Can we ever be equal?

English: Differences in national income equali...

English: Differences in national income equality around the world as measured by the national Gini coefficient. The Gini coefficient is a number between 0 and 1, where 0 corresponds with perfect equality (where everyone has the same income) and 1 corresponds with perfect inequality (where one person has all the income, and everyone else has zero income). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Paige Shaw

An unequal society where the upper class holds more of the country’s wealth is considered unfair. In countries such as the United States, the wealthy hold approximately eighty percent of the country’s wealth, and not enough the wealth being taxed from the rich is transferred to the poor. In countries such as Sweden and Denmark, although the distribution of wealth is more equal compared to the U.S., the wealthy still hold a greater percentage of the countries wealth.

Is this still unfair? Objectively, since not all of the classes are equal, it is still unfair. However, I would argue that having a slight inequality between the classes keeps people motivated and is overall better for the economy. People should receive equal opportunities and that everyone should be equal to an extent, but complete equality seems unfeasible.

From a fairly young age we are taught by our parents and in school that everyone is their own individual, and everyone has something about them that makes them unique. Gender, race, and other things aside, you are still different than the person next to you because there is only one of you. So if everyone is different, doesn’t that make it difficult to create a society where everyone is equal?

In his article “Is equality feasible?” Lane Kenworthy mentions that peoples earnings are determined qualities such as intelligence, creativity, confidence, inherited wealth, physical and social skills, and motivation. Most, if not all, are products of genetics, parents’ assets, and traits. We are all inherently different, and we all have our own strengths and weakness, which can make us more capable at performing certain tasks than others. In an equal society where everyone gets paid the same, if one person is a harder worker and better at a certain job than the person beside them, but they are still getting paid the same, it could make them feel less motivated to do their job. Of course there are certain cases that if you loved your job that it wouldn’t matter how much you get paid as long as you could keep doing what you are doing, but the slight inequality between workers keeps people motivated and increases their work effort.

Inequalities are what makes business competitive and drives the economy. And although a completely equal society is an appealing idea, it is not sustainable. In order to pay equally high wages businesses would have to charge their customers more. But in a competitive market, customers will generally refuse to pay more for a good or service when they can get it more cheaply somewhere else. The firm then loses business and has to start letting workers go. Therefore unless wages are lower, which implies some inequality, jobs will not exist.

However it is hard to say whether or not a completely equal society could be good or bad for the economy. It is my general opinion that we need to have that little bit of inequality in order to keep people and markets competitive to drive the economy. It can also be argued that income inequality could decrease consumer demand, and the middle/lower classes may regard high inequality as excessively unfair, causing a decrease in employment motivation and work cooperation.

Complete equality may not be sustainable but too much inequality could also prove to be unsustainable as well. Countries like Sweden and Denmark set a good example of a good balance between equality and inequality. There is still an upper class but more of the countries wealth is transferred to the poor. If more countries adapted a similar system it could prove to be more sustainable.

Reference

Kenworthy, Lane. 2007. “Is Equality Feasible?” Contexts 6(3):28-32.

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Equality and Fairness: How Can We Get There?

Sexual equality symbol Català: Símbol de la ig...

Sexual equality symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Ludvig Bergman

In the endeavour towards income equality, there are many different paths available to reach the final goal, which in this case and in my opinion is an effort-based distribution of the money in the society, where those who work hard and are tasked with relatively difficult work are rewarded with a bigger piece that those who don’t.

To avoid the case of the unequal American society, where the top 1% of the population has almost all the money, and move towards something similar to Swedish society, with the top 20% having a larger amount of money than the other 80% but the distribution between the “steps” are much more even. There is the way of reducing the income for the top paid percentages of the population and raise it for the lower percentages, and just like Sweden maintain high taxes that can be redistributed among the population and used to improve the welfare system. 

The danger with a society like this is the fact that, which is mentioned by Kenworthy in the article “Is Equality Feasible?”, if you are deprived of the financial gain of your efforts and skill development, there will not be any motivation left to contribute to the society by getting a decent education and working hard. People might prefer to go through the mandatory school years just to live off the governmental subsidies, which in Sweden in my opinion are way too high.

A society with people without motivation to achieve anything will quickly detoriate. Isn’t a society where the hardworking highly educated people are providing for the “lazy” through high taxes who are beingdistributed by the government in fact an unfair or even unequal society? People are no longer being rewarded with what they deserve, the hard working are getting less and the “lazy” are getting more, which draws me towards the conclusion of this no longer being the equal society I earlier considered.

For this to be considered equal and per definition fair there can not be any freeloaders allowed. Considering economic equality and fairness of gender, in “Gender equality: why women are still held back,” Abigail Player discusses how women in our contemporary time have never had as many opportunities to lead and change the economical and political landscape. Women earn a distinguishably lower salary than men and Player claims that women in the UK earn as much as 140,000 pounds less than men during their lifetimes.

In Sweden we have a political party pushing the issue of gender inequality forward. My opinion of the matter is that if left alone the market and the inequalities in it will by themselves be evened. I believe that by forcing change upon the society by, for example, implementing quotas regarding gender in the work place is something that will hinder the most competent people from being chosen just because a quota has to be met. In the long run hindering the economic growth of companies and in the big picture the whole country.

References

Player, Abigail. “Gender Equality: Why women are still held back.” The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2013/dec/06/gender-equality-women-stereotypes-stop-progress

Kenworthy, Lane. 2007. “Is Equality Feasible?” Contexts 6(3):28-32.

Immigration, gender structures and their present roles

Cover of "Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, a...

Cover via Amazon

by Ludvig Bergman

Men have since way back dominated over women with authoritative power, remnants of that might still have some effects on the relationship between the contemporary “equal” men and women in our global contemporary society. Global Woman by Ehrenreich and Hochschild describes how women from third world countries move to developed contries to do “women’s work” with hopes of a higher salary to provide for her family in her home country. Even though this method in many cases secure the financial problems, it also contributes to splitting up families, mothers leaving their underage children without the nurture and care they need.

This shows how third world citizens now take on the role of the traditional suppressed woman in developed countries where the women, due to becoming more “equal” to the breadwinning men, no longer have time to attend such matters as upbringing and childcare. The gender norms expect women to take care of the home and the children while the man should support the family and work long hours.

In the Swedish modern society where I grew up, this might no longer be the case. Men and women more and more split the parental leave between them to give each other the oppurtunity to spend time with the child as well as not loose to much days off from work because of the new addition to the family. The issue comes first when the parental leave is over and the child old is enough to no longer need constant attention from it’s parents. When both of the parents return to work, who is now supposed to take on the traditional role of the mother? This is where the immigrant nannies come into the picture. Nannies whose care for their own children gets neglected to help maintain the gender roles of the developed west.

The salary gap between men and women are in contemporary times static. Unlike past times where men were considered to be the sole breadwinners of the family, in contemporary times that no longer applies. With men no longer being the only breadwinners of the family, services such as daycare and kindergarden allows women to have a family alongside with having a career.

Maatz describes in her Forbes article “The Awful Truth Behind The Gender Pay Gap” how full-time working women in the U.S for the last decade have had median earnings equivalent to 77% of men’s earnings. That such a big difference actually exists in our modern society shows, in my opinion, how either unmotivated any change must be or how uneducated people must be of the current situation. This doesn’t only affect women’s financial status over time but have immediate consequenses regarding issues such as repayment of student loans. Women pay the same tuitions and have the same student loans as their comparative male students. The result of this financial unequality is, according to the article, women already from the beginning being financially behind men in a race where they most commonly cannot ever catch up.

References

The Awful Truth Behind The Gender Payment Gap by Lisa M. Maatz http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeswomanfiles/2014/04/07/the-awful-truth-of-the-gender-pay-gap-it-gets-worse-as-women-age/

Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Arlie Hochschild. eds. 2004. Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy. New York: Holt and Company.

Can Japan Solve Pay Inequality in the Global Economy?

by Yuri Kasai

Globalization influences each country’s economy and individual salaries. The Lehman Shock of 2008, which happened with the collapse of housing bubble, affected many countries with the economic downturn and led to the global financial crisis. This accident reduced the value of currencies such as the Euro, and European countries suffered from economic recession.

Japan has had the economic downturn of manufacturing companies due to the strong yen. After the Lehman shock, the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 affected the world economy again. Many materials and parts supply companies in Eastern Japan area stopped production and Asian economies were disappointed. The exchange of countries’ production, stock and finance occurred. Because we made the global economic system, we cannot escape from the global economy and from competing with each other.

In the result of global competition, some companies have an economic downturn and reduce employment and salaries. This brings about pay inequality. The inequality of salaries in Japan will be mainly these two:

  1. contract employees v. regular employees, and
  2. women v. men.

Contract jobs in Japan are other jobs than regular employees and have the fixed period of employment, shorter time of work, and fewer responsibilities than regular employment (Takeishi, 50). Around 44.2% of contract employees choose this work style, for the reason that they can find no post of regular employment in any companies, according to the questionnaire survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in 2006 (Takeishi, 51). 45.8 % of all companies have the system to change from contract employment to regular employment. Some companies pay the same salary of graduate recruitment for the former contract employees, and others pay the salary of the former contract employees considering about the practical knowledge.

About gender, it is difficult for women to follow the same course as men to be promoted. Only women who have the potential to do good work can be promoted and many women cannot get the management job. There is a big salary gap between men and women.

According to Kenworthy, the countries who have relatively low tax burdens, should ‘allow relatively low wage at the bottom of the earnings distribution’ in order to increase the employment of private sectors. If people with zero or single-earner households at the low end of the distribution, getting a new earnings relative low will push up the income of the household. And, this will reduce income inequality among households. Japan is the country who has relatively low tax burdens compared to Norway. Kenworthy’s idea is effective for many contract employees to get a better salary than today.

Japan is a relatively low taxation country. Considered about national burden rate of taxation, Japan is 38.5% compared to Norway’s 55.4%, Denmark 67.8%, and Sweden 58.9% in 2010, according to the Japanese Ministry of Finance. However, is Kenworthy’s idea effective to Japan? I want to discuss about solution of pay inequality in the concept of Japanese social welfare and the economic situation.

How about equalizing the system of government? Given the philosophy of government, the government has the role to equalize the income and reduce the inequality. Taxation has the role to equalize the inequality of wage. Japan’s low Gini index shows that Japan cannot redistribute the income. Japan needs to reconsider the income tax system and care about national pay inequality. Reduction of minimum wage is not considered about a way to solve inequality wage in Japan and the rise of minimum wage is often considered a good way. However, if the wage increases, the number of employment will decline and unemployed people will increase. Additionally, decision of minimum wage is conducted by the local or central government, not considering the situation of employees. The minimum of wage is decided in no political way. In Japanese system, taxation is a effective way to equalize pay inequality other than decrease of minimum wage.

Secondly, considering about the recent economic situation, the government should not allow the minimum of salary down depending on the economic situation.

Japanese monetary value, Japanese stock value is lower because most of investors who are foreign investors, hesitate to invest in Japan’s stock or money and observe if Japan’s manufacture companies will recover from economy recession of the earthquake. If they can see a little evidence of recovery, they can buy Japanese stock and national debt. Before they do, the economy cannot grow and salaries cannot increase. In this reason, we have to wait for a good season to grow the economy. Or, if we cannot see any growth, with the increase of consumption tax to 8%, the government maybe take the low-price policy and companies would keep the employment at the same level. Reduction of minimum tax will not happen, in my opinion.

Pay inequality becomes a bigger problem with the global economy, although there are many ways to solve the inequality problem and it is difficult to find an effective way to each country. We have to think about how we can equalize inequality in order to make more stable domestic economy and protect people’s life because we will face the risk of widespread of economy recession from the connected world and will face more competitive global market.

References

Takeishi, Emiko. “About the Convert System From a Contract Employee To a Regular Employment” Japanese Employment Research Magazine, 573, 50-53, 2008 April. 18 Dec, 2013.

Ministry of Finance, The bar graphs of OECD countries’ national burden rate of tax, 2010, http://www.mof.go.jp/tax_policy/summary/condition/238.htm. 18 Dec, 2013.

Some thoughts on the migration situation in Sweden

by Fei Long Yu

First of all, I want to apologize to those who takes offense by my blogpost. It’s not my intent to actually raise some anger or disappointment, this blogpost presents some thoughts from my side regarding the migration situation in Sweden.

Sweden is a country that has a generous asylum and migration system. For example, the latest news from the Ministry of Migration is that Sweden will “relax” the rules and regulations and accept more migrants  fleeing their home country for different reasons, such as war (e.g. Syria). Sweden has also something called relative migration; which means that if there’s one parent in Sweden they can legally take their whole family to Sweden (a spouse and the children, if they is under 18) and get permanent residence permit.

The last year, Sweden accepted 103,059 new migrants, which the Ministry of Migrants says is the highest number of migrants accepted to this day.  Except for returning Swedish citizens (19.9%), most of the migrants came from Syria (4,6%), followed by Afghanistan (4.5%), Somalia (4.4%) and Poland (4.3%). This is a relative high of migrants; the Swedish population is around 9 million citizens.

The migration topic a relatively sensitive in Sweden, no one wants to speak openly about the migration situation in Sweden. During these last year, an “old” political party has been brought into the light, whereas it has a specific agenda that many migrants in Sweden experience as offending. One of the agenda is to limit the migration in Sweden, but many of the migrants in Sweden have interpreted this as “kicking all the migrants out of Sweden”. Therefore many migrants were afraid of what would happen if this political party actually got into the parliament (as of today it’s in the parliament, but without “actual” power).

Why does this party want to limit the migration to Sweden? Is the migration in Sweden a problem? Well, the migration is not the issue here. The issue is how to actually incorporate all the migrants in the society effectively. First of all, when the migrants enter Sweden, they have to take a mandatory language course in Swedish, so they understand at least the basic language and should be able to commit simple conversations. After this mandatory introduction the migrants are supposed to search for a job and start working.

This is where the first problem starts. Since many of these migrants do not have an education (maybe except for the elementary school or similar) they cannot take on any job that involves an education or complex language explaining (for example receptionist). So these kinds of jobs are out of question.

What does this leaves the migrations with? Blue collar jobs. Herein lies the second problem; blue collar jobs are becoming fewer and fewer since many of these works are outsourced outside of Sweden. Then, what’s next on the list? To start an own business! If the migrant is lucky enough to have some relatives in Sweden this might work, but it’s not unusual for the migrants to be alone in Sweden, so therefore they cannot open up a business since they can’t borrow money from the bank (the bank require an income if a loan is to be granted). From here it’s just one option, to be supported by the government and take a part of the welfare.

What does this mean? Well, if Sweden is accepting more migrants that can’t incorporate into the society or support themselves, who pays the bill for these migrants? The citizens in Sweden that pay taxes. This may be one of the reasons why a party as this one has been able to “catch” many votes and gotten into the parliament; many people want a change before letting more migrants in to Sweden. The people want the welfare to be spent on their own population first (e.g. education and elder care) before spending money on migrants. As said in the beginning of this post, this is not a blogpost meant to provoke or upset anyone; this is just a blogpost stating my personal thoughts about the situation about migration in Sweden.

Reference

http://www.scb.se/Pages/Article____352486.aspx

“Ikumen” – The real situation in Japan and comparison to Sweden

A father and his children.

A father and his children. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Aki Yamada

Ikumen” is the expression and slang of the father in Japan who takes care of his children positively instead of the mother, and who enjoys child care. In 2006, one Japanese company started to use Ikumen in order to encourage father’s participation into childcare and stop the decreasing of population of Japan. After that, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare began to project of Ikumen in 2010 trying to make better society for business men to take part in domestic work and encourage childcare. In this essay, I would like to discuss how Ikumen made an impact for Japanese father trough the gap between ideal purpose and real situation in the first part and in the second, I will compare systems and laws between Japan and Sweden, which quite famous for its developed childcare system for father.

Firstly, possibly if you are Japanese, many times you might hear about the word, Ikumen in dramas, books and magazines. Actually, according to the public-opinion poll in 2000, 70 percent of family agreed that father take caring of their child and 10 percent of father strongly desire to do childcare by himself. However, most of their real opinions say that I want to do childcare but “I want to focus on my work” or “women have to take care of child”. Therefore, I think more and more father think that they want to help mother, however, still stereotype of gender role reminds in Japanese soiety.

Second of all, I would like to see the Japanese government’s movements for supporting Ikumen and compare them to Sweden’s processes of how they adopt father to take care of child. In 1992, the Japanese government made the law about Child‐Care Leave Law for men for the first time. And after that, in 2002, they made an agenda for the goal that archive 10 percent increase of childcare leave. Additionally, they also made the law for companies to have the system of enough childcare leave for men.

Those movements made Japanese society easier for father to have childcare leave and take care of child, however, it is not enough because we need more comprehensive support system from both government and companies. At that same time, when we see the system of Sweden, they also spent 30 years to adopt their Ikumen support system from 1974 such as making childcare leave system for 240 days for each gender, giving 80 percent of salary for father when he is taking childcare leave, and providing money for $18 for each day as an allowance. Therefore, I can say that Japan also need more long time to be good society for Ikumen like Sweden did.

English education in Japanese elementary school

by Kaho Nagao

Since 2011, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology decided to introduce English class to 5th and 6th grade elementary school students (MEXT 2002). The aim of this project is to produce people who can command English well and build up English communication skill. In this post, I will discuss whether should we introduce English or other languages education, and whether we should introduce bilingualism.

Before talking about the topic, it will describe that what is bilingualism. Bilingualism is people who can make them understood in two languages. Needless to say, there are some differences of ability depends on people and where they use these language, in school, between family, in society and so on. Now in Japan, most people who live in Japan use Japanese and even foreigner who live in Japan use Japanese to communicate with the society. Within Japanese society, English seems to be not needed, however, in the world what happen now?

On the earth, it is said that there are more than 7 billion people and quarter of them speak and understand English (Amelia n.d.). Thus, if you can understand English, we can communicate with more than a billion people. In addition, we can get much information and way of thinking that is if you only use Japanese or any other local languages.

On the other hand, if the government introduces the English education into elementary school, there are also some arguments. Some thinks that if English education start from when kids are little they cannot handle it and kids make many grammar mistakes and get confused, in addition, they cannot command either Japanese or English well. However, if so, many people who can speak English but non-native cannot speak English in a proper way. For example, in Sweden, English education is started in 3rd grade (Sweden English 1979) and most Swedish people can understand English. Since they are young, they are familiar with English TV, movies and music. ABBA, which is famous music group from Sweden, they sing very nice and easy to listen. Of course there are linguistically difference between Japanese and Swedish. Swedish may be near to English compared to Japanese.

From now on Japanese society is heading to aging society and more and more people may go to abroad and come into Japan. At that time we need to communicate with somehow. At that time, English become one of the ways, so when the government especially MEXT realize it and make more useful policy, it is going to be more good to children and Japanese society.

References

Amelia English in the World http://www.amelia.ne.jp/user/reading/dialect_01_03.jsp

MEXT http://www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/shingi/chousa/shotou/020/sesaku/020702.htm

Hiroshima university. English education in Sweden http://ir.lib.hiroshima-u.ac.jp/metadb/up/ZZT00001/CaseleResBull_9_39.pdf

The headaches and the blessings of dual-citizenship

by Jonas Horvei

It is said that humans are born. In some way this is true, nevertheless there is also heavy restrictions imposed on each individuals. Such restrictions could for instance be the place where you are born, your parents, the economic power your parents have, the passport you hold, and whether you have dual-citizenship or not. In a world that continues to become more and more globalized traveling abroad and working abroad are steadily becoming increasingly important for many individuals who want to experience life in a different country than where they grew up.

While of course the economic power of the individual and his family is often the biggest determiner, this time I want to talk about dual-citizenship and the challenges it imposes on the individuals. With increasingly more intermarriages, we also see a surge in people who are eligible for dual citizenships. While I think in many cases this can be an incredible blessing. For instance think of an American citizen that also holds the passport of Sweden. Normally for an American working in most places in the EU is an incredibly big challenge due to the Schengen agreement. With an additional passport to Sweden, such barriers are removed and almost all of Europe becomes a possibility both for working and traveling.

Unfortunately for many of the dual-citizenship holders, this can also be a source of frustration. This frustration is based on the fact that many countries do not recognize dual-citizenship and forces the holder to pick either one of them while renouncing their other passport. Like a person from Japan and America will have to pick either Japan or America as their passport due to Japan not recognizing dual citizenship. So for a person who feels closely tied to both of these countries making the right decision is not such a simple matter. As each passport holds a different value one. It often makes me sad to hear my friends in China often having to pay deposits amount to almost 10,000 dollars just to go on a vacation abroad, it is simply unfair and makes traveling and migration for people without rich backgrounds very difficult.

While we all might think sometimes, being a dual citizenship sounds as this amazing treasure and key to freedom in terms of traveling, and in terms of opportunities to working abroad. Regardless of that think the fact that many countries still do not recognize dual citizenships easily becomes a source of frustration and the making of difficult choices especially of those who do feel attached to more than just one of the countries which they hold a passport to. Whether all countries should recognize dual citizenship or not I am not really certain if it is the right solution. With the increasing amount of globalization, I think the ideal solution would be to soften the barriers and make them less restrictive so that people can travel where they want, work where they want as long as they have the skill and migrate where they want regardless of which country one holds a citizenship of. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to change anytime soon, maybe never as long as discrimination and racism is a part of our daily life.

So meanwhile, for those of you that hold citizenships from different countries, different countries which both recognize dual citizenships as a right should treasure how lucky you are and the freedom you have to move, work and live your life in so many places compared to many others. In many ways, I am jealous of dual-citizenships holders. Still after reflecting on the whole thing, it seems that it is not always as nice it sounds like and I might have been reserving my judgments too soon. When you are forced to pick one passport over the other you might never in truly know if if you made the right decision or not.