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Vietnam Records Highest Growth in Asia So Far This Year

Source: Natixis, Bloomberg

Note: Countries on x-axis as follows: Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, China, Hong Kong

Vietnam GDP grew nearly 4% in Q1 2020 — representing the highest growth among all Asian countries. This is due in part to its swift response to the COVID-19 crisis and avoidance of a prolonged lockdown, according to a report from Natixis. Vietnam experienced zero reported deaths from COVID-19 and only minor supply chain disruption. The report’s authors even predict the country will be able to avoid a recession in 2020.

Although COVD-19 emphasized Vietnam’s resilience in a time of disruption, the country could encounter challenges in the long-term from its weak domestic capacity to access global value chains and its dependency on China to fuel its export operations, the report says. 

However, the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), ratified in June 2020, represents a massive opportunity for Vietnam, with its exports to the EU growing 11% year-over-year, and will further boost the county’s presence as a leader among its Asian neighbors. The report’s authors expect this trade deal to secure Vietnam’s “status in Southeast Asia as a trade and investment friendly hub to the world.”

Europe Outperforms the US in Boardroom Gender Diversity

Europe Outperforms the US in Boardroom Gender Diversity

Europe has done a better job working to bring more women into boardrooms than the U.S. has, according to an analysis done by Bloomberg. Almost 37% of board seats in Stoxx Europe 600 companies were held by women last month, compared to 30% of directors in S&P 500 companies.

The average number of female directors in Europe was at four in August, compared with an average board size of 11. The Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index rose 2.3% in August, marginally underperforming the MSCI World Index, which was up 2.5%.

As companies look to improve their environmental, social and governance efforts, boardrooms are feeling the pressure to diversify their gender representation — and it appears that government regulation can be effective. According to Angela Berg, global diversity and inclusion consulting leader at Mercer, “more nations, especially in Europe, have implemented gender quotas for senior executives and boards, so they can benefit from more diverse points of view, drive change and enhance awareness of workplace gender issues.”

The Countries Where the Pandemic Has Lowered the Cost of Living

Note: Index shows estimated average expenses for a four-person family. The Rent Index estimates for renting one- and three-bedroom apartments in and outside of the city center.

Turkey, Colombia and Costa Rica are the top OECD countries that saw the biggest drops in cost of living between 2019 to 2021, according to BRINK analysis of numbers provided by online quality-of-life database Numbeo. 

While this may seem like a good thing, all three countries have struggling economies, which may explain the lower cost of living. Turkey is battling inflation and a weak currency, Colombia has crime and oil crises and Costa Rica is struggling with an impact on tourism.

Among the top 10 countries with higher index scores, South Korea, Germany and the United States have seen their rankings fall throughout the past 18 months. These are examples of countries that have done well economically throughout the pandemic. South Korea has seen exports rise 16.7% in 2021; Germany’s economy is forecasted to grow 3.1% this year; and the United States’ economy has shown relative resilience throughout the pandemic.

Insurer Premiums Are Aligning to Net-Zero Targets

Several major insurers and reinsurers are committing to transitioning their underwriting portfolios to net-zero by 2050, as part of the newly formed Net-Zero Insurance Alliance (NZIA). 

Launched in July 2021, NZIA includes eight institutions with over $400 billion in gross written insurance premiums and $130 billion in gross written reinsurance premiums. These figures account for 22% and 59% of global gross written insurance and reinsurance premiums among listed carriers, respectively. 

The reinsurance sector is highly concentrated. Consequently, net-zero commitments among a small number of the largest reinsurers place the reinsurance sector some way ahead of the insurance sector. In turn, this is expected to increase pressure on insurers to align their underwriting portfolios with net-zero. Over time, those that do not may find it harder to cede risks to net-zero-aligned reinsurers. 

How the Pandemic Affected the Non-Insured Population

Rates for those without health insurance in the U.S. remained relatively stable in 2020, according to data from the Census Bureau, analyzed by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Results show that 10.2%, or 27.4 million nonelderly people, were uninsured throughout 2020, a 400,000 increase from 2018.

The uninsured rate among nonelderly non-Hispanic Black people increased from 10.5% in 2018 to 11.7% in 2020, while the rate for Asian people decreased from 7.7% in 2018 to 6.4% in 2020. Although a majority of those insured were covered by their employer’s insurance, the 41.3% that weren’t shows a need for personalized health care plans.

Eugene Sayan, founder of Softheon, a cloud-based health insurance exchange and service provider, predicts a sea change in health care. “There’s a great opportunity to break down this macroeconomy around health care under the pillars of Medicaid, Medicare, the marketplace and commercial,” says Sayan. “What we’re going to start to see is consumers, individuals, empowerment taking so many different shapes.”

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