A Covid vaccine for the rich, but not the poor?

Moderna is a BioTech company that has had some recent success with a covid-19 vaccine in clinical trials – vaccine mRNA 1273.

There’s a video about it here:

Moderna says it has the capacity to produce 1 billion shots of the vaccine in 2021 and has already sold most of those shots to rich governments, and stands to make an estimated $8 billion next year from the vaccine.

In one deal the US government has agreed to pay $1.5 billion for 100 million shots (pending agreement of emergency legislation in January). The U.S. also has the option to buy a further 500 million doses (it might take two shots per person to work, so that would cover most of the US population).

More recently Modern agreed a deal with the European Union for up to 160 million doses of the vaccine.

Poor countries set to miss out?

As this article from Global Justice Now points out most of this new vaccine has already been bought up by rich world government.

There doesn’t appear to be much hope that developing countries will gain access to this vaccine in 2021, given that those 1 billion shots the company can produce have already been reserved for richer countries.

The rich benefit

Global Justice Now also report (in the article linked above) that this new vaccine has been funded with nearly $2.5 billion of public money, but with governments paying at least another $8 billion on top of this, this really does seem to be a tidy profit for Moderna.

Moderna’s stock has been increasing ever since it started leaking news about positive progress being made on the vaccine, with two leading executives having cashed out shares and made $30 million each.

The stock continues to rise on the back of the deals being struck with western governments for courses of the vaccine. It has quintupled in value since it started work on the vaccine….

Relevance to global development

This topic is clearly relevant to health and development, and also several theories of development.

This is clearly an example of a Transnational Corporation playing a positive role in development – it is developing a vaccine that will help combat a global pandemic, but we need to go further….

This is also an argument against neoliberal theories of development – governments are very involved here – tax payers money has provided a seed fund for this company and it is governments agreeing to buy the vaccine.

Finally, this seems to support global pessimist theories of globalisation – it is governments with the money and thus people in rich countries who are initially going to benefit from this vaccine, the poor in poor countries are going to have to wait.

We don’t know yet how developing countries are going to pay for this vaccine – if they have to pay? Will it be donated, will it be funded with loans?

That remains to be seen, but for now it seems like it’s vaccines for the rich, nothing for the poor!

Economic and Social Development in Kenya since 2000

How successful has economic and social development in Kenya been since the year 2000?

This post has primarily been written for students studying the global development option for A-level sociology. The purpose of this post is to provide a specific example of a country which has, overall, experienced rapid and positive development over the last 20 years.

One of the key questions in this module is ‘what are the most effective strategies for development’ – one way of addressing this question is to explore further what development policies and initiatives have been applied in Kenya to promote positive development.

NB the purpose of this post is not to answer the question ‘why has Kenya developed economically and socially, but simply to provide a case study demonstrating the extent of the rapid progress according to many indicators of social and economic development.

Kenya in 2020: An Overview

Kenya is located in East Africa, with a population of just over 50 million people.

It is classified by the World Bank as a low to middle income country with a Gross National Income per capita of just over $1700.

Overall, Kenya has experienced positive economic and social development since the year 2000, as evidenced in the quadrupling of its GNI per capita during that time.

Social development has also been rapid: life expectancy has increased by 15 years since the year 2000, and both primary and secondary school enrolment ratios are significantly improved.

However, as some of the statistics below suggest there is still room for improvement and development challenges going forwards into the 2020s.

Economic Trends

Kenyan Gross National Income per Capita as Quadrupled since the year 2000, from $400 to over $1700.

Kenya’s Debt as a percentage of its GNI has been relatively stable, and is currently low, at only 2.2% of GNI

Kenya’s Employment Ratio is high and has increased to 72.5% of the population

NB – this bucks the global trend of increasing levels of unemployment

Development Aid

Official Development Assistance to Kenya increased from $500 million in 2000 to $2.5 billion in 2018

This would suggest as far as Kenya is concerned that Aid has not retarded broader economic or social development.

Industrialisation and Urbanisation in Kenya

The breakdown of Kenya’s GDP is:

  • Agriculture – 34%
  • Industry – 17%
  • Services – 47%

Kenya’s major exports remain agricultural products:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kenya_Exports_Treemap_2017.svg”>Kenya Exports Treemap 2017

In the year 2000 20% of Kenya’s population was rural, this has grown to 28% by 2020

Education Trends in Kenya

  • Secondary School Enrolment increased from 39% in 2000 to 57% (2010)
  • Tertiary Enrolment is currently at 9%
  • NB the World Bank data on enrolment ratios is sketchy, there appear to be several data gaps!

Life Expectancy Trends

Life expectancy at birth has increased from 50 to 66 years in the last 20 years

Health and Sanitation Trends

  • Approximately 4% of the population have HIV
  • X percent have access to clean water
  • Y percent have access to improved sanitation

Population and Birth Rate Trends

  • Kenya’s Population increased by 20 million between the year 2000 and 2020, from 30 million to 50 million
  • The Fertility Rate – decreased from 5.2 to 3.5 babies per woman
  • Contraceptive prevalence increased from 39 to 61%
  • The Infant mortality rate decreased from 99 per 1000 to 45 per thousand

Access to Technology Trends

  • Mobile phone access increased from 0.4 to 96%
  • Internet access increased from 0.3 to 22%

Peacefulness Trends

Kenya’s Peace levels, as measured by the Global Peace Index, have been up and down over the last decade, but have remained broadly stable over the 10 years since the index began.

Gender Equality Trends

Gender inequality seems to be a faltering point for Kenya. After some seemingly rapid progress in the last decade, gender equality has fallen back to almost the same level as in 2006.

Other notable development trends

  • Kenya has had a net migration of minus 50 000 per year in recent years, combined with an increase of money received from abroad.

Conclusion: Is Kenya A Development Success Story?

Based on the above statistics it is easy to conclude that, overall, Kenya has seen a great deal of positive economic and social development – especially based on the measurements of GNI growth, life expectancy and education.

However, there are some areas where no significant development appears to have taken place – peacefulness and gender equality seem to be struggling for example.

NB – this is only a very brief look at some of the general statistics, so keep in mind that there will be regional variations and that not everyone would have benefitted equally from any development that has taken place.

Also, i haven’t tried to look at why development has (or hasn’t on some indicators) taken place in Kenya, just the statistics!

Sources

The Economic Consequences of Coronavirus (part 1)

what are the economic consequences of covid-19?

Coronavirus has had a negative effect on economic growth. Lockdown measures imposed by governments the world over have seen disruption to global supply chains, a decrease in international trade, an increase in unemployment, and a decrease in investment and global wealth in general.

Coronavirus has decreased global wealth

Probably the easiest way to summarise the economic consequences of coronavirus is to look at the impact it has had on Global Wealth, which I’ve already summarised in this blog post here.

Global Wealth has decreased by $8 trillion compared to where it was projected it would have been before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Personally I find this the most useful individual indicator, as it just takes one static gross snap shot figure and compares it with another, it’s very easy to understand.

Coronavirus has pushed most countries into recession

The latest data from the International Monetary Fund shows most countries with less than 0% GDP growth for 2020, so negative growth, that’s all countries in red below, accessed November 2020.

However, we need to look at a lot more figures to get a fuller picture.

Further reports emphasise the near universal negative consequences of Coronavirus:

This report (June 2020) by the World Bank predicts a 5% decrease in global GDP over the coming year, the largest decline since the 1870s, with all regions and countries showing significant cuts to their expected (pre-covid) economic growth rates.

The consequences of this economic slowdown which will be declining rates of investment, job losses and a corresponding decline in the rate social development in many developing countries.

Some sectors have been especially badly hit – the price of oil fell drastically with the Pandemic, but the agricultural sector has not been so badly effected. As a general rule, you might say that the less essential the sector, then the more it has been affected!

This report highlights that no country will escape the effects of Covid-19 unscathed, but China and Asia will probably fair better than the rest.

How Coronavirus Disrupted Global Supply Chains

The immediate impact of Coronavirus was a significant disruption to global supply chains, meaning that many global retailers struggled to maintain stocks of their products.

Supply chain problems also meant that manufacturers had to slow down or cease production of their products altogether, because they struggled to source raw materials.

Lockdown measures imposed in China in early 2020 were the main cause of this, because China is the world’s biggest manufacturer – it not only produces a lot of ‘end products’ (such as iPhones) but it also manufactures a lot of components that factories in other parts of the world need in the products they produce.

To find out more, this article by Bloomburg outlines how disruption to global supply chains impacted a variety of businesses all over the world – from watchmakers in Hong Kong to Lobster fishermen in New Zealand, it does a great job of highlighting the truly global effects of the Pandemic.

According to analysis of data on Tradeshift (a global supply platform) by the World Economic Forum global trade fell dramatically in February – April 2020. Chinese trade transactions fell by over 50% in March 2020, and the United States and Europe followed suit with a 26% drop in April, and a 17% drop after that.

The article suggests that as Chinese trade declined because of lockdown measures, global manufacturers struggled to source materials from other countries and so their production also slowed down.

What Coronavirus has revealed is that the world has become very dependent on China as the source of products – and when it goes into lockdown the rest of the world suffers.

The article further suggests that manufactures will probably look to diversify their supply bases in the future so as to be less dependent on China – and countries such as India, Vietnam and Mexico will probably be the main beneficiaries from this.

Another possible change might be more production in developed countries, further decentralising global supply networks,

So maybe the long term impact of globalisation will be a much more diverse form of economic globalisation (with China being less dominant) and maybe a reversal of the globalisation of manufacturing if we end up with more manufacturing taking place in developed countries?

The effects of Coronavirus on Transnational Corporations

A 2020 World Bank survey of Multinational Enterprises found that more than 90% had been negatively impacted by the Coronavirus Pandemic.

75% reported decreasing reliability of supply chains (meaning more difficulty in producing stuff) and decreasing worker productivity.

Half of MNEs surveyed have cut investment in developing countries by an average of 30% and 40% have reduced employment by an average of 16% – so overall that’s an average reducing of 15% investment and around 7% in employment.

The report (linked above) calls on governments to provide tax breaks to MNEs as well as more deregulation, so in other words more neoliberalisation, which is unsurprising coming from the World Bank.

Not all sectors have been affected equally

As has been reported widely, sectors of the economy associated with travel and leisure, such as the oil and aviation sectors have been affected very badly, with the number of flights taken being significantly reduced.

However, one sector which is doing better, with the hope of a vaccine coming soon, is the Pharmaceutical sector:

NB – these aren’t the only economic consequences of Coronavirus – I will cover the human cost in a separate post, in which I focus on the disruption to people’s working lives – the small enterprises struggling with lockdown measures, and how so many people are struggling to cope with reduced income and job losses.

Selected Sources

World Economic Forum: Here’s how global supply chains will change after COVID-19

Bloomburg: The Virus is interrupting Supply Chains

The Rich, The Poor and the Trash

Summary of a documentary on global inequalities and waste

This excellent 2018 documentary gives us a rare insight into the daily working lives of two men living in poverty, both making a living through trash, one in Kenya and the other in the United States.

It’s a really useful resource for gaining an insight into what the lived experience of poverty is like in these two very different countries, and for highlighting the extent of global inequalities.

Most of the documentary focuses on two men, and we get to hear a lot from them: details of their lives and their thoughts on poverty and inequality and what they would do to help overcome the problems of inequality.

We also here from a few experts and other people, but these take on a supporting role to the two main proponents (which is unusual for documentaries like this, but also welcome!

This is an excellent video to use to teach Global Development in A-level sociology, personally I would use it in the introductory lesson to the module.

Below i provide a brief summary of some of the key points of this documentary:

Sorting trash in Kenyan slum

After a brief introduction we get to see the first part the day of one guy in Kenya who works in waste management.

He gets up at 4.00 a.m and then spends several hours sorting through trash which is delivered from the nearby affluent suburbs and shopping areas. He sorts out food for his pigs and separates out any useful items which he can sell on.

There are a lot of people working sorting waste, many of them there because they have no other option. Many of them also eat waste food they find there.

Recycling cans in New York

The video now hops over to America where it follows another guy who also gets up at 4.00 a.m. to collect cans and bottles, which he then sorts to sell – there’s a good market in recycled containers it seams in New York – he can make $75 a day doing this.

We also get an insight into his life history – he used to be homeless, and he reminds us that many Americans are just one pay check away from falling into a similar situation.

Back in the slum

In this third section we see the guy in Kenya sorting out some of the cartons he’s found at the dump – he gets someone else to wash them and then he sells them on, making a daily income of $3-4 which is enough for him to feed his family, and lifts him above Kenya’s formal poverty line.

The U.S ‘Cultural Waste and Recycling Centres’

Back in the United States – we’re taken to a recycling centre, a community initiative that gives ‘canners’ support in their recycling endeavours – which plays a crucial part in helping them stay resilient.

The video also gets a bit more analytical at this point – there are 600 billionaires in the United States, but 40 million Americans live in poverty. But poverty is much worse in Kenya – it takes the average Kenyan 20 years to earn the annual salary of the average American.

There’s also a short interview with an anthropologist who reminds us that waste is cultural – a lot of things are only trash because we label them as such – and we take a trip to one guy’s museum of trash to drive the point home – he’s got thousands of dollars worth of perfectly good stuff he’s collected from what other people have thrown away!

Reflecting on Inequality

The documentary now highlights inequalities in the two countries – by taking a trip to the mall in Kenya – one gets the impression that the government there is investing more in malls for the wealth than in education and health for the poor.

In America we visit a guy who makes art from trash – one piece (which sold for a small fortune) adorns the wall of the one the most expensive apartments in New York – how’s that for irony.

Final section

in this section the two main men in the video give their views on inequality – both seem quite wise – neither think inequality is a good thing and would use our financial resources to give more enabling support to those in poverty, a leg up if you like to better help them help themselves.

Discussion Questions

Why do you think the video focuses on trash as a means of exploring inequality?

Have these two men found an effective solution (sorting and selling trash) to lift themselves out of poverty?

Do you agree with the two men in this video. Should our global resources be used to help the poor?

Visualising Global Wealth Inequalities

Global inequality is one of the core themes in the Global Development option within A-level sociology, and visual infographics are a useful way of making global inequalities easier to understand.

This post focuses on global wealth inequalities.

Details of how wealth is measured are included at the bottom of this post.

The Distribution of Wealth by Country

Global Private Household Wealth stood at $400 trillion in June 2020 according to Credit Suisse’s latest 2020 Global Wealth Report.

(This was almost 9% increase on the previous year, and continued a long term trend of increasing wealth over the last two decades.)

If this wealth were distributed evenly, each individual adult in the world would have a total net worth of almost $80 000. However, the distribution is far from equal!

The map below shows the median net private wealth per household in different countries in 2019, according to Credit Suisse.

From the figure we can see that generally:

  • North America, Western Europe and Australian households have an average wealth of over $100 000.
  • Brazil, China and Russia (three of the BRIC nations) have an average household wealth of between $25 000 to $100 000
  • Much of Asia and Latin American and North Africa have an average household wealth of between $5000 to $25 000
  • Most of Sub Saharan Africa and Afghanistan have an average household wealth of less than $5000.

NB – you can look at practically any map of any development indicator (health/ education/ peacefulness etc.) and you’ll find that poor health, low levels of education and high levels of conflict are correlated with low levels of wealth. There are some notable exceptions, but as a general rule, low levels of household wealth means poor social development!

(For example, one notable exception is the USA which is very wealthy but severely socially underdeveloped, possibly because of such high levels of relative poverty within the country)

Global Wealth by Country

The infographic below by Visual Capitalist (link below) shows us the amount of wealth per country:

Top wealthiest countries

Visual Capitalist also produced the following table:

RankCountryRegionTotal Wealth ($B, 2019)% Global Share
#1๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ United StatesNorth America$105,99029.4%
#2๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ ChinaChina$63,82717.7%
#3๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต JapanAsia-Pacific$24,9926.9%
#4๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช GermanyEurope$14,6604.1%
#5๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง United KingdomEurope$14,3414.0%
#6๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท FranceEurope$13,7293.8%
#7๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ IndiaIndia$12,6143.5%
#8๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น ItalyEurope$11,3583.1%
#9๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ CanadaNorth America$8,5732.4%
#10๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ SpainEurope$7,7722.2%
#11๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท South KoreaAsia-Pacific$7,3022.0%
#12๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ AustraliaAsia-Pacific$7,2022.0%
#13๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ผ TaiwanAsia-Pacific$4,0621.1%
#14๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ SwitzerlandEurope$3,8771.1%
#15๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ NetherlandsEurope$3,7191.0%
All Other Countries$56,58515.7%
Global Total$360,603100.0%
Top 15 wealthiest countries.

The above table is kind of useful, when you see that the USA controls almost a quarter of the world’s wealth, but with only around 4% of the world’s population, that alone can give you a sense of the inequality, especially when it’s leading China in P2 whose population is more than double that of the United States.

NB – What country wealth statistics don’t show is how equally (or unequally in the case of America) wealth is distributed in a country, which is something we will consider later.

The Global Wealth Pyramid

A second visualisation Credit Suisse Produce is the global wealth pyramid

The Global Wealth Pyramid

This pyramid shows us that:

  • The top 1% of the population, or just 52 million people (those worth more than $1 million) control 43.4% of the world’s wealth
  • The next 11.4%, or 590 million people (those worth from $100 000 to $1 million) control 40.5% o the world’s wealth
  • The next 34%, or 1.7 billion people (those worth from $10 000 to $100 000) control 14.7% of the world’s wealth
  • The poorest 53%, or 2.7 billion people (those worth less than $10 000) control only 1.4% of the world’s wealth.

The richest 1% own 43% of the world’s wealth

The visualisation below (courtesy of the global inequalities blog, link below) does a good of showing how few people control how much wealth, and how many people control so little:

Wealth controlled by Ultra High Net Worth Individuals

The graphic below zooms in closer on the very very wealthy. We see that those worth more than $30 million, just 0.002% of the world’s population control over 7% of the world’s wealth!

Definition of ‘Net Worth’ or Wealth

According to the Global Wealth Report, Net worth, or โ€œwealth,โ€ is the value of financial assets plus real assets (principally housing) owned by households, minus their debts.

This figure includes the net value of all the assets a household owns if sold and their private pension fund assets. The figure does not include any state entitlements/ benefits or state debts.

Discussion Question:

What is the best way to visualise global wealth inequalities?

Sources

  • Credit Suisse: Global Wealth Report 2020, linked above
  • Global Inequalities blog – does a nice job visualising some of the stats in the Credit Suisse Report. NB the stats above are from the 2019 report, but that’s not too long ago and I like them!
  • Visualcapitalist – produced the excellent football like visualisation of wealth inequalities by country!

If the World were 100 People (in 2016)

As we approach the end of 2020, there are almost 8 billion people on planet earth.

Trying to think in terms of billions of people is perhaps a little overwhelming, and maybe not that useful in helping us understand global differences and global inequalities.

A billion, (one thousand million) is so large a number that it’s maybe too abstract to help us understand the characteristics of our global population, it’s kind of easy to glaze over when talking and thinking in billions.

For example, if you look at the numbers of people on each continent, the figures are as follows:

  • 4.8 billion from Asia
  • 1.28 billion would be from Africa
  • 800 million would be from Europe
  • 720 million would be from Latin America & the Caribbean
  • 400 million would be from North America

These numbers, presented in the billions and hundreds of millions aren’t that easy to comprehend – you kind of glaze over and switch off, it’s just because the numbers are so large we can’t relate to them that easily!

An easier way to compare these figures is to look at it in percentage terms, which is much easier for the human brain to understand:

Percentage of people on each continent:

  • 60% in Asia
  • 16% in Africa
  • 10% in Europe
  • 9% from Latin America & the Caribbean
  • 5% from North America

With the percentages, we lose a bit of accuracy by rounding up or down, but for getting an overview it’s an easier starting point than the longer ‘billions and hundreds of millions’ figures above.

An even easier way to present an overview of global population characteristics is to imagine the world as 100 people, which is exactly the same as looking at the population in percentage terms, just a bit more ‘human’ and thus easier to relate to!

If the world were 100 People…

  • 60 would be from Asia
  • 16 would be from Africa
  • 10 would be from Europe
  • 9 would be from Latin America & the Caribbean
  • 5 would be from North America

100 People: A World Portrait

There are a few versions of ‘the world as 100 people’ video – in which we are taken through how many people would live where, how many people would be what religion, how many have access to clean drinking water and so on.

However, although the most recent versions are dated 2019 and 2018, they both use the data from the 2016 project above: 100 people a world portrait – which also has it’s own (not as snazzy) video and sources (neither of the two more recent snazzier videos seem to think it’s even worth crediting where they got their information from, so I’m not going to link to them from here.

The Miniature Earth (Throwback)

I first came across the concept of the world as a 100 people back in 2010, through this miniature earth video.

IMO it’s a much better version, to the tune of ‘Mad World’ – just a shame it’s now dated and so not that useful, other than to compare to the 2016 statistics!

Please click here to return to the main ReviseSociology home page!

Global Radio

One of the upsides of being on lockdown is that I discovered Radio Garden (which I keep referring to in my head as ‘lockdown radio’).

Radio Garden is a navigable world map of the world’s local and national radio stations. You can browse the globe for literally thousands of radio stations, represented as green dots, click on them and play whatever is being broadcast.

I can especially recommend ‘Arctic Radio’, the world’s most northerly radio station: ‘spinning the 78s at the 77 latitude, and ‘the best protection against hypothermia’

And I couldn’t resist checking out some of the island stations around Oceania either, which are (maybe unsurprisingly?) mostly British.

Radio Garden: The local and the global

This is a really fun (if you’re a bit of nerd) way to explore the parallel global and local worlds – if you click on enough stations you’ll realize the dominance of British music for example, but in certain countries there is a very national feel – Japan and India for example.

I get the feeling that these radio stations are a really useful way to illustrate the complex nature of globalisation, especially cultural globalisation.

There are some limitations of course – radio is not that popular as a form of global media, and this website doesn’t show you online radio, or multimedia livestreams.

So really, it is just a bit of fun, enjoy!

Credits

I discovered this wonderful site thanks to this post on the Hive blockchain.

Globalisation and migration

This post examines some of the sociological concepts sociologists have developed to describe the global patterns of migration

Globalisation is the idea that barriers between societies are disappearing and people are becoming increasingly interconnected across national boundaries.

Globalisation is the result of many processes including the growth of communication systems and global media, the creation of global markets, the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the expansion of the European Union.

Many see globalisation as producing rapid social changes. One such change is increased international migration – the movement of people across borders. We can identify several trends in global migration.

Acceleration

There has been a speeding up of the rate of migration. For example according to the United Nations between 2000 and 2013 international migration increase by 33%, to reach 232 million, or 3.2% of the world’s population. In the same year, almost a million people either entered or left the UK.

Differentiation 

There are many types of migrant. These include permanent settlers, temporary workers, spouses or forced migrants such as refugees. Before the 1990s immigration to the UK came from a narrow range of former British colonies and these migrants tended to form a small number of stable, geographically concentrated and homogeneous ethnic communities.

However, since the 1990s globalisation has led to what Steven Vertovec (2007) has called super-diversity: even within a single ethnic group individuals may differ in terms of their legal status, culture or religion and be widely dispersed throughout the UK.

There are also class differences among migrants. Robin Cohen (2006) distinguishes three types of migrant:

  • Citizens-with full citizenship rights such as voting rights
  • Denizens– who are privileged people welcomed by the state – such as billionaire ‘oligarchs’ or highly paid employees of Transnational companies
  • Helots– the most exploited group – states and employers regard them as disposable units of labour power, a reserve army of labour. They are found in unskilled, poorly paid work and include illegally trafficked workers and legal workers such as domestic servants.

The Feminisation of migration

Almost half of all global migrants are female and the types of job they do tend to fit patriarchal stereotypes such that there is a global gendered division of labour.

Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Hochschild (2003) observe that care work, domestic work and sex work in the UK is increasingly done by women from poor countries. This is a result of western women increasingly joining the labour force and the failure of the state to provide adequate child care.

The resulting gap has been filled by women from poor countries. For example, 40% of adult care nurses in the UK are migrants and most of these are female.

There is also a global transfer of women’s emotional labour. For example, migrant nannies provide care and affection for their employers’ children at the expense of their own children left behind in their home country.

Migrant women also enter western countries as ‘mail order brides’ and some as the victims of sex-trafficking.

Transnational Identities

According to Thomas Hylland Eriksen(2007), globalisation has created more diverse migration patters, with back and forth movements of people through networks rather than permanent settlement in another country.

This results in such migrants being less likely to see themselves as belonging to one culture or another and instead they may develop transnationalย neither/ nor identities and loyalties. The globalised economy means that economic migrants may have more links to other migrants than to their country of origin or the country they are currently settled in. Such migrants are less likely to want to assimilate into the ‘host country’.

Sources

Sources used to write the above include information fromRob Webb et al’s ย AS level Sociology book for the AQA.

The PISA Global Education Tests – Arguments for and Against

The PISA international assessments are part of the globalisation of education. The OECD (which runs the tests) claims there are benefits to having a global system of assessment because we can learn what the best educational practices are and apply them globally. However, critics argue that these tests could be doing more harm than good, by focusing on a narrow range of educational outcomes, which reflect the biases of Western educationalists.

The PISA international assessments are part of the globalisation of education. The OECD (which runs the tests) claims there are benefits to having a global system of assessment because we can learn what the best educational practices are and apply them globally. However, critics argue that these tests could be doing more harm than good, by focusing on a narrow range of educational outcomes, which reflect the biases of Western educationalists.

What are the PISA tests?

The PISA Tests are sat by a random sample of 15 year old students every three years, and measure their ability in reading, mathematics and science. More than 3 million students in over 90 countries have participated in the PISA tests since they started in the year 2000, with the latest round being in 2018, the next will be in 2021.

The PISA Tests aim to assess whether what students have learned in school can be applied to real life situations, focusing on their ability to reason and communicate rather than factual recall.

PISA stands for the ‘Programme of International Student Assessment and is run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. An overview of the PISA programme and summary of the 2018 results can be found on the PISA website here.

Countries volunteer to take part in the PISA tests and if a country isn’t equipped to conduct the test country-wide, then regions of that country can participate instead.

If a country volunteers to participate, then individual schools are selected to represent all 15 year olds, and the individual students who are to sit the tests are then randomly selected from within those schools.

Students take the test in their native language, and the tests involve interpreting texts, solving problems and using their reasoning skills.

According to the video below, the primary aim of PISA isn’t to rank countries next to each other, although this is what tends to catch the headlines, rather it is about assessing how successfully students are being equipped for further study and work , and about collecting data to put together a picture of what the most effective education systems look like.

PISA’s positive spin on ‘PISA’.

Examples of PISA test questions

You can find some examples of the PISA test questions on the PISA web site here.

These questions really are worth having a look. The ‘reading’ questions really do challenge students to read thoroughly and think about their answers, and the maths questions all seem to be applied to real-world circumstances.

An overview of the 2018 PISA Results

Top ranked countries

Selected regions in China (not all regions do the tests!) came out on top, with a mean score in all tests of 555, closely followed by 3 other wealthy Asian city-states, then Estonia, Canada and Finland. Overall, there’s not too much of a mix at the top end – it’s either Asian city or Euro-American-Australian!

Bottom ranked countries

Much more of a mix down at the bottom: The Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and Argentina stand out for me, either due to large population size or to just surprise due to their having quite a high level of development!

Problems with the PISA tests

This excellent (and short) 2019 article in The Conversation outlines seven problems with PISA tests, among which it mentions that economic and cultural factors in some countries can explain a of the difference in test results – poverty may account for up to 50% of the difference, for example,

It also mentions that the sampling of schools may bias the results – ‘indiginous’ schools which have higher SEN rates are not included in Canada’s sample, for example, which could boost it up to near the top.

This 2019 Washington Post article makes several main criticisms of the PISA tests, all based on a lot of research by serious academics. The gist of these criticisms are that the tests are very narrow – focusing on English, maths and science, and this narrow agenda reflects the biases of the rich people who have mainly been involved with designing them.

Despite their claims that the tests are universally applicable, they are not: the real world challenges faced by students in poorer countries probably aren’t being assessed by these maths/ english and science tests, they are probably more appropriate to students in wealthier countries.

Why do pupils in some countries get better PISA test scores than others?

Do European countries do well simply because the tests have been designed for them? And do the students in countries such as Saudi Arabia do worse because the tests aren’t culturally relevant (too narrow)?

Or is there at least some validity to these tests and then real underlying factors which might explain differences in student peformance?

Do those countries/ regions at the top end of the scale have features in common? Do their students perform well because of cultural factors such as parents valuing education, or economic factors because of the degree of equality, lack of poverty? Or is it because of the quality of education systems and amount of resources or way the schools are organised?

This is definitely something worth exploring, and it’s something I’d recommend all students think about doing.

You can do so by using either the individual snapshots of countries from PISA, or simply by doing your own independent research on the education systems of those countries at the top end of the league tables.

Are the PISA tests damaging education?

This letter, written in 2014 by education academics and published in The Guardian outlines several concerns about the negative consequences of the PISA testing regime. Some of these concerns include:

  • It has increased the pressure on national governments to rise up the rankings, which can increase the amount of testing (rather than education).
  • It encourages countries to focus on a narrow range of quantitative measures in mathematics, science and English rather than a broader range of qualitative educational goals.
  • It encourages a focus on a three-year improvement cycle, rather than longer term development.
  • ‘Work readiness’ is not the main aim of education in some countries, yet this is what the PISA tests are designed to assess.
  • PISA has no mandate in countries, it has just ‘imposed itself on them’.
  • It opens the doors to private companies to sell ‘education improvement’ products based on PISA findings.

Sources

Globalization and the Coronavirus

sociological perspectives on the coronavirus

Coronavirus is an extremely useful virus to illustrate perspectives on globalisation

Generally the rapidity of the spread from China to America and Europe demonstrate how interconnected we are: from the outset this very contagious virus was always going to be very difficult to stop.

Global Optimists might point to the importance of working collaboratively and internationally to share information and maybe find a vaccine: it’s pointless if every laboratory repeats work towards the vaccine goal, after all.

Global Pessimists might point to the role of just-in time supply lines in spreading the virus and how weak the capitalist economy is if a virus can cause such a profound economic crash.

This might also be a good example of the importance of the Nation State in managing the crisis, especially where health care is concerned – might vulnerable people without health insurance in the United States die if they catch the virus?

Traditionalists, or anti-globalists might use this as an opportunity to criticise gloablisation, especially the migration aspect of it, and use this crisis as a means to support view that we should be less reliant on global supply chains- they may have a point when it comes to the shelves in supermarkets being empty!

The rice isle in my local Tesco!

Maybe we need to look at becoming more self-reliant!

Whatever your perspective, this virus is certainly is a global problem!

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