Data points

Published July 19, 2021
A worker wearing a face mask is seen sewing ice-skating shoes at a manufacturing factory in the ice and snow sports equipment industry park in Zhangjiakou in northwestern China’s Hebei province. China’s economic growth slowed to a still-strong 7.9pc over a year earlier in the three months ending in June as a rebound from the coronavirus levelled off.—AP
A worker wearing a face mask is seen sewing ice-skating shoes at a manufacturing factory in the ice and snow sports equipment industry park in Zhangjiakou in northwestern China’s Hebei province. China’s economic growth slowed to a still-strong 7.9pc over a year earlier in the three months ending in June as a rebound from the coronavirus levelled off.—AP

Acting like a spy agency

There’s an organisation where children of employees have to sign nondisclosure agreements before attending company parties and where a parent had to explain to his 8-year-old that she couldn’t exchange Pokémon with friends because the boss forbids her from connecting her Nintendo Switch to the internet. When he goes to work, that same father has to leave his made-to-order suit, luxury French watch, and classy leather shoes in the closet, donning a $9 Uniqlo T-shirt and jeans to blend in with the crowd near the office. This organisation isn’t an underground criminal group or an intelligence agency — it’s Payward Inc., the San Francisco-based company established in 2011 to operate the cryptocurrency exchange Kraken, which investors now value at $10bn. Its chief security officer says ransomware attacks often start with cybercriminals digging up personal information about employees online and using it to tailor phishing emails containing malicious software. Payward’s guiding principle is that a lax security mindset in one’s private life bleeds over to work.

(Adapted from “One Crypto Exchange Is Going to Extreme Lengths on Cybersecurity,” by Takashi Mochizuki and Yuki Furukawa, published on June 8, 2021, by Bloomberg Businessweek)

Delaying motherhood

Women across the US are delaying motherhood. For decades, delaying parenthood was the domain of upper-middle-class Americans, especially in big, coastal cities. Highly educated women put off having a baby until their careers were on track, often until their early 30s. But over the past decade, as more women of all social classes have prioritised education and career, delaying childbearing has become a broad pattern among American women almost everywhere. The result has been the slowest growth of the American population since the 1930s, and a profound change in American motherhood. Women under 30 have become much less likely to have children. Since 2007, the birthrate for women in their 20s fell by 28pc, and the biggest recent declines were among unmarried women. The only age groups in which birthrates rose over that period were women in their 30s and 40s — but even those began to decline over the past three years. According to a geographic analysis of Myers’s data, the birthrate is falling fastest in places with the greatest job growth — where women have more incentive to wait.

(Adapted from “Why American Women Everywhere Are Delaying Motherhood,” by Sabrina Tavernise, Claire Cain Miller, Quoctrung Bui and Robert Gebeloff, published on June 16, 2021, by The New York Times)

Betting big on electric vehicles

General Motors is betting big on electric vehicles, with 30 cars coming out in the next five years. A battery-powered Hummer pickup truck. Mary Barra, chief executive officer of GM, loved the idea from the moment she heard it. What better way to assure sceptical buyers that the company’s coming raft of electric vehicles won’t be just geeky science projects. At a meeting in March 2019, Barra quickly asked chief engineer Josh Tavel how much time it would take to get the electric Hummer out the door. The usual four years, he responded. That was big carmakers’ age-old gestation period for getting a new model from a designer’s sketch pad to dealer showrooms. But it wouldn’t do for Barra, who’s decided to make battery power the core of the company’s strategy. “I’m thinking 2021,” she said. Thus began what could mark the genesis of the most transformative makeover of GM since legendary Chairman Alfred P. Sloan concocted the idea of differently priced car brands to suit different types of buyers.

(Adapted from “GM’s $27 Billion Electric Bet Begins With Bad-Boy Hummer Truck,” by David Welsh, published on Dec 17, 2020, by Bloomberg Businessweek)

Emerging richer from the pandemic

US household net worth ballooned by $25.6tr in the 12 months ended March 31, bringing the total to $136.9tr. To put the rise in perspective, consider that the average annual increase in the 10 years through 2019 was a measly $5.35tr. It’s a testament to the swift actions by the government and Federal Reserve to support the economy by injecting trillions of dollars into the pockets of consumers and into the financial system. There’s a very important wrinkle to all this, which is that income inequality has become greater over time, resulting in what has become known as the “K-shaped” recovery. There’s strong evidence that the increase in household net worth has been concentrated at the upper end.

(Adapted from “The Most Important Number Of The Week Is $25.6 Trillion,’ by Robert Burgess, published on June 12, 2021, by Bloomberg Opinion)

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, July 19th, 2021

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