"OK, you might think the U.S. with its high unemployment and slow growth doesn't have much advice for other developed countries when it comes to how to get out of an economic slump."
Obviously U.S. economic performance since the end of 2007 has been at first abysmal and then merely lackluster, but look at that phrase, "much advice for other developed countries." And how are those other developed countries doing?
I'm not one to mindlessly worship faster growth of GDP per capita as the surest sign of economic success, but that is the standard they set here. And in the last few years, the U.S. has done respectably in that regard, "beating out" most of the OECD, and almost all of the EU.
As for unemployment, our rate is high, but edging down. In the last few years, our unemployment rate has improved more than most OECD members.
In general, countries that have pursued "austerity"--cutting government expenditure in order to reduce government deficits--have stumbled in the last few years; the U.S. has pursued only modest austerity, and has only stumbled modestly.
I doubt there's some nefarious plan to promote austerity, though that's possible. I suspect it's more that they were looking for a clever segue, and they went with conventional wisdom. On the other hand, that would point to the idiocy of conventional wisdom among US elites.
But again, that was just the framing. The fun starts with the story itself, the premise of which is that the U.S. should be teaching Japan how to have more women stay in the labor force after having kids.
The main points are these:
- Too many women leave the workforce after having kids, and too few come back.
- Daycare is hard to find, partly because of the lack of immigrants (compared to the U.S. situation, where immigrants provide large amounts of childcare).
- Husbands put in 60 or 70 hours a week at their jobs, so they're not much help in making it possible for their wives to hold even a normal full-time job.
- Women are subject to the same expectations as men as far as giving your all at work, so there's disapproval of a woman who tries to divide her time between doing her job and being a mother.
- Engineers are working on robots that will be able to take care of children, so that mothers can be freed up for the workplace.
If more women returned to the workforce, it could give a huge boost to household income in the country, says Kathy Matsui, chief Japan strategist at Goldman Sachs. "Increasing income levels will boost consumption," she says. "Consumption would increase profits, profits would increase wages, and that turns into a virtuous cycle."Where to begin? I guess with a list of questions.
- If there are more women out of the workforce than there "should" be, why can't some of them provide paid childcare while others do other jobs?
- Or would that be too expensive, because a Japanese woman would expect to get paid a decent wage, whereas an immigrant can be paid less?
- Robots? Srsly? If you're short on labor, how about having robots do the "jobs" and free up some human time for raising children?
- Is the problem not enough available labor to do the work that fims want to get done, as Kathy Matsui implies, or is the problem that there's not enough consumer spending to support the work places that Kathy Matsui says there should be?
- If Japanese women (and families) feel this is a problem, why isn't anything being done about it?
- Above all, what are all these people doing that's so God Almighty important that they have to do it 60 or 70 hours a week?
I'm not advocating a journey to a fictitious paradise of stereotyped domesticity, where men earn money and women stay home to tend the hearth. There are obviously huge issues around how any society--and any individual or family in that society--balances competing needs and desires of raising children, earning income, and having stimulating, rewarding employment outside the home.
I would like our culture to do a better job of not shaming women, either for continuing to be employed after having kids, or for being "only" a stay-at-home mom if that's their choice. And to get over the whole "Mr. Mom" thing when a couple decides to have the woman earn the income and the man stay home. We're doing better than we used to in those respects, but we could still improve. And on the economic side we could go on about policies regarding
So the story's subject matter touches on an interesting and important set of issues, but they're left essentially untouched. Instead, we get robot nannies and some fatuous framing about how Japan can learn from us ("U-S-A! U-S-A!").
This is journalistic Sweet-N-Low. It tricks the ear into thinking you're learning something, while not providing any actual sustenance for your mind.