The Guardian 2 November, 2005

Global briefs

PAKISTAN: The International Labour Office (ILO) said last week that urgent steps are needed to create jobs in Pakistan, where over 1.1 million jobs may have been lost since the October 8 earthquake. "Reports of widespread destruction show that the livelihoods of millions of people are threatened or have been destroyed", said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia in a report released in Geneva on October 18. Making things worse, the hardest hit areas are among the poorest in Pakistan, the ILO said. Besides destruction of infrastructure and shops in the towns, rural areas suffered huge losses of livestock and farm implements. Total employment in the devastated areas was around 2.4 million when the quake struck. Over two million of these workers and their families were living below the poverty line with less than US$2 per person per day.

BRITAIN: Two British mothers, following the example set by Cindy Sheehan with her encampment at Crawford, Texas, were slated to start camping on October 25 outside Prime Minister Tony Blair's official residence at 10 Downing Street in London. Rose Gentle's son Gordon died in a roadside bombing in Basra last year, while Susan Smith's son Philip was killed in Al Amarah earlier this year. Their encampment is to protest against the political decision to deny the families legal aid in their campaign to bring Blair to justice for the Iraq war. Gentle and Smith believe the war has been fought on the basis of lies and deceit. Just as President Bush refused to meet with Cindy Sheehan, to date Blair has refused to meet with the two women.

CHINA: Long-standing rules requiring women to retire five years earlier than men are being challenged as gender discrimination. Since the Chinese revolution in 1949, women workers have retired at 50 and men at 55, with civil servants and professionals retiring five years later. A woman civil servant recently sued against forced retirement, saying she is still competent to perform her job, and the discrepancy violates gender equality provisions in China's constitution and labour laws. The woman lost her case, but law professors point out that today's conditions differ markedly from those women faced 50 years ago. Many women no longer perform hard physical labour on the job and at home, women now live longer than men, and with pensions based on years of service and position at retirement, early retirement means a lower benefit.

ANGOLA: During 27 years of civil war an estimated half a million Angolans fled to neighbouring countries and millions more were displaced internally. Since a peace accord ended the civil war over three years ago, nearly 60,000 refugees have returned home from refugee camps in Zambia. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said it is making every effort to ensure that some 22,000 refugees still living in Zambia would be able to return home by the end of the year or early in 2006.

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