Asia / Global
Japanese mobile phone "sommeliers", plus the ghost tower of Bangkok.
From the Gulf to the US, homes are cleaned by maids from the Philippines. There are eight million Filipino labour immigrants globally.
There are two million migrants among Japan’s population of 128 million. Many come from China, Korea and, increasingly, Brazil.
Since Thailand’s economy crashed in the 1997 Asian economic crisis, its capital has been dotted with the decaying shells of over 500 unfinished high-rise buildings. But rather than lying empty, many of these “ghost towers” have provided vital refuge for homeless Burmese refugees and migrant workers who have even turned swimming pools into fish farms. Now, with the economy rekindling, the developers are returning and the inhabitants are having to move on.
It was once banned as an evil capitalist distraction by the communists, but now lottery fever is gripping China as this state-sanctioned game, the only gambling allowed in the country, grows apace.
Keen to find a way of propping up the creaking social welfare system, the Chinese government introduced lotteries in 1987. Now there are reports that new lotteries are on the way as the government tries to stem the number of people who are going to Macao, Asia’s Las Vegas, to gamble.
The new games include a strictly controlled horse racing lottery, basically a limited form of betting on horses, that will take place in the central city of Wuhan. This will be run by the sports lottery, one of the two state-sponsored lotteries that are the only forms of legal gambling. The other is the social welfare lottery, which was worth €5.8bn in 2006.
The country’s largest individual prize to date was won by an unidentified buyer in the poor, northwestern province of Gansu. The prize was €9.8m, not bad considering the average rural income in Gansu is around €200.
Beijing is planning to introduce laws to regulate the industry and combat a growing number of cheats, such as the 36-year-old lottery ticket seller in Liaoning, who exploited a flaw in the system to win €2.6m. He was jailed for life. The government has banned online sales of lottery tickets to stop fraud.
Plans to launch mobile phone “sommeliers” have been unveiled in Japan in a bid to guide customers through the baffling maze of technology on offer when choosing a new handset.The government announced its support of the private sector initiative to license a new breed of mobile phone experts who will need to pass exams.
“We hope they will explain complicated functions and charge systems to consumers, much like wine sommeliers guiding you,” announced a ministry official.
Japan is a fitting setting for the launch of these sommeliers. Home to the world’s most advanced mobile technology, over 100 million people out of a 128 million-strong population have mobile phones, including 96 per cent of the nation’s high-school students.
This month Monocle.com features our report from Yubari, once Japan’s coal mining capital. In 1960 it had a population of 120,000. Today, because of mine closures, there are just 13,000 residents. Despite attempts to revive the city – including building a giant ferris wheel – the city was declared bankrupt in 2006. Visit monocle.com for our Asia Bureau chief’s report from the ghost city.