1 Jobs bloodbath at UBS London (The Guardian) UBS will axe up to 3,000 jobs in its London offices, in one of the biggest banking bloodbaths since the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The move to halve the Swiss bank's workforce in London is part of a global cull of up to 10,000 jobs, as UBS dramatically shrinks its troubled investment bank. The division suffered huge losses in the financial crisis and has since been engulfed in scandal, with the biggest rogue trading loss in British history and traders suspended amid a Libor-rigging probe.
The axe fell quickly with the bank immediately confirming 100 UBS staff in London lost their jobs on Tuesday. But, on a day heavy with rumour and speculation, sources said job losses in the capital were much higher, with at least 100 traders and half the bond sales team asked to leave.
In scenes reminiscent of the dark days of the financial crisis, some turned up at the office to find their passes no longer worked. They were escorted to a side room where they received an impersonal letter that began "Dear Colleague". In it they were told they had been placed on "special leave" and were asked to stay away from the office until further notice.
2 How childcare bankrupts Britain (Yvonne Roberts in The Guardian) Childcare costs have been an issue since the 1990s, with fees rising year after year, but the situation has reached crisis point. The cause is the combination of benefit cuts, wages flatlining and austerity pushing more people into part-time work.
The result is that for the first time, as thinktank the Resolution Foundation reports, even those on low to middle incomes, defined as having two children in childcare and earning between £17,000 and £41,000, are little better off than those on poor incomes, once the nursery or childminder's fees are met. Paid work has become an activity that some parents can no longer afford.
This is at a time, when it is vital that a million more women move into the labour market to restart social mobility, tackle poverty, improve living standards and reduce the benefits bill for taxpayers. "Daycare Trust hears from parents every day who are forced to make difficult decisions about their career and family life as a result of Britain's high childcare costs," says Anand Shukla, chief executive of the childcare charity, Daycare Trust. "If you want welfare reform to ensure that work does pay, you need high-quality provision that is affordable for all parents."
Good news isn't entirely absent from the childcare arena. According to Ofsted, standards are improving, with over three-quarters of providers rated as "good" or "outstanding". In addition, the free entitlement of 15 hours a week for all three- and four-year-olds, extending to two-year-olds in 2013 and beyond, has had a phenomenally high takeup rate (93%), and parents and carers report strong levels of satisfaction. The bad news is that in almost every other respect – capacity, costing, funding, sustainability, information for parents and value for money – childcare in the UK is in an almighty mess.
3 Turkey’s dragnet (Andrew Finkel in The New York Times) A 53-page report entitled “Turkey’s Press Freedom Crisis’’ names and tries to shame the Turkish government as the world’s worst offender of restricting and intimidating members of my profession. It documents 76 journalists in jail, far worse than the “runner-up” Iran (42) and nearly three times the figure for China. Some three quarters of these Turkish prisoners have not been convicted, but are being held, some for as long as four years, while awaiting trial.
The government claims that the prisoners in question were not jailed for being journalists but for committing unrelated crimes. The CPJ counters this with documentation for at least 61 of the cases that shows the journalists are in the slammer for accusations “in direct relation to their work.” The evidence being used against these journalists, the CPJ points out, includes their writings or actions that they’ve taken that amount to journalism, like interviewing and collecting information.
4 When part-time life is a way of life (Steven Greenhouse in The New York Times) While there have always been part-time workers, especially at restaurants and retailers, employers today rely on them far more than before as they seek to cut costs and align staffing to customer traffic. This trend has frustrated millions of Americans who want to work full-time, reducing their pay and benefits.
For many Indian taste buds, including mine, nothing beats strong frothy "filter" coffee from Coorg, India's premier coffee producing area. However, coffee snobs are missing the point entirely. The Indian yuppie does not want to stand on a street corner, however good the coffee. Most streets here are awash with sewage, garbage and gaping manholes, so why would he or she? Sure, there are also plenty of darshinis and dhabas (basic cafes and teahouses) across India, where you can get excellent coffee or chai for a few rupees. But the potential Starbucks customer doesn't want that. That's what their daddy drank.
What he or she wants is a clean, quiet, comfortable, air-conditioned space, to work, meet friends or linger for hours, no questions asked. Such hangouts are scarce in India, and with the urban chaos outside, boy, do we need them. India's women, desperately short of safe public spaces, want to sit by themselves without being leered at, as they might be in dhabas.
India has an estimated 200 million people between 18 and 25. The young, who usually live with extended families in cramped houses, want to chat, date and escape their prying parents. The growing number of entrepreneurs who work from home are looking for venues to network and meet clients. And everyone – absolutely everyone – will be looking for that scarcest of commodities in India: a clean toilet. It's not about the coffee. It's about the coffee house.
6 Bumpy ride to women’s rights (Rupa Subramanya in The Wall Street Journal) Well-intentioned and indeed vital legislative changes do sometimes carry unintended harmful consequences. A recent study by economics professors Siwan Anderson of the University of British Columbia and Garance Genicot of Georgetown University explored the relationship between improved property rights for women in India and the incidence of suicide among both men and women. A 1987 study by sociologist Stephen Stack of Auburn University using US data documented a positive relationship between the labor force participation of women, which is one important measure of economic empowerment, and an increase in the suicide rate of both men and women. Similar results are found in other countries.
Ms. Anderson and Ms. Genicot found that this pattern also exists in India. They found that strengthened property rights for women correlated with a narrowing in the difference between female and male suicide rates (there were more female suicides relative to male suicides), as well as an increase in the absolute numbers of both male and female suicides. Over the period of study, 1967-2004, average suicide rates were 11 per 100,000 for men and 7.3 for women, giving a male to female suicide ratio of about 1.5.
Why do improved property rights for women lead to worse outcomes in terms of suicide for both men and women? Consistent with sociological research, Ms. Anderson and Ms. Genicot suggest that strengthened female property rights increase the bargaining power of women in the household, which leads to greater conflict between husbands and wives. This in turn leads to more suicides by both husbands and wives.
While it is impossible to test this theory directly, the researchers were able to show that strengthened property rights for women increased the incidence of wife battery. And if more wives are being beaten by their husbands, it’s reasonable to assume that conflict within a household has increased. That’s the sense in which higher incidence of suicide among both men and women is, in my judgment, yet another manifestation of the wider phenomenon of violence against women.
Paradoxically, a frustrated husband committing suicide because his wife is now empowered is in itself a reflection of women’s unequal social status. The correct lesson to take from this new research by Ms. Anderson and Ms. Genicot is that the process of women’s empowerment is necessarily going to be a bumpy road and there will be bad news along the way. Far from being a patriarchal and misogynistic finding, it suggests instead that we must persevere until society changes to the point where women’s empowerment becomes a non-issue. But as the recent accounts from India and even the US suggest, we still have a long way to go.