Friday news roundup November 6, 2020
Japan is to help cover couples’ IVF costs in an attempt to avert a demographic crisis. During his first policy speech in parliament, Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, pledged to cover expensive fertility treatments with health insurance to help tackle the country’s low birth rate. The number of newborns in Japan fell below one million for the first time in 2016 and to a record low of 865,000 in 2019. It has been predicted that this year’s total could be even lower. Experts say the change will do little to address the problem unless it is accompanied by a cultural shift that makes it easier for women to combine work and family life, and for working men to spend more time helping to raise their children.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been deprived of their vote in Myanmar’s forthcoming elections. The UN has warned that the polls will not be free or fair. However, Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN claims that the elections will be free and fair and that all citizens could take part. Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as an indigenous ethnic group even though the community can trace its history in Myanmar back for centuries. More than 730,000 Rohingya fled the country during an army crackdown in 2017 that the UN said had “genocidal intent.” Successive military governments have stripped the Rohingya people of their identity documents, leaving many with no proof of their origins. Rohingya politicians have mostly been barred from contesting the elections and rights groups have accused the authorities of disenfranchising Rohingya voters en masse.
Working from home could revitalize rust belt cities, according to researchers from the University of Essex. At the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, 47% of people in the UK were working from home. It is thought that such a rise in teleworking could end the downward economic spiral of high unemployment and out-migration found in some northern cities after the decline in manufacturing in the UK after the 1970s—if the right conditions are met. The work-from-home potential for UK employees is 32%, while in France, Germany, and Italy it is between 24% and 28%. To maximize the potential for success, the researchers say governments should consider measures that boost training, expand investment in high-speed broadband, and improve transportation links between affected cities and London.
Norway’s Supreme Court hears a constitutional challenge to arctic oil drilling. Environmental groups are arguing that exploratory drilling licenses violate a constitutional right to a healthy environment. Norway’s economy is built around an oil and gas industry that accounts for more than 50% of national exports. The case, which started on Wednesday, is the first climate change litigation to be brought under the Norwegian constitution’s environmental provisions, which were passed in 2014. The litigants say they are suing on behalf of future generations, arguing that approving oil exploration violates human rights conventions because of its contribution to increased carbon emissions, which are a major cause of climate change. The Norwegian government believes it has fulfilled its constitutional duty by compensating for negative effects on the environment in other areas. It is unclear how the judges will rule.