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World Bank: Coronavirus Exacerbating Poverty in Southeast Asia

Source: World Bank, East Asia and Pacific in the Time of COVID-19

As many as 24 million fewer people will escape poverty in Southeast Asia this year as a result of the unprecedented economic shocks caused by the coronavirus. And that’s only the baseline estimate from the World Bank’s latest report on the region; its worst-case scenario has the number of impoverished people in East Asia and the Pacific rising by 11 million.

The impact varies per sector, with households reliant on the manufacturing sector for income to be hit the hardest. “Poverty rates could double among households in Vietnam linked to manufacturing reliant on imported inputs and in some Pacific Islands where tourism is an important source of employment,” the report reads.

The report points to the effective containment measures in Singapore and South Korea — which limited the economic disruptions from the crisis — as role models for other Asian countries to follow. “The sooner other countries create such containment capacity, the sooner they can end the economic pain caused by stringent suppression measures.”

Food Production Is Pushing the Climate Target Out of Reach

Source: Our World in Data

Food production alone could cause the world to miss its 1.5 degree Celsius climate target even if countries stop burning fossil fuels immediately. Along with energy, food production is one of the biggest contributors to global greenhouse emissions — one-quarter to one-third of emissions come from food systems.

Our World in Data identified five ways to reduce emissions from the food industry: adopting a plant-based diet; consuming healthy calories; limiting food waste; and improving crop yields and farming practices. Shifting to a plant-based diet would lead to the biggest reduction in emissions. If these practices were fully adopted by 2050, the world would see net negative emissions.

Both consumers and producers have significant roles to play in reducing food emissions that involve legislation, investment and creating better policies. Although fully incorporating these five methods into daily activity could be difficult, the changes would lead to “a global food system that is more productive, has a lower environmental impact, and provides a healthy, nutritious diet for everyone.”

Many Americans Still Lack Household Internet Access

Source: Pew Research Center

Forty-three percent of people with a household income of $30,000 or less do not have internet access at home, whereas ninety-three percent of households earning $100,000 or more have internet access, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

This digital divide is persistent in the United States, creating a barrier to digital information, education and products and services for lower-income Americans. Early this year, 27% of lower-income adults had access to a smartphone but did not have broadband internet at home — a 12% increase in eight years. Meanwhile, only 6% of households earning $100,000 or more were categorized in this group.

COVID-19 exposed disparities in online access in the U.S. as daily activities, like work and school, were abruptly moved online. Families with lower incomes faced a greater challenge to make the transition since they rely more heavily on mobile devices and often lack reliable high-speed internet. As remote work and education become more permanent, new technologies, like 5G, will need to be accessible to everyone “through early investments and targeted deployments” to prevent future economic and academic gaps.

Metal Prices Soar As Economies Recover

Source: International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Global industrial metal prices reached a nine-year high in May, with a 72% increase compared to pre-pandemic levels. Of the metals reviewed, the price of copper is up 89% year-over-year, iron ore is up 116% and nickel is up by 41%, according to the IMF.

Four factors contributed to metals’ soaring prices: manufacturing activity, supply chain disruptions, storability and a push for a greener economic recovery. Many mining operations temporarily paused due to COVID restrictions, and freight rates for transportation of bulk materials reached a 10-year high — both attributing to the cost of metals. 

Market predictions indicate that industrial metal prices will rise a further 50% YoY; however, prices are then expected to decrease by 4% in 2022. As the U.S. and EU introduce high-scale infrastructure projects, demand for copper, iron ore and other industrial metals could spike to accommodate a quicker energy transition. 

Pandemic Policies Leave Societies Divided

Source: Pew Research Center

Over sixty percent of the publics surveyed feel their countries are more divided now than prior to the pandemic. Among 17 advanced economies, more people in the U.S. (88%) felt increased division compared to any other country, followed by the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. Only 34% of countries surveyed feel more united this year, according to Pew Research Center.

Those with negative views of the economy are more likely to report societal division. Attitudes about COVID-related restrictions also affect the public’s sense of division: Those who believe there should have been fewer restrictions are more likely to agree that society has grown more divided. 

As economies recover this summer and vaccine distributions continue, 75% of respondents have confidence that their health care system can handle future global health emergencies, but a median of 65% continue to feel the day-to-day impact of COVID-19 a great deal.

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