Samsung forecasts drop in profits; Neither female nor male; Demographics and the India election

1 Samsung forecasts drop in profits (BBC) Samsung Electronics, the world’s biggest maker of TVs and mobile phones, has forecast a drop in profit for the second quarter in a row. It expects to make an operating profit of 8.4 trillion won ($7.9bn) for the January-to-March quarter, down 4% from the same period last year. This follows a 6% decline in operating profit in the previous quarter. The drop indicates the challenge faced by Samsung to boost its earnings amid falling prices of smartphones.

Young Park, an analyst with Hyundai Securities said that Samsung’s profits were being hurt by falling margins for smartphones as well as a slowdown in the growth rate of the sector. The success of Samsung’s Galaxy range of smartphones has been one of the biggest drivers of its growth in recent years. But is has been facing rising competition as companies look to tap into the sector’s growth. Rivals Apple, HTC and Chinese manufacturers such as Lenovo, ZTE and Huawei have all been looking to boost their market share.

2 Neither female nor male (Julia Baird in The New York Times) The global third-gender movement is gaining momentum with a startling rapidity that our laws and language are scrambling to keep pace with. Some prefer the term “androgynous.” Other words considered in the case were “neuter,” “intersex” and “transgender,” but an Australian court decided on “nonspecific.” The “nonspecific” category is broad, mind-boggling and potentially hugely subversive in terms of the way we think about boys and girls, men and women, and our habit of dividing people into two distinct, gendered groups. Now it’s Adam, Eve — and nonspecific.

This is what lies next for nonspecifics: Do laws prevent someone “nonspecific” from marrying a man? Same-sex marriage is illegal in Australia. But can a xie marry a he? Having freed themselves from one large lump of legal kryptonite, nonspecifics need to find out.

3 Demographics and the India election (Jason Burke in The Guardian) Over the next six weeks more than half a billion Indians will go to 930,000 polling stations in the 16th general election since the country won independence from Britain in 1947. The exact impact of the 120 million first-time voters expected to cast their ballots is hotly debated. What is undisputed is that young generation will decide their nation’s future.

First there are the sheer demographics: a third of the population is under 15, more than half under 24; every third person in an Indian city today is between 15 and 32; the median age in India is 27; around 150 million people are eligible to vote for the first time in the coming polls.

Then there is the wider story of present-day India. The powerful growth that boosted incomes and significantly reduced poverty has faltered in recent years. Traditional values and customs have given way to a new uncertainty. Much is changing, and the process of transition is traumatic for millions. India’s youth could be a “demographic dividend”, ensuring stability and prosperity for decades to come – or a disaster, condemning the country to years of deep social tensions, drift and fear. For if, as a recent report by the United Nations(PDF) commented, if there is a “vibrancy” among young people, there is great anger too.

Educational institutions are grossly over-subscribed and hugely under-resourced. Worse, perhaps, there is little guarantee of satisfactory employment whatever the investment of time and money. According to Indian government data, although growth averaged 8.7% from 2005 to 2010, only 1m jobs were created, leaving 59 million new entrants on to the labour market with nothing. Graduate unemployment can touch 30% for women in rural areas. Even for men in towns, it is at least 17%.

There is also violence. As elsewhere in the world, 18- to 25-year-olds in India are disproportionate victims, and perpetrators, of violence. So-called “honour killing” does not just involve parents, but siblings too. Young women living more independent lives than their mothers suffer systematic sexual harassment, and sometimes assault, in public and, increasingly, in the workplace.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for India’s often elderly policymakers lies in managing expectations. B Narayanaswamy, of Ipsos Indica, a leading local market research company, traces four generational shifts since India gained its independence in 1947. In the early 1950s, patriotism and self-sacrifice were dominant as values, with young people wanting to be teachers. Twenty years later, after the 1971 war with Pakistan and with the autocratic Indira Gandhi committed to a socialist programme, the most popular professions were in the military. By the early 1990s, there came an identity-based reaction to a globalisation both channelled and encouraged by a newly resurgent Hindu nationalist ideology. Finally, today, values are increasingly determined by urbanisation.

“The new sets of beliefs and behaviours are all urban. The jobs and the prospects are to be found in cities. There’s a big shift away from hierarchy, and feudal mindsets. Success is defined in economic terms – a salary, a car, a mobile. It’s more about a hand-up than a handout,” said Narayanaswamy. Many have pointed out that this is a generation for which doctrinaire arguments pitting socialism against capitalism, the developing world against the west or even events such as the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, in 1991 have little, or at least less, relevance.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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