That was made apparent to me on a recent visit to Tokyo, where gray-haired individuals far outnumbered children in the streets. But the hustle and bustle also revealed that Japan does not accept that its aging population means its economic prospects must diminish. On the contrary, Japan is harnessing two of its assets — one long underutilized and the other a long-standing source of strength — to support continued economic expansion. Japan certainly faces demographic challenges. It is already the oldest country in the world, as measured by both the median age of the population (46.3 years) and the share of the population aged 65 years or more (26 percent). That compares to just 40.4 years and 17 percent, respectively, among all high-income countries. And Japan’s birthrate and inward immigration rate are low—as a result, the population is not only aging but shrinking. Japan’s working-age population peaked more than 20 years ago, in 1995.

And yet, Japan’s economy is chugging along. It is by no means the fastest-growing major economy in the world, but it nonetheless continues to expand. In fact, Japan’s GDP per capita growth averaged 1.42 percent annually over the last five years — slightly ahead of the OECD average of 1.36 percent. As any economist will tell you, the two keys to sustained economic growth and higher living standards are increases in the size of a country’s labor force and rises in those workers’ productivity. Economies cannot grow in the long run without at least one of the two forces in play. In spite of its demographics, both forces are now propelling the Japanese economy forward. How has Japan’s economy remained resilient in the face of its demographic challenges? Feb 11, 2018 offers the answer: It’s the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Both aspects of what the world is celebrating today — women and science — are at play in Japan’s economic resilience.

First, the Japanese government has actively sought to increase the size of its labor force by encouraging more women to work. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s launched his “Womenomics” program in 2013, which has increased the rate of replacement pay for those on parental leave and expanded the capacity of daycare facilities. In addition, the government now requires companies with more than 300 employees to disclose gender diversity targets and associated action plans for achieving them. In part due to those efforts, female participation in the labor force has risen from 65 percent in 2013 to 68.1 percent in 2016 — far ahead of the OECD average of 63.6 percent. That built on gains in previous years thanks to labor market reforms in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These policies recognize the imperative to grow the country’s workforce by harnessing the economic potential of women — a long-underutilized segment of Japan’s working-age population.

Second, Japan is leveraging science — more accurately, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), for which science is used as the shorthand in the name of Sunday’s holiday — to boost its productivity. The country has long been a leader in technological innovation, but now its technological edge is helping the economy overcome so-called demographic destiny in two fields.  Automation and robotics are being utilized to enable greater levels of output with fewer workers. That is particularly apparent in the manufacturing and construction sectors. For instance, electronic parts maker Nidec is developing automating robots and an accompanying system of an internet of Things devices to improve efficiency and more easily adjust factory output to demand levels. And in construction, Taisei Corporation and the Chiba Institute of Technology recently introduced a robot that automates rebar binding — a process that normally accounts for 20 percent of the man-hours associated with constructing building frameworks.

Technology is also enabling Japan to better care for its expanding elderly population. Toyota is among the companies that have launched robots to help Japan’s elderly people walk independently, while Panasonic has developed a bed that can split apart into a wheelchair.  Many companies have also developed companionship robots designed for the elderly, including Paro, a baby harp seal that nuzzles people who pet it, and Chapit, a mouse that chit chats with bed-bound patients. Such developments not only solvesthe problem of a shortage of workers in health care and elder care, but also enables younger family members to continue working rather than taking time off to care for their aging relatives. As we celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, it is worth keeping in mind the example of Japan. Demography is by no means destiny if a country has smart government policies and an innovative spirit. Other countries struggling with demographic or productivity challenges would do well to emulate Japan’s winning formula.

Source: CNBC

Camp administrators are working to combat abuse, violence, and exploitation of women in Rohingya refugee camp. Dressed in a safari vest, cargo pants, and combat boots, Mr. ShamimulHuqPavel looks more the part of a military instructor than refugee camp administrator.  He is fed up with seeing Rohingya refugee women single-handedly carrying their babies while hauling heavy food rations home. So he has issued a warning to the men among the 70,000 refugees he oversees:  “If any woman is seen carrying a big sack and she has a competent male person at her home, that male person would have to answer to me.”  It has been over five months since nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled an army crackdown in Myanmar to Bangladesh, bearing horrific memories of arson, murder, torture and abuse.

The hills in southern Cox’s Bazar have been stripped of foliage and packed instead with thousands of bamboo-framed, tarpaulin-lined huts. Aid agencies, working together with the Bangladeshi government, have met the most pressing needs of food, shelter and immediate medical attention of women.As the world’s largest refugee settlement takes shape, the authorities in Muslim-majority Bangladesh are grappling with the implications of the Rohingyas’ conservative social order.

Mr. Pavel, a senior assistant secretary with the Ministry of Land, has been administering a section of Kutupalong camp for over three months. “I have given all the males a very strong message,” he tells The Sunday Times. “If anything happens unjustly with any girl, any child, any mother, or sister, things might get worse for them.”The number of refugees who have arrived in Bangladesh from Aug 25, after fleeing an army crackdown in Myanmar including Rohingya refugee girl at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh has finally found hope. Nearly 700,000 people have fled to Bangladesh since last August.  MR SHAMIMUL HUQ PAVEL, refugee camp administrator has taken the responsibility to speak up for the women of Roshingya.

Source: AseaNews

On this International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, the United Nations is calling for the eradication of the traditional practice, which causes extreme physical and psychological harm to millions of women and girls worldwide.

The United Nations says more than 200 million girls and women in 30 countries are currently living with the harmful and dangerous consequences of female genital mutilation. Young girls between infancy and 15 years of age are subjected to the practice, which mainly occurs in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

The World Health Organization reports FGM confers no benefits, only serious problems, including severe bleeding, infections, complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.

Irrefutable evidence exists regarding the many serious life-long health consequences that arise from the procedure. Nevertheless, the WHO reports the practice persists because of myths and misconceptions.

WHO spokeswoman FadelaChaib said one dangerous myth is that only girls who undergo the procedure can enter womanhood and be considered respectable.

She said people often believe there is little risk of harm for girls and women if female genital mutilation is performed by a doctor or other healthcare professional.

“This is not the truth.WHO is completely against any health worker helping to do this practice. FGM is a harmful practice and may lead to physical, mental and sexual health complications regardless of who performs it,” said Chaib.

FGM is far from being eradicated. But, Chaib told VOA slow progress is being made in communities around the world. She cites the case of Sudan, a country that has a high level of FGM.

With the help of several U.N. agencies and financing from Britain and Ireland, she said, the practice is becoming rarer in communities across the country.

Source: VOA

It is likely that taxis driven by Saudi women could be seen zooming past on the Kingdom’s roads from June 2018, when women in Saudi will be officially allowed to drive cars. The Public Transport Authority (PTA) is busy making regulations that could also allow women to work as taxicab drivers.

Rumaih Al-Rumaih, chairman of the PTA said that currently rules and regulations are underway to enable Saudi women to drive taxis that will transport only female passengers, according to Saudi Gazette.

Al-Rumaih added the car rental offices will be completely localized and that the authority is working with the Ministry of Labour and Social Development to complete the nationalization of jobs in public transport sector.

Moreover, the same regulations governing the licensing of men who work in transportation will be applicable to women taxi drivers, said PTA spokesman Abdullah Al-Mutairi.

Though the official announcement is still pending, Uber and Careem have already planned to hire women drivers in Saudi. Careem has received thousands of applications from Saudi women who want to become drivers. “We may hire over 10,000 female captains (drivers) by June 2018. Female captains will help us provide a better service to many women who want to travel but refuse to take cabs driven by men,” Abdullah Elyas, co-founder and chief privacy officer at Careem was quoted as saying by CNN.

While, Uber’s general manager in Saudi Arabia, Zeid Hreish said, “We will partner with necessary stakeholders to facilitate the paperwork, training access, and access to vehicles, including access to driving schools run by third party partners.”

Not only this, Uber will also initiate ‘listening sessions’ for women in Riyadh to help the company in shaping priorities and upcoming plans for women in the Kingdom, besides addressing social and legal problems that women could face when driving.

Source: Sunnews

Although she’s been a standout soccer player for the Pennington School, East Windsor native Megan Porras had never considered playing international soccer.

Until she got a call from Walter Bustamante, a retired American soccer midfielder who played professionally and then opened the Walter Bustamante Soccer Academy.

Bustamante had been impressed with Porras’ soccer skills and had spoken with coaches of the Peruvian national soccer team about getting Porras a tryout. Born in the United States to Peruvian and Dominican parents, Porras holds citizenship in all three countries, making her eligible to play for Peru.

So she traveled to Peru just before Christmas last year to try out for the team. And it went well. Porras was told before she left to come home that she had indeed made the women’s under-20 squad.

“When I first heard from Walter, I was in complete shock,” said Porras. Initially though, it didn’t fully sink in to her that she had made the team.

“I never really thought about playing internationally until I got the call from the recruiter, but then I realized what an amazing opportunity it was going to be,” she said.

That opportunity for Porras began Jan. 13 with the CONMEBOL South American Championships in Ecuador. Ten teams from South America, divided into two groups, competed for two spots in the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup to be held in France Aug. 5 through Aug. 24.

Prior to her departure, Porras had high expectations for the tournament and the overall experience.

“Of course it’s a great experience to play at such a high level, but there are other things that I am looking forward to,” said Porras. “The girls are amazing. When I traveled to Peru, I was really nervous because I understand Spanish perfectly, but speaking it seems to be a little bit of a challenge. So I was nervous to be in an environment where I was forced to speak. But my Spanish improved so much and I love that.

“Traveling to Ecuador has been a great experience as well,” she said. “The scenery is gorgeous and it’s really different from the States.”

The Peruvian team played Argentina on Jan. 15, Colombia on Jan. 17, Paraguay on Jan. 19 and Ecuador on Jan. 21, but did advance to the second round.

Porras started three of the four games for Peru, but was forced to sit out the final game after suffering a collision in the third game.

She has been playing soccer since she was 3 years old and according to Porras, the Pennington girls’ soccer team is like a second family to her. This season, she was named one of the team’s captains.

But the international soccer experience was one that she’ll always cherish.

“Overall, this was an amazing experience for me,” said Porras. “Not only as a soccer player but as an American-Peruvian girl.”


Source: Central Jersey

The “silence breakers,” as they are popularly known, circulate petitions demanding investigations into abuse and share Internet memes like clenched fists with painted nails.

But Chinese women are finding it difficult to organise a far-reaching #MeToo movement, going up against not just a male-dominated culture but also the ruling Communist Party itself.

Government censors, apparently fearing social unrest, are trying to hobble the campaign, blocking the use of phrases like “anti-abuse” on social media and deleting online petitions calling for greater protections for women. And officials have warned some activists against speaking out, suggesting that they may be seen as traitors colluding with foreigners if they persist.

“So many sincere and eager voices are being muted,” said Zhang Leilei, 24, an activist in the southern city of Guangzhou who has helped circulate dozens of petitions among college students. “We are angry and shocked.”

Women are demanding investigations into bosses, teachers and co-workers. They are pressing universities to investigate harassment complaints more forcefully. And they are taking to social media to rail against gender bias and denounce the lack of women in high office.

A handful of university officials have already lost their jobs in cases that have prompted national debate, including one involving a professor accused of harassing a half-dozen students over the past 15 years.

The campaign is testing the limits of a government that frowns on citizen-led movements, has a poor record of promoting women’s rights and controls all news media. While investigative reporting ignited the #MeToo movement in the United States, women in China are forced to tell their stories directly online.

“‘Me Too’ was an alarm bell for all of us,” said Sophia Huang Xueqin, 30, a journalist in southern China who started a social media platform to report abuse. “We’re not brave enough to stand out as one individual. But together, we can be strong.”

Huang, who said she left her job at a national news service several years ago after being harassed by a senior colleague, said many women were ashamed to speak out because of the stigma associated with it.

“It feels like we’re still in a traditional world where women are supposed to stay at home and support the family and feed the kids,” she said.

The Communist Party often embraces gender equality as a propaganda theme, noting the strides women made in the first decades of its rule. Mao famously declared that “women hold up half the sky.”

But in recent years, the government has done little to prevent a resurgence of gender bias and workplace discrimination. Men dominate the party’s upper ranks, and government officials and powerful business executives are often protected from allegations of wrongdoing.

Laws on rape and harassment are vague, legal experts say, and courts do not often rule in favor of women who pursue complaints against employers. Employers rarely investigate complaints or dole out meaningful punishments.

“Most victims remain silent,” said Li Ying, a lawyer and the director of the Beijing Yuanzhong Gender Development Center, an advocacy group. “They can’t afford to lose their jobs.”

The #MeToo movement is largely limited to educated, urban women. Many have been inspired by Luo Qianqian, a graduate of Beihang University, an aeronautics school in Beijing, who recently published an essay online that was read by more than three million people.

Luo said she was one of seven women who had been harassed by a professor, Chen Xiaowu.

More than a decade ago, she wrote, Chen lured her off campus and tried to have abuse with her, despite her pleas that he stop. He denied the allegations, but the university fired him this month, saying he had harassed several students.

In her essay, Luo urged Chinese women to “stand up bravely and say ‘No!’“

Some have described her story as the “first step in the Long March” against abuse in China. But Luo, who now lives in the United States, said the movement would need to be “mild and gentle” to avoid pushback from the government.

“Only in this way can the Chinese campaign against abuse live on and develop,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Activists say it will probably take decades to change public attitudes about harassment. At many companies, women are underpaid and relegated to menial roles. Men take co-workers as mistresses and openly remark on the appearance of female colleagues.

Fanny M.C. Cheung, a professor of psychology and vice president of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said many women did not report harassment because Chinese culture had taught them to respect hierarchy.

“People are not encouraged to speak up against superiors,” Cheung said. “If you can’t change public attitudes, it’s very difficult to have a true endorsement of gender equality.”

Already, the Chinese government appears uncomfortable with the growing number of women who are going public with charges of abuse.

Xu Yalu, 28, a marketing specialist, recently took to social media to recount being groped on the street in Shanghai several times. She posted photos of the man but said the police refused to take action, telling her he was too old to be arrested.

Soon she was inundated with misogynistic comments and her post was deleted by censors.

“It’s not my fault that I was abused,” Xu said. “Why should I be afraid or ashamed of talking about it?”

Even relatively mundane calls for change have been stamped out. Censors recently deleted an online petition calling on Peking University to offer seminars on improper conduct and create committees to investigate abuse reports. And a top social media platform has intermittently blocked the use of the “MeToo China” hashtag.

Students have tried to elude the censors by using different phrases to denounce harassment and assault. But several activists have been warned by professors that they may be perceived as assisting “hostile foreign forces,” according to Xiao Meili, a graduate of the Communication University of China in Beijing.

“Spontaneously organised movements are not appreciated,” said Zheng Xi, a doctoral student at Zhejiang University who is leading a campaign to persuade city governments to post signs against harassment.

Some advocates worry that the movement may face more concerted government opposition if it grows too large. In 2015, the Beijing police detained five feminists who tried to distribute leaflets warning of abuse on public transit. Legal aid centres for women have been shut down.

Many Chinese women who have come forward with stories of abuse have been scorned by friends, co-workers and relatives. But some say doing so gave them a feeling of liberation.

For seven months, Zhang Qiongwen, 22, lived with a secret. A dean at her university in southern China, Zhou Bin, abused her on several occasions, she says, masturbating in front of her and forcing her to kiss him. He threatened to prevent her and her classmates from graduating if she reported him, she says.

Zhang’s friends warned her that if she reported the harassment it would ruin her reputation.

Another dean, Cheng Shuijin, asked her not to go public, she recounted, saying, “The correct thing to do is to pretend nothing happened.”

Haunted by the incident, Zhang began thinking of suicide. But late last year, she broke her silence, posting an essay online titled, “A Must-Read for Female Students at Our School about Protecting Yourself from Predators.” Then she reported Zhou to the police.

In December, the two deans, Zhou and Cheng, were fired in connection with the case. Both men declined to comment.

“I couldn’t erase such a brutal thing from my mind,” Zhang said. “I didn’t want my silence to enable more crimes.”

Source: Startimes Asia


Members of a female security unit in Gaza graduated on Tuesday January 23, 2018, in a celebration attended by senior security officials, media reports said.

The Director of Palestinian Security Services in Gaza General Tawfiqabu-N’eem, along many other senior security officials, attended the graduation.

Reports said that this is the 29th unit of women security staff in Gaza and these women immediately took up their responsibilities in the different security departments.

Security officials said that this came as part of the effort to involve women in the operations of the security services in Gaza.

Abu-N’eem said: “We are working hard to train enough numbers of women needed for the security operations and we still need more women to be recruited.”

Source: Middle East Monitor