Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Economist Channels Underbelly:
Gender Imbalance in Asia

The Economist goes all in on the gender-imbalance issue with a leader and a detailed special report.  Shorter gender imbalance: Asian women are hurtling forward in education and employment, but conventions/expectations of domestic life remain stuck in the dark ages (yes, moreso than in America and Europe, and by a long shot).  So when the choices are early marriage, age-appropriate marriage or late marriage, the best selection seems to be "non of the above." There's plenty of good stuff in the about the instability problems that arise from a large, growing, potentially huge, population of unattached young males, but less direct attention to another aspect of the issue. That is, you might think the imbalance would favor women: lots of demand, limited supply, jack up the price, pile up the rewards. There are  many suggestions that it won't work (isn't working) that way.  If you are a rich or powerful or merely a sufficiently aggressive male, in this unbalanced market you are all the more motivated to stockpile your goodies--put 'em in purdah or lock them up in a harem (note to self, ask broker to find a pure play in chastity belts).   More: if women are notably in short supply then the rich and powerful will want to collect as many as they can as prestige goods, so to the blessings of one's own success one can add the satisfaction of somebody else's suffering.

I've long argued that the pattern of imbalance argues for more globalization: ship girls from Russia/Ukrain (92 men for every 100 women, aged 15-64) to Saudia Arabia (129) or Bahrain (133).  Of course it is already happening, and it is no joke: we hear reports of a roaring trade in the traffic of humans and a lot of it starts in the old Soviet Union and a lot of it winds up in the gulf.  So the future may offer a lot of "choices" for women, but they'll have to be tough as nails to keep from getting swamped by them.



Ebenezer Scrooge said...

The article being in The Economist, it carefully avoids blaming the powerful people who create this phenomenon: Asian men. Asian women do not so much avoid marriage, as they avoid marrying the local product.

Markets equilibrate, kind of. Many Japanese men end up marrying women from poorer Asian countries, such as Vietnam. There are a surprising number of Japanese women in New York, who seem relatively happy with the local product. Sorry as American men may seem to American women, they are sensitive egalitarians to the Japanese female eye. (Although Japanese men, to their credit, are far better dressed on average.)

(I remember reading somewhere that Japan is the first country in history with more women than men as emigrants.)

Buce said...

Hadn't heard that about Japanese women emigrants. Another candidate, though not a country: East Germany. On the streets in Dresden, you see no females under 50. Yhe young women all have skills that are marketable in the west, and so have decamped. The men have shaved heads and tattooes.

At the Law School, our Japanese grad students are virtually all men--sponsored by some big entity or other. Chinese/Taiwanese mostly women, often entrepreneurial, making their own way somehow or other.