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Singapore is seldom thought of as a poor country since the nation ranks fourth in the richest countries in the world; however, the reality is that many Singaporeans live in poverty. For far too many people, poverty in Singapore is a fact of life.

The Top 10 Poverty in Singapore Facts:

1. Singaporeans have to live on $5 a day

Four-hundred thousand Singaporeans live on $5 a day. Singaporeans Against Poverty, the campaign whose concern is “for those in Singapore caught in the cycle of poverty despite our economic success,” began the $5 challenge, where people can pledge money and try to live on a $5 per day budget.

2. Some Singaporeans have no income

A survey from the Housing Development Board showed that one-third of Singaporeans living in one or two room flats have no source of income. Additionally, an Ipsos APAC and Toluna study found that 62 percent of Singaporeans state that their dissatisfaction is a result of their personal financial situation.

3. There is no official poverty line in Singapore

According to Worldbank, there are several reasons to measure poverty: “to keep the poor on the agenda; if poverty were not measured, it would be easy to forget the poor.” Additionally, poverty lines “target interventions that aim to reduce or alleviate poverty,” and finally, measurements help to evaluate projects, policies and institutions that aim to help the poor.

In a Straits Times article, it was stated that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong doesn’t believe establishing poverty lines will be helpful as there are great disparities between poor groups in Singapore; each group requires “different sort and scale of help… This cannot be accomplished by a rigid poverty line, he said, which might be polarising and leave some outside the definition of poor.”

4. Singapore’s wealth gap is one of the widest

As noted in the CIA World Factbook, Singapore was ranked 36th out of 150 countries for income inequality in 2016 based on the Gini coefficient, a ratio of highest to lowest incomes. This means that the high-income households are extremely wealthy, while the low-income households are extremely poor. In fact, a Credit Suisse report showed that more than a quarter of the country’s wealth is held by the top 1 percent of the population.

5. The Gini coefficient has begun to decrease

According to the Singapore Management University (SMU) handbook, the government has begun to acknowledge the wealth disparity. Although Singapore is still ranked high for income inequality, the Gini coefficient has decreased in the past two years.

6. Wages fall for low-income households

In the SMU handbook, it was stated that the bottom 20 percent of workers saw a decrease in wages between 1998 and 2010.

7. Singapore is the most expensive city to live in

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Singapore was the most expensive city to live in in 2017 for the 4th year running. This makes it increasingly difficult for the impoverished population to afford basic necessities.

8. Increase in cost of goods and services

Likewise, the past three years saw a 13.1 percent increase in goods and services, according to Singaporeans Against Poverty.

9. More Singaporeans are being covered under ComCare

ComCare was established by the Singaporean government in 2005 to provide assistance to needy families who are either unable to work or are currently searching for employment.

As reported in the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), the number of Singaporeans being covered under ComCare grew from 13,479 in 2012 to 18,996 in 2015, but the government claims this is not due to higher poverty levels; rather, it says it’s due to changes to the program.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development has extended coverage so that more families can apply for ComCare.

10. Singaporean government is taking steps towards alleviating poverty

As noted in The Observer, the government has put plans into place to fight poverty. Of these are plans are the goals to reduce the cost of education, to exempt lower-income families from paying taxes and to contribute cash payments to those in need.

These top 10 poverty in Singapore facts demonstrate the acute issues for low-income houses. However, the Singaporean government is making considerable strides to help its people, enough so that these top 10 poverty in Singapore facts may eventually become irrelevant.

– Olivia Booth
Photo: Flickr

Mexico’s Hidden War
Mexico‘s poverty rate fell 0.6 percent between 2010 and 2012 to 53.3 million people, the government’s social development agency Coneval said. Factoring in the population growth for Mexico, the ranks of the poor grew by half a million people in that time. This statistic shows the startling conclusion that half of the country’s population lives in poverty, signifying Mexico’s hidden war.

President Enrique Peña Nieto has to help lift millions of people out of poverty and boost growth in Mexico, but there continues to be a large wealth gap. With his approval hitting an all time low, the problem seems worse than it appears.

In Zitlaltepec, a village in the municipality of Zumpango toward the south of Mexico, 86 percent of residents are poor and 30 percent live in extreme poverty. This is the highest rate of poverty in the state, the total area being Mexico’s fifth poorest. Almost all people living in the area lack unemployment and retirement benefits.

The Coneval defines poverty as living on no more than 2,329 pesos a month (U.S. $135) in cities, and 1,490 pesos (U.S. $86)  a month in rural areas. The benchmark for extreme poverty was 1,125 pesos in cities and 800 pesos a month in the countryside. Coneval also takes other factors like healthcare and education into account.

While the number of people living in extreme poverty fell to 11.5 million by the end of 2012, or 9.8 percent of the population, many more Mexicans are now worse off than they were when former President Felipe Calderon entered the last two years of a six-year term in which poverty swelled by nearly 3 percent.

“The only feasible, permanent answer to reducing poverty in Mexico is through economic growth,” Mexican Finance Minister Luis Videgaray said in a press conference after the Coneval data was published.

However there are efforts to revitalize the current situation in Mexico. Government policy is underway to try and address the issues of poor-quality jobs, retirement benefits and care for those below the poverty line. In 2013, UNICEF worked with the Mexican government to research the factors that address child poverty within the country.

While these efforts are gradually making a difference, it will be a long way for Mexico to recover. However, as long as these and more programs come into effect, hopefully Mexico will see a brighter future.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: Coneval, Al Jazeera, Poverties, UNICEF, WSJ
Photo: Al Jazeera

Green_Space
Having access to healthy green recreational areas has, for years, been known to improve mental health and well-being in communities. Contact with nature is said to be therapeutic for those who are stressed or fatigued. A new study, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, suggests that this same access could conceivably reduce socioeconomic inequalities.

“Researchers looked at data that covered more than 21,000 urban residents from 34 nations recorded in the 2012 European Quality of Life Survey.” This research accounted for general demographic information among other data, and the results showed that those with reliable access to green space had a 40 percent lower socioeconomic gap than those that did not.

According to a similar study performed by the University of Glasgow, “green places are not only good for our health and well-being, but could also play an equalizing role in our cities.” This makes sense because green spaces do require a kind of maintenance, which opens up many jobs and volunteer opportunities in their communities.

“The research does not prove the strength of the relationship between individual neighborhood services and well-being, but does show that well-being gaps are smaller where services are better.” However, the research does show that green space has the largest bearing on the reduction of those gaps.

One example of a green space that is highly beneficial to its community is Lexington, Kentucky’s Gratz Park. This park borders Transylvania University, is used as a venue for local artists and performers during events, and is an accessible area for college students. Those who work to maintain Gratz Park are well-respected, and students that network there during events have been known to be much more at ease. Inhabitants also take great pride in the park’s historical significance as it was established in 1781.

– Anna Brailow

Sources: Fast Coexist, Optimist World, National Park Service
Photo: The Conservancy

conflict-in-nigeria-escalates
Churches and mosques alike have been burned in Nigeria’s most religiously segregated city, Jos. The key city in Nigeria’s middle belt, Jos splits the predominantly Muslim north from the primarily Christian south. Christian tribes receive preferred access to public education, government jobs and other benefits, even though Muslim tribes (deemed “settlers” to their Christian counterpoints, who are viewed as the state’s indigenous people) hold the same obligations, including paying tax and upholding state laws.

While discrimination across Nigeria takes another form in states where Christians are controlled by Muslims, the fight for religious dominance in Jos has quickly escalated. In 1994, a Hausa (a group of Muslim “settlers”) was appointed as Jos North local government chairman, catalyzing the religious conflict in Nigeria between the indigene, who were upset at a settlers’ appointment to office. Nearly 4,000 people have been killed since 2001 in the conflict.

Twenty years ago, Hajiya Badamasi, a practicing Christian, married her Muslim husband in the central city of Jos, where she later converted to Islam. Badamasi claims that, prior to Jos’ evolution as the epicenter of religious strife in Nigeria, religious identification hardly mattered. Now, as the fighting continues to increase between the indigene and settlers in what Human Rights Watch has described as “horrific internecine violence,” many agree Jos remains at a violent standstill.

Some attribute increasing conflict in Nigeria to the country’s wealth gap. In fact, violence and religious conflict in the country is not unique to the city of Jos alone. While Southern Nigerian states boast economic growth through multinational corporations, Northern states suffer extreme cases of poverty. Poverty in the North is perhaps exactly what makes the territory so susceptible to widespread attacks – most recently those perpetrated by Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group.

Around 1,505 Nigerian Christians have been killed so far this year by the extremist group Boko Haram. While the group kills Christians for their religious beliefs, their approach with Muslims is a bit different; according to claims, Muslims are killed for a “reason,” such as working for the government or refusing to pay the group extortion taxes. The group has killed almost as many Christians in seven months as were killed in all of last year.

While most claim these religious problems will not fully disappear until the constitution grants settling tribes equal rights, some Muslim leaders have voiced optimism toward the religious conflict. “I’m an optimist,” said Mohammed Hashir Saidu, a state government official. “People are getting more enlightened.”

Still, older Nigerian couples remember a time when Jos was home to acceptance of inter-religious families and people. “When my parents went to visit my wife’s parents, they were received wholeheartedly,” said Alhaji Abdulaziz Haruna, a 59-year-old Muslim who is married to a Christian. Now, just four decades later, the fate of similar couples seems much more bleak.

Nick Magnanti

Sources: IBI Times, Yahoo News, Naharnet, BP News
Photo: Naharnet

wealth
Amidst the joy over the DOW reaching an all-time high, as well as the numerous other positive signals that the American economy is in recovery mode, it can be easy to miss the nuanceshidden in the statistics. While Americans on the whole are getting rich again, these gains are not being seen by everyone. When the data is parsed carefully, it is evident that the poorest in our society have failed to see many benefits from the so-called economic recovery. As a result, the wealth gap in the United States continues to grow.

Impoverished people rarely, if ever, have any forms of investment. So when huge gains are seen in financial markets, these benefits do not actually bring any kind of respite from the day-to-day hardships of poverty. The recent gains in American wealth have been largely concentrated among the richest members of society, raising “the bar for success while leaving fewer haves and more have-nots.”

The economy as a whole has managed to get back to its pre-recession figures without bringing back the same levels of employment, home ownership, home value, or income inequality. Companies have been unwilling to hire for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is uncertainty about which way Washington’s budget struggles will play out. Without knowing what tax rates will be, it can be hard for a business to make any kind of large expenditure determinations. At a time when calls have been renewed to raise the minimum wage to be in line with inflation, these new figures from the Federal Reserve should work to galvanize support for policies which work to reduce poverty using the powerful engine of capitalism—an approach which is as American as baseball and apple pie.

–  Jake Simon

Source: US News