1 Return of the ‘Made in America’ label (Linda Yueh on BBC) Is American manufacturing undergoing a renaissance? Manufacturing jobs have come back in force, and advanced industries are leading the US recovery, according to the Brookings Institution. Since 2010, nearly 800,000 manufacturing jobs have been created, reversing a decade-long trend where the industry lost a staggering one-third of its workers.
Tennessee is leading the revival of manufacturing in America. The home of country music and southern barbecue is now surprisingly being called the new Detroit. The largest car factory in North America, owned by Japanese firm Nissan, is located here and not in Michigan. Nissan recently tripled its workforce in the plant, which exports to over 60 countries around the world.
After decades when production was leaving the US, American companies like Stanley Black & Decker, which has been manufacturing in countries like China, are returning. It recently produced its first power tool in the US in over 25 years. An almost perfect storm of factors is boosting American manufacturing. The shale revolution has lowered energy costs and made the US look competitive again. Rising wages in emerging markets like China is another reason.
But US students don’t see their future in manufacturing. Some want to finance those plants while others say that they aren’t good enough at mathematics to work in advanced industries. They all agree that manufacturing has an image problem – it might have been a good job for their parents’ generation, but it was not for them.
After all, the US economy is almost entirely made up of services like the music industry, restaurants, and banking. Manufacturing accounts for only around 12% of GDP, down from nearly 30% in 1950. De-industrialisation is associated with a loss of good blue-collar jobs, rising inequality and less innovation.
2 Home-owning was a one-generation blip (Danny Dorling in The Guardian) As newspapers rejoice upon learning that the average UK home rose in value by about £22,000 last year, it is about time we recognised that the average young UK family is never going to be able to afford to buy that home. To find out when a home of your own was last as unaffordable as it is today, and to come up with some ways of exploring that new reality, one could do worse than turn towards the UK’s best-housed family: the royals.
Since 1983, the British social attitudes survey has made an annual record of the proportion of people who own a home or who have a mortgage. Back then, Queen Elizabeth was in her late 50s, and only 53% of her contemporaries – those aged 55 to 64 – were homeowners or buyers. When they were young, members of older generations had mostly rented privately or managed to secure a council home. Today we are returning to those times: homes are again too expensive to buy.
Ten years later, in 1993, the majority of people aged 35 to 60 had a mortgage or owned outright. The 1990s appeared to be the start of a home-owning democracy; what no one at the time realised was that it was, in fact, the peak of home ownership.
Ten years later, in 2003 – by the time the Queen’s eldest son, Prince Charles, was aged 55 – about 90% of people his age were living in a home they either owned outright or had a few years left of a mortgage on. Charles had been born slap bang in the middle of the home-owning generation.
Ten years on again, in 2013, the picture is very different. Charles’s eldest son, William, turned 31 in the summer of 2013. Only 36% of his contemporaries had a mortgage by then, with 64% renting. William’s generation is “generation rent”, and there is little sign that this will not be the tenure of the majority of his cohort – for life. Home ownership remains common among older people, but that wealth cannot be passed on in full to younger generations. As people age, they will use up a great deal of their wealth in retirement.
What will happen 10 years on again, when young Prince George of Cambridge turns 10, in the summer of 2023? By then it is possible that a majority of his contemporaries, now young children, will be growing up in social or private rented accommodation. Their parents will have no hope of ever having a home they own.
3 Diets worldwide are worsening (San Francisco Chronicle) There may be more fruit, vegetables and healthy options available than ever before, but the world is mostly hungry for junk food, according to a study of eating habits in nearly 190 countries.
International researchers combed through self-reported diet surveys from 1990 to 2010 and looked at how often people said they ate 17 common foods, drinks and nutrients. Experts found that even though people are eating more healthy foods including whole grains and fish, there has been an even bigger jump in the amount of junk food eaten. The study was paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Britain’s Medical Research Council and published in the journal, Lancet Global Health.
Some of the study’s key findings: Older adults ate better than younger adults and women ate healthier than men. Some of the best nutritional improvements were seen in Mongolia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Countries needing to curb their junk food habits included Bosnia, Armenia and the Dominican Republic.
There was a mixed picture in the US, with increases both in the amount of healthy and unhealthy foods eaten. Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, of the Friedman School of Nutrition at Tufts University said that despite Westerners being among the biggest eaters of junk food, China and India were catching up and that governments should step in. Researchers found in some countries in Africa and Asia, there has been no improvement in their diet during the past 20 years.