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Female workers can jolt economy; look at Japan [US]

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Abramovitz, Mimi
Publication Date: 
9 Feb 2009

See text below.


Contrary to popular wisdom, spending on services like health care and education produces a bigger bang for the economic-stimulus buck than billions of dollars devoted to roads and bridges. While both types of spending yield important payoffs, the Japan Institute for Local Government, a nonprofit research group, says that during its decade-long economic collapse Japan learned this the hard way.

The Institute found that every 1 trillion yen, or $11.2 billion, spent on social services such as the care of the elderly and monthly pension payments added 1.64 trillion yen in growth. Financing schools and education delivered even more, 1.74 trillion yen. By contrast, every 1 trillion yen spent on infrastructure projects in the 1990s increased Japan's gross domestic product by only 1.37 trillion yen.

For years service jobs have been "reserved" for women. Could this be why mostly male economists have pushed for "shovel ready" jobs held mostly by men as the way to dig us out of the economic quagmire?


Last Friday, Feb. 6, the New York Times reported that the U.S. work force is about to include more female workers than male because the jobs so many women hold in teaching, nursing, home health care and social services tend to be more recession-proof than those in manufacturing and construction.

In December 2008 in an open letter to then President-elect Barack Obama a new group of historians, economists and other scholars who call themselves WEAVE--Women's Equality Adds Value to the Economy--mirrored the report from Japan. They urged Obama to avoid the mistakes of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. "For all our admiration of FDR's reform efforts," the authors wrote in the letter, "in the 1930s Congress directed most of the New Deal jobs to skilled male and mainly white workers. This was a mistake then and it would be a far greater mistake in the 21st century economy, when so many families depend on women's wages and when our nation is even more racially diverse."

The more than 1,000 signatories of the letter agreed that the nation's social infrastructure was in just as bad shape as the physical infrastructure. They called on the government to stimulate jobs in education, health care, child and elder care. They noted that green and sustainable energy policy requires educators as well as construction workers. ...

- reprinted from Women's E-News

Entered Date: 
11 Feb 2009
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