That's capitalism

The Geneva based International Labour Organisation recently released figures which found that the jobless rate is between 50% and 100% higher for women than for men. Worldwide, women only earn between 50% and 80% of men' wages; and of the 100 million children without access to primary education about 60% are girls.

*****

Last Nov. 7th & 8th saw the Canadian province of Manitoba bring in a law whereby trade unions now have to disclose all financial information to the "public" except the amount in strike funds. But, of course, total revenue minus non-strike fund monies = strike fund. These provisions give the employer considerable power in the bargaining process - power to see if a union can finance a strike. There is no similar obligation on employers to declare how much money they have for union busting.

*****

In the USA many prisoners are used as slave labour in prison laundries, kitchens and factories. They are paid 50, 80 cents or if very lucky $2 a day. Now the state of Michigan is charging these prisoners for electricity. The meanness doesn't end there. Governor John Egler wants cuts in education (only 3 of the 40 prisons still have classes), and an end to drug rehabilitation programmes.

*****

Microsoft Corporation has been making some of its profits from prison labour in the USA. The Twin Rivers Correction Centre in Washington State took up the slack when the rush was on to get Windows 95 out in time. Operating via an intermediary company called Exmark, prisoners were paid an average of just $1.80 per hour for their work. Microsoft posted record profits last year. Bill Gates, its head, is one of the richest people in the world.

*****

Chinese Women Fined For Losing Virginity

BY EVA CHENG Chinese women in the key industrial city of Wuhan, Hubei province, are forced to pay heavy fines and write "self-criticism" if found to have lost their virginity before marriage, according to a China News Digest dispatch. A medical examination is required in order to obtain state approval to marry. The fine ranges between 200 and 2000 yuan. The monthly wage of an average worker is a few hundred yuan.

The approval - in the form of a "marriage certificate" - is part of the requirement under China's one-child policy, introduced in the early 1970s. Zhang Xianwu, an official at the Marriage Department of Wuhan's Bureau of Civil Affairs, was quoted as saying that the stiff fine was necessary to stamp out "immoral trends".