Friday, 23 December 2011

Week in review

Hello, glad you could join us for the Wikiprogress week in review - a handful of headlines that have caught our eyes over the last week. You can find all news articles and blog posts on the progress community in the Wikiprogress Community Portal    

On North Korea
10 Facts about North Korea (Guardian 20.12.2011)
With the death of Kim Jong-il, leader of one of the world’s most secretive states, the Guardian has gathered information about life in North Korea. Figures detailed in the blog are on population, corruption, capital punishment, military strength, nuclear capacity, poverty, peace, emissions and football.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on North Korea

On Twitternomics
A team of Scientists from the University of Vermont have spent the last three years gathering over 46 billion words from more than 63million Tweeters in an attempt to map happiness.
Like the article? Tweet about it and let us know what you think @Wikiprogress #Twitternomics

On the Big Mac Index
Country comparisons, to go (The Economist 22.12.2011)
The Economist is showcasing a beefed-up version of their Big Mac Index as part of their Daily Chart Advent Calendar. The index finds that based on market exchange rates, a burger is 44% cheaper in China than in America.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on purchasing-power parity 

On gender equality and globalisation
Globalisation: has it helped or hurt women (Huffington Post 16.12.2011)
Marcelo Giugale, the World Bank’s Director of Economic Policy and Poverty Reduction Programs for Africa, looks back over the last thirty years and questions whether the free movement of people, money goods and ideas has helped or hindered gender equality.
Wikigender needs an article on gender equality and globalisation – please login and start the article  

In the Spotlight: Season’s Greetings
Wishing you all the very best for the festive season and we look forward to another year of progress with you in 2012 – Wikiprogress Team

The next Week in Review will be posted in 2012; until then stay up to date via our twitter @Wikiprogress and our Facebook page

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Wikigender and Wikipedia have success in their University programs.

I just spotted this article on the Wikimedia Blog. It is all about students in cooperation with their teachers and Universities, writing their final term papers on Wikipedia. We think this is fabulous. So fabulous that Wikigender and Wikiprogress also have this program. This year we teamed up with Sciences Po in Paris, students at the American University in Paris and the CIDE in Mexico to encourage students to volunteer to write on gender equality. Next year we look forward to working with Universities in Thailand and India. See the Wikigender University Portal here.

Wikimedia University student Karl says in the Wikimedia blog, "“I still maintain that this Wikipedia project made a world of difference in being able to write well, and unlike a term paper, which is thrown away at the end of the semester, all the work that goes into a Wikipedia article continues to help people even after the class ends".

Wikigender took this one step further and made a selection of articles and published it via Pedia Press. This book contains articles on gender equality and education, migration and peace and security. You can buy the book here (who wouldn't want that in their stocking??) or download a printed copy. For more information see  the Wikigender University Portal.

Please let us know if you, your class or University would like to join this project at

Happy holidays!


Thursday, 15 December 2011

The week in review

Hello, glad you could join us for the Wikiprogress week in review - a handful of headlines that have caught our eyes over the last week. You can find all news articles and blog posts on the progress community in the  Wikiprogress Community Portal .  

On progress in Australia
Australia's national statistician prefers a "dashboard" approach to well-being  (15.12.2011)
Imogen Wall from the Measures of Australia’s Progress team at the Australian Bureau of Statistics uses a dashboard metaphor to describe the importance of using a range of indicators for measuring well-being, “It is important, when driving, to have information not only about speed and distance travelled, but also about engine temperature and remaining petrol.”
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on Measures of Australia’s Progress

On gender equality
An African Gender Statistics Group in the offing  (13.12.2011)
In an address to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the Ghana Statistical Service, Dr Grace Bediako announced plans for an African Gender Statistics Group that aims to mainstream gender into national and international statistics programmes.
See more and contribute to the Wikigender article on Gender Statistics

On the environment
Time for a Green Index  (13.12.2011)
Professor of Environmental Science Chuluun Togtokh argues that the UNDP Human Development Index ‘idolises’ some of the most environmentally damaging societies and suggests replacing the index with one that considers green technologies. He has found that per capita carbon emissions are a simple and quantifiable indicator, which is both strongly and positively, correlated with income.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on green growth

On employment
Jobs, or more precisely, the lack of jobs is now a global issue (World Bank 26.09.2011)
The World Bank blogs on a pressing global issue: unemployment. It is more than the 205 million people worldwide who are unemployed, it is that in today’s post-crisis world policy makers and practitioners do not know how to create jobs, let alone good jobs.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on unemployment rates

In the spotlight
TIME 2011 Person of the Year: The Protester:  Why I Protest: Ahmed Harara of Egypt (TIME 14.12.2011)

In announcing the 2011 person of the year as The Protester, TIME has profiled a series of protesters involved the the various uprisings of 2011. Ahmed Harara was protesting in Tahrir Square in January when he lost his eye to a rubber bullet; ten months later he returned to Tahrir Square only to lose the other eye in the same way.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on the Arab Spring

In the meantime, if anything interesting passes your desk that you would like to see in the next Wikiprogress week in review, please tweet it to us  @Wikiprogress or post it on our Facebook page .    

Yours in progress,

Philippa Lysaght

Monday, 12 December 2011

7 billion human beings: Why gender equality matters more than ever!

This post by Angela Luci first appeared on Gender Debate.

The United Nations Population Division estimates that the world's population reached 7 billion around October 31, 2011. This milestone has an important impact on the worldwide economic and social equilibrium. Gender equality represents a major factor allowing countries to bear the challenges and to benefit from the opportunities of demographic dynamics. 

The recent birth of the 7th billion human being has been registered with mixed feelings all over the world.  The exponential population growth that could have been observed over the last 50 years as well as the UN projections for the future global population size are perceived as quite frightening in most countries. Indeed, the actual population size and the future population growth represent enormous challenges for countries of all development stages.

In developing countries, and particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, a first important challenge is to provide an adequate agricultural organization to avoid famine, to provide clean water and to protect the environment.  Improving the access to health and education is another major challenge. This is where gender equality comes into play. Especially for girls and young women,  access to family planning, to contraceptionto education and to the formal labour market is crucial not only for improving their own living conditions, but also in terms  of demographic dynamics.  Fertility and child mortality can be significantly reduced by fostering women’s economic empowerment and by containing patriarchal social norms (inheritance laws, genital mutilation, limited freedom of movement etc…). In addition, an improved access to education for girls and boys allows developing countries to exploit their enormous growth potential that comes along with the high proportion of young people at working age (demographic bonus).

In emerging countries, rapid industrialization and urbanization represent a major development challenge as these phenomena risk coming along with environmental damage, slum formation, unemployment, loose family networks, drug abuse and youth criminality. In this context, improving women’s access to the formal labour market as well as to health care and education is particularly important, as investments in these areas are likely to lead to later marriages, less teenage pregnancies and more stable family structures. This helps accelerating the trend to smaller families and boosts investments in the education and health of children. Providing economic and educational opportunities for women thus leads to a win-win situation for all of society.

In developed countries, low fertility and high life expectancy represent the major demographic challenges. Population ageing certainly is a worldwide phenomenon, but implies a particular problem for developed countries, as the current low fertility rates make it difficult to finance pay-as-you go pension systems in the next future. Providing women with possibilities to combine work and family life has been identified as an important factor to enable parents to realize their fertility intentions. Moreover, providing women with an independent income, which allows them to make adequate social security contributions and private savings, can be seen as the best instrument to battle old-age poverty in developed countries (which concerns mainly women).

Hence, women's access to decent jobs with income and career perspectives emerges as a key factor to tackle the challenges of demographic dynamics. This holds for developed countries as much as for emerging and developing countries. 

This article was inspired by the symposium “The Seven Billionth Human: What Does This Birth Mean” on October 14, 2011, organized by the Hopkins Population Center and the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health.

Friday, 9 December 2011

The week in review

Week in review 09.12.2011
Hello, glad you could join us for the Wikiprogress week in review - a handful of headlines that have caught our eyes over the last week. You can find all news articles and blog posts on the progress community in the  Wikiprogress Community Portal

On measuring progress
Government drafts 'happiness indicators' to supplement economic data  (The Japan Times 06.12.2011)
At the Asia-Pacific Conference on Measuring Well-Being and Fostering the Progress of Societies, Japan’s Cabinet Office announced a set of indicators designed to gauge well-being based on three major factors — socioeconomic conditions, physical and mental health, and relationships.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on The Asia-Pacific Conference on Measuring Well-Being and Fostering the Progress of Societies

On inequality
OECD inequality report: how do different countries compare?  (Guardian Data Blog 05.12.2011)
The OECD report on inequality: Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising, released this week shows a rise in the share of top-income recipients in total gross income over the last 30 years in all countries.
Read more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on inequality

On UK happiness
Richard Layard: And so begins the strange era of feel-good politics... (The Independent 07.12.2011)
Leading progress thinker, Richard Layard, writes about the future of basing policy on how it affects the well-being of the people. He argues that the value lies not in finding the average happiness of the nation, but in what causes people to be happy or unhappy.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on measuring happiness in the UK

On gender equality

Women and Work – This house believes that a woman’s place is at work (Economist Debate)
Defending the motion in this week’s Economist debate is Linda Basch (President of National Council for Research on Women), who argues work is right for families, communities, the economy and women. Against this motion is Christina Hoff Summers (American Enterprise Institute), who believes women should not have an assigned place and questions what is wrong with the 5 million American women who are full-time mothers.
See more and contribute to the Wikigender article on women and work.

On growth in India
Putting Growth in its Place (Outlook, November)
Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze co-author this essay on growth and development in India stressing that growth should be a means to development but not an end in itself. India is a unique case, even after 20 years of growth it is still among the world’s poorest nations.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on progress in India

In the Spotlight: Global Corruption Perception Index reflects Arab Spring unrest
That’s all from us this week. We hope you tune in the same time next week. In the meantime, if anything interesting passes your desk that you would like to see in the next Wikiprogress week in review, please tweet it to us  @Wikiprogress  or post it on our  Facebook page.  

Yours in progress,

Philippa Lysaght

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Covering the “missing middle” in social protection

by Juan R. de Laiglesia from the OECD Development Centre 

Providing social protection to the informal middle classes will foster social cohesion, and doesn’t cost the earth.

As citizens across the globe demand new economic models, the OECD’s newly released Perspectives on Global Development 2012 puts social cohesion on the table as a broader social development objective. Social cohesion compounds inclusiveness, equal opportunity and a sense of belonging to society, of shared destinies. Strong growth in a large part of the developing world has transformed the ways development challenges can be addressed. 

The final declaration of the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness held in Busan last week reminds us that poverty and inequality remain a central challenge in global development.  The OECD’s Perspectives on Global Development 2012 find that 83 countries more than doubled OECD per capita growth rates over the past decade. You would be right to think that faster than 1.8% growth is hardly impressive; but in fact 49 countries grew at more than 3.75%. In the 1990s, only 12 countries managed that.

How growth has changed the picture

First, the poor no longer live mostly in poor countries. Research by Andy Sumner,  at the Institute for Development Studies , finds that 70% of the world’s poor live in middle income countries. Two decades ago, 93% of the poor lived in Low Income Countries. This means that most of the poor live in countries where per capita incomes are above USD 2.75 a day, and more in purchasing parity terms. In other words, more countries can use redistributive instruments – from taxes to transfers to health provision – to eradicate poverty. Indeed, countries such as India or China have up-scaled social protection interventions in recent years.

Second, millions have been lifted out of poverty as average incomes have increased and emerged as a new – but vulnerable ­– middle class. As a result, half of the 2bn-strong global middle class live in emerging economies. But make no mistake, this middle class is unlike Western stereotypes of a couple with two children, a dog and one or two cars.  The emerging middle classes are vulnerable: many remain only just above the poverty line and do not have a stock of capital that would allow them to buffer major shocks such as illness nor to whether the changes in fortunes which come with old age. In Latin America, less than 10% of households have mortgage loans, and less than half of them are middle-class. Many in the emerging middle classes work informally. And yet, not being poor, they have the capacity to save and contribute to social insurance. Social protection plays a key role in buttressing their middle class status and preventing them from slipping back into poverty.

Social protection redux

Is this a job for social protection? In the past few years, the discourse around the role of social protection in development has changed dramatically. Through the work of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, the donor community has clearly stated the role of social protection in making growth pro-poor. Last month, the Social Protection Floor Advisory Group, chaired by Michelle Bachelet released its report entitled Social Protection Floor for a Fair and Inclusive Globalization. Social protection has moved from being viewed as merely a “safety net” built of targeted assistance to the poor to a key instrument in building fairer societies.

The past ten years have seen a true “quiet revolution” in social protection in the developing world. The rapid introduction of means-tested cash benefits has greatly increased the scale of social protection. South Africa’s Child Support Grant, introduced in 1998 covered 7.7 million children by 2008, China’s Minimum Living Subsidy Scheme (DiBao) was introduced in 1997 and reached 57 million households by 2007. The very popular conditional cash transfer (CCT) programmes in Mexico (Oportunidades) and Brazil (Bolsa Família) reach respectively 5 and 12.5 million households or about a quarter of the population in each country. The beauty of this quantum leap is that it has been made using home-grown instruments, tried and tested across developing countries. Often these new programmes coexist with contribution-based social security systems that cover formal employees.

The “missing middle”: a challenge for social cohesion

Put together, contribution-based social security and means-tested social protection for the poor leave a “missing middle” in social protection coverage. Indeed, research at the OECD Development Centre shows that the majority of middle-class workers in emerging economies such as Brazil  or Mexico are not formal employees.  Contributory pensions are open to independent workers and informal employees – those without contracts – but in practice only a minority participate in them. In the case of Brazil only 15% of the self-employed and 9% of informal employees in the middle income quintiles contribute to pensions systems.
Providing adequate instruments for the informal middle classes to insure or manage risk matters for social cohesion. First because today’s vulnerable middle class can become tomorrow’s poor. Many in the emerging middle classes lie close to the poverty line and can fall back in downturns. Second, it is a matter of horizontal equity. Social protection is a form of institutionalized solidarity: excluding certain categories from social protection deprives them of risk management instruments which are usually not available in the private market. Moreover, it runs the risk of alienating that segment of society. Finally, the middle classes have an important role to play in shaping the politics of poverty reduction. How likely are the informal middle classes to side with the poor on redistribution issues if they do not partake in the system that protects the poor?

Extending protection: more than one way forward

Social protection can be extended to cover the informal middle classes in several ways. Unbundling health, pensions and the other functions of social security helps, because they can be priced and provided separately. Contributory pensions and Unemployment Insurance Savings Accounts as implemented in Chile are examples of such unbundling. Certain instruments, like UISAs (compulsory savings accounts from which withdrawals are made during unemployment spells) can be extended to informal workers. Since they pool little risk across workers, they do not entail cross-subsidies or generate incentives to stay out of formal work. Subsidising contributions to the social security system is also possible – for example by governments’ matching deposits into retirement accounts. Matching-defined contribution pensions following that model are being implemented in Mexico, Colombia and Peru. Universal entitlements are also used today across the developing world, especially for basic healthcare and pension income.  In all cases, the key is to break the dichotomy between a social protection system for formal workers and one – or none – for informal workers. Such duality reinforces the segmentation between labour markets and contributes to deepen the fault line between formal and informal workers.

At stake is building a social protection system that not only alleviates poverty, but empowers citizens to build up and protect human capital and to participate in networks of organised solidarity. The past decade saw the emergence of a number of innovative instruments in social protection, born and bred in the South. Making inclusive systems out of these and other innovations remains work in progress.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

On the Practical Politics of Well-being

Last month the Centre for Well-being at nef (the new economics foundation) launched its latest pamphlet: The Practical Politics of Well-being. At the heart of this pamphlet is the idea that the well-being agenda has the potential to resonate across the political spectrum and appeal to those on the left, right and centre ground of politics in the UK. This is important; we believe that no matter which political party is in power, having high well-being for all as a basic orienting principle for policy making and political decision making can help to deliver improved well-being for UK citizens.

In this vein, The Practical Politics of Well-being presents personal contributions from a Labour (left wing), Liberal Democrat (centre) and Conservative (right wing) perspective on the well-being agenda and how this relates to particular party political principles. In his paper, Michael Jacobs argues that well-being provides a new justification and a new language for goals that Labour already espouses, whilst noting the difficulty of creating public support for the provision of public goods – a necessary pre-cursor for high well-being – and the major challenge that well-being science poses to decisions around economic and employment policy. In her paper, Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson argues that liberals and Liberal Democrats have also long appreciated well-being as an important goal of policy, whilst noting that findings from well-being science may bolster certain liberal principles and pose a challenge to others, which implies a need to consider how well-being sits alongside other key liberal values. In his paper, conservative commentator Jonty Olliff-Cooper notes that whilst Conservative backing of the well-being agenda may at first seem strange, conservatives – whichever strand of conservatism they represent – are interested in how the individual’s well-being can be maximised. He argues that well-being offers one possible route to turning conservative thinking into a practical guide for action.

Acknowledging and harnessing cross-party support for the well-being agenda is an important part of ensuring its practical application. In the UK, moves are now well underway to measure well-being at the national level. Last week the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) published its first round of test statistics on well-being from its Opinions Survey, and since April 2011 it has included four subjective questions in its annual Integrated Household Survey, which probes the well-being and circumstances of some 200,000 people in the UK. These questions are about how satisfied people are with their lives, how happy they were yesterday, how anxious they were yesterday, and how worthwhile they think the things they do are. The survey also asks a large number of questions about objective circumstances that are influenced by policy, for example health behaviours, housing, education, household income, employment patterns and benefit entitlements. With such information the way is paved for policy makers and political decision makers – of whichever political persuasion – to ask about the likely impacts of particular policies on well-being, and to make policies and decisions in a way designed to maximise well-being. This in turn implies potential changes to policy, some of which might be painful and resisted, whilst others will be less controversial.

Equally as important, however, is our contention – explicit in the pamphlet – that there is a need to change the central dynamic of our society. The current dynamic is inherently flawed. Without doing this, the danger is that despite small, incremental changes to policy and political decision making, the central dynamic will remain unchanged, and that in this the well-being agenda will be no more than a band aid for patching up the cracks in a fundamentally flawed system.

Whilst the well-being agenda appeals to people across the political spectrum, if we are to take it seriously this will mean not only ensuring that policy-making and political decision making at the margins are driven by well-being evidence, but designing core economic policies with well-being in mind. 

Friday, 2 December 2011

The week in review

Hello, glad you could join us for the Wikiprogress week in review - a handful of headlines that have caught our eyes over the last week. You can find all news articles and blog posts on the progress community in the Wikiprogress Community Portal. 

On data
The 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index released this week found that levels of  awareness of corruption have risen significantly for Arab nations involved in the uprisings. One of the leading nations involved in the Arab Spring, Tunisia, fell to 73rd place from 59th last year.
See more and download the 2011 CPI

On happiness
The Office of National Statistics in the UK has released findings of a national consultation established as part of  David Cameron’s Happiness Index. The findings show 76% of adults in Great Britain rated their own life satisfaction, with a score of 7 or more out of 10. 
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on Happiness

On gender equality
The 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness held in Busan this week has been criticised by gender champions from around the world for the lack of inclusion of key gender equality issues in the Forum’s outcomes document. Although a Joint Busan Action Plan on Gender Equality and Development is one of the outcomes of the conference, it is considered to be limited. 
See more highlights from the Busan conference in the Wikigender Community Portal

On progress in Australia
Measuring well-being is still in the too hard basket (Sydney Morning Herald 30.11.2011)
Over the past few years the global progress movement has gathered momentum as broader indicators of well-being has become an increasingly popular topic. In Australia, Measures of Australia’s Progress (MAP) is at the forefront of this movement with their work on measuring national well-being and determining whether or not life in Australia is getting better.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on Measures of Australia’s Progress

That’s all from us this week. We hope you tune in the same time next week. In the meantime, if anything interesting passes your desk that you would like to see in the next Wikiprogress week in review, please tweet it to us @Wikiprogress or post it on our Facebook page. 

Yours in Progress,
Philippa Lysaght