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The UN’s Criteria for Measuring Human Development Has Changed, Affecting Country Rankings

Source: Human Development Report Office 2020

Norway leads the ranking in the latest Human Development Index with a value of 0.957. Norway’s HDI score increased by 12.7% between 1990 and 2019. This most recent report from the United Nations focuses on each country’s progress on environmental issues, including carbon dioxide emissions and material footprint.

With this new focus, more than 50 countries lost their ranking in the very high human development category. However, countries like Costa Rica, Moldova and Panama ascended the ranks, improving their positions by at least 30 places.

The pandemic “offers a glimpse of our future, in which the strain on our planet mirrors the strain facing societies.” The lead author of the report, Pedro Conceição, says that “We are confronting a new reality in the history of humanity and the planet in which our activity is creating a new generation of risks that is curtailing human development.”

Americans Increasingly Doubt the US Housing Market

Source: Gallup

Over 70% of U.S. adults — a record high — expect their local housing prices to increase this year. In April 2020, just 40% of U.S. adults predicted a rise in home prices, according to Gallup. The previous record high of expectations was in 2005 — right before the 2008 economic crisis.

As we approach peak buying season this summer, only 53% of Americans believe that now is the right time to buy a house — a mere three-percentage point increase from last year’s record-low. Demand in the housing market surged during the pandemic, driven by cuts in interest rates and a renewed desire from people to invest in their home life during pandemic-related lockdowns. Yet, the supply of available housing could not keep up with demand, which has led to bidding wars — and houses selling for hundreds of thousands over value. 

85 Countries May Lack Vaccine Protection Through 2023

Source: Our World in Data

Note: COVID-19 doses administered by country income group

More than one billion COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide, but only 0.31% have been administered in low-income countries. In comparison, high-income countries received more than 80% of administered vaccines to date, according to Our World in Data. On this trajectory, about 85 countries will not have vaccine coverage until 2023.

Africa has the slowest vaccination rate of all continents to date. The United Arab Emirates and Israel have administered the most vaccinations, followed by Bahrain and Mongolia. Low-income countries are relying on COVAX, an initiative that is facilitating equitable access to vaccines. 

The worldwide initiative pledged to make two billion vaccine doses available for delivery by the end of 2021. Over 90% of low-income countries asked COVAX for greater vaccination coverage to help protect against new variants. However, COVAX will need more investment and contributions from donor countries and the private sector to speed up vaccine distributions.

Global Food Prices Hit a 10-Year High

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization

Global food prices increased in May to 127.1 points indicating the biggest month-on-month gain in more than a decade. This is 5.8 points higher than in April and 36.1 points above prices recorded the same time last year, according to the FAO Food Price Index, a monthly tracker for changes in global food prices. 

In May, prices for oils, sugar and cereals surged — up 12.7 points, 6.8 points and 7.6 points from April, respectively. Cereal prices especially are on track to reach record highs — FAO is predicting an output of nearly 3 billion tons in 2021, a 1.9% increase from 2020. International maize prices rose the most by 8.8%, reaching 89.3% above their value last year; however, they fell toward the end of the month due to an improved production outlook in the U.S.

The pandemic caused major fluctuations in the food supply chain — from a shortage in workers to price increases in raw materials. As the world starts to reopen, demand from consumers is rebounding quicker than supply itself. As a result, in the past year, grocery bills in the U.S. rose by 7% to 10% compared to pre-COVID bills.

CEO Confidence at Highest Level Since 1976

Source: Conference Board

The level of CEO confidence rose to 82 points in Q2 of 2021 — a 9-point increase from Q1. This is the highest level recorded since 1976, when The Conference Board started measuring CEO confidence. 

In the second quarter, 88% of CEOs believed that economic conditions would improve over the next six months, while 94% of CEOs said that conditions are better compared to six months ago. CEOs are also more hopeful about the state of their own industries, with a 21% increase in optimism in Q2. Over half of CEOs expect to grow their workforce over the next year — up from 47% in Q1. 

The demand to hire has led to difficulty in finding qualified workers. “For CEOs, the challenge is no longer staying afloat, but keeping pace — in particular, with a likely resurgence of the labor shortages experienced before the pandemic,” said vice chairman Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. of The Conference Board. Vaccine distribution is pushing the U.S. economy to pre-pandemic levels, but for businesses to succeed, they will need to consider new workforce demands

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