China's growing influence in South America 11-03-18

Source - Economist, Nov 03, 2018: "Latin lessons"     

China, not the United States is the dominant economic power in South America.

From the article: "China is the region’s second-largest trade partner after America, and the number one trade partner for Brazil, Chile and Peru, notably buying soybeans, iron ore, oil, copper and meat. Its loans are often at high interest rates and are tied to contracts for Chinese firms. They fund both useful projects and vanity ones for local despots." China's loans are based primarily on ROI not ideology.

"China stands out for its willingness to invest in risky or corrupt places with few alternative sources of capital or of cheap, robust technology. Its approach might be called sub-prime globalization. At best, sub-prime lenders are non-judgmental sources of second chances. At worst, they are see-no-evil profiteers, and vulnerable to backlashes. China is a bit of both."

"China’s restraint, tolerating Bolsonarian bluster while ignoring Venezuelan sycophancy, does not signal impotence. Its clout has grown astonishingly, notably in the region’s south. Five years ago, for South Americans, the leading outside power was the United States, says Argentina’s ambassador to Beijing, Diego Ramiro Guelar. “Today it is China. Not as a projection into the future. Now.”

Turkmenistan and the resource curse 7-7-18

Source: "Turkmenezuela"  

Central AsiaTurkmenistan should be a good place to live. With only 5 million residents and the fourth-largest natural gas reserves in the world, it should have high median incomes. Yet, reports are circulating that residents are being forbidden from boarding airplanes and leaving the country (the government denies this). 

Turkmenistan is another example of the Resource Curse. Because of political differences, neither Russia or Iran will buy Turkmenistan's gas, leaving China as their only customer. Selling to the Chinese required an expensive pipeline and the Turkeminstan government borrowed the money from Chinese banks. Now a large portion of their gas revenues go right back to China to repay interest on the pipeline loans. Further restricting government budgets are billions of dollars being held in private European bank accounts. The government has also wasted money on white elephants, like a falcon-shaped airport at Ashgabat. 

Turkmenistan enforces an official exchange rate of 3.5 manats to the dollar (the unofficial rate is more like 25 manats to the dollar). Citizens have their manat withdrawals restricted and lines at the state-owned supermarkets are long with lots of shortages. Unemployment is estimated to be as high as 60%.

Japan needs immigrants 7-7-18

Source: "Hidden masses"  

Japan has always been a homogenous country. Less than 2% of its population are foreigners (compared to 16% for France and 4% for North Korea). A recent poll showed Japanese split 50-50 in support of letting more foreign workers into Japan (although 60% of those between 18 and 29 were in favor of letting in more workers while 30% of those over 70 opposed it). The Japanese government has been historically cool to the issue. From the article: "The case of nikkeijin, immigrants of Japanese extraction, is instructive. They have the right to move to Japan based on family ties and so provide an easy way around the restrictions on low-skilled migrants. In theory they should be easy to integrate; many are familiar with the culture and speak some Japanese. In practice, however, the government has made no effort to help them. The children of nikkeijin do worse in school than those of other immigrants. The clearest sign of the government’s ambivalence came in 2008, when the economy took a turn for the worse and unemployment rose. It offered nikkeijin free flights and other subsidies to move back to their home countries if they promised not to return."

Currently, there are 1.3 million foreign workers in Japan or 2% of the workforce, an all-time high. The Japanese government is allowing more immigration to occur via a Designated Skills visa that prioritizes workers in the agriculture, nursing and construction fields.

Patriarchal culture prevents Indian women from working 7-7-18

Source: "A job of her own"  

Female Employment

India has one of the world’s lowest female employment rates at 26% - and this number has been in decline despite an Indian economy growing at 7% a year. The female unemployment has a “U shape” when viewed by education levels. Women with no education or lots of education tend to work. Those in the middle with only primary or secondary education, tend not to work.

The primary reason is cultural. India is a patriarchy in which men work and women stay home. Indian women do 90% of the housework. Outside a small urban elite, the default position is for women not to work unless there is no other way for a family to make ends meet. This reflects an enduring stigma of women being seen as “having” to toil. A family’s social standing partly derives from women being able to stay at home. Indian women are not expected to have a job—41% of young Indians think it better if married women do not work. As the median age of marriage is 19, there is little time to experience the workplace. According to the World Values Survey, 76% of Indians agree that “when a mother works for pay, children suffer”, the highest figure outside the Middle East. In a survey in 2012 by Pew, a research outfit, 84% of Indians agreed that “when jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than women”. 

There is an even darker side to the patriarchy - around 600 young girls a day die of neglect resulting from gender bias, according to a study published in the Lancet. The authorities estimate that India has 63m fewer women than it would otherwise because of differing survival rates between boys and girls as well as gender-selective abortions. Across India only 900 girls were born for every 1,000 boys in 2013-15, a ratio that is expected to worsen.

There is also an institutional component. There aren’t very many factories in India. Industries that spawned tens of millions of female jobs in other emerging economies are largely absent from India. Antiquated labor and tax laws and a government fond of harassing big business are to blame for an absence of mega-factories spewing iPhones or T-shirts. Vietnam and Ethiopia, which have plenty of giant factories employing women, mostly making clothing and footwear, boast female workforce-participation above 70%.