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Digital Expands Across the World in 2019

Source: Data sourced from Hootsuite and We Are Social

Global digital accessibility in terms of internet access, mobile phone owners and social media users expanded in 2019. The steady increases parallel growing urbanization: Between January 2019 and October 2019, 58 million people moved to urban areas, where they’re more likely to have internet access, according to a report by Hootsuite and We Are Social

This year, unique mobile users increased by 43 million; internet users by 91 million; active social media users by 241 million; and mobile social media users by 404 million. “Much of the growth … has come from emerging economies — especially across Africa — and this could signal the start of a whole new wave of growth,” the report says.

Asia also contributed to the growth: WhatsApp in India reached 400 million users; 5G in South Korea led to “more than double the speeds that … mobile users enjoyed just this time last year”; and “Asian sites increasingly dominate the world’s most-visited online destinations, with China’s e-commerce platforms showing particular success,” the report shows.

Rise in Carbon Emissions Brings Concern Over Building Sector’s Carbon Footprint

Source: The Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction (5th edition)

The operation of global buildings reached their highest-ever carbon emissions level in 2019 at 28% of total global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, pushing the sector further away from achieving its Paris Agreement goals. That number jumps to 38% when emissions from building construction is accounted for, according to this year’s Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction

This year’s report highlights the disruptions from COVID-19 in the building and construction sectors, as well as introduces a new index to track the progress of climate initiatives. The pandemic slowed global construction activity, which led to a drop in global energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions — 5% and 7%, respectively. 

But COVID-19 also grew interest in and the market for “green” buildings as governments and key players in the buildings and construction sector plan for a post-COVID green recovery. However, these commitments and initiatives will need to rapidly increase in scale to get on track for a net-zero carbon building plan by 2050.

South Asia Sees a Shrinking Middle Class and Surge in Poverty

Source: Pew Research Center

More people moved into poverty in South Asia in 2020 compared to other regions globally, reversing years of progress in the region. South Asia also saw the biggest decline in its middle class, which decreased by 32 million people, while East Asia and the Pacific lost 19 million, according to Pew Research Center. 

Globally, there were 54 million fewer people in the middle class in 2020 than the pre-pandemic forecasted number. The global population living in poverty rose to an estimated 803 million — compared to the 672 million that was initially expected pre-pandemic. “The steep rise in global poverty is driven by the fact that many who were in the low-income tier prior to the pandemic lived on the margin of poverty,” according to Pew. 

The path to recovery remains unclear as regions start to revive their economies — although vaccine distribution has led to a rise in consumer confidence. The pace and strength of the recovery will depend on access to medical supplies, governmental support and regional economic and societal status prior to COVID-19.

Insurance for M&A Deals Surged in 2020

Source: Marsh

The communications, media and technology sectors held the highest number of insurance policies to protect M&A deals in 2020 according to new data from Marsh McLennan. Mergers and acquisitions in the technology sector held the most deal volume in the United States at $346.5 billion, a result of an increase in e-commerce, remote working and digital transformation in different sectors.

M&A activity in the U.S. was down 21% by value and 16% by deal count in 2020 compared to 2019. Despite this sudden halt in activity during the second quarter, transactional risk insurance in the U.S. and Canada reached record highs in the fourth quarter — ending in a total of $545 billion in deal value. Insurers shifted their focus to COVID-related impacts on companies.

The transactional risk insurance market will face multiple challenges in 2021, such as a continued increase in claims frequency and severity, rising costs and a focus by insurers on claims related to COVID-19. 

Why US Supercities Are Losing Appeal

Source: Milken Institute, 2021

San Francisco, California, lost its place as the best-performing city in the United States, dropping 23 places in rank. It was replaced by Provo, Utah — a relatively new innovation center with a lower cost of living than California’s “supercities.” Intermountain western and southern cities outperformed those originally popular coastal cities, according to Milken Institute

The annual index tracks cities’ regional economies based on job creation, wage growth and high-tech innovation. For the first time, the 2021 criteria also considered broadband access and housing affordability to hold cities accountable to providing a more inclusive economy. 

Shifts to remote work during COVID-19 resulted in U.S. residents relocating away from pricier cities to ones that are more affordable. An Oliver Wyman Forum survey found that 2% of respondents have permanently or temporarily relocated because of COVID-19, while another 14% are planning to relocate or leaning toward doing so. These less-populated cities may be better positioned to prosper after the pandemic, with a higher chance of attracting companies, capital and citizens.

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