Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Joblessness seen surging across the Gulf; Nike's self-lacing sneakers; Why girls wear make-up

1 Joblessness seen surging across Gulf (Babu Das Augustine in Gulf News) Unemployment across the oil exporting countries in the region including the GCC is expected to surge as governments are poised to cut spending to cope with rising fiscal deficits, according to the IMF’s regional economic outlook.

In the GCC, excluding the UAE, more than 2 million nationals are expected to join the workforce by 2020. If private sector job growth were to follow past trends, and public sector employment growth is consistent with the current fiscal projections, more than half a million job market entrants will end up being unemployed, in addition to the 1 million who are already out of work.

“The aggregate GCC unemployment rate would increase from 12 per cent to 16 per cent. Clearly, if more fiscal adjustment were to take place, with some of it in the form of reined-in public sector hiring, unemployment rates would be even higher,” said Masoud Ahmad, the IMF’s regional director for Middle East and Central Asia.

In the non-GCC region, about 8 million people will enter the labour force over the next five years. Under current growth projections, and using historical growth — employment elasticities, the average unemployment rate would increase from 14 per cent to 15.5 per cent. In practice, the increase could be much higher, because cash-strapped governments will not be able to maintain the pace of public sector hiring.

Clearly, the private sector will have to take over from the public sector as the main source of job creation. However, the expansion of the private sector and the diversification away from oil that are needed to absorb the growing workforce have so far proven elusive. Though some progress has been made, most economies in the region are still deeply dependent on the capital-intensive hydrocarbon sector, which generates limited direct employment.

2 Nike’s self-lacing sneakers (Emily Price in San Francisco Chronicle) Marty McFly famously visited Oct. 21, 2015 in “Back to the Future II.” Now in the real 2015, we may not have a hoverboard just yet, but today Nike is bringing one of the technologies shown off in the film into reality: self-lacing shoes.

The shoes have a responsive system that senses the wearer’s motion and adjusts accordingly for on-demand comfort and support. Nike says that the models it is showing off today are merely the shoe’s first iteration. The technology involved in the shoes will likely make its way to other footwear down the line.

“Although the project started as science fiction, we’re now proud to turn that fiction into fact,” Nike design Tinker Hatfield said in a note sent to Michael J Fox, who played McFly in the films. Fox posted a picture of the note on Twitter: Fox was the first person to receive a pair of the sneakers, and subsequently posted a video of himself trying them on.

The company ultimately plans on testing the tech in shoes designed for athletes in a number of different sports. “We started creating something for fiction and we turned it into fact, inventing a new technology that will benefit all athletes,” Mark Parker, president and CEO of Nike, said in a post officially announcing the shoes.

3 Why girls wear make-up (Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett in The Guardian) From the soot-rimmed eyes of the ancient Egyptians to the lead paint worn by the Elizabethans, women and girls have experimented with cosmetics throughout history. Ask a group of women why they wear makeup and you’ll receive myriad responses.

“After 20 years working as a makeup artist I can say quite confidently that women wear makeup for themselves,” Lisa Eldridge, the author of Face Paint: The Story of Makeup, tells me. “There are many different roles makeup can play in a woman’s life. There’s the playful and creative aspect – who doesn’t enjoy swirling a brush in a palette of colour? Then there’s the confidence-building aspect – why not cover a huge red blemish on your nose, if you can? Finally, there is an element of war paint and tribalism. Makeup can make you feel more powerful and ready to face any situation.”

But just as there are women and girls who wear makeup completely for themselves, there are those who wear makeup for the perceived benefit of others, or who feel as though they are unacceptable without it. Makeup can be a mask you hide behind that gets you ready to face the world, or something you deploy as a weapon – to attract a partner, to intimidate, shock and amaze.

Makeup is so ubiquitous in our society that for a woman to go without it has become, in some cases, a statement – the “no makeup selfie” being a case in point. Perhaps, then, the more useful question to ask is not “Why do women wear makeup?” but “Why do women wear makeup when most men don’t?”

For some feminists, the question can be answered by simply muttering “patriarchy” and dusting off their hands before heading to the bar. Evolutionary psychologists have it that, as with so many things, makeup comes down to sex. Women tend to have darker eyes and lips than men, and makeup enhances those sex differences.

Cosmetics companies often rely on women’s insecurities – inculcated through years of exposure to images of physical perfection in mainstream media – in order to sell products, operating on the basis of “maybe she’s born with it, but probably not, so buy this concealer”.

Perhaps, then, when it comes to makeup, we are our own worst enemies, believing that the world wants to see us in a certain way when in actual fact we’re fine the way we are. Why do women wear makeup? You could say it’s a pinch of patriarchy, a dusting of sex, a smattering of fun, and a whole, caked-on layer of misplaced insecurity.

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