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Friday news roundup August 27, 2021

Friday news roundup August 27, 2021

Harvard University appointed a humanist as its new chief chaplain. Greg Epstein, who does not identify with any of the traditional religions, was elected unanimously as president of Harvard University’s chaplains. He will coordinate the campus’ Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and other religious communities. Epstein—the author of Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe—was considered a good choice for the role due to young people’s increasing lack of religiosity. “There is a rising group of people who no longer identify with any religious tradition but still experience a real need for conversation and support around what it means to be a good human and live an ethical life,” Epstein told the New York Times in an interview published on Thursday. 

Read Olga Popova’s IZA World of Labor article, “Does religiosity explain economic outcomes?

Nearly 65,000 Hongkongers have already applied for the BN(O) visa scheme. Following introduction of Hong Kong’s national security law around 64,900 Hongkongers have applied for a new pathway to British citizenship; 47,300 have so far been approved. Of the applications received, 71% were filed from outside Britain, while the rest were made inside the country, according to official figures released on Thursday. The number of applicants for the scheme from April to June—30,600—was down slightly from the 34,300 recorded in the first two months since its launch on January 31. The visa was launched in response to Beijing imposing a new national security law on Hong Kong. The UK government said the law raised human rights concerns and constituted a “clear and serious breach” of the agreement under which Hong Kong was returned to China. Once approved, those eligible and their dependents can live, work, and study in Britain for up to five years, and apply for citizenship after six.

Read curated IZA World of Labor content (articles, commentary, and videos) on migration policy.

Covid-19 vaccine mandates need to be attainable and equitable. The US Food and Drug Administration gave formal approval to the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine this week. In his speech announcing the approval, President Joe Biden said “If you’re a business leader, a non-profit leader, a state or local leader who has been waiting for full FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that—require it.” Around 30% of Americans still need to get vaccinated and if gentle nudges have so far failed, it is though that now might be the time for mandates. Childhood vaccinations and influenza vaccinations for health care workers prove that mandates work. The Department of Defense has since announced Covid-19 vaccines will be added to those already required of service members; Ohio State, the University of Michigan, and the University of Minnesota joined other big universities with mandates in place; and city workforces in Los Angeles and Chicago also came under mandate, and so on. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine in October 2020, academics Saad Omer, Michelle Mello, and Ross Silverman warned that a mandate won’t work until there’s enough vaccine to go around, evidence for the vaccines’ safety has been well-communicated, voluntary uptake is failing to prevent the spread of the virus, and government has removed financial or logistical barriers to obtaining the vaccine. Omer, says that “Right now, those criteria have not been met for the general population.” “But they have been met for health care workers, for universities, and for a large group of employers.”

Find IZA World of labor content on the Covid-19 pandemic.