How has Coronavirus Affected the UK?

What are the short and long term affects of Coronavirus for the UK’s social and economic development?

in this post I focus on how Coronavirus has affected health (obviously) education, work and employment, as well economic growth prospects.

There are many more consequences I could focus on, but all of the above are specifically on the Global Development module specification as aspects of development for students of A-level sociology to consider.

How has Coronavirus impacted health in the UK?

NB – forgive me if the stats below date pretty quickly, this is a rapidly evolving situation, and I can’t update every post daily!

At time of writing the total number of covid related deaths in the UK has just surpassed 100 000, in the 11 months since recording of covid-deaths began in March 2020.

You can find out the latest figures at this government site.

The Office for National statistics allows you to look at the latest figures for covid-19 infections and covid-19 related deaths, without any of the ‘panic’ aspects (and without the distractions of flashing adverts) of the mainstream media.

The covid-related death rate is three times higher among men working in elementary and service occupations (the working classes) compared to those working in professional and managerial occupations (the upper middle classes)

There has been a reduction in the quality of care for those with other chronic-conditions, because of a combination of the NHS having to cope with covid-cases, and people being reluctant to seek treatment because of the pandemic.

This is an interesting article from the BBC which outlines the possible long term negative effects on mental health of dealing with Covid – including increased anxiety and OCD (hand washing!), loneliness, a sense of meaningless and uncertainty (anomie?) and depression – not least because of so many people having to deal with loss of someone they know among that 100, 000 death toll.

This research adds to above finding that there were statistically fewer people who started cancer treatment in 2020 compared to 2019, probably because of lower test rates due to covid-19.

How has Coronavirus impacted education in the UK?

Lockdown measures meant that students missed several months of in-school education in 202.

This report by the Nuffield Foundation suggests that pupils started school in September 3 months behind as a result of lockdown in 2020. There is also evidence that poorer students suffered more as they were less able to access online learning provision.

Exams were also cancelled in 2020, but GCSE and A-level pupils received better grades than students in previous years, because of the reliance of Teacher Predicted Grades. It remains to be seen whether this will be the case in 2021.

How has Coronavirus impacted work and employment in the UK?

The effects have varied enormously be sector. The service sectors have been hardest hit, with accommodation and food services suffering a 25% downturn by GDP because of the lockdown rules imposed in response to the pandemic.

Education has also taken quite a hit, but I guess the switch to online learning has lessened the impact here.

The impact has generally been a lot less (somewhat obviously) on sectors where it’s easier to work from home, on professional occupations and on rural occupations.

How has Coronavirus impacted economic growth the in the UK?

The UK has seen a projected decline in GDP growth in 2021 of – 12.9%, which is going to take years to recover from and an expected increase in unemployment going forwards into 2021-2024 – with unemployment figures double that what we’d anticipated for these years.

Also note the debt figures shown in the bottom rows – almost £400 bn borrowed in 2020-21 to cover the cost of dealing with the Pandemic. Not exactly small change!

And then the debt repayments as a percentage of our GDP increase from 5% to 15% – meaning the government is going to be spending 20% more for at least the next five years (and probably longer) to pay for the Pandemic!

This probably means cuts to welfare and public services sometime in 2021 or 2022 – given that the government is neoliberal and will be reluctant to raise taxes, also something which is difficult to do when the economy is struggling.

Selected Sources

HM Gov (November 2020) – Analysis of the Health, Economic and Social Consequences of Covid-19

UK Gov – an enquiry into the impact of covid-19 on education

ONS – Coronavirus impact of covid-19 on Higher Education

The coronavirus class-divide

Those in working class jobs are about two to three times more likely to die of covid-19 related deaths compared to those in middle class jobs.

The Office for National statistics allows you to look at the latest figures for covid-19 infections and covid-19 related deaths, and one of the aspects of the death rate it focuses on is how it varies by occupation.

The covid-related death rate is three times higher among men working in elementary and service occupations (the working classes) compared to those working in professional and managerial occupations (the upper middle classes)

The class difference in the covid related death rate isn’t quite as large for women – those in ‘working class’ jobs are only around twice as likely to die as those in professional jobs…

OK so I’m being quite crude in my measurements of social class, but nonetheless, this is yet more evidence of social class inequality in the UK

Why are the working classes more likely to die from Covid-19?

This article from The Conversation sums it up nicely:

Referring to the ‘coronavirus class divide’ (there’s a not so nice new concept for you!) the answer is very simple:

Working class jobs are the kind of jobs you have to be physically present to be able to do – cleaning, care work, taxi-driving, food and accomodation services – you simply have to be ‘out there’ away from home and you are more likely to be interacting with people.

And thus you are more exposed to the virus if you are working in a manual, working class job:

While if you’re in a managerial or professional role, it is much easier for you to work remotely, to work from home, or if you must go into your workplace, it is easier for you to maintain social distance by shielding yourself in an office or at your individual work station.

The figures for stay at home work, post lockdown, are much higher for those in middle class jobs:

So there is even a class divide when it comes to your chances of contracting and dying from covid-19

Relevance to A-level sociology

This can be used as a rather depressing update to the ‘death rate’ topic which is part of families and households, or the ‘health’ topic within global development.

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Double standards in ‘Free Trade’

Wealthier countries in Europe make extensive use of import taxes to make imported goods more expensive and protect domestic business. At the same time they cajole African countries to sign free trade agreements which prevent them from imposing import taxes on European products which puts local farmers in Africa out of business.

This means that there is double standard in how trade rules are applied and that global trade works to benefit rich countries at the expense of poorer countries.

This is according to an interesting DW documentary called ‘the deceptive promise of free trade’ which suggests that Free trade is not an effective tool for global development.

EU countries imposing tariffs

Wealthy countries such as Germany and Switzerland make extensive use of taxes on imported goods (tariffs) to increase their price and protect domestically produced goods and jobs.

China has one of the most efficient bike manufacturing factories in the world, and mass produces bike more cheaply than any other country, so Germany has put a tax on bikes imported from China so as to protect the German bike manufacturing industry.

It also does the same with bikes manufactured in countries close to China such as Cambodia as bike manufactures in such countries also benefit from cheap parts made China and can produce them almost as cheaply.

As a result of these import tariffs, companies manufacturing bikes in China are able to survive – NB they still import all the parts from China, but they assemble the parts in Germany – it’s only the finished bikes which have an import tax on them.

In contrast the United States which does has not historically taxed bikes manufactured in China has seen all of its American bike production companies go out of business.

Another example of tariffs being used to protect domestic producers is in Switzerland which has the highest wages in Europe – here food production would be unfeasible if it had no import taxes because wages are so much lower in other countries.

However, there is still food produced in Switzerland because of protective tariffs on some products. These are flexible – they are quite low most of the year but during harvest time they increase several times – as with strawberries for example.

Producers in Germany and Switzerland are obviously highly supportive of nationalist protectionist policies. Saying they are good for jobs and the environment.

Free Trade Agreements prevent African countries from imposing tariffs.

In Cameroon, we get to see a local onion farming co-operative which used to produce onions, but has had to stop (and switch to cassava) because of cheaper onions being imported from Europe and flooding the market.

Cameroon is not allowed to raise tariffs further on EU onions because of a free trade agreement it signed with the EU (the EPA agreement).

As a result local farmers are either going out of business or having to switch products, the problem is that the product they switch to might also be undercut by cheaper EU imports in the future – the farm in this documentary is now growing Cassava, which is used to make flour, but there is already a history of cheap imported Wheat flour from the EU undermining local economies in Senegal, so it’s probably only a matter of time

Double Standards in the use of import taxes

It seems that we live in a world where richer countries increasingly ignore the World Trade Organisation and use tariffs to protect their domestic industries from cheaper products produced mainly in China.

While the EU cajoles countries in Africa to sign trade agreeements (probably in return for much smaller sums of development aid) which prevent them from protecting their own domestic food producers from EU agricultural products.

Subsidies also benefit farmers in the EU

The documentary also covers subsidies, showing how EU farmers benefit from government hand-outs which make their goods artificially cheap, a topic also dealt with anther DW documentary.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is a crucial update to the ‘free trade topic’, which is a core part of the global development option.

The End of the Department for International Development!

In September 2020 the long standing Department for International Development (DFID) merged with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

You can read more about the merger here.

DFID was established as a separate department in 1997 under the New Labour Government, and its aim was to focus exclusively on delivering overseas aid, and over the last 23 years its budget has been increased steadily to around $15 billion a year, meaning that the UK was one of few developed countries to meet its commitment to spend 0.7% GDP on aid, part of the old Millennium Development Goals.

The new conservative administration had been making noises about merging DFID with the FCO for some time, and it finally made the announcement in June 2020, and by September, DFID was no more. (Many DFID employees accused the government of doing this by stealth, using Covid-19 to disguise the move.)

This will probably refocus aid spending on defence and trade rather than poverty reduction

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office lists as its primary responsibilities:

‘pursuing national interests, promoting Britain as a force for good in the world, British security, as well as (since the merger) reducing poverty and meeting global challenges’. 

According to The Conversation this means the UK government has now changed its focus on how it spends aid. 

It will now be prioritising promoting Britain’s national interests – trade and security, rather than on global poverty reduction.  This was a trend that had already started to happen before the merger and shows how national political priorities can shape in very direct ways the way international aid money is spent.

Historically, DFID has tended to portion out aid money to projects that are already running, rather than setting up its own new projects, with Health care and Disaster relief being two of the larger expenditure areas, and countries such as Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Nigeria receiving the most aid.

However, now we will likely see more being spent in the areas of governance, security, and trade assistance, with security risk countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan maybe receiving more aid, as well as countries that have well established trade links with the UK and with potential to benefit UK companies abroad.

All of that is in line with using aid to promote national interests.

It’s too early to say whether or not aid money will now be spent more effectively under this new regime, but it’s certainly worth knowing about this change if you’re studying the global development option as part of A-level sociology!

The Role of Indigenous Peoples in Development

According to the United Nations there are an estimated 476 million indigenous peoples in the world in 2020, spread across 90 countries and they make up over half of the world’s 5000 distinct cultures.

For A-level sociology students studying the Global Development option, it is very useful to know something about Indigenous Peoples as they represent interesting case studies that make it difficult to make generalisations about globalisation or development.

The United Nations seeks to work with indigenous peoples and to help the protect their lands and cultures, and to increase awareness of indigenous ways of life through initiatives such as the International Indigenous People’s Day is a United Nations led initiative held on the 9th August of every year.

Indigenous Peoples – A Definition

Given the variety of indigenous peoples around the world, The United Nations has not adopted an official definition of the term ‘indigenous’.

Instead it uses the following principles to identify indigenous peoples:

  • Self- identification as indigenous peoples at the individual level and accepted by the community as their member.
  • Historical continuity with pre-colonial and/or pre-settler societies
  • Strong link to territories and surrounding natural resources
  • Distinct social, economic or political systems
  • Distinct language, culture and beliefs
  • Form non-dominant groups of society
  • Resolve to maintain and reproduce their ancestral environments and systems as distinctive peoples and communities.

Whether we apply the term ‘indigenous’ to a group of people also depends on self-identification – the group has to self-identify as indigenous rather than being defined as indigenous (as outlined in various United Nations human rights documents).

(Source: United Nations Fact Sheet: Who are Indigenous Peoples).

Who are the Indigenous Peoples of the World?

This video on Facebook provides an easy, accessible, one minute overview of some key statistics on Indigenous peoples today.

  • There are 350 million indigenous people in the world today
  • They make up 5% of the world’s population
  • They inhabit 25% of the earth’s land surface
  • And their land stores 60% of the world’s carbon
  • They are a diverse group and speak 4000 languages

A useful starting point to find out more about the world’s Indigenous Peoples is the United Nations ‘International Indigenous People’s Day‘. This has an extensive resource collection with many links and even reports on the ‘state of indigenous peoples’.

Probably one of the best known examples of a self-identified indigenous group are The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania.

Indigenous Peoples and Development

Western models of development – the processes of colonialism, capitalism, urbanisation and industrialisation have done much to undermine or even eradicate whole indigenous cultures.

Many indigenous communities are still under threat from the pressures of increased consumption which goes along with ‘western modes of development’ – which results in encroachment on indigenous lands – grazing lands all over Africa have been taken over for farming, for example, and large parts of the rainforest are under threat in the Amazon.

However, many indigenous communities continue to survive to this day and many have adapted to globalisation and ‘development’ pressures from outside.

The United Nations works to help preserve indigenous rights, especially land rights, agains the encroachments of nation states.

It it is actually very difficult to make generalisations about what the role of the indigenous communities in development is, because there are simply so many indigenous peoples!

Certainly in terms of globalisation, you will find several good examples of transformationalism in the different ways indigenous communities have adapted to global flows.

In terms of theories of development – the persistence of indigenous cultures criticises Modernisation Theory ( so many don’t want to Westernise) and there seems to be a good deal of support in here for People Centred Development – as indigenous communities work with the United Nations to preserve their cultural distinctiveness and find their own paths to development, selectively choosing what aspects of global culture they want to work with and which they would rather keep ‘at a distance’.

More to come….

I’ll write more specific posts on specific indigenous cultures and development in coming months, as it’s hard to make generalisations here!

The Equator Prize – A good Source for Examples ‘People Centred’ Development Projects

The United Nations Development Programme has run the ‘Equator prize‘ initiative every year since 2009.

The idea is to recognise indigenous communities from around the globe who are adopting innovative, nature-based solutions to achieve sustainable development and combat poverty and climate change.

The 2020 award ceremony showcased 10 such diverse initiatives from around the globe, as shown on the map below.

To my mind this initiative seems to be an excellent example of ‘People Centred Development‘, as each of these development projects are small scale, led by the indigenous people themselves and sustainable. All the United Nations seems to be doing is connecting them and giving them more visibility and recognition on a global stage, but besides this, each one of these projects seems to be a genuine example of people centred development from the ground up.

Each of the initiatives seems to be linked to a famous advocate, some of whom you will be very familiar with. For example, one of the winners of 202o was a community run Maasai conservation project in Kenya, supported by Margaret Atwood (who wrote the Handmaid’s Tale).

It’s very difficult to generalise about what each of these projects are doing specifically, because they are diverse, and that’s sort of the point of People Centred Development – because it’s ‘people centred’ each of the paths to development looks different, so I will blog more about each of these projects in forthcoming posts.

However, for now I just wanted to highlight the United Nation’s Equator Prize as a good source for links to small projects that seem to be excellent examples of ‘People Centred Development’.

NB – don’t forget that PCD isn’t postmodern – it’s not ‘anything goes’ development, there is a kind of moral imperative that binds these projects together under the auspices of the United Nations – they are all sustainable, for example, and they are all ‘community run’ and presumably have a degree of democratic governance, all of which are aspects of PCD.

Poverty in America

The 2019 video below features Paul Krugman and Jeffrey Sachs in a discussion of why there is so much poverty in America and what can be done about it.

While the discussion was before the 2020 elections, it’s still worth a watch because it’s quite rare to see such big names on the A-level sociology global development syllabus discussing something so specific.

The video is very watchable – split into two sections focussing on two questions:

  1. Why is there so much poverty in America?
  2. What can we do to reduce poverty in America?

Why is there so much poverty in America?

Key points:

  • Approximately 38 million Americans, or 1 in 8 people live in poverty today.
  • Inequality is the highest it has been since the Great Depression in 1926.
  • America hasn’t always been so unequal – since the New Deal and up to the mid 1970s government policies worked effectively to reduce inequality in America
  • Inequality started to get worse under Reagan when he introduced neoliberal reforms. This initially meant tax cuts for the very rich.
  • More recently under Donald Trump there have been even more tax cuts for corporations and proposed cuts to benefits (for example restricting the number of people who are allowed food stamps). (NB I’m not sure whether these policies went through since Trump got voted out of power!)
  • The United States political system is now owned by Corporate interests who bankroll elections.
  • Tax havens are also mentioned as a problem – the often illegal means by which Corporations extract wealth from poorer countries.
  • We need to get rid of Trump and his pandering to ‘divide and rule’ racist attitudes in America.

What can we do about poverty in America?

  • Krugman and Sachs point to the fact that Capitalism isn’t the problem – Northern European countries can be socially just and capitalist.
  • What we need is ‘social democracy’ where the State regulates capitalism, rather (presumably) than neoliberalism).
  • They seem to think Denmark offers hope – it used to be very unequal in the 19th century and now is very equal.
  • We need to get rid of plutocracy in America – i.e. get rid of the amount of control Corporations have over the political system.
  • Young people are mentioned as the solution – they are more tolerant of diversity and less likely to vote for Trump.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This is a very useful video for any student studying the Global Development option for A-level sociology.

It focuses on a specific issue relevant to the specification, that of inequality and development and you get to hear the views of two major economists on the issue.

TBH I was surprised at how similar their views are and how critical Sach’s was of Corporations and too little regulation, I had expected him to be a little less radical!

Has neoliberalism been oversold?

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank have been the two global institutions most associated with pushing neoliberal policies onto developing countries since the 1980s, but a recent (2016) article posted to the IMF’s Financial Development newsletter points out that neoliberal policies have caused problems in several countries, suggesting that neoliberalism hasn’t been universally successful.

In this post I summarise the article, which should be a useful criticism of neoliberalism for students studying the Global Development option as part of A-level sociology.

Increasing neoliberalisation

The article starts off by defining neoliberalism as having two main aspects: increasing competition and an increased role of the state and then reminds us that policies designed to achieve these two things have been introduced in many countries since the 1980s:

Criticisms of Neoliberal policies

The report notes three problems:

  1. There is a ‘broad group’ of countries where increased growth doesn’t seem to have brought about any other improvements!
  2. Neoliberal policies increase inequality and the costs of this are prominent
  3. Increasing inequality hurts sustained economic growth

Benefits depend on the type of investment

Opening up developing countries to capital flows (liberalising!) seems to have had mixed benefits, depending on how liberalisation has taken place.

Where more investment is tangible, such as money being spent on infrastructure and people skills, there are broader benefits.

However, when it’s just speculative capital coming in (hot ‘debt’ money) this just seems to lead to pump but then a financial crises, and then no more growth.

Austerity policies don’t necessarily work

The report notes that governments with good track records of debt are better off maintaining a welfare state during periods of financial crisis – cutting welfare has adverse affects on spending, which harms a countries economic prospects – it’s better for states in some cases to ‘suck up the debt’.

The combination of huge capital inflows and austerity = more inequality

The report notes that the two together create a vicious loop which creates more inequality which in turn harms longer term growth of a country.

Conclusions

The report doesn’t dismiss liberalisation, but does note that some degree of state regulation could work in many countries – as was the case in Chile – often hailed as a great victory for neoliberalisation, but in fact that State did play something of a regulatory role!

How does Colonialism Shape the World We Live In? (1/5)

This 2019 Live Stream from Al Jazeera is a good resource for students studying the Global Development option in A-level sociology.

They asked the question: how does colonialism shape the world we live in today, and fielded responses from the audience who took part via #BecauseColonialism

Below I summarise part 1 of what is a week long series of discussions around the topic!

Context

By the beginning of the 19th century most regions of the world had been colonised by European powers – with colonialism being an exploitative and extractive process, with some colonising powers introducing slavery and practicing genocide.

Some of the more obvious legacies of colonialism on the colonised regions include language and cultural and religious traditions which were inherited during the colonial period,

Negative consequences include and ethnic divisions which remain to this day, but some argue that governance physical infrastructures benefitted some colonised regions.

Participants/ Structure

The participants in this stream include:

  • Priyamvada Gopal author of Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent
  • Miguel de Barros, president of the association of history teachers in Portugal.
  • Akin Adesokan, associate professor of Literature, Indiana University.

The starting point for the livestream is a tweet by someone pointing out how they think colonialism currently affects their life – pointing out how they still proudly use English names, how Wikipedia entries tend to have the European conquest date as the starting point, and that most people can’t name 20 things about their Tribe.

Priya states that she wouldn’t be an English lecturer if it were not for colonialism – because the English colonisers (following Lord Macorly’s 1835 Minute) wanted to use education to create a class of Indians who were ‘English in every way but blood or colour’ to act as interpreters for the English rulers to the Indian masses. Her ancestors were part of that class.

Miguel was born in Angola when it was still a Portuguese colony, returning to Portugal in 1975.

He explains how he never questioned anything – the fact that it was only white people living in nice houses in cities and black people as servants and living in their tribes outside of cities – that was just normal to him.

They now take a couple of comments from the livestream audience which picks up on how colonialism still exists in the ‘economic realm’ – with most capital being invested in Europe and only small amounts being invested in ex colonies.

One of the legacies of this is many talented people from poorer countries seek job opportunities abroad because of the lack of them at home.

Akin says although he grew up in Nigeria, an ex-British colony, he doesn’t feel as if he had a classic colonial experience, because Nigeria was independent by the time he was born.

However he thinks that what he calls ‘American cultural imperialism’ is far more significant today – despite being politically independent during his Youth, Nigeria was flooded with American cultural values, and he suggests this is the reason why so many Nigerians aspire to wanting to leave the country (when in reality there’s nothing wrong with traditional Nigerian values, my addition.)

Capitalism is very much tied up with the colonial project and you cannot understand colonialism without understand capitalism – and so in this sense colonialism is not in the past, as we all have to live with a capitalist system today!

Although the mantle of the imperial project has shifted over the years – from Europe to America, but now also to Brazil, India and China who are increasingly becoming involved in land appropriation and resource extraction.

Were there any Positives of Colonialism?

This question is posed 12 minutes in and this video clip from Monty Python’s Life of Brian is used to illustrate one argument:

‘What have the Romans ever given us in return’?

Miguel points out that comparing Roman colonisation with European is unfair because the later was more rapid and brutal and extractive – they simply had more means available to them!

Calls this the ‘India Railways argument – quoting Walter Rodney, the Guyana’n anti-colonialist who reminded use that the colonisers didn’t built railways so Indians could visit their friends, they built them so they could extract resources – they invariably led to the ports!

Miguel also argues that in many Latin American countries, we still need decolonlisation from within – as countries such as Brazil have clear dividing lines between those descended from Europeans and those who were not, with the government of Brazil, for example, tending to side with the former today.

Colonialism and Modernity

One argument raised is that while Colonialism was violent and extractive, it also brought with it modernity – which was a liberalising force – and so while the colonisers might not have been in Africa and India for the benefit of the people – some of the positive, liberal values of modernity filtered down to the people over the decades, which was a positive process, and maybe made de-colonisation inevitable in the end?!?

What would have happened without Colonialism?

We don’t know, ultimately, as there are so few examples of uncolonised regions.

In Africa, Ethiopia was for a very long time the only area to remain uncolonised but eventually even that fell prey to Mussolini.

The idea that mass blood shed and extraction is worth it for a couple of airports and railways is a bit silly!

Colonialism and Corruption

The colonial powers depended on corrupt, self-serving indigenous elites to run the countries for them, and when the European powers eventually pulled out it was those corrupt elites who took over the reigns of power – and colonialism didn’t just come to an end, the European powers maintained huge stakes in the ex colonies and we had neo-colonialism for a long time.

How do you teach colonial history in a country which used to have colonies?

The show wraps up with an interesting point by Miguel who says there is resistance among older Portuguese people to teaching the darker side of colonialism, because they were taught a more positive narrative, but things are changing!

Relevance to A-level sociology

The main use for the above resource is to provide students with an evaluation of Dependency Theory – all three authors seem to be agreeing that there is still a lingering legacy of colonialism, and it’s primarily the colonising powers which have benefited.

Moreover, they seem to agree that aspects of colonialism are still with us today!

The Afar of Ethiopia

The Afar Tribe of Ethiopia continue to live the traditional lifestyles, according to their traditional values, despite the challenges brought about with Modernisation over the last half a century.

The Afar Tribe can be used as a case study in global development to illustrate some of the limitations of Modernisation Theory, along with many other themes in the Global Development module.

There are approximately 1.8 million Afar who are still leading Nomadic lifestyles, mainly in central Ethiopia, though some also live in neighbouring countries (many traditional cultures spread across nation state borders).

The Afar rely on their animals to survive in the harsh dessert climate – camels and goats are the two main animals which afar herd and use for transportation and milk.

Afar villages are generally organised into one extended family, which effectively forms a clan, and it is thus unit which forms the basis of Afar culture and property ownership.

The Afar have a traditional gendered division of labour, in which women do much of the physical household chores, and collect wood and water – the later can take several hours a day in times of drouth. Men seem to spend most of their time looking after the livestock and ‘defending’ the territory.

There are many environmental and political challenges which the Afar face: in recent years, drought has been a severe problem, and in 2019 a plague of locusts came across from Yemen which made matters worse – both food and water are scarce.

Political tensions are also an issue – The Issa people are encroaching on their territory in south, which is an ongoing, centuries old conflict, more recently fuelled by guns from the West, and thousands of Afar have been displaced as a result – nearly 50 000 in 2019.

The Ethopian government turn a blind eye to this as many of the Issa are from neighbouring Djbouti, which is land locked Ethopia’s access route to the sea.

Other challenges include land being given over to Industrial agriculture which encroaches on the Afar’s grazing territories, which are already scarce given the extreme environmental traditions.

The need to adjust to industrialisation/ Urbanisation?

It seems that modernisation and environmental pressures are not making it easy for the Afar to live their traditional lifestyles, so they might not have any choice but to adapt.

The Afar Pastoralist Development Association is already working to drill wells in some afar regions (for which you need heavy industrial machinery) and has suggested that some Afar need to move to Urban areas and find jobs in order to take pressure off the land and support those who remain living traditional lifestyles

Relevance to A-level Sociology

  • This material can be used to evaluate Modernisation Theory (link above) – it shows how modernisation really does put pressure on traditional cultures to adapt. However, the Afar traditional culture has persisted despite modernisation.
  • This is a useful reminder that modernisation might not be a bad thing where the gendered division of labour is concerned, it’s pretty stark in Afar culture!
  • it shows how the governments (Nation States) aren’t that useful to the Afar!
  • There are some useful examples of NGOs working with the Afar to help them maintain their traditional ways of life – innovative uses of technology.
  • This is a great example of how industrialisation, war and conflict (in neighbouring Somalia) and environmental decline are putting pressure on a traditional culture.

The Afar Tribe: Find Out More

This post was mainly written using material from The Traditional Cultures Project – which is a most excellent resource fo finding up to date information on many traditional cultures around the globe.