations in the Middle East and North Africa.
  9. Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 requires the government to relocate and support an unspecified number of unaccompanied refugee children currently in Europe. As of Feb. 8, 2017, it was announced that the number of unaccompanied children under section 67 will be capped at 350.
  10. Syrians can claim asylum once they arrive in the UK. In 2016, Syrian nationals requesting asylum numbered 2,102. At least 86 percent of Syrian asylum applications were granted in 2016 — more than any other nationality.

These 10 facts about United Kingdom refugees demonstrates that the country has one of the best refugee policies. Additionally, the U.K. is the second-largest donor to the Syrian refugee crisis with a commitment of £2.3 billion.

Mary Barringer

Photo: Flickr