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International News Archive
November 01 - November 07, 1999


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This page contains news for the period Monday, November 01, 1999 through Sunday, November 07, 1999.





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Sunday, November 07, 1999

Adulterers face jail as divorce soars in China

An article published today in the London Telegraph reports that adultery is set to be declared a crime in China, with heavy fines or even jail for unfaithful spouses.

The measure, proposed as part of the first changes to the country's marriage laws in nearly 20 years, follows a big rise in divorces and a revival of the ancient Chinese tradition of men taking concubines. Under the legal shake-up, couples getting wed will have to sign a binding contract to be invoked in the event of marriage breakdown.

According to the article, a clause in the contract will give wronged parties the right to compensation if their spouses are found guilty of infidelity. Courts will be empowered to impose fines or send offenders to re-educational labour camps to reflect on the error of their ways.

The article predicts that resistance to the move is likely to be strong within the predominantly male Chinese legislature. But it says the government is expected to ensure that the measure is enacted substantially unchanged from its current draft form.

Married men who provide financial support for mistresses will be branded as bigamists, and those who patronise prostitutes will face prosecution.

The divorce rate has tripled since 1979, but remains low by Western standards, at 1.92 per 1,000 marriages last year. The current law permits a divorce where both husband and wife want it or when mutual affection has gone.

Divorce is easy by comparison with most bureaucratic procedures in China. Couples pay a small fee to make an application and then face a two-week wait before the marriage is dissolved. The new Bill requires a three-year cooling-off period before a divorce can be granted and will provide rights to alimony and entitlement to communal property.


Saturday, November 06, 1999

More male child care workers may benefit kids raised by single mothers

An article published today in the London Times quotes a new report which found that it is a myth that women are the best workers at a child care center.

The study, by the Institute of Education, concludes that children who attend nurseries that employ men, as well as women, have a more balanced view of the "real world" and benefit from learning early in life that men are just as capable of caring for them as women.

Clare Cameron, co-author of the report, said that many children, particularly those in single-parent families, spent their early years almost exclusively in the company of women and only very rarely had the opportunity to interact with men.

"Employing men as childcare workers enabled children to have a better and more diverse range of contact with adults," she said.

The article says that researchers interviewed male and female workers in ten childcare centres in England.

While the workers were anxious to stress the similarities between men and women nursery workers, some differences did emerge.

"The women would see their male colleagues as more relaxed and laid back and more keen to do things with the children outside, while the men described the women as being more into forging one-to-one relationships with the children," Ms Cameron said.

The report, entitled Men in the Nursery, found that parents were very keen to have a mixed gender workforce looking after their children.

Of the 52 mothers and 25 fathers of children interviewed for the study, 85 per cent supported having male childcare workers.

The article says that the reasons given by parents included the view that men added something "different" to life in childcare centers. Many also saw men as good role models for boys and as representing a good way of getting men into boys' lives before secondary school.

Single mothers thought male workers were especially beneficial for their children with some believing that they acted as a "father figure" for their children.

Ms Cameron said that the government itself had called for more men to take on careers in childcare and more work needed to be done to attract men into the profession.

The report proposed imposing targets for recruitment of childcare students and workers, pointing out that in Norway the government has set a target of 20 per cent for male workers by 2001.


Friday, November 05, 1999

Italy takes last place in Europe in support for families

A story filed today by the Xinhua News Agency reports that Italy holds down last past in Europe in standings on public support provided to families. The ranking was given by the International Center on Family Studies (CISF) which issued a report recently noting that family support declined in Italy from 1.2 percent of gross domestic product in 1985 to 0.8 percent in 1995.

The story said that the group said that families obviously are not given priority by Italian politicians and the government would have to double spending in this area to reach levels of support prevailing in Germany and France.

Between 1985 and 1995, family allowances in Italy have declined by 12 percent while rising in Austria, Portugal, Britain and Denmark by between 28 percent and 43 percent.

From another angle, CISF said single-person households in Italy have risen to account for 21 percent of

all households, single-parent families now reach 7 percent of the total and re-formed family units (step families) account for 4 percent.


Tuesday, November 02, 1999

Unmarried adult dependents should be able to sue for death of household's breadwinner

An article published today in the London Telegraph reports that an English Law Commission is recommending that Parliament expand the class of persons who can sue for damages for the death of the household's breadwinner. Under current law, only a surviving spouse, parent, unmarried minor or unmarried heterosexual cohabitant may sue.

The proposal, if adopted, would allow a same-sex partner, siblings, or other household dependents to recover damages as well.

The commission says the test should be financial dependency on the deceased. This would mean that a gay lover, godchild or friend would be able to claim compensation if they could establish dependence on the person killed through the defendant's negligence.

The commission, headed by Mr. Justice Carnwath, is also recommending that the award of bereavement damages for the death of a loved one in England and Wales should be raised from £7,500 to £10,000 and index-linked, and that the category of those able to claim should again be widened.

At present only a spouse or parent can claim bereavement damages for the grief, sorrow and non-pecuniary loss they suffer from the death of the deceased. Parents can claim for the loss of a child only if the deceased is a unmarried minor.

In its call for reform, the commission is recommending that this restriction on parents claiming bereavement damages for the loss of a child should be ended. The damages should also be claimable by a child, by the survivor of a long-term heterosexual or homosexual relationship where the couple have been living together, by a fiancé or by a sibling.


Monday, November 01, 1999

More young women in Japan are remaining single much longer

The column of Brian Bremner entitled Eye on Japan, published today by Business Week, focuses on the changing roles of women in Japan, highlighting the sharp increase in the number of young women who are remaining single.

Although the Leave-it-to-Beaver family structure is still very much alive in Japan, times are changing. Bremner says that in addition to these stay-at-home-moms, lots of Japanese women, mostly in their late 20s, are completely going AWOL on marriage.

The percentage of women who are unmarried in the 25- to 29-year-old age group has doubled over the past 15 years, to 48% in 1998 from 24% in 1980, according to Kathy Matsui, an economist with Goldman Sachs. Japan's explosion of single-female-led households is unique among wealthy, industrialized nations.

Bremner sees these two groups of women as representing the bipolarity of Japan's present-day female landscape. It is partially driven by generational divides, partially by different value systems -- and much of it by economic factors. But both groups will probably have to bend if Japan is going to cope with the dramatic demographic challenge of an aging and shrinking workforce.

From 1955 to 1973, when the Japanese economy bounded annually by 10% in real terms, the traditional nuclear family arrangement had its attraction. With Japan's tradition of lifetime job security, a seniority-based wage system, and exam-driven educational system, it's not hard to understand why millions of households opted for this model.

But Bremner notes that the economic growth slowed in the 1980s and has hovered at near-zero levels through much of the 1990s. Even if Japan has a recovery in the next year or so, it will be a slow and halting affair.

Bremner says that on a long-term basis, Japan is a mature economy with a potential growth rate of 2% to 3%. This means Japanese families, like U.S. families since the 1970s, will probably need two incomes.

According to Bremner, the younger marital dropouts are having the time of their lives right now. Sociologist Masahiro Yamada points out that 80% of unmarried women in their 20s are "living with their parents and do hardly any housework at all, and if they have any income, they pay around 10% to 20% of it to their parents."

It all adds up to a rather carefree existence. And at the moment, spendthrift Japanese women are pretty much the only source of serious consumer spending in Japan. They are spending yen on Gucci handbags, cellular phones, and personal computers, and comprise Japan's part-time work force of "office ladies" and fill-ins.

But according to Bremner, on a long-term basis, the carefree women are also depressing Japan's feeble birth rate and creating future problems. He asks whether any society can afford to have such a big chunk of the populace single, childless, and without much in the way of family support once they get old.

Bremner sees a possible solution. But he says it is really up to Japan Inc. and the men who run it. The stay-at-home moms would be far more willing to jump into the workforce if the government improved Japan's child-care network and Japanese companies were more imaginative in recruiting women. Japan's vaunted corporations must fashion career tracks for women with children, because now the majority of Japanese women in the workforce are locked in dead-end jobs. And the highest echelons are firmly controlled by men.

Much of the same applies for the holdouts, Bremner says. But getting them to the altar might require a change in mind-set on the part of Japanese men. Japan hasn't yet seen the kind of I Am Woman, Here Me Roar movement that challenged the compartmentalized roles of American men and women during the 1970s. But things are changing, and men, grudgingly, are starting to get serious about helping out more with child-rearing.

Maybe some of them would even warm up to the idea of being Mr. Mom if their wives had a fair shot at the best-paying jobs in the Japanese economy.

Bremner's guess is that a decade from now, a lot more dads will be biking with their to kids to preschool in the morning.

Family and work life in the next millennium will be different

A story published today in the London Times predicts that a child born in the next decade can expect to start school at 3, launch its first business by the age of 20, return to full-time education at 48, retire at 80 and die at 120.

This scenario is based on a new study released today by the Future Foundation, a commercial think tank. The report concludes that one of the most startling results of the increasing longevity and affluence that characterises Western societies at the end of the 20th century will be a radical restructuring of the traditional timetable of our lives.

In a life spanning 120 years, there will be room for three or more careers, several college education stints and at least two families, the report says. We will start school and work earlier, but marry, buy a home and have children later. The report, entitled What's Next?, is the latest in a series of quasi-scientific reports from think tanks and market researchers that attempt to paint a picture of daily life in the next century.

Prompted by the advent of the millennium and based on forecasts of an aging population and a growth in the number of single-person households, the studies vary widely in their predictions. Most agree on one thing: that our perception and enjoyment of "old age" will alter radically.

As Melanie Howard, of the Future Foundation, points out, those reaching the present retirement age of 60 in 2060 may still have another 60 years of active life to fill and to fund.

"With a booming generation who are increasingly active and affluent at 60-plus, society is heading for a reappraisal of its views of maturity. People won't want to retire at 60, they won't see themselves as old and youth will no longer hold the exclusive notions of beauty," she said.

Although marriage will decline, cohabitation will increase to compensate, rising from 8 percent of couples in 1995 to 13 per cent in 2010. Those who marry will do so later. By 2010, men will wait until the age of 35 to marry (compared with 29 at present) and women until 31 (27 now).

Women will spend less time forming families and relationships and more time in work. A mother born in 1950 would typically spend a quarter of her life raising children in the "family phase"; a mother born in 2010 will spend just a fifth of her lifetime in that role. A third will have no children.


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