from around the globe
From the fourth to the first millennia B.C., one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known flourished in Egypt. With the fall of the ancient Egyptian dynasties in 341 B.C., invaders (Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, and Ottoman Turks) ruled Egypt for more than a millennium. Then in the late nineteenth century, the British, eager to control the Suez Canal, seized control of Egypt, which finally gained its independence in 1952. Egypt’s authoritarian political system and general poor living conditions led to a revolution that ousted the president in 2011, but continued political unrest over the next few years culminated in the establishment of another authoritarian regime marked by serious human rights abuses.
Located in North Africa, Egypt has the largest population in the Arab world and the third largest population in Africa. Because so much of Egypt is desert, about 95% of the country’s population lives in the areas of fertile land along the Nile River (only 5% of the country’s total land). Although Egypt has experienced significant economic growth, poverty is still rampant, with almost 28% of the population living below the poverty line. There is also a substantial wealth gap between rural and urban populations.
Gender inequality in Egypt is a significant issue. Violence against women (including the continued practice of genital mutilation), lack of education for girls, and female unemployment remain high. Moreover, the overall literacy rate among adults in Egypt is 71%, below the world average, and the literacy rate for adult women is even lower—65%.
Meet the Makers
Located in western Africa, on the Gulf of Guinea, Ghana borders Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, and Togo. Human habitation of Ghana may date as far back as 10,000 B.C., and robust trading empires developed there throughout the last millennium. The British took control of Ghana in the late nineteenth century, and in 1957 Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain its independence. Following independence, Ghana attracted large numbers of immigrants from neighboring countries. Unfortunately, the following decades were marked by corruption, political unrest, and military coups. With its worsening political situation and a severe drought and economic downturn in the 1970s, Ghanaians left the country en masse.
Since the 1990s, Ghana has achieved significant political reforms, and today it has a strong democracy that has paved the way for economic growth and an improved standard of living.
In 1991 more than half of the country lived below the poverty line. Today, although poverty continues to be an issue (24% of people still live below the poverty line), particularly in the north of the country, Ghana has made great strides in this area. Agriculture is a major force in Ghana’s economy, and cacao is among its top exports, along with gold and oil. However, while Ghana has achieved great economic success in recent years, particularly in relation to other sub-Saharan African countries, it continues to struggle with concerns such as the prevalence of child labor (one in six Ghanaian children participate in child labor), child trafficking, and gender inequality.
Meet the Makers
Located in South Asia on the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh borders India and Burma (Myanmar). Bangladesh gained its independence in 1971, but throughout the 1970s and 1980s, it experienced a series of military coups. Political instability and corruption have continued to plague the country over the past three decades. Nonetheless, in the years since its independence, Bangladesh has reduced its poverty rate from more than one-half to less than one-third (24.3% in 2016) of the population, and its economy has grown at a rate of about six percent a year since 2005. Still, only about 74% of the adult population is literate—well below the world average.
Bangladesh is the eighth most populous country in the world (with a population of about 162 million people), though it is only about the size of the US states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania (combined). Almost half of all Bangladeshis work in agriculture. Within the industrial sector, Bangladesh is second only to China in the number of garments it exports. Indeed, garments accounted for more than 80% of Bangladesh’s total exports in 2016. Worker safety in the country’s garment factories is a serious issue. In 2013 more than one thousand people (most of them women) were killed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, after a garment factory collapsed. Since the collapse, known as the Rana Plaza disaster, the country has made important strides to improve labor and safety conditions in its garment factories. However, further advances are still needed, especially with the Accord that brought about many of these changes set to expire in 2020. In 2019 Bangladesh was still ranked as one of the ten worst countries in the world for working people by the International Trade Union Confederation.
Meet the Makers
China is the largest country in the world in terms of population (with almost 1.4 billion people) and the fourth largest in terms of land mass (slightly smaller than the United States). China’s rich history and culture date back to 1200 B.C. It was ruled by a succession of imperial dynasties and remained largely isolated from the rest of the world until the mid-nineteenth century. Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, China faced civil unrest and foreign occupation, leading to revolution and the establishment of a communist government in 1949. Under Mao Zedong, this repressive regime exerted strict control over the Chinese people, closed the economy, and was responsible for the deaths of more than one million people. After Mao’s death in the late 1970s, successive leaders sought market-driven economic growth and global outreach, and the standard of living in China improved dramatically. Still, even today, human rights abuses under the one-party authoritarian government remain rampant.
From 2013 to 2017, China’s economy was one of the fastest growing in the world, and China is now the largest economy in the world—despite the fact that per capita income in China is below the world average. Since 2010 China has been the largest exporter in the world. Unfortunately, workers’ rights and safety, the abuse of the environment, and product safety continue to be major concerns when purchasing Chinese exports.
Meet the Makers
The Indian subcontinent in South Asia is home to one of the oldest and most influential civilizations in the world. India’s vibrant history and culture reach back to the third millennium B.C., when the Indus Valley civilization flourished. Over the thousands of years that followed, India was ruled by a succession of self-contained empires, many of them the result of incursions from the north (by Turks, Arabs, Afghans, and Persians, among others). The British took control of India in the mid-nineteenth century but returned the country’s independence in 1947. With the end of British rule, the subcontinent was divided into two countries: India (majority Hindu) and Pakistan (majority Muslim). The history of these neighboring countries has been fraught since independence, and they have fought multiple wars with each other.
With a population of 1.2 billion people, India is the second largest country in the world in terms of population (behind China) and has about one-sixth of the world’s population. India’s people are incredibly diverse: the country has thousands of ethnic groups and hundreds of languages.
About one-third the size of the continental United States, India is also the eighth largest country in the world in terms of land mass. It shares borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma (Myanmar), China, Nepal, and Pakistan. India is a country of diverse climate and topography, rich in natural resources, and it has a robust economy, with services (especially information technology services) accounting for close to two-thirds of its GDP. Nonetheless, poverty remains a serious concern for Indians, with more than 21% of the population living below the poverty line. Gender inequality and human rights abuses are also rampant in India. Only about 74% of the adult population (65% of women) is literate, well below the world average.
Meet the Makers
The country of Indonesia lies on an archipelago in Southeast Asia and is composed of around 17,500 islands, more than 7,000 of which are uninhabited. Indonesia spans a distance that measures about one-eighth of Earth’s circumference. Although Indonesia has the fourth largest population in the world (in fact, the island of Java is one of the most densely populated places), it is the second most heavily forested region (behind only the Amazon). Indeed, Indonesia covers an extremely diverse area that includes a major juncture of tectonic plates, two faunal realms, and the Ring of Fire, a belt of volcanic and earthquake activity. For millennia it has also served as a link between Oceania and mainland Asia.
From its early history, Indonesia was marked by both fragmentation throughout the archipelago and frequent cross-cultural exchanges with the rest of Asia due to ease of access. Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch in the early seventeenth century and finally gained its independence, after four years of bitter fighting, in 1949. Political instability marked the remainder of the twentieth century, but in 1999 free legislative elections took place. Indonesia has continued to strengthen its democracy and increase freedoms since then, though terrorism and armed separatist resistance still plague some areas of the country.
Although Indonesia has the largest economy in Southeast Asia, almost 11% of the population still lives below the poverty line. Indonesia is a major exporter of crude petroleum and natural gas, as well as rubber, coffee, cocoa, and palm oil. Since the 1960s, the timber industry has also played a major role in the Indonesian economy. Unfortunately, as a result, deforestation has become a serious issue in Indonesia. The country has lost 80% of its original forests and continues to lose 6.2 million acres a year, and numerous animal species have been pushed to extinction. This deforestation has also had a dramatic impact on Indonesia’s environment and the health of people in rural communities. In recent years, Indonesia has made progress in combatting deforestation, though much remains to be done.
Meet the Makers
Set in South Asia’s beautiful Himalayas, landlocked between India and China, Nepal is home to a diverse population and eight of the ten highest peaks in the world (including the highest, Mt. Everest). Its population comprises more than eighteen primary ethnic groups, and more than fourteen languages are spoken there. Nepal’s overall population density is quite low, and most people live in rural villages.
Nepal remained closed to the outside world until 1950. In 1996 a ten-year civil war between Maoist insurgents and the government broke out. Nepal’s new constitution was adopted in 2015, and in 2017 the country held its first successful elections in more than twenty years. Still, human rights violations and poverty continue to plague Nepal. As a result of its self-imposed isolation and civil war—as well as its geographical location and lack of transportation and energy infrastructure—Nepal is one of the least developed countries in the world. About 25% of Nepal’s population lives below the poverty line, and only 68% of the adult population (and 60% of adult women) is literate, far below the world average. Nepal ranked 101 out of 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index rankings for 2020.
Meet the Makers
Sri Lanka is a beautiful island located in the Indian Ocean, just south of India, in South Asia. It gained its independence from British rule in 1948, but civil war broke out between the government and Tamil separatists in 1983 and continued for more than twenty-five years. The government prevailed in 2009, but with allegations of human rights abuses and threats to democracy, political instability in Sri Lanka continues.
Since the end of its civil war, Sri Lanka has made great progress in reducing poverty (only about 6% of the population lives below the poverty line), though it remains an issue, particularly in rural areas. Sri Lanka’s workers have largely returned to the formal economy, but labor rights violations are rampant. Gender roles and disparity in Sri Lanka also mean that women (especially rural women) are much more likely to be unemployed than men (28% versus 17%), and there is also a serious wage gap between the genders. Sri Lanka ranked 102 out of 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index rankings for 2020. Still, more than 90% of the adult population (both male and female) of Sri Lanka is literate, one of the highest literacy rates among developing countries.
Meet the Makers
Vietnam, set along the eastern edge of mainland Southeast Asia, is a coastal nation that borders China, Laos, and Cambodia. Vietnam’s history has been deeply impacted by its relationship with China, which first expanded its reach into Vietnam in the third century B.C. Western explorers arrived in Vietnam in the sixteenth century, and the French took control of the country in the mid-nineteenth century. Vietnam gained independence from France in 1954, and the country was divided into the communist North and anti-communist South. Conflict between the two states and increasing political unrest gave rise to an insurgency movement, supported by North Vietnam, that aimed to reunify the country. In 1965 the United States, which supported the South, began its disastrous involvement in the Vietnam War, which lasted until a peace treaty was signed in 1973. Two years later, North Vietnam invaded the South and reunified Vietnam under the communist regime. Over the next decade, Vietnam’s economy stagnated, and Vietnamese left the country in droves. Since 1986, however, the government’s economic liberalization strategies and global integration have led to economic growth and increased standards of living. Today only 8% of the population lives below the poverty line, and the country has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, with rapid urbanization and industrialization.
Nonetheless, the communist government in Vietnam remains extremely restrictive, and major human rights reforms are still needed. In addition, the rapid pace of industrialization has negatively affected issues such as energy consumption, air and water pollution, and human trafficking in Vietnam.
Meet the Makers
Germanic-speaking peoples have lived in Western Europe for millennia, but the German nation in its present form dates to the late nineteenth century, when Otto Von Bismarck unified the German Empire. During the early twentieth century, Germany was embroiled in two bitter world wars, both of which it lost. Following World War II, Germany was occupied by the Allied powers of the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Soviet Union, and in 1949, with the start of the Cold War, they divided the country (politically and physically) into East and West Germany. The country was not reunified until 1990, with the fall of the Soviet Union.
Today Germany has the largest economy in Europe (and the fifth largest in the world) and is the second largest country in terms of population. It ranks number four on the 2019 Human Development Index out of all the countries in the world and is frequently listed among the top countries for workers. Germany is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of steel and has thriving automobile and machinery manufacturing industries. It also has a rich cultural and artistic heritage that still thrives today. Partly as a result of its expansive forests, the country has a deep tradition of woodworking and toymaking; indeed, it was regarded as the toy capital of the world in the early twentieth century.
Today Germany is a melting pot of peoples from around the world. It hosts the fifth largest number of refugees in the world. During the 2015 migrant crisis, Germany welcomed almost one million refugees into the country, and in 2018 the majority of Syrian refugees in Europe settled in Germany.
Meet the Makers
In Southwest Europe, Spain dominates the Iberian Peninsula, which it shares with Portugal. Throughout its history, a series of foreign conquerors—Romans, Visigoths, Moors—left their mark on the culture and traditions of Spain. For centuries it was one of the richest countries in the world, its explorers traveling widely and claiming a vast empire for Spain. Over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, however, Spain’s dominance gave way to other European powers (Britain, France, and Germany), and it ceased to be a major player in world affairs. Although Spain remained neutral in the two world wars, it suffered greatly during its own civil war in the mid-1930s. Dictator Francisco Franco took control of Spain following the civil war, ruling for the next four decades. Upon his death in 1975, Spain became a democracy and has experienced dramatic economic growth and modernization.
The Spanish economy was particularly impacted by the 2008 recession, and poverty and unemployment remain a serious concern, though the economy has rebounded. About 21% of the population lives below the poverty line, and Spain has the highest youth poverty rate in Western Europe. In addition, 34% of Spain’s youth labor force is unemployed, significantly more than the rest of Western Europe.
Meet the Makers
The third largest country in the world in terms of both land mass and population, the United States, located in central North America, is an incredibly diverse country that was peopled by Native Americans, waves of European immigrants and African slaves throughout the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, and immigrants from every country in the world from the nineteenth century on. This history has created a rich cultural mosaic in the US. Nonetheless, racial inequality and discrimination persist.
The US is a major world power and an economic powerhouse, yet economic inequality and poverty continue to be serious issues for Americans, 15% of whom live below the poverty line. Interestingly, small businesses—especially microbusinesses (those with between one and nine employees), which make up more than three-quarters of private-sector businesses—are the backbone of the American economy.
Meet the Makers
Located in northern South America, Colombia shares borders with Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil and has coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Its geography is highly diverse—ranging from the snow-covered peaks of the Andes Mountains to equatorial forests, savannas, and lowlands along its extensive coastline. Prior to Spaniards’ conquest of the area, it was inhabited by numerous Indian groups, about one-third of whom were Chibcha. Colombia was a Spanish colony from the mid-sixteenth century until 1819, and this heritage is still evident today. Violence and political unrest plagued Colombia throughout the twentieth century and escalated during the 1990s, largely as a result of the illicit drug trade and the country’s intense income inequality (28% of the population lives below the poverty line). The fifty-two-year conflict ended in 2016, but violence and abuses for guerrilla and paramilitary groups continue.
As a result of this protracted conflict, Colombia is the largest source of refugees in Latin America, most of whom now live in Ecuador and Venezuela, and it has the second highest number of internally displaced people in the world (behind only Syria). Historically, Colombia also has one of the highest levels of forced disappearances in the world. Colombia’s economy relies heavily on energy and mining exports, and it is the world’s fourth largest exporter of coal and third largest exporter of coffee. It is also the top producer of coca, the raw material for cocaine. In 2019 Colombia was ranked as one of the ten worst countries in the world for working people by the International Trade Union Confederation. Despite the significant challenges Colombia has faced over the last few decades, however, it has maintained fairly strong democratic institutions and a positive literacy rate (95% of the adult population is literate).
Meet the Makers
As early as 3000 B.C., complex Andean civilizations flourished in the area of modern-day Peru, in western South America, culminating with the great Inca civilization. In the mid-sixteenth century, the Spanish defeated the Inca empire and took control of Peru, which they ruled until 1824. Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Peru oscillated between periods of stability and conflict (internal and external). After a decade of military rule during the 1970s, democracy returned to Peru in 1980, but conflict erupted between the government and violent guerilla groups, lasting for the next twenty years. During that period, close to 70,000 people were killed or disappeared. Since 2000 the economic stagnation that marked the period of conflict has been reversed, and the national poverty rate has dropped by more than 35 percentage points since 2004 (to about 22%). Nonetheless, significant inequality (income, racial, and gender) persists in Peru.
Since 2018 Peru has been undergoing serious political turmoil, resulting from revelations of mass corruption among government leaders and leading to the dismantling of the country’s Congress in October 2019.
Meet the Makers
Europe + Asia
Caught between the East and the West, the country of Turkey lies partly in Asia and partly in Europe—both connecting and dividing the two continents. Although modern Turkey was not established until 1923, the area of Turkey was part of the powerful Roman (fourth century), Byzantine (fourth to fourteenth century), and Ottoman Empires (fourteenth century until its defeat during World War I). Since 1950 Turkey has been a democracy (in 2017 the Turkish people voted to amend the constitution from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential republic), though it has seen numerous periods of instability and military coups over the past seventy years. Unfortunately, since an unsuccessful coup in 2016, Turkey has experienced increased political turmoil, violence, and human rights concerns.
Turkey’s population, the eighteenth largest in the world, is 99.8% Muslim. Today Turkey is also home to the largest number of refugees in the world, including around 3.7 million from Syria, though the country’s border with Syria is now closed. While Turkey’s economy has strengthened over the past decade as a result of economic reforms, the current instability has had a negative impact on its economic well-being, and 21.9% of the population lives below the poverty line. Turkey has also made some progress in fighting gender equality over the last two decades, but there remains much to be done: it ranked 130 out of 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index rankings for 2020. Still, more than 93% of Turkish women (and 96% of all Turks) are literate.
Meet the Makers
The Global Baby supports brands that are committed to making a difference in the lives of their workers and the environment. We are passionate about books, early literacy, play, and creating the next generation of global citizens.