By Rodrigo Zeidan, Fundação Dom Cabral

The debate over the minimum wage in the US is an interesting one. Wages have been falling in real terms for the last 30 years but there is strong resistance to any kind of increase in the federal minimum wage. The social contract in the US calls for a flexible labour market, and market efficiency trumps equality considerations. Not even Nobel Laureates can influence the debate. But there are lessons to be learned from the strong real growth minimum wage policies in two of the Bric countries, Brazil and China. Read more

The World Economic Forum’s 2014 Global Gender Gap Report, released last month, presented some interesting findings about countries in the Asia Pacific region. Its Gender Gap Index measures progress in countries across four benchmarks: economic participation, education, health and political empowerment.

Despite political and cultural diversity across the region, there are definite signs the overall gender gap is shrinking. According to the report, 7 out of the 24 countries of Asia and the Pacific have closed over 70 per cent of the gap. In terms of economic participation, the Asean countries are now all above the world average. The Philippines, in particular, has closed the gap between male and female access to health and education and features in the list of top 10 countries worldwide.

Source: World Economic Forum, beyondbrics

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An index of confidence among Brazilian manufacturers suggests things aren’t as grim as all that, after an index of consumer confidence published on Tuesday hit a post-crisis low.

But the uptick in the manufacturing confidence index produced by the Fundação Getulio Vargas – the same academic institution that prepared the consumer index – does not bear close inspection.

Source: FGV/IBRE. Click to enlarge

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Another reminder of the challenges facing Dilma Rousseff as she struggles to put together an economic team for her second term in office: consumer confidence is at its lowest ebb since the depths of the global financial crisis in December 2008.

Source: FGV/IBRE

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You might be awkward in the spotlight and less than attractive but that need not stop you from becoming a television star, according to a burgeoning industry that has sprung up in Seoul to train and groom would-be TV announcers.

Korea’s three major broadcasting companies hire only three to five announcers a year, typically to host news or entertainment shows. The jobs are in high demand – a recent opening at the SBS network attracted 2,000 applicants – reflecting the prestige of the country’s successful entertainment industry, as well as an increasingly tough jobs market for young graduates. Read more

Amid the encircling gloom, a boost for the Polish economy on Tuesday: Volkswagen is to spend around 3.4bn zlotys ($1.1bn) to build a factory at Września in Poland’s Wielkopolska province. It will make VW’s Crafter delivery vans, currently built under contract by Daimler at two German factories, from the end of 2016. “Volkswagen has trusted the Poles once again,” said Janusz Piechociński, deputy prime minister. Read more

The wrong sort of jobs

Sub-Saharan Africa has enjoyed rapid growth over the past 20 years but its citizens seem not to share the zeal of some frontier market watchers. The region’s levels of poverty have not sunk nearly as quickly as East Asia’s (see chart below). Africans routinely complain that wealth has not trickled down.

Why is this? Read more

One step forward, one step . . . well, if not exactly backwards, sort of sideways?

Mexican inflation data for the first fortnight of February looked a lot brighter than a month ago, when the impact of new taxes, including on fizzy drinks and junk food, pushed consumer prices to an eight-month high. Read more

Riding off into the sunset, taking EMs with them…

The US Federal Reserve may have underestimated the speed of falling unemployment in the US. This could be bad news for emerging market assets.

Fund managers like to refer to the Fed as ‘the world’s central banker’. Certainly, the drama over quantitative easing has sent two sets of shockwaves through emerging markets – one triggered last May by the mere mention of tapering; and the latest this January following the Fed’s December move to slow it’s rate of asset purchases. But all the Fed really cares about is the US economy, which is why every piece of new US data is pored over as carefully by emerging market bond and equity managers as their colleagues following US and European equities.

So they would be worried to read the latest research from Keith Wade, Schroders’ chief economist. Read more

Multinational companies should be spending 30 per cent of their global research and development budget in India – or so says Zinnov, a management consultancy. It’s a bold claim that throws up several questions about India’s talent pool and potential.

In a new report, Zinnov studies the 500 global companies that spend the most on R&D – a group that together invests some $577bn on R&D worldwide. Read more

India is a country where GDP per capita is less than $1,500 a year, and where people have big aspirations and are often overqualified for their jobs.

So it comes as a surprise to read new research showing that Indians take more satisfaction in their work than their peers in the US, the UK, France and Germany. Read more

Workers of Russia – go private!

Who wants to work for Putin? Fewer and fewer people, according to Russian statistics.

From 2000 to 2011, the number of people employed by state and municipal authorities has fallen, while the number of private sector workers has risen by a third. This does not necessarily show a decline of big government – but it does remove some of its authority, perhaps. Read more

Is Poland’s sluggish economy on the road to recovery? There were further signs that it might be on Tuesday, as retail sales in June showed a bigger than expected expansion of 1.8 per cent compared with the same month last year, and unemployment continued to edge down. Read more

McDonald’s burgers, Bata shoes, Titan watches – household names with stores on most of the India’s main streets. But rather than run the operations themselves, these popular brands are using franchises to access the Indian market – and other businesses are catching on.

Operating via franchise, a business structure where companies licence out the right to sell products or provide services in their name, allows businesses to expand rapidly. A report suggests that total sales made through franchisees in India, valued at $13.4bn in 2012, will quadruple by 2017. Read more

Polish retail sales grew in May according to figures released on Tuesday, in a sign that growth in the Polish economy is slowly accelerating. Sales were up 0.5 per cent year on year, above market expectations of a 0.1 per cent fall.

Households remain cautious about spending but the figure provides some grounds for optimism. Sales of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics grew by an annual 10.5 per cent, while sales of vehicles and durable goods increased by an annual 5.1 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively. Read more

With a record 7m students graduating from China’s more than 2,000 colleges this month, many Chinese media have marked June as the “most difficult season to get jobs“. And as indicators suggest the Chinese economy is losing steam fast, there have also been suggestions that 2013 will be worse than ever for new graduates seeking employment.

However, a closer look shows that much of the bad news is hype. Read more

At just 3 per cent, South Korea’s jobless rate should be the envy of many advanced countries suffering from high unemployment in the global economic slowdown. But many young South Koreans find the job market tough to crack, while the country’s rapidly ageing population presents a headache to policy makers keen to maintain high rates of economic growth. Read more

In another sign that the benefits of faster economic growth in the Philippines have yet to trickle down, the country’s jobless rate in April rose to 7.5 per cent, the highest in almost four years, the government statistics office said Tuesday.

That is roughly in the same quarter that GDP surged 7.8 per cent, the highest in more than two years. Asia’s fastest growing economy also has one of the region’s biggest unemployment problems. Read more

While Generation Y is notoriously disloyal when it comes to employment, new Indonesian university graduates stand out. Sixty per cent switch jobs in their first three years of employment and more than a third change company at least twice, according to new research from Boston Consulting Group.

Old timers may view this new generation as fickle but BCG, a management consultancy, says its finding is symptomatic of a severe talent shortage in Indonesia that threatens to undermine the much-hyped growth prospects of southeast Asia’s biggest nation. Read more

and so 1990s

While many Chinese of a certain age are reliving their college days through the movie “So Young”, the country’s students of today are facing the fiercest ever competition for jobs, with a record high number of nearly 7m graduates this year.

“So Young” – a nostalgic look at student lives and loves of the 1990s from actress-turned-director Zhao Wei – has successfully captured the collective memories of those who left campus all those years ago. But when they look at the pressures facing today’s graduates, they may be glad their own student days are in the distant past. Read more