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The 164-foot Destination Fox Harb'r Too off the Nova Scotia coast.Reuters

Baby you're a rich man

The economic gap between women and men may be gradually closing in the world, but when it comes to being stinking rich, there's still a huge chasm.

Spear's, the British wealth magazine, reports that only 10 per cent of the world's multimillionaires are female. Its worldwide survey, conducted along with high-net-worth research firm WealthInsight, also found that Canada is slightly behind the global norm: Just 9.2 per cent of Canadian multimillionaires are women.

The most unequal country in the world is Japan, where only 3.7 per cent of multimillionaires are women, followed closely by Saudi Arabia, with just 3.8 per cent. But also in the top 10 are some developed countries where we might have expected a more progressive culture: The Netherlands is fifth-worst, with women making up 5.9 per cent of its multimillionaires; Belgium is sixth, with 6 per cent; and New Zealand is seventh, with 6.3 per cent.

The best country for equality among the rich is Portugal, where 23.8 per cent of multimillionaires are women. Next is the Philippines, with 21 per cent, and Peru, with 18.3 per cent. Curiously, the list of top-10 most-equal countries is dominated by emerging markets.

"It certainly seems that Asia is leading the way in gender equality, perhaps reflecting emerging markets whose developing, increasing wealthy economies are not bound by old forms of gender discrimination in business," said Spear's editor Josh Spero.

Jobs data not unusually volatile: Statscan

Feeling a little tired of the mood swings of Canada's employment numbers? Well, you'll be happy to know that it's all in your imagination.

Statistics Canada took a closer look at the volatility of its Labour Force Survey (LFS), after hearing the public grumblings about the at-times highly unpredictable gyrations in the agency's key employment indicator this year. From the 54,500-job slump in March to the 95,000-job surge in May to the 39,400-job drop in July to the 59,200-job rebound in August, it's been a ride so wild that some observers have wondered if something is amiss with the labour market – or with Statscan's data.

The agency's experts found no increase in the volatility in the LFS from its historical norms, "with much the same degree of month-to-month fluctuation recorded since the 1990s," it said.

"It is only perception," said LFS manager Christel Le Petit.

As the LFS has been more closely scrutinized in the current economic environment, Statscan suggested that maybe there has been too much market focus on the month-to-month moves and not enough on the more important longer-term trends. And it acknowledged that it might have some work to do to better convey that message in its monthly LFS report.

"Statistics Canada analysts are currently looking at how the analytical write-up could help users focus on the long-term trends," it said.

The high cost of toilets (or lack thereof)

Last Tuesday was World Toilet Day. Seriously. The United Nations dedicated the day to reflect on the important role of sanitation in health and economic development. It pointed out that 2.5 billion people, or roughly one-third of the world's population, still don't have access to a toilet. In a series of infographics marking the occasion, the World Bank estimated that a lack of access to proper sanitation costs the developing world $260-billion (U.S.) a year, in health care costs and productive time lost by workers. That's the equivalent of 1.5 per cent of the gross domestic product of the developing world, writes Guy Hutton, senior economist for the World Bank Water and Sanitation Program.

'Small data': Tracking hurricanes with waffles

We've been hearing more and more about the potential value of "big data" – tapping into the vast amounts of electronic information in the world to draw whole new levels of statistical inferences. But what about the value of "small data"? Or even "waffle data"?

The latest issue of Popular Science reports that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) tracks the status of the Waffle House restaurant chain as a quick and surprisingly accurate way of determining the extent of storm damage in U.S. hurricane and tornado zones. By finding out whether these 24-hour restaurants have managed to stay open, FEMA has a high-speed indicator of whether power is down or roads are passable in a storm-affected area, well before broader and more definitive information can be gathered.

Similar notions are being employed in economics. The famed Big Mac Indicator uses the prices of the hamburgers in various parts of the world as an indication of currency over- and under-valuations. And in China, the article said, authorities use sales of pickled mustard tubers – popular among the country's working class – to track migrant-worker patterns.

"The shared, underlying idea is that there are good measures, or proxies, for phenomena that might take a long time to measure rigorously," said David Lazer, a computer and political scientist at Northeastern University.