Economist 7/28/15

  1. The proportion of single people in Seoul more than doubled between 1990 and 2010, and they now account for 16% of households. Four in ten South Korean adults are unmarried, the highest share among the 34 OECD countries. In Seoul over a third of women with degrees are single.One reason is that wedding expenses, mostly met by the groom and often including the couple’s first home, have become prohibitive for many. Another is that Korean families used to be so desperate to have sons that in the 1980s they aborted lots of daughters. Now one in seven men of marriageable age lacks a potential partner.Also, some women want to “marry up”, which is harder now that so many women have degrees and good jobs.The mean age at which women marry has risen from 25 in 1995 to 30 today. Only 0.2% of Korean households consist of unwed couples, compared with 10% in Britain and 19% in Sweden. But rather than getting hitched, many women remain single. And many married couples are having only one child: the number of children beyond a first fell by 37% between 2010 and 2013.
  2. WHEN patients are prescribed a drug, they might assume it had been subject to the closest scrutiny. They would be wrong. The results of about half of all clinical trials are never published. Companies are allowed to run many tests and publish only the ones with results they like.Legislators in America and Europe want the problem of missing trials fixed (see article). New legislation comes into force in Europe in 2016 that will require the registration of clinical trials and the prompt publication of results. The question is how tightly these rules will be enforced. America laid down similar requirements in 2007, but they have been more observed in the breach.Even if all new trials are registered and published, the problem remains of what to do about the evidence base for drugs already in use. There is no legal obligation on researchers to publish data from old trials, but there is a moral one.
  3. OVER the past six years, long-term unemployment in Europe has swelled. Around half of Europe’s 25m unemployed have been jobless for over a year. Over 12% have not worked for more than four years.Skills are forgotten, confidence drains, fertility slows and the risk of poor health increases. The challenge for policymakers is to stop this cyclical unemployment from becoming structural.Unsurprisingly, the problem is most acute in southern Europe. More than 60% of jobless Italians have not worked in over a year; in Greece the rate is over 70%.The problem is also acute in the new EU member states of eastern Europe. But unlike southern Europe, many of these countries have recent experience of high long-term unemployment after recessions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.In the richer parts of Europe, both long- and short-term unemployment is less of a concern. Germany, alone in the EU, has reduced both its overall rate—as well as that for the long-term jobless—since 2009, due in part to its more flexible labour market.The EU’s three Nordic states have its lowest long-term unemployment shares, ranging from 19% to 25% of total unemployment. Such low levels are due partly to shallower recessions, and partly to labour-market measures.
  4. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, once considered his father’s heir apparent, learned of his fate somewhere far from the Libyan capital.Mr Gaddafi was last known to be held by militiamen in the north-western town of Zintan, where he was taken after his capture by rebels in the latter stages of the 2011 uprising in which his father was killed. From there he joined three of the 24 trial sessions by video link.The court in Tripoli ordered that Mr Gaddafi face a firing squad for charges relating to attempts to quash the rebellion that eventually ended his father’s 42 years in power.The man some once hailed as a possible reformer is not likely to be executed anytime soon: the Zintanis believed to be currently holding him do not recognise the court in Tripoli nor the Islamist-backed government currently controlling the city and claiming, in defiance of international powers, to rule the country. There are other reasons why Zintan would not readily give up such a high-value prisoner; by holding Mr Gaddafi, the small mountain town has become a powerful player in Libya.
  5. All the activity notwithstanding, the initial rush to reconnoitre Cuba and Iran will slowly but surely give way to a more measured approach for most. It will be months, if not years, before the sanctions on both countries will be lifted.But Cuba and Iran do have one thing in common: they are developed enough that they could thrive once the restrictions are lifted. Iran in particular ought to be able to attract much more foreign direct investment, given its size.Some early moves in Cuba have been promising.Airbnb executives say some 2,000 people have listed space in their homes via the online agency, charging up to ten times the average $25 monthly salary per rental.In the next five years Iran needs an estimated $230 billion-$260 billion of investment in oil and gas, according to analysts. Infrastructure badly needs an overhaul. Iran Air, starved of investment since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, wants to buy several hundred planes.Big food companies are hungry to enter Cuba, but the embargo prohibits them from using American banks to get letters of credit in order to make the deliveries. Even industries with permission to trade with Cuba, such as agriculture, medicine and telecoms, find obstacles in their way. The biggest is finance. Though the Obama administration removed Cuba from its “state-sponsor-of-terrorism” list in April, easing restrictions on banking, the response has been slow.The biggest obstacle to post-sanctions growth may be the two countries’ own governments. Cuba’s embrace of private enterprise has been halting, to put it kindly.
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