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What To Expect From This Week’s Belt and Road Summit

On Wednesday, Hong Kong will host a two-day Belt and Road Summit. We asked Alicia Garcia-Herrero, a regular BRINK contributor on the Chinese economy, what to expect:

“This summit comes at an interesting time for China, Hong Kong and the world. Hong Kong is embroiled in a huge identity crisis, which has generated social unrest and weakened its economy. In addition, the global image of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been worsening quite rapidly, including in Hong Kong, at the same time in which China has had to confront an increasingly aggressive US administration on import tariffs and beyond.

The Chinese leadership is increasingly aware of the high cost of China’s deteriorating global image. This has prompted them to change gears in their strategy. At the BRI summit in Beijing in April, China turned to the rest of the world for help to improve infrastructure and connectivity at a global scale. While embryonic, the call for a more multilateral model for BRI is good news for this summit.”

A Healthy Diet Is Out of Reach for 3 Billion People

Source: Food Prices for Nutrition project, Tufts University; Map: The Conversation

Three billion people couldn’t afford to purchase the cheapest healthy foods before the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest available data from 2017 shows that around 40% of the global population resorts to poor-quality diets due to high food prices and low incomes.

Many healthy foods are consistently more expensive than starchy products, oil and sugar. Most of the world’s poorest countries — like in Africa and South Asia — cannot afford ingredients for healthy meals even if they spend their entire income on food. Meanwhile, the 60% of the global population that can  afford these healthy ingredients don’t always choose to — either because they want to avoid longer cooking times, or they are drawn to unhealthy foods through advertising and marketing tactics.

Global food prices reached a 10-year high during the pandemic, but prices started to decline in June — still 25% more expensive than the 2014-2016 average. Governments and NGOs are working to make food more accessible through technological advancements in agriculture, safety net and educational programs and more higher-paying jobs. 

Most Countries Doubt Future Generations’ Earning Potential

Source: Pew Research Center

Majority of the public in 17 countries surveyed believe that their children will be in a worse financial situation than their generation. A median 32% of those surveyed by Pew Research Center disagree. 

Respondents who have a poorer view of how the pandemic was handled by their government, or who had their own life affected by COVID-19, are more likely to have a negative view on their children’s future. France and Japan have the highest percentages of those who believe their children will be financially worse off at 77%, while the public in Singapore and Sweden are more positive about their kids’ prospects. 

A 2020 study found that the loss of early childhood development could majorly damage income potential and productivity over the younger generation’s lifetime. Education-related funding is predicted to increase this year as schools ensure that sanitary supplies are present to properly enforce in-person, COVID-safety standards and eliminate further school closures.

Electricity Demand Could Drive Record CO2 Emissions

Source: International Energy Agency

Carbon emissions produced by the energy sector will grow by 3.5% this year and by 2.5% in 2022, taking emissions to record levels. Almost half of this increase in electricity demand will come from fossil fuels that could push carbon dioxide emissions in the energy sector to record levels in the next two years. 

Coal is expected to increase by almost 5% this year and an additional 3% in 2022, according to the IEA. Although renewable energy is expected to grow by 8% this year and 6% in 2022, IEA states that, “renewables will only be able to meet around half the projected increase in global electricity demand over those two years.”

In 2020, electricity demand fell by 1% due to less social and economic activity and extreme weather-related outages. Electricity demand is expected to rise by 5% this year and 4% in 2022, driven in part by global economic recovery. To improve the energy sector’s resilience, IEA states that “power systems need not only to maintain system adequacy but also to be flexible enough to balance supply and demand at all times.”

Majority of US Employees Support Employer Vaccine Mandates

Source: Morning Consult

Fifty-eight percent of American employees support employer vaccine mandates. A June survey shows that baby boomers, millennials and men express the most support in companies requiring vaccines.   

Over 40% of respondents say they already have an in-person workplace structure, but 12% of workers say they would prefer to never physically return to the office. Women and Generation X were the largest groups to express a lack of interest in an in-person workplace. Many women have had to reprioritize their time since early 2020 to care for children or help guide them through remote education, ultimately setting them back in the job market.

Although employee uncertainty around returning to work appears to be declining, Morning Consult found that most employees want to have a say in the outcome. Forty-six percent expressed that if they are unhappy or feel unsafe about their company’s plan, they would consider quitting. A hybrid workplace is the favorable option for most — 75% plan to continue working remotely one to four days per week.

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