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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.

Climate Change Causes Heat Waves in India and Pakistan

Extreme heat waves have engulfed India and Pakistan since March, with temperatures rising to up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius), according to NASA. The temperatures, which are higher than average, are a result of climate change.

The effects of the heat waves include death, illness, reduced crop yields, poor air quality, and one of the worst electricity shortages in more than six years as power demands go up. While heat waves are common in the region this time of year, the number of spring heat waves has been increasing as global warming intensifies.

The deadly heat waves have also caused India — the world’s second-largest wheat producer — to ban wheat exports. India initially planned to fill the gap left by Ukraine and Russia, which together export more than a quarter of the world’s wheat. This and other factors have driven up global food prices — agricultural prices are up 41% compared to January 2021, with wheat prices up by 60%.

Russian Invasion Hurts Trade with Europe and Asia

Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine will particularly affect the economies of neighboring countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, a new analysis by Statista shows. Both regions are more heavily dependent on Russia for trade in terms of GDP than other partners, like China (which imported $57 billion in Russian goods in 2020) or the U.K. ($24.5 billion in imports).

Belarus is the country most dependent on Russian exports, with nearly half of its imports coming from Russia (49.6%) — nearly 50% of its GDP. Armenia is a distant second, with Russian trade equivalent to 17% of its GDP. Neither Belarus nor Armenia voted in support of the March U.N. resolution to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Sudan, which imports Russian weapons, wheat, seed oils and oil, is the only country with a significant share of GDP impacted that is not from Eastern Europe or Central Asia.

The crisis in Ukraine is estimated to set back economic recovery from the pandemic, potentially causing a recession in Europe. Ukraine’s economy is forecast to contract by 35% as a result of its attacks, while Russia’s could decline by 8.5%.

US Concerns Over Conflict in Ukraine Grow

More than half of Americans (59%) are concerned that Russia will invade other countries besides Ukraine, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. Going into its third month, the crisis in Ukraine has led to an exodus of millions of Ukrainian refugees, accusations of war crimes by Russian troops, and disruption of trade and supply chains.

Over half of Americans (57%) also believe that the conflict will continue for a long time, while 55% believe that Russia will defeat or take over Ukraine. Half of Americans (50%) say they are extremely or very concerned that U.S. or NATO involvement would lead to a war between the U.S. and Russia. 

In late April, President Biden proposed military and economic aid to Ukraine. Fewer Americans now say the U.S. isn’t doing enough to support Ukraine than they did in March, with 31% saying the country isn’t doing enough — down from 42%. 

Americans’ Net Worth Increases at Record Pace

The vast majority of Americans are better off now than they were before the pandemic, but that wealth is distributed unevenly, writes financial economist D. Brian Blank.

Americans overall saw record gains in their personal finances, which increased by over $18 trillion in 2021, thanks in large part to government aid during the pandemic. Billionaires saw the greatest increase in their wealth, driven largely by gains in their stock holdings and businesses. The richest 1% saw their wealth increase by $6.7 trillion in 2021, while just $1.5 trillion went to the bottom 50% of Americans.

But the bottom half of Americans saw their wealth grow at the fastest pace, jumping by 64% in 2021 — the biggest calendar-year growth of any group since 1988. These changes were mostly due to gains in real estate assets, which increased in value faster than mortgage debts during the pandemic. Overall, this gain hasn’t changed the U.S. wealth gap: The bottom half of Americans owned 5.5% of the country’s assets before 2020, and at the end of 2021, they owned 5.9%. 

The increase in Americans’ net worth also hasn’t erased the racial wealth gap. Most of these income gains went to white Americans, whose net worth rose by $14.5 trillion. Black Americans gained $1.3 trillion, and Hispanic Americans gained $683 billion.

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