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COVID-19 Deaths Per Hospitalization Has Held Constant Since May, But an Uptick Could Be Looming in US

Source: Oliver Wyman Pandemic Navigator

Since April, the ratio of deaths to hospitalized COVID-19 patients has decreased from 15% and has held steady around 2% since May in the U.S. However, as hospital capacity becomes further strained across the country, there is potential for this trend to reverse if COVID-19 patients no longer have access to the level of care they need, according to Oliver Wyman.

The decrease in the death rate is likely due to a variety of factors. For instance, there was a greater need for triage and ventilator rationing in the early stages of the pandemic when hospital/ICU capacity was reached. Also, new treatments for COVID-19, including antivirals and steroids, have been shown to improve survival rates. Lastly, sophisticated and optimized protocols have been developed that improve outcomes, such as lower use of ventilators and improved body positioning for oxygenation.

One in 10 Americans live in a region where fewer than 5% of ICU beds are available as of December 9, according to the New York Times. With the increase of Thanksgiving travel — and as the holiday season approaches — this could result in a new wave of cases and hospitalizations. 

One Year After Taliban Take Power, Afghanistan’s GDP Plummets

Source: Financial Times

One year after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S.-led troops, Afghanistan’s gross domestic product has sharply declined and food insecurity has risen. The UN Development Program estimated that Afghanistan’s GDP fell 20% in 2021 and will shrink another 5% this year. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund estimate that the country’s GDP could fall by up to 30%.

Afghanistan’s economic decline has been exacerbated by mismanagement under the government, rising inflation, and the collapse of the country’s banks. Even before the Taliban took over, 75% of Afghanistan’s economy was dependent on foreign aid — much of this aid has now been cut off by Western sanctions that have also frozen billions in foreign reserves. 

As a result, 37% of Afghan households say that they don’t have enough money for food. More than four out of five households say they have significantly lost income since the change in regime. However, the World Bank reports that employment has increased at the national level, driven largely by an expansion of employment in rural areas.

Taiwan and China’s Economies Are Inextricably Linked

Tensions between the U.S. and China remain high following last week’s visit by U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, the first in 25 years by a top U.S. official. Despite Taiwan’s fraught diplomatic relationship with China, the two countries’ economies are  inextricably linked, reports Investment Monitor.

China is Taiwan’s biggest export partner, with a value of more than $515 billion of goods between 2017-2022, more than double that of the United States. Taiwan’s main export to China is semiconductors — in 2020, China spent more on chips than on oil. 

Taiwan’s electronic exports dwarf any other industry and were valued at more than $844 billion between 2017-2022. Electronics also attract the most foreign direct investment, bringing in more than 16% of all greenfield FDI projects between 2019-2020. While strained trade relations between the U.S. and China have prompted some U.S. companies to relocate from mainland China to Taiwan, the recent rise in tensions may make Taiwan a riskier prospect for foreign investors.

Employees Don’t Want to Be in the Office on Friday

Fridays are the emptiest days in the office in the United States as the majority of hybrid workers choose to work from home on the last day of the week, new data shows. Security service provider Kastle Systems found that only 30% of U.S. workers swipe into the office on Fridays. In comparison, 50% of workers came into work on Tuesday, the highest turnout of the week.

Employers worldwide are experimenting with flexible work arrangements as the pandemic continues and workers make clear their preference for working from home. A U.K. survey shows that 80% of workers say that working from home at least once a week has a positive impact on their lives. Seventy-five percent say that they believe the world is never going back to a traditional five-day work week.

Some companies are experimenting with giving employees Fridays off. In the U.K., more than 70 companies are part of the largest trial of a four-day work week ever. In the U.S., tech companies like Kickstarter, Thred Up, and Bolt are moving to a Monday to Thursday work week for good.

China’s Economic Recovery Wobbles in July

China’s manufacturing fell in July after bouncing back in June, as the country’s economic recovery remains fragile. China’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) fell from 50.2 to 49, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics. Non-manufacturing PMI, including the construction and service sectors, also slowed to 53.8 from 54.7.

The contraction follows weak demand and continued COVID-19 outbreaks, which are controlled under China’s restrictive “zero-COVID” policy. COVID-19 cases have locked down the city of Xi’an and closed some buildings in the country’s tech hub Shenzhen and the port city of Tianjin, home to major factories.

China’s economy shrank in the second quarter of this year, contracting by 2.6% between April and June following widespread lockdowns earlier in the year. Supply chain disruptions and high commodity prices from the crisis in Ukraine have also contributed to the economic slowdown. China is preparing to miss its previously-stated GDP goal of 5.5%, Chinese state media reported after a meeting of the Communist Party last week.

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