Europe’s young adults struggle for jobs; Thoughts on being a mediocre employee; Messy Spanish rescue; Long may the SMS reign; India: Licence Raj to Resource Raj

1 Europe’s young adults struggle for jobs (San Francisco Chronicle) Europe’s economic crisis has fuelled a spiralling problem of unemployment among young people, with job seekers aged 15-24 more than twice as likely to be out of work as the average European. Policymakers and experts are warning that a growing number of them could remain locked out of the economy for years to come, posing a long-term challenge to growth and raising questions about the fundamental health of the continent’s labour force.

Across the European Union, youth unemployment has skyrocketed from 15.1% in December 2007 to 22.6% this March, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the statistical arm of wealthy countries. In Italy and Ireland, roughly one in three people aged 15-24 is looking for work; in Spain and Greece it’s one in two. In the United Kingdom and France the rate is close to the continent-wide average, but that represents a sharp rise for Britain, where it was 13.6% in 2007.

With almost 1 million young Britons classified as NEETs – not in education, employment or training programs – there are growing worries for “a generation that has really become lost and has not been on the radar,” said Betty Campbell of Leap, a charity that promotes job skills among underprivileged groups. The figures aren’t merely academic. Last summer, London was struck by its worst riots in nearly two decades after police shots and killed a black man in Tottenham, in north London. Although the unrest began as a response to what protesters called harsh police tactics, many experts said it also was a direct result of high unemployment rates and widespread deprivation, primarily in black communities.

2 Thoughts on being a mediocre employee (The New York Times) This is based on a blog statement, and it illustrates the huge difference in perspective that can exist between the owners of companies and their employees. Here is the comment: There is nothing wrong with being an average (mediocre) employee. Not everyone aspires to be in management. If the person meets the requirements of their current job, and they like the job and want to stay in the job, so be it. Stop trying to force people to get to the next level. The reality is that work is not the most important thing in everyone’s lives. Work is simply a means to get the money we need to pay the mortgage and our other bills. As long as I am meeting the requirements of my job, than that is good enough. Don’t expect any more of me because I will not be a slave to any company. — Jo-Ann Youngblood, Tulsa, OK.

I get it, Ms. Youngblood. And I agree with much of what you say, including this: Stop trying to force people to the next level. We would have a big problem if everyone wanted to move into management. The difference between you and most people, I believe, is that you know you are a mediocre employee. In fact, you defend it. Good for you. And I certainly agree that no one needs to be a “slave” to a company. But I have rights, too. As the owner of a business, I have the right to avoid hiring someone who only wants to do the bare minimum to get a paycheck. In fact, if I hire too many people with that attitude, I will be out of business. This is Capitalism 101, survival of the fittest. I operate in a very competitive market.

But don’t worry, I will take your advice and not expect any more of you. If you are happy, I am happy. While I appreciate your honesty and perspective, I will hope to avoid people who share your attitude, both as an employer and as a customer.

3 Economy fears pull down oil (BBC) Oil prices dropped to $98.06 in London – their lowest in 17-months on fears of waning economic growth in China. US benchmark oil price was also lower, falling to 1.4% to $82 in early trade before recovering to $84.10. Brent crude bounced back in later trading to $99.47, but is still more than 25% below its March peak. The fall comes as traders bet on reduced demand from Chinese factories with eurozone woes adding extra pressure. The world’s biggest exporter of crude oil, Saudi Arabia, started to scale back shipments in June.

4 Messy Spanish rescue (Robert Peston on BBC) Lenders to financially over-stretched eurozone banks and governments are likely to be encouraged by the signal from the governments of the eurozone that they will provide 100bn euros (£81bn) of finance to recapitalise – or strengthen – weaker Spanish banks. But the extent of any restoration of confidence may be muted, until we know the terms attached to the emergency loans and where precisely the money is coming from.

An important issue point is whether the rescue funds will come from the European Financial Stability Facility, the temporary bailout fund that is being wound down, or its permanent replacement, the European Stability Mechanism. If the money were to come from the ESM, existing and future commercial lenders to the Spanish government would rank behind eurozone governments in the event that Spain was unable to repay all its debts in full.

So this means that the perceived quality of private-sector loans to the Spanish government would deteriorate – which, in theory, would have the perverse effect of making it harder and more expensive for Spain to borrow from conventional sources. An ESM bailout would classify Spain as a second-class borrower in a formal sense, and actually delay its rehabilitation.

5 Long may the SMS reign (Johannesburg Times) The greatest communication mechanism in the world is arguably still SMS – the short message service sent over cellphones. SMS works across all phones and works well. It might be the most expensive messaging method, however, because network operators still charge disproportionately more for texts than it costs them to deliver them. But it works, often when nothing else does, and is a lifeline of communication in some of the poorest areas of the world. Mobile operators are predicted to earn $722.7-billion in SMS revenues between 2011 and 2016, according to Informa Telecoms & Media.

One of the most remarkable communications platforms is FrontlineSMS, which lets grassroots users and NGOs communicate by SMS. It was founded by Ken Banks after a trip to the Kruger National Park in 2004 and has since gone global. It has a number of spin-off projects aimed at providing educational, legal and medical advice, and offers mobile money management.

The ubiquity of SMS means other services can be built on top of it, such as the mobile payment system that has become synonymous with Kenya’s mobile success, M-Pesa. New communication technologies have always brought great change to the world. It started with the printing press, the telegraph and the telephone. They were the analogue precursors to the telephone network, the internet and now cellphones. They are evolving into smartphones but the vast majority of people still use them for their primary functions: voice calls and text messaging. SMS is still the king of communication. Long may it reign.

6 Arab world needs to create 75m jobs (Khaleej Times) In the coming decade, the Arab world will need to create a staggering 75 million jobs, an increase of 40% more than currently exist to keep pace with the young and fast-growing population set to enter the workforce. However, with the substantial jobs-skills mismatch currently plaguing the region, this much-needed rise in employment may not be achievable.

A study carried out by management consulting firm, Booz & Company, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), has identified various ways in which large employers can decrease the Arab World’s youth unemployment rate now at an average of 24.9%. According to the World Bank data, the six GCC states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE) have some of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world, as high as 40% among certain age groups. More than half of the region’s population is under 25 years.

7 Google, Apple can catch you sunbathing (Straits Times) Google and Apple have utilised spy planes that are able to capture sunbathers in their back gardens and are in the process of producing aerial maps so detailed they can show up objects just 10.16cm wide, the online Daily Mail reported. However, campaigners say the technology is a sinister development that brings the surveillance society a step closer. Google admits it has already sent planes over cities while Apple has acquired a firm using spy-in-the-sky technology that has been tested on at least 20 locations, including London. Apple’s military-grade cameras are understood to be so powerful they could potentially see into homes through skylights and windows. The technology is similar to that used by intelligence agencies in identifying terrorist targets in Afghanistan.

8 Do humans carry expiry dates? (The Wall Street Journal) After celebrating her 60th year on the throne in style this past week, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II can now look forward to breaking some more records. She is already, at 86, Britain’s oldest monarch (were she to die now, her son would immediately be the 12th oldest). On Sept. 10, 2015, she would pass Queen Victoria to become the longest-reigning monarch in British history. To beat Louis XIV (who succeeded to the throne at the age of 4) for the longest reign in European history, she would have to live to 98.

Elizabeth II is still going strong, but the maximum human lifespan isn’t rising at anything like the rate of average life expectancy, which is rushing upward globally at the rate of about three months a year. The oldest woman in the world, Besse Cooper, a retired schoolteacher in Georgia, will be 116 on Aug. 26, according to the Gerontology Research Group, an organization that studies aging issues. That’s a great age, but it’s a hefty six years short of the record: 122 years and 164 days, set by Jeanne Calment of France in 1997.

That’s a long time, considering that there are now nearly a half million centenarians alive in the world. That number has been going up 7% a year, but the number of those over 115 is not increasing. There is perhaps no limit to the number of people who can reach 90 or 100, but getting more than a handful of people past 120 may never be possible, and 150 is probably unattainable, absent genetic engineering—even for a monarch.

9 India: Licence Raj to Resource Raj (Raghuram Rajan in Mint) Emerging markets around the world – Brazil, China, India, and Russia, to name the largest – are slowing. One reason is that they continue to be dependent, directly or indirectly, on exports to advanced industrial countries. Slow growth there, especially in Europe, is economically depressing. Hardest to understand, though, is why India is underperforming so much relative to its potential. For a country as poor as India, growth should be what Americans call a “no-brainer.” It is largely a matter of providing public goods: basic infrastructure like roads, bridges, ports, and power, as well as access to education and basic health care.

Satisfying the demand for such goods is itself a source of growth. For a few years, the momentum created by previous reforms, together with strong global growth, carried India forward. Politicians saw little need to vote for further reforms, especially those that would upset powerful vested interests. But, while politicians spent the growth dividend on poorly targeted giveaways such as subsidized petrol and cooking gas, the need for further reform only increased. As demand for land and land prices increased, corruption became rampant. India’s corrupt elites had moved from controlling licenses to cornering newly valuable resources like land. The Resource Raj rose from the ashes of the License Raj.

As with the other major emerging markets, India’s fate is in its own hands. If its politicians can take a few steps to show that they can overcome narrow partisan interests to establish the more transparent and efficient government that a middle-income country needs, they could quickly re-energize India’s enormous engines of potential growth. Otherwise, India’s youth, their hopes and ambitions frustrated, could decide to take matters into their own hands.

10 International Herald Tribune cartoon on Queen Elizabeth completing 60 years on the throne: ‘At this age, she must have known the Rolling Stones’.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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