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2.2 billion people are poor or near-poor, warns 2014 Human Development Report on vulnerability and resilience




un_blog_main_horizontalPersistent vulnerability threatens human development. Unless it is systematically tackled by policies and social norms, progress will be neither equitable nor sustainable. This is the core premise of the 2014 Human Development Report, released on 23 July by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Entitled Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience, the report provides a fresh perspective on vulnerability and proposes ways to strengthen resilience.

According to income-based measures of poverty, 1.2 billion people live with $1.25 or less a day. However, the latest estimates of the UNDP Multidimensional Poverty Index reveal that almost 1.5 billion people in 91 developing countries are living in poverty with overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards. And although poverty is declining overall, almost 800 million people are at risk of falling back into poverty if setbacks occur. “By addressing vulnerabilities, all people may share in development progress, and human development will become increasingly equitable and sustainable,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark today. The 2014 Human Development Report comes at a critical time, as attention turns to the creation of a new development agenda following the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

 Zeroing in on what holds back progress


The report holds that as crises spread ever faster and further, it is critical to understand vulnerability in order to secure gains and sustain progress. It points to a slowdown in human development growth across all regions, as measured by the Human Development Index (HDI). It notes that threats such as financial crises, fluctuations in food prices, natural disasters and violent conflict significantly impede progress. “Reducing both poverty and people's vulnerability to falling into poverty must be a central objective of the post-2015 agenda,” the Report states. “Eliminating extreme poverty is not just about 'getting to zero'; it is also about staying there.”

A human development lens on who is vulnerable and why

“Reducing vulnerability is a key ingredient in any agenda for improving human development,” writes Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, in a contribution to the report. “[We] need to approach it from a broad systemic perspective.” The 2014 Report takes such an approach, using a human development lens to take a fresh look at vulnerability as an overlapping and mutually reinforcing set of risks. It explores structural vulnerabilities – those that have persisted and compounded over time as a result of discrimination and institutional failings, hurting groups such as the poor, women, migrants, people living with disabilities, indigenous groups and older people. For instance, 80 percent of the world’s elderly lack social protection, with large numbers of older people also poor and disabled.

The report also introduces the idea of life cycle vulnerabilities, the sensitive points in life where shocks can have greater impact. They include the first 1,000 days of life, and the transitions from school to work, and from work to retirement. “Capabilities accumulate over an individual’s lifetime and have to be nurtured and maintained; otherwise they can stagnate and even decline,” it warns. “Life capabilities are affected by investments made in preceding stages of life, and there can be long-term consequences of exposure to short-term shocks.”

For example, in one study cited by the Report, poor children in Ecuador were shown to be already at a vocabulary disadvantage by the age of six.Timely interventions—such as investments in early childhood development—are therefore critical, the Report states.

 Poor countries can afford universal provision of basic social services

The Report advocates for the universal provision of basic social services to enhance resilience, refuting the notion that only wealthy countries can afford to do this. It presents a comparative analysis of countries of differing income levels and systems of government that have either started to implement or have fully implemented such policies. Those countries include not only the usual suspects such as Denmark, Norway and Sweden, but also fast-growing economies such as Republic of Korea and developing countries such as Costa Rica. “These countries started putting in place measures of social insurance when their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita was lower than India’s and Pakistan’s now,” the Report observes.

However, “there may be instances in which equal opportunities require unequal treatment,” notes Khalid Malik, Director of UNDP’s Human Development Report Office. “Greater resources and services may need to be provided to the poor, the excluded and the marginalized to enhance everyone’s capabilities and life choices.”

 Putting full employment back atop the global policy agenda

The Report calls for governments to recommit to the objective of full employment, a mainstay of macroeconomic policies of the 1950s and 1960s that was overtaken by competing policy goals following the oil shocks of the 1970s. It argues that full employment yields social dividends that surpass private benefits, such as fostering social stability and cohesion. Acknowledging the challenges that developing countries face with respect to full employment, it urges a focus on structural transformation “so that modern formal employment gradually incorporates most of the workforce,” including a transition from agriculture into industry and services, with supporting investments in infrastructure and education.

Social protection is feasible at early stages of development

The majority of the world’s population lacks comprehensive social protections such as pensions and unemployment insurance. The Report argues that such measures are achievable by countries at all stages of development. ”Providing basic social security benefits to the world’s poor would cost less than 2 percent of global GDP,” it asserts. It cites estimates of the cost of providing a basic social protection floor—including universal basic old age and disability pensions, basic childcare benefits, universal access to essential health care, social assistance and a 100-day employment scheme—for 12 low-income African and Asian countries, ranging from about 10 percent of GDP in Burkina Faso to less than 4 percent of GDP in India. “A basic social protection package is affordable so long as low-income countries reallocate funds and raise domestic resources, coupled with support by the international donor community,” it states.

Collective effort, coordinated action needed at global level

The report also calls for stronger collective action, as well as better global coordination and commitment to shoring up resilience, in response to vulnerabilities that are increasingly global in origin and impact. Threats ranging from financial crises to climate change to conflicts are trans-national in nature, but the effects are experienced locally and nationally and often overlap. Take the case of Niger, which has faced severe food and nutrition crises brought on by a series of droughts. At the same time, Niger had to cope with an influx of refugees fleeing conflict in neighbouring Mali. Trans-national threats cannot be resolved by individual nations acting independently; they require a new focus from the international community that goes beyond short-term responses like humanitarian assistance, the report argues.

To increase support for national programmes and open up policy space for nations to adapt universalism to specific country conditions, the report calls for “an international consensus on universal social protection” to be included in the post-2015 agenda.


Only 5% of total applications for long-term skilled work visas submitted in first quarter came from EU citizens, data shows



The figures released by the UK Home Office give an indication of how Britain’s new post-Brexit immigration system will affect numbers of EU citizens coming to the UK to work. Between January 1 and March 31 this year EU citizens made 1,075 applications for long-term skilled work visas, including the health and care visa, which was just 5% of the total 20,738 applications for these visas.

The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said: “It is still too early to say what impact the post-Brexit immigration system will have on the numbers and characteristics of people coming to live or work in the UK. So far, applications from EU citizens under the new system have been very low and represent just a few percent of total demand for UK visas. However, it may take some time for potential applicants or their employers to become familiar with the new system and its requirements.”

The data also shows that the number of migrant healthcare workers coming to work in the UK has risen to record levels. 11,171 certificates of sponsorship were used for health and social care workers during the first quarter of this year. Each certificate equates to a migrant worker. At the start of 2018, there were 3,370. Nearly 40 percent of all skilled work visa applications were for people in the health and social work sector. There are now more migrant healthcare visa holders in the UK than at any time since records began in 2010. Although the number of sponsor licences for healthcare visas dropped to 280 during the first lockdown last year, it has continued to rise since, a pattern which was unaffected by the third lockdown this winter.


Conversely, the IT, education, finance, insurance, professional, scientific and technical sectors have all seen a drop in the number of migrants employed so far this year, despite rallying during the second half of 2020. The number of migrant IT workers is still significantly lower than pre-Covid levels. In the first quarter of 2020 there were 8,066 skilled work visas issued in the IT sector, there are currently 3,720. The number of migrant professionals and scientific and technical workers has also dipped slightly below pre-Covid levels.

Visa expert Yash Dubal, Director of A Y & J Solicitors said: “The data shows that the pandemic is still affecting the movement of people coming to the UK to work but does give an indication that demand for skilled work visas for workers outside the EU will continue to grow once travel has been normalised. There is particular interest in British IT jobs from workers in India now and we expect to see this pattern continue.”

Meanwhile the Home Office has published a commitment to enable the legitimate movement of people and goods to support economic prosperity, while tackling illegal migration. As part of its Outcome Delivery Plan for this year the department also pledges to ‘seize EU exit opportunities, through creating the world’s most effective border to increase UK prosperity and enhance security’, while acknowledging that income it collects from visa fees may decrease due to reduced demand.

The document reiterates the Government’s plan to attract the "brightest and best to the UK".

Dubal said: “While the figures relating to visas for IT workers and those in the scientific and technical sectors do not bear this commitment out, it is still early days for the new immigration system and the pandemic has had a profound effect on international travel. From our experience helping facilitate work visas for migrants there is a pent-up demand that will be realised over the coming 18 months.”

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NextGenerationEU: Four more national plans given thumbs up



Economy and finance ministers today (26 July) welcomed the positive assessment of national recovery and resilience plans for Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania and Slovenia. The Council will adopt its implementing decisions on the approval of these plans by written procedure.

In addition to the decision on 12 national plans adopted earlier in July, this takes the total number to 16. 

Slovenia’s Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj said: “The Recovery and Resilience Facility is the EU’s programme of large-scale financial support in response to the challenges the pandemic has posed to the European economy. The facility’s €672.5 billion will be used to support the reforms and investments outlined in the member states’ recovery and resilience plans.”


Reforms and investments

The plans have to comply with the 2019 and 2020 country-specific recommendations and reflect the EU’s general objective of creating a greener, more digital and more competitive economy.

Croatia plans to implement to reach these goals include improving water and waste management, a shift to sustainable mobility and financing digital infrastructures in remote rural areas. 

Cyprus intends, among other things, to reform its electricity market and facilitate the deployment of renewable energy, as well as to enhance connectivity and e-government solutions.

Lithuania will use the funds to increase locally produced renewables, green public procurement measures and further developing of the rollout of very high capacity networks.

Slovenia plans to use a part of the allocated EU support to invest in sustainable transport, unlock the potential of renewable energy sources and further digitalise its public sector.

Poland and Hungary

Asked about delays to the programmes of Poland and Hungary, the EU’s Economy Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said that the Commission had proposed an extension for Hungary to the end of September. On Poland, he said that the Polish government had already requested an extension, but that that might need a further extension. 

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EU extends scope of general exemption for public aid for projects



Today (23 July) the Commission adopted an extension of the scope of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER), which will allow EU countries to implement projects managed under the new financial framework (2021 - 2027), and measures that support the digital and green transition without prior notification.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said: “The Commission is streamlining the state aid rules applicable to national funding that fall under the scope of certain EU programmes. This will improve further the interplay between EU funding rules and EU state aid rules under the new financing period. We are also introducing more possibilities for member states to provide state aid to support the twin transition to a green and digital economy  without the need of a prior notification procedure.”

The Commission argues that this will not cause undue distortions to competition in the Single Market, while making it easier to get projects up and running.  


The concerned national funds are those relating to: Financing and investment operations supported by the InvestEU Fund; research, development and innovation (RD&I) projects having received a “Seal of Excellence” under Horizon 2020 or Horizon Europe, as well as co-funded research and development projects or Teaming actions under Horizon 2020 or Horizon Europe; European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) projects, also known as Interreg.

Projects categories that are considered to help the green and digital transition are: Aid for energy efficiency projects in buildings; aid for recharging and refuelling infrastructure for low emission road vehicles; aid for fixed broadband networks, 4G and 5G mobile networks, certain trans-European digital connectivity infrastructure projects and certain vouchers.

In addition to the extension of the scope of the GBER adopted today, the Commission has already launched a new revision of the GBER aimed at streamlining state aid rules further in light of the Commission priorities in relation to the twin transition. Member states and stakeholders will be consulted in due course on the draft text of that new amendment.

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