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Serbian YouthBelgrade is Serbia’s capital, with a population of over 1.7 million people. With a 40% youth unemployment rate, large numbers of Serbs were forced to leave the country and search for work elsewhere. Unemployment in Serbia is significantly higher than the European average and one of the country’s significant economic challenges is the need for private-sector job creation. In the last 12 months, Serbia has had 62 startups with $0 in total funding. More than ever, the country is in need of a program like Impact Hub to help Serbian youth.

Impact Hub

Impact Hub was founded in London in 2005 and now has over 7,000 members in more than 60 locations, one of which is Belgrade. The program is funded by USAID and assists young innovators in accessing the tools they need to connect with investors because unsuccessful funding is the biggest obstacle for startups. On Impact Hub’s website, online visitors can become “Impact Angels” and invest in a startup in minutes.

Impact Hub assists in the development of new products and business models. The program focuses on technological innovators and entrepreneurs and the future of their businesses. The organization provides collaborative workspaces, program support, an inspirational environment and diversity.

Impact Hub Belgrade offers young entrepreneurs resources such as acceleration and connections to grow their business. It is both a community center and a business incubator. The program encourages the sharing and building of a community and the space in which the project operates is used to organize events, from arts and culture to entrepreneurship.

Guiding Young Entrepreneurs

Impact Hub founders believe talent allows for growth and production. Since many young people know how to code, design and create innovative solutions, Impact Hub aims at helping  Serbian youth grow their startups. The program secures investments and teaches young people about using money in competitive markets. Impact Hub wants to get young entrepreneurs out of their comfort zone to expand their network. There are two different paths that Impact Hub employees guide entrepreneurs through. The first is “Core Competence for Market Validation,” in which individuals learn how to get the first buyer, expand their customers and make financial projections. The second is “Growth Readiness” and focuses on profiling a buyer, expanding traction and creating revenue models.

Impact Hub Belgrade implemented an initiative called We Founders, in which startup teams, founders, leaders and business developers can connect and work to improve their businesses. Impact Hub helps form partnerships to allow people to share the risks and prepare together for possible losses.

Impact Hub is Positively Impacting

Participants of Impact Hub raised $230,000 in investments from the Serbian public sector and private investors, not including a $100,000 investment from Dubai’s Innovation Impact Grant Program.

Alongside USAID, Impact Hub Belgrade gives Serbian youth the chance to see their innovations and ideas come to life. Outside of Belgrade, Impact Hub is available worldwide to allow individuals the opportunity to receive education regarding the tools and skills necessary for creating a business.

– Rachel Durling
Photo: Flickr

EU Youth UnemploymentIn 2019, the EU youth unemployment rate was at its lowest point in the last 10 years. More than 3.3 million young people (aged 15-24 years) were unemployed that same year, but compared with the previous year (2018), the situation looks much better. In 2018, more than 5.5 million young people were neither employed nor enrolled at an educational institution or training program. This vital change is achieved thanks to multiple EU policies and tools. It provides proper training and education, prepares youngsters for the labor market and gives them the chance to be competitive and successful. However, it is important to note that youth unemployment is 10 points higher than the average and there is a lot more space for improvement.

EU Youth Unemployment: Social and Economic Impacts

Eurostat reports show that EU youth unemployment rates are much higher than unemployment rates for all other age groups. In January 2019, jobless men and women above the age of 25 are 5.7%. As for the same period, rates among youths are 14% which is almost three times higher.

The unemployment rate is an essential indicator of both social and economic dimensions of youth poverty. Dangerously high unemployment rates show that young people can’t find their place in the labor market. Thus, they are not an active part of society. Jobless youngsters most often live with their parents, which destroys their learning motivation and civic engagement. Additionally, the lack of financial independence prevents them from going out and traveling. The combination of these factors kills their drive to find a job that creates even deeper despair on the emotional level.

A vicious circle starts forming around these young people who lose interest in social causes, politics and innovations. Once they lose their drive, long term unemployment is just the next step, according to studies in the EU. Unfortunately, many teenagers and twenty-something college graduates do not find jobs right after leaving the education system.

EU Institutions and National Governments Tackle Youth Unemployment

Young people’s labor market performance has indeed improved significantly over the past few years. According to the European Commission, there are 2.3 million fewer young unemployed now than five years ago. Around 1.8 million young people started apprenticeships, education or other kinds of training. Youth unemployment had decreased from 24% in 2013 to 14% in 2019.

The significant decrease of EU youth unemployment is possible through a combination of EU and national governments’ efforts to fight this phenomenon with various measures. This includes the promotion of a life-cycle approach to work, encouraging lifelong learning, improving support to those seeking a job and free training programs.

The latest research shows that apprenticeship and traineeship programs help prepare young people for the labor market and build relevant skills. Coordinating social policies like education or youth engagement and economic policies like employment rates is hard but a balanced governmental approach. With support from the local business in different countries, the number of youth employment increases in recent years. New partnerships have been set up with social partners, youth services and youth organizations as well.

These efforts should work to tackle EU youth unemployment by helping students and young professionals build attractive resumes for businesses operating on the global labor market. Nowadays, finding a job is more challenging than ever. Global competition requires all kinds of skill-sets from newcomers. In addition, these programs are designed to reinforce youngsters’ positions at this entry point. Besides, NGO initiatives and partner organizations create platforms for online education. The platforms are for people to take specialized courses without the need to enroll in an official university program. It’s easier, faster and very practical. Usually, such NGOs cannot provide certificates or diplomas, but the good news is businesses don’t need one. If the young person shows skills and a can-do attitude, he/she is hired.

The Changing of European Higher Education

The European conservative format of higher education is also changing slowly. More universities invite businesspeople to the campuses. This way the students can get the chance to meet entrepreneurs with hands-on experience and learn in a more informal environment. This type of education is most popular in the U.S., while formal education in Europe is still lagging in this regard. But times are changing, dynamics of life, work and study are different, and all involved parties are adjusting. There is no doubt that universities should work hand in hand with businesses to ensure a prospective future for young people.

Olga Uzunova

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Swaziland

Swaziland has endeavored to increase employment and economic growth. Among these efforts, still more work needs to further these goals and priorities. One area that the country has made progress in is improving living conditions in Swaziland by reducing the number of people living below the poverty line. With continued effort, Swaziland can make positive steps in strengthening its healthcare system, increasing employment rates and economic growth and increasing the retention rate of girls in school. These top 5 facts about living conditions in Swaziland will show where they are succeeding and where they need more work.

Top 5 Facts about Living Conditions in Swaziland

  1. In Swaziland, unemployment rates, in general, have not changed much in the past few years, hovering around 26 percent. There are further discrepancies between unemployment rates for women. For example, in 2007 and 2010, the rates stayed level around 30 percent. For men, however, the rates between 2007 and 2010 were 24.0 percent and 22.7 percent. There is still more work to be done in increasing youth employment. In fact, Swaziland has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Africa. The unemployment rate has remained higher than 50 percent since 2007. Specifically, working to reduce youth unemployment is a major part in helping reducing unemployment as a whole. Solutions to decrease youth unemployment are tertiary reforms and increasing vocational and on-the-job training. In addition, adding more growth to the private sector is key to helping to create high paying and productive jobs. Companies like Orange and OpenClassrooms are working to provide digital education to Africa’s youth to help young people find jobs in the tech markets.
  2. There has been some progress made in the living conditions in Swaziland by reducing the number of people living below the poverty line. According to the Swaziland Household Income and Expenditure Survey, the percentage of people living below the poverty line was 69 percent in 2001. However, the percentage had dropped by more than half to 30 percent in 2015. These numbers represent, on average, 20 percent for those living in urban areas, but for those living in rural areas, it was as high as 37 percent. Reasons for such high poverty rates were the decrease in incomes, the stagnation of private consumption and the decrease in the GDP.
  3. As a whole, economic growth has declined in Swaziland. Real GDP growth decreased from 1.3 percent in 2016 to 1 percent in 2017. Economic growth was projected to be at 1.5 percent in 2018. Factors that have contributed to the decline in economic growth are low demand from pivotal export market destinations, especially from South Africa and Eurozone. In addition, the sector also experienced a decline in economic growth and a loss of eligibility in status to trade under the African Growth and Opportunity Act Arrangement. Swaziland’s average GDP annual growth rate had been its highest in 1990 at 21 percent, but it dropped significantly down to .7 percent in 2016. Fortunately, the GDP annual growth rate had risen up to 2.3 percent in 2017.
  4. The healthcare system consists of formal and informal sectors. Health practitioners and general service providers make up the informal sector while industry, private and public health services as well as nongovernmental organizations make up the formal sector. Swaziland puts around 3.8 percent of its GDP towards healthcare, the government providing 65 percent of the money, which is about 2 percent of its GDP. The federal budget was increased from 7 percent in 1998 to 9 percent in 2009.
  5. There still is more work to be done in closing the gender gap in education. Swaziland’s educational levels are primary education, secondary education, vocational education and tertiary education. Although there is not a great disparity between boy and girls attending primary, dropout rates do tend to rise by year 5 of secondary school. More work needs to be done in increasing the retention rates for both girls and boys in school, although more work is needed for female retention. While there are not as many obstacles for girls starting school, there are numerous obstacles that hinder girls from staying in school. Between the ages of 15 and 19, 50 percent of girls will not have completed secondary school, compared to 39 percent of boys. Some of the obstacles are poverty, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and gender insensitivity. Furthermore, more than two-thirds of families live in poverty, and many find difficulties in paying for school fees and other costs.

These 5 facts about living conditions in Swaziland show that, while there is more work to be done in areas of employment, economic, growth and education, there has been notable progress in helping to improve the living conditions of the people. One area that has seen progress is the reduction of the number of those living below the poverty line. With more effort, Swaziland can see positive developments in helping the lives of all people.

Daniel McAndrew-Greiner

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in AlgeriaWith a population of approximately 40 million, Algeria is geographically North Africa’s largest country. It is also the world’s fourth largest gas exporter and the tenth largest exporter of oil. Algeria is a rich nation and the third most important economy in the Middle East and North Africa, but its people are poor. Reports show that the national rate of poverty in Algeria is as high as 23 percent.

What are the causes of poverty in Algeria? Why are up to half of young men from a country tempted to flee to Europe as illegal immigrants to escape misery at home?

Poverty and Unemployment

A high rate of unemployment among youth is one the causes of poverty in Algeria. Although the official figure is 12.48 percent, in reality it is much greater than that. One report from 2008 shows that unemployment among people under 30 was 70 percent. Such high unemployment rates and difficult quality of life have forced the country’s youth to take on desperate measures, such as illegal immigration to find work in Europe.

Political Conflict

Many Algerians blame the unresponsive and ineffective political leadership for the fall of the country’s economic position. One analyst claims that the “doctrinaire socialism” of the National Liberation Front (FLN), a political party which led the struggle for independence against France, rendered the country bankrupt. The Algerian Civil War between the Algerian government and various Islamic rebel groups from 1991 to 2002 and post-war political tensions further weakened the country’s political and economic stability.

Lack of Democracy

Lack of democratic institutions is another cause of poverty in Algeria. The struggle for power between the progressive FLN and conservative Islamic Front prompted military intervention on a number of occasions. The country’s current 80-year old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been in office since 1999 by “winning” four successive elections. Although he is respected as an elderly statesman for taking the country out of the civil war and eliminating radical and militant jihadi groups, the government under his rule has grown increasingly intolerant of press and political opposition.

Cuts in Government Spending

Another cause of people’s discontent and poverty in Algeria is the recent decline in oil price. Because Algeria relies heavily on oil and hydrocarbons for a strong economy, the sharp decline in oil price has prompted the government to implement spending cuts and tax hikes. Such measures without “improved safety nets, a cash transfer system reaching the needy, a solid media campaign to ensure better public understanding during its implementation and a stronger statistical system that allows monitoring of households’ living conditions more frequently” will pose a risk for Algeria.

Nevertheless, the pleasant news is that poverty in Algeria has decreased by 20 percent in the past two decades. While this number is promising, it is still not enough development. There is a need for a shift toward a more diversified economy that will move the country to sustainable growth and more employment opportunities.

Aslam Kakar

Photo: Flickr

Supporting Global EducationThe global youth unemployment rate is a concern, especially for global business leaders and nonprofits that advocate for lowering the poverty rate. As of 2016, there were 71 million unemployed people between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the International Labor Union (ILU). There are many ways to fix this problem, but one way to help unemployed youth in developing countries is by supporting global education.

This is a problem that affects all the countries of the world, but is especially hard on youths in developing countries. The increased number of unemployed youths in developing regions such as the Caribbean, Latin America and Western Asia had a great impact on the overall increase of the global youth unemployment rate, while numbers of youth unemployment rate in developed countries stayed about the same. Additionally, many jobs that youths can get in developing countries are low-paying jobs. The ILU estimates that 38 percent of working youths are living in extreme poverty (less than $3.10 a day).

Supporting global education is an investment in the youths of developing countries. With an education, the younger generation can learn the skills they needed to get higher paying jobs. A report conducted by the International Commission for Financing Global Education Opportunities found that 40 percent of employers worldwide had difficulty finding people with the required skills for their job openings. By investing in global education, more people can enter the workforce with in-demand skills and find more opportunities. In the long run, this enables the economy to grow and helps the country develop.

One organization supporting global education is Global Partnership for Education (GPE). GPE focuses on developing countries and brings together teacher organizations, private foundations and international organizations in order to strengthen educational systems. GPE’s goal is to make inclusive education accessible to everyone by the year 2030.

GPE is just one organization that is focusing on education to lower the unemployment rate of youths. If students in developing countries can access and gain the skills they need for jobs, the poverty rate for those developing countries will improve.

Deanna Wetmore

Photo: Flickr

Zambia
While Zambia continues to make strides economically and socially, there are clear problems that need to be addressed, according to a report by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The most pressing issue, the report states, is the growing number of unemployed youths in Zambia.

The Statistical Context

This past decade has been quite fruitful for Zambia’s economy, which has grown at an annual rate of 6 percent since 2000. However, poverty still afflicts 60.5 percent of the population. Moreover, from 2004 to 2013, the population has increased by 3.3 million to 14.5 million. The result is a disproportionately large population of Zambian youths.

This expansion amounts to an annual average rate of 3 percent, which exceeds the 2.7 percent average of other sub-Saharan countries.

According to the U.N.’s World Population Prospects, the working age youth population is expected to grow at a rate of 34 percent for the next two decades. This means that the youth labor force is expected to nearly double from 5.5 million to 10.1 million.

While Zambia’s economy has shown significant growth, the expected influx of youth into the labor market presents a challenge and a question: How can they all be absorbed into the workforce?

Currently, youth make up 64.2 percent of the working-age population. And of that pool, only 11 percent obtain public jobs. The private sector, on the other hand, accounts for a small percentage of the employed youth.

Not surprisingly, agriculture accounts for the majority of the jobs that youths hold as the economy continues to rely on that industry for growth.

This fact suggests that the economy has not undergone a structural transformation. In other words, the Zambian market has not yet incorporated technology-intensive manufacturing firms. And this has left otherwise able youth underemployed, performing marginal jobs of an irregular nature.

The Underlying Factors

Zambia boasts tremendous improvement in primary school enrollment rates, having increased from 72 percent in 2002 to 94 percent in 2012. However, as the report notes, the true indicator of a stable and effective education system is the progression rate of students from primary school all the way to tertiary school.

In that regard, Zambia performs poorly: out of every 100 primary school children, only 1.07 will enroll at a tertiary institution (i.e. university or vocational school).

This rate is six times below the average of neighboring countries and 19 times below the world average. Since many Zambian youth do not complete secondary or tertiary school, they are unable to find jobs and many may resort to agricultural or household work.

The struggle in transitioning from school to work depends on several factors. The quality of education is one, but it is not uncommon for young Zambians to be in and out of school trying to find sponsors to pay for their education.

Some end up graduating secondary school (i.e. high school) in their twenties.

For this reason, entrepreneurship is quite popular among Zambians as a compelling option for those who leave school. And, while the business set up have so far not been very stable — as a result of their establishment being out of economic necessity rather than opportunity — many see promise if these individuals are better supported.

The Solutions

Technical and vocational educational training schools or TVETs have been created to address the huge scarcity of skilled workers and a need for out-of-school students to find training.

However, there are two challenges facing these schools. First, is a lack of capacity: about 300,000 Zambians leave the school system every year, yet the universities and TVETs can only absorb 14,000 students.

Second, there has yet to be much stock put in the graduates of TVETs as compared to graduates of universities. Historically, TVET graduates are viewed as favorably as university graduates even though they possess the technical skills needed for a growing young economy like Zambia’s.

The government has enacted soft policies to help combat youth unemployment. The National Youth Policy (NYP) was first adopted in 1994 and was later readdressed in 2013.

The result was the National Action Plan on Youth Employment in Zambia, which developed a framework to monitor and evaluate youth unemployment to better produce jobs and resources.

Donor communities and Zambia’s NGO sector also assist. Street Kids International established the Youth Skills Enterprise Initiative, giving youth in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, opportunities to earn daily income and learn life skills. Another venture, BongoHive, acts as a networking hub for young graduates to program and gain employable skills.

Shehrose Mian

Sources: Bloomberg, IDRC, Bongohive
Photo: The World Bank

Youth_Unemployment
According to The Guardian, “youth unemployment is a global issue,” as young people account for approximately 40 percent of the world’s unemployed. Of note, 90 percent of this demographic live in developing countries, such as South Africa.

Not surprisingly, one of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals seeks to address this global issue by “substantially [reducing] the proportion of youth not in employment, education, or training” by 2020.

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have already started to make a difference for unemployed youth in South Africa, where the youth unemployment rate stands at a staggering 50 percent. PPPs are working to provide young workers with government funded education, internship opportunities and technical services.

PPPs run projects between the private sector and the government, nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and the private sector, or a combination of all three.

Zambian Youth Benefit

In Zambia for example, a PPP comprised of Unicef, Barclays and the Zambian government provided free courses focused on enterprise, entrepreneurship and communication skills.

According to The Guardian, Ernest Daka, a 22-year-old Zambian unemployed youth turned entrepreneur, credits a business and financial literacy course offered by this PPP as his motivation to become a self-starter.

Daka learned how to apply for a startup loan from a microfinance institution to purchase 50 chicks, a chicken coop, feed and charcoal.

The young entrepreneur began raising chickens after he learned more about local food supply and demand during the PPP course. Daka hired his brother as an employee and plans to package his chicken and eggs for grocery and restaurant sale in the future.

He has since repaid his loan in full and was able to pay for his brother’s school fees using profits from his business.

New Funding for PPPs

In 2014, the African Development Bank Group (AFDB) approved the financing of 48 new private sector operations with an investment of UA 1.59 billion. According to the AFDB, PPPs are one of the best ways for countries to foster development via power transport, water and sanitation and telecommunications.

As the desire for greater efficiency and better services grows, the availability of public financing resources diminishes. The South African government continues to promotes PPPs to make up for this lack of funding, improve the business environment and reduce the youth unemployment rate.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: African Development Bank Group, The Guardian, UN
Photo: Flickr

youth_employment
A world in which every youth has access to employment may sound a little far-fetched, but this is just what global organization Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) strives to achieve.

Acknowledging International Youth Day, which comes around every August 12, the S4YE coalition is initiating a five-year strategy which will focus on the specific challenges that youth face in receiving employment across the world.

S4YE is a global coalition made up of civil society actors, government officials, foundations, private sector entities, international organizations and young people endeavoring to help the 600 million youth who are unemployed and simultaneously not receiving education or any kind of additional training across the globe.

“In 2014 nearly 500 million young people around the world are unemployed, inactive, underemployed, or engaged in insecure employment,” states the S4YE.

Tackling such an issue will not be easy, but strides are being taken to make a difference. Over the course of a 15-year initiative, the organization’s first ambitious strategy is to support 150 million youth worldwide by 2030.

Although unemployment is an issue affecting an astronomical amount of people, S4YE is specifically focusing on areas where it is a national priority including the Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia.

According to an article by the World Bank, the addition of a billion more people entering the workforce in the coming decade means that at least five million more jobs will need to be created each month to meet the demands. If this cannot be done, youth will find themselves in a place of inopportunity, which will only lead to social and political instability.

The magnitude of the problem is grave; if nothing changes for the unemployed youth—with 1 million more youth in Africa and India turning 15 each year—the poorest 40 percent of the world’s population will fall into poverty.

S4YE identifies some of the challenges of accomplishing total youth employment, which include developing a skilled workforce, creating well-functioning markets and ensuring a stable middle-class consumer base. Essentially, traditional models of engagement may be abandoned to guarantee that millions will have the opportunity to escape poverty.

Despite the inherent obstacles, it is S4YE’s vision to see a world where all youth have access to job opportunities that empower them, so they are able to share their prosperity with the world.

Potential solutions for these challenges have also been identified and include leveraging public and private investments for job creation, research and evaluation to design an education based training, and finally, leadership is needed to identify what strategies are and aren’t working, implementing them into the design of future policies and investments.

As our world population continues to climb, it is up to organizations like S4YE to generate creative solutions to keep pace with a rapidly expanding presence and ensure that every human has an opportunity for a life well lived.

Nikki Schaffer

Sources: S4YE, World Bank
Photo: Twitter

Latin American youth are finding it increasingly difficult to find gainful employment. Of the region’s 108 million people in the 18 to 24 year age bracket, 21.8 million of them are known as NEETs – not in employment, education or training. In Spanish they are called NiNis – ni estudian ni trabajan (they do not study, nor do they work). NiNis are a stigmatized group, pegged as lazy, unmotivated and apathetic.

To make matters worse, many Latin American youth who do find jobs end up working in poor conditions and lack the protection of labor rights. Six in every 10 young people in Latin America work in unlawful labor conditions, according to a recent International Labor Organization report.

The ILO study, titled Trabajo decente y juventud: políticas para la acción (Decent Work and Youth: Policies for Action), also reported that the youth unemployment rate is three times as high as that of adults and twice as high as the overall rate. Young people are unable to find decent jobs even though the current generation is better educated than any previous cohort.

In Guatemala, 78 percent of NiNis work informal positions doing housework and other menial chores. Yet the hard core of NiNis exists in Paraguay and Uruguay, with 48 and 45 percent of young people respectively neither employed, nor enrolled in an academic institution.

Several causes for youth unemployment exist. Education is key – if the education system is not in sync with an area’s labor market, graduates will not leave their educational institution with the necessary skills to break into and thrive in the workforce. Population growth has also contributed to the existence of such high numbers of unemployed youth around the globe. Additionally, during times of economic hardship, employers are more likely to lay off younger workers who do not represent as significant of an investment as their older, better trained counterparts.

The fundamental problem, outlined by the ILO report, is that not enough opportunities exist for Latin American youth. Guy Rider, director of the International Labor Organization, says that the “lack of access to opportunities for decent work generates frustration and discouragement among youth. There are 108 million reasons why we must act now.”

The good news is that some organizations are acting. Work4Youth, a collaborative project between the ILO and MasterCard Foundation, seeks to match underprivileged youths aged 14 to 24 with local businesses in order to give young people the resources they need to break into the workforce. W4Y has operations all around the globe, and it maintains a presence in Brazil, Peru, El Salvador and Colombia.

The young generation currently entering the workforce is a valuable resource. Some estimates hold that if unemployment among young people were halved, the global GDP would experience an increase of 4 to 7 percent. In the words of 21-year-old Astrid Estefanía Garibay of Mexico: “People think ‘young’ and ‘NiNi,’ and they think about drug addicts and bums.” These young people simply need help connecting with opportunities rather than being stigmatized for their employment status.

– Kayla Strickland

Sources: IB Times, ILO, Pravda.ru, Press TV
Photo: Work4Youth

French_Guiana_poverty
Having become part of France in the 17th century and nowadays administered as part of France just like Aquitaine or Brittany, French Guiana has one of the highest living standards in South America. Interestingly, as a consequent, it is also part of the European Union despite being located in the Americas. In spite of this, the overseas department is one of France’s poorest regions and has long been suffering from youth unemployment.

In the 1990s, street violence with its origin in youth unemployment broke out on the streets. Even nowadays, unemployment in general remains above 20%, while in the rest of France, that figure is, even with the Eurozone Crisis and recent recession, 10.4%, half the regular unemployment rates in French Guiana. The Guianese population has 25 percent of its citizens living below the poverty line, the highest among France’s overseas departments.

The economic situation of France’s overseas departments in the Western Hemisphere, which, aside from French Guiana, also include the picturesque Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, has been the cause of much discontent towards Paris. As living costs rise, the wages remain stagnant and the economies, relying heavily on La Métropole’s subsidization, the people of the overseas departments took to the streets to participate in that most French of activities: les grèves—strikes.

In France, this department also has the infamy of the AIDS epidemic. For every 100 pregnant women, one of them is HIV positive. The department also holds the record for the highest number of children per woman both in France and within the E.U.—four children per woman. Also, terrifyingly, the infant mortality rate of French Guiana is at 11.8 per 1,000 live births, whereas in the rest of France, the average is merely at three.

These are vexing numerical figures for what is supposed to be part of an industrialized and prosperous Western European country.

There is also quite a noticeable discrepancy between the department’s mines and natural wealth and its socio-economics. Despite being peppered with gold mines, rich with natural resources and also being home to the E.U.’s space agency, the aforementioned figures resemble those from certain corners of the underdeveloped world. Perhaps because of the central government’s long negligence due to the department’s distance and its tiny population of only a little bit less than 250,000 people—almost half of that of the much smaller island Guadeloupe—French Guiana has been allowed to languish in poverty and relative underdevelopment.

However, this state of poverty can also be attributed to the department’s own micro-economic character and the fact that its two main economies are the said space agency and gold mining. These two activities can hardly benefit the population at large. Lastly, being part of, though non-contiguous to, a very prosperous nation world-renown for its high quality of life, French Guiana’s abject poverty often gets looked over by the figurative radars of NGOs and aid organizations.

With the large gross domestic product per capita gap between French Guiana and Metropolitan France almost nearing $30,000 difference per annum, the issue of poverty in this overseas department, thus, should demand more attention in order find a solution.

– Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: BBC, The Guardian, Minorites, Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques, McGill Research Group Investigating Canadian Mining in Latin America, Pan American Health Organization, CNN, World Bank
Photo: Top 10 List