Category Archives: Big Back Loop

Women’s work and the global economy

The April 12th Economist has an article on Women and the world economy

… it is misleading to talk of women’s “entry” into the workforce. Besides formal employment, women have always worked in the home, looking after children, cleaning or cooking, but because this is unpaid, it is not counted in the official statistics. To some extent, the increase in female paid employment has meant fewer hours of unpaid housework. However, the value of housework has fallen by much less than the time spent on it, because of the increased productivity afforded by dishwashers, washing machines and so forth. Paid nannies and cleaners employed by working women now also do some work that used to belong in the non-market economy.

Nevertheless, most working women are still responsible for the bulk of chores in their homes. In developed economies, women produce just under 40% of official GDP. But if the worth of housework is added (valuing the hours worked at the average wage rates of a home help or a nanny) then women probably produce slightly more than half of total output.

The increase in female employment has also accounted for a big chunk of global growth in recent decades. GDP growth can come from three sources: employing more people; using more capital per worker; or an increase in the productivity of labour and capital due to new technology, say. Since 1970 women have filled two new jobs for every one taken by a man. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the employment of extra women has not only added more to GDP than new jobs for men but has also chipped in more than either capital investment or increased productivity. Carve up the world’s economic growth a different way and another surprising conclusion emerges: over the past decade or so, the increased employment of women in developed economies has contributed much more to global growth than China has.

In particular, there is strong evidence that educating girls boosts prosperity. It is probably the single best investment that can be made in the developing world. Not only are better educated women more productive, but they raise healthier, better educated children. There is huge potential to raise income per head in developing countries, where fewer girls go to school than boys. More than two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women.

More Jobs More Babies - from Economist April 12 2006 It is sometimes argued that it is shortsighted to get more women into paid employment. The more women go out to work, it is said, the fewer children there will be and the lower growth will be in the long run. Yet the facts suggest otherwise. Chart 3 shows that countries with high female labour participation rates, such as Sweden, tend to have higher fertility rates than Germany, Italy and Japan, where fewer women work. Indeed, the decline in fertility has been greatest in several countries where female employment is low.

via Three Quarks

MA: Putting a Price Tag on the Planet

Putting a Price Tag on the Planet is a long article by Lila Guterman on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in the April 7, 2006 The Chronicle of Higher Education. The article describes the history, funding, and operation of the MA as well as its findings.

As the 20th century drew to a close, leaders in the field of ecology decided they were failing at one of their primary goals. They had presented sign after sign that people were harming the environment — killing off species, destroying rain forests, polluting the air and water — but the warnings had little effect. So, to encourage conservation, they decided to appeal to humanity’s baser instincts.

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Planet of Slums

The prolific and controversial urban critic, Mike Davis, has a new book Planet of Slums. It is based upon his article Planet of Slums in New Left Review (March-April 2004). In Planet of Slums he writes:

There may be more than quarter of a million slums on earth. The five great metropolises of South Asia (Karachi, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Dhaka) alone contain about 15,000 distinct slum communities with a total population of more than 20 million. An even larger slum population crowds the urbanizing littoral of West Africa, while other huge conurbations of poverty sprawl across Anatolia and the Ethiopian highlands; hug the base of the Andes and the Himalayas; explode outward from the skyscraper cores of Mexico, Jo-burg, Manila and São Paulo; and, of course, line the banks of the rivers Amazon, Niger, Congo, Nile, Tigris, Ganges, Irrawaddy and Mekong. The building blocks of this slum planet, paradoxically, are both utterly interchangeable and spontaneously unique: including the bustees of Kolkata, the chawls and zopadpattis of Mumbai, the katchi abadis of Karachi, the kampungs of Jakarta, the iskwaters of Manila, the shammasas of Khartoum, the umjondolos of Durban, the intra-murios of Rabat, the bidonvilles of Abidjan, the baladis of Cairo, the gecekondus of Ankara, the conventillos of Quito, the favelas of Brazil, the villas miseria of Buenos Aires and the colonias populares of Mexico City. They are the gritty antipodes to the generic fantasy-scapes and residential themeparks—Philip K. Dick’s bourgeois ‘Offworlds’—in which the global middle classes increasingly prefer to cloister themselves.

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A failsafe solution for world food supply?

New Scientist of January 12, report on an initiative of the Norwegian government to create a large concrete room, hewn out of a mountain on a freezing-cold island just 1000 kilometres from the North Pole, to hold around 2 million seeds, representing all known varieties of the world’s crops.

It is being built to safeguard the world’s food supply against nuclear war, climate change, terrorism, rising sea levels, earthquakes and the ensuing collapse of electricity supplies. “If the worst came to the worst, this would allow the world to reconstruct agriculture on this planet,” says Cary Fowler, director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an independent international organisation promoting the project.

This initiative shows a practical implementation of principles to enhance resilience: redundancy and diversity.

Re-Orient: world economic production in MA scenarios

Scenario Share of World Econ

Proportion of World Economy projected in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment scenarios (Tg – TechnoGarden, go-Global Orchestration, am- Adapting Mosaic, and OS-Order From Strength). Compared to yesterday’s post of Maddison’s data, which is in Purchasing Power Parity, this graph estimates the size of the world economy using 1995 exchange rates, which under estimates the purchasing power of poor countries – particularly the Chinese economy. Consquently, this graph and yesterday’s graph do not match in 2000.

This graph shows Asia passing Western Europe + North America & Oceania in about 75 years, later in the slow economic growth world of Order From Strength. If purchasing power is used then crossing date would be earlier.

Re-Orient: world economic production over five centuries

Regional share of world economy over last five centuries

Regional Share of World Economy

Share of the total world economy represented by different regions. W Eur, NA, AusNZ= Western Europe, North Americam, Australia and New Zeland. E Eur + FSU = Eastern Europe and Former Soviet Union. Data from Angus Maddison 2005 Measuring and Interpreting World Economic Performance 1500-2001. Review of Income and Wealth, 51:1-35.

Graph shows how the recent centrality of Western Europe and North America to the world economy appears to represent a temporary break in Asian centrality in the world economy. The centrality’s of the West in the world economy began in about 1850 and appears likely to end soon.

Andre Gunder Frank, who died in early 2005, discussed this idea in his 1998 book Re:Orient: Global Economy in the Asian Age.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Reports Released

ma scenarios coverThe four main reports of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment were released yesterday (Jan 19, 2006). The reports are the detailed scientific assessment (including literature citations) on which the MA synthesis reports are based. These large reports (500-800 page) are the products of the four MA working groups:

  • Current State and Trends
  • Scenarios
  • Policy Responses
  • Multi-Scale Assessments.

These reports are published by Island Press or chapters can be downloaded from the MA web site.
The press coverage of the release of the technical reports has been more balanced than the press coverage of the synthesis volumes. The Christian Science Monitor reports, quoting Steve Carpenter (his post on the scenarios):

When researchers scan the global horizon, overfishing, loss of species habitat, nutrient run-off, climate change, and invasive species look to be the biggest threats to the ability of land, oceans, and water to support human well-being.

Yet “there is significant reason for hope. We have the tools we need” to chart a course that safeguards the planet’s ecological foundation, says Stephen Carpenter, a zoologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “We don’t have to accept the doom-and-gloom trends.”

That’s the general take-home message in an assessment of the state of the globe’s ecosystems and the impact Earth’s ecological condition has on humans.

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Terrorism, State Failure, and Reorganization

Science fiction writer, journalist, and green design professor, Bruce Sterling writes about the shadow of globalization and Global Guerrillas John Robb’s weblog about – “Networked tribes, infrastructure disruption, and the emerging bazaar of violence. An open notebook on the first epochal war of the 21st Century.” His analysis is fairly similar to what the MA scenarios group thought about state breakdown. Sterling writes on a 2005/2006 state of the world web discussion:

There’s a lot of meritorious analysis going on [Global Guerrillas], and it’s very counterintuitive by 20th century standards, and that’s a good thing, because this isn’t the 20th century. It’s not about state-on-state violence any more; it’s about the emergent global order versus failed states. The victory condition for global guerrillas is a failed state. And there are lots of global guerrillas and huge scary patches of failed and failing state right nows. And the Disorder and the Order physically interpenetrate; globalization melts the map; there are physical patches of state-failure even inside the most advanced states.

However, there is a nascent order inside the failure, too. People who live in conditions of failure can see what justice, law, and order look like. They see that on those satellite dishes, they get news about that every day from the many, many people who flee the Disorder and become new global diasporas.

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Global energy metabolism of humanity

Helmut Haberl from the Institute of Social Ecology, at Klagenfurt University in Vienna, who does interesting work on human appropriation of ecological production, has a paper The global socioeconomic energetic metabolism as a sustainability problem in a special issue of Energy 31 (2006) 87–99. In the paper, Haberl some interesting figures that estimate total human energy use over the last 1,000,000 years and since the widespread use of fossil fuel.

Haberl writes:

conventional energy balances and statistics only account for energy carriers used in technical energy conversions as, for example, combustion in furnaces, steam engines or internal combustion engines, production and use of electricity or district heat, etc. That is, energy statistics neglect, among others, biomass used as a raw material as well as all sorts of human or animal nutrition. These are very important energy conversions in hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies, but are still significant even in industrial society.

social ecological energy use over last 1Myears

Global socioeconomic energy metabolism in the last 1 Million years. The increase in socioeconomic energy flows encompasses six orders of magnitude, from 0.001 Exajoule per year (EJ/yr) about 1 million years ago to nearly 1,000 EJ/yr today.

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