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GEOGRAPHY EDUCATION

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labor

Best Case Study for Declining Populations? South Korea

South Korea is the world’s first country to have a total fertility rate below 1 (in 2019, it dropped to 0.98).  It may not be the largest population of the 86 declining populations (114 countries have TFRs above replacement level), but it makes for an incredibly important case-study to explore emerging demographic patterns because in the coming years, it probably won’t be the only country with a TFR below 1.

Korea Pyramid
Population pyramid from the National Atlas of Korea

South Korean governments at multiple levels have implemented some pro-natalist policies (tax-benefits, cash incentives, maternity leave, paternity leave, etc.), and the TFR continues to drop.  The economic reasons for this demographic decline make it a textbook example of a highly-developed economy where raising children is very expensive in a post-industrial, overwhelmingly urban context.  However, I think more time should be spend investigating the cultural patterns that led more and more young adults to either postpone child-rearing or skip it all together. In South Korea, as in other countries, marriages are becoming more infrequent, but the social stigma associated with raising a child out of wedlock remains very strong (only 2% of births are to unwedded mothers).  Many women returning to the workforce find that child-care options are limited they struggle to find the same wages that they had before they started a family.  Even before without children though, women in South Korea are confronted with the highest gender wage gap among OECD countries.  As reported in the WSJ, “South Korea has a strong economy, fast internet—and a big gender gap.” Korean work culture expects long hours, after hours social gatherings, and other practices that make it difficult to workers, but especially women, to find a manageable balance between having a career and a family.  Many corporations are reluctant to hire/promote/mentor women that might conceivably conceive and leave the company.

Korea Fert
South Korea’s declining fertility rates (source).

Today, many Korean families see having no children as the only way to survive/improve their quality on life given the economic and cultural context within which they are operating.  The government has been pouring millions of dollars to reverse this pattern but the fertility rate continues to drop.  The video below gives an introduction to the issue.

This video provides a more in-depth look into the issue (turn on the closed captioning)

GeoEd Tags: South Korea, declining population, population, gender, labor.

Good resources to understand South Korea’s Declining population:
National Atlas of Korea: Population Projections.
QZ: South Korea’s birth rate just crashed to a new alarming low
CityLab: South Korea is trying to boost its birth rate.  It’s not working.

A slightly larger than average South Korean family

Worker Safety?

Source: www.youtube.com

This is old video is still shocking because of the blatant disregard for worker safety during the huge rush to get Beijing ready for the 2012 Olympics. This can been seen as large cities host global events such as the World Cup or the Olympics.  As was seen in Rio de Janeiro, leaders will try to sweep some problems under the rug before the global spotlight shines on them. This video can also be used to lead to a discussion concerning China’s continued economic growth. What other ways has China (or Chinese companies) been "cutting corners?" How does that give them a competitive edge on the global industrial market?

 

GeoEd Tags: industry, labor, China.

Scoop.it Tags: industry, labor, China

Job openings in U.S. down

On the last business day of May 2018, the number of job openings edged down to 6.6 million from a revised April level of 6.8 million, a series high. Combined, over one-third of those job openings were in professional and business services (1,190,000) and health care and social assistance (1,119,000).

Source: www.bls.gov

I’m not sharing this article because of the monthly fluctuations in labor.  The interactive chart in this article is an excellent visualization of the shifts in labor in the various economic sectors. 

Tags: laborvisualization, economicindustry

WordPress TAGS: labor, visualization, economic, industry.

The Japanese art of (not) sleeping

"The Japanese don’t sleep. This is what everyone – the Japanese above all – say. I first encountered these intriguing attitudes to sleep during my first stay in Japan in the late 1980s. Daily life was hectic; people filled their schedules with work and leisure appointments, and had hardly any time to sleep. Many voiced the complaint: ‘We Japanese are crazy to work so much!’ But in these complaints one detected a sense of pride at being more diligent and therefore morally superior to the rest of humanity. Yet, at the same time, I observed countless people dozing on underground trains during my daily commute. Some even slept while standing up, and no one appeared to be at all surprised by this.

The positive image of the worker bee, who cuts back on sleep at night and frowns on sleeping late in the morning, seemed to be accompanied by an extensive tolerance of so-called ‘inemuri’ – napping on public transportation and during work meetings, classes and lectures. Women, men and children apparently had little inhibition about falling asleep when and wherever they felt like doing so."

Source: www.bbc.com

If you subscribe to Edward Hall’s Cultural Iceberg model (video), we can readily see, touch, or experience many parts of a society’s culture; what they wear, the ways the communicate, the food they eat, etc.  Beneath the surface, though, are the less obvious cultural traits that aren’t so easily observed.  These aspects of culture, such as the beliefs, values, and thought patterns of a society, are critical to understanding differing cultural traits.

 

Questions to Ponder: In this article about sleep in Japan, what elements of external culture (above the surface) are present?  What elements of internal culture (beneath the surface) are present?  How do the cultural traits beneath the surface shape the cultural traits that are above the surface?    

Scoop.it Tags: culturecultural norms, labor, JapanEast Asia.

WordPress TAGS: cultural norms, culture, labor, Japan, East Asia.

Why does the misperception that slavery only happened in the southern United States exist?

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“Christy Clark-Pujara research focuses on the experiences of black people in British and French North America in the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. She examines how the business of slavery—the buying and selling of people, food, and goods—shaped the experience of slavery, the process of emancipation, and the realities of black freedom in Rhode Island from the colonial period through the American Civil War.”

Source: vimeo.com

This is one of the many videos produced by the Choices Program about slavery in the New England (especially Rhode Island).  Featured in the videos is Dr. Christy Clark-Pujara, who wrote “Dark Work: The Business of Slavery in Rhode Island.”  There is a reason to what we learn in history, and there are also reasons to the histories that are rarely told.  More than any other of the original thirteen colonies and states along the Eastern Seaboard, Rhode Island plied the triangle trade transporting more slaves to the Americas than all the other states combined.

 

Some Rhode Island slavery facts:

  • In 1776, Rhode Island had the largest proportion of slave population of any of the New England colonies.
  • During the antebellum period Rhode Islanders were the leading producers of “negro cloth,” a coarse wool-cotton material made especially for enslaved blacks in the American South.
  • More than 60 percent of all the slave ships that left North America left from Rhode Island.

 

Tags: raceRhode Island, slavery, labor, economic, historical.

Why Is It So Hard for Clothing Manufacturers to Pay a Living Wage?

“In the garment industry, stories about workers who barely eke out an existence on ‘starvation wages’ are legion: Factory workers in New Delhi often describe living in makeshift hovels ‘barely fit for animals.’ A young woman from Myanmar might wrestle with the decision to feed her children or send them to school. In Bangladesh, sewing-machine operators frequently toil for 100 hours or more a week, only to run out of money before the end of the month. Workers have demanded higher pay in all those countries, of course, sometimes precipitating violence between protesters and police. Companies in general, however, have preferred to sidestep the issue altogether. In fact, no multinational brand or retailer currently claims to pay its garment workers a wage they can subsist on.”

Source: www.racked.com

In some ways this isn’t the right question to be asking.  While clothing brands don’t want the bad PR from low wages, like all businesses, they are incentivized to minimize their inputs and maximize their profits.  If capitalistic logic were completely unrestrained, this situation would never change as long as their are low-skill workers.

 

Questions to Ponder: What institutions have the ability to change this situation and what are effective ways to bring about change?  Where are textile industries located in the international division of labor?  How do sweatshops impact the places where they locate in the international division of labor? 

 

Tagsdevelopment, laborglobalization, economicindustry, poverty

Income and Wealth Inequality

Inequality is a big, big subject. There’s racial inequality, gender inequality, and lots and lots of other kinds of inequality. This is Econ, so we’re going to talk about wealth inequality and income inequality. There’s no question that economic inequality is real. But there is disagreement as to whether income inequality is a problem, and what can or should be done about it.

Source: www.youtube.com

There are many of the 35 videos in the Economics crash course set that touch on geographic issues.   This crash course team explains the difference between wealthy inequality and income inequality.  This video also has a nice laymen’s explanation of the GINI coefficient and how it measures inequality.   In another video in the series, they demonstrate how globalization can be seen as the path to economic growth and others see the process of globalization as what has created poverty

 

Tagsdevelopment, laborglobalization, economicindustry, poverty, crash course

How a Steel Box Changed the World: A Brief History of Shipping

“As the container shipping industry continues to boom, companies are adopting new technologies to move cargo faster and shifting to crewless ships. But it’s not all been smooth sailing and the future will see fewer players stay above water.”

Source: www.youtube.com

This WSJ video, similar to an animated TED-ED video, explains some of the geographic consequences of economic innovation. Containerization has remade the world we live in, and will continue to see it drive economic restructuring.  

 

Tags: transportationlabor, globalization, diffusion, industry, economic.

Robots can pick strawberries. Now what?

“The robots have arrived. And they’ll be picking crops in Florida fields soon. Robots can do things humans can’t. They can pick all through the night. They can measure weight better. They can pack boxes more efficiently. They don’t take sick days, they don’t have visa problems.

Google ‘are robots taking our jobs?’ and you get millions of theories: Robots will take over most jobs within 30 years; yes, but it’s a good thing; yes, but they will create jobs, too; chill out, they won’t take them all. Truckers, surgeons, accountants and journalists have all been theoretically replaced by prognosticators.

But harvesting specialty crops is different: Plants vary in shape and size and determining ripeness is complex — experts have said there are too many variables for robots. Until now.”

Source: www.tampabay.com

Many industries have been, and will continue to be transformed by automation and robotics.  There is a great amount of uncertainty and anxiety in the labor pools as workers see many low skill jobs are being outsourced and other jobs are being automated.  Some economic organizations are preparing resources for workers to strengthen their skills for the era of automation. 

 

Questions to Ponder: How will a machine like this transform the agricultural business? How might it impact migration, food prices, or food waste?

 

Tags: economic, laboragribusiness, industry, food production, agriculture.

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