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Thread: Life employment, female discrimination, traditions and unemployment

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Life employment, female discrimination, traditions and unemployment

    male chauvinism insure life employment

    Why is discrimination towards women at work still so endemic in Japan ? The answer is not as dificult as it may seem.

    Japanese claim their tradition of the women staying at home, making babies and caring for them, while the husband provided for their (financial) needs. But do they know that it used to be exactly the same in Western countries In the 1950's ?

    Not only was this the same, life employment, which Japanese sometimes believe to be peculiar to their business culture, was also the norm until not so long ago in Europe or North America.

    For me, Japan is just slower to adapt to social changes than other, mostly Northern European and English-speaking countries.

    The woman liberation of the 1960's and 70's has prompted women to study more, get better jobs and fight for equality with men at work. In Japan (and some parts of Southern Europe), this is far to be won yet.

    The problem is that some motivated Japanese women don't have the same opportunity to get promotions, because Japanese men think they'll quit once they have a baby. That would be fine in a flexible economy, where the women can easily join another company after their maternity leave, but that is still somewhat taboo in Japan where life employment in the same company is seen as sacred.

    high cost pre-schooling keeps unemployment low

    In addition, nursery schools are scare and often expensive in Japan, which means that most women prefer to stay with their children till they reach the age 6, rather than continue working and possibly spend all their salary to pay the nursery.

    In fact, if all mothers staying at home and not looking for work suddenly decided to get a job (because of an outburst of feminism or a massive number of free nursery schools being opened), unemployment in Japan would be much higher than in any Western country, maybe over 30% (it is now around 5%).

    I believe this is why men, on the one hand, but more precisely the Japanese authorities (goverment, CEO's), try hard to keep the traditional system as it is. It would bring shame onto Japan not to be able to cope with such rampant unemployment, especially that of the supposedly male bread-winner, while women staying at home is not shameful at all because of traditions. And you know how image-conscious Japanese are internationally. Like Chinese or Koreans, they would prefer to lie about statistics rather than lose face by saying they can't control their unemployment.

    That is why pre-schooling remains expensive, as it prompts young mothers to stay at home for as long as possible, letting jobs to the men and reducing unemployment figures.

    lower living standard

    Incidentally, why do you think Japanese have such small houses ? Most certainly because only the man works in the average Japanese household, while both partners do in England or other Western countries.

    The reason I always heard from Japanese is the lack of space and high prices, but compared to the situation in England, that does not make the least sense. England's population density is slightly higher than Japan's and real estate prices are consequently also higher. Actually, I have scrutinised and compared accommodation prices, both for rental or for sale, in Tokyo and London, and it appears that London's are in average twice to 5 times higher for a simliar size and distance to the city centre. Prices also fluctuate more in London between areas, because of the standing and security criteria that virtually don't exist in Tokyo (all building are the same everywhere in Tokyo, and security isn't an issue).

    No economic miracle

    In conclusion, Japan is not the economic miracle some believed it was back in the 1980's. Salaries were higher because people had to work much longer hours, and still aren't actually that high if considered on a hourly basis. Men had to work longer because their wives stayed at home (and until now, no Japanese couples live under the same roof without being married), which was a trick to keep official unemployment figures almost inexistent. Since women have started (slowly) to work for real and want to make a career instead of getting married, unemployment is rising (how strange, isn't it ).

    The Japanese economy went well for a while because Japan prohibited foreign businesses from establishing themselves in Japan (except a few Americans firms under the special economic agreements after WWII). During that time, Japan exported massively and implant itself in every Western country, building up car or electronic factories in Europe and America, while still preventing them to do the same in Japan.

    Japan only recently (2 years ago ?) started opening up its market a bit by allowing a foreign presence under the condition that those companies had a partnership with or took over a Japanese company (not crazy, this way that will keep the ailing Japanese economy going by sustaining zombie companies with foreign capital )

    High real estate prices were just another trick to falsely keep the cost of life, salaries, and most importantly stock exchange prices high. Once land prices dropped in 1990, the stock exchanged evidently followed, and the process is still continuing to this day.

    High salaries, little in exchange

    The reality behind this (no pun intended) is that Japanese living standard are much lower than Western ones, as cheaply built, uninsulated, cramped flat/apartment blocks show. Sometimes Japanese look rich when they travel abroad or buy luxury goods like Louis Vuitton bags or Rolex watches so casually. They are indeed rich when the yen is high (this can be achieved easily by financial manipulations by the Bank of Japan). But few Japanese enjoy the same (or even a third) of the holiday length most Westerners have. Everything being so much more expensive in Japan (especially transports and real estate), they spend a proportionally higher part of their salaries to do the same things as Westerners. Prices are so artificially high that a normal domestic flight in Japan cost around 40.000 to 60.000yen, as much as a flight to Europe or North America !

    Another important point to explain artificially high Japanese salaries, is that tax levels are quite low - by European standard. This is also true of the USA, and in both cases people have to pay a huge amount of money for their education (esp. university/college), for medical care, and I could say for motorways/expressways. In contrast, most Europeans enjoy free education since pre-school to university, free or very cheap medical care and highways are all free (except in France and Italy). In the end, once their house, education and daily transport are paid (i.e. the major expenses in a lifetime), Japanese don't make much use of their money. What they can really get for their money's worth is food and clothing (though alcohol is again prohibitively expensive).

    Tokyo or Japan ? Not the same story

    It's equally essential to understand that Japan doesn't end outside Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya, where salaries are the highest. First there is already a huge gap betwen Tokyo and the rest. The average yearly salary in Tokyo is 50.000 US$, against 28.000 US$ in both Osaka and Nagoya. But in prefectures such as Nara, Kagoshima or Okinawa, the yearly average salary is under 17.000 US$, 3x less than in Tokyo, and well under Western European, North American or Australian average.
    Consequently, prices are incredibly high for country people coming to Tokyo.

    -----------------------------------------------

    To all readers, I hope this resume of the Japanese economic system help you understand better the current situation.

    Maciamo
    Last edited by Maciamo; Dec 12, 2003 at 20:04.

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    Villain Iron Chef's Avatar
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    Yeah, something's gotta give sooner or later though (preferrably sooner). Women's rights have come a long way here in the U.S. since the 50's but even today, the whole idea of "equal pay for equal work" is still a popular myth for the most part. Hopefully, Japanese society will be able to evolve to the point where women are at least no longer considered subordinates on some level to their male counterparts (in work, in marriage, etc.).

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    Regular Member den4's Avatar
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    Well, then you have those women that "rule" the household very well, and woe be to the hubby or boyfriend who dares to create strife for the wife/girlfriend in her realm

    power is fluid for those that aren't tainted by western/eastern viewpoints
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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Sorry guys, I ha to leave my post unfinished and have just completed it. Read again from high cost pre-schooling keeps unemployment low please.

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    Kongming jeisan's Avatar
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    very informitive maciamo, thank you. i dont really have an opinion on this but its interesting nonetheless
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    super famicom dadako's Avatar
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    its only your opinion Maciamo

    people in london like to live outside zones 1&2, in tokyo (young?) people like to live in the center.

    And I can't agree with hardly anything you've written. It seems that you are looking for something to complain about and comparing japan against other counties in the world. Ever heard the saying "only in japan"? This is true of many things.

    You might see chauvinism in japan but I regard people to be very equal. Women don't take bs from men, in my experience. But there's also the japanese logic system to understand, and its logical to japanese to keep order and preserve society, thats why sometimes things are slow to change.

    And so what if the streets aren't paved with gold. Most people I meet are happy with what they have, and work hard play hard.

    Get out more. Have a beer.

    Edited for profanity. Please refrain from using explicit language in the future, thnx.
    -IC
    Last edited by Iron Chef; Dec 13, 2003 at 16:42.

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    Cute and Furry Ewok85's Avatar
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    The centre of tokyo is actually surprisingly old or simply ful of businesses, the younger people tend to live further out, with most of the people living around, ie Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa.

    though alcohol is again prohibitively expensive
    Its on par, maybe cheaper than Australia atm, we have alot of taxes on alcohol.

    I agree with alot of whats written. While some women do get fair treatment there is still a way to go, the women still have the job of serving tea at meetings, which is probably more of a carry-over from tradition or simply a assistant/secretary type role than anything else.

    Having lived in both outer chiba and saitama, and seeing the large amounts of area free i still dont get why people get more land. In Australia its not unusual for people to get double blocks and build larger houses and still have gardens, or just build a larger house and not have a garden.

    You might see chauvinism in japan but I regard people to be very equal.
    Something that annoys me here is not so much that chauvinism exists but people make it exist. Simple things like school uniforms try to push differences between the sexes, split classes for things like home ec and PE. To have equality you need to treat people the same regardless of anything, and by intergrating at the lower levels it will have an impact further on in life. Do they split the classes into male and female for sports in England and America?

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Do they split the classes into male and female for sports in England and America?
    In the European countries where I went to school, they split classes between sexes. I think the reson is that 1) boys and girls have different strength and 2) they like different sports (more like football for boys and gymnastics for girls).

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    In America there are gym classes that are split also. In fact my cousin who lives in Illinois has a co-ed gym class.

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    Regular Member bossel's Avatar
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    In Germany it's undecided. Some states have co-education in sports, others (esp. Bavaria) don't.
    Social scientists & pedagogues are still not sure what's best, though a majority seems to favour co-education.

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    Cute and Furry Ewok85's Avatar
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    This is all interesting to hear. In australia classes are generally mixed but when you get to high school it may be split depending on what you are doing/what people want to do (generally slipt as in 2 options for PE, the girls tend to favor one, the boys the other, thus its split like that).

    But other niggly little things like offering your seat to others (not just women but the eldery, pregnant or those with young children) seems lacking. When my friend offered to help a teacher at school with a rather large pile of books she was a little surprised, as boys here simply dont do that at all.

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    Well, I think that's about the same here in the US, on the common courtesy thing. Although you should do polite things like that, not many ppl actually do them. I think in the US it is getting rarer to see things like that.

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    Cute and Furry Ewok85's Avatar
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    Its the whole world going down hill!!

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    ~~ Carolgirl00's Avatar
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    Haha, yes most likely..

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    I also have several points of Contention in your article. The big one is your claim that England and Japan has similar land densities for population, and that house sizes is due to the lack of money making ability. That is an extremely unfair comparison. Actually I can't even believe you said that. Aggragately yes they do have similar land densities, but if you look closer the actual area that is fit for development there is probably less that 20% of the land availble in Japan than what is available in England. England is a fairly flat country, while Japan is mountainous and craggy, leaving very little area for development. The Japanese are world leaders in land reclaimation, and still they have massive problems finding land. Look how difficult it is to build an airport around Osaka... Either you have to put it out at sea (Kansai) or blow up a mountain and build one there (the new airport). London as well is a very bad example of cost of living because the area is notorious for having extremely high rents. London is the most expensive place to live in the world today, due to a variety of factors such as desirability and its nature as the financial capital in the world. If you did a median study, removing Tokyo and London as well as the lowest level of rents, you would see that the rents on average are far higher in Japan then they are in England.

    The reality behind this (no pun intended) is that Japanese living standard are much lower than Western ones, as cheaply built, uninsulated, cramped flat/apartment blocks show. Sometimes Japanese look rich when they travel abroad or buy luxury goods like Louis Vuitton bags or Rolex watches so casually. They are indeed rich when the yen is high (this can be achieved easily by financial manipulations by the Bank of Japan). But few Japanese enjoy the same (or even a third) of the holiday length most Westerners have. Everything being so much more expensive in Japan (especially transports and real estate), they spend a proportionally higher part of their salaries to do the same things as Westerners. Prices are so artificially high that a normal domestic flight in Japan cost around 40.000 to 60.000yen, as much as a flight to Europe or North America !
    Well the first part of your argument falls as I have earlier shown. Japan does experience a housing crunch. Furthermore I would even contest that Japanese lack of insulation is mostly due to the enviromental conditions in Japan as well has historical house design, where the country is unbearably hot in the summer, and therefore insulation was less desirable. The lack of energy used in home heating is important because I will come back to that in a second.
    Another area you comment is the high cost of travel. this has led many individuals to not use cars (even though they may own them) and use public transportation instead. Furthermore, the vehicles that Japanese use are more efficient (althought gas prices are higher) This has further decreased energy use. Your contention about higher costs for travel only applies to interprefectural travel, which is far more rare than normal travel. With less vacation time people don't travel away very often anyway.

    These two are important because Donald Gordon an eminent economist has pointed out that the cost of transportation and heating, that north americans pay have actually contributed to their high GDP. although his study mainly focused on the Difference between EU and the United States, his argument works for Japan as well. Japan's move to efficiency in many areas actually makes it have a lower GDP than what you would expect for work. Since the Japanese don't have to pay for the extra costs of living they have a depressed per capita GDP figure than the US and EU.

    The inability of Japanese to spend more in these areas has redirected their spending into different areas. The purchase of luxury goods is huge in Japan because it is a area to show wealth. Why does everybody have louis Vutton Bags? because they can all afford them. Often people have cars but don't use them. The seemingly lack of wealth can also be accounted for by the Japanese world leadership in the area of savings. Most of it is locked up in Government debt, as 140% of the GDP is owned by the government. Therefore the Japanese people just don't spend money, rather save it and don't invest. This is the reason behind 0% interest rates. Its intended to get people not to save money but to spend it increasing consumer consumption.

    Men had to work longer because their wives stayed at home (and until now, no Japanese couples live under the same roof without being married), which was a trick to keep official unemployment figures almost inexistent. Since women have started (slowly) to work for real and want to make a career instead of getting married, unemployment is rising (how strange, isn't it ).
    Uhh no. And what corrolation do you provide? can you find a statstical link between increasing empoyment of women and overall increase in unemployment? Your statement might be correct if women were replacing male workers, but that is not even close to the case. Between 1998 and 2001, the Japanese job market lost 1.8 million jobs. That doesn't mean that 1.8 million people were rotated out of jobs and replaced by other workers, that means 1.8 million positions that were eliminated from the economy. The people who are most acutely affected by the lack of created jobs are not women but young people who are just entering the work place. Most firms are continuing life time employment and deffering the hiring of younger workers.

    Moreover your classification of Japanese economy as static is very much a skewed misconception. Lifetime employment is only a major factor in the "kaisha" like Toyota and Hitachi and other larger foriegn exporters, and less so in the smaller buisnesses that make up the majority of Japanese employment. Smaller firms have shorter terms of employment and are far more gender equal than other sectors of the economy. Although the Kaisha used to dominate the economic growth, they have been exporting jobs to lower cost production areas like China, Thailand, Korea, Maylasia and Indonesia. The real transformation in Japanese society is not the emancipation of women, its the transfer from industrial to service based economy. The US experienced this during the 1970s and early 80s (the Rust belt, and the rise of silicone valley)

    It's equally essential to understand that Japan doesn't end outside Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya, where salaries are the highest. First there is already a huge gap betwen Tokyo and the rest. The average yearly salary in Tokyo is 50.000 US$, against 28.000 US$ in both Osaka and Nagoya. But in prefectures such as Nara, Kagoshima or Okinawa, the yearly average salary is under 17.000 US$, 3x less than in Tokyo, and well under Western European, North American or Australian average.
    Wow thats a piece of data manipulation if I have ever seen one. Its worth noting that Tokyo Osaka and Nagoya account for over 50% of Japan's population. Also I question these numbers since the Japanese per capita GDP is 28,000 yen.Japan has a fairly low Gini Coefficient meaning its distribution of wealth is fairly equal. Its is comparable to Scandanavian countries (J-24.7 Sweden-25.5, US- 40) that is counterintuitive to what you are saying. My guess is that you are using the absolute basement figures on the wealth in select areas as a foil.

    The Japanese economy went well for a while because Japan prohibited foreign businesses from establishing themselves in Japan (except a few Americans firms under the special economic agreements after WWII). During that time, Japan exported massively and implant itself in every Western country, building up car or electronic factories in Europe and America, while still preventing them to do the same in Japan.
    Economic protectionism, which worked well in a whole host of other Asian countries including south korea to increase their wealth. The difference is that the Japanese are now a economic powerhouse in East Asia, accounting for 70% of the Region's GDP and 18% of the Worlds GDP... I don't know how you can explain away that but Japan is a economic superpower. And your assertion that it only did well because of economic protectionism does not do Japan's current status justice. Japan's economic position has completely changed. It is now an service sector economy, which exports knowlege and investment rather than industrial goods. It is the main investor in China.

    I think you have presented an extremely skewed account of the economic position in Japan. Your idea that social conditions may make it more difficult for Japanese women to obtain jobs may hold some merit, but your arguments in other areas do not hold water. I'm getting tired, its 1:00AM Christmas Morning and I don't have anymore energy to reply to the rest of this thread.

  16. #16
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Originally posted by noyhauser
    Aggragately yes they do have similar land densities, but if you look closer the actual area that is fit for development there is probably less that 20% of the land availble in Japan than what is available in England. England is a fairly flat country, while Japan is mountainous and craggy, leaving very little area for development. The Japanese are world leaders in land reclaimation, and still they have massive problems finding land. Look how difficult it is to build an airport around Osaka...


    Land reclamation is only good for cities build on the coast that have already extended too far, like Tokyo and Osaka. I did look carefully, and whether it's true that Japan has less livable space than England, most of the Japanese countryside is emptying itslef, with prefectural government in places like Shimane, Yamaguchi, Yamagata or Aomori trying desperately to refrain young people from living, and some even offering land for free to those who accept to settle there for more than 5 or 10 years (forgot exactly how long). Hokkaido has the same size, population (5m) than Scotland and a very similar geography. Actually Hokkaido is flatter and most of the land is very sparsely populated. Half of the people lives in the 3 main cities : Sapporo (1,8million), Hakodate (300.000) and Otaru (165.000).

    Furthermore I would even contest that Japanese lack of insulation is mostly due to the enviromental conditions in Japan as well has historical house design, where the country is unbearably hot in the summer, and therefore insulation was less desirable.
    Historically, no country has insulation such as "glass fiber". That's a modern invention. As it also keeps the heat outside in summer, it is desirable in Japan. Japanese houses that are not made of wood are always made of concrete, which absorbs the humid air and keep it inside in summer, making it unbearable to live. When I was in Europe, there was never a need for air conditioning even when it was 35 degree celsius, because of insulation or deeper walls that naturally keep the inside cool.

    Your contention about higher costs for travel only applies to interprefectural travel, which is far more rare than normal travel. With less vacation time people don't travel away very often anyway.
    Indeed I was talking about long-distance travel. Travelling in and around Tokyo using public transport is not more expensive than in London or Paris. Contrarily to what you think, Japanese people move a lot inside their country, be it for business trips, weekends at a hot spring, or all the Tokyoite who go skiing in Nagano, Niigata, Gunma or Fukushima prefectures. Or just going back to their home town visiting relatives at obon and new year at least (and most people in Tokyo are not originally from Tokyo).


    Uhh no. And what corrolation do you provide? can you find a statstical link between increasing empoyment of women and overall increase in unemployment? Your statement might be correct if women were replacing male workers, but that is not even close to the case.
    Justly because married women still mainly stay at home and don't seek to take the men's jobs. Even if they work, it's mostly "arubaito" (part-time) and keeping it under 1million yen/year to enjoy tax exemption.

    Wow thats a piece of data manipulation if I have ever seen one. Its worth noting that Tokyo Osaka and Nagoya account for over 50% of Japan's population. Also I question these numbers since the Japanese per capita GDP is 28,000 yen.Japan has a fairly low Gini Coefficient meaning its distribution of wealth is fairly equal.
    Here are my sources : http://www.demographia.com/db-intlppp-regiona.htm

    It is normal that salaries are that high in Tokyo, as it includes all the biggest companies's Headquarters. Same thing happen with London and the UK, Paris and France, or Brussels and Belgium. All are very centralised countries.

    Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya never account for 50% of Japan's population. These stats are by prefecture, so Tokyo doesn't include Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa (Yokohama), but just the 11,8 million people of Tokyo-to. The prefectures of Osaka only has 8,8m and Aichi (Nagoya) 7m. Total = 26,5m, ie 20% of Japan's pop.


    Its is comparable to Scandanavian countries (J-24.7 Sweden-25.5, US- 40) that is counterintuitive to what you are saying.
    I don't see your point here. Scandinavian countries have very different GDP/capita. The world bank's data for 2002 show that Norway's GNI/capita was 37,850$, above the US (35060$), and well above Denmark (30290$) and especially Sweden (24800$). You can hardly associate the 3 of them.


    Economic protectionism, which worked well in a whole host of other Asian countries including south korea to increase their wealth. The difference is that the Japanese are now a economic powerhouse in East Asia, accounting for 70% of the Region's GDP and 18% of the Worlds GDP... I don't know how you can explain away that but Japan is a economic superpower. And your assertion that it only did well because of economic protectionism does not do Japan's current status justice. Japan's economic position has completely changed. It is now an service sector economy, which exports knowlege and investment rather than industrial goods. It is the main investor in China.
    So how comes that when you have a look at the GDP vs GNP (here ), Japan is one of the rare countries (along with Switzerland, Kuwait or Brazil) to have a higher GNP, because Japanese companies worldwide make more money than all companies in Japan. Other countries usually have a higher GDP because of foreign companies. But there are so few in Japan that even the big American Securities companies or giants like McDonald, IBM, Intel or Pfizer don't counter-balance Japanese investments abroad.

  17. #17
    Jinushi
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    Originally posted by IronChef:
    Yeah, something's gotta give sooner or later though (preferrably sooner). Women's rights have come a long way here in the U.S. since the 50's but even today, the whole idea of "equal pay for equal work" is still a popular myth for the most part. Hopefully, Japanese society will be able to evolve to the point where women are at least no longer considered subordinates on some level to their male counterparts (in work, in marriage, etc.).
    I agree with that, Iron Chef. Interesting post, Maciamo.

    As far as divisions within schools with respect to sports, I think that's true here in America, for the most part. I attended church school most of my life, so I didn't encounter that problem much. The schools were small and the boys usually ended up needing "warm bodies" for their teams, so I lucked out. They all taught me how to play football, basketball, volleyball, softball, etc. It was great! Then when I attended high school, there was something called "girls' basketball!" I couldn't believe it. I had never heard of such a thing, coming from a church school background where it didn't exist. But apparently, it's very common!

    What I found interesting fairly recently is the division of men's and women's equestrian sports in Japan. I was searching a fellow equestrian's web site. She lives in Japan and rides at one of the Crane Equestrian centers. Anyway, on her site, she had links to several competitions she had entered, and I noticed they were all "Ladies" competitions. It was weird. I had never heard of that. Now, that doesn't mean I know everything about equestrian show jumping, but I usually try to keep up with the Olympic games and the showing jumping aired on cable from Spruce Meadows in Canada, as well as the Aachen in Germany. And never have I seen a separate women's division. I wonder if that's unique to Japan or if there are other countries like that. Perhaps someone else knows the answer? I've just never seen it.

    Sorry, I don't know enough about economics to comment on the rest! I'll leave that discussion to you and Noyhouser and others--those who are much more knowledgeable on the subject. And the only thing I know about heating and insulation is that here in America we have had to change ours due to all of the asbestos problems:

    Home asbestos fears deepen
    Zonolite insulation, made in the capital and the East Bay, may be in more than 10 million houses.
    By Greg Gordon -- Bee Washington Bureau
    Published 2:15 a.m. PST Tuesday, January 21, 2003
    WASHINGTON -- An insulation product made from asbestos-tainted Montana ore was poured into attics and walls of perhaps more than 10 million homes -- far more than the 940,000 homes originally estimated, federal officials say.

    Because Zonolite attic insulation was produced at plants in Sacramento (1956-64) and the East Bay town of Newark (1964-94), sizable numbers of affected homes are believed to be in Northern and Central California.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was preparing to issue a nationwide alert about the problem last year but reconsidered after protests from the company that sold Zonolite and the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

    Zonolite, which was made from vermiculite ore, has an asbestos content of less than 1 percent. But EPA officials say that merely jostling the fluffy, easy-to-crumble granules can release microscopic asbestos fibers into the air at dangerous concentrations.

    If inhaled at these levels for as little as a few weeks, Zonolite's particularly toxic strain of tremolite asbestos can cause disabling or lethal lung diseases that don't show up for 10 to 40 years, they said.

    Regional EPA officials, giving credence to a Dec. 29 report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper, said Administrator Christie Whitman grew so concerned about the Zonolite problem last winter that she directed aides to come up with strategies for alerting homeowners nationwide.

    The EPA officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Whitman also was on the verge of declaring an unprecedented "Public Health Emergency" authorizing removal of Zonolite from homes in the asbestos-devastated town of Libby, Mont. Libby is near the mountain where miners extracted the vermiculite, which was later found to be a carcinogen, from the early 1920s until 1990.

    Agency planning had gone so far that press releases were drafted announcing both actions, these officials said, when Whitman abruptly dropped them both. They said that internal e-mails and other evidence show the White House's Office of Management and Budget interceded in April, pressuring EPA to abandon the initiatives.

    Now-bankrupt W.R. Grace & Co., which operated the mine from 1963 to 1989 and marketed Zonolite nationally, sent Whitman a letter last April opposing the warning and the emergency declaration.

    In a letter to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., on Thursday, Whitman said EPA, not OMB, made both decisions, and that OMB was only one of many agencies that had input. She said she put off a decision on a nationwide health warning about Zonolite until she learns more about its risks from an ongoing agency study. Murray proposed legislation last year that would require EPA to launch a national campaign to educate the public about Zonolite.

    Whitman also wrote that she chose not to declare an emergency for Libby, where asbestos has killed or sickened hundreds of miners and residents, because of a concern that "possible legal challenges to this untested approach" could delay cleanup efforts.

    Because sales records are scattered or have been destroyed, experts say it is impossible to determine precisely how many U.S. homes contain Zonolite. EPA officials now say that a 1985 agency assessment estimating it was present in about 940,000 homes was not reliable.

    Darrell Scott, a Spokane, Wash., lawyer handling class action suits in which thousands of homeowners are seeking damages from Grace, estimated that Zonolite sold after 1950 is in 3 million to 10 million homes. A memo from the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry estimated that the insulation is in 12 million to 35 million homes, offices and schools.

    The estimates come from Grace shipping records, which show that at least 15.6 billion pounds of vermiculite ore was shipped from Libby to hundreds of plants and factories in North America. Those included the Sacramento plant, which was on Jibboom Street, off Richards Boulevard. Partial Grace sales records and trial testimony have also contributed to the estimates.

    In a nine-page, April 10 letter to the EPA chief, William Corcoran, Grace's vice president of public and regulatory affairs, said the Montana ore contained only small amounts of asbestos, nearly all of which was removed during the manufacture of Zonolite.

    "There is no credible reason to believe" that Zonolite "has ever caused an asbestos-related disease in anyone who has used it in his/her home," he wrote.

    Public records and asbestos experts say otherwise.

    In 1993, a Missouri appeals court upheld a $2.5 million jury award to Edward Harashe, a 67-year-old retired St. Louis plumber who died that year of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs caused by asbestos. The court traced Harashe's death to his decisions to insulate his home in the 1950s with 20 bags of Zonolite and to add more during a 1975 renovation.

    Paul Peronard, formerly the EPA's on-scene coordinator of an $85 million federal asbestos cleanup in and around Libby, said the agency's air sampling in the attics of Libby homeowners who used Zonolite insulation "have shown very clearly that if you disturb the material, you get very, very high levels of asbestos.

    "Quite a few people have reported contracting asbestos-related diseases just from handling the insulation," Peronard said.

    EPA has removed the insulation from the attics of about 30 Libby area homes at a cost of about $10,000 each.

    When Grace last year played down the risks of Zonolite in the bankruptcy court, EPA lawyers filed briefs challenging the firm's "incorrect and misleading" statements.

    EPA officials said their sampling in homes where the Zonolite lay undisturbed found asbestos levels 10 to 100 times higher than those Grace reported and, when they stirred up vermiculite dust, they measured "exposure levels at 10,000 to 100,000 times higher" than Grace's readings.

    Keven McDermott, who investigated vermiculite exposures for EPA's Seattle regional office, said in a phone interview that she gets calls each week from homeowners who just discovered Zonolite in their attics.

    "If there's a common theme," she said, "it's that, 'I wish I'd known sooner. I'm afraid that I've needlessly exposed my family, and particularly my children, to asbestos.'"

    Among those at greatest risk for exposure to Zonolite are workers who enter attics to install television cables, phone lines and plumbing vents or to perform renovations.
    About the Writer
    ---------------------------

    The Bee's Greg Gordon can be reached at (202) 383-0005 or [email protected] .
    For more information
    * Contact EPA's Toxic Substances Control Act hotline at (202) 554-1404 or visit the EPA Asbestos Web site: www.epa. gov/asbestos

    * See the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at: target="_blank" class="nStoryL">www.atsdr. cdc.gov

    Satori


  18. #18
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    @gender equality

    The US is supposed to have laws to protect women's rights. Now I don't know if they are enforced or not, but I guess so because Americans are famous worldwide for suing companies or individuals for the slightest disconfort. That's why there are so many lawyers in the States. I guess that the discrepancies between big cities and countryside are as big as anywhere else (if not bigger).

    The world leader in gender equality are Sweden and Norway. Sometimes wonder if women have not overtaken men overthere.

    Have a look at the 20 year-old cultural analysis of Pr. Geert Hofstede. The 4th column, masculinity, indicates the difference in gender role and equality for each country. High scores mean machist, male chauvinistic societies, and low scores more gender equality. The lowest scores in the 56 countries surveyed were Sweden (5) and Norway (8), the Netherlands (14) and Denmark (16). The highest were for Japan (95), Austria (79), Venezuela (73), Italy (70) and Switzerland (70). The US score 62 ! That's better than Japan or Italy, but worse than France, Spain or Nordic countries (although the UK, Ireland and Germany have slightly higher scores).


    Originally posted by Satori

    Then when I attended high school, there was something called "girls' basketball!" I couldn't believe it. I had never heard of such a thing, coming from a church school background where it didn't exist. But apparently, it's very common!
    Personally, all the individual sports I have practised (tennis, judo and karate...) mixed male and female during training. Competition were separte for the obvious reason of physical stength difference. Group sports (basketball, football, volleyball...) always separated males and females.

    What I found interesting fairly recently is the division of men's and women's equestrian sports in Japan. I was searching a fellow equestrian's web site. She lives in Japan and rides at one of the Crane Equestrian centers. Anyway, on her site, she had links to several competitions she had entered, and I noticed they were all "Ladies" competitions.
    Even simple hobbies tend to be very gender-oriented in Japan. Women have their own exclusive hobbies like ikebana, sadou, nail art, aerobics... and it is not unusual to have female only English classes, or see all-female overseas tours. That's very surprising for me, as I've been used to see girls do karate (what they almost never do in Japan) or little girls playing soldiers with boys in Europe. In Japan, activities are separated since a very earliy age. Not sure which is better though, as lots of Western women turn out to be too manly in behaviour and afraid of their feminity once they grow up. That's why Japanese (or Asian) women attract more and more Western men. Gender equality has its drawbacks !

  19. #19
    Jinushi
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    Maciamo,

    Wow, I am surprised at those statistics! According to those numbers, Japan is pretty bad, but, then, so is the U.S.! What exactly do they mean by "Uncertainty Avoidance?" I wonder what the key is for the other countries that are more successful in equality. Those Swedish women are pretty tall--maybe they scared the men into submission! Just kidding...

    As I said earlier, when I attended church school, it was usually a small school, so that's the way we had to do things. But I don't think I would recommend it across the board with all sports. For example, we did play touch football, but since it was co-ed, it inevitably turned into tackle! However, I do feel fortunate that I was able to participate in a sport that would have been otherwise forbidden. I even made a touchdown once, but only because the quarterback ripped his pants! (He's now a plastic surgeon. ) All I know is it was a good thing I knew which way to run because we were playing in the church parking lot after church one day--and in the gravel, no less. Pretty stupid. But you're absolutely right about the strength factor. This was still grade school, so it wasn't yet a factor. But if that had been high school, forget it!! I'd be road kill. With volleyball I could hold my own with anyone, but football was another story entirely...

    Strength isn't really a factor with respect to equestrian sports, so both men and women participate equally. Except in Japan, I guess. I wonder if the women riders in Japan make the Olympic team or is it all male? I never really stopped to research the issue. But did I understand you correctly as saying that in Japan, little girls don't take karate? Or did I misinterpret that? They certainly do here in the U.S. and I thought you said they did in Europe as well. But not in Japan?? Wouldn't karate be considered more of an inner strength sport (as well as outer strength)?

    lots of Western women turn out to be too manly in behaviour and afraid of their feminity once they grow up. That's why Japanese (or Asian) women attract more and more Western men. Gender equality has its drawbacks !
    I definitely agree with that. But I'm not sure I would go so far as to say it is a result of gender equality. For instance, when I used to work for some very large law firms, some of the women attorneys would come across quite masculine (this is many years ago), and they didn't seem to be comfortable with their femininity at all. At least, that's how they appeared to me. But I think it had more to do with their trying to fit into a male-dominated field and what was expected of them. It seemed the more they were confused about how to do that, the less comfortable they were with themselves and the less feminine they seemed. Now, in more recent years, I have noticed that the women attorneys I encounter are much more feminine and comfortable with their roles as attorneys in large firms dominated by men. They still encounter problems, but it seems to have improved quite a bit. Of course, during the 1990s, there were all kinds of sexual harassment lawsuits filed against most of the large law firms in this area, so that changed the atmosphere of all of the major law firms dramatically. Most of the women attorneys I encounter these days are much softer and flexible, and they don't seem to feel they have to be so tough just to survive. Also, I think a lot of them have realized they don't need to be "superwoman" either, and that their employers are just going to have to understand that. I don't know if that's something that Japanese women will encounter down the road--or maybe are already experiencing--but it does seem to me to be a byproduct of their environment more than anything else. I would hope they can keep the balance of being very feminine while participating in an ever-progressing business world. After all, true femininity comes from the inside.

    Satori

  20. #20
    Regular Member Gally's Avatar
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    Wow, now that's an interesting topic! Maciamo, you impress me, thank you for the feedback! You seem to know a lot about a lot of various countries and to be able to speak perfect English and perfect French, and god knows they're not easy languages to master! And you're also very analytical and critical about those various cultures, it's interesting to read your analysis. Have you lived in so many different countries?


    Noyhauser, have you lived in Japan?

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