Economist 4/13/16

  1. WOMEN are in general more likely to believe in and practice a religion than men are. The difference is not vast if you aggregate all creeds and countries (83.4% of women identify with a faith versus 79.9% of men) but for certain countries and faiths the gap is striking. In America, for example, 60% of women see religion as very significant in their lives versus 47% of men, according to Pew Research, a think-tank in Washington, DC.One factor is that in the practice of long-established religions, women have more staying power, including in times of repression. Under regimes which aim to abolish all external signs of religion, women can discreetly transmit the faith to their progeny.But there’s another consideration. Among certain new forms of faith, women often lead the way in making the religious switch, hoping their families will follow. That is particularly true of the Pentecostal churches which have gained ground in Latin America.For a hard-pressed female home-maker, the discipline and strong grass-roots organization of a Pentecostal church can seem like a way of stabilizing the family and steering the menfolk away from narcotics or violence.
  2. In 2015 migrants made up 15% of America’s population, compared with 88% in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Migrants go to the Emirates in search of higher wages; 65% come from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.But the flipside of the UAE’s astonishing openness to foreign workers is a draconian regime that restricts their rights and turns a blind eye to abuses.To obtain a visa to work in the UAE, a migrant must first receive a job offer from an employer. (In practice, recruiting firms act as middlemen, handing out job offers to suitable candidates in exchange for a big fee.) The worker then becomes legally dependent on their employer in various ways under a system of kafala, or sponsorship.
  3. In late 2010, however, Saqr Ghobash, the UAE’s reform-minded minister of labour, issued a decree allowing workers with contracts expiring after January 2011 to look for work elsewhere after they had served out their contracts.Workers’ real wages jumped by more than 10% in the three months after their contract expired, whereas before the change they barely moved at all.More than twice as many workers did go to a new employer, but this was because far fewer of them left the country altogether after their contract expired.Maids, nannies and other domestic workers (mostly women), who are subject to some of the worst abuses reported by groups like Human Rights Watch, have largely been excluded from the new freedoms.
  4. Last year over 10,000 dementia sufferers went missing in Japan. Many turned up dead, or not at all. Some walked into the paths of trains, for which their families may suffer a posthumous indignity: a bill for the cost of the accident.Japan is one of the planet’s oldest societies, pipped only by tiny Monaco for the proportion of elderly in the population.Over 5m elderly Japanese suffer from dementia. By 2025 some 7m will need care, the health ministry predicts. Most live at home, putting a strain on relatives.Japan has made strides in coping with the problems of a population with ever fewer young people. The retirement age has been pushed back, and it is not unusual for 70-year-olds to be driving taxis, working as watchmen on building sites and serving in supermarkets.
  5. Policy and spending lag, however. Public funding for long-term care for the elderly was the equivalent of just 1.2% of GDP in 2010 versus 3.7% in the Netherlands, according to the most recent OECD comparison.Family members often quit work and burn through savings to look after senile parents.More professional care would make a big difference, but there is an acute shortage of nurses. Nursing is poorly paid, and staff turnover is high.Among other things, foreign care workers must pass absurdly tough language tests.Beds, too, are in increasingly short supply. One report claims that by 2025 about 130,000 elderly with dementia in Tokyo alone will need beds in care homes but not be able to find one.To date over 200 local authorities have expressed interest in hosting what are being called continual care retirement communities.

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