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Quick Takes

Security Is the Biggest Obstacle to Owning Mobile Phones

More than one-quarter of people surveyed in India, Philippines and Venezuela reported they did not own or share a mobile phone, according to a Pew Research Center survey of mobile phone access in 11 countries it defines as “emerging economies.” 

The prime barriers to access are security concerns (identity theft or that the phone would be stolen), 69%; cost of the phone or service, 60%; connectivity issues, 28%; and language barriers (content not available in preferred language), 13%. 

Of the countries surveyed, 67% said their phones had a positive influence on education, and 58% said they had a positive impact on the economy in their countries, Pew reported in an earlier analysis of the survey

Who Will Be Most Exposed to AI Disruption in the US?

Prior research indicates that less-educated workers will experience the greatest shock from automation, but the authors of a new report from Brookings found that when they focused solely on AI, the trend changes and “better paid professionals” are the ones most likely to experience disruption in their jobs. 

The impact will be felt most strongly by men, workers ages 25-54 and white and Asian Americans in the U.S., according to the report. Industries with a majority of women on staff, including education and health care, are less likely to be disrupted by AI, it found. 

Workers and businesses should prepare for AI to have a different effect on the workforce than robotics and software had, the authors advise, because “while earlier waves of automation have led to disruption across the lower half of the wage distribution, AI appears likely to have different impacts, with its own windfalls and challenges.”

The Global Trade Slowdown Is Expected to Continue in 2020

Sources: IHS Markit, Euler Hermes Actual and anticipated gains and losses are shown in billions of U.S. dollars.

Global trade in 2019 is on track for its slowest annual growth in a decade at +1.5% with “no hope for sizeable improvement” in 2020, according to a new report by Euler Hermes, which blames higher tariffs and uncertainty regarding trade policy for the slowdown.  

Exporters are likely to see $420B in losses this year, according to the report, with modest 1.7% growth predicted for next year. Inside the 2020 number is a mixed bag with software and IT services (+$62B), agrifood (+$41B) and chemicals (+$37B) moving ahead, and electronics (-$47B), metals (-$42B), and machinery and equipment (-$27B) lagging behind. 

“The so-called phase 1 deal between the U.S. and China, despite being superficial, may bring some comfort,” said Ludovic Subran, chief economist at Allianz and Euler Hermes.

“But renewed threats of tariffs and a busy political year in 2020 should bring higher volatility, leaving no hope for sizable improvement going forward.” 

Plastic Production Is On the Rise Worldwide — but Declining in Europe

Source: Statista.com, Oct. 2019

Total global production of plastics topped 359 million metric tons in 2018, continuing a measured but steady increase since 2008, according to Statista.com. Production in Europe, meanwhile, slowed to 61.8 million metric tons in 2018 from a peak of 64.4 million metric tons in 2017. According to Statista, 30% of all plastic produced in 2018 came from China, compared to 17% from Europe. 

In 2018, 9.4 million metric tons of plastic post-consumer waste were collected in Europe for recycling, as consumers and the industry pay more attention to plastic disposal and end use, according to a 2019 report by PlasticsEurope.  

The trade organization says the plastics industry employs more than 1.6 million people in Europe and contributed 28.8 billion euros to public finances and welfare in 2018.

Manufacturers Worry Most About Cyber Threats and Supply Chain Risks

Manufacturers are most concerned about cyber threats followed by supply chain disruption according to the 2019 Global Cyber Risk Perception Survey from Marsh and Microsoft. 

Seventy-six percent of manufacturers surveyed listed cybersecurity as a top five risk, with 22% ranking it the No. 1 risk to their business, similar to other industries. However, manufacturers are much more concerned than others about supply chain disruption, with 66% ranking it as a leading concern, compared to just 36% of those in other industries. 

The report attributes this difference to “the crucial role that supply chains and supply chain partners play in the core business operations of manufacturers relative to companies in other industries,” and its authors recommend managing supply risk “as a collective issue, recognizing the need for trust and shared security standards across the entire network, including the organization’s cyber impact on its partners.”

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