Marsh & McLennan Advantage Insights logo
Conversations and insights from the edge of global business
Menu Search

Quick Takes

Coronavirus Pushes Millions of Children Further Into Extreme Poverty

Source: World Bank & UNICEF

Globally, one-in-six children lived in extreme poverty prior to coronavirus. A UN study released in September showed that an additional 150 million children were already pushed into poverty as a result of the pandemic. This number will likely continue to grow from COVID-19’s impact on income generation and food security, according to a report by UNICEF and the World Bank Group. 

Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 65.8% of children living in extreme poverty, followed by South Asia. Nearly 20% of children under five-years-old in developing countries live in extremely poor households. These regions especially have limited access to resources, such as water, education, food and electricity. Studies show that children in poverty have a higher chance of developing long-term health complications. 

The UN Sustainable Development Goals aim to prioritize funding and international cooperation to help end extreme poverty by 2030. When the public and private sector work together with communities, “change happens: families move out of poverty, children are protected from diseases, girls become students, instead of brides, and much more,” according to the United Nations Foundation. 

Qatar Hosts the Most Expensive World Cup Ever

Source: Statista

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which kicked off November 20, is the most expensive World Cup ever, with costs reaching $220 billion. The expenses included new stadiums, but the majority of the money was spent on new infrastructure like hotels, airports, and a metro system. Tickets are also the highest price they’ve ever been: football fans paid an average of $340 per match, roughly 40% more than for the 2018 tournament.

Host countries like Qatar, Russia, and Brazil hope to balance the cost with this investment in infrastructure, international exposure, and a boost in tourism. Qatar expects more than 1 million tourists to come for the event. But research shows that most mega-sporting events have a zero or negative effect on tourism.

That cost-benefit analysis doesn’t include attracting international attention, but Qatar has drawn international criticism for the human cost of the tournament. Human rights organizations have accused Qatar of exploiting hundreds of thousands of Nepali migrant workers who built the stadiums. Amnesty International reports thousands of those workers died while working in high heat and dangerous conditions, though the exact count is unknown because officials attributed most deaths to “natural causes.”

Ballot Measures Reveal the Importance of Civil Rights for Americans

During the recent U.S. midterm elections, Americans voted on a wide range of ballot measures in their states on issues such as abortion, voting rights, and slavery in prisons.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade put abortion on a number of ballot measures. Five states —  California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont — chose to support abortion access. In California, Michigan, and Vermont, voters added the right to an abortion to their state constitutions. In Kentucky and Montana, voters rejected ballot measures that would have further restricted abortion — despite having Republican-led legislatures in both states.

The widespread — and false — claims of voter fraud in previous elections prompted intense scrutiny of voting rights. Voters in four out of six states expanded their voting laws, or rejected voting restrictions. Connecticut, Michigan, and Arizona voting access, while Nevada opened primaries to all voters. Nebraska and Ohio limited voting access. 

A number of states voted to remove all language from their constitutions that allowed slavery to be used as a punishment for a crime. The U.S. Constitution technically still permits slavery to be used as a punishment, but Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont voted to ban slavery in all contexts, although Louisiana voted against a ban.

Central Banks Buy Gold in Record Amounts


Source: World Gold Council/Bloomberg

Central banks around the world are buying gold in record quantities, in a bid to weather economic uncertainty and rising inflation. Demand was up 28% year-over-year in the third quarter, and central banks purchased more gold this year than they have since 1967. 

The desire for gold is being driven by investors looking for safer assets amid rapid inflation and sanctions against Russia. “Gold is often called the ultimate fear asset,” said Travis Simon, alternatives investment specialist at Mercer, in a recent interview.

Countries with emerging economies were the most likely to stock up on gold as an inflation hedge. Turkey was the top reported buyer this year, as the country’s inflation rate rose to 85% in October, while the lira fell by 29% this year (and 44% in 2021). Turkey also purchased the most gold in the third quarter of 2022, followed by Uzbekistan, which has been hurt by sanctions against its largest trading partner. 

Venezuela has the highest percentage (82%) of gold holdings as a share of its reserves, a result of inflation rising above 300% and hyperinflation rates in previous years that rendered the bolívar almost worthless. Uzbekistan has the second-highest share of gold (65%), followed by Kazakhstan (63%).

Economic Risks Front of Mind for G20 Executives

After more than two years of navigating different dimensions and phases of the COVID-19 crisis, concerns over the economy are the top priority for business leaders in G20 nations, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Executive Opinion Survey (EOS).

Executives were asked to identify the risks they considered the biggest threats to their country over the next two years. As growth in many large economies stalls and households struggle to pay bills, economic risks clearly worry executives across G20 member countries. Risks such as “rapid and/or sustained inflation” appear in the top-five rankings for executives in almost all G20 countries, while “cost of living” is a similarly high-ranked concern for multiple members of the bloc. With more than 80% of the world’s GDP and 75% of international trade represented in the G20, the prioritization of economic risks in this year’s survey reflects a vulnerable outlook for the global economy.

Despite the overwhelming consensus on economic risks, business risk perception varies on other critical risks. For instance, responses from the emerging market bloc of the forum — for example, Indonesia and India — reflect strong concern over digital inequality, while geopolitical risks such as “interstate conflict” and “geo-economic confrontation” feature prominently in the top risks of advanced economies, particularly for leaders in the European Union. The upcoming Bali summit presents an important opportunity for the bloc to discuss a way forward on these varying priorities as well as common pressing economic challenges

Get ahead in a rapidly changing world. Sign up for our daily newsletter. Subscribe
​​