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COVID-Related Job Losses in Asia and Pacific Region Predominantly Impact Young Workers

Source: International Labor Organization

Unprecedented working-hour losses for youth in the Asia and Pacific region — especially in South Korea — were more likely to result in immediate job loss compared to adult workers during the pandemic. 

The young population in the Asia and Pacific region is more likely to face longer-term economic damage from the pandemic, according to a report from the International Labor Organization: Nearly half of the youth work in wholesale and retail, manufacturing, real estate and food services — the four sectors hit the hardest by shutdowns. 

South Korea had one of the highest youth unemployment rates prior to COVID-19, and its younger generations were still recovering from past recessions — the unemployment rate has hovered at 13% or more since 2013. ILO found that during a recession, the youth unemployment rate in the Asia and Pacific region can persist for up to five years, with the second and third years being the worst. 

The report states that “maximizing youth productivity in the COVID-19 recovery process will improve Asia and the Pacific’s future prospects for inclusive and sustainable growth, demographic transition and social stability.”

Investors Poured a Record Amount of Money Into Health Care This Year

$93 billion dollars were invested in health care in 2021 as of Q3

Funding in health care companies reached a record $97.1 billion dollars as of Q3 2021 — more than any other industry and 22% of total dollars raised, according to CBInsight’s State of Venture report. One-in-5 dollars funded went into health care companies as public health continues to be a point of focus societally.

Among the top companies to receive funding in 2021 were drug development companies like Abogen. Located in China, the company has invested in its mRNA vaccine production to bolster China’s COVID-19 response. Its vaccine, unlike others from Moderna and Pfizer, purportedly does not require cold storage for seven days. Companies have also been investigating using the mRNA vaccine to treat other diseases such as shingles and, potentially, cancer.

Other health care companies are looking to artificial intelligence. Olive, a Texas-based company, raised $400 million in 2021 and aims to automate tedious tasks as health care workers deal with a second year of burnout. The cross-section of AI and health care has positive potential, such as detecting anomalies in X-rays or MRI/CAT scans, but also worrying aspects such as reinforcing gender bias.

Number of Women in CEO Roles at Large Companies Reached Record High

This past year, the amount of women in chief executive officer roles at the world’s largest companies reached its highest level since Fortune began tracking its eponymous list 67 years ago. 

Forty-one of this year’s Fortune 500 have women in their highest executive positions, more than tripling the amount from just a decade ago. Meanwhile, a total of 23 women are in CEO roles of Global 500 businesses. In addition to the record number of total executives, this year’s lists also featured the highest-ranking American business ever run by a female CEO and, for the first time, multiple companies with Black women CEOs. (Black women representation on the boards of S&P 500 companies also increased by over 25% this year.)

While these milestones are key markers in measuring the broad progress of gender equity in corporate leadership, the record number of women CEOs still represents only 8.1% of the American list and 4.6% of the global total. Given that the COVID-19 pandemic has sharply exacerbated gender inequality across the workforce, all companies — but especially the most prominent in the world’s largest markets — will need to continue to focus on prioritizing gender parity at all levels of operations.

The First-Ever Vaccine for Malaria

Malaria areas of the world

The World Health Organization endorsed the first-ever malaria vaccine in October this year. 

The four-dose vaccine was helped into development by COVID-19 prevention efforts. It is seen as a major milestone in the battle against malaria, which has been spreading in recent years, due in part to climate change. 

It will be used initially for children, as malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 260,000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually.

“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”

Renewable Power Investment Resumed Growth in 2021, Despite Pandemic

Global renewable energy investments will account for around 70% of the $530 billion invested in new power generation by the end of 2021, according to the International Energy Agency, with the largest investments coming from China, Europe and the U.S.

Investment in power (both renewable and nonrenewable) is rebounding and will likely reach $820 billion by the year’s end. After a year of no growth in 2020, this figure represents a 5% increase in global investment in this subgroup of the energy industry.

The increase in investment is being driven by economic recovery and a wave of pledges made by the corporate sector and governments to address climate change through clean energy. It is also simply becoming more affordable to use renewable energy. “Thanks to rapid technology improvements and costs reductions,” the IEA report notes, “a dollar spent on wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) deployment today results in four times more electricity than a dollar spent on the same technologies ten years ago.”


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