Saturday, December 29, 2007

Union to tackle poverty

from The Montreal Gazette

More poverty but less services in Quebec: CSQ president

Jason Magder
The Gazette

One of Quebec's largest unions says it will take on the cause of the poorest segment of society, by ensuring there is no further deterioration in the province's social-assistance programs.

The Conseil des syndicats du Quebec, which represents 155,000 workers in the health and education sectors, held a news conference downtown hotel today to outline its priorities for 2008.

CSQ president Rejean Parent said there are more poor people in Quebec, but fewer services to help those people.

He added if the government was serious about tackling poverty, it would take steps to ensure that everyone received the same basic services regardless of their income.

"We can't let the Quebec health-care system be privatized without saying anything," Parent said.

"Because we're in a minority government, there has been less deterioration to public services in recent months, but there are still problems.

"We'll be a lot more vocal in 2008 against the degradation of services," he said.

Parent said another focus for his union in 2008 will be to challenge Bill 142, which was passed in December 2005, and imposed a six-year contract on public sector workers. It included a two-year wage freeze, followed by four years of two-per-cent pay increases annually.

Pressuring the government to repeal Bill 142 was identified as a priority for 2007 when the union held a similar news conference last year. While Parent said he's disappointed that Bill 142 has not been repealed, the union has mounted a legal challenge against the law and it could be tied up in court for years, if it's appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court.

However, Parent said the union is getting ready for the next round of negotiations so it has a stronger position to bargain from in 2010.

"We're slowly starting to get ready for 2010," Parent said. "We want to relook at the way that negotiation is done, because at this point, all the advantage is in the hands of the government."

Parent said all the unions representing public employees will meet in the coming months to come up with a common strategy for coming negotiations.

The next contracts for public employees are due in 2010 and Parent said the next round of negotiations could be extremely difficult.

"Our objective is to create the largest possible common front, similar to what we saw in the 1960s, because we think the attacks against the public service will need a large-scale response," Parent said.

Education as a way to escape poverty

from The Cincinnati Enquirer


Denenne Watkins never imagined she’d be at home this holiday season marveling about her college grades.

But the Westwood resident will be doing just that after earning two Bs and an A in three University of Cincinnati courses she took this fall. That’s the first term UC has offered courses through the Accounting and Credibility Together center downtown, the welfare-diversion program known as ACT.

“It’s such a blessing to be in the ACT family,” said Watkins, 35, who has four sons ages 14 to 20. “They offer all kinds of support. You know, school is expensive!”

ACT pays the difference between whatever the students can get in financial aid and full costs of the classes offered by UC’s Raymond Walters College. That difference usually ends up being about $2,000 a year, and ACT, which hosts the classes in its offices on Walnut Street downtown, is raising money privately to try to fund the program.

“After all these years, we suddenly figured out a couple of years ago that the only way we were going to get these families out of poverty is education,” said Carol Gibbs, founder and chief executive officer of ACT.

Classes this fall included nearly 40 students in offerings such as English composition and medical insurance. Raymond Walters committed to a package of courses that could lead to a two-year degree in business or medical billing.
It’s only one of the activities at the welfare-diversion program that’s available to clients who have gone to Hamilton County for assistance because of a specific financial need. It sees about 1,300 new families a year, all of them with children and earning no more than 50 percent above the federal poverty line.

For ACT, the program fills the need of many clients to continue their education and give them a good chance at jobs in professions that need workers, such as medical billing and coding. For UC, it broadens access to its programs and could help boost enrollment in a period of tight budget restraints.

“I think we’re going to support them, even if we have some lower-enrollment courses that lose money,” said Bob Howell, interim associate dean for academic affairs at Raymond Walters. He said he hopes the courses will open to non-ACT clients soon.

Rachael Allstatter, director of the medical assisting and medical billing program at Raymond Walters, said her students in the fall quarter at ACT were mindful of the impact the classes could have in their careers.

“They’re very into knowing that this will lead them into looking for a better job,” she said. “This gives them the opportunity to say, ‘Yes, I’m still viable in the work setting.’”

That description certainly fits Watkins, who works part-time and has an associate’s degree. She wants to use the medical-billing courses to work for an insurance company.

“I really wanted to get back in there (to college),” she said. “The opportunity just never presented itself.”

India: Islands of prosperity in an ocean of poverty

from Meri News

Shishir Srivastava,

India is standing on the threshold of being an economic superpower. But the harsh realities below this growth are that many of Indians cannot afford a proper meal everyday.

CHARLES DICKENS begins his novel, "A tale of two cities" with the dichotomy.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

It was the age of freedom, it was the age of slavery.

We had everything before us, we had nothing before us."

This above description seems to be valid for our country where the rich and poor coexist. But the sorry state of affairs is such that there are mere islands of affluent people in a gigantic ocean of poverty.

With the Sensex going past the 20,000 mark and a consistent GDP growth of about 9 per cent, Indian economy seems to be booming. But has this so called ’Economic Boom’ reached the Common Man. What is the use of growth if it is not inclusive? If it takes a few people forward whereas the rest are left to fend for themselves. India ranks a poor 128 out of 177 countries in the latest rankings released by the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index (HDI). Many of us use statistics to show what number of Indians is below the poverty line. But do we even know what the poverty line is? As per the 1999-2000 statistics, in the urban areas a person is considered to be below the poverty line if his monthly per capita expenditure is less than Rs 327.56 and in the urban regions is below Rs 454.11. The above figures are a weighted average of all the state wise poverty numbers. Thus in states like Bihar, Andhra Pradesh among others the poverty line in rural areas falls way beyond Rs 300. Since most of the country’s population is below the poverty line, it implies that their expenditure is less than Rs 10 per day. And to think of it that our county is home to the largest number of billionaires in Asia. Earlier this year, India pipped Japan to take over the number one slot.

Behind all the record FDI’s, global Indians making money and the sensex rise is the gory reality of poverty in India, which is truly incredible. Globalisation was supposed to stem this, but that hasn’t happened yet. The standard of living in the cities has gone higher whereas in the rural areas, it’s the same old story of droughts, and famines. This is leading to an unbearable influx of people in the cities in search of livelihood. The rich have grown richer whereas the poor haven’t moved forward.

It is said that when one person dies, it is a tragedy but when thousands die it is a mere statistics. Such is the case with the farmer’s suicides in the Vidharbha region of Maharashtra. What people don’t realize is that poverty has severe repercussions. Crime, corruption and child labour are just a few of them. The corrupt bureaucracy and the opacity of the system have ensured that the common man continues to suffer. Technological advancement are all for the urbanites to see. McDonalds and Baristas are flooding the metros, whereas on the other hand electricity is yet to reach lakhs of our villages. Roti, Kapda aur Makaan is just a distant dream for many of the poor tribals in our country.

If India is to progress to be a superpower, it will have to showcase inclusive growth. The billions of people under the poverty line will have to rise as they have a stake in the future of our country. Poverty is a social evil that will have to be defeated. The people of India, who are below the poverty line, should not be left to struggle for their daily survival. The booming Indian economy should include them as well. After all, development is not just moving ahead but also ensuring that no one is left behind.

Why I left the City behind to fight poverty in Africa

from The Guardian

Former Aviva boss Richard Harvey tells Ruth Sunderland how he and his wife abandoned a comfortable lifestyle to work for charity, and gives an insight into their experiences from his diary

* The Observer,

During his years in the City, Richard Harvey was accustomed to the purring engine and leather upholstery of a chauffeur-driven car to whisk him smoothly to and from engagements in his job as head of Aviva, the world's fifth-largest insurance company.

So it was something of a contrast when he and his wife Kay found themselves on a rudimentary, pot-holed road on desolate African terrain, with smoke pouring out of their four-wheel drive, three hours away from the nearest mechanic.

Harvey had taken the almost unthinkable step for a FTSE 100 chief executive of giving up his £1.9m a year job to go with Kay on a mid-life gap year to do charity work. He is part-way through his extraordinary 'life-swap' experiment of abandoning his luxurious, but workaholic City existence and has spent three months mainly helping Masai people in Kenya, whose traditional way of life is under threat from climate change.

The breakdown, he says, was one of the moments when the scale of the change hit home, though the fact that one of his biggest business coups was his takeover of the RAC did come in handy.

'We got the bonnet open to find that a battery clamp had worked loose and fused to the live terminal, so a massive short was burning out the wiring harness. With my RAC training and clean gentleman's handkerchief I was able to pull it apart and the smoke gradually subsided. But we were a long way from the King's Road in Chelsea. With British determination, we set off walking, but were saved the effort of a 5km hike up a hill by a pick-up truck owned by Richard Leakey, of anthropological fame.'

It was indeed a long way from the King's Road, Richard's and Kay's local shopping street. In their other life, the couple - who were childhood sweethearts and have been married for 36 years - had an enviable existence in a multi-million-pound Chelsea townhouse.

Harvey had a highly successful career, helping to float the former mutual insurer Norwich Union on the stock market and transforming it into the company now known as Aviva, an international giant. His decision to 'retire' at the relatively youthful age of 57 - when many executives feel they still have many years of status-seeking and money-making ahead of them - was inspired by his youngest daughter Jenny, who worked in Uganda for nine months before taking up her place at Oxford University.

The couple were given an added impetus by the fact that a few years earlier, Kay had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was given the all-clear three years later, but that trauma made the pair, who have two other grown-up children, Adrian and Kate, all the more determined to spend time together and do something worthwhile.

Although Harvey relished his job, it was hugely demanding and meant he was sometimes an absentee husband. 'My diary was packed with breakfast meetings, appointments all day, then often finishing with dinner or an engagement in the evening. In Africa, you can only do one thing a day. Kay and I were not used to spending so much time together. The experience has bonded us even more closely,' he says.

In the 10 or so years I have known Harvey, I have seen him flush with the success of pulling off a deal, like the takeover of the RAC, and also weathering disappointments, such as his failed attempt to take over Prudential. But I have never seen him so energised or enthusiastic as in a little cafe near his former offices at Aviva, telling me about his African experience.

'It is like deja vu being back here in the City,' he says. 'It is a bit surreal. Many people I met in Africa would be amazed that here you can just turn on a tap and have running water inside your house. I haven't missed my old life at all so far. There has just been so much to take in.'

He does, however, miss the comfort of going to a clean loo. 'The lack of toilets is frightening to a Westerner. You could improve health so much by replacing the pit latrines in schools. It would help combat the basic digestive diseases the children suffer, and sometimes die from.

'I would freely admit we have been living in a very comfortable fashion compared with most other people. We have a rented home in Nairobi and have stayed in basic hotels. I couldn't survive in one of the local dwellings.'

He does not, he says, feel guilty about having so much while the poor of Africa have so little: 'You do have bouts of it, just as you do here, because there is poverty in this country too. But I am not interested in guilt. I am interested in doing something positive about it.'

Their stint was largely in Kenya, where Harvey has been looking at how communities can improve water supply, sanitation and agricultural development, and Kay, a teacher of PE and English as a foreign language, has been working in local schools.

'They call her Madam Walks Quickly, because they think we walk too fast in the hot sun,' Harvey says. 'I just love the children. They arrive at school at 6.30am and study quietly until the teachers arrive at 8am. It makes you wonder where we have gone wrong here.'

One of the most horrific things, he says, is the widespread genital mutilation of young girls. ' I had no idea it existed on such a scale, with 80-90 per cent of the female population subjected to it. On a basic level, the men want it in order to subjugate the women, but the grandmothers are among the main enforcers. People won't talk to me about it so much, but some of the women teachers have begun opening up to Kay, asking things like how often men in the UK beat their wives - and of course there are men who do that here. It takes time to get to know the unspoken truths about things like that, and about witchcraft and HIV.'

He is under no illusions about the hard work and commitment it will take to alleviate conditions. 'The easy part is delivering a sack of grain, or whatever. Take a school where Kay and I did a lot of work. Putting in a bore hole of 60 metres for water is about 24 hours of drilling. Teaching that community to build up a plan to use the water for good quality sanitation, cooking and growing food to break them out of their current dependency on food aid, is probably a three-year project. They need to think about how they are going to pay for the pump and the diesel it uses, how they will grow enough crops to pay for that and a sinking fund for repairs and maintenance.'

'The people there are Masai, and their whole life up till now has been nomadic herding of cattle. But that won't work any more, because there is simply not enough for their cattle to eat and they are dying in the drought. The concept that they need to get water from the ground is a complete cultural change for them.'

Harvey and his wife believe education is key to a better future for Kenya. The government is encouraging parents to send their children to school by making it free, and providing food.

'The World Food Programme is using the grain mountain from the US and Europe to provide children with one very basic meal a day, but that is unsustainable because the grain mountain is collapsing. That food is all the children are going to get to eat in current climatic conditions. They will walk 10km to school to get that. The hope is that in 10 or 15 years' time we will have a generation of educated Kenyans even in these very poor areas.'

At Aviva, Harvey was involved in providing pensions to a population in the UK which is living longer and enjoying better health, but in Africa it is the reverse, with life expectancy in Malawi just 37 years and decreasing. And while his old company is paying out large sums in Britain for victims of this year's floods, in Africa the impact of climate change is much more devastating.

'Here in the UK climate change has brought flooding which has been terrible and there are people who are still not back in their homes. But in Kenya or Malawi it has stopped a subsistence existence from being an existence at all. You are talking about starvation. Worse still, it has not been their carbon production that has done this, it is ours.'

Companies such as Aviva have committed to becoming carbon neutral, reducing their own emissions and buying carbon credits to offset their usage. Harvey believes that one way companies and individuals can help would be through the development of more high-quality carbon offset schemes.

At the schools he and Kay visited, food - if there is any - is cooked over an open fire. 'That is incredibly inefficient. One thing you could do is build a brick cooker with a fire box in the bottom, which reduces the amount of wood you use by 50 per cent. Someone wanting a carbon offset can fund that sort of stove across a number of schools.'

When he returns, Harvey hopes to take on some mainstream City projects but to leave enough time to carry on with his charity work. His status has given a much-needed boost to Concern Universal, which is not one of the best-known charities, and he says his management experience has helped him to organise people in the villages. 'Whenever you put people together in teams to carry out a task human behaviour is the same, whether you are in Kenya or in the City. Some individuals are more awkward than others,' he laughs.

· Concern Universal works with people in some of the poorest countries of the world to help them find sustainable solutions to poverty and inequality.

Nonprofit aids families living in poverty

from The Los Angeles Times

By Ari B. Bloomekatz, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

The 9-year-olds were smiling broadly as they raced through past lessons and their favorite books.

Kari Vides commented that her friend Daniel Ruiz "gets math problems really fast" and then pointed to a wall where student-rendered posters geographically positioned her charter school, which is tucked behind a McDonald's on East 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles.

"We live in the Milky Way, we live on planet Earth, we live on the continent of North America and in the state of California. We live in the city of Los Angeles," Kari said, pointing to student representations of each.

What the self-proclaimed future scientist didn't mention was that within the city, Kari was downtown; more specifically, on skid row.

It's not surprising that Kari didn't mention the teeming streets outside the charter school operated by Para Los Niños, said Giselle Acevedo, the nonprofit group's president and chief executive, because "the school is designed to be an oasis."

"Every child has the right to be safe," Acevedo said, tiptoeing through a group of youngsters taking their afternoon nap at the school. "This has to be a safe environment, because they're not coming from a safe environment."

The organization got its start in 1980 as a result of the efforts of Tanya Tull, a local community activist who now runs Beyond Shelter, a group that advocates for the homeless.

She read a newspaper article about the plight of children living on skid row and organized a group to purchase an abandoned downtown factory. Eventually they turned it into an alternative school.

Para Los Niños is one of Southern California's most successful nonprofits serving families living in poverty.

The organization has at least 24 sites in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, including the kindergarten-through-fifth-grade charter school, dozens of early childhood development and after-school programs, and family resource centers that offer mental-health counseling and job services, among others.

All told, Para Los Niños serves at least 5,000 families each year, including children and young adults ranging from 6 weeks to 21 years old. The typical family profile is a single mother with three or four children.

Acevedo said Para Los Niños works because it uses a comprehensive approach to youth education that targets the entire family, not just the parents or the children.

She said it is nearly impossible for youth to succeed in the mayhem of skid row and when their parents are often living day-to-day.

Acevedo said that most children at Para Los Niños come from working families but that their low incomes leave them with little or no opportunity for the basic services available to middle-class residents.

Part of the organization's function is to offer parents help in finding housing, medical care and social services.

She said that without the proper services, poverty-stricken families -- and especially their children -- cannot compete for the best jobs and education available to those with higher incomes.

"If you just give a kid the basics, they'll just learn the basics. But we cannot afford to give these kids the basics. . . . These kids here will take the same SATs as the kids in West Los Angeles," Acevedo said. "These are the same services that middle- and upper-class folks already have access to."

The organization, with a $21-million annual budget and 350 paid employees, is funded through a combination of government and private grants and donations.

It is in the midst of a campaign to build a charter middle school and expand its early childhood development services.

The idea is to intervene in children's lives early, Acevedo said, and then stick with them through years of growth and progress.

The Los Angeles Times' Holiday Campaign gave $15,000 to Para Los Niños this year.

Recently, the school invited labor leader and human rights activist Dolores Huerta to pay a visit. The children had been learning about her struggles for farm workers' rights in the grape fields of Southern California.

After Huerta gave a short speech, the students presented her with a booklet including their own thoughts about how she had inspired them.

"One day I would like to be a leader just like you," one student said.

"Thank you for helping the farm workers. Because of you, I want to also be a helping hand," said another.

Sitting in a chair in front of the youths, Huerta smiled as each read their remarks. Then she stood up and firmly asked the students: "Do you know what a boycott is?"

The annual Holiday Campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, which this year will match every dollar raised at 50 cents on the dollar.

Donations are tax-deductible. For more information, call (213) 237-5771. To make credit card donations, visit To send checks, use the attached coupon. Do not send cash. Unless otherwise requested, gifts of $50 or more are acknowledged in The Times.

Gov. blasts Bush on health care

from the Cincinnati Post

By Julie Carr Smyth

COLUMBUS - Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland blasted the Bush administration on Friday for rejecting a plan the state had crafted to cover up to 35,000 additional uninsured children under Medicaid.

"I am appalled at the heartless decision of the Bush Administration to reject Ohio's bipartisan plan to provide health care access to thousands of our children," he said in a statement. "Sadly, this is an indication that the president and his advisers are totally out of touch with the struggles faced by so many Ohio families."

Strickland said he received word late Thursday that the request had been rejected.

The governor is facing other Medicaid challenges, as new projections show the state has budgeted $207 million less than it will need to handle Medicaid demand this budget cycle.

The start dates for expanded benefits to pregnant women, some foster children and disabled working people will depend on final budget figures Strickland receives in January, said spokesman Keith Dailey.

Ohio needed federal government approval to move forward with a plan to use the state's Medicaid match for health care coverage to children from families earning 200 to and 300 percent of the federal poverty level. The poverty level is $20,650 a year for a family of four.

Of the 35,000 children who would have been eligible under the plan, 20,000 were expected to participate, said Dailey.

Federal authorities said the arrangement, struck as part of the state's two-year budget, was impossible to accept because it violated Medicaid rules that say money from the government health insurance program for low-income families can't be used for those making more than twice the poverty rate. Strickland's office disagrees with that legal interpretation, and said it was wrong to reject a plan that had been hammered out by his Democratic administration and the Republican state Legislature.

The governor had met and spoken by phone to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt several times about the plan, and Strickland had told reporters Leavitt was encouraging.

He said Leavitt had encouraged him to seek authority to use federal matching money to cover children of families earning up to 250 percent of poverty, rather than 300 percent.

"While we plan to reapply to cover children between 200 and 250 percent, every option remains on the table for the remaining children, including litigation," Strickland said. "I will fight until every Ohio child has access to the health care they deserve."

Dailey said there are an estimated 20,627 uninsured children in families between 200 percent and 250 percent of poverty, and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services estimates that 10,671 would seek health insurance from the state if it were available.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown was equally critical of the president.

"It's both far-fetched and offensive that this administration thinks they know better than Ohioans when it comes to the needs of our kids," he said in a statement.

Plans to restore dental benefits for 700,000 low-income Ohioans and to boost Medicaid payments to hospitals and doctors who care for the poor are also on hold as the situation is assessed.

Daily said 25,644 more Ohioans were on the Medicaid rolls in November than had been projected.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Kenya: Economic Violence - Unemployment and poverty are human rights violations

from African Path

By Nducu wa Ngugi

The background.

Early morning. It is greeted by many with sighs of relief that they made it through the night. Hordes of young men congregate at Kwa Mbira shopping center, Limuru. Some walk up and down the dusty pot-holed road that dissects the small unassuming town almost in half. Patches of what used to be tarmac dot the almost impassable road that leads to LimuruTown on the one side and to Ndeiya on the other. As the sea of despondent youth mill about looking for work, any kind of work in a town that has nothing to offer, they while the time with stories that have no immediate bearing on their present situation and dream of making it out someday. Many of them do not see their predicament as a direct result of failed government policies and misplaced priorities.

“ODM has a good chance but I do not know what to make of these guys jumping from party to party like little monkeys high on weed. I mean don’t they have principles?” politics one youth adamantly, his hands flickering in the air for emphasis.

“You are a fool. Kibaki cannot be unseated. He has the government on his side. Plus Moi is now working for him and he will bring a share the Rift Valley votes. That is what will decide this election”. They argue back and forth. Then someone brings in the elections closer to home.

“Hey, who will you vote for here?” And the discussion becomes heated.

“Please don’t get me started with these greedy MP’s, always giving themselves a raise at our expense. What are they making now? Sh.750,000 a month plus benefits? And what is the minimum wage? About Sh. 5500?” says a college graduate who has not found work yet.

“What about this Majimbo?” queries another youth wearing Bata Shoe flip-flops that have collected dirt so that his toes prints are traced precisely on the inside. His big toe is bandaged with a piece of cloth from a torn shirt tied into a ribbon and marked by a dried out dark stain covered with reddish clay soil.

“Well, isn’t Kenya already divided into constituencies, district and subdivisions? Why couldn’t they have distributed the wealth through these divisions? What makes this Majimbo better?” and so the debates goes on.

“Let me get a sportsman cigarette. You know I always pay you. Or do you think that these hands are made of wood?” pleads a young man. If BAT knew that he smoked their products on credit would they make him their spokesman?

What is with the youth of today?

This scene in Limuru is a scene that is representational of thousands of shopping centers around the country and is not isolated to urban and semi-urban areas. It is the story of Kangemi, Uthiru, Kisumu and Mombasa. It is a tale told countless times in Mandera and Wajir, from Machakos to Kutus, across the Rift Valley and into Nyanza. It is the story of youth poverty and unemployment in Kenya. Young people are often viewed with skepticism and suspicion. They are treated as miniature adults and their views on social, economic and political agendas are dismissed as misguided and immature. This exclusion in the decision making processes disenchants many who feel ostracized and irrelevant.

The youth in Kenya as in many African countries seem to have slowly been left out of the national equations for a number of years. In Kenya, until 2005 with the creation of the Ministry of Youth Affairs, it was almost assumed that young men and women would be absorbed in one way or another into the labor force after finishing school, be it primary or secondary. In a country that does not have enough spaces at the university level for its qualified high school graduates one would think that the government would have pragmatic alternatives to tap into these vast, energetic and resourceful labor pool.

What we have seen however is that the youth have been left vastly unattended which has rendered many of them hopeless and disillusioned. Empty campaign promises by politicians that they will bring development once they are elected in no longer sufficient to energize these restless youth into investing their talents in a system that quickly forgets about them after Election Day.

Many have therefore resorted to or redirected their young energies to social vices that if left unchecked for much longer will fester into social chaos. Youth unemployment and poverty have directly contributed to retrogressive social activities including but not limited to drug abuse, prostitution, psychological disillusionment with citizenship, restlessness and crime. These vices are threats to social development and pose a clear and present threat to security at the local and national level.

Youth poverty and unemployment must therefore be seen as economic violence against the Kenyan population as a whole and ostensibly as a violation of human rights.

What needs to be done?

In many rural areas especially the local economy was left to fend for its youth or have them enter into an already strained agricultural sector that relied mostly on subsistence farming. Declining produce prices and low wages are not ingredients that attract youth to agriculture and neither does stagnant wages in the local tea, coffee or flower farms as the case may be. In the cities the lure of the bright lights bring young men and women to the centers in search of good paying jobs and opportunities for business. They quickly find themselves in the dark alleyways of Kibera, Kawangware, Kangemi and Mathare. Here they are welcomed and greeted by the deplorable living conditions in these slums where running sewers, flying toilets and rampant human decay are the norm. Amidst all these madness many people strive to make an honest living while others fall to the temptations of social ills and are forced into desperate and extroverted living.

The formation of the Ministry of Youth Affairs two years ago was therefore a welcome idea and one that has to be endowed with adequate resources and the imagination of a nation in order for it to meet the challenges of franchising a disillusioned youth. It will take pragmatic and aggressive approaches to meet the dire needs of a youth in peril.

The Ministry of Youth Affairs strategic Plan for 2007-2012 spells out critical areas that need to be addressed, inter alia:

1.) youth empowerment and participation
2.) youth education and training
3.) youth crime and drugs
4.) youth and employment

These four categories have to be pursued at grassroots and national level if we hope to engage our youth to be constructive guardians of a growing democracy and future leaders. This country belongs more to them and their children and it behooves the present leadership to recognize that we have to prepare tomorrows stalwarts today.

The government has to invest in youth training and tap into their entrepreneurial acumen. Business ownership requires skills beyond the practical application that a particular trade requires. There is sourcing, producing, marketing and book-keeping to be learned through local polytechnics, on-the-job training and internships with individuals, government agencies and other development partners. The government can play an important role here by making low-interest loans available to youth who have taken business education classes and written sound business proposals. It can also help them by marketing their merchandize locally and internationally. We must therefore scrap the assumption that feeds the notion that investment in the youth through polytechnics, internships, on-the-job-training, apprenticeship and other infrastructure is not of paramount importance.

The government must also among other things invest in companies that sell finished agricultural products internationally. There is no reason why we grow coffee and have it processed abroad only to be sold back to us at exorbitant prices. These factories will create jobs that are needed here and will also save us foreign revenue that can be injected locally to fund youth leisure and educational programs.

As we embrace the youth and ask them to believe in a Kenya and indeed an Africa that is democratic, united, respectful of the rule of law and human dignity we must begin to actively lay down the framework that will make this possible. That means that present leadership has to start living by those tenets of accountability, transparency and respect for rule of law. I think that we can begin the process by purging corrupt officials and prosecuting them in court of law and eradicating cover-ups for wanton theft and abuse of office. It is hypocritical to ask the youth to abide by the law when they see public officials get away with murder and other crimes against humanity.

On the education front we must address the relevance of our academic curricula and tailor that to reflect African history, cultures and struggles using a mirror that is indeed African. While it is important understand Europe for instance, we cannot do that at the expense of our own journey. Our youth have to be taught African histories and languages with an African world outlook. Schools must become centers of learning, questioning, evaluating, synthesizing and applying knowledge and not factories for blind followers with no particular political orientation. What we need are dynamic thinkers and doers, proud African men and women.

It is also of critical importance to expand out institutions of higher learning to accommodate the huge numbers of students who are interested and qualified to attend colleges and universities. This will allow the youth to have choices based on their talents and areas of interest. We cannot turn down thousands of qualified students from higher learning institutions and expect our talent pool to showcase the best we have to offer. Education must be a right guaranteed by the State for anyone who is interested and not a reserve for the monied and connected. Therefore it behooves us to expand our capacity at the university level to accommodate more students.

The political, economic and social integration of Africa will not be determined at a Berlin Conference or by Wall Street but by our active engagement with each other in all spheres of life. We cannot afford to be strangers in our own land and we can eradicate this by allowing commerce through bi-lateral trade agreements and easing the movements of our people and goods across borders. Products made in Kangemi need to find their way easily into Bamako, Kigali and Soweto. This means that Africans must become manufacturers and marketers of their own products instead of suppliers of raw materials to European factories who in turn sell the processed goods as finished products back to us.

Youth and the coming elections

Every election year politicians make promises that would make Moses’ promise of deliverance seems like baby food. We can no longer allow empty rhetoric or full pockets to sway the elections and the youth of this country. This time we must demand accountability before and after elections. A true leader does not wait until he or she is in the seat of power to do good deeds. In fact it is the good deeds that should lead him or her to that seat. We must ask the hard questions now. What have you done for this country and this constituency within the last five years? Where are you taking us with your leadership? How do we get there and who is coming with us?

Promises must be followed with action. Actions that not only reinvigorate and galvanize the youth into active participation in the building of the nation but ones that have practical application and relevance to the living conditions of the people. Members of Parliament must remain connected to their constituents by having offices in their localities. They must be accessible and available to the concerns of their constituents. They must be reminded that they are employees of the people and that they will be held accountable. When their representation goes contrary to the people for whom they are speaking for, they must be reminded instantly. The days of MP’s behaving like they are landowners of the constituency of which they represent must come to an end.

Poverty as a human rights violation

Poverty is perhaps one of biggest challenges facing our community today. Indigence is predicated by inadequate education, insufficient health care services, discrimination, unequal access to resources and insecurity. To some the poor are seen as a lazy, uneducated, suspicious and violent entity and are therefore looked upon with disdain and apathy. This leads to discrimination in one form or another based on ones location in life. It is ridiculous to deny someone the means to buy clothing and then accuse them of walking in the nude!

The government must understand and uphold that every one has a fundamental right to live with dignity, have adequate housing, proper sanitation and a way to provide for and care for their families. To deny anyone these necessities is to violate their human rights. The poor must have equal access to power and resources and more importantly, they must have a voice in shaping policies that affect them.

Governments must find creative and dynamic ways to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty by empowering the poor with sound policies and infrastructures that uphold their human dignity and human rights.

Conclusion: True Leadership

True leadership must capitalize on the various human resources available in their localities. They must work in concert with business leaders, women’s groups, churches, youth organizations and local education boards to find tangible solutions with impactful benefits for the population. Leaders must forget this obsolete notion that they are all knowing and that the people they lead, especially the youth, are dumb and out of touch with reality.

True leadership seeks out its citizenship and listens to their needs and concerns. As their representative your duty is to find ways in which you can assist them with solving the problems that they face through government action and resources when necessary. You must be their voice in parliament advocating on their behalf and not for your self-preservation.

True leadership at the grassroots and national level must be concerned with the rising numbers of unemployment and poverty and therefore must delve into finding ways to create more jobs, increase higher learning institutions, offer skilled training and easy access to small, low-interest, business loans that our youth especially can tap into. Technical schools, internships and on-the-job-training can create a skilled labor force and through partnerships with various industries can make entry into the labor market easier.

If there is anything to be learned let it be this: the future of this country lies in the hands of the youth and if we are any wiser we will lift them up from the doldrums of despair and into the bright lights of a democracy that is at once vibrant and youthful.

Our educational, political, social and economic failings are reflected daily in the youth that mill around shopping centers with nothing but dreams to hold on to. Poverty and unemployment are reflections of economic violence and a self fulfilling one to boot.

Swapping a Porsche for poverty

from the New Zealand Herald

It was another typical grey, rainy morning as I crawled through traffic to work. Ahead was a day filled with endless meetings and email overload. You know the one, where you wonder exactly why you're happy passing your life away with the monotony of windscreen wipers in the rain.

For years I'd toyed with the idea of charity work in a foreign country and, recently single, I had few ties to stop me from making a real change. A quick check on the internet and I found GVN (Global Volunteer Network) based in New Zealand placing volunteers from all around the world in a variety of projects. Their programmes ranged from setting turtles free in Costa Rica to helping the environment in Alaska. I chose to challenge myself with a month in the orphanages of Nepal. The opportunity to travel to such a beautiful country and at the same time do work with children who had no loving family was too much to ignore.

The application was quick and simple and in a matter of weeks I'd secured a place with eight other volunteers from around the world. My employer, advertising agency Publicis Mojo, agreed to a sabbatical and the next thing I knew I was on the plane to Kathmandu, swapping my Porsche for poverty. It was going to be a memorable lesson in grounding myself and getting life into perspective.

The first week of "cultural immersion" was designed to minimise the shock of the challenging physical and emotional conditions. It involved language lessons, how to behave and the minefield of local customs we would need to negotiate as we lived with the Nepalese. It was also an amazing experience bonding with the other volunteers. Our ages ranged from early twenties to fifties, with backgrounds as diverse as a pizza delivery boy, a business owner, doctors, an art student and advertising executive. Here we were all equal. We all shared a common goal - to make a difference for the orphans who we'd be caring for, and have fun doing it.

We bonded quickly in the classroom as we were taught the rudimentary facts of Nepalese life. My language skills were barely more than the basic pleasantries, but I felt prepared for what lay ahead.

We spent a few days and (uncomfortable) nights out of the classroom, billeted with local families in a nearby hillside village, giving us a chance to experience the hardships first-hand. None of the houses had running water. Cooking was carried out on a fire on a hard mud floor. The food was basic but never varied: rice, lentils and curried spinach - always eaten squatting on the floor with your right hand, not cutlery - every day, twice a day, day after day after day. The toilets, well, let's not talk about them.

Our few days passed quickly as we mastered our new rudimentary lifestyle, waking at 5am to bells welcoming the spirits of the day and the cold shower at the village tap. Now assessed as ready for the challenges ahead, we were placed in different orphanages, dependent upon their needs. Knowledge of advertising was of course completely useless here, so I was placed where they just needed a guy who could handle the different temperaments of nine boys aged 4-16. It was hardly the romantic vision of a hillside orphanage with smiling kids and carefree spirits I had imagined. No, I was given a run-down building in the slums of Kathmandu. No running water in the house (unless you counted the dripping down the walls) and two small bedrooms with no heating.

It was going to be testing. I reminded myself, however, that unlike the boys, I would be leaving in four weeks. I decided to give it my all and threw myself into it.

My role was to be mother, father, big brother and resident doctor rolled into one. I worked from 7.30am to 6pm, six days a week, handing out medicine, getting the boys dressed, fed and then walking them to school. Through the day I washed their clothes by hand at the cold tap outside the house with just a bar of soap, valiantly tried to sew clothes that were falling apart and helped with homework.

The days were never dull and it was a far cry from a typical day at the office. I woke every day energised and full of life, strode to work with a sparkle in my eye, greeting everyone I met with a big smile and 'Namaste' (hello). Simple pleasures, like watching these kids who had virtually nothing smile and shout excitedly as they flew their little plastic bags on pieces of string tied together on the rubble outside the house, filled my eyes with tears.

So happy with so little and living day to day without the love and support of a family was truly touching. When they greeted me every morning their little faces lit up and my heart melted.

Now that was job satisfaction.

There wasn't a day that passed when I didn't wake up smiling and feeling in love with life. The conditions were hard, but the rewards were unbelievable and when it was time to leave many tears were shed, but I felt enriched and humbled by what I had been taught.

Love your family, cherish your friends and never forget that for many life is a daily struggle faced without emotional or monetary support. I hope I'll never complain about bad traffic, poor food or not having that latest gadget again.

DeVol challenges community, companies to expand efforts to address local poverty issues

from The Bluffton News Banner

By Mark Miller

ADDRESSING POVERTY - Author Phil DeVol used a Power-Point presentation to help explain how individual companies and communities can deal with poverty issues and help people “climb out” and improve their situations, which also improves their communities. DeVol made his presentation to approximately 25 community and industrial leaders Thursday morning at the 4-H Community Center.

Phil DeVol challenged local business and community leaders to move forward with an aggressive approach to address poverty issues in Bluffton and Wells County.

DeVol, co-author of “Bridges Out of Poverty,” gave a synopsis of his research and writings, as well as an overview of one case study in which a company reduced their turnover in their manufacturing jobs dramatically to a group of approximately 25 people at the 4-H Community Center Thursday morning.

The session was a condensed version of the two-day seminar DeVol presented in early November to a larger group of service agency directors and employees, educators and government officials. He was in Bluffton again Thursday to perform a training session for people who will be leading a series of “Getting Ahead” classes next spring.

Those classes will walk people who are struggling to escape poverty through a process that will help them better understand how to do that and will give them tools and resources to succeed.

DeVol emphasized to the group of community leaders Thursday morning the importance of addressing the poverty issue.

Historically speaking, he noted, the disparity between the rich and the poor is widening now more than practically at anytime in history.

“From about 1945 until 1970, everyone’s economic status was improving in America,” he said. “What we’re experiencing now is only comparable to the historic ‘Gilded Age’ and the ‘Roaring 20s’.”

When a community’s poverty level reaches a critical point, that puts a burden on the entire community that may be the beginning of an irreversible downward spiral, he explained.

DeVol walked the attendees through the basics of how people in poverty view the world versus middle and upper classes and how that impacts them as employees. He also explained the causes of poverty.

“Community resources is a key component to this issue,” he noted, explaining that a community needs not only to be focused on economic development, but more so in building what he called “equity.”

That means, he explained, “giving people a fair shot at decent jobs, decent healthcare, eduction, fair credit and a connectiveness to the community.”

As an example, DeVol noted that bringing in a new factory with low-paying wages is “only buying more poverty.”

Examples of communities that are formally addressing the issue utilizing the “Getting Ahead” programs included several in Indiana, such as South Bend and Indianapolis. Each community has established a steering committee that includes representatives of the three basic socio-economic classes that exist, which he stressed is key to a community’s success.

“All three groups must sit down together to analyze the community’s situation and their resources and work to break down barriers,” he said.

Following his presentation, United Way executive director Pamela Beckford told the group that a steering committee has already been formed as a result of the earlier visits this year by DeVol and his colleague and co-author, Dr. Ruby Payne.

Beckford encouraged individual businesses to get better acquainted with the “Bridges Out of Poverty” program and how other companies in other communities have utilized it to their benefit.

DeVol, who is associated with Payne’s company, Aha Process, Inc., noted that a series of success stories is in the process of being put on their website as a reference for other communities and companies. Currently, only the South Bend experience has been posted but others will be added, he said.

That can be found in the “Best Practices” area at .

The breakfast was organized by the United Way of Wells County and funded by a grant from the Wells Community Foundation.

The training session for the “Getting Ahead” trainers was organized and funded by the Department of Child Services.

PUCO forbids utilities to cut off service to poorest Ohioans

from The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Sheryl Harris
Plain Dealer Columnist

Ohio's poorest residents won't go without heat this winter if they fall behind on their utility bills - as long as they keep trying to make some payments.

In response to a call by Gov. Ted Strickland, the Ohio Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday forbade electric and natural gas companies to disconnect electric or gas service for Ohio's poorest consumers over the winter.

The three-month moratorium applies only to consumers whose incomes are at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. To qualify, a single person could make up to $17,867.50 annually; a family of five, $42,227.50.

But consumers who fall within income guidelines could still find themselves without heat if they ignore their bills.

The disconnect moratorium applies only to consumers who are enrolled in a PUCO-approved payment plan.

Those plans include the Percentage of Income Payment Program, better known as PIPP; the Home Energy Assistance Program, commonly known as HEAP; and similar payment programs offered through utilities.

The moratorium expires in mid-March, and in Ohio, that means there will be a whole lot of winter left to go when the program ends.

Consumers struggling to pay utility bills can seek help using the numbers and Web sites that follow.

The HEAP hot line at 1-800-282-0880 or

The Ohio Consumers' Counsel at 1-877-742-5622 or

The PUCO at 1-800-686-7826 or Many utilities also offer payment programs through their customer service departments.

The OCC asked the PUCO to set a higher income cap 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines. The PUCO indicated it might consider raising the cap.

The last time the PUCO approved a shut-off moratorium was 2001, when Gov. Bob Taft requested a ban. This time around, the commission noted the rocky economy and the lack of federal financial assistance available to consumers.

Tobacco, poverty drive cancer in developing world

from Reuters South Africa

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Rising tobacco use and poverty will fuel cancer across the developing world, more than doubling the number of new cases to 27 million by 2050, experts predicted on Thursday.

Cancer is already the No. 2 cause of death globally, after heart disease and ahead of AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other causes. And as people live longer and adopt bad habits such as smoking, cancer cases will rise, said Dr. Nancy Davidson of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

"It accounts for 10 percent of deaths," said Davidson, who is president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

She cited this week's report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer that 7.6 million people will die of cancer this year, 5 million of them in developing countries.

The statistics contradict a perception that cancer is a disease of rich nations. Cancer deaths have fallen in the United States, dropping by more than 2 percent between 2002 and 2004.

"There will be 12 million new cancer cases diagnosed worldwide in 2007. By 2050, this number will more than double to 27 million, even if the rates don't change," Dr. Lynn Ries of the U.S. National Cancer Institute said in a telephone briefing.

Of these, 5.4 million cases will be in economically developed countries and 6.7 million in developing countries, Ries said.

Cancer is caused by a mix of factors, including genes, diet, lack of exercise and, rarely, chemical exposure. But the No. 1 cause is smoking.

And more people are using tobacco, said the National Cancer Institute's Deirdre Lawrence.


"According to World Health Organization current estimates, the annual number of tobacco-related deaths worldwide is projected to rise from 4.9 million in 2000 to more than 10 million by 2020, unless effective interventions take hold," Lawrence told the briefing.

She said 70 percent of the deaths would be in the developing world.

In 1970, 3.26 trillion cigarettes were smoked globally. In 2000, it was 5.7 trillion.

The problem is notably clear in China, said Dr. Tony Mok of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

"China produced about 39 percent of the world's tobacco production," Mok told the briefing. About 6 percent of this was exported, meaning the rest was consumed in China.

"In other words, we consume about 33 percent of world tobacco production," Mok said. "We smoke a hell of a lot of tobacco."

Mok said 320 million people were smokers in China in 2004, a 4 percent increase from 2003.

"Cancer prevention has not been a top priority in our country," he said.

The same goes for India, said Dr. Ketayun Dinshaw, director of the Tata Memorial Centre in Mumbai. He said there are no organized screening programs in India.

Nigeria tries but poverty intervenes, said Dr. Clement Adebamowo of the University of Ibadan.

"There is limited availability of even basic diagnostic oncology facilities," Adebamowo said. "Chemotherapy drugs are available but are very expensive and not affordable to the majority of cancer patients." (Editing by Julie Steenhuysen and John O'Callaghan)

Poverty and Hardship Affect Tens of Millions of Americans

from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

During the holidays, many Americans make a special effort to help the less fortunate. Sadly, there is no shortage of families in need.[i] According to the latest government figures:

*36.5 million Americans — roughly one in eight — live in poverty.[ii] Despite relatively strong economic growth since 2001, poverty has remained stubbornly high, and today’s poverty rate is higher than it was during the last recession. That the poverty rate is still above its recession level is especially distressing given that poverty usually declines during recoveries and rises during recessions. If the economy goes into a slowdown or recession in 2008, poverty likely will only increase further.

*15.4 million Americans live in extreme poverty. In other words, their family’s cash income is less than half of the poverty line, or less than about $10,000 a year for a family of four.

Tens of millions of low-income Americans have serious difficulty paying for basic necessities like food, shelter, and medical care. Some of these problems have grown demonstrably worse in recent years. In the most recent year for which these figures are available:

*Food: Some 12.6 million households, containing 35.5 million people, lacked access to adequate food at some point during the year because they didn’t have enough money for groceries.[iii] About 4.6 million of these households faced the most severe problems, with household members skipping meals or taking other steps to reduce the amount they ate because of a lack of resources.

* Shelter: 16 million low-income households either paid more for rent and utilities than the federal government says is affordable or lived in overcrowded or substandard housing. Six million of these households were especially badly off: they paid more than half of their income for rent and utilities or lived in severely substandard housing. [iv]

Nearly 2 million poor households were unable to pay their full rent (or mortgage) at least once in the prior year. Nearly 3 million poor households fell behind on their gas, oil, or electric bill.[v]

By the end of 2007, an estimated 1.5 million homeowners will have received foreclosure notices, more than twice as many as in 2006. About half of them have “subprime” mortgages.[vi] Lower income and minority homeowners hold a disproportionate number of subprime mortgages. [vii]

* Medical care: 47 million Americans — more than one in every seven — were uninsured. [viii] The number of uninsured Americans has risen for six straight years. Nearly 9 million children are uninsured, and the number of uninsured children has risen for two straight years.

More than 40 million adults — roughly one in five adults aged 19 and older — did not receive at least one type of needed health care (medical, dental, mental health, prescription drugs, etc.) in the previous year because they could not afford it.[ix]

Assistance Programs Reduce Poverty and Hardship, But Serious Gaps Remain

Federal and state programs help many struggling families meet basic needs. Nutrition programs like food stamps, for example, have made severe hunger and malnutrition rare in this country. Medicaid and SCHIP provide more than 50 million Americans with health coverage. Social Security and Supplemental Security Income reduce poverty for millions of seniors, people with disabilities, and surviving children and spouses. But for many reasons, serious gaps remain.

Many households do not qualify. Most non-elderly adults who lack access to affordable health care through their employer do not qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP. In most states, adults without children do not qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP no matter how low their income is, unless they are elderly or have a serious disability. And for parents, the income limit for Medicaid coverage in the typical state is only 65 percent of the poverty line, or about $11,000 for a family of three.

*Some people are eligible for programs but do not participate. Applying or remaining enrolled in a program may be too difficult, or an individual might not even know about the program. Roughly 6 million low-income uninsured children meet their states’ eligibility criteria for Medicaid or SCHIP.

* Some programs provide inadequate benefits. The Food Stamp Program, for example, provides an average benefit of only about $1 per person per meal — not enough help for struggling families. Over the past decade, food stamps have failed to keep pace with the rising cost of living.

* Programs that can improve employment and earnings receive inadequate funding. Quality child care and early education programs can improve children’s learning potential but a large share of low-income infants, toddlers, and preschoolers do not have access to them because of funding limitations. [x] In 2008, for example, 350,000 fewer children will receive federal child care assistance than in 2002.[xi] Also, Head Start funding for 2008 will fall 11 percent below the 2002 level, adjusted for inflation. For 2008, Congress reduced its intended funding for both child care and Head Start (as well as other programs) to help meet the President’s overall funding level for domestic discretionary programs.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Study: Negative income tax law won't cut poverty

from the Jerusalem Post

Following the Knesset's approval to institute an income tax policy aimed at closing the widening social gaps, new research released Wednesday argued that the measure would affect only 2.2 percent of the poor and reduce poverty by less than half a percent.

"The implementation of the government's negative income tax law is not a sufficient solution for the poverty problem in Israel and it therefore needs to be complemented by further steps," said Dr. Roby Nathanson, director of the Macro Center for Political Economy, who edited the research carried out by the Zichron Yaacov Forum and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Israel. "Only 2.2% of those entitled to the income-tax credit are poor families."

On Tuesday, the Knesset approved an income-tax credit for the country's poorest, as well as a rate reduction for middle-income earners, as it seeks to lift 1% of the population out of poverty each year through 2010 and to increase the percentage of working age Israelis in the labor force to 71% from 68%. The new law entitles people earning less than 45% of the minimum wage, currently NIS 1,725 a month, to a payment from the government. Lawmakers also approved cutting the tax rate for people earning between NIS 4,271 and NIS 16,380 a month by between two and four percentage points by 2010.

The research study, which analyzed the direct and immediate impact of the proposed negative income tax law on the situation in the employment market, shows that in the immediate-term, only 8,000 families (out of 470,000 poor families), or 37,000, persons would be lifted out of the poverty trap. As such, implementation of the law would reduce the poverty rate among families by only 0.41% from 20.65% to 20.24%.

The Finance Ministry estimated that tax cuts, which will gradually take effect in 2008 and 2009, for middle-income earners would cost it NIS 3.2b. while added taxes on company-provided cars would add NIS 2.2b. in extra income. The added tax on the value of cars provided by companies for their employees will gradually rise until 2011.

According to the figures, the research study stated, the current negative income tax plan would cost the government NIS 1.1b. a year in the immediate-term and provide credits for about 420,000, which represent 15.3% of the labor force and 16.8% of the employed.

Nathanson added that due to the minor impact of the current negative income tax law, a number of steps needed to be adopted to complement the law as also has been suggested previously by the Bank of Israel.

The adjustments to instituting a negative income tax are part of a program of grants under which working families with two children would get a credit of 20 agorot for each shekel above income of NIS 1,000 and below NIS 3,500. At an income of NIS 3,500, a maximum benefit of NIS 500 would be granted while above NIS 3,500 earners, would have 33 agorot subtracted from the maximum benefit for each additional shekel up to the next salary ceiling of NIS 5,000.

Families with three children would get a credit of 30 agorot for each shekel above the income of NIS 1,000 and the upper ceiling of NIS 4,000, at which a maximum benefit of NIS 900 would be granted.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.

Poverty in Jamaica continues to decline

from Jamaica Gleaner

Jamaica has, reportedly, had another slight decline in the country's incidence of poverty, with the percentage of the population below the poverty line moving down to 14.3 per cent in 2006.

This is half-a-per cent down from the 14.8 per cent recorded in 2005.

The latest decline is, reportedly, one of the main findings in the '2006 Survey of Living Conditions', produced by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).

It is a smaller dip, however, than that recorded the previous year when the survey reported a startling 2.1 per cent drop in the incidence of poverty.

Details soon

Details of the survey will be provided by the PIOJ soon but, in the meantime, Faith Innerarity, permanent secretary (acting) in the Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, yesterday provided a glimpse at some of its findings.

Mrs. Innerarity, speaking at this week's post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, St. Andrew, said household consumption was used as a 'proxy' for the measurement of poverty, and that it was this measurement that was therefore, indicating the latest improvement.

Giving a few other highlights from the survey, she said the data continued to reflect "the expanding working-age population" and the declining "birth age dependency burden". This, she said, was "indicative of some kind of window of opportunity resulting from declining fertility and mortality".

Another important indicator, she said, was a marked improvement in school attendance, influenced by the support students were receiving through the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).

PATH provides financial support for a significant number of poor families with school-aged children, with an emphasis on school attendance as a means of ultimately helping that family out of the poverty trap.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Urban poverty in India

from The Economist

The residents of Dharavi, allegedly Asia's biggest slum, are thriving in hardship

AROUND 6am, the squealing of copulating rats—signalling a night-long verminous orgy on the rooftops of Dharavi, a slum in Mumbai—gives way to the more cheerful sound of chirruping sparrows. Through a small window in Shashikant (“Shashi”) Kawale's rickety shack, daylight seeps. It reveals a curly black head outside. Further inspection shows that this is attached to a man's sleeping body, on a slim metal ledge, 12 feet above the ground.

With maybe a million residents, crammed into a square mile of low-rise wood, concrete and rusted iron, Dharavi is a squeeze. And in Shashi's family hutment—as slum-dwellings are known in Mumbai, where half the city's 14m people live in one—it feels like it. As the sparrows stir, so do the neighbours. Through the plank-thin walls of the tiny loft where Shashi, a jobbing cleric-cum-social-worker, lives above his parents, come the sounds of people bumping and bickering.

On one side is a family of 12 living in a 90-square-foot room—about half the size of an American car-parking space. On the other, eight people share a similar area. Night-sounds suggest they include a man with a painful cough, a colicky baby and an amorous couple. At least they can squeeze inside, unlike the man roosting behind Shashi's hutment—and unlike Parapa Kawale, a 22-year-old friend and neighbour, who had dropped by the previous evening to share a spicy bean curry.

Parapa, a semi-skilled electrician, lived with his parents, two brothers, their wives and two children in a room of 48 square feet. If half the family members slept on their sides, they could just about fit. But as the only single male, Parapa felt a dreadful gooseberry. Like Shashi, he is a member of the local branch of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which tells Dharavi's youths not to marry unless they can support a family. Wretched nonetheless at the nightly coupling around him, Parapa began sleeping in the alley outside—and drinking heavily.

A month ago, explained Parapa, a strapping, beaming, Chaucerian fellow, he chased one of his brothers and a wife from the hutment in a violent, drunken rage. They fled back to the remote village in southern Karnataka that the family emerged from three decades before. Parapa then fixed a man-sized plank to the hutment wall, so that while his father and brother made love to their wives below, he could stay chastely on the shelf. Still, he sometimes sleeps outside, beside an open sewer, in the blissful quietude of the street.

During a four-day stay in Dharavi, as the guest of Shashi and his friends, your correspondent heard many such tales: of hard times, facing up and getting by. The narrators were sometimes bitter or suspicious, but mostly friendly, almost invariably courteous, and occasionally, like Parapa, very funny. If poverty can seem dehumanising from afar—especially in much reporting on it—up close Dharavi, which is allegedly Asia's biggest slum, is vibrantly and triumphantly alive.

Soon after 6am, in the metre-wide street outside Shashi's hutment, an ugly morning ritual has begun. “It's my turn! My husband needs to get to work!” a woman shouts, in jostling over a water tap. In Shiva Shakti Nagar, a slum area of dalits (former “untouchables”) from rural Maharashtra, there is a tap for every ten houses, or roughly 100 people. “Push off! My kids are late for school!” another woman lashes back.

All along the street, water is gushing into blue plastic tanks and aluminium tubs, washing sticky breakfast dishes clean. It flows down the street in a rippling sheet. Bisecting it is an open drain, which gushes torrentially, flushing away the detritus of the previous day.

From the stink of this, it includes a lot of human excrement—which tiny naked children, squatting with their backsides jutting over the torrent, are busy adding to. In fact, it is not supposed to be used for this purpose. The locals are instead supposed to take their turn at a block of 16 public latrines, serving 300 hutments (or 3,000 people). It costs a rupee a visit—or 30 rupees (75 cents) for a monthly family ticket.

Outside the men's side of the block, a line of bleary-eyed dalits are silently waiting. Most are still dressed for bed, in cotton shawls and sarongs—for custom dictates that they purge before washing. Wordlessly, they usher this foreigner to the front of the queue. And he remembers words of welcome uttered by another Dharavi Marxist, Raju Korde: “A guest is from God, but I'm worried that you won't like our toilets.” Happily, the Asian-style loos are as clean as they could possibly be.

At 7am the early shift begins in Dharavi's 15,000 hutment factories. Typically, they consist of one or two jerry-built storeys, stuffed with boys and men sewing cotton, melting plastic, hammering iron and moulding clay. Indeed, it is for its industry, not its size, that Dharavi is most distinctive. The clothes, pots, toys and recycled materials its residents produce earn them millions of dollars in annual exports alone. As the sun climbs over Dharavi, a rising timpani of metal on metal, a whirring of small machinery, indicate that the working-day has begun.

Ramesh Kadam is at his desk in the Peela Bangla (Yellow Bungalow) tannery company. One of the oldest in Dharavi, it occupies the same factory, beside a stinking black creek, that Mr Kadam's grandfather founded in 1918. The site was chosen for its proximity to the main slaughterhouse of Bombay, as Mumbai was called. Handling meat and tanning leather are considered unclean in Hinduism, so the factory was built out of sight, on an island, with villagers of the lowly Koli fishing caste mending their nets on its shore. Indeed, much of Dharavi was underwater at that time. And so it is today when the monsoon comes, flooding the slum with black creek water and sewage.

As Bombay boomed, on the back of its port and textile mills, poor peasants flowed in from the land. During periodic famines—including one in Bengal in 1943 that killed 3m people—they came in spate. Dharavi is where these migrants claimed—or reclaimed—a plot. Shashi's parents were propelled from Karnataka by a drought, arriving in the city with five small children in 1976. “In the village we were starving,” says his mother, Shantabai, creator of the tasty bean curry. “Here, we were poor, but we could eat.”

Mr Korde's parents, landless vagrants from central Maharashtra, trekked in around the same time. His father died recently of tuberculosis, after a career spent hefting sacks of lentils in a factory. His mother, Leelabaiy, a pugnacious 65-year-old jangling with green bangles, lives with Mr Korde and his wife and two children in a three-room slum-house. Unlike her husband, she had some schooling, and retains a slightly sophisticated air. Asked why she married down, she lifts up seven fingers—one for each of the elder sisters who had first to be found a husband and dowry.

With this history, Dharavi's population is diverse. Tamils, Andhras, Assamese, Biharis, Bengalis and local Maharatis; all India's peoples are here. Perhaps a little over half belong to India's poorest groups: dalits and Muslims. They tend to live semi-ghettoised, as in Shiva Shakti Nagar, within the same language group. Indeed, the poorer Dharavi's residents are, the more caste-sensitive they are likely to be. Mr Kadam is a dhor, of the dalit tanning caste. Yet as his business thrived, his family became middle class, a powerful identity. Last year Mr Kadam exported 25,000 leather belts to Wal-Mart in America. He has moved his family from Dharavi to a smart suburb of Mumbai. Laughing proudly, he says his teenage son refuses to visit the ancestral factory, which he considers dirty.

The four children of Venkatesh Dhobi, all aged ten years and under, cannot shun their ancestral pool of filth. They work every day in this well of brown water, beside a litter-strewn railway line. They pass unwashed clothes into the pool, where 20 adult dhobis—of the dalit washer caste—soak and scrub them. With an explosive grunt to keep rhythmic time—a sound not unlike that emitted by Japanese Noh theatre actors—together they thwack the heavy sopping clothes onto smooth stones. The children then strew them between the railway tracks to dry.

They are the fifth generation of Dhobis to work at this pool. The first, says Mr Dhobi, was his great-grandmother, who arrived from Mehaboob Nagar, in Andhra Pradesh, a century ago. “For 100 years, we have served this city,” says Mr Dhobi, a short 35-year-old with the torso of an underpants model. And yet their rural roots have survived. All the dhobis in the pool—which is called Dhobi Ghat—are from Mehaboob Nagar. Aged 14, Mr Dhobi was married there to a local girl. The big changes of the past century, in his view, seem to be that Dhobi Ghat has got much dirtier and people send fewer clothes to be washed in it. India's swelling middle class—people like Mr Kadam—prefer washing-machines. Together, Mr Dhobi, his wife and four children earn less than 200 rupees a day.

Dharavi's diversity can be a problem. In 1992 communal rioting swept Bombay, sparking battles in the slum between Hindus and Muslims. Around 200 people were killed. But multi-culturalism is also a blessing. Unlike the city's more homogeneous shanties—including a rusty sprawl of 300,000 mostly Maharatis along the runways of the city's airport—Dharavi is too fractured, and massive, to be claimed as a vote-bank by any gangster-politician.

But the slum has known gangsters. In the 1970s a godfather of the Bombay mafia, Vardarajan Mudaliyar, more or less ruled it. Using the slum's large Tamil community—his own—as a base, he ran moonshine and prostitution rackets. He also claimed ownership over thousands of illegal hutments, and extracted rents from their occupants. So did his gangster rivals. In those days, Dharavi was dangerous.

It has become safer for two main reasons. One is that in 1976 the state government gave the slum-dwellers limited rights over their hutments. They were recognised as “identified encroachers”, a status guaranteeing compensation in the event that the government bulldozed their shanties. In return, the government began collecting peppercorn rents—currently around 100 rupees a month for each hutment—on the encroached land. It also started supplying Dharavi with mains water and power, which the gangsters hitherto had stolen from the city and sold in the slum. This step put the slumlords out of business, and started a modest property boom. Today, tiny hutments in Dharavi are sold, without title, for 500,000 rupees.

Not all Dharavi is benefiting. Rajiv Gandhi Nagar, a huddle of hutments behind Mr Kadam's tannery, still has almost no mains power or water. In a shack cut into a bank of rubbish, overlooking Mumbai's plush Bandra Kurla business district, Karnla Ishwar, an aged widow and day-labourer, describes the cost of this. She buys water by the bucket an arduous ten-minute walk away. She buys electricity, at 100 rupees per appliance per month (plus a 500-rupee deposit), from a neighbour.

But Ms Ishwar is unlucky. With reliable power and water, many of Dharavi's residents have been able to start businesses inside the slum. In this they had a great advantage—the other main reason for the slum's rise. As Bombay expanded, so Dharavi became the heart of India's commercial capital. Indeed, in a city of notoriously rotten infrastructure, the slum is a transport hub. It is sandwiched between Mumbai's two main railway lines and ringed by six stations. In addition, Dharavi's hutment industrialists enjoy the competitive advantages of slum-life: cheap labour and an environment where government inspectors fear to tread.

Mr Korde, a portly 40-year-old, has seized this opportunity. The son of an unlettered vagrant, he has a business degree from Mumbai University and several small companies: a mobile-phone shop, a printing business, also a share in a co-operative bank. He reckons to earn 25,000 rupees a month. A decade ago, he bought his slum-house, on the western edge of Dharavi, for 450,000 rupees. Its value has almost doubled. “I am a Marxist and also an entrepreneur,” he says, a trifle defensively, in the nearby office of the Communist Party, seated beneath colourful portraits of Stalin, Lenin, Engels and Marx.

An evening stroll through Dharavi with Mr Korde, a well-liked local, is inspiring. Think 19th-century boom-time Brooklyn. In fluorescent-strip-lit shops, in snatched exchanges in the pedestrian crush, as a hookah is passed around a tea-stall, again and again, the stories are the same. Everyone is working hard and everyone is moving up. All Mr Korde's friends—or their fathers—arrived in Dharavi much poorer than they are now. Most own at least one business. Some of these slum-dwellers employ several hundred people.

Aftab Khan is typical. A tailor with a trim moustache, and scholarly wire-rimmed spectacles, he arrived from Uttar Pradesh (UP) 20 years ago, with little more than a needle. He now employs a dozen youths—all recruited in his native village—to turn out 150 items of children's clothing a day. In workhouse fashion, they eat and sleep where they labour, in the upper two floors of a hutment. Reachable only by a ladder and rope, this resembles nothing so much as a tree-house with sewing-machines. Yet for their drudgery, the apprentices earn 200 rupees a day—about four times a rural wage in UP.

The evening is darkening. And beside a barrow heaped with bright orange vermicelli—a sticky fibre eaten during the Muslim festival of eid—Mr Korde introduces a local celebrity. He calls himself Raja Bhai, or King Brother. A handsome Bihari, and comic, Raja Bhai has in 15 years built a garment business employing 200 people. His success is impressive. Yet it has left him exposed to the predators of the informal economy: rent-seeking officials. To protect himself, he is now launching a second career, in politics.

In Dharavi, Raja Bhai is looking for a ticket with the Congress party, for the next municipal, or even state, election. Meanwhile he is campaigning for the Lok Jan Shakti party, a champion of low-caste Biharis, in his native state. Either way, he is sure he will soon get elected office—and with it the clout he will need to drive away the shake-down merchants.

For thousands of men like these, Dharavi is a wonderful opportunity. But for millions of Mumbaikers, it represents a cost. Their city, South Asia's biggest, is choking. Its infrastructure is a crumbling disaster. And yet over the next decade, the UN says the population of Mumbai will almost double, making it the world's second-biggest city after Tokyo. Massive urban redevelopment is required—starting with Dharavi, at the city's heart. By one estimate, the slum's land alone represents $10 billion in dead capital.

For a decade, the state government has tried coaxing the slum-dwellers to let it bulldoze their hutments and build high-rise apartments instead. Each dispossessed family is entitled to a flat of 225 square feet. After 30 years, they will be allowed to sell it. But only a few have accepted this offer. So now the government is trying to enforce it. In August it put the bulldozing and redevelopment of Dharavi, in six parcels, out to tender. The work was due to begin this year. But it has been stalled by bad press nationally and local protests, organised by Mr Korde.

For small businessmen like him, the redevelopment plan is a nightmare. The slum's hutment factories, havens from tax and regulation, would be destroyed. In their place would be purpose-built workshops, for rent at commercial rates. “I will be finished,” says Mr Khan, the scholarly looking tailor. For poorer residents, like Ms Ishwar, the widow living in rubbish-blown misery, the story would be different. Her new apartment, unlike her current hovel, would be fit for human habitation. If she, or rather her relatives, sold it, they would be rich. Either way, Mr Korde admits, the scheme will eventually happen.

So, these may be the last days for Dharavi. If so, much that is wretched will be lost. And, who knows, maybe something better will arise. Most of the slum-dwellers doubt this. And a few high-rise blocks, scattered across the slum, do not inspire great hope. Many are half-built and slowly mildewing. Lots of their residents, it is said, have already sold up illegally, and moved back to the slums, seeking things that town-planners cannot provide: a sense of history, community and freedom. Dharavi has these, as well as many horrible problems. It is organic and miraculously harmonious. It is intensely human. Unlike the random tower-blocks, Dharavi makes sense.

It is 2am, and a violent drumming erupts outside Mr Korde's house. Booming in a six-beat rhythm, it ends in a crashing roll. This is repeated, again and again, rising as the drummers approach. The sound is thunderous. A few huge rats rush by the window, fleeing the noise like driven pheasants. And suddenly the drummers appear, parading through the slum, dragging on wheels a huge statue of Durga—a Hindu goddess, a multi-limbed and multi-coloured giantess, astride a tiger.

On the drum-roll, the processors pause, and golden flares explode either side of the statue. In every doorway, along the alley, slum-dwellers are watching in silence. It is a thrilling and dream-like sight. This is apparently quite normal in Dharavi.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Poor neighborhoods hurt students more than low income, study finds

from The Chicago Tribune

By Stephanie Banchero

The isolation and limitations imposed by a poor neighborhood do more damage to a child's verbal and cognitive skills than does a family's low income, according to a new study.

Researchers found that children in Chicago who spent most of their lives in segregated, low-income communities posted lower verbal scores than did children who lived in better communities. This was true whether the children's families were low- or middle-income.

And youngsters who moved into these segregated, troubled communities saw their progress slip, suggesting that the neighborhood social problems -- violence, segregation and lack of good schools -- are the roots of the problem.

The study revealed that living in a disadvantaged community for at least two years lowered verbal test scores by about four IQ points, roughly the equivalent of one year of school.

"If family poverty has a negative effect, moving to a high-risk community makes it worse," said Stephen Raudenbush, a sociology professor at the University of Chicago and an author of the study. "Since language skills are a proven indicator of success in later life, children who stay in these communities are at a distinct disadvantage the rest of their lives."

The six-year study looked at 2,000 lower- and middle-income children ages 6 to 12. Researchers followed the children as they moved in and out of troubled Chicago communities and tested their verbal and reading abilities three times.

The study, which involved researchers from three universities, appeared this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The educational landscape is filled with research that shows low-income students perform poorly on academic measures.

The new research is one of the first to tie the performance not to poverty, but to the corrosive nature of at-risk communities.

"A lot of folks out there have been saying this for decades," said James Comer, professor of child psychiatry at Yale University who founded a popular school program that uses community involvement to boost academic achievement. "These children live in communities with social networks that do not prepare them for school.

"Income is not the most critical thing -- it's the quality of the relationships these children can develop with adults who can give them a capacity to grow."

Researchers found that youngsters who live in depressed, segregated communities for long periods of time have more exposure to neighborhood violence and less access to good schools and safe places to play.

As a result, they found, families in these communities "hunker down" in their homes, providing children less exposure to formal English.

"The stress of violence in the community leads parents to isolate themselves out of fear, and that severely restricted the verbal encounters and social exchanges their children were exposed to," Raudenbush said.

Raudenbush said the problems can reverse themselves if the child moves into a better community. But the reversal takes time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Youth and adults encouraged to fight poverty by joining AmeriCorps VISTA

from Oregon Live

A new public service campaign was launched today to enlist Oregonians in the fight against poverty by joining AmeriCorps VISTA, a national service program.

"VISTAs live and serve in some of Oregon's poorest urban and rural areas, mobilizing local resources and giving people in poverty the tools they need to help themselves," said Amy Dailey, director of the Oregon office of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps VISTA.

VISTA was founded in 1964 as part of the War on Poverty. Daily said that since then, more than 177,000 Americans have devoted a year of full-time service. They have lived and worked in lower-income communities to help eradicate, or wipe out, poverty.

"Made part of AmeriCorps in 1993, VISTA provides 6,500 opportunities each year for individuals to create and expand programs that fight illiteracy, improve health services, foster business and economic development, increase housing opportunities, and otherwise help low-income individuals and communities toward self-sufficiency."

Nearly 37 million Americans, including 13 million children, live in poverty, she added. An estimated 11.9 percent of Oregon residents live below the poverty line. "That means over 440,000 Oregonians may be forced to choose between eating dinner, obtaining a vital prescription or paying the monthly heating bill."

In Oregon, more than 90 members serve at over 100 locations through 14 sponsoring organizations. They include the Native American Youth and Family Center, Umpqua Community Action Network, Oregon Volunteers, American Red Cross, and Community Services Consortium.

"Overall in 2006, VISTA members in Oregon raised more than $3,243,026 in cash and in-kind resources for their anti-poverty projects."

Dailey gave the Native American Youth and Family Center program as an example of a successful VISTA enterprise. NAYA focuses on youth and parent education, youth and adult employment, rental assistance and housing, family healing services, foster care, cultural arts and sports programs for the Native community.

"After just three months the first of many goals was accomplished. The NAYA Early College Academy opened its doors to youth in grades 9-12. The academy, which provides both a high school diploma and college credit for Native and non-Native youth, helped NAYA become a leader in rising to address widespread poverty issues through education, not only in the Native urban community, but in the north and northeast Portland neighborhoods it serves.

AmeriCorps members serve in area schools as well, helping youth of all ages in reading and class work.

"All AmeriCorps members are catalysts for change," Dailey said. "They identify resources and engage people in the community to expand access to education, housing, jobs, credit, technology and more.

"VISTAs are poverty fighters who channel their ideals and energy to build successful, sustainable programs that help people and communities lift themselves out of poverty."

In return for a year of service, VISTAs and an additional 600 AmeriCorps members serving in Oregon receive benefits including a modest living allowance, health care and relocation expenses, Dailey explained.

At completion of their term of service, all AmeriCorps members, including VISTAs, receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award of $4,725 to use toward college or to pay off qualified student loans.

Alternately, VISTAs can choose to receive a cash stipend of $1,200. VISTA members are coordinated and funded through the Corporation for National and Community Service Oregon state program office. All other AmeriCorps programs in the state are supported by Oregon Volunteers, Commission for Voluntary Action and Service.

For more information on national service programs in the state, visit

For more on AmeriCorps, visit

Ghana: Women's Group Gear Towards Reducing Poverty

from All Africa

Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra)

By Stephen Odoi-Larbi

A One hundred and eight women group in Akasti Agbor, a suburb of Agbogba in the Greater Accra Region has geared itselves towards reducing poverty in their community.

With this, the group has established a credit union called "City of God Credit Union" to assist community members with credit facilities.

This will enable them to trade and do business with the monies obtained from the union to lift themselves from poverty.

In an interview with the paper in Accra over the weekend, Mrs. Elizabeth Fayeh, Chairperson of City of God Cooperative Credit Union, revealed that the decision to embark on such a Micro financial institution stemmed from the fact that, women in the community were discovered wanting in terms of development.

This she said was the fact that women in the community were "too weak in lifting themselves from poverty", hence the decision to establish cooperative credit union to uplift development in the area.

"Development is concerned with assisting people to discover and to awaken in them the desire to uplift them to grow in order to realize their full potential", she stressed.

She said ever since the inception of the credit union, "gradually women in the community are on the verge of lifting themselves from poverty".

She stated that an initial capital of about ¢162million was disbursed to the group with which an individual was given an amount of ¢1.5million to trade with.

Mrs. Fayeh continued, "At the moment the group has started repaying the loan. We've paid about ¢127million which is a clear indication that the group is committed in doing business with the monies received from the union".

In his view, Mr. Frank Aduah, retired chairman of Credit Union Association of Ghana stated that the efficient and effective mobilization of rural and urban savings in the country would positively support the government to create wealth among the poor and less fortunate communities where people are vulnerable to economic hardships.

He then advised all stakeholders in the credit union business to manage their resources well in order to ensure effective investment for their intended purpose.

Mr. Aduah implored the stakeholders to "save regularly, borrow wisely, repay promptly and attend meetings regularly". He also advised stakeholders to refrain from impulse buying as it affects the individual's investment plans.

UN report: World's 1.2 billion youth beset by poverty, lack of work

from Earthtimes

New York - The world's 1.2 billion youth between the ages of 15 and 24 are the largest and best educated labour force in world history, but have few job opportunities, the United Nations said in a report Tuesday. Th sheer size of the 15-24 age group has prompted national decision makers, educators and health experts to study its contribution to development and the challenges it poses to society. The world population now stands at more than 6.6 billion.

The World Youth Report 2007 said the transition to adulthood for many young people has been slowed by poverty and an inability to find decent work despite better access to education than previous generations.

"Because of poverty, and sometimes because of social and cultural constraints, many young people are excluded from accessing quality education, decent employment, health and other resources and services," the report said.

Access to quality health services and education has been unequal, particularly in Africa and in transition economies in Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Many youth also face high rates of unemployment in most countries, forcing them to turn to informal economies, working long hours with low wages and little social protection, the report said. They have benefited from, but also become victims of the globalization phenomenon.

"Contraction in labour markets associated with globalization often affect youth first because they are often among the last to be hired and first to be fired," the report said.

Migration has become a way for youth in developing countries to find work.

The world's largest labour force lives in Asia, making up more than 55 per cent of the world total, where there is access to all primary education levels, particularly for girls. In India, the proportion of girls enrolled in primary education jumped from 84 per cent to 96 per cent between 1998 and 2002.

East Asia and the Pacific send 29 per cent of the global number of students studying abroad, and China alone account for 14 per cent of all students abroad.

In Latin America, 95 per cent of youth are enrolled in primary school, a ratio higher than the average of 85 per cent in developing countries. Young females in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico and Venezuela have higher literacy rates than young males.

With regard to employment and income, Latin American youth are worse off today than 15 years ago, the report said. Children under 14 have the highest rate of poverty, followed by those 15-to-19 years old.

The report said young people are actively working to find solutions to their problems and they can make significant contributions to society.