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May 10, 2019

Friday news roundup May 10, 2019

Friday news roundup May 10, 2019

Early indications are that the ruling African National Congress will win the South African election, but with a smaller majority. Partial results released by the country’s electoral commission reveal the ANC to have secured over 57% of the national vote. Support for the party, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, which has held power since the fall of apartheid and has recently experienced corruption scandals, is, however, falling. In 2004 the ANC won almost 70% of the vote, in 2009, 66%, and in 2014, 62%. The result means it will be more difficult for the party to enact its agenda—including bolstering a flagging South African economy. The partial results show the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, led by Mmusi Maimane, trailing with just under 22% of the vote. Official results are expected on Saturday.

The US failed to sign a new Arctic accord due to wording that described climate change as a serious threat to the region. Representatives of the eight nations that border the Arctic left a meeting of the Arctic Council this week without a signed agreement for the first time since the council was formed in 1996. Climate change is rapidly changing the Arctic, with melting ice opening up new shipping lanes and making it easier to explore oil and gas reserves as well as mine various useful metals. Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini said in a statement that “A majority of us regarded climate change as a fundamental challenge facing the Arctic and acknowledged the urgent need to take mitigation and adaptation actions and to strengthen resilience.” US officials told Reuters they were hesitant to sign the final version of the agreement as a result of actions by China and Russia to assert rights over resources and trade routes. Instead of an agreement, representatives signed a statement committing each to sustainable development and protection of the Arctic.

Research from Spain might suggest that more paternity leave leads to men wanting fewer children. In 2007, Spain started granting new fathers two weeks of fully paid paternity leave; 55% of those eligible took the leave in the first year. Studying the effects of the policy, Researchers from the Universities of Barcelona and Pompeu Fabra found differences in the outcomes of families that had children just before and just after the program began. Eligible families were found to be less likely to have more children in the future. After two years, parents who were eligible for the program were 7–15% less likely to have another child than parents who had missed the eligibility cutoff. Whilst the researchers acknowledge that it is impossible to draw sweeping conclusions, they think that spending more time with their children—or the prospect of having to do so—may have made men more aware of the effort and costs associated with childrearing, and, “shifted their preferences from child quantity to quality.” Interestingly, at the same time, women started showing preferences for having larger families—a sign, perhaps, that having more children is more desirable when the balance of labor at home is more equal.

The US-China trade deal continues to escalate. The US raised tariffs today on Chinese goods from 10% to 25% in what has been described as a damaging trade war that could destabilize the global economy. Beijing promised to retaliate. China’s ministry of commerce said in a statement just after the scheduled tariffs came into effect on Friday morning: “The Chinese side deeply regrets that it will have to take necessary countermeasures.” The increased tariffs only apply to goods leaving China after the deadline and will only come into effect once shipments reach the US, leaving some room for further negotiations.

Read IZA World of Labor articles on trade policy and the environment.