GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Every journalist is faced with embargoes so I read, out of curiosity, this NPR article about the nonsense that occurred around a health story because of an embargo, a story about mumps.
Embargoes used to be common because print journalists needed time to prepare stories that were longer and more serious than most we see today, but also because evening and morning newspapers could be put on an even footing that way: everyone had advance warning and the same deadline.
That world seems a century away, although it goes back less than 20 years, to pre-Internet days. Most embargoes today are nothing more than transparent and poor public relations ploys to grab the attention of over-worked journalists. They are still, thankfully, used by organizations that publish lengthy and complex material such as science journals and by international financial bodies such as the Financial Stability Board, whose lengthy and daunting subject matter can’t be condensed quickly to short news stories.
But mostly, embargoes are a sign that the world of public relations is still stuck with a working model that no longer works in these days of instant news, instantly rehashed news, and too few journalists who have time to delve into stories and get them right, embargo or no embargo.
The challenge is not so much about how dying newspapers will survive in a digital world (they won’t, and it’s time to start saying that), as about how people who believe they have news content can connect with those who can broadcast it, in a responsible and credible way. In other words, digesting and putting the news into perspective, not just repeating press releases.
ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – Switzerland comes in sixth, behind three Nordic countries, The Netherlands and Belgium (not having a leader doesn’t count against you, it appears), for work life balance, according to the Paris-based OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).
The report was published in October 2011 but unlike quality of life rankings for countries and cities, designed by for-profit groups, it received relatively little publicity.
The OECD report uses three key indicators to compare countries for work-life balance, but the ratings are based on this plus 10 other criteria, which together make up its better life initiative. Here, Switzerland ranks 7th. Canada, which suffers on the work life balance ratings, holds 4th place overall.
Two interesting tidbits of information form part of the Swiss report page: there are more visitors, 8.6 million a year, than the resident population of 7.6m, and renewable energy now accounts for 20.42 percent of energy used.
What we do right: income, jobs, education, health and life satisfaction
What we do wrong: governance (OECD’s lowest turnout for voters)
One statistic will surprise many readers, given the paucity of child-care facilities in Switzerland and the fact that women earn 20 percent less than men, according to the federal government: “In Switzerland, 79 percent of mothers are employed after their children begin school; this figure is higher than the OECD average of 66 percent and suggests that mothers are able to successfully balance family and career.”
Germany comes in for a tough review despite 8th place in the work life balance ratings, notes the Atlantic, which carries a nice set of slides on the top 23 countries. The odd cutoff number of 23 is due to the US coming in at 23.
I have a niggling complaint with the Atlantic article, for a sentence that could leave you thinking Europe’s oldest country is 30 years old: “The average first-time mother is as old as any country in the OECD (30), and the career costs of having a child are sky-high.”
ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – I haven’t stopped looking at international comparisons for cost of living and wealthy individuals, but I have stopped paying attention to them if they’re dollar-based. They’re mostly nonsense.
Looking at media reports about Credit Suisse’s new “Global Wealth Report” I almost dismissed it, thinking it would be just another list, until I took the time to look at the report itself.
We learn that the number of extremely wealthy Chinese is growing rapidly. And we learn, as TSR points out in its story about this, that household wealth in Switzerland has grown far faster than anywhere else – in dollar terms. The only real purpose that information will serve is to add to the jealousy of Switzerland that is already a small feature of life in Europe.
What matters in this report, is the groundshift it lays out clearly.
“The global wealth currently held by 4.4 billion adults has increased 72% since 2000 to reach USD 195 trillion. Driven by robust economic expansion in the emerging markets, the Credit Suisse Research Institute estimates that global wealth will grow 61% to USD 315 trillion by 2015. The middle segment of the wealth pyramid is composed of one billion individuals who are located in the fastest-growing economies of the world and who hold one-sixth or USD 32 trillion of global wealth.”
Move over USA, make way for Asia
This middle segment is composed of people whose average wealth per adult is $10,000 to $100,000, and 60 percent of them are in Asia.
The report underscores a shift that anyone who has recently spent time in the US will have felt, that this powerhouse of consumers is losing its strength to move the world’s economies. The introduction to the report states it baldly. “The Credit Suisse Research Institute believes that wealth provides people in the middle segment with the financial security they need to become the world’s emerging consumers and that the middle segment will replace indebted US households as the global economic growth locomotive.”
Switzerland and Norway, the report shows, are currently, in dollar terms, “the richest nations in the world in terms of average wealth per adult, which stands at USD 372,692 and USD, 326,530 respectively. They are followed by Australia, which is in third place with average wealth per adult of USD 320,909 and Singapore with average wealth per adult of USD 255,488. Figures for Australia and Singapore have both doubled in the last decade.”
Where there is wealth, there is often poverty
Growing wealth has not meant the disappearance of poverty, no real surprise, but the numbers are sobering. “At the base of the wealth pyramid there are three billion people with average wealth per adult of below USD 10,000, of which 1.1 billion own less than USD 1,000 and 307 million are in India.”
The report is, after all, published by a group backed by a bank, and one curious detail is tucked in here. “Some 2.5 billion people are as yet unbanked. As the wealth of this significant group grows, it will both require and fuel the creation of new financial services.”
50,000 march in Dublin against Irish austerity plan
Economist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman has just given the Irish an early Christmas present, some badly needed cheer and praise for a population that doesn’t deserve to be mired down in its current mess.
Meanwhile, 50,000 people took to the streets in Dublin to protest against austerity cuts Saturday 27 November. Krugman likely has some fans in the crowd.
I wish he could come up with a Christmas miracle for them now.
A great read: “Eating the Irish”, NY Times
A brief reminder as promised: we are a media partner for the Economist Conference in Geneva 2 December, on “Emerging innovation: what global companies can learn from emerging markets”, and if you quote GL/DC when you register you will be given a 15 percent discount.
Tap-and-pay: do I really want to marry my credit cards to my phone?
Good news, bad news and tech news: they all seem to come in batches. Today it’s the turn of tech news.
Apparently I will soon be able to marry my phone and credit card, not just have them occasionally dating. But marriage is a serious business and I’m not sure I’m ready for it in this case. Google has unveiled what it is calling an “unannounced” product, a credit card size phone that could be the next generation after the Nexus One smartphone. A friend from the US was telling me yesterday that one of his favourite iPhone apps is a barcode reader that promptly tells him the best price and where to get it on products he’s interested in buying. He then orders it and pays for it and within minutes he owns one of the best deals in town.
The new Google phone, reports AFP, “runs on fresh ‘Gingerbread’ software and is imbedded with a near-field communication chip for financial transactions, according to Google chief executive Eric Schmidt.” Schmidt showed off his new toy/product at a web 2.0 conference in San Francisco. Schmidt says the industry calls it tap-and-pay, and the phones will replace credit cards. No news on who is building the flatscreen phone.
Lift and the art of digital technologies “as a pervasive layer around people, artifacts and places”
The Geneva Lift Conference 2011, 22-4 February, focusas as always on what the future can do for you, but the next one is more precisely defined by Lift team member Nicolas Nova: “”This year the theme corresponds to the idea that digital technologies can be seen as a pervasive layer around people, artifacts and places; objects as well as individuals, are simultaneously active and passive concentration points.”
Try to pack that into an image that works onstage, on posters and elsewhere! But Bread and Butter, the agency that has long worked closely with Lift, has done it, and the explanation behind the idea offers interesting food for thought.
The death of the e-mail, again
A BBC special guest, young and sexy and intelligent about world affairs, said this morning she has no intention of giving up her e-mail and shifting entirely to Facebook, which she uses. The Washington Post weighed in on the ugliness of the Facebook logo. PC Magazine suggests Facebook is headed down the same “dark road” as AOL, making the same e-mail mistakes. The occasion for all the digital ink was Facebook sending out rumours a week ago followed by the news itself Monday of its new e-mail system. The news turned out to be less dramatic than media feared or expected. Here’s what the Facebook people themselves say about it:
“We are also providing an @facebook.com email address to every person on Facebook who wants one. Now people can share with friends over email, whether they’re on Facebook or not. To be clear, Messages is not email. There are no subject lines, no cc, no bcc, and you can send a message by hitting the Enter key. We modeled it more closely to chat and reduced the number of things you need to do to send a message. We wanted to make this more like a conversation.”
So life has just become simpler because we now have even more options, if you follow the argument.
Translators never have an easy task, but Orange’s new tagline translators surely must have argued with the phone company’s powers-that-be over the final UK version of the French line, “”La vie change avec Orange”. Telecom TV has a delightful time rubbing Orange’s nose in the dirt over this one, and I’m with Telecom TV. How about “Orange: time for a change”? Of course, someone might get the wrong message. That’s the trouble with translations.
Women politicians can’t bring the country out of the gender dark ages
Switzerland continues to congratulate itself for its firm step into modern times Wednesday 22 September, when it voted to create a cabinet with women in the majority. The outside world, too puzzled by an obscure Swiss political system to say much, patted it on the back. By Friday Swiss media and politicians will be quibbling again over whether or not the cabinet (the Federal Council) is functioning as it should.
Yes, it’s great to have women actively leading the country, but Switzerland is missing the boat: most of us, and I’m a Swiss woman, are happy to see more women in politics. What we really want to see is women paid properly for their work.
No, it’s not acceptable that the country lags far behind many other developed countries and several developing ones, as far as women and work are concerned. Politicians aren’t going to change this: outmoded stereotypes will change only when the Swiss public, the famous citoyen et citoyenne, takes the initiative to become more responsible and respectful.
Women earn 24 percent less than men, according to the Federal Bureau for Equaity, for work of equal value. They are rarely found on Swiss corporate boards and they hold far fewer significant administration positions. Daycare and school hours have improved somewhat in the past 20 years, from the perspective of working mothers, but not enough. Women tend to care for the elderly, as elsewhere, often while juggling a job and children who are still at home, with incomes inadequate to allow them to pay for help.
The model of a couple where the man works fulltime and the woman part-time covers 42 percent of couples in Switzerland. Only 23 percent of couples have both partners working fulltime. You can argue that children of these couples benefit from having mother at home more often, but the price is very high: mother is devalued financially, for life, not just for the short time the kids are home. There is a moral issue here that the Swiss must face.
Start with pre-school options, school lunch programmes and after-school care
Switzerland has no excuse for taking so long to improve the situation of working women.
Making it easier for women to work on an equal level with men must start with providing flexible, family-affordable daycare and schooling options. Geneva continues its decades-old to debate over whether children should be in school on Wednesday afternoons (they currently are not) and/or Saturday mornings. It’s not the only canton in this situation, and the obligation for children to head home for lunch every day hasn’t even made it onto the political agenda in many cantons.
The World Economic Forum’s annual Competitiveness Report 2010 ranked Switzerland number one in the world, but it ranks the country number 40, out of 139 economies, for participation of women in the labour force.
Ask the international population in Switzerland: we’ve seen how it’s done elsewhere
Most of us who are part of the international population in Switzerland have lived in countries with children who don’t suffer from attending school five days a week and who turn out to be successful, good citizens despite pre-school daycare and school lunches in the canteen. My son grew up in Switzerland but not in the state schools, which is too bad in terms of integration, but as a foreign woman, used to working for a living, the lack of options from our village school left me without a choice. He had pre-school daycare, private school cafeteria lunches, and he’s successful as well as a good friend to me and my husband.
All of this costs, of course, but probably less in the long run than pulling mother out of the workforce for several years to make hot soup at noon. Sound family relationships might be helped by everyone coming home for lunch, but this isn’t the secret to them.
Many of the women among us have earned equal salaries elsewhere and seen our countries and companies thrive as a result. It’s hard for us to understand why Switzerland remains a backwater in this respect. “Women’s wages are in general and irrespective of the level of professional qualifications usually lower than men’s,” Helpinlaw, a legal solutions firm, advises companies. Swissinfo reported in 2009 that equal wages have been covered by the Swiss constitution since 1981 and written into the law since 1996, but in 2006 women were still earning 25 percent less than men, and the figure climbs to 31 percent in higher-level posts. Some 60 percent can be explained by differences in experience and job levels, but 40 per cent was found to be due to discrimination, according to the Federal Office for Gender Equality (Foge).
Even with the youngest workers, where family issues have not yet built up, young women with the same level of education and training as young men are earning 10 percent less after six years of employment.
Small steps are a start, but just that, not more
Foge has made some progress in helping women earn more, but the time for a big leap is here. Companies with 50-10,000 employees have had access since 2007 to a tool called Logib that allows them to check their salary systems to ensure equal wages. The head of the FOGE for the past 16 years, Patricia Schulz, was elected to the United Nations gender equality committee in June 2010, the first time a Swiss has been part of this. Maybe some of the UN work in this area will filter back to Switzerland once she takes up her new post at the end of 2010.
Foge says equal wages is its priority issue for 2010, and it has started by working with companies. Reconciling home life and work is a priority, it says.
The Swiss have watched and done little while France has raised a generation of children with daycare systems in place. France now has enough experience to start improving its multiple childcare options.
Women were 9 percent of Swiss board members in 2004 but by 2008 the number had fallen to just over 6 percent, and the country was low among European countries for boards with more than one woman according to the 2008 EuropeanPWN BoardWomen Monitor. There are exceptions, notably Migros, which skewers Swiss statistics on boards with its penchant for having well over 30 percent women.
Meanwhile Finland, which has legally required all companies since January 2010 to have at least one female board member, has produced figures showing that companies with a female CEO (chief executive officer) are about 10 percent more profitable.
Europe-wide, women are 60 percent of the workforce but hold only 10 percent of corporate boat seats.
Video, women and workplace equality, Mirella Visser
Are we surprised that the £1,200 which is a UK taxi company’s biggest fare ever ended up in Geneva? So the businessmen who took the ride won’t be surprised at taxi fares in Geneva.
They were driven from Northhampton to Geneva to catch a flight to Portugal, so they’ll probably be stuck with another large fare since they apparently weren’t aware that they can’t fly out of Geneva.
The IRS in the US is doing its best to make it clear to Americans that not filing taxes leads to trouble, with a host of cases coming to light this week, just in time for the April 15 tax filing deadline. The latest batch of seven was published today by the US Justice Department: here are the details, bedtime reading if you’re not up late doing your taxes.