Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Protecting the children

Unaccompanied child migrants living in squalid conditions across Europe should not be treated as “somebody else’s problem” by the UK Government, a new cross-party parliamentary report has urged. It condemns the UK and EU member states for shirking their responsibility to care for unaccompanied children.

The 113-page document, produced by the House of Lords’ European Union Committee, includes testimonies from witnesses that paint a harrowing picture of the “squalor, destitution and desperation” unaccompanied children face in the EU. It pours scorn on EU member states for their reluctance to accept responsibility and share the burden of unaccompanied children. But the report singles out the UK for particular criticism, adding: “We deplore the continuing resistance of the UK Government to show solidarity with its European partners in helping to relocate such children.” It goes on to say, “It is particularly shocking that so many unaccompanied child migrants are falling out of the system altogether and going missing. How can member states, including the UK, tolerate a situation where there are more than 10,000 missing migrant children in the EU?”

  The report also categorically dismisses the Government’s argument that the prospect of family reunification could encourage families to send children to Europe unaccompanied in order to act as an “anchor” for other relatives.

It also criticises the “lack of burden sharing” between local authorities in Britain - while the 32 London authorities have taken in 1,304 children just 50 are cared for by the 16 authorities in the South West. The report, ‘Children in Crisis: unaccompanied migrant children in the EU’, recommends the establishment of an independent guardianship scheme – at both an EU and UK level – to ensure decision are taken in the best interests of migrant children.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Fighting Project Fear

Charlotte O'Brien, a senior lecturer in law at the University of York, exposes some myths about EU immigration.

The overall impact of EU migration is beneficial to the UK. EU migrants are more likely to be in work than UK nationals. And, according to the UCL Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, EU migrants provide a net economic benefit of £22bn. As the LSE Centre for Economic Performance notes, “this effects may seem small, [but] in the longer-run impact could be substantial”.

EU migrants are net contributors to public finances, and to a greater degree than UK nationals. They are not merely paying their way – but they are paying some of our way too.

Public services are potentially better funded per head than they would be if EU migrants were not here. If we scrapped free movement there might be fewer people in the UK, but they would be competing for comparatively fewer resources.

Studies have found no systematic evidence to link immigration with pressure on schools or the NHS. In fact, the average use of health services is “considerably” lower for immigrants than UK born nationals, and EU migration does not lead to an increase in waiting times, either.

Many worry that the presence of EU nationals makes it harder for UK nationals to find jobs. But the perception of the labour market as a zero sum game is what economists term the “lump of labour fallacy” – or, as the poet Hollie McNish calls it, “crappy mathematics”.

The Migration Advisory Committee conducted a study in 2012, looking for the relationship between migrant work and the employment of UK nationals. For every 100 EU migrants working the UK, they found there was no statistically significant associated reduction in UK employment. In other words, EU migrants are not making it harder for UK nationals to find jobs.

Studies vary as to whether there is an overall increase or decrease in wages linked to EU migration, but in either case the overall effect is small (a 1 per cent increase in immigration can leading to 0.1-0.3 per cent difference). These differences are not felt evenly along the wage spectrum, however; the Bank of England’s research found that the biggest effect is in the semi-skilled and unskilled services sector, where a 10 percentage point rise in the proportion of immigrants is associated with a 2 per cent reduction in pay, which might provide an argument for stronger wage regulation.

Existing evidence is unclear as to whether there is a relationship between immigration and social cohesion problems. There are some indicators suggesting a reduction in shared social norms and civic participation as immigration increases, but these may be offset by the creation of more co-ethnic communities, which become cohesive. Other studies have argued that income inequality plays a larger role than immigration in social cohesion.

Quote of the Day

“All they are actually doing – and I shall get into trouble for this – is metering and billing. They are not making the stuff,” 

Roger Witcomb, who led the Competition and Markets Authority’s two-year investigation into the UK’s energy industry, has suggested that suppliers’ profits are far too high, as much as five times higher, given their limited role in metering and billing customers.

same old same capitalism

A report, published today by the Commons Work and Pensions and Business committees, once more highlights what the committees describe as “the unacceptable face of capitalism”.

Theresa May will face calls today to act on her promise to get tough on irresponsible business practices by stripping the former BHS boss, Sir Philip Green, of his knighthood. A new report from a group of MPs goes into scandalous detail of how Sir Philip pocketed hundreds of millions of pounds for himself and his wife, leaving the famous chain store on “life support” before selling it off to a “wholly unsuitable chancer”. After examining his record, a group of MPs from all parties have reached the devastating conclusion that they could find “little to support the reputation for retail business acumen for which he received his knighthood”.

The points out that thousands will suffer from what it describes as a “litany of failure”. They include BHS’s 11,000 employers, many on low pay, whose jobs are at risk. Twenty BHS stores closed over the weekend and there is too little money left in the company to cover the pensions of its 20,000 current and former employees. Yet those at the centre of the scandal “have walked away greatly enriched”, the report states. The biggest gainers are Sir Philip and his wife, Lady Tina Green, who are hundreds of millions of pounds richer. The report describes the buyer of BHS, Dominic Chappell, and his associates as “incompetent and self-serving” adding that Sir Philip, Mr Chappell “and the respective directors, advisers and hangers-on who all got rich or richer are all culpable”. Anthony Grabiner, who gave what he called “after event ratification” to the sale of BHS – meaning that as chairman of the board he approved a decision taken at a board meeting to which he had not been invited. The report says: “The complacent performance of Lord Grabiner as the non-executive chairman of the Taveta group boards represented the apogee of weak corporate governance.” Two directors jumped ship with personal financial rewards that it would take many BHS employees decades to earn. The others continued to profit handsomely from their positions without fulfilling their requisite responsibilities.

Sir Philip Green bought BHS in May 2000 for £200m and sold it for the same amount to Taveta 2, a Green family firm in July 2009. Taveta sold it for £1 in March 2015 to Retail Acquisitions Ltd (RAL), owned by Dominic Chappell. BHS showed an increase in profit for a brief period after Sir Philip took over, but the man known as the “king of the high street” achieved this through cost cutting and squeezing suppliers, not by investing or improving turnover. In those years, dividends worth £414 – twice BHS’s after tax profit of £208m – were paid, of which, according to the report, £307m went to the Green family. In 2001, ten BHS stores were sold for £106m to Carmen Properties, a firm registered in Jersey and ultimately owned by Sir Philip’s wife, Lady Tina Green, who lives in Monaco. Both Jersey and Monaco function as tax shelters. BHS paid Carmen £153m in rent before buying back the properties for £70m. The arrangement “reduced profits earned in the UK on which tax was payable.” In 2005, Tavena paid its shareholders what was described as “the biggest pay cheque in British corporate history” of £1.3bn. As a result of such pay outs, the report says “by 2014, BHS was left on life-support”. The chain of stores was then sold to a buyer, Chappell,  who “brought no new money to the deal, took no personal risk, could offer no equity and had no means of raising funds on a sustainable basic”. Chappell ‘had his hands in the till’. His description of £2.6m that he personally took, in addition to an outstanding £1.5m family loan, as a “drip” in the ocean is an insult to the employees and pensioners of BHS.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Protesting Hungary's Anti-Migrant Laws

Hundreds of refugees have set off marching from the Serbian capital to the Hungarian border in protest against closed borders and European Union restrictions on entry.

Human Rights Watch released a report criticising Hungary's treatment of refugees and migrants detained after entering or while attempting to enter its territory. The report claims that a group of 30 to 40 refugees and migrants - among them women and children - were beaten by soldiers for two hours after being held in Hungary.

Lydia Gall, HRW's regional researcher, said that "the abuse of asylum seekers and migrants runs counter to Hungary's obligations under European Union law, refugee law and human rights law". "The European Commission should use its enforcement powers to press Budapest to comply with its obligation under EU law, to provide meaningful access to asylum and fair procedures for those at its borders and on its territory. Hungary is breaking all the rules for asylum-seekers," Gall said.

Hungary built a razor-wire fence along the 175km border with Serbia and criminalised breaching or damaging the fence to enter the country. Hungarian forces can expel to Serbian territory any refugee or migrant caught within 8km on the Hungarian side of the border without any deportation process.

Hungarian authorities allow 15 people a day - 14 from families and one single male - to enter a pair of transit zones between the two countries and apply for asylum.

India's Inequality

Though India's economy has grown rapidly in recent years, the benefits have gone largely to the rich. 

The top 1% that owned a little more than a third of India's wealth in 2000, now own more than half the wealth in the country. In this same period, the share of 99% of India's population went down from almost two-third to less than half.

In the last decade and a half, India's wealth has increased by more than 3 times – from 75 trillion rupees to 224 trillion rupees. More than 60% of this increase, or 90 trillion rupees, has gone only to the top 1%. As a result, the top 1%’s share in India's wealth has increased from 36.8% in 2000 to 53% by 2015. India's wealth distribution is even more skewed as a result.

India’s share in world’s hungry people has gone up from 1/5th in 1991 to 1/4th in 2015. Similarly, India's share in world illiteracy has also increased in this period. Child undernourishment in India is worse than those of countries designated Least Developed Countries (LDC). The per capita income of these LDC is less than half that of India.

India has one of the most privatized health care systems in the world. Every year, 40 million Indians are pushed into poverty because of the burden of health-related out of pocket expenditures.

All these problems persist despite the fact that we now have the resources to deal with them.

The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,
E-mail: wspindia@hotmail.com

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Feed the world

The U.S.A could feed significantly more people from existing agricultural land. Using ten different scenarios ranging from the average American diet to a purely vegan one, a team led by scientists from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University estimated that agricultural land in the contiguous U.S. could have the capacity to feed up to 800 million people -- twice what can be supported based on current average diets.

The researchers found that a vegetarian diet that includes dairy products could feed the most people from the area of land available.

"Dietary choices can influence the ability of agriculture to meet our need for food," said lead author Christian Peters, Ph.D., associate professor at the Friedman School. "Our approach challenges the 20th century emphasis on increasing yield and production. Improving crop yields remains vitally important, but it is not the only way to increase the number of people fed per acre. Our aim is to identify potential agricultural-sustainability strategies by addressing both food consumption and production."

Peters and his colleagues, including researchers from the Friedman School, Cornell University and Syracuse University, chose ten dietary scenarios that were comparable nutritionally, but varied by the sources of protein. Eight of the diets complied with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A baseline diet represented the country's current food consumption -- higher in meats, grains, fats and sweeteners than the other dietary scenarios. In this baseline diet, roughly 80 percent of available cropland was used to grow crops for animal feed, such as hay, while the other 20 percent was devoted to fruits, vegetables and grains for human consumption.

The remaining dietary scenarios ranged from 100 percent of the population eating a healthy omnivorous diet (a balance of meat and plant-based foods), to 100 percent of the population eating a vegan diet (which excludes meat and all other animal by-products such as milk, eggs and honey). Intermediate scenarios included varying proportions of omnivores and vegetarians, and the accompanying cropland usage varied accordingly.

The research team found that:
• A lacto-vegetarian diet (a vegetarian diet that includes dairy products) had the highest carrying capacity, meaning that it could feed the most people from the area of land available.
• Diets including some meat can feed more people than vegan diets, depending on estimates of how much land is suitable for crop cultivation.
• The baseline diet had the lowest carrying capacity and required eight times more land than a vegan diet.
• As the amount of meat in the diet was reduced between scenarios, the amount of land necessary for crops to feed livestock was also reduced.
• The overall results from the model estimate that U.S. agricultural land has the capacity to meet the needs of a population 1.3 to 2.6 times larger than the U.S. population in 2010.

US Child Poverty

According to the Global Wealth Report by Allianz, an international financial service company, the United States is the world’s wealthiest country, controlling 41.6 percent of global wealth. Though the US has the highest gross domestic product per capita among the G20 countries, it also has one of the highest rates of income inequality.

Save The Children released its annual "Child Prosperity Index" report, which evaluates 19 developed nations on a number of criteria to determine whether they are good environments for raising children. Despite being the wealthiest country, the United States ranked ninth, trailing behind Germany, Canada, and Italy, among others. The index uses indicators such as life expectancy, child obesity, homicide rates, access to water, and air pollution, among many others, to determine the rankings.

The Gini index, a measure of income inequality, places countries on a scale of zero to one, with zero meaning a country is completely equal in income, and one indicating the highest disparity in income.  The United States has a Gini index of 0.4, one of the highest among developed nations, according to Fortune. That disparity widened even further in 2015. The average income of the top one percent of US earners grew by 7.7 percent last year, much faster than the four percent growth of the bottom 99 percent.

Within the United States, 22 percent of all children live in poverty, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Quote of the Day

"Our task is that of ruthless criticism, and much more against ostensible friends than against open enemies; and in maintaining this our position we gladly forego cheap democratic popularity." - Marx, 1850 

People are Commodities

A report by the Business, Innovation and Skills committee accused, Sports Direct, one of Europe's biggest retailers of not treating its workers like humans. It said the firm's business model could "become the norm in Britain".

Committee chairman Iain Wright said evidence heard last month by MPs suggested Sports Direct's working practices "are closer to that of a Victorian workhouse than that of a modern, reputable High Street retailer. It's seems incredible that Mike Ashley, who visits the warehouse at least once a week, was unaware of these appalling practices." Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley must be held accountable for failings at the company. "This suggests Mr Ashley was turning a blind eye to conditions at Sports Direct in the interests of maximising profits or that there are serious corporate governance failings which left him out of the loop in spite of all the evidence.

The committee's report says: The agencies' six strikes policy - whereby an employee is dismissed if they receive six strikes - "gives the management unreasonable and excessive powers to discipline or dismiss at will". The way the business model is operated involves treating workers "as commodities rather than as human beings." It said “No convincing reason” was given as to why Sports Direct maintains a workforce of more than 3,000 warehouse workers on short-term, temporary contracts, “other than to reduce costs and pass responsibility”.

Luke Primarolo, the regional officer at Unite, said: “From our perspective, these issues stem from the majority of the workforce being employed precariously, either through agency or zero-hours contracts. The road to dealing with this has to involve moving the workforce on to fixed-hour, permanent contracts. Sports Direct is by no means the only company to engage people on such terms. What this highlights is a wider issue of real work today. The government needs to seriously consider what legislation needs to be put in place to protect people from exploitation.”

This includes companies such as Uber, which this week has been taken to an employment tribunal by a group of drivers who argue they should be recognised officially as workers at the company and entitled to a range of benefits; parcel delivery giant Hermes, whose self-employed couriers complain of low pay, no employment rights and the threat of losing their work at short notice; and employment agencies specialising in recruiting cheap labour from abroad.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

America Number One

1) Incarceration Rates

The US leads developed nations in sending people to prison. In October 2013 the International Centre for Prison Studies reported that America had the highest prison population rate in the world - 716 per 100,000 of the national population.

2) Military Spending

The US surpasses all other nations in terms of military spending, making up 37 percent of the world’s military budgets in 2015. The US spent $596 billion on the armed forces last year, more than the next seven countries combined.

3) Gun Violence

The US has established a league of its own in terms of gun violence, with other western countries paling in comparison. Homicides totalled 11,961 in 2014, according to the FBI. This rose by nearly 17 percent in 2015, according to a Wonkblog analysis of preliminary crime data, reported by The Washington Post. This is the biggest annual deterioration since 1990.

4) Police Killings of citizens

US police kill more people in days then other countries do in years. An analysis by The Guardian’s police killing tracker ‘The Counted’ compared its rates to a range of countries and found a huge disparity. The spotlight has again turned to the high numbers of African-American men shot dead by US police after the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile earlier this month. Widespread protests by the Black Lives Matter movement have taken place in recent weeks. Police killed at least 346 black people in the US last year and 160 this year, according to Mapping Police Violence.

5) Healthcare Inequality

A study carried out at Harvard Medical School and the Cambridge Health Alliance in 2009 found that nearly 45,000 deaths annually in the US are associated with a lack of health insurance. The research, published in the American Journal of Public Health, noted that uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts. The US has been ranked as having the most expensive healthcare system in the world with the poorest outcomes for patients. It has consistently been noted as the worst performing by the Commonwealth Fund, which compares health systems internationally on quality of care, access to doctors and equity throughout the country.

Global exploitation

Global inequality has never been greater. For example, the wealth of the world’s richest 62 people, who between them have more wealth than half of the world’s population, rose by 44 per cent between 2010 and 2015. Over the same period the wealth of the bottom 50 per cent of humanity fell by approximately 38 per cent.

Very large numbers, perhaps the majority, of the world’s labour force is poor. In 2010 there were approximately 942 million working poor (almost 1 in 3 workers globally living on under US$2  a day). However, these figures are a significant underestimate.

The International Labour Organization calculates poverty using the World Bank’s ‘purchasing power parity (PPP)’ international poverty lines of $1 and $2 a day – where $1 a day represents ‘extreme poverty’ and $2 a day simply ‘poverty’. People who live above these poverty lines are held to be not poor. These poverty lines reflect the international equivalent of what $1 or $2 could have purchased in 1985 in the United States. Whilst the poverty lines have been updated since then, their purchasing powers hover around these symbolic figures. A moment’s reflection suggests that $1 or $2 a day in the U.S. in 1985 could buy hardly anything.

Apple’s profit for the iPhone in 2010 constituted over 58 per cent of the device’s final sale price, while Chinese worker’s share was only 1.8 per cent. In 2010, Foxconn, one of Apple’s principal Asian suppliers, employed around 500,000 workers in its factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu. It rose to infamy that year following reports of 18 attempted suicides by workers, 14 of which were fatal. Foxconn employs a military-style labour-regime. At the start of the day managers ask workers “How are you?” and staff must reply “Good! Very good! Very, very good!” After that they must work in silence, monitored by managers and with strict limits on toilet breaks. Pay is very low, and overtime is often the only way that workers can earn enough to live on.

A similar dynamic operates in the global garment industry where approximately 30 million workers are employed. There are regular media reports about abusive working conditions in these industries, ranging from extremely low pay, to child labour and forced labour. Most horrifically, in Bangladesh in April 2013 1,113 garment workers were killed and 2,500 injured following the collapse of Rana Plaza, an 8 story building in which textile factories operated. In his overview of the apparel sector across 17 countries John Pickles documents how, from the mid-2000s onwards, “wage levels were driven below subsistence costs.” In India, Bangladesh and Cambodia, for example, basic wages as a percentage of living wages are 26%, 19% and 21% respectively.

In Cambodia’s garment industry conditions are so harsh that workers regularly faint at work as a consequence of the intensity of the labour required of them. Overtime is a necessity as regular wages are insufficient to meet their daily needs. While the government limits overtime to 2 hours per day, this is not legally enforced and the economic pressures upon workers to exceed these hours are intense. Most workers in the large Cambodian textile factories work between 3 and 5 hours overtime a day.

The ‘choice’ facing workers in many of these burgeoning industries is to engage in very high volumes of health-damaging work in order to earn a subsistence, or live in very deep poverty.

Lead firm’s capture the lion’s share of value generated within global poverty chains because workers in these chains are ruthlessly exploited. Wealth concentration and mass poverty are two sides of the same coin of global capitalist development.

Ireland's child poverty

Consistent child poverty almost doubled during the recent economic recession according to a new report from the independent think tank TASC. The data in Cherishing All Equally 2016, the first annual update of TASC’s 2015 report on economic inequality in Ireland. Shows the proportion of children living in consistent poverty nearly doubled, going from 6% in 2008 to 11% in 2014. 

“This equates to 138,000 children, or one in eight, living in consistent poverty,” said lead author of the report, Dr Rory Hearne, “This can be contrasted to the adult consistent poverty rate of 7.9% in 2014 and 2.1% for those aged 65 and over. Of all households with children, lone parents have the highest poverty and deprivation rates – 18.3% of all children in Ireland live in lone parent households.”

Dr Hearne pointed out that the impact of income disparity on educational outcomes becomes stronger as children get older.

“At nine months, the level of household income a child is born into has no correlation with their inherent cognitive potential. But by the age of three, those in higher income families are performing better with a difference of at least 10 points in the average scores on the Naming Vocabulary tests,” Dr Rory Hearne explained. “At age nine years, a 1% increase in household income is predicted to increase reading score by 5.16% and maths scores by 5.1%. Again at age nine, children in the bottom income deciles are disproportionately more affected by learning disabilities – the incidence of speech and language difficulties amongst children aged nine in the bottom three deciles are double the incidence for children in the top three deciles.”

The report highlighted the key factors contributing to economic inequality in Ireland, which include low paid jobs, low hours employment, precarious employment and unemployment. The impact of poverty on children’s well-being is “profound” says the report, laying the “foundation at a young age for the huge inequalities that emerge later in education and life”. Some of harshest cuts during the recession hit women worst – including changes to the One Parent Family payment, cuts to carer’s allowances and cuts to child benefit. Of those families becoming homeless two-thirds were headed by lone parents – usually mothers.

Figures released yesterday by the Department of the Environment show almost 1,100 families were homeless at the end of last month, with the number of homeless children at 2,206. That is 67% higher than the numbers for June last year.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

More bleak news

High childcare costs are leaving parents who work full time at the national minimum wage thousands of pounds a year short of being able to afford what the public defines as a basic acceptable standard of living. Benefit cuts and rising costs are reducing minimum income needed by low paid to live well, says Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

A two-child couple each working full time on the minimum wage of £7.20 an hour would fall £2,600 a year – or 12% – short of the minimum income standard after paying rent and childcare, the study finds. The shortfall is even more dramatic for a lone parent working full time at minimum wage, who after paying rent and childcare would be £2,860 a year or £55 a week short of what they require, a gap of 18%. JRF said childcare costs were one of the biggest barriers preventing working families achieving a decent standard of living

A two-child couple on out-of work benefits would receive just 39% of what the public consider to be an adequate basic income.

“Some difficult times lie ahead for families that depend on state benefits, whether in or out of work,” the report says.

The research, carried out by Loughborough University centre for research in social policy, asks the public to define the minimum income required to enable households to afford to buy not just basics such as food, clothes and shelter but to participate in social and family life, such as occasionally going out, taking a modest holiday once a year, and buying birthday presents for relatives and friends.

A couple with two children need to earn at least £37,800 to meet the basic standards, while a lone parent with one child needs to earn £27,900, the research finds. A single person with no children requires £17,100 a year. According to the public, a single working-age adult would need to spend a weekly minimum of £44.72 on food to ensure they eat healthily three times a day. The minimum food budget for a pensioner couple was £71.99, £100.96 for a couple with two children, and £56.85 for a single parent with one child.

The public’s 2016 definitions of a basic minimum income appeared to be influenced by years of austerity, with households expected to economise more than in previous surveys, to eat out less often and try harder to seek out deals and bargains. Families were also expected to rent smaller homes and require their younger children to share bedrooms.

But there was also an acceptance that basic living standard rises were neccessary in areas such as car use, which was seen as increasingly essential because of unreliable and costly public transport, and the need to travel further to access job opportunities.

Fact of the Day

Israel is the poorest of 32 OECD countries. It has 18 families which own 60% of the country’s corporate equity.

Ireland's Health Inequality

The Irish health system has made a huge difference to population health since the foundation of the State, but it has not eliminated health inequalities. If anything, disparities in health have got worse. Health experts have known about health inequalities for many years. In 2001 the Institute of Public Health published Inequalities in Mortality which established the “pervasiveness and magnitude of inequalities in Ireland”. All causes of mortality in the lowest socio-economic group was up to 200 per cent higher than in the highest socio-economic group. A follow-up report in 2003, Inequalities in Perceived Health, showed inequalities in mental, physical and social health were “pervasive”.

The latest report from the National Cancer Registry, Cancer Inequalities in Ireland by deprivation, urban/rural status and age: A National Cancer Registry report 2016, which showed “strong patterns of inequality by deprivation”.
The report assessed inequalities in relation to incidence, five-year survival rates, treatment and co-morbidity for cancer patients in Ireland between 2008 and 2012. Statistically significant findings included a “higher incidence of cancer in more deprived populations, overall, and for stomach, lung and cervical cancers, and “stronger patterns of increasing incidence with increased deprivation for lung cancer and colorectal cancer. Patients from more deprived populations had lower survival rates for six cancer types: stomach, colorectal, lung, breast and prostate cancers, and melanoma.” The findings “point up striking inequalities that need to be targeted for improvement.”

State of the World

Worldwide, one in eight people were living in extreme poverty in 2012, while 10% of the world’s workers and their families were living on less than $1.90 a day in 2015.

Almost 800 million people still go hungry, with more than half of the adult population in sub-Saharan Africa facing moderate or severe food shortages in 2015. Meanwhile, an estimated 158.6 million children worldwide under 5 had stunted growth in 2014.

Health & Well-Being
An estimated 5.9 million children under 5 died in 2015, mostly from preventable causes. The same year, 2.1 million people became infected with HIV, and almost half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for roughly 89% of the cases.

Some 59 million children of primary school age did not attend class in 2013, while 757 million people over the age of 15 remained illiterate, two-thirds of them women.

Gender Equality
More than one in four girls worldwide marry before they are 18, while in 30 countries, one-third of females 15 to 19 have undergone genital mutilation.

Water and Sanitation
More than 2 billion people lack regular access to water, and around the same number has access to only poor sanitation. Of these, some 946 million don’t have toilet facilities and continue to practice open defecation.

Around 1.1 billion people live without electricity, while in 2014 more than 40% of the world’s population was cooking with fuels considered unhealthy and that worsen air quality. The majority with access to electricity worldwide are urban dwellers.

Work and Economic Growth
The average annual growth rate of real gross domestic product per capita in the least developed countries declined to 2.6% from 2010 to 2014. Women are twice as likely as men to be unemployed in Western Asia and Northern Africa. Meanwhile, some 2 billion people don’t have bank accounts.

Around 83,000 people died and 211 million were affected annually by natural disasters from 2000 to 2013. But in 2015 only 83 countries reportedly had any laws or regulations or managing disaster risk.

Peace and Justice
The murder rate in developing countries from 2008 to 2014 was twice that of developed countries, and young people are “over-represented among direct and indirect victims of violence,” according to the report. Annually, about 200,000 of the world’s homicides involve people ages 10 to 29. In 2011, 34% of the victims of human trafficking globally were children, up from 13% in 2004. And 30% of the people jailed between 2012 and 2014 had still not been sentenced.

Child Poverty in New Zealand

Ethnic inequalities in poverty among young people in New Zealand has remained the same for over two decades. A study of 8500 secondary students done in 2012 has found that nearly half of Pacific students are living in poverty. Researchers using the data have found that overall one in five young people were found to be suffering hardship and two thirds of that group had housing issues such as living in garages or using living rooms as bedrooms.

The University of Auckland study surveyed randomly selected individual teenagers in schools around New Zealand. They grouped students by household poverty based on nine indicators of deprivation, including having no parent in paid employment, no car and no computer. The students needed to report two or more indicators before they were classified as experiencing poverty, Fifteen per cent of children showed the effects of unaffordable housing and moderate levels of being unable to afford basic necessities, and a further five percent affected by very high levels of material hardship. Maori and Pacific students are disproportionately represented in these figures. The study is evidence that economic poverty matters for children right throughout their formative years and into their higher education, and it affects large numbers of teenagers.

Mike O'Brien, a spokesperson for Child Poverty Action Group, said, "To be quite blunt about it, I don't think there's any really serious commitment on government part to actually reducing poverty rates for households with children. They're relying entirely on paid work as the solution but given that 37 percent of children that in poverty are in households whose income comes from work, work in itself is not a solution," he said.

According to this article, from the late 1980s, the gap between the rich and the rest increased faster here than anywhere else in the OECD. The top 1 per cent in New Zealand have more than doubled their income in that time, from $158,000 per annum to $337,000 (inflation adjusted). In contrast, average disposable income for the bottom 10 per cent is $11,000, and for the bottom 40 per cent of income earners inequality is made worse as they struggle to pay for necessities with rising housing costs accounting for up to 42 per cent of their income.

Wealth inequality is double income inequality, with the top 10 per cent owning over 60 per cent of household wealth, and the bottom 40 per cent owning 3per cent of the wealth.

New Zealand, it seems, is a tax haven not for just foreign super rich, but also our own. The Inland Revenue identified 197 high-wealth individuals (defined as owning or controlling more than $50 million of assets) and found half declared personal incomes of less than $70,000 in the 2012 tax year.

Inequality is also exacerbated by the growing income divide between management and workers, which has widened since 1985 by 22 per cent compared to the OECD average of 15 per cent. Chief executives now get 22.5 times the pay of average workers. These obscene salaries and bonuses were highlighted by the recent announcement that the chief executive of VW will receive a bonus of $19 million despite the scandal of their car exhaust emissions cheating which wiped billions of profit from the company.

A Victoria University study shows welfare fraud ($30 million annually) targeted more than tax fraud ($1 billion-plus per year). The average welfare fraud was $76,000 with offenders having a 67 per cent chance of imprisonment and a 100 per cent repayment requirement, compared to average tax fraud of $229,000 and offenders having an 18 per cent chance of imprisonment and only having to repay 5 per cent.

The World Socialist Party (New Zealand):