Automation Could Cost Up To 800 Million Jobs

Up to 800 million people worldwide could lose their jobs because of automation. About half of them will have to learn new skills to get another job. In the United States alone, up to a third of the workforce could become unemployed within the next few decades. These are the results of a recent publication by McKinsey Global Institute.

Jobs that involve manual or factory work are the ones that are most at risk. People who work in social fields, the environment or management are less likely to lose their jobs. In countries with ageing populations, more jobs will be needed in health care.

The report says that there is no reason to panic because new job fields will emerge which will more than compensate the loss of traditional jobs. In addition, economic activity and rising productivity will also provide for more jobs.  However, workers will need to adapt to jobs more quickly than before and lifelong learning will be essential.

Artifical intelligence is already spreading quickly in some areas. Technological inventions, like self-driving cars, will become hugely popular within a decade. More jobs will be needed in the energy sector and people will find more work building modern infrastructure in cities.

However, governments around the globe will have to give support and spend money on programs to train workers for new tasks.

The report states that the situation today is similar to the beginning of the 20th century when agricultural societies became more and more industrialised.  The invention of the automobile contributed to this change. In the 1980s the computer revolution eliminated some jobs but created many others.

Automation in a German factory
Automation in a German factory – Image: KUKA Roboter Gmbh

Words

  • adapt = change; get used to
  • ageing = getting older
  • agricultural = farming
  • artificial intelligence = the study of how to make computers do intelligent things  that people can do, such as think and make decisions
  • automation = the use of computers and machines to do jobs that normally people do
  • century = a hundred years
  • compensate = replace
  • contribute = here: to play a major part
  • decade = ten years
  • economic activity = producing and consuming goods
  • eliminate = lose; do away with
  • emerge = come up, appear
  • environment = people and things that are around you in your life
  • essential = extremely important and necessary
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • health care = services that a country provides for its people
  • hugely = very much
  • in addition = also
  • infrastructure = the basic systems that a country or city needs, like railways, banks, schools etc..
  • invention = a useful machine that is created
  • involve = here: to be about
  • less likely = will probably not …
  • management = controlling and organising the work of a company
  • manual = with your hands and physical strength
  • productivity = the goods that are produced by workers in a certain time
  • provide =  give, offer
  • publication = when information is printed for everyone to read
  • recent = a short time ago
  • similar = like
  • skill = the ability to do something well
  • task = job
  • traditional = here: jobs that have existed up to now
  • train = here: prepare people for a new job
  • workforce = all the people in a country who can work
  • unemployed = without a job , out of work

 

China Overtakes US in Number of Supercomputers

For the first time in history, China has overtaken the United States in the number of supercomputers.  Currently, China has a total of 202 of the world’s 500 fastest computers, up from 159 half a year ago. The number of US supercomputers has dropped to 144.

The world’s most powerful computer is located in China. The Sunway  TaihuLight ,  at Wuxi can do 93 quadrillion calculations per second. The fastest US computer, the Titan, is ranked fifth while Europe’s speediest computer is Switzerland’s Piz Daint, ranked third.

Supercomputers are machines that occupy entire buildings and use the combined power of thousands of processors. They are used to carry out special tasks that involve a huge number of calculations.  Among them are weather forecasts and climate studies, as well as strategic tasks like nuclear weapons simulations.

Chinese supremacy in the world of supercomputing reflects the country’s  investment in research and development. One-fifth of the money used on research and development around the world is spent in China.

On the other side, many Chinese systems have been created to earn money. Processing power is rented to other national and international companies.

For years the speed of supercomputers has steadily increased although since 2012 this increase has slowed down.

 

America's Titan2  - Supercomputers
America’s Titan2 Supercomputer – Image: Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Words

  • although = while
  • calculation = here: a single task
  • combined = everything  put together
  • create = make
  • currently = at the moment, now
  • drop = go down
  • entire = whole
  • huge = very big; very many
  • investment = to use money for special things
  • involve = need
  • located = can be found
  • nuclear weapons simulation = here: software that tries to find out how nuclear bombs will affect the world and its population if they are used
  • occupy = use up; need
  • overtake = to be better than
  • processor = central part fo a computer that deals with commands and the information you give it
  • quadrillion= the number one followed by 24 zeros
  • ranked = position in a list
  • reflect = show, demonstrate
  • rent = let someone use something for money
  • research and development = to study special fields and use new ideas to create new things
  • speediest = fastest
  • steadily = slowly
  • strategic = here: about the military
  • supremacy = being number one or the best in the world
  • task = piece of work
  • weather forecast = a description of what the weather will be like in the next few days

Singles Day Achieves Record $25 Billion

Singles Day is the biggest e-commerce day in the world. Organized by China’s Alibaba, shopping sales on November 11 hit a record $25 billion,  40% more than on Singles Day 2016. In contrast, Prime Day, organized by Amazon achieved only $1 billion in sales. During the Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend of 2016 American online shoppers spent $5 billion.

Singles Day started out as an informal holiday in China, celebrating people who stayed single. Similiar to Valentine’s Day in the western world Singles Day took place on 11/11 .  In 2009, Alibaba turned it into a shopping holiday and in the past 8 years, sales have steadily increased.

Although the event targets mostly Chinese customers, shoppers came from  220 countries.  Over 80 brands took part in the event, with Nike and Xiaomi Corp. among the biggest winners.  Household goods and electrical appliances were the most bought products, but customers sought bargains for almost everything, ranging from cheap toilet paper to rice.

At its peak Alibaba’s computers handled 250 000 transactions per second, most of them coming in via mobile phones. In the weeks before the event was held, Alibaba had helped  600,000 companies upgrade their computer systems to make them fit for Singles Day.

The event was also turned into a gala in Shanghai where celebrities Nicole Kidman and tennis star Maria Sharapova counted down the seconds until the world’ largest sales event started.

Many critics of the event say that Singles Day is environmentally controversial.   It creates an enormous amount of wasteAccording to Greepeace, 1 billion packages were delivered in the days that followed the event.

Alibaba’s Singles Day is a display of Chinese spending power. The company’s owner, Jack Ma, is one of China’s richest men. He has been investing heavily in new technologies including automated stores which use facial recognition systems.

Singles Day in China
Singles Day in China – Image: Chrionexfleckeri1350

Words

  • according to = … as said by
  • achieve = here: reach a number of sales
  • automated = where everything is done automatically, without people helping
  • although = while
  • bargain = to buy something cheaply, for less money than usual
  • billion = a thousand million
  • brand = type of product made by a company
  • celebrate = here: in honour of, to show respect for
  • celebrity = famous person
  • controversial =  here: to cause a lot of disagreement
  • critic = a person who is against something
  • customer = a person who buys something
  • deliver = to bring to a person’s home
  • display = to show something
  • e-commerce = buying and selling things with computers over the Internet
  • electrical appliance = things you use at home and need electricity, like a cooker or washing machine
  • enormous = very large
  • environment = nature and the world around us
  • facial recognition = when a computer image of a person can find out who they are
  • handle = deal with
  • heavily = very much
  • household goods = things that you need in the house and use every day
  • in contrast = the difference between two things
  • including = also
  • increase = to go up
  • informal = not official
  • record = highest
  • sales = buying and selling products
  • seek – sought = look for
  • steadily = slowly
  • target = people who the event aims at; potential customers
  • transaction = here:  the sales of a single product
  • upgrade = here: to give a computer more power, so that it can do more things
  • via = by way of, through
  • waste = unwanted things that you throw away and don’t need any more

Vatican Bans Cigarette Sales

Pope Francis has announced that the Vatican will ban the sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products in the Roman Catholic state beginning in January 2018. A spokesperson for the Vatican said that the mini-state cannot allow the sales of a product that is clearly damaging to a person’s health.

Vatican employees, diplomats and a few other fortunate ones who have a so-called “shopping card” are allowed to buy cigarettes, groceries and even gas in the duty-free stores of the small country. Some employees have been buying cartons of cigarettes and selling them cheaply on the streets of Rome.

The Vatican earns about $11 million a year through the sales of cigarettes. Tobacco products are the second-largest source of income after tax-free gas.

Italy, which has a 22% sales tax has been urging the Vatican to stop selling products tax-free. It is thought that about 5,000 employees, diplomats and other residents are in possession of such a card and can shop in the Vatican’s stores.

Birds-eye view of the Vatican
Birds-eye view of the Vatican – Image: Dnalor_01
License CC-BY-SA 3.0

Words

  • announce = to say something officially, in public
  • ban = forbid, not allow
  • damage = to do physical harm to someone
  • duty free = sell products without paying any taxes
  • earn =  here: to get money for the products that you sell
  • employee = someone who is paid to work for someone else; worker
  • fortunate = lucky
  • groceries = food  and other goods that are sold at a supermarket
  • in possession = to have something that is yours to keep
  • mini-state = very small country
  • sales = selling a product
  • spokesperson = someone who has been chosen to speak for a company, country  or the government
  • source of income = the place from which the money comes that you earn
  • urge = to strongly suggest that someone should do something

Paradise Papers – How To Hide Your Money

The Paradise Papers are documents which show how rich people – celebrities, politicians and businessmen use offshore countries to protect themselves from paying high taxes. The documents were leaked to the German Süddeutsche Zeitung and examined by 400 journalists from all over the world.

There are more than 13 million documents that contain 1,400 GB of information. They reveal financial transactions of hundreds of individuals, as well as famous corporations like Apple and Nike.

Among those accused of investing money in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes are close advisors of US President Donald Trump and German ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.  The documents also reveal that some of Queen Elisabeth’s private money was invested in offshore accounts. Russian oligarchs with ties to the Kremlin and an aide to Canada’s Prime Minister are also named in the report.

The majority of the Paradise Papers comes from Appleby, a law firm that helps companies and rich people reduce their tax burden through offshore accounts. The firm with headquarters in Bermuda has thousands of clients and offices around the world. The other documents come from various businesses in the Carribean.

 

Two years ago the Panama Papers revealed similar documents. It showed how hundreds of people set up businesses in tax havens in order to hide their money and pay fewer taxes.

Bermuda - Headquarters of the Appleby law firm
Bermuda – Headquarters of the Appleby law firm – Image: Eric Gaba

Words

  • accuse = to believe that someone has done something wrong or illegal
  • advisor = a person who helps you  and gives you information because they know a lot about a certain subject
  • aide = someone who helps a politician
  • avoid = to prevent something from happening
  • business = company
  • celebrity = famous person
  • chancellor = here: leader of the German government
  • corporation = large company
  • examine = to look at very closely
  • financial transaction = here: money moves from one place to another
  • headquarters = the main building or offices used by a large company
  • individual = single person
  • leak = to give secret information to a newspaper, TV station or journalists
  • majority =  most
  • politician = person who works in politics, either for a government or a political party
  • offshore = here: country in which you pay less tax than elsewhere
  • offshore account = bank account in a country where you pay fewer taxes than in your home country
  • oligarch = boss of a group of people who run  a country or organisation
  • reduce = lower
  • reveal = show something that hasn’t been known before
  • similar = almost the same
  • tax = the money you must pay to the government based on your income
  • tax burden = here: the amount of taxes you pay
  • tax haven = country where people go to live in order to avoid paying high taxes in their own country
  • tie = close relationship to
  • various = different, several

 

 

 

More Amazon Rain Forest Destroyed By Mining

A recent survey , examining the years between 2005 and 2015, has come to the conclusion that more and more of the Amazon rain forest is lost due to mining operations. According to the government, most of these mining activities  are illegal and unregulated.

Brazilian environmental organisations  now say that mining is one of the major problems of the Amazon rain forest. Whereas earlier estimates put the destruction through mining at about 2% of the total area, experts now say that over 10% of rain forest loss is caused by mining. Most of the rain forest is cleared to create settlements for mine workers , as well as new transportation routes  and airports. Minerals mined in the Amazon region include iron ore, bauxite and copper.

The destruction of the rain forest through  mining is 12 times greater outside official and regulated  areas than within. In some cases  observers saw mining activity up to 70 km from a mine’s border.

Rain forests are essential to the planet’s climate. They bind carbon dioxide and provide a living space for many plants and animals . Since 2000 more than 190 000 square kilometres of the Amazon rain forest have been cleared.  The leading cause of deforestation is still farming.

Officials  also report that, for the first time in years, deforestation throughout the year has  actually decreased – by 16 % between  August 2016 and July 2017.  This is a result of more surveillance and stricter controls, but it is also caused by lower livestock prices on world markets.

 

Deforestation of the Amazon rain forest - satellite image
Deforestation of the Amazon rain forest – satellite image

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • bauxite = soft material that you use to get aluminium
  • bind = here: not let something escape into the atmosphere
  • border = the end of an area
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animals and people breathe out  and when carbon is burned
  • cause = reason
  • clear = here: cut down trees
  • conclusion = to decide or say something, based on the information you have
  • copper = soft reddish-brown metal that lets electricity and heat  pass through easily
  • decrease = to go down
  • deforestation = the cutting down or burning of all trees in an area
  • destruction = here: cutting down all trees in the area
  • due to = because of
  • environmental = about nature and the world around us
  • essential = extremely important and necessary
  • estimate = to calculate how big something is using the information you have
  • examine = to look closely at a topic in order to get more information about it
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • illegal = against the law
  • iron ore = rock that has iron in it
  • livestock = animals, such as cows or sheep, that are kept on a farm
  • loss = losing something
  • major = very important
  • mineral = material in the earth that is valuable and which you can sell
  • mining = the work of getting minerals, like coal, oil or metals out of the earth
  • official = here: allowed by the government
  • provide = offer, give
  • recent =  a short time ago
  • settlement = group of houses created to live in
  • surveillance = when the police watch a place very closely because there may be something wrong going on there
  • survey = questions that you ask people in order to find out more about a topic
  • unregulated = not controlled or watched by the government
  • whereas = although, while
  • within = inside

 

 

More Billionaires in Asia Than in US

For the first time in history there are more billionaires in Asia than in the United States. But, the amount of wealth among American billionaires is still higher than in Asia. There are a total of over 1500 billionaires in the world today , 10 % more than last year.  According to a new business report, one new billionaire pops up every second day.

The overall wealth of American billionaires reached $2.8 trillion last year, while Asian billionaires accumulated a total of $2 trillion.  If the trend continues,   within four years , Asian billionaires will have overtaken America . The combined wealth of the world’s billionaires has  increased to over $6 trillion.

The new Asian billionaires come mostly from India and China. Most of them make their money in consumer industries and technology. Especially in China,  billionaires are younger than elsewhere. Some haven’t even reached the age of 30 yet.

The new billionaires in Asia are investing large sums of their money in sports. They are buying whole sports teams in their home country as well as in Europe. Art and museums are other areas of interest for the new billionaires.

 

Li Ka-shing, one of the richest people in Asia
Li Ka-shing, one of the richest people in Asia – Image: EdTech Stanford University School of Medicine

Words

  • according to … =  as reported by …
  • accumulate = to get more and more money over a period of time
  • amount = here:how much money in total
  • billionaire = a person who has more than a thousand million dollars
  • combined = here: all billionaires in the world together
  • consumer industries = factories and companies that make everyday things that people need
  • especially = above all
  • increase = to go up
  • invest = to buy or spend money on something because you will need it later on
  • pop up = appears, comes up
  • overall = total, all in all
  • overtake = here: to have more than others
  • reach = climb up to ; increase to
  • sum = amount
  • trillion = 1,000,000,000,000
  • wealth = the money or valuable things that a person owns

World’s Lowest Wine Production in Over 50 years

The world’s wine production in 2017 is expected to be at its lowest since 1961. Grape harvests, especially in the major European wine-producing countries, Spain, France and Italy , are low. Thanks to surplus production in the last few years there is  enough wine available and there will be no shortages for consumers. However, wine experts say this could lead to an overall rise in wine prices.

Global wine production is expected to drop by 8%  to 246 million hectoliters, which would be the lowest overall production since 1961. Italy and France have reported that their grape harvest will go down by 20 % each  in  2017. Spanish production is expected to drop by 15 %. Nevertheless, the quality of the grapes is expected to be very good.

Countries that have had normal or larger grape harvests, like Australia, Argentina and South Africa will profit from the low European production and be able to sell bring more of their wine on world markets.

The United States, the world’s fourth largest wine producer, has witnessed wildfires in California, the country’s number one wine-growing state. But they have not done any significant damage because the crops had already been harvested.

There are two main reasons for the poor harvest in Europe. Cold temperatures  and frost in early spring damaged many vineyards. Dry summers and long heat waves have also lead to a drop in harvest figures. In some areas the decline in production means that small wine-producing families are facing financial problems and sometimes even bankruptcy.

 

Vineyard in France
Vineyard in France

Words

  • available = something that can be bought
  • bankruptcy = if you are not able to pay the money that you owe to others
  • consumer = a person who buys products
  • damage = when somersetting is destroyed
  • decline = go down, drop
  • drop = go down
  • especially = above all
  • expected = thought to be
  • face = deal with a difficult situation
  • grape = small round green or purple fruits that are grown for wine
  • heat wave = period of time when it is very hot and does not rain
  • however = but
  • major = very important
  • nevertheless = in spite of what was just said
  • profit = to have an advantage
  • rise = go up
  • shortage =  not enough of something
  • significant = to have an important effect on …
  • surplus = more than what is needed
  • vineyard = a piece of land where grapes are grown
  • witness = see,  experience

End of Australia’s Car Industry

The last car , a General Motors Holden, has come off the production line in Adelaide, Australia.  It ends a 90-year long era of car manufacturing in Australia.  At its peak, the Adelaide factory built almost 800 cars a day .

GM Holden is a subsidiary of GM . The closure of Australia’s last car factory will not only leave almost a thousand workers without a job, but also endanger industries that produce parts for Australian-made cars.

Holden has been an Australian national symbol for many decadesThe company, which started out as a family business in the mid 19th century, was bought by General Motors  in 1931. In 1948 the FX Holden became the first car to be  mass-produced in Australia. By 1960, every second car manufactured in Australia was a Holden.  The company’s most popular car was the Commodore,  which was introduced in 1978.

Since World War II a number of foreign auto manufacturers, including Toyota, Mitsubishi have opened and closed car production plants in Australia. Ford shut down its last plant a year ago.

There are many reasons behind the decline of Australia’s car industry.  Through free trade agreements automobile makers no longer have benefits when producing in Australia. Other reasons are high wages and production costs   as well as  a small domestic market of 24 million.

As the  Australian dollar became stronger  the country’s exports became  more expensive. Holden cars became less competitive , while imported foreign cars were cheaper . Since 2001 Australia’s government has been pouring in  $ 5.5 billion into the car industry.

Even though Australia’s car industry has come to an end , the GM Holden will still be available from other manufacturing plants around the world.

GM Holden Caprice, produced in 2007
GM Holden Caprice, produced in 2007

Words

  • agreement = when people, companies  or countries promise to do something
  • available = it can be bought
  • benefit = advantage, help you do or get something
  • century = a hundred years
  • competitive = to be more successful than others
  • closure = to be closed
  • decade = ten years
  • decline = when something becomes less important
  • domestic = home
  • foreign = from another country
  • endanger = to put something in danger
  • era = period of time
  • foreign = from another country
  • manufacture = produce, make
  • mass-produce = to make something in large numbers so that it can be sold cheaply
  • peak = when it was most successful
  • plant = factory
  • pour = here: give
  • production line = products move along  a line of workers who make or check each part
  • subsidiary = company that is owned or controlled by a larger company
  • wages = money a worker gets every week or month

 

Ocean Wind Farms Could Give Energy To Everybody

Winds and storms in the Atlantic are so strong that wind-powered turbines in the Atlantic Ocean could provide the whole world with clean energy. Energy experts now claim that ocean wind farms  can produce three to five times more energy than wind turbines on land. Over water wind speeds are up to 70% higher.

Winds on land create friction because of mountains and buildings. They slow down as they move inwards . In addition, turbines are built closer together, which takes some of the wind speed away .

Winds are especially strong across the northern Atlantic Ocean because of differences in water temperature. When the warm Gulf Stream moves up the North American coast it mixes with cold water in the northern Atlantic. This leads to higher storm activity and more winds, especially during the winter months.

Norway’s energy company Statoil has been operating floating wind turbines in the shallow North Sea for over a decade. These are connected via cable to the ocean floor.  In order to make them work  in the deep sea , however, they must be attached to vertical poles that have massive weights in the water.

One of the biggest problems that face ocean wind farms is transporting energy from the deep sea to land. Energy companies , like Statoil, are looking for high-wind areas that are closer to shore.

While wind farms on land are becoming more  and more common, production costs of running them are becoming lower. In the near future wind energy is expected to become one of the cheapest alternative energy sources .

Europe is the number one wind energy producer at the moment. Every year, about 12 gigawatts of energy are produced by wind power, whereas in America green energy from wind is still in its infancy. If  produced more effectively, the solution to the world’s energy problems may lie in ocean wind farms.

 

 

Offshore wind farm in the North Sea
Offshore wind farm in the North Sea – Image : Harald Pettersen / Statoil

Words

  • alternative energy source = energy that does not come from fossil fuels, like, coal, oil or gas
  • attach = fix, connect to something
  • claim = to say that something is true even if you cannot prove it
  • coast = where land meets the sea
  • common = widespread, popular
  • connect = fix or tie to something
  • decade = ten years
  • deep sea = far away from land
  • Gulf Stream = warm water that flows to Europe from the Gulf of Mexico
  • effectively = here: to produce more with less money
  • especially = above all
  • face = deal with, manage
  • float = to move on water without sinking
  • friction = when something rubs against a surface
  • gigawatt = one thousand million watts
  • in addition = also
  • infancy = at the beginning
  • inward = here: away from the sea
  • massive = very big
  • provide = give
  • shallow = not deep
  • shore = land near the coast
  • speed = how fast something is
  • turbine = energy or motor  in which pressure pushes a wheel around
  • weight = a very heavy object
  • whereas = on the other side