Friday, April 27, 2007

It's a Man's World Costing $80 Billion a Year: William Pesek

By William Pesek

April 27 (Bloomberg) -- We live in a world of daunting economic challenges: debt imbalances, out-of-whack currencies, Chinese overheating, wobbly housing markets, erratic energy prices, terrorism, geopolitical risks, you name it.

Let's add another one to the list: women.

Gender discrimination is often seen as a social issue. Increasingly, though, it's becoming an economic one, even worthy for the Group of Seven nations to discuss it. If you're not convinced, would the annual loss of almost $80 billion of Asian output change your mind?

That estimate comes from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and it could be a conservative one. The group says the Asia-Pacific region is losing as much as $47 billion of output per year from a lack of female participation in labor markets. And as much as $30 billion is lost because of gender gaps in education systems.

This is the wrong time for Asia to be squandering twice the annual output of Luxemburg because of a problem that's so easily solved.

Growth in India, for example, would increase by 1.08 percentage points if its female-labor participation rate were put on par with the U.S., the UN group said in an April 18 report. Doing so would give India extra gross domestic product equivalent to Uruguay's as it struggles to raise millions out of poverty.

Economic Costs

``Gender discrimination has always been considered a soft issue, a human-rights issue,'' said Shamika Sirimanne, a senior UN development economist in Bangkok. ``But we are seeing it carries a huge economic cost.''

Admittedly, gender inequality doesn't factor easily into a nation's credit ratings, bond yields or stock valuations. It's not something to which investment-bank economists pay much attention. Yet over time, empowering women would make Asia a far more vibrant place.

Aside from India, the UN report also pointed to Malaysia and Indonesia as economies that would benefit from greater labor participation among women. It noted that female involvement in China is ``already considerably higher'' than much of Asia. Perhaps it's no coincidence that China remains the region's star economic performer.

Progress Needed

Yes, things are improving for women globally, and Asia is no exception. Yet there's ample evidence that things are improving much slower in the 2000s than many feminists had hoped.

Politicians need to realize that underutilizing female workforces leads to slower growth and less-skilled labor markets. The same is true of conservative business cultures that limit women's ability to move up into the executive suite.

Take MasterCard Worldwide's latest women's advancement index for Asia. It showed that even as women make strides in labor- force participation and education, they are less confident than a year ago of getting more of the managerial positions that now go to men. The index fell to 72.09 in 2007 from 76.11 in 2006.

The cost of undereducating women is growing as ideas and information become more valuable than manufacturing. It's an idea Lawrence Summers helped put on the U.S. government's radar screen a decade ago while working for U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Then Summers was pressured to resign the presidency of Harvard University last year amid charges of making sexist statements. The dustup occurred at a conference in Cambridge in 2005 when the former U.S. Treasury secretary questioned women's aptitude for science.


The outcry was misplaced because women have few more enthusiastic cheerleaders among economists than Summers. In the late 1990s and in 2000, I traveled with him through sub-Saharan Africa, India and other poverty-plagued economies such as Indonesia and the Philippines. In each place, Summers counseled leaders to invest more in educating girls.

The reason: Returns on educating women typically exceed those on men. The odds are that the more educated a nation's women are, the more emphasis they will put on investing in the education and health of their children. That results in an economic ripple effect from one generation to the next.

Gender issues aren't just holding back developing economies, a point persuasively made in an April 3 Goldman Sachs Group Inc. report. London-based economist Kevin Daly argued that reduced inequality will help rich nations address the twin problems of population aging and shoring up public pension programs.

Closing the Gap

``Closing the gap between male and female employment would have huge implications for the global economy, boosting U.S. GDP by as much as 9 percent, euro-zone GDP by 13 percent and Japanese GDP by 16 percent,'' Daly said. What's more, he said, rising female labor participation would have ``important implications'' for global equity markets.

The good news is that gender balance can be achieved with a minimum amount of effort and cost. All that's needed is political will. The bad news is it's not clear governments realize that.

``Given how fast Asia is growing and how important it is in becoming an engine of growth in the global economy, we need to make more progress on the gender issue,'' Sirimanne said. ``It's a big and growing one.''

(William Pesek is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Something for guys to think about - Looking at Shooters and Killers and Finding Men: Ann Woolner

By Ann Woolner

April 24 (Bloomberg) -- Of the 41 people who have taken guns to U.S. schools and opened fire since 1996, 40 of them share one trait.

They were born with the Y chromosome.

Maleness is the only characteristic that is common to this group, with race -- Caucasian -- coming in second. They are of different educational levels and regions. They are low achievers and high achievers. Their motives and mental states run the gamut. The youngest was 6. Another was 53.

Together, those 40 men and boys killed 94 people on campuses, plus four more in the hours preceding their school shooting episodes. They have wounded scores more and traumatized thousands of others.

I'm not saying boys are born killers. Only a miniscule fraction of them grow up to open fire at school or anywhere else. And chemistry isn't necessarily destiny.

And yet, whether sparked by jealousy, retribution, psychosis, insecurity or hatred toward women, U.S. school shootings happen with regularity -- 36 in 11 years -- and all but one were committed by men or by boys.

Maleness matters in all kinds of killings. Eighty-eight percent of U.S. homicides from 1976 to 2004 were committed by men, according to the most recent Justice Department statistics. For serial killers, the percentage rises to 93 percent.

Whatever you have heard about the so-called feminization of the American male or about increasingly aggressive women, the lopsided nature of which sex kills the most remains.

Widening Gap

``When it comes to the most serious form of aggression, murder, the gender gap is actually wider now than it was a few years ago,'' says James Fox, a Northeastern University criminal justice professor in Boston who has written about killers.

I know. Most men channel aggression into perfectly acceptable activities. They build companies, enforce laws, repair roads, play sports, advocate causes.

But women manage to do those things, too. Yet when violence erupts, chances are overwhelming the aggressor is a man.

``It's true about murder,'' Fox says. ``It's true about crime in general.''

So what is it about men, anyway?

A leading testosterone researcher, the late Georgia State University Professor James M. Dabbs, found that the higher the testosterone level, the more violent the person is likely to be.

Probable Troublemakers

Testing more than 4,000 veterans, for example, he found that the 10 percent with the most testosterone were the most probable troublemakers. These were the guys likely to have misbehaved as schoolchildren, break the law as adults, use drugs and alcohol, go AWOL from the Army and have 10 or more sex partners in a year, Dabbs found.

He tested male and female inmates in separate research projects and found that in both populations the most violent had the highest T-levels.

Child psychiatrist David Shaffer of Columbia University says it's not clear from testosterone research whether the hormone itself sparks aggression. It could be that, because those with more of it are larger and more muscular, they find more success at physical aggression and therefore engage in it more.

He says there are other biological reasons for the gender gap. Men are more likely than women to lack metabolized serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter that acts as a calming influence, says Shaffer, chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

Teen Suicides

Incarcerated marines showed a dearth of the stuff in one study, he says. That was also what Shaffer found in his groundbreaking research into teen suicides, which are five to seven times more likely to be committed by males.

Boys have another natural factor that makes them more likely to turn to aggression, he says. They are slower to learn verbal skills and tend to grab what they want.

Beyond body chemistry, can't we assign some blame to American culture and peer pressure?

Boys learn from other boys that being a man means being in control, says Dick Bathrick, who founded Men Stopping Violence in 1982 in Atlanta.

``You've got to be in control at work. You've got to be in control at home. You've got to be in control of your feelings,'' he says, according to this popular but ``very distorted concept of masculinity.''

When losing a job, or being rebuffed romantically, or having a spouse refuse to do what one says, men are more likely than women to become violent to regain control, Bathrick says.

Drive to Dominate

The drive to overpower women showed up in several school shootings. Last September in Bailey, Colorado, 53-year-old Duane Roger Morrison entered a high school, took six girls hostage and sexually assaulted them. When police showed up, he shot a 16- year-old girl dead before killing himself.

The following month, Carl Charles Roberts IV, 32, lined up girls at the West Nickel Mines Amish School and shot 10 of them, ages 6 to 13, before killing himself. Five of the girls died.

Seung Hui Cho's anger, like the shots he fired last week at Virginia Tech, seems to have been indiscriminate. His rantings target women but also accuse the rich and the world in general. It may mean much or nothing that he previously stalked two female students, became suicidal when rebuffed and launched his deadly spree last week by first shooting a young woman in her dorm. Cho killed 32 students and teachers in all before killing himself.

Groups such as Bathrick's have sprung up around the country to try to stop men from hurting the women in their lives. The organization also works to encourage non-violent men to challenge the misogyny and violence in others, Bathrick says.

In Washington, Men of Strength clubs in high schools steer teenagers toward healthy ideas of what manhood means, says Patrick Lemmon, executive director of Men Can Stop Rape, which sponsors the clubs. Not to mention the work of scout troops and boys' clubs.

No one claims an intervention of that sort could have stopped Cho, who may well have been psychotic.

But given the gross overrepresentation of men among those who kill, rape, molest and beat, you have to hope that more men become more outraged by the damage others of their gender inflict.

(Ann Woolner is a Bloomberg news columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

Learning Goes Global as India Writes U.S. Texts: Andy Mukherjee

By Andy Mukherjee

April 24 (Bloomberg) -- A 200-year-old American publisher is
completing the circle of knowledge.

Peter Booth Wiley, chairman of the Hoboken, New Jersey-based
John Wiley & Sons Inc., has academics in India developing a new
series of customized, electronic books that may one day become
remedial text in U.S. universities.

Outsourcing isn't new to the global publishing industry.

In 1976, long before Bangalore became the world's
outsourcing capital, Harold Macmillan, the former British prime
minister, used the southern Indian city to offer Macmillan
Publishers Ltd.'s typesetting services to others.

However, it's only now that the content -- especially in
culturally neutral fields like science and technology -- is going
global, reflecting the new economic reality.

It isn't that U.S. or U.K. professors' royalties are under
threat. As long as demographics in India and China remain
favorable and quick economic growth keeps boosting returns on
higher education in these two nations, the textbook market in
Asia will continue to expand rapidly, driving global growth.

Books used in postgraduate research and teaching will be
dominated by content created in the developed world, thanks to
its entrenched leadership position in technological innovation.

At the undergraduate level, however, hard distinctions
between producing and consuming economies will disappear.

In India's case, because the medium for scientific education
is English, a chunk of what's being produced for the home market
is also readily exportable.

This wasn't always so.

From Importer to Exporter

Back in the 1950s and the 1960s, the flow of scientific
knowledge between the West and India was strictly unidirectional.

Popular American books such as ``College Chemistry'' by
Nobel laureate Linus Pauling were republished in India -- at one-
fifth of their original price -- under a U.S. aid program called
PL 480.

British titles came to India under the English Language Book
Society program. The ELBS books, which cost a third of the
original, had ``Low-Priced Edition'' emblazoned across the cover.

Prentice Hall's incredibly cheap Eastern Economy Edition in
those days was nothing more than black-and-white photographic
reproduction of American titles.

Of course, at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union,
too, was a big force in the cheap textbook game as it sought out
friends in the Third World. And apart from everything else,
Soviet books were printed on amazingly good-quality paper.

Building Blocks

The efficacy of foreign aid to developing countries is a
debatable subject today. But there isn't a doubt that cheap
Western textbooks -- not to mention the first IBM computer that
arrived in an Indian university in a bullock cart -- triggered a
transformation of the economy.

``When a generation of engineers was educated in India, it
was educated on our books,'' Wiley said in an interview in
Singapore. ``And you see now what that generation has done.''

India's prowess in computer-software services and generic
drug discovery is well-documented. Earlier this month, the
journal Nature Biotechnology reported that India will also be a
large player in research and manufacturing of biotech medicines.

None of this would have been possible without investments in
higher education.

Knowledge Gaps Narrow

The narrowing of India's education deficit -- to a point
where knowledge can begin to flow both in and out -- can be seen
from the sales pattern of academic publishers.

India today represents Wiley's fastest-growing market,
expanding at an annual 25 percent pace. That compares with a two-
year average growth rate of 4 percent in Wiley's U.S. sales,
according to my Bloomberg. India is also emerging as a key center
for developing educational content.

``It's no longer just the West educating the rest,'' Wiley
said. ``It's all of us educating each of us together. The
knowledge revolution is fascinating to me because it is
multicentric and global.''

Oxford University Press, which has been publishing textbooks
in India since 1912, is already playing a role in taking Indian-
based academic authors overseas.

Homegrown Indian companies, such as New Delhi-based Narosa
Publishing House, are also working with professors at the Indian
Institutes of Technology and other top local universities to
create scientific content for a global audience.

Two-Way Flow

Wiley's new series of textbooks will be delivered
electronically -- as PDF files. They will be tested initially at
second-rung engineering universities in India before being taken
to China. If the experiment succeeds, the U.S. market may be the
next destination, Wiley said.

Each of these books, tailored to meet very specific learning
requirements, could potentially replace bulky standard textbooks.
The final cost to the student would be less than $10.

Textbooks and supplies cost as much as $900, or 26 percent
of the tuition and fees at a four-year public institution in the
U.S., according to data reported in a July 2005 study by the U.S.
Government Accountability Office.

If low-income students in the U.S. are one day able to
benefit from Indian-created books, just as generations of Indians
have from American content, it will be a victory for
globalization. The circle of knowledge will be complete.

(Andy Mukherjee is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions
expressed are his own.)