Category: Economics

New Report from the Eurofound Foundation on the Gender Employment Gap


The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions has published a new report on The Gender Employment Gap: Challenges and Solutions, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2016. Authors include Massimiliano Mascherini, Martina Bisello and Irene Rioboo Leston from the Eurofound Foundation.

The report explores the main characteristics and consequences of gender gaps in labour market participation and concludes that reducing the gender employment gap should be both an economic and a social objective. The report finds that the total cost of a lower female employment rate was €370 billion in 2013, corresponding to 2.8% of EU GDP. Moreover, while work is the main source of income and so the main tool against deprivation and poverty, the participation of women to labour market ensures their well-being and empowerment. Fostering higher participation of women is crucial to meet the Europe 2020 target to achieve an overall employment rate of at least 75% by 2020. Highlighting the need of tailored policy intervention, the report also examines lessons learned drawn from policies and measures aimed at fostering female labour market participation in 6 European Member States and concludes that integrated actions with all agents involved are the most effective.

An executive summary of the report can be found here

And the full report can be found here

Massimiliano Mascherini joined us in Fall 2013 to present the results of a 2012 report on Youth Unemployment and Disengagement. You can find out more about that Dialogue Generation Jobless: Youth Unemployment and Disengagement here.

The Politics and Economics of Poverty Dialogue: Human Development Index Information

By: Abigail Van Buren, NYU’17

In light of the upcoming La Pietra Dialogue on The Politics and Economics of Poverty, some statistics and background information on world poverty may be of interest to dialogue attendees. The United Nations releases a report on what is known as the Human Development Index, which is a composite statistical report of life expectancy, education, and income to rank countries on human development.

The following links may be of interest in preparation for the upcoming dialogue.

This is a graphical presentation of how the United Nations mathematically calculates statistics of the Human Development Index, Inequality-adjusted human development index (IHDI), Gender Inequality Index (GII), and the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).

This table displays the UN’s Human Development Index statistics from 1980 to 2012 by country.

The UN’s public data explorer creates graphs based on the Human Development Index. It is Interactive with the user on how the Human Development Index of a country is based on different aspects such as education, gender, poverty, health etc.

As the official Human Development Index report of the UN is lengthy, here is an article by the guardian summarizing and analyzing the results of the full report.

This is the United Nation’s world map of highest to lowest Human Development Index.  

These statistics and links can enhance the upcoming dialogues for the audience attending the talks. The dialogue expanding on the politics and economics of poverty will be at Villa Sassetti on February 13th from 12:00-1:30 pm and is accepting R.S.V.Ps at or 055 5007202.

The Basics: The Politics and Economics of Poverty









By Blair Simmons NYU ’16, Ragini Bali NYU ’16, Katrina Chua NYU ’17, Karen Quintana NYU ’15

Below you will find some terms, organizations and definitions, which will help contextualize the discussion on poverty on Thursday.

poverty (n.) [pov-er-tee]: the state of being extremely poor

The Bolsa Família (n.): is a program implemented in Brazil that pays under-privileged families a certain amount of money to keep their children in school and to receive regular health checkups. This program is funded by the Brazilian government and aims to give children a better education and, in return, a better future.

Microfinance (n.) [mahy-kroh-fi-nans]: is a type of banking service whose ultimate goal is to provide a means of saving money, borrowing money and insurance for low income groups or individuals who would have no other means of gaining financial services.
Fact: The World Bank estimates that over 500 million people have in some way benefitted from microfinance services.

poverty line (n.) [pov-er-tee lahyn]: a level of personal or family income below which one is classified as poor according to governmental standards

poverty trap (n.) [pov-er-tee trap]:






COSPE (n.): (founded in 1983) A private, secular and non-profit organization that promotes intercultural dialogue, equitable and sustainable development, human rights, peace and justice among nations. It was founded in Florence. Through the years, COSPE extended out to greater Italy, the southern hemisphere and various countries in Europe. Similarly, its purpose expanded to dealing issues on multiculturalism, citizen rights, and global citizenship education.

Grameen Bank (n.): (created in 1987) An independent microfinance organization that aims to fight poverty by providing small loans to the poor. Operating under mutual trust, participation and creativity, GB requires no collateral, no legal instrument, and no joint liability from its members. The bank has 8.35 million borrowers, a staggering 96% of them being women.  What’s more, its borrowers own 95% of the total equity of the bank. GB is proven to be a successful enterprise for its 97% recovery rate.
Fact: As of 1995, GB decided not to receive any more donor funds and still manages to finance 100% of its outstanding loans from the deposit.

Defining poverty is not this straight forward. Click below to add to the complexities of living below the poverty line:

Can Marriage Cure Poverty?
EU pushes ‘people-centered’ response to extreme poverty
Understanding Poverty
Poverty and Inequality in the European Union
Does Microcredit Really Help Poor People?
Microcredit and Grameen Bank

The Politics and Economics of Poverty: A Photographer’s View

Disperazione – By Jonathan Stone, NYU ’17

Jonathan Stone - Disperazione

This is a photograph of a beggar-woman on the busy streets of the Florence city center, near Piazza della Repubblica.  She prostrates herself, hoping that passersby will give some charity.  Though all of the other people in the photograph do not approach the beggar, there is still variety in their reactions.  Some continue strolling along casually, while others seem to be caught off-guard and choose to move away from the woman at the last second.  This poor woman shows diversity within the issue of poverty in Florence.  Many individuals struggling to get by sell stolen or cheaply produced merchandise on street corners or aggressively accost tourists by loudly shaking cups with coins clanging in them.  This woman, however, shows that in complete desperation, some Florentine residents have no choice but to express their need for others’ generosity in the most humble manner imaginable.

Han Dongfang Brings Waves of Change

By: Abby Van Buren NYU ’17

During the month of November La Pietra Dialogues will be hosting a series of dialogues on labor market issues and economics. The conference, entitled Generation Jobless: Youth Unemployment and Disengagement, looked at the phenomenon of youth unemployment and trends across EU countries. As the newest generation of students who will soon enter the job market, this dialogue is particularly relevant to us. In addition to this great opportunity, on November 13th, the renowned Chinese labor activist Han Dongfang will come to speak. Who is he and what does he think of the state of the Chinese and global labor movement?

Born in the impoverished village of Shanxi in 1963, Han Dongfang has been a labor activist in China for over 20 years. As a child he experienced extreme poverty as his family moved from the country to the city. He did not speak proper Mandarin when he first arrived to attend school in Beijing. He joined the army at 17 and became a model soldier but then began to question authority and was prevented from rejoining after his first period of service ended.  He was first internationally recognized when he helped found the Beijing Workers’ Autonomous Federation (BWAF) as a railway worker during the infamous Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

He was inspired to become an activist after getting involved in discussions about the meaning of democracy with students who began gathering on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square (which was close to where he lived) at the beginning of the movement there in 1989. It was the first time he had heard people discussing democracy in a context other than its association with“democracy under the proletarian dictatorship”. He got more deeply involved with the movement and participated in the protests, as he became more interested in applying the principles of democracy to his daily life.]]] For aiding the creation of the BWAF, which was the first Chinese non-governmental trade union, he was targeted as one of the Chinese government’s most wanted agitators. Believing he had the right to free speech and would get a fair trial, he turned himself in and spent 22 months in prison without trial and faced sleep deprivation, torture, threats of execution, and participated in hunger strikes. After contracting tuberculosis, he received medical treatment in the United States for a year. He was expulsed from mainland China and settled in Hong Kong where he established the China Labour Bulletin, an organization that defends the rights of workers within China and broadcasts Chinese labor concerns over the radio. His organization’s website can be visited at:

To prepare for the upcoming dialogue, it is useful to familiarize oneself with his views and the current situation of Chinese laborers, based on a talk given at the “Work, Employment and Society Conference” at the University of Warwick on September 3, 2013.

In the talk, he discussed about a specific strike in May of 2010, where trade union officials attempted to stop the protesters. The resilience of the workers led to a 35% pay increase. This inspired more strikes across China. It forced employers, local governments and official trade unions to take the workers’ concerns seriously. Other strike leaders went to court instead of giving up their roles as protest organizers and wanted not just to continue their efforts but to also continue representing their fellow workers in order to reach an agreement with the company management. Han makes the point that while court verdicts are very important, the mentality of the worker has more value. They are no longer afraid which means they are more apt to fight.

Han believes the laborers have taken their fate into their own hands. This new mentality inspired thousands of workers to begin bargaining with their employer to receive better pay and conditions. One unfortunate part of this struggle is once strikers get partial victory, they often agree to stop protesting since they have already endured months without pay in order to protest. Han explains that there is a consciousness among Chinese workers, but they lack the skills to turn their awareness into action. Social media is increasing public attention as many workers have phones with cameras and promote each other’s protests on Twitter.

With respect to the question of why the Communist government is tolerating worker protests, he explains that better pay and conditions is what usually motivates activism, not a desire to bring down the government. The government actually allows the media to publicize the protests as they would rather see negotiation through dialogue as soon as possible in order to protect their own interests. Recently, companies are now accepting the principle that increasing workers’ wages means a better domestic economy, which improves the greater society.

Although many company executives are refusing to change or only allow for minimal improvements, many things have already transformed for the better. The workers’ mentality, social media’s involvement and the government’s attitude have all improved. Han underlines that China’s workers should not be seen as victims anymore, although they were in the past. He emphasizes that they have become strong and are ready to take ownership of unions. They are no longer victims but, as he puts it, are valiantly fighting for their rights. The impact of the workers’ movement will affect all aspects of Chinese society including social, economic and political aspects, which may, Han hopes, provoke a global revolution for labor rights. A transcript of the full-length talk can be read here:

The dialogue will be at Villa Sassetti on November 13th. The La Pietra Dialogues are accepting R.S.V.Ps at or 055 5007202.



McMahon, Michael. “Dissident Han Wins Work Visa until 1998; Exile Stays On, Writes Quinton Chan.” South China Morning Post [Hong Kong] 15 Nov. 1996: n. pag. Print.

Immigration and the Crisis

By Tara Tosten, NYU Florence student and Economics major

Immigration. It is a fairly strong word, rich with connotation.  In America, often bad connotations, citizens debate over how the increasing number of foreigners are taking domestic jobs and propose measures as strong as putting up a large fence to keep away the immigrants entering the country illegally.  Add on to this the issue of the economic crisis and the tempers begin to swell.  It is a strong word to say the least, and yet heated is not how I would to describe LPD’s Dialogue on immigration and the crisis, organized with the EUI and held in the Teatro of the Badia Fiesolana.  At the start of the Dialogue Jaris Panagiotidis mentioned that it is interesting to discuss a topic so wrought with tension with economists.  From an economical perspective immigration is a good thing overall.  As George Borjas noted, as in all things there are winners and there are losers, as far as immigration goes, the workers are the losers because they are competing for jobs and face lower salaries than they otherwise would.  Yet the producers and consumers are the winners, those who benefit from cheaper products and in the end increased GDP.  Economics is there to point out who will win and who will lose, the costs and benefits, while policy makers are there to decide how much the workers will lose, and how much everyone else will gain.