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International News Archive
July 21 - July 28, 2001


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This page contains news for the period July 21 through July 28, 2001.



<<   July 2001  >>

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Thursday, July 26, 2001

Malaysian businesses should look into childcare facilities for their employees

A story published today by New Straits Times reports that Malaysian women who want to be there for their children and pursue their careers at the same time, need men to be more supportive at home, and businesses to adapt to the changing roles of men and women.

"Women constitute almost 40 percent of the labor force and it means that they are essential for sustaining our economy and its growth," says Puan Sri Professor Dr. Fatimah Hamid Don, deputy chairperson of the National Advisory Council on the Integration of Women in Development (NACIWID).

"Women are neither marginal nor occasional labor. In fact, today they are skilled, knowledgeable, and qualified. So they are valuable assets and resources, and we must nurture, sustain, deploy and mobilize them optimally."

"Employers should realize if their employees have problems at home, they won't be able to perform at work," says Ruth Liew, of Organization Modiale Pour l'Education Prescolaire (World Organization for Early Childhood Education).

In the European Union and Singapore, more and more women are choosing not to have children or have fewer children because they find that they can't do both: have a career and be there for their children.

"Employers need to realize, once they provide these facilities, there will be less absenteeism in the company; parents will have fewer problems at home and thus be more productive at the office; and there will be fewer problematic children and thus fewer problems in society," says Liew.

She says every survey that has ever been done proves this.

Barbara Schaeffer-Hegell, president of the European Academy for Women in Politics and Business based in Berlin, Germany, also stressed the need for these options.

"We need to work towards a change in society that is suitable for both men and women, for work and family, and thus is good for the children. We need a situation where children have a good caretaker and where both men and women can utilize their talents but have the time to look after their children especially when they are very young and need their parents. This requires sufficient support from the public sphere."

Fatimah agrees: "The workplace should be seen as an extension of family life, but certainly not as places designed only for celibates, bachelors and spinsters!"

She says employers must be more sensitive to the needs of working mothers, their concerns and limitations.

"Work rules and conditions must be gender sensitive."

Alternative options like flex-time, part-time, and working from home must certainly be looked into, she says, but not at the price of women's careers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Divorce in Switzerland drops dramatically

A story released today by Xinhua News reports that according to the Swiss Federal Statistics Office, the number of married couples choosing to divorce in Switzerland dropped dramatically from 20,809 in 1999 to 10,511 last year.

"The considerable reduction in the number of divorces in 2000 was not due to a change in couples' marriages, but the new divorce law that was introduced in January last year," said the statement released by the office.

Walter Zingg, head of the office's population evolution department, said the change made the divorce process easier because when a couple agreed to end their marriage, it took less time for judges to examine the case.

The spectacular drop in the Swiss divorce rate is unequaled in the last 30 years, Zingg said. "We have had a constant rise year on year in the number of couples ending their relationship."

Zingg said 2000 was an exceptional year and the government predicts that "the normalization of the judicial procedures would result in a rise in the number of judgments from 2001 on."

Monday, July 23, 2001

Single-parent families linked to underage sex in Britain

A story published today by The Guardian reports that British teenagers whose parents are still married to each other are far less likely to have underage sex, according to a new report by the Family Matters Institute.

The study, based on responses from more than 2,250 youngsters aged between 13 and 15, makes direct links between teenagers' home environments and attitudes towards sex.

It also blames magazines aimed at teenage girls for encouraging them to lose their virginity and contributing to a climate of social acceptance of casual sex.

The report also noted that married couple family where parents have good relationships with their offspring are the least likely to have children involved in underage sex.

The study involved questionnaires completed under supervision in 21 schools. It found that 18% of boys and 15% of girls had had sex. More than seven in 10 who had not had sex came from a family where parents were married to each other, compared with only half of the teenagers who were sexually active.

The responses suggested that 23% of teenagers whose parents were divorced had underage sex, compared with 14% from similar backgrounds who had not. The survey also indicated that teenagers were twice as likely to have had sex if their parents were separated or if their parents were cohabiting rather than married.

The report says the family type often reflects weaker parent-teenager relationships, more infrequent contact and less supervision. Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe, with figures for England and Wales in 1998 revealing 101,500 conceptions and 62,900 live births.

The report concludes that: "Until the parents of young teenagers begin to take more responsibility for their children's behaviour , the level of underage sex will not decline and teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease will continue to rise."

The survey indicates that three in four parents of sexually active 13-year-old girls do not know their daughters are no longer virgins and that one in five young teenagers lost their virginity when they were drunk. A quarter of sexually active 13-year-olds have had four or more sexual partners.

The report also suggests that Britain is becoming more of a matriarchal society with young teenagers, even in "intact" families , having a far closer relationship with their mothers than fathers.

The lack of a male role model for many boys, even sometimes in schools which have mainly women teachers, needs investigation, says the report.

Boys who do not have meaningful contact with men "are likely to find difficulty in forming stable relationships with members of the opposite sex. It is also likely to be an impediment to successful parenting," it adds.

Sunday, July 22, 2001

British columnist writes about single life

A newspaper article written by columnist Barbara Ellen for The Observer talks about being single in the world today. The full text of her article appears below:

Being a single female in 2001 is like being a billionairess who wrongly suspects she has leprosy - you've got everything going for you, but none of it matters, because you've got it into your head that no one will ever want to touch you. If this isn't true then why is singledom, especially female singledom, still being treated like something one needs to scrub away like the plague? Still, today we have a culture geared so crassly to How To Nab Your Man that it would bring an embarrassed blush to the cheeks of a Victorian gentleman trying to marry off a gaggle of ninny-headed daughters. The only difference is that these days the hard sell is wrapped in earnest diatribes about how single women are calling the shots where romance is concerned, and ('Hurrah') need not settle for Mr. Second Best.

Somehow 'settling' has become as big a no-no in modern dating parlance as 'being easy' was 20 years ago. 'Being too difficult' is all the rage now. Single women worth their salt are supposed to have an impossibly ambitious tick list: GSOH, wealth, glamour, fidelity and, the new must-have, 'edge' (which was known as 'being a bit of a bastard' in my day). But woe betide any man who has his own list because 'That's sexist!'. Even when our single heroine meets somebody she likes, she is encouraged to devour books which might as well be entitled How to Marry Someone Who Only Wants to Sleep with You. Indeed, women are trying so stupidly hard these days, both to get into relationships and to stay in them, that one doesn't really need some horse-fixer of a survey to tell you what lies behind nine out of 10 bust-ups. It's usually a simple matter of: 'Fatally, she relaxed.'

We could blame women's magazines, or we could accept, like these same magazines are forced to, that there's a genuine demand for what one of my colleagues once termed 'relationship poo'. As any editor could tell you, 'relationship poo' is where it's at and it's not only women who are stepping in it. I always lap up those I'm 35 and Single. What in God's Name is Wrong with Me? articles. They're great, gruesomely great, as only somebody else's low-grade emotional suffering can be. A new twist seems to be to get the subject's friends and family involved to give their own insights into what's wrong. And you should see them go - telling tales and naming names, as if McCarthyism was a branch of Relate. The point being that it's all good clean fun because, in a strange way, print journalism knows what it's doing and when to stop. It's only when television gets involved that 'relationship poo' looks somehow dirty.

If you don't believe me, check out the new reality TV series on Sky One called Single Girls. Four attractive girls have been set up in a swish 'apartment' and their brief is to 'date like crazy' for six weeks in order to find Mr. Right. The lucky girl who manages to nab her man gets to take him on a nice holiday paid for by Sky. Single Girls is priceless television, but not for the ersatz sociological reasons Sky is trying to push. The girls spend their days 'texting' smut to dates, humorlessly informing said dates how 'strong' they are, and sipping champagne self-consciously on roof terraces. As is the modern way, the girls are also very into 'being too difficult'. They complain all the time - the men are grotty, the dates are grottier, one girl walked out in a huff because the other girls had thinner thighs. However, none of the Single Girls have made the most obvious complaint of all - that they feel like whores, pimped out in a TV brothel.

Back in more innocent times, some people were shocked that Blind Date contestants were prepared to flirt with each other, sight unseen, just to get a free holiday. With Single Girls heaven knows how far the contestants are supposed to go to get their holiday. Whatever's happening, it's in a different league to the victimless 'relationship poo' you get in magazines. For just as dozy, can't-hold-her-drink-to-save-her-life Helen from Big Brother was cynically set up to get it on with Paul at that intimate dinner (and would have had a genuine grievance against Channel 4 had something she regretted occurred), then so too is it unfair for the Single Girls to feel pressured to find 'lurve' within a time limit. And, most probably, with a nagging feeling that they have to be more, shall we say, 'entertaining' than they would normally be. Finding love is difficult enough without having a camera crew lurking around to film those moments when, fatally, you relaxed.

Being a single woman in Japan is now the norm

A story published today by the Los Angeles Times reports that in Japan, nearly half of the Japanese women are still single at age 29. A growing number are also postponing marriage until 35 or beyond. In a country that until recently considered its few "spinsters" to be pathetic or defective, Japan now has a far higher percentage of single women ages 20 to 40 than does the United States -- higher than almost anywhere in the world except Scandinavia.


- 80 percent to 90 percent of single Japanese women live with their parents, as do about half of men in their 20s. Most pay little or no rent and do no housework. One sociologist estimates that Japan has 10 million of these "parasite singles."

- 56 percent of single women do want to marry -- eventually. But marriage is widely seen as a "sayonara" to personal freedom. A recent Mainichi newspaper survey of single women ages 20 to 40 found fewer than a third wanted to marry "soon."

-10 percent of single women ages 35 to 39 told the survey they have resolved never to marry. So did a quarter of single women in their 40s. This marks a revolution in a society in which in 1950, only 1.4 percent of women never married.

"When today's young women look at their own parents, they find it hard to dream of marital bliss for themselves," said sociologist Keiko Funabashi.

Funabashi believes that many of them lack role models for a type of marriage that matches their new status. Their fathers were married to their companies, and many of their mothers devoted themselves to house and children and are now regretting it.

For their part, Japanese men are no longer required to marry in order to be respected. Plenty do not want to follow their fathers' example.

Still, there is a glaring values gap between Japanese men and women.

"Not all Japanese women have changed in the past decade, but the women of marriage and childbearing age have changed dramatically," says Yoko Haruka, a thirty-something television personality and author of the book I Shall Not Marry.

Women say that most Japanese men still want a young bride who will defer to them, have dinner and a hot bath waiting when they get home, and do all of the household chores -- even if she works.

Men complain that women want the freedom to work in lower-paying jobs that interest them but then expect their mates to earn the big bucks, come home at a reasonable hour and do half the housework -- impossible demands when companies are asking more of a downsized work force.

"Young women now have economic power, and they are doubting things they never doubted before," says Haruka. She revolted against marriage after seeing the subservience of her brothers' wives. "They are asking, `What is happiness?'"

Homemaking it is not. The statistic most often quoted by women is the amount of time the average Japanese man spends on housework and child care per day: 23 minutes. Women spend 4 1/2 hours.

During the "bubble" economy of the 1980s, women got choosier but remained more pragmatic than romantic in picking a mate. They still defined a good catch as a man with "three highs": higher education, high income and tall stature.

Now young women who can support themselves have added even tougher criteria for Mr. Right. Chikako Ogura of Aichi Shukutoku University says the new standard is the "three Cs": financially comfortable, emotionally communicative and cooperative in housework and child care. That is a daunting list for many men.

Eiji Handa, 31, a copy machine salesman, didn't pop the question to his girlfriend for eight years because he didn't want to give up deep-sea fishing every weekend -- a hobby that cost him $1,500 a month.

"I wanted to spend the money I earned on myself," Handa says unapologetically. "If you get married, you have to hand over your paycheck to your wife and live on an allowance."

They tied the knot in November -- but only after she agreed to keep working and split expenses. They never discussed housework or children. Handa hopes his wife doesn't want children, because he doesn't.


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