Economist 4/26/16

  1. OF THE estimated 1m asylum-seekers who arrived in Germany in 2015, a vast proportion headed straight to its big cities, many eventually settling locally as refugees. This was due in part to the personal choices of the new arrivals, but also the German government’s allocation strategy which favours locations with sizable populations and tax revenue shares. But large, heavily populated areas may not present the best options, either for the migrants (families in particular), or for Germany as a whole.Many smaller and more rural areas perform better when it comes to employment opportunities and housing availability, while a good number also offer a greater level of safety, but most asylum seekers simply don’t know where these more “liveable” areas are.
  2. Germany desperately needs low-skilled workers,and faces shortages in some high-skilled jobs. Its overall labour force is expected to shrink sharply in the next few decades.Migrants can offer a vital boost. Smaller rural districts such as Tuttlingen,Baden-Württemberg and Sonneberg, Thuringia have more job vacancies than other parts of the country.Highest estimates suggest an influx of up to 2m new asylum seekers this year. By that reckoning the country would need to house 800,000 additional citizens and provide an extra 3 20,000 houses. It has the capacity for that, just not in the larger cities.There has been a marked increase in the number of attacks on refugees or their hostels recently. In 2015,279 incidents caused either direct harm or put residents at serious risk.Saxony has reported the most alarming figures for violent attacks,whereas neighboring Brandenburg appears to be one of the more benign states.
  3. China has already roared past America to become the world’s biggest car market. In March sales of passenger cars zoomed again, by nearly 10% year on year.Shiny sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) did even better: sales jumped by 46% in March from a year earlier.China’s box-office revenues shot up by nearly 50% on a year earlier in 2015, to $6.8 billion.After years of breakneck expansion, the smartphone market is peaking. Some firms still thrive: China’s Huawei, a telecoms giant, predicts that revenues from its consumer-devices division will rise by about 50% this year. But Xiaomi is losing steam.The unrelenting march of e-commerce continues. In 2010, online shopping accounted for only 3% of total private consumption, but it now makes up 15%. Alibaba, which processes more sales on its ecommerce platforms than eBay and Amazon combined, saw annual Chinese revenues grow to 63 billion yuan ($9.7 billion) in 2015, a rise of nearly 40% compared with a year earlier. JD, its main local rival, saw revenues leap by nearly 58%.
  4. The Chinese still are spending heavily abroad. International tax-free shopping by Chinese shot up 58% last year, according to a new report from Global Blue, a big operator of duty-free shops. Overall, Chinese tourists spent $215 billion on outbound travel last year, a rise of 53% on the previous year. Ctrip, a big online travel firm partly owned by Baidu, a Chinese internet search giant, saw its revenues jump by nearly half last year, to 10.9 billion yuan.A cooling economy and an official anti-corruption drive have squeezed luxury goods, sales of which fell by 2% year on year in 2015, to 113 billion yuan.
  5. By one estimate, if 30% of capacity is slashed across China’s most bloated state industries, perhaps 3m workers will lose their jobs over the next three years. But thanks largely to the private sector, the country created 64m jobs between 2011 and 2015, with more than 13m of them coming in the past year alone.Chinese household debt stands at about 40% of GDP, roughly half the level seen in America.) Real urban incomes rose by 5.8% in the first quarter. Willis Towers Watson, a consultancy, estimates that white-collar salaries are now significantly higher in China than in southeast Asia.Many big firms seem willing to look past current clouds over China’s economy to brighter days ahead. Pepsi, an American snack-food firm, opened its first Quaker Oats manufacturing plant on the mainland in October, and has launched oat-based dairy drinks to cater to local tastes.America’s Walt Disney, an entertainment colossus, is set to open Shanghai Disneyland, a $5.5 billion theme park that is its biggest investment outside Florida, in June.By 2020, the number of households earning above $24,000 per year is expected to double to 100m, making up 30% of all urban households. They are also betting on free-spending youth. Consumption is rising at 14% a year among under-35s, twice the level of oldies.

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