1 Global gender gap narrows (BBC) The gap between men and women has narrowed slightly in the past year in most countries, according to a World Economic Forum (WEF) report. Iceland, Finland and Norway top the list of 136 nations, based on political participation, economic equality and rights like education and health. The Middle East and North Africa were the only regions not to improve in the past year, with Yemen at the bottom. The Philippines and Nicaragua both feature in the top 10.
Iceland’s position at the top of the WEF rankings was the fifth year in a row the country has been named the world’s most equal. Report founder and co-author Saadia Zahidi said that since the WEF began compiling the index in 2006, 80% of countries had made progress. “What’s worrying though is that 20% of countries have made no progress or are falling behind,” she said. She singled out the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia as countries that had invested in education and health, but had not integrated women into the economy.
Overall, the report, entitled Global Gender Gap Report 2013, found Iceland to be the most advanced country in the world in terms of gender equality for the fifth year running. Iceland, Finland (second), Norway (third) and Sweden (fourth) had all closed over 80% of the gender gap, where 100% would represent full equality. The highest-ranked Asian nation was the Philippines (fifth), praised for its success in health, education and economic participation. Asia’s major economies performed poorly, with China in 69th place and Japan 105th.
Among major world economies Germany ranked 14th (down one), the UK held its position at 18, with Canada at 20 and the United States 23rd. On matters of health and survival, the report finds that 96% of the gap has now closed. In terms of education, the global gender gap is 93% closed, with 25 countries now judged to deliver equal treatment to boys and girls at school.
2 It’s tough for millennials in job market (Andrew S Ross in San Francisco Chronicle) Lord, will the Baby Boomers ever get out of the way? Not only do they have the lion’s share of top-paying jobs, they’re hanging on way past retirement age, “preventing younger generations from moving into management roles.” This is according to a report on how Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials are doing in the labor market these days. Apart from those lucky enough to work in tech-land, the Millennials (also known as Gen Y, born 1982-2002) are doing the least well.
Close to 30 percent “had to move back home with their parents due to financial hardship after starting their careers.” They have the lowest levels of “job satisfaction” and “job meaning.” They most likely work at smaller (often lower paying) companies. They are least likely to be managing people (which may be a relief to some in the older age groups).
“The economy has delayed their careers and their personal independence and forced them to work harder than previous generations just to catch up,” said Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding, a research and consulting firm in Boston, which put together the study with PayScale, on online recruitment and compensation data firm in Seattle.
The report, based on a survey of approximately 1.2 million workers across the three generations, contains a host of other findings. For example, Gen Xers (1965-1981) are more likely to be senior software executives than others. Engineering looks to be the most promising field for Millennials, while Boomers (1946-1964) are especially strong in the medical field.
3 Japanese who prefer virtual girlfriends to sex (Anita Rani on BBC) Unless something happens to boost Japan’s birth rate, its population will shrink by a third between now and 2060. One reason for the lack of babies is the emergence of a new breed of Japanese men, the otaku, who love manga, anime and computers – and sometimes show little interest in sex. Akihabara, an area of Tokyo city dedicated to the manga and anime subculture provides one clue to the country’s problems. Akihabara is heaven for otaku.
They are a generation of geeks who have grown up through 20 years of economic stagnation and have chosen to tune out and immerse themselves in their own fantasy worlds. Kunio Kitamara, of the Japan Family Planning Association, describes many young Japanese men as “herbivores” – passive and lacking carnal desire. It seems they no longer have the ambition of the post-war alpha males who made Japan such an economic powerhouse and no interest in joining a company and becoming a salary man.
They have taken on a mole-like existence and, worryingly, withdrawn from relationships with the opposite sex. A survey by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in 2010 found 36% of Japanese males aged 16 to 19 had no interest in sex – a figure that had doubled in the space of two years. I met two otaku, who believe themselves to be in relationships with virtual girlfriends. This girlfriend is actually a Nintendo computer game called Love Plus, which comes as a small portable tablet. Nurikan and Yuge take their girlfriends, Rinko and Ne-ne, on actual dates to the park, and buy them cakes to celebrate their birthdays.
Several surveys have shown that even when Japanese men and women are in relationships, they have very little sex. In one survey just 27% said they had sex every week. Marriage rates are also plunging, and very few babies – only 2% – are born out of wedlock. Japan’s demographic timebomb is also linked to the lack of immigration. Japan has managed to preserve its unique culture in an increasingly globalised world but could that very sense of identity stand in the way of solving its population problems?