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EYE-BALL’s Herman on: A Philosophical Appraisal of Socio Economic Index to Capture Wider Social Well Being.

April 21, 2012
Herman O'Hermitage
Title:
A Philosophical Appraisal of Socio Economic Index to Capture Wider Social Well Being.
By: Herman O’Hermitage
Herman O'HermitageIn Foreign Exchange circles you often hear of the McDonalds Index. It is the cost of a Big Mac in varying places around the world. €4 Euros in Paris, $4.95 in Australia, $3.95 in the States, 18 pesos in Mexico, 18 Honk Kong Dollars, and so on. It is a proxy understanding of terms of trade. Within the university system it is taught because of its simplicity. It is easy to observe and understand with just the littlest experience.

For a different context of the same index analogy, and in a recent article on the cost of sex in Spain see posted story below – linked story here– the sex industry is becoming a new way to measure the strength and weakness’ of economies..

Prostitution in Spain borders on modern-day slave trade:

She had expected a job in a hotel. But when Valentina arrived in Spain two months ago from Romania, the man who helped her get here – a man she had considered her boyfriend – made it clear that the job was on the side of the road.

The story continues from the Sydney Morning Herald edition: – [Linked here]

While the economy struggles, the sex industry is booming.

| Writes Suzanne Daley. April 8, 2012 |

He threatened to beat her and to kill her children if she did not comply. And so she stood near a roundabout recently, her hair in a greasy ponytail, charging $US40 ($38.80) for intercourse, $US27 for oral sex.

La Jonquera was once a quiet border town where truckers rested and the French came looking for a deal on hand-painted pottery and leather goods. But these days, prostitution is big business here, as it is elsewhere in Spain, where it is essentially legal.

While the rest of Spain’s economy may be struggling, experts say prostitution – almost all of it involving the ruthless trafficking of foreign women – is booming, exploding into public view in small towns and big cities. The police recently rescued a 19-year-old Romanian woman from traffickers who had tattooed on her wrist a bar code and the amount she still owed them: more than $US2500.

In the past, most customers were middle-aged men. But the boom here, experts say, is powered in large part by the desires of young men – many of them travelling in packs for the weekend. ”The young used to go to discos,” said Francina Vila i Valls, Barcelona’s counsellor for women and civil rights. ”But now they go to brothels. It’s just another form of entertainment to them.”

There is little reliable data on the subject. The United States State Department’s 2010 report on trafficking said 200,000 to 400,000 women worked in prostitution in Spain – 90 per cent were trafficked.

But police officials and advocates say whatever the number of victims, it is growing. Thousands of women are forced to work – often for even lower pay now, because of the economic downturn – everywhere from fancy clubs and private apartments to industrial complexes and lonely country roads.

Fuelling the boom in the sex industry in Spain are many factors, experts say, including porous borders in many parts of the world and lax laws. Until 2010, Spain did not even have a law that distinguished trafficking from illegal immigration. And advocates say arrests of traffickers and services for trafficked women remain few.

More importantly, some advocates say, is the growing demand for sex services from younger tourists. Of course, there is a local market. One study cited by a 2009 United Nations report said 39 per cent of Spanish men admitted having visited a prostitute at least once. It is widely accepted here for business meetings to end in dinner and a visit to a brothel.

But more recently, experts say, Spain has also become a go-to destination for sex services. In La Jonquera, tucked behind an all-night gas station, is the newly opened Club Paradise, which, with 101 rooms, is one of the largest brothels in Europe. It caters in large part to young men from France, where many aspects of prostitution are illegal, and perhaps more to the point, buying sex is more expensive.

Thirty years ago, virtually all the prostitutes in Spain were Spanish. Now, almost none are. Advocates and police officials say most of the women are controlled by illegal networks – they are modern-day slaves.

The networks vary enormously, and shift constantly. Some are ”mum and pop” operations out of eastern Europe, like the one that controls Valentina. Others have far greater reach, such as the Nigerian organisations that first began to surface in Spain in the past decade. Deputy Inspector Xavier Cortes Camacho, head of the regional anti-trafficking unit in Barcelona, said the Nigerian groups moved women through northern Africa to Spain, and then controlled them by threatening to rape or kill their family members back home.

But Mr Cortes said people of maybe a dozen nationalities were involved in the trafficking. Until recently, for instance, the police in Barcelona did not even realise Chinese mafias ran prostitution rings in the city. Then they began noticing more and more advertisements for Chinese, Japanese and Korean women – all of them, it turned out, Chinese – working in a network of about 30 brothels.

”For me, life is finished,” she said later that evening, tears running down her face. ”I will never forget that I have done this.”

Original Post via New York Times.

There are simply so many threads to what is a true index measure of an Economy’s strength, what is a more accurate measure.  It is difficult to ponder. World Vision claims that 1 person in nearly 25 in the world is in modern day slavery.

Boys in East Tanzania who should be in school sold into slavery to harvest cocoa or coffee beans by their uncles to produce the cheap coffee or chocolate we enjoy. The sex industry is a part of it but by no means the biggest part of it. It is not just women. Maybe it is morally something we are more able to understand readily and therefore be repulsed by more easily. If you search World Vision and modern day slavery you will find much on this subject. It is not that commonly reported in our press, but is always underlying many aspects of our society like boat people, sweat shops and our sex industry.

The Spanish sex slavery article includes; women who are from eastern Bloc origin being tattooed with their debt to their owners forced to turn tricks in Spain for tourists and men from bordering France where laws are not so liberal. It therefore brings in comparative cost and socio economic conditions in the developed world, Spain with massive unemployment and other social ills.

Last week in discussing this article with Eye-ball we observed how the differential in pricing is a barometer of economic and social conditions. Rather humorous if it wasn’t so said.

Often measures like GDP are criticised as they don’t capture the health of the nation. Women infected with AIDS in PNG continuing to sell unprotected sex services, irrespective of the social consequence which includes higher mortality rates. When you analyse reasons for this it is too easily attributed to logics like culture, promiscuity or other. These are broad terms that include lack of education or progressive or adequate medical health regime or social welfare, poverty, desperation and many other things.

Similar logics would be the analysis of the Spanish case. Who are the purveyors, why the desperate need, what are the social consequences, why can’t the decent caring people do something to improve the total imbroglio? Improve the overall socio economic conundrum. Spain is a first world country but truly what does that mean?

World Vision claim that they have bought victims out of servitude only to have them go back to the same situation, through lack of hope. At least in the case of enslavement there is hope for some type of future. Maybe not for themselves, but money trickling back to their parents, to continue their children’s education and so on. Within every statement there is opposites, questions and conundrums. It is a very harsh reality that is too easily ignored through all types of human emotions.

Two thoughts shape my thinking.  Justice and democracy are abstractions.  We can’t see the exact science, justice and democracy are ideals we strive towards, never knowing if or when we have arrived. No one has all the answers.

The other is a Confucian thought; it is better to do something poorly.  When we do something poorly, we have at least stepped out of our comfort zone, and tried. We might just learn from the experience. A western thought along similar lines is; it is better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried at all.

In China we have partisans who leave their families on the farm to work in heavy chemical industries. They live in company sponsored dormitories, which prohibits family logics and earn about AUD30 per day. Their parents and wife and children stay in a subsistence lifestyle on the farm, yearning and believing in a better future. At $30 per day there is so form of prospering. The centralised government promises education and modern cities and future prosperity. They do not see themselves enslaved by this scenario. They are working hard for the future of their generations to come. China has again hope of becoming a superpower. The heavy chemical industries are the backbone of the Chinese miracle. Again, the free choice suggests that this is not slavery.

Conversely Brazil too is an emerging nation where industrialisation and growing middle class is seeing them deemed an emerging market. In some areas of Brazil like Rio de Janeiro they are still racked by street gangs and drug related warlord issues generally based on laisse faire systems and the class warfare of 500 years. Mob rule. China claims to be very heavy handed on all forms of corruption, with death penalty too often imposed for crimes we don’t understand. The police in the worst areas of Rio are either corrupt, or actually not able to deal with the gangs and street crime, they are understaffed and overwhelmed, ie inept, and still maybe corrupt.

We of the west can only wonder how the Chinese prosper on per capita GDP a fraction of ours, and we can’t make ends meet. China claim to have included a happiness factor into their measures of economic wealth. We are now starting to explore such avenues with incidence of crime factors, health, mental health, suicides and so on to compliment economic outputs. We often condone sex services for the disabled to improve their self-esteem.

The Spanish sex (slave) trade example is a fair starting point to starting examining some of these issues. Recently there have been calls to re examine our attitudes to prohibitions on drugs. A recent spate of our East Coast suburban gangland murders show we have very little knowledge of developments in gangland activities. Our police do not have answers. Should we compare that to Rio? We don’t see them as understaffed. Each day there are news reports of another murder in public, or drive by shootings, and the police are baffled. The growth in policing numbers over the past decade is massive.

The compelling argument in the Spanish sex slave trade article is laws and social taboo. The price of sex in France is expensive, while the price in Spain is comparatively cheap, each has different consequence.

There is so much to consider. It is time to start doing something towards a more enlightened future. Broader measures of economic well-being could just be that start.
Is it time to re-examine a broader index of socio economic health? We can simply try to do something poorly.

Believing in sanity is insanity itself.

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Herman …

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