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Poverty in Sweden
When discussing global poverty, most tend to think of cases of extreme poverty. However, poverty exists everywhere, even in prosperous countries. Sweden, a Nordic country in Northern Europe known for its progressive politics, is home to a population of 10.3 million. Although Sweden is a relatively wealthy country, 16.2% of its people are at risk of falling into poverty. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Sweden.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Sweden

  1. As referenced above, Sweden’s “risk of poverty” is defined as meeting the criteria for severe material poverty or low-income standards. Citizens with low-income standards are those whose household income is inadequate to afford necessary living costs. Currently, 6% of Sweden’s population (570,000 people) fall under low-income standards.
  2. In 2016, Statistics Sweden announced that less than 1% of the population in Sweden suffers from severe material poverty. Sweden defines “severe material poverty” by not being able to afford at least four of the following six components: unforeseen expenses, a week’s holiday per year, a meal with meat or fish every other day, satisfactory heating and housing, capital goods and bills.
  3. Since 2015, Sweden’s unemployment rate has declined by more than 0.35% per year. In 2018, the unemployment rate was 6.35%, which was a 0.37% decline from 2017. However, due to COVID-19, unemployment rates grew to 8.2% in Sweden as of April 2020. 
  4. Sweden’s welfare system reduces poverty across the country. Sweden offers a standard minimum income for all its citizens, providing approximately 60% to 70% of the average wage in Sweden. Swedish law additionally ensures all workers earn 25 paid vacation days and 16 public holidays each year.
  5. Sweden offers equality between genders, especially in the workplace. In 2009, The Swedish Discrimination Act required employers to promote equality between men and women and ban workplace harassment. Then in 2016, Sweden updated its parental leave for both parents to have three months of paid leave. Nevertheless, Sweden has room for improvement, as there is still a 10% wage-gap between men and women.
  6. Sweden’s incorporation of equal education opportunities, beyond gender or socioeconomic status, help increase opportunities for Swedish citizens, thus limiting poverty expansion. Sweden’s Education Act protects free education equality for citizens aged 6-19. In 2017, Sweden reported more than 90% of Swedish students received leaving qualifications equivalent to that of a United States high school diploma. 
  7. The free, universal healthcare in Sweden aids the country in fighting poverty. The healthcare system is highly tax-funded, and it ensures all citizens have equal access to substantial health benefits. Sweden’s Health and Medical Service Act protects universal healthcare, and Sweden’s central government oversees it.
  8. The life expectancy of Sweden is one of the highest in the world: 84 years. Municipal taxes primarily fund elderly care in Sweden. Statistics from 2014 show that the total cost of elderly care was SEK 109.2 billion, or more than USD 12.7 billion. Yet, the patients compensated for only 4% of the total cost themselves.
  9. Sweden’s aim for equal opportunities benefits everyone, including the disabled. The Swedish government and parliament authorized several disability policies. The policies cover accessibility regulations for disabled citizens across housing, transportation and employment sectors. 
  10. Although Sweden offers its citizens free education, universal healthcare and a standard minimum income, the country’s taxes are monumentally high. The tax range in Sweden is 29.2% to 35.2%, depending on the citizen’s income, compared to the lowest federal income tax in the United States, which is 10%.

As the Swedish government fixates on opportunities for its citizens, aiming for equality across genders, age and socioeconomic status, the country offers hope to its citizens that they will continue to reduce their poverty statistics.

Kacie Fredrick
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare Reform in GeorgiaHealthcare reform in Georgia has contributed greatly to its population’s quality of life. Located east of the Black Sea in Europe, the country of Georgia finally gained independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union. In recent centuries, Turkey, Persia and Russia fought over control of its land, and the region still experiences tensions with Russia. The United States’ political and economic involvement with Georgia was a cause of concern to Russia, especially given Georgia’s interest in joining NATO and the EU. The Georgian- and Russian-speaking country has a population of 4.3 million, with a life expectancy of 71 for males and 77 for females.

Privately Funded Healthcare

After making the transition from a communist regime to a market economy, healthcare in Georgia was primarily privately financed. By the year 2002, healthcare spending per capita was $64. Over the period from 2002 to 2013, that figure saw an increase to $350. The country has been alleviating regulations ever since 2003, easing private companies’ entry into the market.

Recently there have been further reforms, such as the government supporting private insurers to invest and operate in 2010. This led to the private ownership of 84.3% of hospital beds by the end of 2014. Additionally, private insurers generated 43.2% of written premiums that same year.

Rising Standards of Health

Ever since its independence, Georgia has been one of the poorer countries of the region, its population subject to mainly noncommunicable diseases. However, the country’s standards have been slowly catching up to the rest of Europe. For example, the poverty rate went from 33.2% in 2005 to 21.3% in 2016.

One issue with healthcare in Georgia, and with the general health of the population, has been the flawed death reporting system. This system has led to an exaggerated rate of illness-induced deaths. It reached 55% in 2010, even though research suggests that a rate higher than 20% should be considered unreliable. While the rate remains high and unreliable, the country made tremendous progress after improving software systems, resulting in a rate of 27.3% in 2015.

A New Universal Healthcare System

Healthcare in Georgia took a big leap in 2013, when the government introduced a universal healthcare system for which the entire population qualified. Healthcare reform in Georgia downsized the role of private insurers and changed the system’s entire financing and funding structure. Instead of supporting private companies, government funds were allocated directly to the healthcare providers. The vast majority – 96.4% – of patients reported satisfaction with the system.

One of the main diseases affecting the country during this century is Hepatitis C. According to the CDC and the NCDC, “in 2015, estimated national seroprevalence of hepatitis C is 7.7% and the prevalence of active disease is 5.4%.” Healthcare reform in Georgia sought to combat the disease through a national program initiated in 2015. This program electronically improved screening and data collection from national and local agencies. From 2015 until 2017, the cure rate reached 98.2% and 38,506 patients were treated.

Healthcare in Georgia has undergone many reforms since 2003. It began with the support of privatization, but eventually the government transitioned to a single-payer universal healthcare system that serves approximately 90% of citizens. The current system also took measures to address the effects of the Hepatitis C disease. Even though the country still lags behind other European countries in poverty and health standards, recent years have seen significant progress.

Fahad Saad
Photo: Pixabay

Taiwan is an East Asian country situated in the South China Sea between China and the Philippines. Given its close proximity to China and its high population density, the island nation faced a high risk of devastation from COVID-19. Despite these factors, however, Taiwan has managed to maintain control over the virus. The country recorded an incredibly low number of cases in comparison to the size of its population.

A Success Story

COVID-19 first made it to Taiwan on January 21, 2020. Despite Taiwan’s proximity to China and its population of over 23 million, the total number of cases as of August 2020 remains under 500, with only 7 confirmed deaths. Of these cases, a majority of them occurred in March 2020. The country saw few cases in April, as well as in the following months. COVID-19 in Taiwan has experienced no local transmission of the virus for over 100 days, while many other countries worldwide continue to struggle with increasing numbers. Of the 467 confirmed cases, over 400 of them were from overseas arrivals and an outbreak on a naval ship, leaving less than 100 cases the result of citizen-to-citizen transmission within the country. The success in the battle against COVID-19 in Taiwan is largely attributed to a few key factors.

Healthcare in Taiwan

The pre-existing infrastructure of Taiwan’s healthcare system proved to be a vital tool in their successful approach toward fighting COVID-19. Taiwan’s national health insurance exists as a universal, mandatory coverage system that applies to all residents and long-term visitors. A single-payer system powers this universal coverage, which receives most of its funding from payroll-based premiums. However, the government offers significant subsidies for certain groups including low-income households and civil servants, among others. Coverage encompasses preventative and primary care, along with more specialized sectors of treatment such as mental health services and hospital stays. Most care is provided through private providers.

The initial response to COVID-19 in Taiwan included an aggressive initial reaction to the virus. The country immediately developed rapid testing and widely distributed masks to healthcare workers and citizens. Though this universal system has existed in Taiwan since the late 1980s, it is a newer development that lent an unexpected hand in national COVID-19 defense.

Contact Tracing

A crucial component of Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 lies in its advanced immigration database and rapid information sharing system. This system helped tremendously in slowing the spread of the virus. Taiwan’s immigration database allows medical providers to access travel information for patients. This helped with early detection and determination of high-risk areas. Robust contact tracing allowed the Taiwanese government to rigorously track cases and put isolation protocols into place based on the data in order to contain larger community outbreaks.  “Digital fencing” identified individuals at greater risk in order to quarantine them. The Taiwanese government also put into place measures to support those facing isolation, including laundry services, meal assurance and transportation to medical appointments. These kinds of services offered further incentives for individuals to follow strict isolation protocols. Citizen’s cooperation helped to quickly suppress the spread of COVID-19 in Taiwan.

Cultural Advantages

The Taiwanese response to COVID-19 was also strengthened by a few cultures anomalies, including its prior battle with SARS in 2003. Immediately upon discovery of an abnormal respiratory illness out of Wuhan, Taiwan tightened its borders. They also began thorough testing on those arriving from affected areas. Taiwan also utilizes a historically transparent approach to public health, keeping its citizens informed and answering questions about the progression of the virus. This has led to a culture that tends to follow government guidance. Taiwan also has the additional advantage of an established culture of mask-wearing. While other countries struggle to adhere to mask guidelines, Taiwan transitioned more easily; masks were already a socially acceptable accessory.

Jazmin Johnson

Photo: The Diplomat

Healthcare in NorwayWhile many countries struggle to create and maintain an effective healthcare system, Norway has become a symbol of what a successful national healthcare system can look like. Norway is one of the kingdoms of the Scandinavian subregion of Europe. The country of 5.2 million people borders Sweden on the west and is east of the Shetland Islands. “Norwegian values are rooted in egalitarian ideals,” meaning that everyone should have equal opportunities. These principles are reflected in the country’s healthcare system.

Healthcare in Norway is designed for equal access, but it is by no means free. The country’s universal healthcare system is heavily subsidized by the government through taxation. Such high taxes have allowed Norway to run a broad welfare system that provides sickness coverage, unemployment coverage, social security and pension benefits that often allow even those who are low-income or impoverished to participate in healthcare. Here are eight facts about healthcare in Norway.

8 Facts About Healthcare in Norway

  1. All participants in the Norwegian healthcare system must cover all medical expenses up to 2040 krone (about $210) before they receive an exemption card. Then their treatment for the rest of the year is free.
  2. Norwegian spending on healthcare on a per head basis, which is currently at $6,187 per person, is the fourth highest in the world. The United States is highest at $10,600 per person.
  3. The Norwegian National Insurance Scheme is centrally controlled by the Norwegian Health Economics Administration (Helseøkonomiforvaltningen, HELFO); the administration of healthcare, however, is decentralized and handled by local municipal authorities. When Norwegians are traveling or living abroad, the country’s membership in the European Economic Area (EEA), a similar economic agreement to the European Union, and possession of the European Health Insurance Card allows them the same healthcare as the country they are staying in. After six months in Norway, documented immigrants can access healthcare. Visitors to Norway who are not members of the EEA are expected to pay in full.
  4. People can opt-out of the public system and choose private insurance instead. People will sometimes choose private insurance if they want to have certain procedures done quicker than the public system can handle. Nine percent of Norway’s population has private insurance at an average cost of 508 krone ($56) a month, and 91% of this insurance is covered by their jobs — making it relatively affordable.
  5. The Norwegian government has created a “Qualification Program” to deal with extended joblessness and poverty that might restrict affording healthcare. The program is designed to overcome social obstacles and a lack of skills through various activities. Participants usually find employment after four years.
  6. In Norway, life expectancy is 81 years old for men and 84 years old for women. This ranks the country 17th in the world. This longevity is attributed to a generally active lifestyle, a diet high in fish — specifically salmon —and a strong healthcare system.
  7. Although healthcare is robust in Norway, there are still areas of concern. Tobacco smoking has decreased, but there has been an increase in the use of a smokeless tobacco powder called snus, which is inhaled and can potentially increase the risk of oral cancers. In addition, childhood obesity is on the rise in Norway. Obesity among five to 19-year-olds has increased by more than 50% over the past decade.
  8. From 2013 to 2017, spending on pharmaceuticals increased by 40% in Norway, as national prescription drug use has increased. The Norwegian Health Economics Administration handles the reimbursement of the cost of pharmaceuticals. Distribution is highly regulated, as only community and hospital pharmacies can distribute medicine in the Norway health system.

Norway’s egalitarian and progressive ideals have helped make its healthcare system one of the best in the world. The country still faces challenges, including high rates of childhood obesity and cancer risk from smokeless tobacco. Norway is working to address these problems, for example by prohibiting the advertising of all tobacco products. The heavy taxation required for funding many public programs, including healthcare, often falls more heavily on those in lower-income brackets, but the government provides a thorough safety net to assist them. Norway has made great advances. The country remains a model of what a strong welfare state and an effectively run universal healthcare system can achieve.

Joseph Maria
Photo: Flickr

Malta is a small island republic in the central Mediterranean Sea. Like most other EU member states, the Maltese government operates a socialized health care scheme. However, life expectancy in Malta is a full year higher than the European Union average, for both males and females. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Malta.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Malta

  1. Trends: Life expectancy in Malta ranks 15th globally and continues to rise; the current average life expectancy is 82.6, an improvement of 4.6 percent this millennium. Median life expectancy on the archipelago is expected to improve at that same rate through 2050, reaching an average death age of 86.4.
  2. Leading Causes of Death: The WHO pinpointed coronary heart disease as the republic’s number one killer, accounting for 32.46 percent of all deaths in 2018. Additional top killers include stroke (10.01 percent) and breast cancer (3.07 percent).
  3. Health Care System: Malta’s sophisticated and comprehensive state-managed health care system embodies universal coverage for the population. Although population growth and an aging workforce present long-term challenges, the Maltese have access to universal public health care as well as private hospitals. Malta’s health care spending and doctors per capita are above the EU average. Despite this, specialists remain fairly low. Currently, the government is working to address this lack of specialized care.
  4. Infant and Maternal Health: The high life expectancy in Malta is positively impacted by low infant and maternal mortality rates. Malta’s infant and maternal mortality rates are among the lowest in the world, ranking at 181 and 161, respectively. The Maltese universal health care system provides free delivery and postpartum care for all expectant mothers. These measures provided as the standard of care have minimized the expectant death rates of new mothers to 3.3 out of 100,000.
  5. Women’s Health: Like most other developed nations, Maltese women experience longer lives than men. Comparatively, WHO data predicts that women will live nearly four years longer, an average of 83.3 years to 79.6. Interestingly, the estimated gender ratio for 2020 indicates that the Malta population will skew to be slightly more male, specifically in the 65-and-over age bracket. 
  6. Sexual and Reproductive Health: Sexual health services, including family planning and STD treatment, are free of cost in Malta. Additionally, HIV prevalence is very low, at only 0.1 percent in 2016. These measures have certainly played a role in life expectancy in Malta.
  7. Violent Crime: Although crime rates typically spike during the summer, Malta’s tourist season, violence is generally not a concern. Despite fluctuations throughout the year, the national homicide rate remains low. Currently, homicide is resting at 0.9 incidents per 100,000 citizens.
  8. Obesity: Recently, 29.8 percent of the population was found to be obese, one of the highest figures in the EU. Even higher rates of obesity have been found in Maltese adolescents: 38 percent of 11-year-old boys and 32 percent of 11-year-old girls qualify as obese.
  9. Birth Rates: Sluggish population growth is typical throughout the developed world and Malta is no exception. Current data places the population growth rate at an estimated 0.87 percent. Out of 229 sovereign nations, Malta’s birth rate was ranked 192nd with 9.9 births per 1,000 citizens.
  10. Access to Medical Facilities: The competitive health care system supports high life expectancy in Malta by providing an abundant availability of hospitals and physicians per capita. Due to the archipelago’s small population, 4.7 hospital beds and 3.8 doctors exist for every 1,000 citizens.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Malta highlight the strength of the health care system in the country. While rising rates of obesity are concerning, Malta has a strong track record of investing in the well-being of its citizens.

Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Flickr

Health care system in Zambia
Zambia’s healthcare system is decentralized, therefore it is broken up into three different levels: hospitals, health centers and health posts. Hospitals are separated into primary (district), secondary (provincial) and tertiary (central). It offers universal healthcare for its citizens, yet the health care system in Zambia remains one of the most inadequate in the world.

Universal Health Care

Zambia is working on implementing universal health care coverage for its citizens to diminish the burden of accessing life-saving treatments. At the moment, Zambia’s government-run health facilities offer basic healthcare packages at the primary (district)level free-of-charge. Their services are under the National Health Care Package (NHCP). With this being said, due to “capacity constraints” and limited funding, the services sometimes do not reach those who need it most. Luckily, the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Zambia and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have come together in order to help restore the health care system in Zambia. They are investigating ways to effectively set priorities so that processes in health facilities can run faster and smoother.

Private vs Public Healthcare

Even though there are a good number of public and private health facilities, a lot of the public hospitals are chronically underfunded. Another major problem in the public healthcare sector is that there is inequality in the order that doctors meet with patients. As mentioned above, the public sector is divided into three divisions, level one hospitals are in charge of provision of services and level two and three hospitals are referral or specialized hospitals.

District Health Offices (DHOs) are staffed by community health assistants (CHAs). Over the course of their one-year training, they are prepared to improve the management of malaria, child and maternal health and common preventable health conditions. DHOs spend 80 percent of their time on disease prevention and health promotion and another 20 percent “at the health post.”

There are good private hospitals in Zambia’s big cities, for example, Lusaka. They offer their services to everyone with the majority of people that participate in the private sector being foreigners or affluent Zambians. Over 50 percent of formal health services in rural Zambia are private clinics or hospitals. They also account for 30 percent of all health care in the nation. Even though they offer higher quality services at a faster rate, when a serious medical emergency presents itself, the majority of the time people will be evacuated to South Africa since they are able to provide better medical services.

Pharmacies

Pharmacies are not always stocked with the medications or drugs that most people need when they are sick. Even though they are available in most major cities and towns in Zambia, they do not operate on a 24/7 schedule. Their typical work week is Monday to Saturday. When people are in need of a pharmacy, it is recommended to go to one that is attached to a hospital or a clinic for immediate assistance.

Diseases

Zambia’s top five killer diseases are HIV/AIDS, neonatal disorders, lower respiratory infections, tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases. Zambia also sits in the malaria belt, so it is recommended to have a mosquito net to prevent mosquito bites. Other diseases like cholera and dysentery are common during rainy seasons. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been helping Zambia since 2000 after establishing an office in the nation. The CDC “funds and assists international and local organizations” like the Ministry of Health to “provide health services at the national and community level.” In addition, the CDC has performed more than 173,000 medical male circumcisions and has prevented 98 percent of HIV exposed infants from getting HIV in 2018.

– Isabella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

Seoul, South Korea

Since the Korean War, South Korea has emerged as one of the more politically and economically free nations in the world. Home to companies like Samsung and Hyundai, South Korea’s economy has been growing for years. While South Korea has become a model for other countries in southeastern Asia, the country is also facing new challenges that a strong economy alone cannot fix. Here is a list of the top 10 facts about living conditions in South Korea.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in South Korea

  1. Life Expectancy: The life expectancy rate is one of the highest in the world. South Koreans, on average, have a life expectancy range that goes into the mid-80s for men and into the 90s for women. This means the country has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, a benefit to having free, universal healthcare coverage. Koreans’ diets consist of steam-cooked rice, vegetables and meat, constituting a healthy meal and contributing to a long and healthy life.
  2. Credit Access: South Korea is among the world’s top countries with high credit card usage. South Koreans averaged almost 130 credit card transactions per person in 2011, according to the Bank of Korea. Additionally, it is illegal for businesses to refuse credit cards, even for smaller purchases. This has created a bustling tourism and shopping industry in South Korea.
  3. High Suicide Rate: The suicide rate in South Korea is among the highest in the world. It is believed that the high suicide rate is due to the long work hours and stress in the workplace. Another factor contributing to these high rates is the level of poverty and loneliness among the elderly. The country has taken preventative measures to combat such a tragic statistic. Korean legislature continues to update and improve the Mental Health Act. The Act for the Prevention of Suicide and the Creation of Culture of Respect for Life went into effect in 2011, which sets forth policies to help prevent suicides.
  4. Youth Unemployment: The country’s economy is strong, but it is slowly declining. With such large companies like Samsung, LG and Hyundai in South Korea, many smaller businesses are having trouble cementing themselves into Korean society. These larger companies then offer less than ideal contracts to smaller companies who must accept them or risk going out of business. This is disabling young people’s ability to find jobs with a smaller market of opportunities. More than 11 percent of young people between the ages of 15 and 29 are unable to find jobs. President Moon Jae-in promises to combat the unemployment of young people during his presidency.
  5. Universal Healthcare: South Korea has adopted an affordable, universal healthcare system. It was first introduced in 1989. As mentioned above, this may be a key factor in the increase in life expectancy in South Korea. The country also created plans to help its citizens treat certain forms of dementia. It is projected that the percentage of South Koreans age 65 or older will increase to 40 percent by the year 2060.
  6. Plans to Boost the Economy: South Korea has decreased its infrastructure spending, but is increasing its minimum wage. President Moon has planned to drastically increase South Korea’s spending budget by around $420 billion in 2019. The goal is to increase the number of jobs available and to raise the minimum wage; however, these programs will also create budget cuts for infrastructure spending.
  7. Climate Change: The country is taking action on climate change. In an effort to learn more about climate change, the Korean National Institute of Environmental Research began working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other organizations in 2016. These organizations have been focusing on monitoring air quality throughout East Asia. Citizens of South Korea are affected by smog and concentrations of particulate matter that lead to respiratory illnesses. South Korean air is twice as polluted as some other countries.
  8. Low Violence Rates: South Korea has low rates of terrorism and violence. South Koreans have great respect for the rule of law, according to data from the World Bank. Citizens also have a great deal of respect for the courts and rules of society. It is possible that the impeachment of former President Park Geun-Hye in 2017 also increased confidence in the South Korean legal system.
  9. Expensive Housing: The already expensive housing prices in South Korea are increasing even more. The nation’s capital, Seoul, is the most expensive city to live in South Korea. It’s twice as expensive to live there than anywhere else in the country. During the past year, housing prices have risen 23 percent in Seoul and 12.5 percent outside of the city. To encourage young people to live in the city, the government offered 70,000 homes to newlyweds in December 2018.
  10. Long Work Weeks: South Koreans work more than the majority of other countries. In 2018, South Korea changed the maximum limit that employees may work from 68 hours to 52 per week. This change was put into effect to improve health conditions and keep laborers from becoming overworked. This bill limited the work week of South Koreans to 40 hours per week with 12 hours of optional overtime at 50 to 100 percent normal pay rate. As the last fact on this list of top 10 facts about living conditions in South Korea, it shows South Korea is prioritizing mental health and the well-being of its citizens.

South Korean has made great advancements in the quality of living conditions, but there is still room for improvement. Many younger Koreans believe that President Moon’s policies will lead to more benefits and a fairer society. These top 10 facts about living conditions in South Korea outline a promising future, but making mental health and financial stability a priority is necessary for the country’s citizens.

Jodie Ann Filenius

Photo: Flickr

PA Top 10 facts about living conditions in Oman
Oman is a country known for its restored forts and castles. In 2010, the country, which is twice the size of Georgia, was ranked as the most improved nation over the last 40 years. However, none of this explains what it’s like to live among the Omani culture and people. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Oman.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Oman

  1. Education: In Oman, education is free from primary school to high school; however, attendance is not mandatory, nor is it enforced. The first six years of education are very similar to that of primary schools in most western countries. The next three years are dependent on whether or not a student decides to continue their education or start working. If they have stayed in school and their grades are exemplary, they may decide to go on to secondary school, which is another three years similar to high school in western countries. Here, students can specialize in either sciences or arts. There is also a variety of vocational centers for students to choose from, lasting anywhere from one to three years.
  2. Water: The Central Intelligence Agency found that 95.5 percent of the urban population and 86.1 percent of the rural population have access to an improved drinking water source. Both urban and rural populations also have access to improved sanitation facilities: 97.3 percent for the urban population and 94.7 percent for the rural.
  3. Energy: The World Factbook also reports that there are 100,000 citizens without electricity in Oman, however, 98 percent of the total population has access to electricity. The country receives electricity from fossil fuels, nuclear fuels, hydroelectric plants and other renewable sources.
  4. Legislation: Legislation is based on Sharia law with the authority of the longest-serving ruler in the Middle East, the Sultan of Oman–Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, being an absolute monarchy. The monarchy restricts all political rights and civil liberties. The current leader was not elected through fair and free elections, and the country is not considered a free country.
  5. Internet Use: Only 69.8 percent of the population use the internet in Oman, compared to 89 percent of Americans using the Internet, according to the Pew Research study. However, there are more than 6.9 million total subscriptions to mobile cell phone companies. One state-run TV broadcaster with stations transmitting from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran and Yemen via satellite TV, provides access to all television programs.
  6. Transportation: There were 132 total airports in Oman in 2013, but by 2017, only 13 of them had paved runways. There are more unpaved roadways (30,545 km) than paved (29,685 km) in the country. Generally, road conditions in cities and major highways are good; however, the condition of rural roads varies from good to poor. Traveling at night could be dangerous due to poor lighting, wandering livestock and other common factors such as pedestrians, weather conditions or driving speed.
  7. Crime: The U.S. Department of State reports that violent crime is uncommon in Oman; however, non-violent crime rates are higher in Oman than in other major cities within the United States. Crimes of opportunity and petty theft are the main types of illegal activity. There has been an increase in cybercrime due to money lending scams requiring high down payments, credit card fraud and prepayments that are solicited with the intention of future services never rendered.
  8. Labor Force: Average unemployment rate for Oman from 1991 to 2017 was 3.94 percent, with youth unemployment during that time averaging 9.51 percent. The average value of the labor force, which includes anyone older than the age of 15, rose from 0.56 million people in 1990 up to 2.68 million people in 2018.
  9. Healthcare: Oman’s universal health care system offers free primary health care to its citizens and even subsidized care for the foreign population of the country. The last 40 years has yielded an increase to the lifespan of the country’s population by about 30 years due to improved access to medical facilities and doctors, according to Oxford Business Group. This puts the current life expectancy rate for the country at 76 years.
  10. Tourism: The capital, Muscat, boasts beautiful suburbs with “golden sand,” mountains and “magnificent views over the Gulf’s turquoise waters.” In Muttrah, one can experience true Omani culture through the city’s traditional souq (marketplace) and corniche (a road on the side of a mountain). The city also houses the annual Muscat Festival, which is one of the most famous festivals in the country, attracting people internationally to witness a cultural celebration that includes folklore dances, special costumes and other performances.

Oman has been known for its castles and wonderful exhibitions of culture through the famous Muscat Festival. It is a country offering much for its population as these top 10 facts about living conditions in Oman show. Although there are still key improvements to be made, the country is continuing to progress.

Simone Edwards
Photo: Flickr

Universal_Healthcare
Universal health care has recently become a hot-button issue in the United States. However, the idea has also been popularized in developing nations, namely: India.

India’s current health care system struggles to provide for many in need of medical attention. Dr. Paras Pokharel, Professor JN Pande and Professor LM Nath outline the major challenges in a presentation at the University of Pittsburgh. According to the educators, the enormous population of India creates a strain. With 1.24 billion citizens and counting, “India is the second most populous country in the world” and health care systems are “over-burdened by increasing population.”

Additionally, India is confronting the “twin epidemic” of both infectious diseases and chronic degenerative illnesses. These ever-growing problems, in conjunction with the poor economic and educational status of a large segment of India’s population, create a strain on the existing health care system.

According to The National Bureau of Asian Research, there are two major health care providers in India. The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) is “the central government’s attempt to improve delivery of services in public facilities,” while the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) is “a health insurance program led by the Ministry of Labor and Employment.”

In short, the RSBY provides coverage of expenses for impoverished Indians, while the NRHM attempts to improve existing health care services. The Bureau says that it is still “not clear whether this program improves population health.”

Researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) have examined the possibility of universal health care for India, as they claim, “those accessing health care in the public sector generally receive poor quality services.” Additionally, The National Bureau of Asian Research states that in the private sector “there are a large number of health workers who have only a high school education or do not have a medical degree.”

The WHO examined the Indian city of Chandigarh. Chandigarh has an array of both public and private health care services to serve a population of over 1 million citizens. Following data collection, the WHO formulated a package of health care services, complying with the guidelines of the Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS).

One of the most important aspects of the study was, of course, the final cost. The WHO says that by using generic drugs each household in India would have to pay INR 6852 (USD $152) annually in order to sustain universal health care. This would make the amount of the GDP going toward health care rise from 1 percent to 3.8 percent.

According to both The Wall Street Journal(WSJ) and The National Bureau of Asian Research, the Indian government must aim to reduce out-of-pocket costs for Indians, which can be as high as 70 percent of the bill, and provide access to free medication. Additionally, the WSJ reports that the number of doctors in India is far too low to serve the country. Providing students with the opportunity to be trained in the medical field is essential. In order to do so, doctors suggest increasing the number of seats in medical schools.

The possibility of universal health care in India exists, but requires a comprehensive overhaul of the economic and educational systems that currently exist.

— Bridget Tobin

Sources: University of Pittsburgh, NBR, WHO, Wall Street Journal
Photo: Time

World map
World Bank president Jim Yong Kim spoke in Tokyo last week on how to promote economic growth in developing countries.  Kim says that the most crucial factor in poverty alleviation is universal health coverage. “Anyone who has provided health care to poor people knows that even tiny out-of-pocket charges can drastically reduce their use of needed services,” he said. “This is both unjust and unnecessary.”

According to the World Heath Organization, 100 million people fall into poverty each year due to medical expenses.  Kim believes implementing universal health insurance coverage in every country could help end extreme poverty by 2030.

In May 2013, Kim announced his support of universal health insurance coverage to the 66th World Health assembly saying, “We have the opportunity to unite global health and the fight against poverty in action focused on clear goals.”  These goals include decreasing child and maternal mortality, developing a monitoring framework for universal coverage, improving health education and performing scientific research on delivery techniques.

Last year the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution urging countries to eliminate point-of-service fees in order to make health care more accessible.  Now, Kim pushes developing countries to shift towards a universal model.  Japan has been providing universal coverage since 1961, when many thought it was not financially possible.  In Japan, a patient can pay a maximum of 30% of medical bills while the rest is paid through social insurance programs and taxes.

In the U.S., Kim has been a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act, saying his only concern is that it doesn’t go far enough to expand access to medical care. Kim told those at the conference that universal healthcare is “one of the best things you can do to spur immediate and long-term economic growth … and one way of reducing inequality (which can) slow economic growth.”

Stephanie Lamm

Sources: Aljazeera, The World Bank, Money News, Think Progress