Thursday, 16 January 1986

Most Liked Facebook Statuses

So I wondered also what gems Joselasttime was capable of churning out. Here's what, with a countdown on most liked shit-jose-says (of course the numbers are modest lol):


8 December 2011

"你好, 你会讲中文吗?"
"err 我不会 bye bye."
*kup phone


3 January 2014

"too much of anything is bad
but too much good whiskey is barely enough."
- mark twain

Funniest responses:
Vincent Ngai: A lot of writers are drunk bastards
Jose Yong: a lot of drunk bastards arent writers though. such wasted talent.


2 February 2011

Cristiano Ronaldo said once in a TV interview “the god of football has sent me to earth, in order to show people how to play football the right way!”
When Messi heard about what Ronaldo said, he looked at the ground thinking for a while, then said: “I don’t remember sending anyone.”


12 July 2014

Another turning point; a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist; directs you where to go

So make the best of this test and don't ask why
It's not a question but a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right
I hope you had the time of your life

Funniest response:
Khairul Anwar: Emo shit


26 March 2012
1 share:

"If drinking is interfering with your work, you're probably a heavy drinker. If work is interfering with your drinking, you're probably an alcoholic."


10 March 2011

there is no theory of evolution, only a list of creatures chuck norris allows to live.

oh yeah responses:


2 March 2014
1 comment:

chuck norris knows what the fox says

Funniest response:
Chris Idema: The fox says anything chuck Norris wants him to


24 December 2013

"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been standing in my place but who will never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara - more, the atoms in the universe. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Donne, greater scientists than Newton, greater composers than Beethoven.

We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people.

In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I that are privileged to be here, privileged with eyes to see where we are, and brains to wonder why."

- Dawkins

Funniest responses:
Chng Yee Siang: merry christmas.
Phay Su Hui: There could also be bigger assholes than Hitler too, just saying :P
Jose Yong: a bushier george bush too? NOOOUUU


30 April 2013

jose had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb;
jose had a little lamb, for dinner.

Funniest responses:
Neo Zhe Han: it... it... doesn't even rhyme...


31 December 2012

I'm so hot so cool and soooo handsomeeeee HAPPY NEW YEARRRRR

Funniest responses:
Isaac Chin: Kena hack lol poor Jose Yong
Rachel A.J. Lee: Hahaha awesome hacker.
Thảo Trang: Hapy new year
Yvonne Tan: Thank you captain obvious!
Khairul Anwar: Clearly sober.
Jose Yong: LOL thanks for the love gaiss. a special mention goes to Yvonne for being such a badass opportunistic ninja. happy new year, folks! (well, at least half of this fb jack makes sense)


7 August 2013

im on a pursuit of happiness and i know
everything that shines aint always gonna be gold

Funniest response:
SK Yong: Happiness is achieved when u are free from sufferings eg greed, jealousy, hatred, bad habits.


5 November 2012
1 comment:

Q: "Does this dress make me look fat?"
A: "Stop blaming the dress"


23 November 2012

me and my bipolar life; exactly 24 hrs ago i was bouncing to titanium and mr brightside at balaclava, and right at this moment im still in office trying to figure out something about hierarchical linear regressions.

Funniest responses:
Yvonne Tan: right now i'm writing about emotional models. let me fit you in there somewhere..
Ben Teong: You have indeed experienced linear regression since leaving balaclava
Peter Tay: I'm unipolar... Depression all through
Farhan Zaini: Yes. except the things im figuring not as chim as urs..bala today!
Jose Yong: hahahaha so it swings right back again! i hope i dont die i only slept 2 hrs lol
Ben Teong: Lol cyclical progrssion?? Hahah


9 January 2014

“The secret of happiness is to face the fact that the world is horrible, horrible, horrible.” ― Bertrand Russell

Funniest response:
Karine Tan: this man knows.


31 January 2014

during this year of the horse, will you communicate by morse?

the epic response.....


3 March 2010

the bottomline argument on this 1k-own-a-flat thing:

tharman: a 2-room flat costing $100,000 can be owned on a $1,000/month income by attaining a combined grant of AHG + SHG that works out to be (up to) $60,000, thereby allowing the home-owner to service a 30-year loan of about $40,000 by paying $161 every month (maybe from CPF?).
almost everyone else: the AHG and SHG are awarded only if a person with low income of $1000 is married, which implies a family. assuming a family of 3 (which is less than ideal according to our state planners) that eats $2 chicken rice for every meal, they will incur 3x3x30x2 = $540 cost on food. taking transport into account, they may spend another $180 (which is a very conservative estimate). even if the family does and buys nothing else and pays off the 30-year loan via CPF, the family has only a savings rate of $280 per month, which - realistically - is very hard to get by with (considering inflation rates, illness, PUB bills, etc).

once again the anger comes from a rather obvious disconnect between what the people believe they can get by with and what the government thinks the people should get by with, topped off with very poor public relations. at a more implicit level, another issue arises - is owning a house not simultaneously important as having savings? most people would agree that the two are not independent issues; we dont think of owning a flat if we cant save, and at the same time if we do not have a place to live how are we supposed to start going about making ends meet? yet tharman's assertion implies that this is possible.

Funniest responses:
Tiff Chua: The solution is to take the 4k people need to open a table at mink and give it to the income holders of 1k per month, then everyone would have savings AND a house ...... PLUS a shorter mink queue.
Ben Teong: I vote Jose Yong for MP


31 January 2014

after one night of "守岁" i feel like death this morning. logical tradeoff

Funniest response:
Cherlyn Phua: But it's totally alright to party till 6am... Priorities indeed.
(my counter: but party til 6am dont need to wake up at 8am lol)


19 September 2013

your manuscript has been accepted for publication ooosh


29 August 2014

Was having lunch at the coffee shop, when the cries of "Lai loh! Lai loh!" (i.e., "coming!") filled the air. The carpark ticketing uncle had been spotted, and now off go the sirens! All the guilty patrons paused mid-activity, got off their seats, and scampered over to the carpark to generally do something about the situation. The ticketing uncle looked over at the coffee shop and raised his hands exasperatedly, his facial expressions spelling out "walaoeh" rather palpably. This is a community at work, and in this seemingly trivial example lies a powerful message. Power doesn't exist in a vacuum. There is no power without social endorsement of that power, and when a group of people do not obey, then the powers that be no longer exist. This is a trivial example, but the logic prevails in other, more consequential circumstances - such as in corrupt police forces and illegitimate authoritarian governments. The community and its sounders at the coffeeshop serve to police the neighbourhood they care about in their own way, and that's why this silly little example is trivial yet heartwarming. The community is the most important, protective, and inclusive unit of society and through it the abuse of power from a source external to the community can be prevented. There are so many things that compromise on community spirit these days. When we lose community, we lose what is rightly ours.

Funniest response:
Travis Wong: #compocompetition Lol


And this isn't really a top post, but I'm still proud of Joselasttime's comeback to the feminazi attack --

19 September 2013

Facebook Statuses

Out of curiosity I wondered if it's possible to organize one's status by particular rubrics, such as most liked, or most commented, or newer/older. After some brief googling, voila – does it.

And gosh what a ride I was treated to hahaha.

Sep 262007
Jose Yong
 deleting almost all of the stupid 'things' that
facebookers partake in aimlessly all day, and
will probably not accept any more

Oct 162007
Jose Yong
 a big FB hermit but he still has 114 photos &
a freakin video so everyone else who're
hardcore FB users and have less than 114
photos and no videos are losers.

Nov 142007
Jose Yong
 is spending at least (most?) -2.73hrs in the
library per week.

Nov 262007
Jose Yong
 is elated that exam week is finally here.

Dec 32007
Jose Yong
 is basking in post-exam rarefaction.

Jan 12008
Jose Yong
 thinks that for some, updating this status
thingie is like the icing on the cake for
wearing your heart on your sleeve as if
anyone really wanted to know.

Jan 122008
Jose Yong
 is wearing his heart on his sleeve simply
by doing this.

Feb 142008
Jose Yong
 is experiencing an emotion that reflects his
socioeconomic status and current academic
state of affairs.

Apr 102008
Jose Yong
 has 1+ more weeks to socially-accepted

Apr 102008
Jose Yong
 is making a call out to anyone who's willing
enough, who's daring enough, to do something
else other than study to join him.


It got milder after that, but that was a lot of fronting and anti-conformist angst going on with little 22 year-old me, LOL.

What has Been the Impact of Economic Globalization on the Welfare State? What are the Prospects for the Welfare State? (2009)

POSC 106 - International Political Economy


With the advent of economic globalization in our contemporary world, questions have been asked about the predicament of the welfare state in the face of increasing free market-orientation. Three viewpoints can be readily and broadly identified. Pessimistic outlooks for the welfare state describe it as being in crisis (Mishra, 1984), under threat (Lowe, 1999a), retrenched (Mishra, 1990) or even dismantled (Community Development Project, 1977). Yet, in direct opposition to such pessimism, there are arguments that the welfare state remains as resilient or robust as ever (Le Grand, 1991) and there is still much hope yet for worldwide welfare (Greve, 2006). Still, there are considerations made to access the reality in more neutral terms that attempt to capture the durability of the traditional welfare state, while at the same time not discounting the inevitable changes that modern economic globalization brings about. The welfare states in such a perspective have been thought to be in transition (Johnson, 1987; Esping-Andersen, 1996), refashioned (Wicks, 1987), reshaped (Johnson, 1990), restructured (Sullivan, 1996; Wilding, 1992), reconstructed (Johnson, 1990), and recalibrated (Ferrera, Hemerijck & Rhodes, 2001).

Welfare statism, whose policies is considered socialist and of a state-controlled and redistributive nature, is considered to be opposed to economic globalization which is popularly regarded as the propagation of free markets and liberalization. Economic globalization has been defined as the expansion of international trade in goods and services, increasing international flow of capital, internationalization of production through transnational corporations and global commodity chains, growing significance and role of supra-state organizations, and increased propagation of liberal virtues and economic ideas (Glatzer & Rueschemeyer, 2005). Further, the definition of economic globalization can be refined for the purposes of this paper to include greater interconnectedness, greater emphasis on efficiency and a generally increasing transference of the responsibility of provisions from state to corporation. These traits of economic globalization give rise to the popular sentiment that the welfare state is losing its power of control and autonomy over public expenditure to the distributive determination of the free market.

What truly then constitutes an accurate portrayal of the predicament of the welfare state in these trying times of economic globalization? What has changed across the world with regards to welfare, and do all changes occur at the same rate? If there are indeed changes abound, what then is the significance of these differentials and what mitigates the impact brought on by economic globalization which lead to these different rates of change? What, indeed if any, are the prospects for the welfare state?

Habermas (2001b) describes the dilemma that national governments face today as being derived from the zero-sum game which dictates that optimal economic goals can be reached only at the expense of social and political objectives. Welfare restructuring has been a universal phenomenon particularly over the last twenty years (Stephens, 2005). Bonoli and colleagues (2000) define four main factors of economic globalization that pressure the ‘retrenchment’ of the welfare state. First, globalization imposes inescapable competition on states, constraining the autonomy of national policies particularly towards taxation and labour. Secondly, there is a decreasing tolerance for taxation to fund welfare interests. As international markets expand, taxes have to be reduced in order to compete internationally for foreign investment and prevent capital flight. Thirdly, states are increasingly adopting a neo-liberal stance in policy-making. Lastly, there is a ‘squaring of the welfare circle’, referring to the simultaneous and contradictory pressures from opposite directions experienced by governments. Higher spending is demanded to counter the rises in ageing population, demand for education and training, unemployment, and expectations that social progress involves higher standards of service. Yet concurrently, contraction of state provision is called for in view of the concern about the impact of globalization, the logic of liberalism and fears of tax revolt.

In the light of economic globalization, economic power has steadily become the new currency for political power. This is echoed by Habermas (2001b) as he states that “power can be democratized; money cannot” and that “money replaces power” in the new economic world order, which has also outlawed war, colonialism and coercion (Ikenberry, 2008). But is this really happening and, if so, to what extent? To access the impact and its extent of economic globalization, this paper will turn to a regional analysis of the alleged decline of the welfare state in Europe and Asia. This will be carried out by looking at general markers of social and welfare orientation in states such as employment, poverty and inequality levels, social benefits and levels of freedom of movement of states in policy-making, such as taxation and social security provision.

Decline of European Welfare

European welfare states have been described as the most well-developed and extensive (Sapir, 2005), where many countries enjoyed full employment during the golden era of the post-war Keynesian welfare state. In spite of this, there is an increasing general consensus that a great degree of social legislation introduced in recent years has subordinated welfare to primary neoliberal interests (Bonoli et al., 2000). With Sweden as a case in point, the increase in unemployment from 2% in the late 1980s to 9.5% in 1993 is the most obvious implication of the impact of economic globalization (Stephens, 1996), and this was echoed in other Nordic countries. Sweden had to utilize an austerity package and other crisis measures in order to combat an economic crisis in 1990, leading to reductions in social benefits (Olsson & McMurphy, 1993; Stephens, 1996). This trend of austerity has been found in the rest of Europe as well, in what Pierson (2001) terms the ‘politics of austerity’. Unemployment has since stayed at a historical high of around 8% which signalled a ‘paradigm shift’ away from trying to restore full employment. Freer movement of money and capital has inevitably resulted in greater integration of the Swedish economy in the global market place (Mishra, 1999), resulting in a diminished ability of the state to exercise political power over the citizenry, let alone redistribute in favour of welfare. Real interest rates increased from 1.4% in the 1960s to 5.6% in the early 1990s (OECD, 1995), which was caused by the elimination of controls of international and domestic financial markets. Interest rates then became more susceptible to determination by the market rather than governments. International competition pressured prices and taxes to be kept lower, compromising the post-war social contract whereby the state and tax payers fed welfare (Cox, 1987). An ideological shift, particularly in Britain, was called for towards the neoliberal consensus as Margaret Thatcher imposed radical reforms in favour of capital over labour. From this, another feature of European states emerging, altered, from a strongly welfare structure is the shifting of the burden of uncertainty from the government to the individual. Studies have found that social security and risk-protection has declined as dependence on the market increases (Bonoli et al., 2000). At any rate, the golden era of the post-war Keynesian welfare state in Europe is no longer relevant in today’s global context marked by economic globalization (Kwiek, 2007).

Decline of Asian Welfare

The forecast for the welfare state in Asia appears equally, if not more, bleak. In Asia and other developing nations, state-citizenry relations have been largely paternalistic until recent global economic development which saw them opening up to trade. Trade has often led to a significant undermining of the state’s sovereignty and ability to ensure public social security. As is observed, many corporations from the economic core have entered developing Asian countries to capitalize on lower costs and have thus dictated the lives of many underprivileged according to the forces of the market. The focus on comparative advantages has also led some Asian countries with inexpensive labour and cheap natural resources to a ‘race to the bottom’ which leaves them exposed to exploitation (Rudra, 2008).

As China and India continue to pursue greater integration with the world economy, other Asian countries are facing increased competition for markets, foreign capital and labour. In the attempt to gain opportunities in participating in the growth of China and India, social policies have been compromised (Asher & Nandy, 2006). Poverty has increased from the declining ability of the state in providing welfare particularly to rural areas as well as in cushioning the increasing prices of necessities, such as food. For example, in Vietnam where poverty has risen, over 20% of the rural population cannot meet their daily nutritional requirements even if they were to spend all of their income on basic food supplies (Chandrasiri & de Silva, 1996). In the case of South Korea, economic globalization led to a social contract crisis, as strong economic growth was not complemented with necessary socio-political development. The lack of proper institutional resources to counter the impact of economic globalization led to rising unemployment in South Korea from 2.5% before the 1997 Asian financial crisis to 9% between 1998 to 1999, and poverty rose by four-to-fivefold (Harris, 2002). The greatest beneficiaries of economic globalization – China and India – are also not spared from the negative welfare consequences of their rush to develop economically, as rising poverty and inequality plague particularly the lives of non-elites (Sahoo, 2007).

The Impact of Economic Globalization on Europe and Asia: The Verdict

An objective analysis of the general trend of Asia and Europe would definitely point to the undermining of the capacity of the state to provide for welfare by economic globalization. In both regions, capital interconnectedness has led to market dependence that is shaped by all who participate in it, such that the degree of freedom of one state to make decisions for itself is diminished as the effects of its policy-making is pegged to outcomes elsewhere. Likewise, a crisis in one part of the world has the ability to affect the stability of states in another area of the globe (Krugman, 2008). The decreasing ability of states to exercise traditional sovereignty in taxation and the waging of war, increasing unemployment, subordination of social benefits to economic gains and rising inequality have surfaced along with economic globalization. Advocates of the decline of the welfare state will see the absolute reduction in state power to provide welfare as evidence that the welfare state is in crisis.

Rebuttal Against the Decline of Welfare

In spite of the evidence highlighting the attack of economic globalization on welfare states and welfare provision around the world, a body of literature exists that argues against the demise of the welfare state. Mature welfare states in the world, particularly exemplified by northwestern Europe, have been found to be robustly durable against social erosion brought about by globalization thus far (Glatzer & Rueschemeyer, 2005). A large part of their GDP has gone towards public funding. An analysis of this, as will be discussed later, indicates that when there are newly-created social security issues that cannot be countered by traditional forms of direct intervention, strong states have the capacity to and will attempt to channel resources elsewhere to ‘make up’ for it. A host of reasons motivate this, but the general direction that states choose to implement these policies is still oriented in the way of social protection. These findings are also bolstered by assessing the reaction of South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines towards both economic globalization and the 1997 international financial crisis. In all countries, the global and economic repercussions only served to re-ignite interest in social policy as an important aspect of state policy in order to counter the risks and uncertainties brought about by economic globalization. There is also more awareness of the growing domestic demands for social policies, including population ageing, shifts towards more technologically-based economies and urbanization (Gough, 2001).

On the whole, although welfare state restructuring has led to some blurring of regime styles, there are no clear indicators of any complete overhaul of the boundaries that have defined welfare state models of these mature welfare states in the post-war period. This applies particularly to modes of financing, personal coverage and benefit provision. Some quantitative changes have occurred, but all countries qualitatively still exhibit strong similarities to the welfare state make-up inherited from the past (Obinger, Starke & Moser, 2009). These rejections of the idea that the welfare state is in decline also propose that the prospects for the welfare state, regardless of economic globalization, are still as promising as ever.

Mitigation of Anti-Welfare: What Accounts for it?

It must be noted that, historically, trade dependency and perceived economic vulnerability in the open economy of Europe enhanced the domestic power of labour and produced a strongly ingrained ideology of social partnership, leading to the formation of institutionally comprehensive welfare states that served as a security blanket against the vicissitudes of world markets (Cameron, 1978). Immunity against the harmful effects of globalization for these mature welfare states is thus constituted by their strong and prolonged historical integration into the world market, successful fiscal and international trade policy-making, a sustainable domestic balance of power between unions and government, a strong ‘naturalization’ of welfare generosity where social benefits are popular and difficult to eradicate, the ability to adapt and evolve to remain globally relevant, and economic and political stability both domestically and internationally which negates the need for dependence on international organizations (Glatzer & Rueschemeyer, 2005).

In many cases, the highly productive economies of these mature welfare states are supported by their socially-oriented policies, and the institutional structures of such mature welfare states are also deeply embedded and have been found to persist even in the face of unpopularity. Additionally, social policy in once strongly welfare states that have evolved into advanced capitalist societies can operate through state intervention to compensate for the inadequate welfare outcomes of the labour market (Gough & Wood, 2004). In so doing, these advanced capitalist societies have retained the very feature of their original strong welfare orientations. The generous welfare states of northwestern Europe were built in open economies around the interests of exposed sector employers and workers. Therefore, social policy was not only compatible with export competition but also contributed to competitiveness by enabling wage restraint and providing collective goods valued by employers, such as labour training (Huber & Stephens, 2005). Welfare state resilience in spite of economic integration even suggests that the effects of economic globalization may not be all that detrimental to welfare states, directly challenging the presently mainstream view echoed by Habermas (2001) that welfare is opposed to economic globalization. Trade is a source of economic growth which may generate fiscal resources necessary for welfare states to remain (Obinger, Starke & Moser, 2009).

In the case of northwestern Europe, while social benefits have not been significantly cut, taxation has been increased against the odds of global market pressure to make pension schemes still viable, clearly indicating the ideological durability of civil society towards welfare and the stubbornness of the social contract in major parts of Europe. In an assessment of welfare transformation in small open economies, welfare dismantling, notably in unemployment cash benefits, was strongly compensated for by expansion in other welfare aspects such as family policy or long-term care (Obinger, Starke & Moser, 2009). Even if economic globalization constrained social expenditure in states, some of these pension and wage modifications merely resulted in a modestly declining rate of welfare expenditure at most, but did little to turn around the fact that welfare expenditure still remained high and formed the primary proportion of state budgets. While there was a decline in welfare state expansion and an increase in private sector growth, public social service employment remained strong especially when contrasted to the increased unemployment that the private sector in most countries face now. Bureaucratic constraints also continued to work against radical departures from established welfare state models (Pierson, 1996).

On the other hand, however, the tendency for welfare and social provisions to be diminished by economic globalization has been found to be more prevalent in poorer developing countries (Garrett & Nickerson, 2005). Many lower and middle-income countries face balance-of-payments problems due to imperfect integration into the world economy which often leaves them vulnerable to intervention by international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. From such a perspective, conditions enforced by external entities thus compromise more strongly on the automony of these countries and, likewise, their public is subjected to pressures and harms brought about by economic globalization without the social safety nets that developed states can provide. Developing countries also compete based on the comparative advantage of cheap labour, which places them in a locked-in position where their social security is often undermined by corporate interests (Glatzer & Rueschemeyer, 2005). Here, the negative impact of economic globalization as documented in the earlier section where the ‘race to the bottom’ was referred to becomes more evident. Some states, such as India, have compromised on food self-sufficiency by struggling to gain competitive advantages in niches that serve the only interests of affluent purchasers, leading to food insecurity (Sharma, 2000). While developed states can retain their welfare regimes to bolster the effects of economic globalization and even use social policy to reap further gains from the market, such welfare regimes cannot easily be produced in poorer regions of the world where states suffer problems of governance and labour markets are imperfect and partial (Gough & Wood, 2004).

A state’s level of democratization also creates another dimension along which the effects of economic globalization on welfare either become more pronounced or diluted. Democratization was found to significantly mediate the expected decrease in government spending dynamics due to economic globalization. In countries that became more democratic between the 1980s to the 1990s, increasing market integration was associated with much faster growth in state spending, but the opposite was true in countries that did not democratize (Garrett & Nickerson, 2005). This phenomenon is accounted for by the democratizing state’s increasing ability to adapt and evolve to remain globally relevant. The political stability of democracies breeds stronger governments with better policy-making abilities, allowing these democratized states to grow economically and indulge in greater public spending (Glatzer & Rueschemeyer, 2005). Welfare groups also gain political strength through democratic regimes where values of liberty and freedom are espoused. With greater communication channels between various civil society groups and international bodies created by economic globalization, different welfare and social groups have a greater voice in protesting against various features of globalization (Graham, 2002). Here, the same tools of international communication that facilitate economic globalization are used in opposition to the social insecurities economic globalization brings about. The multitude of issues and agendas – both domestic as well as global – that came together in opposition to the World Trade Organization in Seattle as an example, illustrate the diversity of sources of opposition to globalizing strategies of capital and states, particularly to those strategies which ignore health, social and environment protection (Yeates, 2001). Democratization positively correlates with states’ level of development, which further strengthens the view that development is a mitigating factor for the impact of economic globalization on welfare.

A General Framework of Welfare State Vulnerability

With a clear distinction identified between developed and developing countries in terms of welfare state vulnerability, a more concise framework that captures the impact of economic globalization can hence be formulated.

First, whether states react well to globalization is structured by their status within the global political economy. Second, states’ room for manoeuvre in pursuing and implementing globalizing strategies is mediated by national social, demographic, cultural and economic trends, institutions and traditions. Third, states’ margin of operation is determined by the balance of political power between the state, labour, capital and civil society. Put simply, there are strong differences between what different states can ‘get away with’ and developing states simply flounder on every aspect. Despite the supposed overarching power of globalization, the national balance of political power may be decisive in respect of how far national states can accommodate globalization (Yeates, 2001). The tendency for the welfare of developing states to be detrimentally affected by economic globalization therefore exists, as they lack the sound political, industrial and social infrastructures to weather the storm.

Democratization and economic globalization, taken together, also promote the growth of public spending rather than prevent it. Democratic welfare policies strengthen democratic citizenship by giving material and organizational support to subordinate groups and by reducing differences in social status and social power (Rueschemeyer, 2001). Thus, social welfare decreased accordingly when countries globalized and integrated in the world market economy but did not democratize (Adsera & Boix, 2001).


Economic globalization has undeniably led to restructuring of the welfare state. However, whether such restructuring can be seen as a decline in the welfare state – as undermining the strength of the state’s ability for welfare provision – is doubtful. Some countries have displayed remarkable resolve in curtailing the effects of economic globalization by channelling more resources towards maintaining welfare provisions, even if the state’s autonomy is diminished. The state merely has to demonstrate an attempt to curtail the effects of economic globalization to still remain relevant as ‘socially-oriented’.

However, not all countries have displayed the same capacity to deal with economic globalization and provide alternative forms of welfare support in the face of increased market dependence, uncertainty and risk. The analysis identified state maturity and democratic strength as two major factors.

Therefore, it is pertinent to say that, in absolute terms, the freedom to manoeuvre for welfare is indeed compromised by economic globalization, but in directly addressing the question about the impact of economic globalization on the welfare state, the welfare state certainly remains resilient with its own means of mitigating the negative effects of economic globalization. This is particularly true because only the poor developing countries, whom we do not traditionally consider to be strongly welfare states at all, face the most reduction in welfare. Thus, with the notion of the traditional welfare state defined by Cameron (1978) in mind, the impact of economic globalization has indeed been mild on the welfare state. The prospects for these mature welfare states remain promising even in the face of growing uncertainty, as they can be assured of their capacity for state intervention if faced with negative market fluctuations of expanding international capital flows, interconnectedness, risk and uncertainty.


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Asher, M. G., & Nandy, A. (2006). Social Security Policy in an Era of Globalization and Competition: Challenges for Southeast Asia. National University of Singapore, Working Paper 06-06, January.

Bonoli, G., Vic, G., & Taylor-Gooby, P. (2000). European Welfare Futures: Towards a Theory of Retrenchment. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Cameron, D. (1978). The expansion of the public economy: A comparative analysis. American Political Science Review, 72(4), 1243-1261.

Chandrasiri, S., & de Silva, A. (1996). Globalization, employment and equity: The Vietnam experience. ILO unpublished document. Available at

Community Development Project (1977). Gilding the Ghetto. London: Sage.

Cox, R. W. (1987). Production, Power and World Order: Social Forces in the Making of History. New York: Columbia University Press.

Esping-Andersen, G. (1996). Welfare States in Transition. London: Sage Publishing.

Ferrera, M., Hemerijck, A., & Rhodes, M. (2001) Recasting European welfare states for the twenty-first century, in S. Leibfried (ed.) Welfare State Futures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Garrett, G., & Nickerson, D. (2005). Globalization, democratization, and government spending in middle-income countries, in M. Glatzer & D. Rueschemeyer (eds) Globalization and the Future of the Welfare State. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Glatzer, M., & Rueschemeyer, D. (2005) Introduction to the problem, in M. Glatzer & D. Rueschemeyer (eds) Globalization and the Future of the Welfare State. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Glatzer, M., & Rueschemeyer, D. (2005) Conclusion: Policy matters, in M. Glatzer & D. Rueschemeyer (eds) Globalization and the Future of the Welfare State. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Gough, I. (2001). Globalization and regional welfare regimes: The East Asian case. Global Social Policy, 1(2), 163-189.

Gough, I., & Wood, G. (2004). Insecurity and Welfare Regimes in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Graham, M. (2002). Democracy by Disclosure. Washington: Brookings Institution Press.

Greve, B. (ed.) (2006) The Future of the Welfare State: European and Global Perspectives. Hampshire: Ashgate.

Habermas, J. (2001b). The Postnational Constellation. Political Essays. Transl. by Max Pensky. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Harris, S. L. (2002). Reform in South Korea: Globalization and the Post-Crisis Social Contract. Paper prepared for the Asian Development Research Forum in Bangkok, 2002.

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Genders at the Negotiation Table (2009)

OBHR 222 - Business Negotiation and Conflict Management

Done by:
Yong Jin Chuan Jose
Kang Hui Pei Athena
Loon Hua Tai Alex
Hong Shuling Dorothy
Gabrielle Anoinette D'avezac Moran


Every society has its own view of gender and stereotypes which lead members of each society to form expectations of gender behaviour. The negotiation table represents one such example of a social situation where gender differences, expectations and stereotypes occur and interact. Men and women are thought to negotiate in different ways. This is both a consequence of gender differences and stereotypes, and what perpetuates differences and stereotypes further.

For the purposes of our discussion, gender differences refer to the cultural and psychological markers of the sexes, which should be distinguished from the different biological categories of males and females. The cultural and psychological markers of gender allow us to focus on the social aspects of gender through which stereotypes can be analysed. Gender markers vary across cultures and societies, and societies shape gender roles and identities through many dimensions which this paper will discuss, as gender roles operate as socially shared expectations of appropriate behaviour for men and women. Stereotypes are thus an aspect of prescriptive norms, consensual beliefs about how members of a group or a society ought to be (Cialdini & Trost, 1998).

How then do stereotypes originate and perpetuate themselves, and what can we do about them? As gender role stereotypes functionally operate as socially shared expectations of appropriate behaviour for men and women (Eagly, 1987), these stereotypes are shaped by the twin processes of both a bottom-up (originating from the individual) and top-down (culture and society’s pressures on the individual) manner. We will also observe later that these processes interact and complement one another to propagate gender stereotypes. While this vicious cycle is autocatalytic by nature, there are means to mitigate the undesirable outcomes, such as unfair results in favour of men over women not based on merit but prejudices, simply by eliminating sexual markers that perpetuate stereotypes.

The Bottom-Up Process: Stereotypes from the Individual

The bottom-up process examines how the sexes differ via psychological and biological factors which can affect negotiation performances between men and women (Kray & Thompson, 2005). This process through which stereotypes exist can be characterized by two different theories, the ‘socialization theory’ and the ‘self-construal theory’. The difference between these theories is that socialization looks at abilities and behaviours while self-construals focus on how men and women see themselves in terms of self-concepts.

Studies by Maccoby and Jacklin (1974) to determine the effects of socialization broadly identify that men are more aggressive, less verbal and more quantitative and visual-spatial than women. A developmental perspective identifies the importance of childhood events as creating fundamental differences between males and females (Maccoby, 1988). Boys and girls go through different socialization processes during childhood. Seemingly insignificant actions, like telling boys not to cry or giving girls dolls to play with, can shape significant psychological differences between men and women. It was observed that little boys at play were keener to fight and develop a liking for guns and cars, signalling a greater preference for competition. Little girls were calmer and preferred cooking toys and dolls, indicating greater appreciation for care and nurture. This is echoed in the research conducted by Buss (1995), where men and women face different and naturally-occurring adaptive challenges which are functional in ensuring that specifically different gender personality traits develop. Another possible root cause of core gender differences include the possibly genetic biases that boys and girls are naturally endowed with at birth (Money & Ehrhardt, 1972).

Applied to negotiations, research suggests that men should be better at claiming value due to their aggressive nature and quantitative prowess. The superior verbal skills of women may aid in the ability to understand the interests of one’s negotiating partner and lead to greater alignment of interests, ultimately leading to more integrative negotiations (Kray & Thompson, 2005).

Gender differences and varied behavioural outcomes are also developed through self-construals, which refers to how men and women see themselves through their self-concepts. Under this body of literature, Bem (1981) proposed that children learn from a young age what it means to be men or women, forming gender schemas that become the lenses through which they view and comprehend their world. Accordingly, children adjust their behaviours to fit in with the gender norms of their culture. This predisposes individuals to construct a self-identity that is consistent with their understanding of reality. Eventually, women see themselves as relationship-oriented whereas men see themselves as independent from others (Cross & Madsen, 1997). This is further consistent with the view that women are more collectivistic while men are more individualistic in nature.

When applied to negotiations, women view negotiations as including a relationship component (Gelfand, Smith-Major, Raver & Nishii, 2004; Kolb & Coolidge, 1991). Negotiators concerned about relationships adopt more flexible and accommodating approaches (Greenhalgh & Gilkey, 1993) and thus end up being in a position that is more easily exploitable by a more competitively-oriented partner. Furthermore, women are likely to have lower self-confidence than men when they perceive negotiations as a masculine task (Beyer, 1990; Lenney, 1977).

Socialization and self-construal theories create cognitive biases that underlie the stereotypes men and women have of one another and consequently put females at a disadvantage in negotiations. Stereotypical male attributes include being strong, dominant, assertive and rational, while stereotypical female attributes include being weak, submissive, accommodating and emotional. These attributes, unfortunately for females, fall nicely in place for men as effective negotiators and women as ineffective negotiators.

These stereotypes are accompanied by expectations that others have based on gender alone. Regardless of whether men and women differ fundamentally, their negotiating partners hold different expectations about men and women that can lead them to be treated differently. This in turn, affects negotiation processes and outcomes, ultimately resulting in the formation of ‘expectancies’.

Olson, Roese and Zanna (1996) define expectancies as beliefs about a future state of affairs. Expectancies are functional and are hence formed because people want the world to be predictable and controllable. When a subjective expectancy is confirmed through experience, it is positive reinforcement for that expectancy to exist such that we believe it can be universally applied to other situations (Mandler, 1975). This expectancy-consistent behaviour is likely to result in the formation of heuristics, which are similar to formulas which people develop in an attempt to make quicker judgments of reality (Olson, et al., 1996). As we explore the top-down process of stereotype reinforcement due to culture and society later, the persistence of expectancies can be further understood. Negotiating performance and outcomes that appear congruent with stereotypes thus occur as the stereotypes that men and women hold of each other are complementary and reinforcing.

Studies found that women who were self-promoting created poorer impressions in others (Rudman, 1998), women who were highly modest in responding to compliments were judged more positively (Wosinka, Dabul, Whetstone-Dion & Cialdini, 1996), and women who were observed to be successful in stereotypically masculine tasks were more personally derogated than similarly successful men. Relevant to negotiations, these negative evaluations had direct effects on subsequent resource allocation decisions (Heilman, Wallen, Fuchs & Tamkins, 2004). As the studies show, different normative expectations exist for men and women and expectancy-inconsistent behaviours will have consequences for the impressions that are formed of them and the standards applied to them at the negotiation table (Kray & Thompson, 2005).

Gender stereotypes are thus strengthened due to these cognitive biases, which have less of a basis on individual merit than the tendency for self-fulfilling prophecies to propagate them. This will be further explored later when discussing communication styles between genders. These inherent expectancies also result in stereotype threats (Steele, 1997), whereby the fear of confirming a negative stereotype leads to impaired performance. By virtue of the fact that negotiation is often stereotypically perceived as a male domain, the anxiety to perform well can lead to sub-optimal negotiation performance against women.

Communication in Negotiations Shaped by Gender Stereotypes

Gender stereotypes evidently shape communication styles of men and women. Their communication methods (verbal and non-verbal) are highly associated with gender-stereotypical traits and this has implications for negotiations between different genders. For instance, males often progress from a decision to discussion, which is associated with their task and outcome-oriented nature. Women, on the other hand being more relationship focused, spend more time in discussions before arriving at a final decision. In the process of negotiation, males can also be overly focused on their positions due to their concern for personal status, whereas women will spend more time conversing to enhance connections with negotiations’ parties (Tannen, 2004). Studies have further shown that non-verbal communication, which includes body language, influences 55% of the communication process. Non-verbal communication at the negotiation table can be observed as a behavioural manifestation and reinforcement of gender stereotypes.

Negotiations between the opposite genders often risk mutual misinterpretations – each gender displays similar actions with different meanings intended and, more often than not, such actions are further assumed and interpreted differently. In negotiation, females often nod heads to show empathy and understanding. Male negotiators, pre-dominantly task-oriented, incorrectly interpret it in relation to negotiation outcomes – their female counter-party is agreeing with their proposal.

The female interest in social connection is equivalent to the male concern for status. Females, being relationship-oriented, maintain constant eye contact with their negotiating partners to establish connections. Men, on the contrary, do not appreciate such frequent eye contact and interpret it as an attempt to threaten individual status and may jump at retaliation. Thus, males will usually approach their negotiating partners at an angle, so as not to appear too confrontational and personal. Females do not welcome such a gesture at the negotiation table and misinterpret such physical approach as sneaky and associated with an unwillingness to maintain an honest negotiation process.

Men maintain a neutral body posture to communicate that they are listening attentively. Women misinterpret this as a lack of comprehension or boredom and respond by repeating what they say, which leads men to suspect insecurity. Such perception places females at a disadvantage, as insecurity is associated with an ineffective negotiator. Male negotiators may react exploitatively and appear more assertive during the negotiation process. The outcome will be one of further reinforcement and confirmation of gender stereotypes.

Communication styles conforming to gender stereotypes have the power of framing the negotiation in such a way that strengthens stereotypes and steers outcomes in favour of male negotiators. The dynamics are complicated especially when these behaviours are further misinterpreted according to a stereotypical mental framework, and they lay the foundations for self-fulfilling prophecies that further propagate stereotypes.

Evidence Studies: Poorer Negotiation Outcomes for Women

As a reflection of the detrimental effects brought by gender stereotypes on women, it was found that car dealerships offered significantly lower prices to men than women (Ayres, 1991). Longitudinal analyses of attorneys’ salaries 15 years after graduation showed that men earn more than women and this wage gap emerged despite the fact that these men and women graduated from the same varsity with identical socioeconomic profiles (Wood, Corcoran & Courant, 1993).

The Top-down Process: Stereotypes Brought on by Cultural and Societal Pressures

Having considered the bottom-up processes coming from individuals that explain the existence of gender stereotypes, we can now explore the cultural and societal factors that structurally produce and sustain stereotypes, which further reinforce the power and influence gender stereotypes have particularly on negotiations.

Social role theory states that men and women generally behave according to the various stereotypes given to them by the people around them and are already assigned depicted roles the moment they integrate into society (Vogel, Wester, Heesacker & Madon, 2003). Women are seen as housewives and are expected to be more nurturing. Men are presumed to be breadwinners for the family, leading to expectations of strength and competitiveness. When people defer from the roles given to them by society, negative social impressions of them will generally be formed. For example, if a woman is overly assertive, she may be seen as pushy and labelled derogatorily. This ties in closely with the concept of expectancies discussed earlier, as these expectancies are developed in relation to the overarching social pressures caused by culture and society.

Both social role theory as well as the cultural upbringing of girls who have been taught from young about their specific roles to play in society, contribute to why women are more averse to negotiating than men. They perceive themselves as how society sees them and thus do not want or see the need to negotiate. In fact, even when women do negotiate, they have lower expectations of themselves due to self-perceptions caused by society and therefore do not ask for more, resulting in women getting the shorter end of the stick in negotiated outcomes. This can be seen as when women negotiate on behalf of others, such as when they act as agents for a company, they do just as well as their male counterparts statistically. However, when it comes to negotiating for their own self interests, for example when negotiating for their own salary or buying a car, women get sub-optimal results due to lowered self-expectations displayed in the negotiation.

Babcock and Laschever (2003) provide empirical evidence of why women shy away from negotiating and how poorly they negotiate when they do. Men negotiate about four times as much as women and as many as 20% of women avoiding negotiation altogether, even when they see the need to negotiate arising in the situation. A severe consequence for females is that a woman can stand to lose more than $500,000 by the time she is 60 just because she did not negotiate her salary.

As the study was done in the U.S. where gender inequality is generally lower, we can infer that the situation in countries such as in the region of the Middle East, where traditional notions of hierarchy and social roles are strongly espoused, will be magnified and result in more severe consequences. Accordingly, it can be extrapolated that with a greater emphasis on egalitarian and meritocratic values, a society will develop a structure that reinforces gender stereotypes to a smaller extent, in turn leading to better negotiated outcomes for women.

Evidence Studies: Gender Differences Across Cultures

Our discussion is supported by a study by Salacuse (1998) which observed gender differences between 310 individuals across cultures. It was found that 80% of women in the U.S. adopted a more integrative negotiation style as compared to a distributive one. However, in Spain, the women showed a more even spread of distributive and integrative negotiation styles. When it came to negotiation goals, it was observed that 71% of women in the U.S. saw relationships as the primary goal of negotiations. The opposite was observed for most European women who saw the actual negotiation outcome as their main goal. We may attribute this to the magnitude of gender differences which are less prominent in European countries as compared to the U.S..


Gender stereotypes at the negotiation table can strongly influence behaviour and place women negotiators at an unfair disadvantage. It is impossible to eradicate completely because stereotypes are deeply-rooted in people’s mindsets. The first, and perhaps most important, way to manage stereotypes is . A study by Kray, Thompson and Galinsky (2001) showed that by explaining to women before a negotiation that male negotiation skills would lead to better results, they outperformed men in mixed-gender negotiations. Likewise, when female stereotypes were activated, male and female negotiators achieved more integrative incomes.

From here on, there are three categories of interventions to overcome problems in gender stereotypes, namely situational interventions, cognitive interventions and motivational interventions. In situational interventions, power and leverage is employed in order to equalize the effects of stereotypes in negotiation. Men and women who are endowed with the same level of power tend to use benefit from it equally. The negative effects of gender differences can be overcome by diluting structural imbalances of power in negotiation situations. Having a good knowledge of the situation, the other party’s interests, supporting one’s position with valid arguments and improving the quality of alternatives (BATNA) can help a negotiator enhance his or her negotiating power. A powerful mind-set relates to cognitive interventions, which is about being aware of the role of power in the situation and its relation to tactics and outcomes. Having a powerful frame of mind can lead to better outcomes for female negotiators. This can be achieved by focusing on the common goals and interests of the negotiating parties and feeling in control during the negotiation. Studies discussed in this paper have shown that women who adopt a male negotiation style are labelled negatively. Women tend to struggle to get equal outcomes in negotiations and often end up accepting poorer outcomes than their male counterparts. Motivational intervention involves emphasizing on the mutual dependency of both parties in the negotiation relationship. This means the negotiation should be framed to be solved as a shared problem together, rather than one that centers on self-promotion.

The impact of gender stereotypes can also be diminished through more objective means that minimize stereotype-activating thought, such as computerized or online negotiations. These virtual negotiations minimize the presence of contextual cues, such as the communication styles discussed earlier, which can lead to the automatic activation and reinforcement of gender stereotypes. Environmental settings should be similar for both parties to maintain some sense of equality. In certain societies, a powerful hierarchical structure is absent and women and men are more on par. Women in these egalitarian societies can make use of self perception as powerful tool to overcome stereotype effects and achieve power and better outcomes in negotiations. At the same time, ensuring that women have equal opportunities to avenues such as education can also create social norms that reward unbiased attitudes and outcomes based on merit rather than biases, such that a gender discriminating structure is deemed unfashionable.


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Eating As A Social Activity: Hanging Out In Coffee Shops (A Field Study) (2009)

SOCG301 Term Paper

Done by:
Lim Ann Qi Angela
Yong Jin Chuan Jose
Wong Mingchuan Luwin

Over the years, Singapore’s coffee shop culture has evolved tremendously. Coffee shops originally consisted of itinerant hawkers who plied the streets on foot or behind carts, or set up shop in temporary ‘villages’ of stalls; today, coffee shops are typically clean, permanent hawker centres and are both open-air or air-conditioned.

Aside from the proliferation of coffee shops due to an inherent Singaporean love for food, the coffee shop has also established itself as a favourite gathering place for many locals for purposes other than food. Drinks and conversation are rife in these hubs that come to life for various reasons at different times of the day, each one living and breathing to its own beat.

The questions then arise: Who are these people who patronise coffee shops? Why do they choose to go to coffee shops? What is the symbolic nature of the coffee shop and its role in the lives of coffee shop patrons? Our field study and analysis will attempt to answer these questions.

A Coffeeshop Field Study
Our study seeks to uncover the coffee shop culture in Singapore. Emphasis is placed on uncovering the demographic and perspective of the patrons who do not merely come to eat, but to ‘stay’ – engaging in an extended time of conversation and other activity.

The Scope and Methodology
We visited five coffee shops over the course of three nights and observed the activity of coffee shop patrons by engaging in a variety of different observational methods. One method of observation we employed was by simply observing from a distance, through which we attained demographic information such as age, gender, drinks purchased and group sizes, as well as interaction styles in an unobtrusive manner. The details of their conversation was unclear from a distance, so we also engaged some of the groups present in conversation, at times asking them questions and at times just listening to them communicate through their chat and banter.

Ingredients of a Coffee Shop
Based on our observations, the type of people sitting in the coffee shops at night does not vary greatly. They are often groups of Chinese men ranging from ages 20-30 and 40 and above. Conspicuously absent is the presence of women and other ethnicities. An awareness of a prevalent social stigma associated with women being out and about in coffee shops at night with the men may account for the mainly male patronage. What then of other ethnic races? Most Malays in Singapore are Muslim and generally do not patronize the average neighbourhood coffee shop. The existence of exclusively Halal food places, combined with the religious prohibition against the consumption of pork, alcohol, and other foods that might be potentially ‘impure’ (to Muslims), partly explains the predominantly Chinese patronage (Nonini, 1998). Instead, Malays can more commonly be found in Halal food stalls such as 24-hour prata shops. While some Indian men would patronise coffee shops for drinks and/or to watch soccer games, they do not do so as regularly as the Chinese men, choosing instead to consume alcohol at home. The types of people in these neighbourhood coffee shops are thus observed to be mostly and invariably Chinese men.

Most of the time, the men share bottles of beer amongst themselves while chatting. Occasionally, coffee is the alternative beverage of choice. These drinks are symbolically male-centric. The consumption of alcohol through beer also removes social inhibitions and has been cited as having more ‘kick’ than other drinks by a few men we talked to. The men aged 40 and above tend not to eat, having eaten at home with their families, while the younger men of 20-30 tend to meet to have dinner or supper after school, work or any other activity. The food these younger men tend to consume are thus the simple hawker fare sold at these coffee shops, such as mixed rice and noodles.

Male bonding is carried out over beers and occasionally while watching soccer, and for the most part, dialect is spoken. The men, having returned from a hard day at work, have noticeably light-hearted conversations about things such as soccer teams and day-to-day experiences and also chat casually about social issues and local news that might directly affect them. Some of the men stated that there is a deliberate refrain from heavy and in-depth conversation. Visiting the coffee shop and lingering ‘over-time’ is thus strictly a form of relaxation and unwinding to them.

The ‘Third Place’
Essential to our understanding of Singapore’s coffee shop phenomenon is the concept of the ‘third place’ as described by Oldenburg (1999). In his analysis, the workplace and home is regarded as the first and second place respectively, according to the amount of time spent there and the importance an average person assigns to them. Third places are defined in contrast to these other primary places in people’s lives and they offer a space to escape the stresses associated with these primary places. This ties in significantly with sociological work on the symbolism of goods beyond their mere material properties (Fantasia, 1995 & Watson, 1997). Coffee shops now transcend beyond their basic utility of providing food and drinks to one that represents a form of escape.

Coffee shops represent an avenue for regulars to escape from the demands and stresses of day to day life. It is important for a third place to be inexpensive so as to allow patrons to visit regularly without the worry of overspending. This importance is heightened in Singapore’s context as money is considered a daily burden – the traditional Asian mindset regards prudence not just as a virtue but as a standard to conform to. The average neighbourhood coffee shop, among the most reasonable in food and beverage pricing, fit the bill well. Its patrons are hence emancipated from monetary concerns and can focus solely on the enjoyment of the moment. The informal and humble setting of the coffee shop is also comfortably inviting and adds to its suitability as an escape from the corporate environments of work and city living. As coffee shop conventions dictate dressing and behavior alike to be casual, there are few social class requirements and etiquette to abide by. It is a place where one is allowed to be himself, without expectation of conforming to the rules that rigidly govern high society. It is thus not uncommon to witness uncouth behavior – loud talking and general rowdiness – amongst coffee shop regulars.

It’s a Man’s World
The coffee shop is a predominantly male environment and can be qualified through a post-structuralist perspective. The uncouth and often aggressive behaviour of patrons is both a norm and a means to attaining recognition, as such behaviour is applauded when conducted by men and frowned upon when acted out by women. Beer is also seen as a male beverage, the consumption of which men take pride in embracing and women often dissociate themselves from. Soccer, another male-centric pursuit, is shown on huge screen televisions on weekend nights and is often used as a means to draw in the crowds, further enforcing the expected masculinity of the crowd. As an indicator of how coffee shop owners are aware of the gender disparity, waitresses dressed in specially designed uniforms consisting of short skirts are employed to serve and entertain the men who make up the scene. These men are the people who constitute to the formation of the ‘coffee shop uncle’ image.

A further explanation is posited by Oldenburg, who asserts that “social relaxation is greater without the low-level stress that attends the mixing of the sexes”. The individual, in his opinion, is never quite as comfortable, expressive or unrestrained in the presence of the opposite sex as in the company of his or her own.

The reluctance of women to patronize coffee shops as a third place can also be explained by the internalising of social stigma associated with women seen at coffee shops. Such women are often perceived as cheap or as money-launderers, which is exacerbated by the prominence of prostitutes and China women in sleazy district coffee shops – essentially two of the most stereotyped women in contemporary Singapore. Gill (2007) studied the behaviour of and attitudes towards women in Bordertown, a traditionally misogynistic town in Britain, and found that women are acceptable targets for sexual harassment when they appeared in male-dominated public places, especially when alone. This is something the women there have internalised, which makes them reluctant to travel about or go to places like pubs alone. While the likelihood of overt sexual harassment is low in Singapore coffee shops, Singaporean women are well aware of the social stigma that men have of women hanging around coffee shops and they do well to avoid such stigmatic association. This is also enforced by the older men themselves, as they believe with the fervour of tradition that the place for a woman is in the home. One man we spoke to was cited as saying that women should go home to ‘rest’ after a hard day’s work. To these men, leisure for women is accepted as relaxing at home instead of being out with the men in coffee shops at night.

An additional reason is that women have their own third places, such as mahjong clubs and shopping malls – both activities which are predominantly female leisure pursuits. This concurs with Oldenburg’s argument for the value in gender-specific companionship.

The Age Demographics of the ‘Coffee Shop Uncle’
The age demographics of the men at these coffee shops is observed to follow a trend of high between ages 20-30, low between ages 30-40, and high again for those aged 40 and above.

The young 20-30 crowd typically consists of men gathering for ‘supper’, while the 40-over age-group primarily turns up for drinks. On their table is typically a bucket of ice and beer bottles, and plates of food are usually absent. While the conversation may be similar – casual with a disregard for formal manners – there is an air of pointlessness to the coffee shop activity of the group aged 40 and above. Those aged 20-30 may gather for the purpose of watching soccer, exchanging ideas, having a conversation about school or work, or having a meal. Those aged 40-over, on the other hand, often arrive at the coffee shop without even needing to contact their buddies and knowing that they can find regular company there. We have observed a few men in the older age category who were drinking alone, as if they were just trying their luck at seeking anticipated company and it did not matter if none of their friends turned up.

The age group of 30-40 tends not to engage in coffee shop socializing as they are in the prime of their lives and careers and thus are often busy with work or family. Just as importantly, excessive patronage of coffee shops for men in this age group associates them with certain negative stigmas, such as joblessness, depression or excessive drinking tendencies. The frivolous nature of the youthful patronage of coffee shops by young men and the pointlessness of the older males in visiting coffee shops are particularly damaging to the social image the men aged 30-40 in their primes are trying to portray.

Social Interaction in this Unique Sphere
The men are often very friendly with the stall owners and beer ladies, mostly out of a sense of familiarity. The beer ladies are usually invited to join the men at the tables for a drink for some time while they chat together over drinks. It is interesting to note that the beer ladies are not regarded the same way other women who visit the coffee shop are. They are accepted as part of the scene and not as an outsider. Gender inequality is an inevitable outcome of the male dominance of the coffee shop’s social structure, thus the acceptance of women in coffee shops demands of them to conform to the distinct gender role expected of them. Hall (1993) highlights the work roles of gendered food servers and points out the behavioural scripts expected of waitresses to give ‘good’ service in particular food settings – these work roles are loaded with gender meanings and results in a heightened importance of gender specific displays. In stark contrast to this is the rare occasion in which we spot a woman at these coffee shops. Even if a woman was present, she was almost always accompanied by either her husband or at least one male friend. Thus, the presence of women as beer ladies is only accepted when they are merely facilitators and servants of the male-dominated coffee shop, behaving in a subservient manner expected of them in the highly-gendered order of the coffee shop. The men at the coffee shops appear to be rather territorial about their space in the coffee shops and, with the arrival of any ‘abnormal’ visitors like a group of women or young students, they tended to look either wary or curious.

The highly gendered, age-specific and racially-specific nature of the coffee shop prevents us from drawing from it too representative a picture of Singaporean culture. It must be understood as representing the culture of a particular strata of society and not as a microcosm typical of Singapore.

Yet the coffee shop phenomenon does offer us insights into Singaporean culture. For one, it reinforces the common knowledge that life in Singapore is stressful and fast-paced, creating a need to retreat into a third place. For the average heartland ‘uncle’, coffee shops serve this function as no other place can. From its humble and inviting setting, cheap alcohol on its menu and the freedom to kick back and speak in the dialect they grew up with, it is ideal for the non-corporate, un-westernised Chinese Singaporean man to meet other characteristically-alike men and foster a uniquely local community spirit.

However, it must be said that it is more so the peculiarities of the coffeeshop conventions, rather than its function as a third place that reveals the Singaporean flavour, for the Singaporean coffee shop finds its counterpart in most of the developed world. German beer gardens, Parisian cafes and English pubs all serve as third places for their respective countries.

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