Work in the Developing World

Cross-linked with Bertelsmann Stuftung – Future Challenges’ blog

Bangladesh school

The developing world has the potential for major economic growth, but first it must prepare its young people for the burgeoning jobs market

The need for quality employment in the developing world underlies the success of almost every other development initiative. Job creation has become one of the most pressing issues on the road towards fueling the economic engine and impacting complex and intertwined poverty issues such as education, nutrition, health care and housing. Without the possibility of a stable, reliable income, there is little chance for the poor to engage in sustained solutions that will improve their circumstances.

A Million per Month

Job creation, however, is only one side of the equation. A report released in December by the World Bank (WB), entitled ‘More and Better Jobs in South Asia’, says that a comprehensive and multi-sectoral policy framework will need to be implemented in order to meet the “demographic dividend” opportunity. This “dividend” is the return on the region’s swelling youth population and the opening labor market for women – South Asia has the second-lowest female participation rate in the world – that will continue to enter the workforce until 2040. The challenge will be to engage these new employees in “rising levels of productivity”, and the report warns that, “an estimated 1-1.2 million new workers will join the labor market in South Asia every month over the next few decades – an increase of 25-50% over the historical average.” This means that a million new jobs need to be added each month in order to “sustain economic growth and reduce poverty in South Asia,” says an article in The Hindu.

This chronic need for employment opportunities is seen throughout the developing world. In 2005, Africa’s youth unemployment reached 21%, higher than the world average of 14.4% and second only to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s 25.6%. Youth unemployment in Africa is a problem of alarming proportions precisely because 65% of the continent’s population is under the age of 24, with over 40% of the total population below the age of 16, and about 25% aged 15-24. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), young people make up approximately 36.9% of the total working-age population, and three in five of Africa’s unemployed are young people.

While many developing nations have enjoyed economic growth, the benefits of that growth have not been distributed evenly and the high proportion of unemployed young people undermines further economic growth. In addition to the economic costs of youth unemployment there is also the social cost – as young people face long-term or cyclical unemployment they can become disaffected and alienated from their own communities. This can lead to higher crime rates and greater involvement in underground economic activity, as well as social unrest. Continue reading

The Great Land Rush: Land Grabs & Food Security

Crosslinked at Bertelsmann Stiftung – Future Challenges Organization

The Great Land Rush and Food Security

What is land?

Many of us don’t think about what land really means. An economist might define land as the totality  of natural resources in a given area, while a lawyer might focus on  land, water and mineral rights. But a farmer’s answer might be simpler: land is the farmer’s capital. Land is the soil and  water utilized in the production of crops for the local or global market. In the context of an increasingly globalized world, land rights are paramount, particularly in the Global South (Asia, South America, Africa and Australia). As governments and multinational corporations buy up land, small farmers and indigenous groups are edged out.

A Global Phenomenon

A 2010 World Bank study showed that 110 million acres (44,515,420.7 hectares) of farmland worldwide were sold or leased in the first eleven months of 2009 alone;  70 percent of these land deals were concentrated in Mali, Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Mozambique.

Before 2008, land was sold or leased at an average annual rate of  10 million acres (4,046,856.42 hectares). However, in the last four years alone, nearly 148 million acres (about 60 million hectares) of land on the continent of Africa has been acquired by international investors and government bodies. This surge in land grabbing and speculation deserves attention because it poses a grave threat to regional food security, indigenous land and water rights.

These land deals are not just confined to the continent of Africa (which holds nearly two-thirds of the world’s remaining arable land). In the Middle East,  Bahrain has seen political upheaval and protest in the wake of a major land deal within its borders. White South African farmers are buying up land in Georgia while in the Ukraine, the state is planning to buy up 30 percent of the nation’s land to bolster the country’s food security. In Australia, in a similar move a Chinese company has offered to buy 80,000 hectares of farmland.

In one of Asia‘s poorest nations, 15 percent of Cambodian land has been signed over to private companies (made easier by the Khmer Rouge’s  prohibition of private property and subsequent burning of all land titles). In South America, the Brazilian government has shown its openness to greater foreign investment in rural land. In today’s globalized world economy, these land deals have far-reaching effects.

Why the rush for land?

Factors driving the land grab include population pressure, the burgeoning middle class in the Global South and its heightened demand for foodstuffs, in concert with individual countries’ concerns over food security. As ready access to food is essential to a politically stable nation, food security can have major political effects.

This was seen in 2009 in Madagascar when a land deal with a South Korean conglomerate that would have handed over half of Madagascar‘s arable land was met with mass protests and led to the overthrow of then-President Ravalomanana. Continue reading

Article: How Trade Agreements Affect Access to Affordable AIDS Treatments in Africa

Crosslinked at Future Challenges Organization

(Macrotrends: Pandemics + Globalization)

„Because TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights)allowed countries to issue compulsory licences only for domestic use, however, countries without local drug-manufacturing industries, including 37 in Africa, were unable to use compulsory licences to keep medicines affordable.“ („A ‘crisis in waiting’ for AIDS patients:Trade rules will make it harder to get cheap generic medicines)

In the year 2009, an estimated 1.3 million adults and children died as a result of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. African women and girls are particularly vulnerable to HIV. As about 76% of all HIV-positive women in the world live in Africa south of the Sahara. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 15 million Africans have died from AIDS.

While access to antiretroviral treatment is beginning to mitigate the toll of AIDS, fewer than half of African AIDS patients are receiving the treatment.  In 2009, only 37% of AIDS patients have access to antiretroviral treatments, compared to just 2% in 2002. According to the UNAIDS factsheet, between 2004 and 2009, AIDS-related deaths decreased by 20% in sub-Saharan Africa.

HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are on the decline among children on the African continent. In southern Africa, between 2004 and 2009, the number of children under 15 who became newly infected with HIV was reduced by 32% (fell from 190 000 in 2004 to 130 000 in 2009). Between 2005 and 2009, the percentage of pregnant women living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa who received antiretroviral drugs to prevent transmission of HIV to their children increased from 15% to 54%. Continue reading

Human Trafficking News Roundup: 19 December 2010

Let’s start off with a fact:

1 in 6 children in the world under the age of 14 are child laborers. That’s over 150 million children.

Tough anti-trafficking law in the offing: Draft suggests speedy trial tribunal, considering the offences non-bailable


Human trafficking and related crimes will be considered non-bailable and non-compoundable offence and tried in the speedy trial tribunals to be set up in all districts and metropolitan cities, says a draft anti-trafficking law.

The persons convicted of the crimes would be punished with a minimum of eight years rigorous imprisonment plus fines and a maximum of life sentence.

The proposed Human Trafficking (Prevention and Protection) Act-2011 also provides for setting up National Human Trafficking Prevention Authority (NHTPA) to pursue human trafficking cases and take measures to combat the crime.

The tribunals will take into cognisance the cases against government officials even if the complainants have not taken the government approval to file those, says the draft.

The Daily Star has obtained a copy of the draft, which defines human trafficking as sale or transfer of men and women by force, threats or cheating for sexual and commercial purposes or other forms of exploitation in or outside the country.

Using men and women for commercial purposes through fake marriages and household servitude will also be considered human trafficking.

For the first time, the government has defined labour trafficking in the draft law. It says transferring people by illegal force or deception in the name of jobs will fall into labour trafficking. Someone may not be subjected to servitude, bonded labour or debt bondage, but that will not lessen the gravity of his trafficker’s crime, the draft says.

A projector plays over the face of a Gambian boy at an event designed to raise awareness of child sex abuse in the country

Breaking the silence of Gambia’s sex tourism: The tiny West African state has become a magnet for Western predators looking to abuse children.

On a hot Wednesday evening local children gather by a mango tree in the sandy backstreets of Bijilo, close by Gambia’s main tourist drag on the West African country’s Atlantic coast. A generator thumps a little way off to power a projector and on a fabric screen a film plays in which a young girl is groomed by an older man with a gift of a mobile phone. Later she is raped. Continue reading

Human Trafficking (Slavery) News Roundup: November 16, 2010

The Examiner: Global Human Trafficking Roundup (November 16, 2010)


Finland: A Somali born Swedish national was sentenced 60 days in jail for attempting to smuggle foreign women. He attempted to bring young Somali women from Stockholm to Turku. While woman testified that she paid smuggling fee to the man to come to Finland and traveled without identification,  the man claimed that he met her by chance at the airport.

Romania: Increasing number of Romanian women are working as prostitutes in Finland. Romania is one of the biggest hub of human trafficking in Europe, according to the report. One advocate in Finland says that as the number of women who are in sex slavery is increasing, the average of their age is becoming younger.


Philippines: Immigration officers caught six Indian nationals who were heading to Malaysia. During the interrogation, they admitted that the human trafficking ring based in India facilitated their trip to Malaysia. The Immigration authority said that none of the Indians possessed proper documents. The Indians also will be deported immediately.

Cambodia: A journalist investigates Cambodia’s child prostitution with a British police.  When they walked into the bar and asked for younger girls, the madam brought three or four girls in the age between 12 and 13. And when they asked for children that are even younger, the madam said that she could arranged something with 6 or 7 year old off the premise. Continue reading

Human Trafficking News Roundup (08/19/2010)

Kansas City Star: Work Visa Program is Rife With Problems

The ease with which the system can be defrauded allows criminals to use U.S. law to turn foreign workers into something very close to slaves, said Mary Bauer, legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“For too long, our country has benefited from the labor provided by guest workers but has failed to provide a fair system that respects their human rights and upholds the most basic values of our democracy,” Bauer said.

Project Exodus: Nail Salons Front for Human Trafficking in Ohio

Kevin L. Miller, executive director of the Ohio Board of Cosmetology, said he expects “indictments and arrests” statewide in the next 60 days or so. State and local law-enforcement agencies, the FBI, Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are investigating, he said.

CNN: On The Trail of Forced Labor in Bangladesh

Srimongol, Bangladesh — My (Harvard human trafficking fellow Siddharth Kara) research trip to Bangladesh ended near the town of Srimongol, where I investigated the country’s tea industry. Much like their shrimp processing kinsmen to the south, the tea factories were locked down like prisons.

Institute of Southern Studies: In Florida, Slavery Still Haunts the Fields

Our guide, Romeo Ramirez, tells us straight away that the trailer, which already feels uncomfortably small, is a replica of one in southwest Florida where 12 farmworkers were forcibly kept between 2005 and 2007. Locked in at night, they had no place to relieve themselves and were forced to foul a corner of their cramped quarters. When someone fought back, he was beaten and chained to a pole. The chain and padlock, still twisted from when workers finally forced it off, rest on the trailer’s wall.

After two workers pounded a hole in the trailer’s ventilator hatch large enough to squeeze out, they found a ladder and extricated the rest. Their escape began the seventh of eight prosecutions for involuntary servitude among U.S. farmworkers since 1997. (The eighth indictments, involving dozens of Haitian nationals victimized by trafficking, were announced last month, two days after Independence Day.) Why Tourists Shouldn’t Give Money to Children

The Mirror Foundation, an anti-trafficking NGO, claims that tourists giving money to children on the streets fuels child trafficking across the Thai-Cambodian border. Around80% of child beggars in Thailand come from Cambodia, and at least a third of them are being controlled and exploited by an adult. Children trafficked for begging are often forced to work up to twelve hours a day in hot and dangerous conditions. Most children are under 12, with the youngest identified being a 10-day-old infant. Furthermore, children used as beggars when they are very young are sometimes forced into prostitution or manual labor once they reach puberty.

Child beggars can earn a decent amount of money in a day, but they turn over all their earnings to an adult at the end of it. That’s one of the reasons trafficking children for begging is so lucrative. Plus, it can be much more difficult to identify a trafficking victim among a swarm of street children than in a brothel or a factory.

The Guardian: How Domestic Workers Become Slaves

“Migrant domestic workers are in a uniquely vulnerable position. Thousands of miles from home, “they are dependent on one employer for their accommodation, work and immigration status,” says Moss, “and because they are isolated in a private house they don’t meet anyone.” They often come from impoverished backgrounds with little education, and are encouraged to fear the police. “Many can’t leave because they are told the police will put them in jail or rape them.”

NYTimes: Immigrant Maids Flee Lives of Abuse in Kuwait →

With nowhere else to go, dozens of Nepalese maids who fled from their employers now sleep on the floor in the lobby of their embassy here, next to the visitors’ chairs… Continue reading

July 11 is World Population Day: My Response To Malthusian Arguments For “Overpopulation”

So, I just got an email from USAID informing me that today is “World Population Day.”  From my cursory reading of the email, I noted that the emphasis was on the provision of contraceptive birth control to women in the “developing world.” “Family planning” sounds rational, but it is hardly a sufficient solution for the greater problems of overcrowding in urban spaces, the impending food crisis in “underdeveloped” nations such as Sudan and India.  The provision of birth control in the developing world strikes me as another exercise in hegemony: the reproductive choices of those in the “underdeveloped” South are policed under the guise of humanitarian aid. Continue reading