By Gideon Rachman
In 2015, a sense of unease and foreboding seemed to settle on all the world’s major power centres. From Beijing to Washington, Berlin to Brasília, Moscow to Tokyo — governments, media and citizens were jumpy and embattled.
Flexibility is a prized trait for leaders in a world of uncertainty, constant change, and unpredictable competition. So it is hardly surprising that leaders should seek the same flexibility from their own staff.
Administering such a system of shorter-term or temporary contractors is ostensibly easy, using shift-management software that matches hours required to hours on offer. The economic advantages look attractive.
But if companies treat temporary workers as factors in an equation rather than as individuals, they will undermine the benefits of a less rigid labour system. It is training that will make the difference between a flexible but durable approach, which is of mutual benefit to employer and employee, and one that eventually disadvantages both company and worker.
Behind Turkey’s volte-face on Isis, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is fishing for nationalist votes by tarring as terrorists the pro-Kurdish coalition, argues David Gardner
Something is rotten with the eurozone’s hideous restrictions on sovereignty, writes former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, in response to allegations he planned to hack Greece’s tax system Read more
Ali al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister (centre), Bob Dudley the chief executive of BP (right), and Rex Tillerson, the ceo of ExxonMobil (left), are speaking at Opec’s international seminar about the oil market, ahead of Opec’s twice-yearly meeting on Friday in Vienna.
It is one of the few times in the year when senior representatives of the oil producers’ cartel share a podium with the heads of some of the world’s largest oil companies.
By Guy Chazan, Chris Adams and Lindsay Whipp
Three weeks to go until the UK general election, and whatever the result – most likely no party with an overall majority in parliament – the remarkable thing is the serious underperformance of the ruling Conservatives.
The Conservatives inherited a nascent economic recovery in 2010 from a desperately unpopular Labour government that had been in power for thirteen years, and, despite questionable economic policies such as excessive austerity, narrowly managed not to screw it up.
But instead of building on their modest 36.1 per cent vote share in 2010, which forced them to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, polls now show the Tories struggling to break above 35 per cent. Read more
The European Central Bank’s governing council is meeting against a backdrop of an improving eurozone economy. The ECB kept its benchmark interest rate at a record low 0.05 per cent and its deposit facility at -0.2 per cent on Wednesday and is expected to continue its €60bn a month landmark quantitative easing programme.
But it is not all optimism in the eurozone. The ECB’s bond buying has helped push German 10-year bund yields towards zero raising concerns about the potential for distortions in financial markets, while jitters over the growing possibility that Greece could default on a debt repayment provides a great deal for ECB President Mario Draghi to discuss at his press conference, which starts at 1.30pm UK time. By Ralph Atkins and Lindsay Whipp
The publication of “The Second Machine Age” by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson last year sparked a debate over the impact of technological change on the workplace. The spread of computers, alongside the high unemployment rates experienced by many rich countries during the Great Recession, have raised fears that advanced economies may be heading for an age of mass joblessness. Capital is set to replace labour on an unprecedented scale – so the argument goes – squeezing wages while entrepreneurs and shareholders enjoy ever fatter profits. Read more
The death of Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of modern Singapore, has focused attention on the economic miracle he helped to create.
In the three decades since Lee first became prime minister in 1959 until he stepped aside in 1990, per capita income in the city-state rose by a factor of 29, jumping from around $435 to more than $12,700. Nearby Malaysia only managed a ten-fold increase, from $230 to around $2400.
Yet economists remain divided over the causes behind this remarkable take-off.
In his Budget speech to parliament on Wednesday, the UK chancellor George Osborne indulged in the traditional needling of his opponents on the opposite bench. Whether it was a dig at Ed Miliband, Labour leader, for his two kitchens, or at the party’s recent electioneering in a “women-friendly” pink van, his jokes at the opposition’s expense met with the usual roars of raucous approval from his own benches.
But the second biggest target of his needling was rather more surprising – our friends across the Channel. Read more