Economics


As defined by the first Special Rapporteur, “the human right to adequate housing is the right of every woman, man, youth and child to gain and sustain a safe and secure home and community in which to live in peace and dignity”.

This definition is in line with the core elements of the right to adequate housing as defined by General Comment No. 4 of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the body in charge of monitoring the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the States which are party to it). According to the Committee, while adequacy is determined in part by social, economic, cultural, climatic, ecological and other factors, it is nevertheless possible to identify certain aspects of the right that must be taken into account for this purpose in any particular context. They include the following: a) Legal security of tenure; b) Availability of services, materials, facilities, and infrastructure; c) Affordability; d) Habitability; e) Accessibility; f) Location; and g) Cultural adequacy. For the definition of these elements, please refer to General Comment No. 4.

For more on the human right to adequate housing, please refer to International Standards.

The obligations of States

The legal obligations of Governments concerning the right to housing consist of (i) the duties found in article 2.1 of the Covenant; and (ii) the more specific obligations to recognize, respect, protect and fulfill this and other rights.

Three phrases in article 2.1 are particularly important for understanding the obligations of Governments to realize fully the rights recognized in the Covenant, including the right to adequate housing:

(a) “undertakes to take steps . . . by all appropriate means”

In addition to legislative measures, administrative, judicial, economic, social and educational steps must also be taken. States parties are also obliged to develop policies and set priorities consistent with the Covenant. They are also required to evaluate the progress of such measures and to provide effective legal or other remedies for violations. With specific reference to the right to adequate housing, States parties are required to adopt a national housing strategy.

(b) “to the maximum of its available resources

The obligation of States is to demonstrate that, in aggregate, the measures being taken are sufficient to realize the right to adequate housing for every individual in the shortest possible time using the maximum available resources.

(c) “to achieve progressively”

This obligation “to achieve progressively” must be read in the light of article 11.1 of the Covenant, in particular, the reference to the right to the “continuous improvement of living conditions”. The obligation of progressive realization, moreover, exists independently of any increase in resources. Above all, it requires effective use of resources available.

The four additional obligations that Governments have to fulfill in order to implement the right to adequate housing are:

The obligation to recognize the human right dimensions of housing and to ensure that no measures are taken with the intention of eroding the legal status of this right. The adoption of measures and appropriate policies geared towards progressive realization of housing rights form part of this obligation.

The obligation to respect the right to adequate housing means that Governments must abstain from carrying out or otherwise advocating the forced or arbitrary eviction of persons and groups. States must respect people’s rights to build their own dwellings and order their environments in a manner which most effectively suits their culture, skills, needs, and wishes.

The obligation to protect effectively the housing rights of a population means that Governments must ensure that any possible violations of these rights by “third parties” such as landlords or property developers are prevented. Where such infringements do occur, the relevant public authorities should act to prevent any further deprivations and guarantee to affected person access to legal remedies of redress for any infringement caused.

The obligation to fulfill the right to adequate housing is both positive and interventional. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has asserted that identifiable governmental strategies aimed at securing the right of all persons to live in peace and dignity should be developed.

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Sooner or Later, your company will probably need to transform itself in response to market shifts, groundbreaking technologies, or disruptive start-ups. Some strategists suggest doing this quickly and aggressively, by making a clean break from the past and turning your firm into something entirely new. In my experience, though, organizations built for legacy markets rarely pull this off. It can take years for an innovative initiative to become large enough to replace the revenue an incumbent has lost to disruption. And if your company completely abandons its old model, it throws away any advantage it still has. I propose an approach that’s both more practical to implement and more sustainable. It rests on two insights: First, major transformations need to be two different efforts happening in parallel.

“Transformation A” should reposition the core business, adapting its current business model to the altered marketplace. “Transformation B” should create a separate, disruptive business to develop the innovations that will become the source of future growth. Second, the key to making both transformations work is to establish a new organizational process we call a “capabilities exchange,” through which the parallel efforts can share select resources without changing the mission or operations of either. Dividing the effort in two allows leaders to develop a new strategy for the core that doesn’t need to make up for all the business lost to disruption. It also gives the innovative new operation the time it needs to grow. What one transformation effort could rarely accomplish alone, two together have a better chance of achieving. IBM and Apple both took this dual-transformation approach. In the mid-1990s, IBM reconceived its mainframe business, shifting from proprietary systems to servers running software based on open standards. At the same time, it built a separate Global Services organization that became the source of its future growth. In the late 1990s, Apple repositioned its struggling PC business, trimming offerings and focusing on design. Shortly afterward, it launched the iPod and opened the iTunes store, which led to phenomenal growth. More recently, we’ve seen the dual-track process unfolding at Barnes & Noble as the retailer reacted to the severe disruption of e-books, and at Xerox in response to the slow erosion of its core copier business.

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Equality can be understood as parity in the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms, and equality of opportunities with regards to education and work and the fulfillment of one’s potential. Equity relates to a degree of equality in the living conditions of people, especially in terms of income and wealth, that society considers desirable. Reduction of inequalities is then justified by equity considerations.

The 1995 World Social Summit stressed that a people-centered approach to development must be based on the principles of equity and equality so that all individuals have access to resources and opportunities. In the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action social justice, equity and equality reflect the concept of a just society ensuring the equitable distribution of income and greater access to resources through equity and equality of opportunity for all. Public policies have to correct market failures and promote equity and social justice. World Social Summit identified several ways Governments can promote equality and social justice:

◾Ensuring people are equal before the law
◾Carrying out policies with a view to equalization of opportunities
◾Expanding and improving access to basic services
◾Providing equal opportunities in public-sector employment
◾Encouraging formation of cooperatives and community-based institutions
◾Minimize negative effects of structural adjustment programmes
◾Promoting full access to preventive and curative health care
◾Expanding basic education, improving its quality, enhancing access to formal and non-formal learning, ensuring equal access to education of girls

The 24th Special session of the General Assembly reiterated that social development requires reduction in inequality of wealth and a more equitable distribution of the benefits of economic growth within and among nations.

Over the past decades, inequalities in income distribution and access to productive resources, basic social services, opportunities, markets, and information have been on the rise worldwide, often causing and exacerbating poverty. Globalization occurs in the absence of a social agenda, aimed at mitigating the negative impacts of globalization on vulnerable groups of society.

A social perspective on development emphasizes the view that inequality impairs growth and development, including poverty eradication efforts and that equity itself is instrumental for economic growth and development. It aims at providing a better understanding of the effects of economic and social policies on equity in societies and promotes ways of advancing policies contributing to the reduction of inequalities. Policies for both inequality and poverty reduction are mutually reinforcing.

The linkages between poverty and inequality are highlighted in the 2005 Report on the World Social Situation: The Inequality Predicament. The report states that the goal of sustained poverty reduction cannot be achieved unless equality of opportunity and access to basic services is ensured and stresses that the goal of reducing inequality must be explicitly incorporated in policies and programmes aimed at poverty reduction.

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Unemployment and underemployment lie at the core of poverty. For the poor, labor is often the only asset they can use to improve their well-being. Hence the creation of productive employment opportunities is essential for achieving poverty reduction and sustainable economic and social development. It is crucial to provide decent jobs that both secure income and empowerment for the poor, especially women and younger people.

Rapid economic growth can potentially bring a high rate of expansion of productive and remunerative employment, which can lead to a reduction in poverty. Nevertheless, the contribution of the growth process to poverty reduction does not depend only on the rate of economic growth, but also on the ability of the poor to respond to the increasing demand for labor in the more productive categories of employment.

Given the importance of employment for poverty reduction, job-creation should occupy a central place in national poverty reduction strategies. Many employment strategies are often related to agricultural and rural development and include using labor-intensive agricultural technologies; developing small and medium-sized enterprises, and promoting micro projects in rural areas. Many strategies promote self-employment, non-farm employment in rural areas, targeted employment interventions, microfinance and credit as a means of employment generation, skill formation and training.

Such strategies, however, often address the quantity of employment while the qualitative dimensions, such as equity, security, dignity, and freedom are often absent or minimal. In general, national poverty reduction strategies including Poverty Reduction Strategies do not comment on employment programmes, social protection or rights at work. Neither do they offer an in-depth analysis of the effects of policies on poverty reduction.

A social perspective on development emphasizes the view that the best route to socio-economic development, poverty eradication and personal wellbeing is through decent work. Productive employment opportunities will contribute substantially to achieving the internationally agreed development goals, especially the Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015.

There should be a focus on creating better and more productive jobs, particularly those that can absorb the high concentrations of working poor. Among the necessary elements for creating such jobs are investing in labor-intensive industries, especially agriculture, encouraging a shift in the structure of employment to higher productivity occupations and sectors, and upgrading job quality in the informal economy. In addition, there should also be a focus on providing poor people with the necessary skills and assets that will enable them to take full advantage of any expansion in employment potential.

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Project South, Apr. 17, 2018 – “A private prison company under contract with Stewart County to house individual’s detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is forcing detained immigrants at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia to work for as little as $1 a day to clean, cook, and maintain the detention center in a scheme to maximize profits, according to a class-action lawsuit filed today against CoreCivic, Inc.

Detained immigrants who refuse to work are threatened with solitary confinement and the loss of access to basic necessities, like food, clothing, personal hygiene products and phone calls to loved ones in violation of federal anti-trafficking laws, according to the lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Law Office of R. Andrew Free, Project South, and Burns Charest LLP. Similar lawsuits have been filed in California, Washington, Colorado and Texas challenging private prison companies’ work practices.

Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal and Advocacy Director for Project South, said, “The prison corporation Core Civic is exploiting the labor of detained immigrants to enrich itself– last year its revenues were nearly $1.8 billion. It must be stopped.”

“CoreCivic is placing profits above people by forcing detained immigrants to perform manual labor for next to nothing, saving millions of dollars that would otherwise provide jobs and stimulate the local economy,” said Meredith Stewart, senior attorney at the SPLC. “CoreCivic is padding its pockets by violating anti-trafficking laws.”

The “Dollar-a-Day” program creates a lucrative profit scenario for CoreCivic: Detained immigrants are forced to purchase basic necessities from CoreCivic’s commissary, and the primary way to fund their purchases is to participate in the work program that is necessary for the operation of the facility. These jobs include providing basic functions at the facility like cooking and cleaning, work for which CoreCivic would otherwise have to hire and pay outside employees.

Plaintiff Wilhen Hill Barrientos is an asylum seeker from Guatemala who has been detained for 33 months while his case is pending. When he arrived at Stewart Detention Center, he was faced with an impossible decision – either work for nearly nothing or lose access to basic necessities, safety, and privacy.

Refusing to work means that Barrientos would not have enough money to pay for costly phone calls to his family and that he would likely be moved from a two-person prison cell to an open dorm that has few bathrooms, round-the-clock lighting, frequent fights; or be placed into solitary confinement.

“When I arrived at Stewart I was faced with the impossible choice—either work for a few cents an hour or live without basic things like soap, shampoo, deodorant, and food,” said Barrientos. He chose to work to live with some privacy and maintain access to the commissary. “If I didn’t work, I would never be able to call my family,” said Barrientos, who works in the kitchen, cooking meals for up to 2,000 people each day.

For his work, Barrientos receives at most $4 to $5 per day for six to eight hours of work; approximately 50 cents per hour. Since Stewart has no paid kitchen staff, officers usually require Barrientos to work seven days a week, even when he is sick. Barrientos was sent to medical segregation for two months after he filed a grievance for being forced to work while he was sick.

“CoreCivic illegally enriches itself on the backs of a captive workforce to bolster their profits,” said Korey Nelson, a partner at Burns Charest, a law firm with offices in Dallas and New Orleans that specializes in complex class action suits.

“CoreCivic’s labor practices at Stewart are an affront to the human dignity of all confined there, and sad reminder of a not-so-distant past when the power to jail meant the opportunity to profit,” said Andrew Free, a Nashville-based immigration and civil rights attorney. “Neither our conscience as a nation nor our human trafficking laws permit this corporation’s conduct.”

In 2014, current and formerly detained immigrants who were forced to work at private detention centers began to file class-action lawsuits alleging violations of federal and state labor laws.”

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Americans continue to kid themselves that if you work hard you can climb the ladder. But the perception and reality are moving farther apart.

Economists at Harvard University recently published research on actual and perceived economic mobility in the United States and four European countries. They found an American public in denial. The data show that Americans believe the chance that a person who is born into the bottom 20% of households in income in the US can reach the top 20% in adulthood is more than 50% higher than in reality.

Not all other countries suffer from such misconceptions. The four European countries the researchers studied—Italy, the United Kingdom, France and Sweden—actually underestimated the likelihood of a person moving from the bottom to the top.

Based on surveys of at least 1,000 people in each country, the following chart shows how likely people think children born into the poorest 20% of families will grow up to be among the richest 20%, along with the most recent high-quality data on the actual probability.

While the average American thinks that about 12% of those in the poorest fifth households make it to the top, the true number is less than 8%. In contrast, people in the other four European countries surveyed are all overly pessimistic about the economic chances of those born poorest. The French, who underestimate mobility from the bottom to the top by two percentage points, is the most erroneously dour.

People on the political right tend to perceive greater economic mobility than those on the left in each country studied. For example, in the US, the average person that the researchers identified as left-wing guessed that 11% of people from the bottom 20% move to the top, and the average right-wing person guessed that it was 12.5%. Due to this bias, European perceptions about intergenerational mobility are more accurate on the right, while in the US, those on the left tend to guess numbers closer to the truth.

Beyond just looking at perceptions of mobility, the researchers also gathered data on people’s beliefs about economic fairness. They found that even though climbing the economic ladder is least likely in the US among the countries they surveyed, Americans have unusually strong beliefs in the fairness of the economic system, and the relationship of hard work to succeed.

The researchers also discovered that, within the US, an overly optimistic outlook about economic mobility is concentrated in the parts of the country where actual mobility is lowest. The Southeast is the area of the US with the lowest economic mobility and highest inequality. Yet the average Southeasterner believes that the chances of someone from the bottom 20% reaching the top are almost double what they actually are.

ratioeconomicopportunitymap

The idea that anybody can make it in the US if they work hard enough has been a bedrock of American life since the country’s birth. At one time, this might have been truer than today. Because historical data is difficult to obtain, researchers are unsure of whether economic mobility has decreased in the US, but it likely has. Inequality and economic mobility are highly correlated, and inequality has been on the rise in the US for the last half-century. If it’s true that mobility has decreased, awareness has not caught up to reality.

These misperceptions matter. Beliefs about economic mobility are strongly related to support for higher taxes on the rich (pdf) and government spending on education and public health. Even for those who don’t believe the government is effective at solving social problems, accurate perceptions of how likely it is for the poor to reach the top may change attitudes to philanthropy and volunteerism.

The US is no beacon of economic opportunity. It’s time Americans realized it.

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