Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sowing no oats 

My loyal reader jw sent a link to me of a Newsweek story on the lack of successful businesswomen in Europe.

According to a paper published by the International Labor Organization this past June, women account for 45 percent of high-level decision makers in America, including legislators, senior officials and managers across all types of businesses. In the U.K., women hold 33 percent of those jobs. In Sweden�supposedly the very model of global gender equality�they hold 29 percent.

Germany comes in at just under 27 percent, and Italian women hold a pathetic 18 percent of power jobs.

It does seem odd. Mark Steckbeck points out that this is an unintended consequence of the welfare state. Odder still is the story's conclusion of what to do: more welfare.
This past December, France passed a law mandating pay equity between men and women within five years. Over the past two years the French business school HEC has launched a major campaign to recruit more female M.B.A.s, raising the percentage of women in the program from 16 to 32. Norway recently decreed that all corporate boards must be 40 percent female within two years, or face being shut down, while the European Commission for Employment and Social Affairs will soon begin a yearlong study to determine whether discrimination laws in Europe are being properly enforced. Meanwhile, the EU has set aside funds for the creation of a gender-equality institute in 2007.
Steckbeck points out this increases cost to businesses and would cause more firms to flee Europe, a continent with stagnant economies already. But think what else this would do? Europe is already a continent of declining populations, with whole areas of Eastern Europe soon to be depopulated. Do we really want to bribe women in Europe into career tracks?

Think about this again, reading from the article:
By offering women extremely long work leaves after children, then pushing them to take the full complement via tax policies that discourage a second income, coupled with subsidies that serve to keep them at home, Europe is essentially squandering its female talent. Not only do women get off track for long periods, many simply never get back on. Nor have European corporations adapted to changing times. Few offer the flextime that makes it easier for women to both work and manage their families. Instead, women tend to get shuffled into part-time work, which is less respected and poorly paid. Those who want to fight discrimination find themselves hamstrung by laws favoring employers.

Among Europe's myriad problems, this one is huge�with ramifications way beyond gender relations. In fact, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Europe's future hinges on it. "We have got to get more women into the labor market," says Vladi mir Spidla, the EU commissioner of Employment and Social Affairs. Declining birthrates and aging populations threaten the financial stability of almost all European nations, he explains. With a massive skills gap and pension crisis looming, the Continent must bring in more high-level workers. Immigration�the main solution thus far�presents obvious cultural challenges. Taking better advantage of existing female populations is an obvious answer.
So, in order to not use immigrant labor to supply high-level workers, the EU wants to use the current seed corn that could alternatively provide future high-level workers? How would this solve the demographic problem facing Europe?