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Global Unemployment Has Reached Lowest Level in a Decade

A new report finds the world’s unemployment rate has dropped to five percent, the lowest level since the global economic crisis in 2008. The International Labor Organization reports the jobs being created, however, are poor quality jobs that keep most of the world’s workers mired in poverty.

Slightly more than 172 million people globally were unemployed in 2018. That is about 2 million less than the previous year. The International Labor Organization expects the global unemployment rate of five percent to remain essentially unchanged over the next few years.

The ILO report — World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2019 — finds a majority of the 3.3 billion people employed throughout the world, though, are working under poor conditions that do not guarantee them a decent living.  

ILO Deputy Director-General for Policy, Deborah Greenfield says many people have jobs that do not offer them economic security, lack material well-being and decent work opportunities.

“These jobs tend to be informal and characterized by low pay, insecurity and little or no access to social protection and rights at work. Worldwide, 2 billion workers, or 61 percent, were in informal employment,” she said.

Over the past 30 years, the report finds a great decline in working poverty in middle-income countries. But the situation remains serious in low- and middle-income countries. The report says one-quarter of those employed there do not earn enough to escape extreme or moderate poverty.  

Regionally, the ILO reports only 4.5 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s working age population is unemployed, with 60 percent employed. ILO Director of Research, Damian Grimshaw, says these good statistics are deceptive.

“In sub-Saharan Africa we find 18 of the top 20 countries with the highest rates of poverty. And they are also the countries with very, very high informal employment. So, higher than 80 percent in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, despite having some of the lowest unemployment rates in the world,” he said. 

Grimshaw says the unemployment rate is not a good measure of labor market performance or economic performance in countries with high rates of informality.

ILO experts also highlight the lack of progress in closing the gender gap in labor force participation. They note only 48 percent of women are working, compared to 75 percent of men.

Another worrying issue is high youth unemployment. The ILO says one in five young people under 25 are jobless and have no skills. It warns this compromises their future employment prospects.

 

 

 

 

 

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Supporters Renew Push for Nationwide Paid Family Leave in US

Democrats pushed on Tuesday for a nationwide paid family leave system in the United States, the only developed nation that does not guarantee pay to workers taking time off to care for children or other relatives.

The proposal would establish a national insurance program to provide workers with up to 12 weeks paid leave per year for the birth of a child, adoption or to care for a seriously ill family member.

The lack of paid family leave takes a particular toll on women who tend to care for children and aging relatives, and the proposed Family Act would bring national policy in line with other countries, supporters say.

The United States is one of only five nations that have no guaranteed paid maternity leave, the other four being Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, according to the World Policy Analysis Center, a research group at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Family leave legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress in previous years but been unsuccessful.

Now, with Democrats controlling the lower House of Representatives and a record 127 women in the House and Senate, it could have a fighting chance, said Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a sponsor of the bill.

“Now we have a majority. We have a real shot at getting this passed, and I am so optimistic we can get this done,” said Gillibrand in a statement.

Gillibrand recently announced her intention to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. Guaranteed paid leave exists in a handful of states but not on the national level.

President Donald Trump has voiced support for six weeks of paid leave but his proposal does not cover care for sick family members.

Opponents say paid leave could be too costly for small businesses to shoulder. Supporters of the Family Act say it could be funded through paycheck deductions at an average weekly cost of $1.50 to workers.

“It’s shameful that America has lagged behind for so long on paid maternity leave,” Toni Van Pelt, head of the National Organization for Women, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The Center for American Progress, a Washington-based policy institute, estimates more than $20 billion in U.S. wages are lost each year due to workers lacking access to paid family and medical leave.

One in every four U.S. mothers returns to work 10 days after giving birth, according to Paid Leave for the United States, a group promoting family leave.

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Supporters Renew Push for Nationwide Paid Family Leave in US

Democrats pushed on Tuesday for a nationwide paid family leave system in the United States, the only developed nation that does not guarantee pay to workers taking time off to care for children or other relatives.

The proposal would establish a national insurance program to provide workers with up to 12 weeks paid leave per year for the birth of a child, adoption or to care for a seriously ill family member.

The lack of paid family leave takes a particular toll on women who tend to care for children and aging relatives, and the proposed Family Act would bring national policy in line with other countries, supporters say.

The United States is one of only five nations that have no guaranteed paid maternity leave, the other four being Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, according to the World Policy Analysis Center, a research group at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Family leave legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress in previous years but been unsuccessful.

Now, with Democrats controlling the lower House of Representatives and a record 127 women in the House and Senate, it could have a fighting chance, said Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a sponsor of the bill.

“Now we have a majority. We have a real shot at getting this passed, and I am so optimistic we can get this done,” said Gillibrand in a statement.

Gillibrand recently announced her intention to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. Guaranteed paid leave exists in a handful of states but not on the national level.

President Donald Trump has voiced support for six weeks of paid leave but his proposal does not cover care for sick family members.

Opponents say paid leave could be too costly for small businesses to shoulder. Supporters of the Family Act say it could be funded through paycheck deductions at an average weekly cost of $1.50 to workers.

“It’s shameful that America has lagged behind for so long on paid maternity leave,” Toni Van Pelt, head of the National Organization for Women, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The Center for American Progress, a Washington-based policy institute, estimates more than $20 billion in U.S. wages are lost each year due to workers lacking access to paid family and medical leave.

One in every four U.S. mothers returns to work 10 days after giving birth, according to Paid Leave for the United States, a group promoting family leave.

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Pentagon Outlines its First Artificial Intelligence Strategy

The U.S. military wants to expand its use of artificial intelligence in warfare, but says it will take care to deploy the technology in accordance with the nation’s values.

 

The Pentagon outlined its first AI strategy in a report released Tuesday.

 

The plan calls for accelerating the use of AI systems throughout the military, from intelligence-gathering operations to predicting maintenance problems in planes or ships. It urges the U.S. to advance such technology swiftly before other countries chip away at its technological advantage.

 

“Other nations, particularly China and Russia, are making significant investments in AI for military purposes, including in applications that raise questions regarding international norms and human rights,” the report says.

 

The report makes little mention of autonomous weapons but cites an existing 2012 military directive that requires humans to be in control.

 

The U.S. and Russia are among a handful of nations that have blocked efforts at the United Nations for an international ban on “killer robots” — fully autonomous weapons systems that could one day conduct war without human intervention. The U.S. has argued that it’s premature to try to regulate them.

 

The strategy unveiled by the Department of Defense this week is focused on more immediate applications, but even some of those have sparked ethical debates.

The Pentagon hit a roadblock in its AI efforts last year after internal protests at Google led the tech company to drop out of Project Maven, which uses algorithms to interpret aerial video images from conflict zones. Other companies have sought to fill the vacuum, and the Pentagon is working with AI experts from industry and academia to establish ethical guidelines for its AI applications.

“Everything we’ve seen is with a human decision-maker in the loop,” said Todd Probert, a vice president at Raytheon’s intelligence division, which is working with the Pentagon on Maven and other projects. “It’s using technology to help speed up the process but not supplant the command structure that’s in place.”

 

The Pentagon’s report follows President Donald Trump’s Monday executive order prioritizing AI research across the government.

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Pentagon Outlines its First Artificial Intelligence Strategy

The U.S. military wants to expand its use of artificial intelligence in warfare, but says it will take care to deploy the technology in accordance with the nation’s values.

 

The Pentagon outlined its first AI strategy in a report released Tuesday.

 

The plan calls for accelerating the use of AI systems throughout the military, from intelligence-gathering operations to predicting maintenance problems in planes or ships. It urges the U.S. to advance such technology swiftly before other countries chip away at its technological advantage.

 

“Other nations, particularly China and Russia, are making significant investments in AI for military purposes, including in applications that raise questions regarding international norms and human rights,” the report says.

 

The report makes little mention of autonomous weapons but cites an existing 2012 military directive that requires humans to be in control.

 

The U.S. and Russia are among a handful of nations that have blocked efforts at the United Nations for an international ban on “killer robots” — fully autonomous weapons systems that could one day conduct war without human intervention. The U.S. has argued that it’s premature to try to regulate them.

 

The strategy unveiled by the Department of Defense this week is focused on more immediate applications, but even some of those have sparked ethical debates.

The Pentagon hit a roadblock in its AI efforts last year after internal protests at Google led the tech company to drop out of Project Maven, which uses algorithms to interpret aerial video images from conflict zones. Other companies have sought to fill the vacuum, and the Pentagon is working with AI experts from industry and academia to establish ethical guidelines for its AI applications.

“Everything we’ve seen is with a human decision-maker in the loop,” said Todd Probert, a vice president at Raytheon’s intelligence division, which is working with the Pentagon on Maven and other projects. “It’s using technology to help speed up the process but not supplant the command structure that’s in place.”

 

The Pentagon’s report follows President Donald Trump’s Monday executive order prioritizing AI research across the government.

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National Debt Hits New Milestone, Topping $22 Trillion

The national debt has passed a new milestone, topping $22 trillion for the first time.

The Treasury Department’s daily statement showed Tuesday that total outstanding public debt stands at $22.01 trillion. It stood at $19.95 trillion when President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20, 2017.

The debt figure has been rising at a faster pace following passage of Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut in December 2017 and action by Congress last year to increase spending on domestic and military programs.

Michael Peterson, head of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, says “our growing national debt matters because it threatens the economic future of every American.”

Peterson said that interest on the national debt already costs more than $1 billion daily, and “as we borrow trillion after trillion, interest costs will weigh on our economy and make it harder to fund important investments for our future.”

The national debt is the total of the annual budget deficits. The Congressional Budget Office projects this year’s deficit will be $897 billion, which would be a 15.1 percent increase over last year’s imbalance of $779 billion. The CBO is projecting that the deficit will keep rising in coming years and will top $1 trillion annually beginning in 2022 and never drop below $1 trillion through 2029. Much of the increase will come from rising costs to fund Social Security and Medicare as baby boomers retire.

The Trump administration contends that its tax cuts will eventually pay for themselves by generating faster economic growth. However, that projection is disputed by many economists.

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National Debt Hits New Milestone, Topping $22 Trillion

The national debt has passed a new milestone, topping $22 trillion for the first time.

The Treasury Department’s daily statement showed Tuesday that total outstanding public debt stands at $22.01 trillion. It stood at $19.95 trillion when President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20, 2017.

The debt figure has been rising at a faster pace following passage of Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut in December 2017 and action by Congress last year to increase spending on domestic and military programs.

Michael Peterson, head of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, says “our growing national debt matters because it threatens the economic future of every American.”

Peterson said that interest on the national debt already costs more than $1 billion daily, and “as we borrow trillion after trillion, interest costs will weigh on our economy and make it harder to fund important investments for our future.”

The national debt is the total of the annual budget deficits. The Congressional Budget Office projects this year’s deficit will be $897 billion, which would be a 15.1 percent increase over last year’s imbalance of $779 billion. The CBO is projecting that the deficit will keep rising in coming years and will top $1 trillion annually beginning in 2022 and never drop below $1 trillion through 2029. Much of the increase will come from rising costs to fund Social Security and Medicare as baby boomers retire.

The Trump administration contends that its tax cuts will eventually pay for themselves by generating faster economic growth. However, that projection is disputed by many economists.

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With ‘On-the-Go’ Loans and Tech, Social Firm Boosts Myanmar Farmers

A social venture in Myanmar is boosting farm outputs with customized technologies and giving loans for seasonal migration to raise incomes in one of the world’s poorest countries.

Proximity Designs, which was set up in 2004 in the country’s commercial hub Yangon, focuses on farming, on which more than two-thirds of the population relies to make a living.

The ethical business gives farming advice, custom-designed irrigation products, and loans for crops, livestock and migration to about 200,000 clients in the Southeast Asian nation.

“It’s about improving access of smallholder farmers to knowledge, technology and capital,” said Ben Warren, head of strategy and finance at Proximity. “Myanmar was closed for so long, it was hard for farmers to access these. While access is better now, not many products are made for farmers or reach them.”

Myanmar began emerging from nearly half a decade of military rule in 2011. Helping its smallholder farmers requires a deep understanding of context, as well as empathy and creativity, Warren told Reuters.

Across Southeast Asia, businesses with a social purpose are improving the lives of vulnerable communities and helping narrow inequality.

In Myanmar, farmers rely heavily on the monsoon rain, and the country has one of the lowest percentages of irrigated farmland in Asia, according to Proximity.

The company designed a range of products including drip and sprinkler irrigation systems, and solar-powered pumps which can help increase yield by about a third, Warren said.

As a social venture, Proximity is better placed to help farmers than businesses with a purely profit motive, he said.

“Some areas are not viable or are hard to get to. Since we are supported by some funding, it allows us to subsidize our products and go the extra mile to reach farmers,” he said.

Proximity started giving micro loans to farmers in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, Myanmar’s worst natural disaster which killed nearly 140,000 people and affected some 2.4 million people.

About two years back, based on feedback from its clients, Proximity began “on-the-go” loans to help families during the dry season from November to April, when many men move to cities in search of factory or construction jobs.

A loan of about 200,000 kyat ($130) helps the family in the village until they receive remittances from the city, and also pays for the initial trip to the city, Warren said.

While on-the-go loans are a small part of Proximity’s portfolio now, they could grow because of demand, Warren said.

“Seasonal migration is an annual occurrence in nearly every rural family. With a loan from a reliable source, they can do it without worry,” he said.

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With ‘On-the-Go’ Loans and Tech, Social Firm Boosts Myanmar Farmers

A social venture in Myanmar is boosting farm outputs with customized technologies and giving loans for seasonal migration to raise incomes in one of the world’s poorest countries.

Proximity Designs, which was set up in 2004 in the country’s commercial hub Yangon, focuses on farming, on which more than two-thirds of the population relies to make a living.

The ethical business gives farming advice, custom-designed irrigation products, and loans for crops, livestock and migration to about 200,000 clients in the Southeast Asian nation.

“It’s about improving access of smallholder farmers to knowledge, technology and capital,” said Ben Warren, head of strategy and finance at Proximity. “Myanmar was closed for so long, it was hard for farmers to access these. While access is better now, not many products are made for farmers or reach them.”

Myanmar began emerging from nearly half a decade of military rule in 2011. Helping its smallholder farmers requires a deep understanding of context, as well as empathy and creativity, Warren told Reuters.

Across Southeast Asia, businesses with a social purpose are improving the lives of vulnerable communities and helping narrow inequality.

In Myanmar, farmers rely heavily on the monsoon rain, and the country has one of the lowest percentages of irrigated farmland in Asia, according to Proximity.

The company designed a range of products including drip and sprinkler irrigation systems, and solar-powered pumps which can help increase yield by about a third, Warren said.

As a social venture, Proximity is better placed to help farmers than businesses with a purely profit motive, he said.

“Some areas are not viable or are hard to get to. Since we are supported by some funding, it allows us to subsidize our products and go the extra mile to reach farmers,” he said.

Proximity started giving micro loans to farmers in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, Myanmar’s worst natural disaster which killed nearly 140,000 people and affected some 2.4 million people.

About two years back, based on feedback from its clients, Proximity began “on-the-go” loans to help families during the dry season from November to April, when many men move to cities in search of factory or construction jobs.

A loan of about 200,000 kyat ($130) helps the family in the village until they receive remittances from the city, and also pays for the initial trip to the city, Warren said.

While on-the-go loans are a small part of Proximity’s portfolio now, they could grow because of demand, Warren said.

“Seasonal migration is an annual occurrence in nearly every rural family. With a loan from a reliable source, they can do it without worry,” he said.

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Trump Says He Could Let China Trade Deal Deadline Slip, But ‘Not Inclined To’

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he could let the March 1 deadline for a trade agreement with China “slide for a little while,” but that he would prefer not to and expects to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping to close the deal at some point.

Trump’s top trade negotiator and Treasury secretary arrived in the Chinese capital on Tuesday for high-level talks later in the week as the world’s two largest economies attempt to hammer out a deal to protect American trade secrets and avoid another escalation of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods after March 1.

If negotiators are coming close to a complete deal, Trump said he could see pushing off that deadline.

“We’re doing very well over in China,” Trump told reporters at a cabinet meeting, adding that the negotiating team is big.

“If we’re close to a deal where we think we can make a real deal and it’s going to get done, I could see myself letting that slide for a little while,” Trump said. “But generally speaking I’m not inclined to do that.”

U.S. advisers have previously called March 1 a “hard deadline” for the talks.

Trump’s comments on the China trade talks helped fuel a broad rally in the U.S. stock market, along with the president’s comments that he did not anticipate another government shutdown despite not being “happy” with a tentative congressional deal for border security funding.

The S&P 500 was up 1.35 percent in mid-afternoon trading, on track for its best day since Jan. 30.

If the United States and China cannot reach a deal by March 1, U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent.

China would likely respond by raising tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S goods that it announced last year in retaliation.

A recent resumption of Chinese soybean purchases also would likely end.

‘Several important days of talks’

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arrived in Beijing on Tuesday and are scheduled to hold talks Thursday and Friday with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, top economic adviser to President Xi Jinping.

“We’re looking forward to several important days of talks,” Mnuchin told reporters after arriving at a Beijing hotel.

Lighthizer, who arrived at the hotel earlier in the day, did not answer reporters’ questions.

Washington is expected to keep pressing Beijing on long-standing demands that it make sweeping structural reforms to protect American companies’ intellectual property, end policies aimed at forcing the transfer of technology to Chinese companies, and curb industrial subsidies.

The latest round of talks in Beijing kicked off Monday with discussions among deputy-level officials to try to work out technical details, including a mechanism for enforcing any trade agreement. A round of talks at the end of January ended with some progress reported — but no deal and U.S. declarations that much more work was needed.

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