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Are Pandemic-Driven Salary Freezes Beginning to Thaw?

In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread, many companies instituted cost-cutting measures like salary freezes to curb potential negative financial impacts. But according to new data from Mercer, the general trend indicates that the percentage of freezes will decline in 2021.

This year, the total percentage of Western European companies freezing salaries has declined by 6%, with large salary freeze decreases in high tech (18% less in 2021) and manufacturing (15% less in 2021). In the life sciences sector — which includes pharmaceuticals, one of the key industries leading “return to normalcy” efforts throughout the pandemic — the proportion of companies instituting or continuing salary freezes is projected to dip even below 2020’s already-low rate. 

Of course, companies worldwide are still adjusting as new variants, labor trends and market evolutions continue to foster an environment of uncertainty. For example, industries like consumer goods and energy — which are dealing with the dual challenge of the pandemic and climate change or inflation — are still instituting freezes at higher levels.

Electric Autonomous Vehicles Have Huge Potential for the Freight Industry

Autonomous vehicles have come a long way since 1925, when the first radio-controlled car was driven around Manhattan’s streets, without anyone at the steering wheel. 

Last year, autonomous vehicles hit the roads in a myriad of ways. Walmart deployed fully driverless trucks to transport groceries between stores in Arkansas, while autonomous vehicle companies raised an average of $650 million for 2021. Amazon acquired several autonomous vehicle companies, pledging to buy 1,000 autonomous trucks in the process. 

With heavy duty vehicles accounting for about 19% of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU, according to a report by Marsh McLennan, the next phase of innovation for AVs is electrification, and the freight industry is expected to be among the first to adopt electric AVs (E-AVs). E-AVs will offer benefits such as enhanced sustainability, improved safety and reduced costs. The report also demonstrates how E-AVs compound technological benefits by facilitating data collection to develop safer business models. 

Big Tech Invests in Cybersecurity

The top five tech companies are investing in cybersecurity to bolster their cloud dominance, according to a new report by CBInsights. The research firm found that Meta (formerly Facebook), Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Apple (MAGMA) invested over $2 trillion in cybersecurity companies last year.

The rise in investment comes as cybercrime and ransom attacks hit a record level in 2021. In the United States, ransomware caused government services in Maryland and Atlanta to shut down for days at a time. In the private sector, Guy Carpenter estimates that just 42% of private businesses invest in cyber products, putting the almost $21 trillion in intangible assets of the Fortune 500 at risk.

The rise in investment by MAGMA is a bid to lure users onto the cloud. AWS, owned by Amazon, Azure, owned by Microsoft, and Google Cloud Platform are the most popular cloud platforms and boast a myriad of cybersecurity features. Meta and Apple, meanwhile, are pivoting their platforms to be more privacy-focused given the mistrust of data management by the public and the increasing risk of apps becoming a vector for cyber crime.

2021’s Job Market Broke Records After the Losses of 2020

The 2021 labor market posted its biggest jobs gain in modern history, following the huge job losses of 2020, as lockdowns and restrictions were lifted throughout the United States. Following a year that uprooted the lives of many as companies struggled to stay afloat, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, an estimated 6.5 million jobs were gained in 2021, the most since 1939.

As the Omicron variant spreads throughout the world, however, economists warn that January and February job growth might be more muted. Furthermore, research shows that as many as 5 million members of the workforce might be sidelined as the highly contagious variant continues to spread. And, there is still a 3.6 million jobs deficit from the beginning of the pandemic.

How People Around the World Say AI Will Change Their Lives

The majority of people say that artificial intelligence will improve education, entertainment and transportation along with homes, shopping, safety, the environment and food/nutrition, in a survey conducted by Ipsos and led by the World Economic Forum. Overall, 60% of people think that AI will make their lives easier.

The survey explores attitudes from 28 countries around the world. It found nearly two-thirds of respondents expect AI will profoundly change their daily lives in the next three to five years. Respondents say that education, safety and employment are among the most likely areas to change. Thirteen percent, however, say that AI would not notably change any of the areas shown above, perhaps revealing some people’s skepticism of AI, as just 50% of respondents say they trust companies that use AI as much as they trust companies that don’t.

Previously on BRINK, we’ve covered how artificial intelligence can help businesses, healthy aging and cities.

 

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