Friday news roundup January 8, 2021
The Covid-19 pandemic could help to reverse Italy’s brain drain. Italy’s poor job market, high unemployment, excessive bureaucracy, and limited prospects for advancement draw many Italian graduates abroad every year. With Romania and Poland, it sits among the countries of Europe with the highest numbers of workers living abroad and it is estimated that this brain drain is costing the country 14 billion euro a year. But, in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic forced employees around the world to work from home, many young Italians chose to go all the way home to Italy to work. Italy’s foreign ministry says the number of Italians aged 18 to 34 returning home increased by 20% over 2019. It is questionable whether those who have made the move will stay once the world opens back up again, and economists have noted that although they are spending their salaries in Italy, they are still benefiting foreign businesses with their skills and foreign economies with their taxes.
Electric car sales in Norway have outstripped those powered by other means. Electric cars have risen to a record 54% market share in Norway, leading to it being the first country in the world where sales of electric cars have surpassed those powered by petrol, diesel, and hybrid engines. Volkswagen has also replaced Tesla as the top battery vehicle maker there. Norway exempts fully electric vehicles from taxes that other vehicles incur as it is attempting to be the first nation to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars (by 2025). The head of the Norwegian EV Association, Christina Bu, expects electric cars to surpass 65% of the market in 2021. By contrast, cars with diesel-only engines have fallen from a peak of 75.7% of the overall Norwegian market in 2011 to just 8.6% in 2020.
Young Chinese employees are rebelling against the country’s hard work ethic. It has been reported that some of China’s Generation Z are setting their own rules in the workplace by encouraging a growing philosophy of being lazy, which they call “touching fish” (from the Chinese proverb “muddy waters make it easy to catch fish”). They are refusing to work overtime, delivering average work, going to the toilet frequently and staying there for a long time, playing with their mobile phones, and reading novels at work. They claim it is a silent rebellion against the strong overtime culture in the country. Jennifer Feng, chief human resources officer at leading job-hunting website, 51job.com, says it is common for young people on low incomes to slack at work. She says that while many workers born in the 1970s and 1980s follow the traditional spirit of enduring hardship, those born in the 1990s place a higher priority on their own interests and other personal benefits.
Climate change is turning cities into ovens. A new model estimates that by 2100, cities across the world could warm as much as 4.4 degrees Celsius. The urban heat-island effect means that buildings and roads absorb the sun’s energy and release it well into the night, whereas in rural areas, by contrast, greenery provides shade and cools the air by releasing water. Urban areas may make up just 3% of the planet’s land surface, but even this small area will mean countries struggle to reach the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal of limiting the global average temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. Hotter cities could be catastrophic for urban public health. According to the World Health Organization, extreme heat claimed more than 166,000 lives between 1998 and 2017. Currently, half the world’s population lives in urban areas, but this proportion is expected to rise to 70% by 2050, according to the researchers behind the model.