Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 01 July 2023

India’s workforce increases male-dominated

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

According to the data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), India’s labour force participation rate (LFPR) fell to 39.5% in the last financial year (2022-23) that ended in March. This is the lowest LFPR reading since 2016-17. The LFPR for men stood at a seven-year low of 66% while that of women was pegged at a mere 8.8%.

What is LFPR?

  • The LFPR is the share of the working-age population (aged 15 years and above) that is employed or unemployed, willing and looking for employment.
  • In other words, of all the Indians aged 15 years and aboveonly 39.5% are even asking for a job. Among men, this proportion was 66% and among women, just 8.8%.

Why LFPR matters

  • Typically, policymakers and the general public is focused on the unemployment rate in the economy. The unemployment rate is the share of people who are unemployed despite looking for work.
  • If the proportion of people looking for work is high and stable, then the unemployment rate is a good way to assess the stress in the job market.
  • But in India’s case, the unemployment rate is an inadequate measure because India’s LFPR (or the proportion asking for a job) has not only been lower than the global average but also falling.
  • low and falling LFPR is never a good sign for a developing economy because it shows that, despite low levels of income, its workers are opting out of the jobs market.
  • Typically, this happens when workers fail to get a job for long periods of time, get discouraged and decide to sit out of the labour force.

Key takeaways

  • One, regardless of the rate of GDP growth, the decline in LFPR is unabated.
  • Two data shows that the bulk of the decline happened before the Covid pandemic. This was the time when the economy was decelerating sharply. The GDP in 2019-20 grew by less than 4%.
  • Three, India’s workforce is becoming increasingly male-dominated, thanks to India’s starkly low female LFPR.
  • CMIE data shows that in 2016-17, females comprised only 15.3 per cent of the labour force in India.
  • This fell to 12 per cent in 2019-20 and fell further to a mere 10.3 per cent in 2022-23.


UN drops India from its report on children & conflict

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

The United Nations Secretary-General has taken India off a list of countries mentioned in a report on children and armed conflict over the alleged recruitment and use of boys by armed groups in J&K and their detention, killing and maiming by security forces.

More about the report

  • This is the first time since 2010 that India has not been named in the report alongside countries like Burkina FasoCameroonLake Chad basinNigeriaPakistan and the Philippines.
  • The report of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on ‘Children and Armed Conflict’ said India has been “removed from the report in 2023” in view of measures taken by the government to “better protect children”.
  • India said this is a big achievement for India, having our name removed from this list after a 12-year period… many of the systems were simply not in place earlier in J&K.
  • The Juvenile Justice Act was not implemented and the juvenile homes there were not functioning properly. Other infrastructure such as Child Welfare CommitteesJuvenile Justice BoardsChild Care Homes have since been established.

The UN Secretary-General’s report stated:

  • The technical team of the office of the SRSG visited India on 27-29 July 2022. This was followed by a workshop on strengthening child protection, held in J&K in November 2022 by the Ministry of WCD in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the J&K government with the participation of the United Nations.
  • All statutory service delivery structures like the Child Welfare Committee and Juvenile Justice Boards under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 have been established.
  • In view of the measures taken by the Government to better protect children, India has been removed from the report in 2023.


World Asteroid Day 2023

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

World Asteroid Day is an annual global event which is held on 30 June, the anniversary of the Tunguska event in 1908 when a meteor airburst decimated about 2,000 square km (500,000 acres) of pine forest in central Siberia, Russia. The Tunguska asteroid event was the Earth's largest asteroid impact in recorded history.

Aim of this day

  • World Asteroid Day aims to raise public awareness about the asteroid impact hazard and to inform the public about the crisis communication actions to be taken at the global level in case of a credible near-Earth object (NOEs) catastrophic threat to our planet.
  • The NEO is an asteroid or comet, which passes close to the Earth's orbit. According to NASA’s Center for NEO Studies, there are over 16 000 Near Earth Asteroids discovered.

Why World Asteroid Day

  • The Asteroid Day was cofounded in 2014 (the year after the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor air burst) by renowned cosmologist Stephen HawkingApollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart, astrophysicist Brian May and some others.
  • On 15 February 2013, an extraordinarily large fireball, travelling at a speed of 18.6 kms per second, entered the atmosphere and disintegrated in the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia.
  • According to NASA, the diameter of the asteroid was estimated at 18 meters and it’s mass at 11,000 tons. The total impact energy of the Chelyabinsk Fireball was 440 kilotons.
  • In December 2016 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring 30 June as Word Asteroid Day.
  • The event aims to raise awareness about asteroids and what can be done to protect the Earth, its families, communities, and future generations from a catastrophic event.

What are Asteroids?

  • Asteroids are smallrocky objects that orbit the Sun. They are left over from the formation of our solar system approximately 46 billion years ago.
  • Although, they orbit the Sun like planets, but are much smaller than the planets. No two asteroids are alike. They have jagged and irregular shapes.
  • Most of the asteroids are made of different kinds of rocks, but some have clays or metals, such as nickel and iron. There are lots of asteroids in our solar system.
  • Most of them live in the main asteroid belt—a region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.


Aspartame may declare as ‘possibly carcinogenic’

GS Paper - 3 (Health and Diseases)

The cancer research arm of the World Health Organisation (WHO) will list the popular sugar substitute aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”, the news agency Reuters reported on 29 June 2023. The listing by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is likely next month, the Reuters report said, quoting unnamed sources.

What is this assessment by the WHO?

  • Two different WHO groups — IARC and the Joint Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives, or JECFA — are currently reviewing the safety of aspartame.
  • The IARC concluded a meeting in France last week, and JECFA was scheduled to meet from 27 June to 6 July 2023 to update its risk assessment of aspartame, including reviewing how much can be safely consumed, The Washington Post reported on June 22.
  • The result of both evaluations would be announced on 14 July 2023, The Post’s report said, and noted that “many in the nutrition world [were] predicting the WHO will convey new concerns about the sweetener”.
  • The Reuters report published on 29 June 2023 said the IARC ruling had been “finalised earlier this month”, based on a review of all published evidence.
  • It said that the IARC assessment “does not take into account how much of a product a person can safely consume”, and that “this advice for individuals comes from…[the] JECFA, alongside determinations from national regulators”.

What exactly is aspartame?

  • Chemically, aspartame is a methyl ester of the dipeptide of two natural amino acidsL-aspartic acid and L-phenylalanine.
  • It was discovered by James M Schlatter, a chemist at the American pharmaceutical company G D Searle & Co. (which is now a subsidiary of Pfizer) in 1965, apparently by accident, when, while researching an anti-ulcer drug, he happened to lick his finger and detected a sweet taste.
  • According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), aspartame is about 200 times sweeter than table sugar — which makes aspartame far less sweet than other artificial sweeteners like advantame and neotame, but even then, 1 gram of aspartame has the sweetness intensity of roughly 2 teaspoons (about 8 g) of sugar.
  • Aspartame is preferred by people trying to cut calories or lose weight, or by diabetics, because while 2 teaspoons (8 g) of sugar provides about 32 kcals of energy1 g of aspartame is only 4 kcals.
  • It is often argued that a 12 fl oz (about 350 ml) can of regular cola contains about 10 teaspoonfuls of sugar, while the same quantity of diet cola containing aspartame has only 7 kcals. Indeed, cans/ bottles of diet fizzy drinks often say “zero sugar” or “zero calories” on the packaging.
  • Aspartame is present in several brands of artificial sweeteners, the most common of which in India are Equal and Sugar-Free Gold.

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