When Virginity becomes a condition for Employment

Being single and virgin are two essentials “qualities” expected from young Indonesian people wishing to become police officers in the largest Muslim country in the world. How does the state ensure this? According to Human Rights Watch (International NGO), through tests : virginity examinations. The association has asked the Indonesian police to stop these practices deemed “discriminatory” and “humiliating.” Of course, following these accusations, the Indonesian police declined to make any comment. These virginity tests violate the rights of human beings to equality, non-discrimination and privacy. In addition, the “test of two fingers” is an archaic practice, and has long since been discredited.

The Indonesian society is deeply conservative in parts of the country, where female virginity is still considered a paramount value. Note that women account for only 3% of the 400,000 Indonesian police.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that an NGO denounces practices as humiliating against women in Indonesia: For example Amnesty International denounced the obstacles women face in order to have full access to healthcare. Although the practice is legal, it is very difficult for women who have been raped to abort. This contributes to the fact that, in the world, «20 million pregnancies end in unsafe abortions and 85,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes».(Robert O’Brien and Marc William, ‘Global Political Economy’).

Furthermore, genital mutilation is still practiced in some rural areas of Indonesia. The operation is usually done with a piece of sharpened bamboo, a knife or a razor blade and no anesthesia. There is currently no legislation prohibiting this practice. gender2

Another example of disregard for women’s rights is the lack of legislation against forced prostitution, more generally against the sexual exploitation of women : « Increasingly the issue of prostitution needs a global analysis. The sex tourism is both a part of the global political system and the global economy and the fact ‘that it is not taken seriously says more about the ideological construction of seriousness than the politics of tourism’»   (Jill Steans, ‘Gender and International Relations : an Introduction’)

Sex work is practiced in many countries other than Indonesia and Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand: «Women’s bodies in this international political economy of sex are tradable commodities. The global sex trade has expanded to include many women and children since the 1970s. Women are exported from one country to another in much the same way as one would export a commodity such as wheat.» (Robert O’Brien and Marc William, ‘Global Political Economy’).

In this respect, the Indonesian example shows us that still many battles to fight for women’s rights and gender equality…

I would like to conclude with this glaring truth sentence: “Prostitution, institutionalizes the sexuality of male supremacy, which fuses the eroticization of dominance and submission with the social construction of male and female.” (Laura J. Shepherd, ‘Gender, violence and popular culture: telling stories’)

Pauline Perez

Brazilian elections: A rejection of neoliberalism

dilma

Dilma Rousseff was re-elected after a tight race against Aécio Neves by 51.64% to 48.36%, respectively. These percentages would indicate a clear division amongst the Brazilian population. Mrs. Rousseff struggled in obtaining votes from the southeastern states, such as São Paulo, which accounts for a third of Brazil’s GDP (The Economist, 2014). While it cannot be denied that  President Rousseff needs to make some vital changes to her administration to improve Brazil’s annual economic growth and reduce its international credit, her leftist policies are what is right for the country. After having a rough first term, with low economic growth and an increasing inflation Aécio Neves was proposing to redirect the country into a neo-liberalist agenda, something Brazil does not need.

As viewed by Marx the occurrence of neoliberisation within a society will simply cause more hardship and poverty (Harvey, 2007). It focuses on the belief, that there is a ‘circuit of capitalism’ in which the foundation is class struggle in order to create surplus value-profit- (Burnham, 2010). The idea of neoliberalisation as being successful in the view of David Harvey would be in only empowering an economic elite (2007).This view reinforces Marx’s argument that capital will create opposing poles of rich and poor (Van der Pijl, 2009).

Luckily majority of Brazilian’s reject the neo-liberal ideals and recognise the improvements made to the country through more socialist policies. When the Workers Party (PT) first came into power 12 years ago Brazil witnessed a drastic improvement. Government focus was on economic growth and social well being. The Institute of Applied Economic Research reported that Bolsa família reduced 28% of poverty reduction from 2002 to 2012 (2013). The decrease of poverty from 41% of the population in 2001 to 25% in 2009 has caused for an emerging middle class that consists of 52% of Brazil’s population (Pezzini, M. 2012). Nevertheless, Mrs. Rousseff’s government needs to make some changes to keep Brazil on the right track but Brazil’s rejection of neo-liberalism is one step in the right direction.

 

Luisa H Castro

 

Bibliography

Burnham, P.. (2010). Class, Capital and Crisis: A Return to Fundamentals. Political Studies Review. [online]. 8 (1), 1-27. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.ezproxy.mdx.ac.uk/doi/10.1111/j.1478-9302.2009.00204.x/full. [Accessed on 18 November 2014].

Instituto de Pesquísa Econômica Aplicada (2013). Programa Bolsa Família uma década de inclusão social. Available at: http://www.ipea.gov.br/portal/images/stories/PDFs/140321_pbf_sumex_portugues.pdf. [Accessed 22 November 2014].

Harvey, D (2007). A brief history of neoliberalism . [online]. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 5-39. Available at: https://www.dawsonera.com/readonline/9780191536182/startPage/14. [Accessed on 24 November 2014]

Pezzini, M.. (2012). An emerging middle class. Available: http://www.oecdobserver.org/news/fullstory.php/aid/3681/An_emerging_middle_class.html. [Accessed on 20 November 2014].

The Economist (2014). Brazil’s presidential race: By a whisker, more of the same. Vol 411, pp 6-8.

Van der Pijl, K. (2009) From Classical to Global Political Economy: A Survey of Global Political Economy [online]. University of Sussex: Centre for Global Political Economy. Available at:http://www.sussex.ac.uk/ir/documents/091theories.pdf. [Accessed on 16th October 2014]

South Africa’s ‘Back To The Future’

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During the recent Oscar Pistorius trial, many questions have been asked surrounding the tricky topic of equality, in particular, racial equality. We all know the traumatic past that has haunted South Africa in terms of apartheid and the consequences brought with it. So, is South Africa doomed to return to its old ways on racial inequality?! Well at this moment in time, it is looking likely.

A recent example of the past returning to this nation is the division caused over one of their national holidays. South Africans traditionally like to engage in an annual celebration on the 24th of September known as ‘Braai day’. This day traditionally consists of eating and drinking in their early spring time climate. However, this has caused a division within society come braai day 2014, as a ‘white man’ has been championing the notion to rename this holiday as ‘national braai day’. This has hit a nerve as not long ago Nelson Mandela changed this predominantly white celebration into a diverse occasion by naming this ‘Heritage day’, a day that can be celebrated by all races and cultures in South Africa. The Economist (2014) catalogues a South African columnist, T.O. Molefe stating that braai day is a ‘white supremacist-capitalist- patriarchy’s day of sponsored forgetting’. Therefore, is South Africa heading back to the future now Nelson Mandela has sadly passed away?

Robinson (2004) rightly stated that ‘Capitalism, and hence the capitalist class, for instance, has always been dependant… on the unremunerated labour of women and super exploited labour pools.’ It is evident that these black South Africans fall into the category of ‘super exploited labour’. This must be the case, in order for the white citizens to be doing so well, in a nation that endorses capitalism; the burden of inevitable inequality that capitalism so generously gives us has to be on the blacks. Through a BBC census conducted in 2011, out of a nation of 52 million, 79% of the population are black. Strangely, a white household income is approximately 365,000 rand (£26,000) compared to the black household income of 60,600 rand, which is frightful!

To try and explain this gap in some way, Cox (1987) states that there has been a rise of peripheralization of the labour force in advanced capitalist countries, which would be relevant to South Africa as the successful whites in the higher paid jobs are able to exploit the blacks into working in industrial forms of labour associated with the third world nations. It’s interesting that not many people will recognise this problem and this may be due to what Ravenhill (2011) mentions about ‘other sources of error may bias the poverty numbers downwards” and through the use of this bias, we would not instantly see this racial inequality in South Africa as an issue until we look in depth and see the actual facts.

So, what can possibly be done to solve the racial inequality problem? Do South Africans need a new Nelson Mandela to keep the equilibrium of equality? Or is this just a utopian idea that ceases to exist?

Right now, South Africa’s recurrent past is becoming too fresh in their future.

Claire Henry

BBC News (2012) South Africa’s consensus: Racial Divide Continuing. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-20138322 [Accessed 9 November 2014].

Cox, R (1987) Production, Power and World Order. (Columbia University Press) pp324-325

Ravenhill, J (2011) Global Political Economy (OUP 3rd edition), pp. 386

Robinson, W (2004) ‘Global Class Formation and the Rise of a Transnational Capital Class’, A Theory of Global Capitalism: Production, Class and State in a Transnational World (Johns Hopkins), pp. 34-36

The Economist (2014) TG it’s braai day’. Vol 412, pp 51

Labour migration : The pursuit of happiness

The European Union it is experiencing a wave of immigration?

Since the beginning of the year, the city of Calais (France) is facing a massive influx of illegal migrants causing a situation of high tension. Within months, their number increased from 800 to 3000. For those migrants who come mainly from Africa, Afghanistan and Syria, France is, however, a step in their journey as all want to join England their “Eldorado”. Why? Because England accepts twice as many asylum seekers, but also because the possibility of finding a job is higher. As Lampedusa, Ceuta or Patras represent gateways to the Schengen area, Calais is the exit door since it is located just 30km from the English coast.

Thus, Calais represents only one example amongst many others, as Italy or Spain (Melilla) are also faced with the disastrous situation in which hundreds of migrants trying to cross the border every day, making overstretched humanitarian organizations and governments powerless. The tragedy does not stop there, since many illegal fail to losing their dream life on their journey despite the introduction of successive plans as “Mare Nostrum” and “Frontex“.

Globalisation encourages workers and their families to cross borders in search of employment and security”. Then, Globalisation has created economic interdependence between states such as liberalization and expansion of trade and the development of means of transport. As populations become and migration meet its openings borders?

We are now facing a turning point in the political and economic history of Europe since experiencing an explosion in the migration process. And several legitimate questions arise such as the abolition of Schengen Europe ? The UK is not part of the Schengen Area and is not yet untouched by the expansion of these migration flows.

It seems to me that the heart of the problem lies in the inaction of the European Union in the face of these new migration flows. Currently, the European Union has not developed any real common immigration policy leaving countries like Italy, Spain or Greece left to themselves, without specifying that all countries accuse each other of being responsible for this situation. The European Union should quickly implement a common asylum policy to address this dissonance: “Political debates about immigration policy have been rising in volume and intensity in recent years in almost all Western countries” (John Ravenhill, ‘Global Political Economy‘)

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However, the EU remaining inactive is not responsible for much of the increase in illegal flows. From my point of view, the current situation is due to several factors: The first factor is the demographic boom Africa is experiencing (the population in a few years will be multiplied by three). The second factor is the explosion on the geopolitical map of the whole Mediterranean basin. The Arab revolutions have led to unstable areas and thus wars. The strict regime of Muammar Gaddafi for example controlled and operated some regulation in migratory flows. Then, the last point is that they leave our countries to find a job and a better life.

Consequently, given this new era in world history, the European Union must quickly take steps to remedy the interference of these states facing massive migration flows that create climates of extreme tension along with an increase in crime, illegal trafficking and enriching smugglers. Finally, should we really talk about illegal labour migrants? In some cases, would it not be more appropriate to use the term “political refugees”?

Pauline PEREZ

  • John RavenhillGlobal Political Economy’- 2011 p 102-103
  • Jon C., Ghosheh Naj- 2010 “Offshoring and working conditions in remote work”
  •  Anderson James, Shuttleworth Ian: “A new spatial fix for Capitalist crisis ? Immigrant labour, State Borders ans the New Ostracising Imperialism” -2004
  • Helma Lutz: “Migration and domestic work: a European perspective on a global theme” 
  • Georg Menz, Alexander Caviedes– 2010: « Labour migration in Europe »
  • Catherine Dauvergne: “Making people illegal: What globalization means for migration and law” Cambridge University Press- 2009

  • Article of the Guardian : Friday 5 september 2014- Hugh Muir- « The migrant crisis in Calais show the EU’s failure to see the big picture” http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/05/migrant-crisis-calais-eu-europe
  • Article of The Guardian : Sunday 10 august 2014- Mark Townsend – « Inside the Calais makeshift migrant camps » http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/aug/10/inside-calais-migrants-makeshift-camps

A Crucial Alternative in global economics: Sending money home

There are 232 million international migrants in the world. If there was a country made up of only international migrants, that would be larger, in population, than Brazil. That would be larger, in its size of the economy, than France. Some 180 million of them, from poor countries, send money home regularly.

Those sums of money are called remittances. There are millions of people who migrate each year. And they have a dream: having a decent job somewhere and can send money home and help the family. This is a fact: 413 billion dollars was the amount of remittances sent last year by migrants to developing countries. «Importance of remittances by migrants which quadrupled between 1990 and 2004» (John Ravenhill «Global political economy»).

True, people send 200 dollars per month, on average. But, repeated month after month, by millions of people, these sums of money add up to rivers of foreign currency. So India, last year, received 72 billion dollars, larger than its IT exports. In Egypt remittances are three times the size of revenues from the Suez Canal. In Tajikistan, remittances are 42 percent of GDP. And in poorer countries, fragile or conflict-afflicted, remittances are a lifeline, as in Somalia or in Haiti. No wonder these flows have huge impacts on economies and on poor people.

So in Nepal, the share of poor people was 42 percent in 1995, the share of poor people in the population. By 2005, a decade later, at a time of political crisis, economic crisis, the share of poor people went down to 31 percent. In El Salvador, the school dropout rate among children is lower in families that receive remittances. (Richard H. Robbins: “Global Problems and the culture of capitalism”

Migrants send money home for food, for buying necessities, for building houses, for funding education, for funding healthcare for the elderly, for business investments for friends and family. Much as these flows do all that good, there are barriers to these flows of remittances.  Foremost among them is the exorbitant cost of sending money home. The global average cost of sending money is eight percent. That means you send 100 dollars, the family on the other side receives only 92 dollars. To send money to Africa, the cost is even higher: 12 percent. And then there is the case of Venezuela, where, because of exchange controls, you send 100 dollars and you are lucky if the family on the other side receives even 10 dollars.

2012.05.03.Economist-remittances-map

And what is worse, many developing countries actually have a blanket ban on sending money out of the country. Many rich nations also have a blanket ban on sending money to specific countries.

So, what can international organizations and social entrepreneurs do to reduce the cost of sending money home? First, relax regulations on small remittances under 1,000 dollars. Second, governments should abolish exclusive partnerships between their post office and the money transfer company.

The development community should set a goal of reducing remittance costs to one percent from the current eight percent. If we reduce costs to one percent, that would release a saving of 30 billion dollars per year.  Thirty billion dollars, that’s larger than the entire bilateral aid budget going to Africa per year. That is larger than, or almost similar to, the total aid budget of the United States government, the largest donor on the planet…

Remittances empower people. It would be wise to make remittances and recruitment safer and cheaper because remittances don’t know the crisis.

Pauline PEREZ

  • John Ravenhill «Global political economy»- 2011- Oxford University Press: Labour migration/Migrants’remittances pp 289-290
  • Robert O’Brien and Marc Williams: “Global Political Economy” 2013- pp189-90, p 233-34
  • Richard H. Robbins: “Global Problems and the culture of capitalism” pp 158-159: The Economics of Immigration- Remittances Data

A PYRAMID OR A ROUND TABLE

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The UK seems to be out of recession, expanding 0,8% in the second quarter and is reducing unemployment to the levels reached before the 2008 economic crisis (Ryan J, 2014). This is due to the measures of monetary expansion in London that seem to work better than the Eurozone without generating too much inflation but despite its good economic times, inequality is growing, due largely to the creation of poor quality jobs and the cuts on the welfare system.

These indicators show that the British economy is expanding, but is equality only achieved through a growing economy?
Does it make any sense to achieve those glowing figures when their benefits are not evenly distributed?
It takes more than an efficient economic model to get a country out of a financial crisis. The policies that could be implemented in a good governance to tackle social inequalities play an important role in rescuing a nation from the abyss. The current government seems to only care about foreign investment and the financial sector, leaving aside social policies and divers its attention to immigration issues.

According to Oxfam, the five richest people in the UK have a fortune which concentrates 20% of the poorest population. The Duke of Westminster has a fortune estimated at 7.900 billion pounds and is greater than the wealth accumulated by 10% of the poorest population (George R, 2014).

Since the 80s and thanks to the politics implemented by Margaret Thatcher, the UK has become a deeply divided nation with a wealthy elite that sees their income rises, while millions of families are struggling to make to end of the month (Dorling D. 2011).

Inequality scenarios have happened in many countries, but they have taken steps to address the issue like Switzerland, where the government has implemented policies to tackle inequalities in work wages. The Netherlands have created more direct jobs than any other comparable EU country. This shift has been attributed thanks to a number of reforms agreed between unions and employers to restore competitiveness, wage moderation and reductions in working time (Afonso A, 2014).

The UK, instead, has been implementing measures to reduce public spending, The welfare cuts and changes to taxation have increase economic inequality so profoundly that is greater than the 1930s. Council Tax, for example, points out how it charges low-to-middle income families a considerably higher percentage of their disposable income than the richest British households (McGregor Luke, 2013). London has become a Tax Haven for the superrich, getting in the property ladder has become difficult for the middle classes and the access to Superior Education is a privilege enjoyed by the sons of foreign wealthy.

Is there any sense in rescuing a financial system only to give it back to the same group of people who actually destroyed it in the first place?
Is there nothing to be learn from European Models where they have higher education (in Germany is free), wages equality (Switzerland) and health quality (the efficiency of the French Model has increased life expectancy)?

When the blueprints of the society that we are building don’t have a pyramid with millions supporting a few at the top, we wouldn’t have to answers those questions anymore and we will be seating in a big round table sharing the benefits of our hard work but in the meantime, the questions lie there, staring shamefully in front of us.

Julian Betancur.

Afonso, A. (2014) How to solve an economic trilemma. Available at: http://opinion.publicfinanceinternational.org/2014/10/how-to-solve-an-economic-trilemma/
Dorling, D. (2011) Injustice: Why social inequality persists. The Policy Press.

George R (2014). The UK’s five richest families are wealthier than the poorest 20% of the population combined. Available: http://oxfam.org.uk/blogs/2014/03/5-richest-families-in-uk-are-wealthier-than-poorest-20-pc. [Accessed on: 8 November 2014]

McGregor, Luke. (2013)UK inequality rising more quickly than under Thatcher – report. Available: http://rt.com/news/uk-inequality-growth-thatcher-382/. [Accessed on: 8 November 2014]

Ryan J (2014). U.K. Overcomes Record Slump With 0.8% Quarterly Growth: Economy Abailable at: http://bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-25/u-k-overcomes-record-slump-with-0-8-quarterly-expansion-1-.html. [Accessed on: 8 November 2014]

The Hardships of the Middle Class in Developed Countries

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The Oxford English Dictionary defines the middle class as “The social group between the upper and working classes, including professional and business people and their families”. However, this definition loses usefulness depending on both who you ask and where you ask it. According to many modern statistics, it defines anyone from the Indian household earning the equivalent of $8 per day (Meyer and Birdsall, 2012) to the American office worker raking in more than $100,000 per year (O’Brien and Williams, 2013).

In developed countries, the middle class seems to be a dying breed. As an onlooker, it seems that the nightmare of the working class is happening as we speak – and as Marx predicted, the rich are getting the richer, and the poor are getting poorer (Marx, 1887). While this is happening, it looks like the divide in the centre of these groups is ever growing. But what is happening to the middle class? Where have they gone?

One variable which can be attributed to this is the rapid progression of technology (as can be seen in Moore’s Law which states that roughly every two years, processing power will double, which he predicted in 1965). For the working class, bricklayers and bartenders could never be replaced with machines. Neither can rock stars or surgeons. However, what is stopping an average accountant from being replaced with something more efficient and less likely to make mistakes? You don’t even need to pay a machine a salary. A recent example of this can be found in London’s Underground. They plan to close ticket offices in favour of ticket-selling machines (Transport for London, 2014), which would remove around 750 jobs from the British economy (BBC, 2013).

So where are these people working now? The growing unemployment rate hints that perhaps a number of them simply haven’t found work yet, and Diamond wrote that many have been forced into part time jobs to compensate (2013).

Image sourced from OECD Development Centre (Kharas, 2010)
Image sourced from OECD Development Centre (Kharas, 2010)

But what does this mean as a whole? Most obviously, if these previously affluent people have less money to spend, then they can consume less when historically consumer spending has been the driving factor of economic growth (Stiglitz, 2009). Stiglitz also argued that the disappearing of middle class influences not only the financial sphere, but affects many other spheres of life too. For example, on education he wrote: “The ‘hollowing out’ of the middle class means that many Americans cannot afford an education for themselves and their children.”

A member of New Economics Foundation, David Boyle, warned that if in the next 30 years housing prices continue to grow as fast as during the previous 30 years, most of the people from the middle class won’t be able to own their own house because an average house in Britain will cost £1,200,000 (Knapton, 2014). He also predicted that the middle class will fail to keep pace with the enormous price increase – people from the classical middle class will be unable to pay rent so they’ll be forced to take on more jobs to pay for their needs and less time for their hobbies, children, families and friends. He argued that people from the middle class have to ‘wake up’ and create a new political movement, because in next 30 years British society will consist of a narrow elite class and a huge mass of proletariat.

By: Maria Homolova

References:

BBC News, 2013. London Underground in 24-hour plans as ticket offices shut. [online] Available at: <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-25025888> [Accessed 22 November 2014].

Diamond, D., 2013. ‘Why The ‘Real’ Unemployment Rate Is Higher Than You Think’. Forbes, [online] Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/07/05/why-the-real-unemployment-rate-is-higher-than-you-think/ [Accessed 22 November 2014].

Knapton, S., 2014. Middle Classes will Disappear in Next 30 Years Warns Government Adviser. [online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/10860796/Middle-classes-will-disappear-in-next-30-years-warns-Government-adviser.html [Accessed 22 November 2014].

Marx, K., 1887. ‘Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume 1’. Progress Publishers, Moscow, USSR.

Meyer, C. and Birdsall, N., 2012. New Estimates of India’s Middle Class. [pdf] Centre for Global Development. Available at: <http://www.cgdev.org/doc/2013_MiddleClassIndia_TechnicalNote_CGDNote.pdf> [Accessed 22 November 2014].

O’Brien, R. and Williams, M., 2013. ‘Global Political Economy: Evolution and Dynamics.’ Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Stiglitz, J., 2009. ‘The global crisis, social protection and jobs.’ International Labour Review: Geneva

Transport for London, 2014. Ticket offices – questions answered. [online] Available at: <http://www.tfl.gov.uk/campaign/tube-improvements/the-future-of-the-tube/world-class-customer-service?intcmp=22072> [Accessed 22 November 2014].

The European Götterdämmerung

Austerity is a policy used by governments to reduce budget deficits during recessions, and includes spending cuts or tax increases to gain competitiveness and/or reassure creditors. Sweden and Canada attempts in the 1990s were successful because of high external demand and devaluation underpinning households’ and companies’ expenditure in spite of wage flexibility. Not only are these conditions absent today, the inequalities and private debts these policies have wrought are too easily forgotten (Giuli, 2012). The critical success factor is the overall decrease of GDP caused by austerity. If too important, your income falls faster than your spending cuts, and your debt gets bigger. But if your weltanschauung leads you to be skeptical over the ability of budgetary policies to produce wealth, you are likely to underestimate such factor, as the IMF did (NYT’s Editorial Board, 2013). They forgot companies do not simply invest when they pay less welfare taxes. They must expect profit, and will not if there is no foreign demand to compensate pressure on domestic demand triggered by terrible austerity results on employment, public health and education (Stiglitz, 2014). But how can we reimburse this debt if the measures implemented by our creditors to secure it do the opposite? This unsustainable technocratic aporia confronting increasing public discontent reflects what Habermas called an “input” and “output” crisis: governments being unable to achieve legitimation and rationality (Burnham, 2014).

Austerity

In Europe, the depth of the problem goes beyond mere southern financial slackening. I argue this is also the result of a failing German hegemonic denkverbot. According to Doctor Frankfurt, deficit and inflation are the two greatest poisons in the world, and their only antidotes are budgetary and monetary austerity. All European treaties reflect this particular angst. However, no treaties had mechanism to stop Greek government from squandering cheap money in Olympic Games and armament. After the financial markets decided PIIGS were not as reliable as Germany, only the European Central Bank could help their finance. Germany made sure treaties would not allow that. She eventually accepted reluctantly (the Eurozone really was on the verge of collapse) in exchange of tough structural reforms (the kind of which does not level differences…) (Varoufakis, 2014). Then, should Germany at least enact a stimulus to constrain her commercial surplus and support the Eurozone activity? Maybe. But do not expect that. Really, as the ECB, the Bundesbank was made to combat inflation; the rest has always been optional.

austerity-depression

As Marx and Engels said in the German Ideology(!): “the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas”. Germany thinks her sonderweg can apply to everyone, and has made Europe believe so hitherto. Not only it cannot, it’s not even a success (Böll et al., 2012). Her growth is weak. Her inequalities are rising. Her aging demography partially explains her low unemployment. Her precariat has never been so important (especially for women) and lacks trade-unions (which are always more divided). Even full-time workers need public assistance for a living! Let’s admit it once for all: there is no German model.

By: Aymeric Vassas

Pay in equality

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Like men, only cheaper?

The issue of equal pay is constantly reported upon in the press, but in spite of this the various different causes of unequal pay for men and women are very rarely delineated. The discussion usually masks a number of distortions and ambiguities. The central question is whether women earn unequally because they are discriminated against or whether there is some other systematic quirk that tends to produce this result.

First of all, there are different ways in which pay can be unequal. It used to be the case that women could be paid less for doing the same job as a man where there was no other relevant difference: this type of discrimination based on sex has been illegal for some years and finds its most recent expression in the Equality Act of 2010. Second, there is the wider issue of inequality in society generally. The average woman takes home less money than the average man. This has a variety of causes. Women may choose to work in industries where pay is lower but there are other benefits to the job. Due to family circumstances and children, many women may also work part-time, and part-time jobs tend to be in areas where income is lower (Channel 4, 2013). Third, we may find that women and men whom are at roughly the same levels of seniority may in practice take home slightly different salaries for a number of reasons. This is the most significant type of inequality, because it hints at the possibility of a systematic and perhaps unconscious process of discrimination. Is there a case to answer here?

The latter concern is explicable by making clear the processes by which similar jobs end up paying unequally. One possibility is that when a person is hired, there may be a process of negotiating the salary, and men may simply be more highly motivated to do this aggressively (Fitzgerald 2014). Another possibility is that, during a period of employment, workers may ask for pay rises, and that men will do this more often than women (Saner 2010). This may be explained by an expectation on the part of women that ‘the system’ (i.e. the employer) will recognise their worth and reward it accordingly. But there may be no judgment on the employer’s part that the female employee is worth less than the male equivalent.

No doubt in a few cases, there is also general discrimination of an illegal nature, though this may be difficult to detect. But it seems probable that part of the answer is that men have a different view of their relationship to their employer: they may be more likely to see themselves as primarily working for self-benefit, whereas it is possible that women are more likely to see themselves as contributing to a whole of which they are only part. Without claiming that women themselves are responsible for their lower pay – perhaps it is a change of attitude rather than policy that will have more effect.

Channel 4 News, 2013. ‘Gender pay gap widens: why are women earning less than men?’

Available at: http://www.channel4.com/news/pay-salary-gender-gap-rise-ons

[Accessed on 9th November 2014]

Fitzgerald, J., 2014. ‘Do Women Avoid Salary Negotiations?’ in National Bureau of Economic Research. Available at: http://www.nber.org/digest/apr13/w18511.html

[Accessed on 9th November 2014]

Saner, E., 2010. ‘Why women won’t ask for a pay rise’. In The Guardian, 27th August 2010. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/aug/27/women-wont-ask-pay-rises

[Accessed on 9th November 2014]

Image: Huffington post. Available at http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1182970/thumbs/o-EQUAL-PAY-facebook.jpg

[Accessed on 9th November 2014]

Joy Ejiofor

nick clegg

Image from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/11052473/Nick-Clegg-film-Twitters-best-LibDemMovie-parodies.html

Hypocrite? Me?

With the increasing round-the-clock scrutiny of those in public life, recent decades have shown that the gap between politicians’ words and actions may have been greater than earlier generations liked to believe. ‘Saying one thing and doing another’ has two possible dimensions: (1) the manipulation of the electorate based on manifesto pledges that are never delivered; and (2) the hypocrisy of politicians publicly standing for a policy that they privately repudiate. Is it mere cynicism that drives politicians to act in these ways?

Let’s look at two examples from recent political history. The most glaring recent example of the first type of hypocrisy is the Liberal Democrats’ reversal of their 2010 Election Manifesto promise to abolish tuition fees in England and Wales. This caused many party members to leave, and was followed by a series of embarrassing apologies from senior Liberal Democrats (BBC 2014a). It was felt by many that the Liberal Democrats had betrayed one of their central principles. But this view demonstrates a lack of sophistication in understanding how democratic government works.

The Liberal Democrats may have been honest in their intention. But once they came to power as part of the Coalition government, one of three things happened: (a) they may have realized there was not enough money to pay for the policy; (b) they may not have had enough political leverage within the Coalition to deliver the policy; (c) they may have had to trade the policy for others that were felt more important. It is possible that, rather than being evidence of cynicism, failure to deliver was simply a lack of political clout (or perhaps ability) in government.

The best example of the second type of hypocrisy was the ‘Back to Basics’ campaign, begun by John Major’s Conservative Party in 1993. The campaign aimed to promote traditional values, honesty, and the centrality of the family. Subsequently, Conservative MPs were caught in a series of scandals such as extramarital affairs, homosexuality (which the Conservative Party discouraged at the time), auto-erotic asphyxiation and so on; these publicly undermined the policy (Ward 1994).

It is easy to assume that these individuals were being disingenuous. But it can also be an indictment of a certain sort of party system that compels its members to go along with policies that they themselves would never personally have formulated. Unless we are willing to say that politicians are people who can have no genuinely private existence that is not penetrated by their political commitments, we must accept that there will be conflicts of this type between party commitments and private life. And if not, perhaps we can take heart that in a true representative democracy, our politicians are just as hypocritical as we ourselves.

BBC, 2014a. ‘Senior Lib Dems apologise over tuition fee pledge’. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19646731

[Accessed on 9th November 2014]

Ward, S., 1994. “MP was worried over tarnished television image: Coroner records misadventure verdict on Milligan”. In The Independent, 23rd March 1994. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/mp-was-worried-over-tarnished-television-image-coroner-records-misadventure-verdict-on-milligan-1430950.html

[Accessed on 9th November 2014]

Image from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26338661

[Accessed on 9th November 2014]

Joy Ejiofor