China’s gender gap: Man-made problems?

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CHINET“In recent decades, the world has witnessed the enormous economic, social, cultural and political development of China. As the most populous country in the world, China’s transition process influences directly one fifth of the world’s population and indirectly almost all the rest of the world. Chinese economic activities cover the whole globe, Chinese living overseas constitute the largest diaspora, and China’s political and economic influence is significant. On the other hand, China and its government face many challenges, as Chinese society as well as the environment are affected by these massive processes.” These challenges were the theme of a Conference on the Socio-Economic Transition of China at Palacký University in Olomouc (Czech Republic) where the opportunities and potential threats for China are discussed from an interdisciplinary perspective organized by the CHINET (Forging a scientific team and international networking in the field of Chinese Studies) project.
Part of that was an invited contribution which I prepared in collaboration with Adam Horálek of Palacký University. Our talk titled ‘Mapping Perspectives of Changing China’ presented a global as well as national context to the topic, framing China’s socio-economic place in the globalised world and highlighting some of the trends that started transforming the Chinese society considerably over the past three decades. While the most recent Census is not yet available in larger detail, we focussed on an analysis of some key aspects of the previous Census in more detail (and also discussed the quality and reliability of data from official statistics there).
The following map showing the gender gap was part of our slides (see below) and stands for one of the demographic challenges and existing tensions in the contemporary society. These are not only characterized by the changing age structures (with very distinct geographic patterns of ageing populations), but also by the considerable imbalance between the male and female population in most parts of the country. According to the most recent 2010 Census, this was at 1.18 males per female, and thus increased to the already high ratio that was stated 10 years before. In some regions, there are now over 130 men for 100 woman, with the fear (and sometimes reality), “that the excess will lead to increased sexual violence, general crime and social instability” (quoted from the Guardian). It is very much a man-made problem as in the early 1980s the ratio was at 108:100 and therefore only slightly above the natural rate, after which the 1979 introduced one child policy started having an effect that we see in its full extent today. This map, showing the sex ratio on an equal population projection (a gridded cartogram transformation where each grid cell is resized according to the total number of people in an area). It reveals, that the surplus of men is common throughout the country, while the opposite (a considerable surplus of women) is true for very few of the populated spaces in China (such as in the Shenzhen area of the Pearl River Delta where female migrants are the majority of workers under precarious employment conditions).
The authorities appear to become aware of the emerging problems, and according to the Guardian article, China’s “new Five Year Plan sets an ambitious target of cutting the ratio to 112 or 113 by 2016″. For the time being, the pattern in this map remains prevalent and puts pressure on a society that is feeling the full impact of China’s transformation to a new global player over the past decades.

Male to Female Sex Ratio in China
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Europe at Night

Earth HourNASA’s night lights imagery published in the Earth Observatory provides a stunning view of our impact on the planet. The following map of Europe at night is an extract of my gridded population projection of the the Earth at night showing more detail of where the distribution of night lights is on the European continent in relation to its population distribution (the surrounding areas such as the northern tip of Africa remain unchanged, hence shows a ‘normal’ land area perspective). Europe is one of the few regions globally (alongside North America) where light pollution at night is very much a phenomenon that is ‘normal’ for the vast majority of people who see very little of the night skies (hence the dominantly bright areas in this image – dark spots are those areas where people live with very little light pollutin). Northumberland Dark Sky Park (which gained Dark Sky Status by the International Dark-Sky Association in December 2013) is now to be known as Europe’s biggest Dark Sky Park and the largest unspoilt area in this regard, squeezed in the sparsely populated bright spaces between Northern England and Southern Scotland in this cartogram:

Equal population projection map of Europe at Night
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Sochi 2014: Paralympic medal maps

Although the 2014 Paralympics started in the middle of the turmoil of the ongoing political crisis in the Ukraine, they went by rather smoothly in the end as most politically controversial tend to do. Putting politics aside, the Russian dominance that already became apparent at the Olympics (see this map) was even greater: The final medal count saw Russia at top of the table with not only the most medals (80), but also most gold (30), silver (28) and bronze (22). Germany came second with 15 medals (9 of them gold), closely followed by Canada with 16 medals (but only 7 gold which put them in third place in the rankings). Second-most medals, however, were won by Ukraine which is an peculiar detail given the current political situation. Britain won the first gold medal ever at the Paralympic winter games, and 19 nations managed to win at least one medal. Here is the Worldmapper-style view of all medals, showing the countries of the world resized according to their total medals won at the 2014 Winter Paralympics (as well as the individual success in each medal category):

Map / Cartogram of the medal distribution at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia
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European Youth Unemployment: A lost generation?

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Ronda Forum - Southern Europe's forum on entrepreneurship and educationAs shown previously on this website, unequal living conditions are one of the defining social problems of contemporary crisis-battered Europe. This weekend I attended the RondaForum 2014, Southern Europe’s forum on entrepreneurship and education, where this issue was discussed amongst young people from around the world who were seeking for new ideas to bridge the gap between the often bleak realities of Europe’s youth and the aspirations that are needed to create a sustainable basis for future competitiveness and growth. How big that problem really is amongst Europe’s youth can be seen from a look at the change in youth unemployment over the course of the financial crisis. Much of Europe’s youth is now being referred to as the lost generation, and in almost every European country youth unemployment has increased considerably between 2007 and 2012, as the following two maps show. They show the countries of Europe resized according to their absolute increase/decline in youth unemployment in these five years, with only Germany having a significant decline in youth employment in that period. Amongst those countries having a considerable increase, especially Southern Europe is standing out showing the growing North-South divide of the continent that highlight the challenges that initiatives such as the European Union’s Europe 2020 growth strategy face:

European Youth Unemployment
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Sochi 2014 Olympic medal maps

The politically controversial 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi (Russia) are history. What’s left as a legacy beyond the politics is the usual roundup of where the medals went and which nations managed to surprise or disappoint. The final medal count saw Russia being top of the table with not only the most medals (33), but also most gold (11) and silver (11). 26 nations managed to win at least one medal. Here is the Worldmapper-style view of all medals, showing the countries of the world resized according to their total medals won at the 2014 Winter Olympics (as well as the individual success in each medal category):

Map / Cartogram of the medal distribution at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia
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Unequal wealth: Income distribution gaps in Europe

The Social Atlas of EuropeIncome inequality has become a wider acknowledged issue in the wealthy parts of the world which is no longer restricted to academic debate. A study commissioned by the IMF (Berg et al, 2011) acknowledges that “the trade-off between efficiency and equality may not exist” (IMF), referring to inequality one possible result of unsustainable growth. Europe has seen a steep rise in economic inequalities which have a huge impact of the people in the European nations. An OECD working paper (Bonesmo Fredriksen, 2012) states that “poor growth performance over the past decades in Europe has increased concerns for rising income dispersion and social exclusion”. It also concludes, that “towards the end of the 2000s the income distribution in Europe was more unequal than in the average OECD country, albeit notably less so than in the United States”, stressing that within-country inequalities are just as important if not more important than the between-country dimension. Both, however, are relevant in the current economic crisis and the again-growing divisions on the continent. As one of the reasons for these changes, the OECD paper states that “large income gains among the 10% top earners appear to be a main driver behind this evolution”.
The following two maps compare the share of income of the richest and poorest 10% of the population in Europe based on national-level data published by Eurostat (2013) (map legend ranked by quartiles). To show the data from a people’s perspective, the map uses a population cartogram as a base which shows the countries resized according to their absolute population. The maps give a look at how disparities exist not only between the countries, but also within each of them by showing, how (un)equal the distribution of income is in every country:


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