The center of world economic gravity moving east as AIIB shows


Chinese President Xi Jinping (C, front) poses for a group photo with the delegates attending the signing ceremony for the Articles of Agreement of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing June 29, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

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World Insight: http://english.cntv.cn/2015/06/30/VIDE1435616042104565.shtml

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Financial leaders of 57 states gathered in Beijing on June 29 to sign the agreement for establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), expected to become the region’s largest investment bank in the 21st century.

Seventy years ago, the World Bank was established, led by the US and its close western economic and political allies, as the first global financial institution. Along with the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund, the western powers have commanded world financial and trade order for more than half a century. Even the Asian Development Bank (ADB), established 20 years later after the World Bank, has been largely controlled by Japan, backed by the US and other western economic powers.

China benefited from the global and regional development and financial institutions in the initial stage of economic reform and openness. As China expanded its economic strength it has aggressively contributed to financing them. However, despite its financial contribution to these institutions rising significantly China still has limited influence over management and operation.

China’s desire to influence world financial order and its inability to do so have been due to the governance structure of these institutions where China is not only a minority shareholder but its voting rights are marginalized.

Since the world financial crisis, triggered by the US subprime mortgage crisis and the EU’s debt problem, China’s relative importance in the world economy has risen rapidly. By 2010, it surpassed Japan to become the world’s second largest economy, and by 2012 it overtook the US to become the world largest trading nation as well as the largest producer and consumer of motor vehicles.

Apart from China’s second-to-none manufacturing capability, it holds the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves which have to be used effectively so they can generate a financial return and make appropriate contributions to infrastructural development in Asia, the largest and fastest growing region among all continents.

In addition, China, India, Russia and other initial AIIB member states have the financial strength and managerial confidence to create a new financial institution similar to the World Bank and ADB. For the initial $100 billion fund to be pledged, China has agreed to contribute 29.7 percent, India 8.3 percent, Russia 6.5 percent, Germany 4.4 percent and South Korea 3.75 percent. Other major contributors include the UK, Australia and Indonesia.

Both the US and Japan have not expressed their intention to join AIIB although many US political and economic allies have come to Beijing to sign the agreement, particularly the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Australia. The diversion of these countries’ attention away from the US to China and Asia not only reflects ever rising business opportunities in Asia, but also the relative decline of the US-led western influence on the global economy and financial order.

The apparent shift of economic gravity from the West to the East reminds me of my personal experience in the past. Thirty year ago, I was awarded a World Bank scholarship from a university in Hainan to study in the UK in 1985. At that time, the salary of a Chinese university lecturer was less than 1 percent of his UK counterpart. Today, all the top Chinese universities are able to pay significantly more than the equivalent UK or US salaries to attract overseas talents to work in China. In addition, numerous university teachers in China can easily apply for more research funding than their western counterparts.

Although China is still a developing economy by definition, it has exceeded many western powers in a number of areas such as equipment manufacturing, high-speed railways, nuclear power, construction, infrastructure engineering and space technology. In 2014, Chinese scientists produced the second largest number of high-impact academic journal papers in the world.

China started the first high speed railway 30 years later than Europe, but by 2014, has built 16,000 km of high-speed tracks, twice as long as the total length of all the EU countries put together. BYD, one of China’s private auto makers, has marched to California to build electric buses for the local market.

India is racing to follow in China’s footsteps. Its economy was growing as fast as China in 2014 and is set to overtake China’s growth in 2015. However, India’s transportation systems are so poor that they are evident constraints on the country’s development. It is expected that India will require $1 trillion to improve its transportation systems, and the establishment of AIIB will be helpful to its development needs. Other Asian countries face similar problems of investment for roads, railways, airports, seaports, telecommunications and internet.

AIIB will become a potent propeller to accelerate economic and social development in Asia. Along with the Silk Road Fund and the Brics Bank, China will use AIIB to implement its “one- belt and one-road” regional and global development strategies.

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Sea Silk Road will cover more than 60 countries surrounding China, and many will benefit from China’s outward-looking investment and development strategies. Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China has gained increased support from neighbouring countries in Asia and many others in Latin America, Europe and Africa, thanks to its persistent foreign policy of peaceful cooperation, mutual benefit and common prosperity.

The future operation of the AIIB may face many challenges and uncertainty, but the AIIB has signified the rapid emergence of China, India and other developing and transitional economies. The determination and confidence for success through the AIIB and other newly created financial institutions suggest that the world financial and political order will be different from now, as the overwhelming dominance of the World Bank and ADB in Asia and the world financial systems will inevitably decline in the future.

By Shujie Yao (chinadaily

The author is a professor of economics, Chongqing University and the University of Nottingham.

Through AIIB, China can learn to lead

Representatives of 57 prospective founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) gathered in Beijing on Monday for the signing ceremony, with 50 of them endorsing the AIIB agreement. As the largest shareholder, China takes a 30.34 percent stake and correspondingly has a voting share of 26.06 percent, which actually enables China to wield a veto on major issues, such as electing the bank’s president. This is a moment that our nation could never have imagined just 10 years ago.

The move forward in the AIIB, however, seemed to have no bearing on people’s feeble confidence in China’s stock market, as shares plunged amid a flurry of automatic sell orders on this remarkable day.

However, the country’s fundamental confidence has been elevated to a new stage. This is the first time ever that China is leading an international multilateral bank. Its influence is prominent and far-reaching, and it carries more profound significance than successfully hosting an Olympic Games.

It took China less than six months to complete the signing of the AIIB agreement and this efficiency shocked the world.

Although China barely has any experience in this regard, it is proof of its excellent capacity to learn and of its eager pursuit of fairness and equity. The first batch of 50 signatories is far more than the number of founding members of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

China’s attempt to lead the international financial institution may have been forced by unfair treatment in other institutions or China may want to test experiences with the AIIB as we are still a developing country. But from now on, we must shoulder our responsibilities.

Of these responsibilities, the foremost is to bear criticism as numerous Western observers are waiting to find faults with and go bearish about China. But regardless of what they say, China must stick to its current trajectory.

In recent years there have been fewer protests by China, but frequent ones against Beijing overseas. China needs to stick to its major principles, but it does not need to be entangled in minor issues.

US allies that have joined the AIIB do not mean to flatter China, but they see the benefits will outweigh their relations with Washington. With GDP at the $10-trillion level, can China build more platforms of common interest and convince the outside world that working with China always means a win? This serves as the key to China’s further rise without encountering strong resistance from the outside.

Compared with the IMF, World Bank and the ADB, the AIIB indicates that the environment where China is rising may not be as terrible as we conceive. We must grasp the opportunities.

Source: Global Times Editorial



50 nations sign AIIB deals – China wields veto powers, enjoys 26% voting rights

China’s role as the largest shareholder with significant voting rights in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will make the country shoulder more responsibility in turning the bank into a high-quality financial institution to complement existing multilateral development banks, experts said Monday.

A total of 50 prospective founding members of the AIIB on Monday signed the bank’s articles of agreement (AOA) in Beijing, which outlines the bank’s objectives, operating principles, governance structure and decision-making mechanisms.

Seven members, including Denmark, Thailand and the Philippines, failed to sign the AOA on Monday. China’s Ministry of Finance said they can sign the agreement anytime this year.

“The signing of the AOA is a milestone in the establishment of the bank,” Vice Minister of Finance Zhu Guangyao told the Global Times Monday on the sidelines of a forum in Beijing.

The bank was proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013 during his visit to Indonesia.

Xi said on Monday that China’s development would not have been possible without Asia and the world.

“As China grows stronger, we are willing to make our due contribution to world development,” he said.

Zhu said the AIIB’s establishment process has outpaced other multilateral development banks, and its objectives have won support from members within and outside Asia.

“We hope AIIB members’ legislatures will approve their AOA membership as soon as possible and get the bank’s operations going by the end of the year,” he added.


Voting shares

The AIIB will have an authorized capital of $100 billion, and Asian members are required to contribute up to 75 percent of the total capital, leaving the rest to non-Asian members, according to the AOA.

China is the bank’s largest shareholder with a 30.34 percent stake. This gives China 26.06 percent of the voting shares, also the largest, within the multilateral financial institution.

“It is within expectations given China’s huge economy, and it also means China needs to shoulder more responsibility in building the AIIB into a high-quality bank,” Ruan Zongze, vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times Monday.

According to the AOA decision-making mechanism, China has effective veto powers over major decisions because it has voting shares of over 25 percent.

China does not seek veto powers in the AIIB, Vice Finance Minister Shi Yaobin told the Xinhua News Agency Monday. He said the country’s stake and voting shares in the initial stage are natural results of current rules, and may be diluted as more members join.

“Being a major Asian economy, Japan’s entry will dilute China’s stake and voting shares more than any other country, but so far we have not seen such a sign,” Ruan said.

He said he believes the AIIB is not likely to approve a large number of new members in its initial stage. Instead, it will focus on rolling out investment projects.

Owning veto powers does not mean that China will use these powers in AIIB’s future operation, Jia Qingguo, dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, told the Global Times Monday.

Jia said China might use the powers only if the projects would seriously hurt China’s interests or are not in keeping with the bank’s objectives, adding that the possibility for such conditions is low.

After the signing of the AOA, the bank’s senior management will be appointed before it starts operations.

The bank’s headquarters will be located in Beijing, and its president will be selected through an open, transparent and merit-based process, according to the AOA.

The AIIB’s future investments will focus on Asian infrastructure projects in the energy, power, transport and agricultural sectors that also meet environmentally friendly and energy-saving standards, Jin Liqun, secretary-general of the AIIB’s interim multilateral secretariat, said at a forum held in Beijing over the weekend.

The Asian Development Bank said it believes Asia would need infrastructure investments worth over $8 trillion between 2010 and 2020.

“The AIIB will complement existing multilateral development banks to promote sustained and stable growth in Asia,” Zhu said.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim welcomed the signing of the AOA.

“More funding for infrastructure will help the poor, and we are pleased to be working with China and others to help the AIIB hit the ground running,” he said in a statement on Monday.

– Song Shengxia contributed to this story

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Dad’s what all kids want?


Father_kids

Fathers have an impact – good or bad, intentional or otherwise – simply by what they do, and what they don’t.

TODAY is Father’s Day. There is no real significance to this date, other than the fact that it has become yet another day for commercial interests to make more money.

And so we are inundated with messages on what we should buy for our fathers – anything from a tie to a power drill is fine.

It is also interesting that many charity organisations have also got into the game, where you can give a donation on behalf of your father in support of various causes.

I won’t pour cold water on those who believe this day should be celebrated in such manner. Having been a father for nearly 30 years, I will say that a day’s celebrations can’t encapsulate the role of a father, which is both unique and challenging.

More so in our Asian culture where fathers tend to play second fiddle to mothers in a nurturing role, and may not have enough opportunities to exert their influence on the children.

But the reality is we, fathers, do have an impact – good or bad, intentional or otherwise – simply by what we do, and what we don’t.

I have written before in this column that the best times in my career were the six years, over two different stretches, that I spent at home as a full-time father.

I had a whale of a time, although my better half did find it tricky explaining to friends why she had to earn the bread and butter while I was gallivanting at home.

Without being tied down to an office routine, I had all the time in the world. During my first stint, when my sons were still quite young, we had plenty of fun activities. Among other things, I built them a playhouse, flew kites with them, and taught them to swim and to ride a bicycle.

On my second stint, when they were already in their pre-teens and had become more aware of the world around them, our conversations often revolved around the values of life.

Fathers, as you receive gifts on Father’s Day, I wonder if you have thought about what gifts you might give to your children in their formative years – gifts that money cannot buy.

Do you teach them how to make the right choices, rather than lay down a list of dos and don’ts?

Do you respect that they have a voice that needs to be heard, or do you exert authority simply because you are the father?

Do you imbue in them the fortitude to overcome obstacles in life, resisting the urge to always jump in and rescue them?

Do you affirm their dreams, or simply tell them to be practical and march to the beat of the world?

I have learnt that these lessons cannot be taught in a textbook format, and certainly not in one sitting.

Lessons in life are passed on over many conversations and through much time spent together.

If we are the kind of fathers who leave home before our children wake up and come home after they are asleep, or even when we are present with them, are not really listening, perhaps it’s time to take stock.

The world tries to make busy dads feel less guilty by highlighting the effectiveness of so-called quality time. But I believe there can be no quality time without time in quantity.

Fathers, full-time or not, are you prepared to leave everything aside when your child comes up to you, because you are the only person he or she can call “dad”? And will you show, through your words and actions, that such moments mean all the world to you?

Happy Father’s Day.

By Sunday starters SOO Ewe Jin

Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin urges every dad to listen to Cat in the Cradle, made famous in 1974 by Harry Chapin. The song is about a father who was too busy to spend time with his son, who eventually grew up just like him, a busy man who did not have time for his father. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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What household debt means and how to manage it ?


House debt_means

The difference between ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ loans

I have received queries about what household debt means and the best ways to manage it.

Household debt is basically all forms of loans with interest rates taken from entities that provide financing. The loans can be secured with assets such as real estate loans (housing and commercial properties), or without any collateral such as personal and credit card loans.

Residential and commercial property loans have capital appreciation potential over the long term. According to statistics from National Property Information Centre, the annual appreciation rate for house prices has averaged 9% in the past five years.

Even if we assume the average house prices only appreciate 5% per annum, it is still an ideal asset which we can live in, and at the same time it grows in value.

If you refer to the chart above, the effective interest rate for housing loans is only 4.65%, which is lower than its annual appreciation rate.

On the other hand, the effective interest rates for car loans range from 5% to 7.5% depending on car model and loan term (effective interest rates are calculated from the advertised headline rates of 2.5% to 3% depending on the tenure of the car loan).

On top of higher effective interest rates, the value of private vehicles depreciate about 10% to 20% per year based on car insurance calculations and accounting practice.

In fact, everyone knows that the day you drive the car out of the showroom, its value drops by 15% to 25%!

The effective interest rate for personal loans is 9% to 10%, while credit card effective interest rates can go as high as 18% to 24% (again, like car loans, the effective interest rates per year are much higher than the advertised rates).

If these loans are spent on items that do not appreciate over time and on perishable items, then the depreciation rates are high and there are no returns to speak of.

The real estate loans (housing and commercial properties) that will appreciate in the longer term, can be deemed as “good debt”.

Car, personal and credit card loans, which have higher interest rates repayment and do not generate value in the future, and are considered as “unhealthy debt” or “bad debt”.

The chart above illustrates the effective interest rates on different household debt components. It also reminds me about the household debt I shared in my last article. What does our nation’s household debt really mean to us? How much of it impacts us if we include its interest rate, appreciation and depreciation values?

According to Bank Negara, our household debt was at RM940.4bil or 87.9% of gross domestic product (GDP) as of end-2014.


Large burden

Residential housing loans accounted for 45.7% (RM429.7bil) of total debts, hire purchase at 16.6%, personal financing stood at 15.7%, non-residential loan was 7.7%, securities at 6.5%, followed by credit cards and other items at 3.9%.

Our household burden is larger if we include the servicing of incurred interest rate for loans. Much of it comes from the higher interest rates to service hire purchase, personal financing and credit card loans.

It reinforces my belief that if we take a debt to invest or secure appreciating items such as housing and other valuable assets, they will eventually provide a higher return in the longer term which more than compensates for the interest rate paid on the loans.

My belief is substantiated by Bank Negara’s Financial Stability and Payment Systems Report 2014.

The report states that properties remain an important investment for many households to finance children’s education, provide a form of financial security for the next generation and preparation for retirement.

Our government can help us achieve higher investment on housing and other valuable assets by looking at ways to reduce our dependency on other types of loans.

Reducing dependency

Example, to provide a comprehensive public transportation system by aggressively expanding mass rapid transit, buses, mini buses, and taxi service to cover more areas.

This will reduce the dependency on private vehicles which in turn help us to divert our financial resources to more fruitful areas or secure a roof over our heads.

As shared in my previous article, housing loans in advanced countries comprise an average of 74% of total household debt compared with ours at 45.7%.

This tells me that we, as a nation, are spending too much of our already high household debt (87.9% to GDP) on high interest/high depreciation “bad debt” such as a car, credit card and personal loan.

Now is a good time to relook into our debt portfolio and the interest rates incurred, and check whether we are having a healthy or unhealthy debt burden.

FIABCI Asia-Pacific Regional secretariat chairman Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.

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South Korea cuts interest rate as MERS contagion as threat


korea-mers-flagSEOUL: South Korea reported a 10th MERS death as the outbreak of the potentially deadly virus forced the central bank to cut its key interest rate to ward off greater economic damage amid a slump in business.

In what has become the largest outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outside Saudi Arabia, a 65-year-old man died yesterday after being infected with the virus while receiving treatment for lung cancer at a hospital.

Seoul also reported 14 new cases, including the first infection of a pregnant woman. The new diagnoses brought to 122 the total number of confirmed cases in South Korea, the health ministry said.

Businesses including shopping malls, restaurants and cinemas have reported a sharp drop in sales as people shun public venues with large crowds.

Bank of Korea governor Lee Ju-yeol said slowing exports and threats to business from MERS were central to the decision to cut its benchmark rate by a quarter percentage point, to a record low of 1.5%.

It was the first cut since March, when the central bank made a surprise cut of 25 basis points.

“The full impact of the outbreak still remains uncertain but we thought it was desirable to act pre-emptively to curb its negative impact on the economy,” Lee said.

More than 54,000 foreign travellers have cancelled planned trips to South Korea so far this month, according to the Korea Tourism Board.

Hong Kong has issued a “red” alert warning against non-essential travel to South Korea.

However, Seoul says World Health Organisation guidelines do not warrant such action.

Taiwan raised its travel advisory level for South Korea but stopped short of warning its people against going at all. Other governments in Asia are urging caution but none has gone as far as Hong Kong in warning against non-essential travel.

Residents of Hong Kong are particularly sensitive after an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) killed 299 people in the city in 2003 and sparked global panic.

The MERS virus is considered a deadlier but less infectious cousin of SARS.

On Wednesday, the area around a health clinic inside a metro station in Hong Kong was cordoned off and officials donned protective gear after a woman returning from South Korea showed flu-like symptoms.

Surgical masks reportedly sold out in shops around the station, but Hong Kong officials confirmed yesterday that the woman had tested negative for MERS.

Growing public alarm has forced South Korean President Park Geun-hye to cancel a planned June 14-18 trip to the United States.

Her administration has faced a storm of criticism for perceived slow and insufficient response to the crisis.

Of the 14 new cases, eight were infected at Samsung Medical Centre in Seoul, a major hospital where 55 people have contracted the virus. That is the largest cluster in the outbreak.

A 39-year-old woman in her final trimester of pregnancy was among those confirmed yesterday to have acquired the virus at the hospital.

Another victim contracted the virus at a hospital in Hwaseong City, 40km south of Seoul, and five others are under investigation to discover how they were infected.

More than 3,800 people who came into close contact with those infected are under quarantine, either at their homes or at healthcare facilities.

The first infected patient was diagnosed on May 20 after a trip to Saudi Arabia.

The 68-year-old man visited four medical facilities, infecting other patients and medics, before he was finally diagnosed, sparking criticism that authorities had bungled the initial response. — AFP

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South Koreans fight over jobs


South Korean jobsWhy South Koreans with ‘best jobs’ take only one day off per year

Young and Old Fight Over Jobs in Korea as Generation Gap Widens

With youth unemployment near a 15-year high and the government planning to raise the retirement age, intergenerational conflict over jobs is rising in South Korea.

The jobless rate for workers aged 15 to 29 touched 11 percent earlier this year and is about four times higher than for those aged 40 and above. At the other end of the spectrum, Korea has an underdeveloped pension system and the highest elderly poverty rate in the OECD, as companies push employees in their fifties into early retirement to contain costs.

An overall unemployment rate that’s close to the 10-year average belies the difficulty facing policy makers seeking to balance the needs of the young and the old as society ages and economic growth eases after the heady gains of previous decades.

Working longer would have helped Lee Jong Ho, 59, who retired from Korea Railroad Corp. two years ago and has been looking for another job ever since. Lee’s 2.2 million won ($1,970) monthly pension isn’t enough to support him and his wife, after pouring savings into raising their children.

“Healthy people like me should work at least until 70 given that the average life span of people now is easily over 80,” said Lee. “I know that extending the retirement age could mean fewer jobs for young people. I’m willing to get paid a little less if I can keep working.”

While currently there is no official retirement age in South Korea, a typical worker’s career ends around 53, government data show. After that, many try to get by on a combination of pension payments, savings, part-time work or small business ventures.

A new law taking effect next year mandates that large companies allow employees to work until at least 60.

‘Repeating Class’

Kang Jin Ho, an English major at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, is 26 and still trying to get into the workforce. He’s deferred graduating for years to maximize his employment chances, as many companies limit new entry hires to people still in school. Kang’s applied for more than 70 jobs already in 2015 and has been rejected every time.

“Getting a job was so much easier for my parents’ generation, when the economy was expanding fast,” he said. “The average age of job seekers in my study group is 30.”

Projections from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development paint a gloomy picture for Kang and the next generation of students who will follow. The number of people 65 and older in Korea will surge from 11 percent in 2010 to more than 37 percent by 2050, according to the OECD.

Park’s Plan

The unemployment rate for those aged 15 to 29 was 9.3 percent in May, Statistics Korea said Wednesday. That’s the highest figure for May in official data going back to June 1999, and compares with 2.7 percent for people 40-49 and 2.6 percent for the 50-59 group. Young people are also seeking stable jobs and many apply for the civil service exam, which pushes up the youth unemployment rate, said Sim Won Bo, director at Statistics Korea.

President Park Geun Hye’s government will next month announce its fourth set of measures in two years to help ease unemployment among the young.

Previous efforts have included improvements to career training at school and incentives for young people to join small- and medium-sized enterprises, not just the large corporate icons that dominate the public imagination.

This time around the government may begin addressing the problems faced by Lee and Kang at the same time.

Tenure System

According to a finance ministry statement in May, financial support could be offered to companies that keep on older workers, while trimming their wages and using the savings to hire more young employees. The ministry didn’t offer further details.

Labor unions have already voiced opposition to the idea of a peak-wage system, which also runs counter to cultural traditions of basing pay on tenure and age, rather than performance.

“In a rapidly aging society with weak growth momentum, you’re going to get conflict between young and old over how to divide economic benefits,” said Lee Geun Tae, an economist at the LG Economic Research Institute in Seoul. “Young people having proper jobs is important for our growth engine, but there doesn’t seem to be an easy solution.”

Source: Bloomberg

Retirement Redesigned

Baby Boomers, Work and the Endless Vacation

0827_retirement_1433

The baby boom generation already has left its mark on music, fitness and politics. Next up: retirement. While some people dream of the same “golden age” of relaxation, sun and travel their parents enjoyed, many more have looked at the numbers and decided they have to keep working. (It takes a lot of savings to finance a 30-year vacation.) For others, working is a choice. (Why give up a good income and fulfilling career?) Either way, the generation famous for rewriting the rules is now reshaping life after 65.

The Situation

Demographics are forcing changes in expectations for retirement. The number of senior citizens worldwide will swell to 714 million in 2020 from 601 million in 2015, straining government benefit plans. Meanwhile, the world’s birthrate is declining. Fewer workers mean fewer people paying into pension programs. So governments are encouraging or forcing people to work longer. Twenty percent of people over 65 are still working in Japan, whose median age of 46.1 gives it the world’s second-oldest population (surpassed only by Monaco at 51.1). There’s room for growth: Surveys show 80 percent of Japanese seniors want to work. Some are finding it hard to live comfortably on pensions alone. Others share the feelings of a 69-year-old who said: “Life is boring without work.”

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Background

German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck offered the elderly the world’s first national old-age pension system in 1889. In the U.S., the first private pension plan was begun by American Express in 1875. By 1929, one-tenth of the American work force was covered under company pension plans. Yet that same year, even before the Great Depression hit, 56 percent of Americans 65 and older couldn’t support themselves. The Social Security law that passed in 1935 included a pension plan. During World War II, wage controls in the U.S. led employers to offer pensions as a way to attract workers. Private pensions expanded through the 1970s until they covered almost half of American workers. By the 1950s, retirees had money to spend and they wanted to play. The number of golf courses in the U.S. doubled from about 5,000 in the 1950s to more than 10,000 in the 1980s. America’s first retirement community, Sun City, opened outside of Phoenix in 1960. Tours and programs designed for older travelers, such as Elderhostel, founded in 1975, helped them see the world. Things began to change in 1980 with the introduction of 401(k) plans, which allowed U.S. workers to avoid taxes on income put aside for retirement. Subsequent tax-law changes removed incentives for companies to maintain traditional pension plans. Savings plans that relied on the stock market lost value with every crash and tough economic times caused many to take early withdrawals from their retirement savings. Fewer U.S. homeowners reaching retirement age have paid off their mortgages. The result: American baby boomers are poorer than their parents who golfed, lived in sunny climates and traveled.

The Argument

Baby boomers are starting retirement without much in the bank. More than one-fifth of Americans 65 and older are working and more people expect to work past traditional retirement age. They may be needed — certain industries, like construction and manufacturing, are facing shortages of skilled workers. Healthy seniors often want to stay on the job even if they don’t need the money, though in areas like academia this may be preventing younger people from advancing. Governments are certainly encouraging older people to work. In 2011, the U.K. abolished its default retirement age of 65; most people can now work as long as they want. The graying of the workforce is likely to continue. When asked what age they expect to retire, 10 percent of American baby boomers say “never.”

The Reference Shelf

Gallup has a series of polls on baby boomers and retirement.

Financial Times Magazine article, “How Japan stood up to old age.”

Bloomberg Visual Data on the impact of an aging world population.

National Public Radio interviewed older workers for its series, “Working Late.”

PBS NewsHour interactive report, “New Adventures for Older Workers.

First Published Sept. 18, 2014

To contact the writer of this QuickTake:

Victoria Stilwell at vstilwell1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this QuickTake:

Anne Cronin at acronin14@bloomberg.net

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Science on high intensity interval training: HIIT, or SHIIT?


Man_30-minute-hiit-mainLet me pose you a question: would you rather go down to the video store (if it hasn’t yet gone bankrupt) to hire a DVD, or stream it from the comfort of your own home? You’ve probably answered: the comfort of your own home, unless of course you get all nostalgic about walking down the street to hire discs. I know I do!

Okay, okay, now let me pose you a further question: would you rather spend one hour exercising, or 30 minutes? Stop, don’t answer that just yet. What if I were to say that both workouts would give you equivalent results? Unless you’re a time wasting enthusiast, pain junky, or DOMS devotee you’re probably going to answer 30 minutes. Well a new (old) exercise regiment known as high intensity interval training (HIIT) is offering just that.

Yes, if you believe one of the internet’s many great fitness prophets, then you will be aware that HIIT is the shit! Slow endurance training is the DVD for hire and HIIT is Netflix, which is of course, the shit. So is HIIT truly the shit, or should you beware of false fitness prophets?

HIITWorkout

What is HIIT?

Before I answer your previous question. What is HIIT? Simply put, HIIT involves performing intervals of highly intense exercise followed by either complete rest, or low intensity exercise. The high intensity-low intensity combination seems to be the more popular of the two currently.

How about an example? Sure, here’s one. Let’s say running is your game. Your HIIT may involve a ratio of a one minute sprint, to 45 seconds of slow jogging, repeated for a total of 15 minutes. It certainly doesn’t have to follow this exact ratio, or duration and these variables change greatly from protocol to protocol, that was simply an example. I should note, however, that scientific data to date has found minimal difference between different interval ratios thus far (9).
HIIT (1)

Why HIIT might be the shit?

HIIT is proposed to lead to multiple complex physiological changes to the skeletal muscle system that promote fat burning efficiency and preference, and more efficient oxygen utilisation. In turn, this is proposed to: make you skinnier, fitter and it will likely give you the ability to fly! But probably not the last one.

Science and HIIT (SHIIT):

Of course theory means little unless it translates to real world, real life changes. So, does it? Spoiler, it generally does.

Aerobic health:

A review paper analysing studies on individuals suffering from various different lifestyle diseases found HIIT to be effective. Specifically, cardiovascular fitness, as measured by Vo2 max, was 9% higher when individuals performed HIIT as opposed to moderate intensity continuous exercise (1). Another large scale review paper on scientific studies to date found HIIT to improve: aerobic fitness level more so than normal, moderate intensity exercise in both sedentary and active individuals. But it was only as effective as continuous exercise training in athletic persons (2). If that wasn’t enough science for you, a third study found HIIT to improve aerobic fitness as well as moderate intensity continuous exercise in a relatively fit group of people (3). This basically tells us that the lower your fitness level is, the better you will respond to HIIT and if you only want to do one sort of training, HIIT will be more effective than continuous training for aerobic fitness. Conversely, if you’re really fit and only want to do one form of exercise, then HIIT is as good as continuous moderate intensity exercise for aerobic fitness.

beautiful fitness woman

Muscles, muscles, muscles:

What about those muscles? Can you skip the separate weight sessions and do an all in one HIIT session? Well, the scientific data is very limited on this. But the one study that does exist on this topic, found that when having an active rest period was compared to having complete rest, complete rest won. Yes, complete rest led to greater work output, which in turn would likely mean improved: muscle mass, strength, power, looking shredded bro (4)! This makes sense and says that resistance training HIIT will likely provide you with some nice adaptations, but not as good as traditional weight training where proper rest between sets is taken.

Weight loss:

What about weight loss then? The data ain’t crystal clear on this. One study found HIIT boxing was better than continuous brisk walking at improving body fat percentage (5). Another study found participants had a decreased waist circumference following HIIT, but not following moderate intensity continuous exercise (6). Yet, in complete contrast, continuous moderate intensity exercise was found to decrease trunk fat more so than HIIT in another study (7). All in all, the science isn’t certain on whether HIIT or continuous training is best for weight loss. But if you base your workout on the number of calories you’re burning, based on average heart rate or a similar method, then you should be no worse off than performing continuous exercise, as average heart rate tends to be higher for HIIT and stays elevated for longer following exercise.

Adherence:

If HIIT is quicker to do, then you’d think people would do it more and stick to it. And they do! High intensity interval training led to a greater level of adherence (89% vs 71%) than moderate intensity continuous training (8). Grouse!

HIIT

Is it healthful? 

Ladies and gentlemen, HIIT is the shit! Or at least it is pretty darn good and very relevant to our time-centric society:

  • HIIT is likely as good as endurance exercise for aerobic fitness and if you’re of a low fitness level it’s probably better.
  •  Resistance training HIIT won’t get you as ripped as traditional resistance training with structured rest periods. But it’s probably not a great deal worse.
  • HIIT will lead to at least equivalent weight loss to continuous moderate intensity exercise in a shorter period of time, likely due to an elevated average heart rate.
  • HIIT generally leads to higher adherence, so you’re more likely to stick with it.

Our verdict :Highly healthfull. If you’re time poor and unfit, HIIT’s the most effective way to turn things around. Although if time is less of a factor and you really want to optimise your health you should combine HIIT, anaerobic exercise and aerobic exercise as part of a proper periodised program. Especially, if you have sport related goals.

I hope this has been healthful!

Isithealthful

I hold a Doctor of Physiotherapy, Bachelor of Exercise Science and am a qualified personal trainer. I have extensive clinical and research experience and a strong passion for all things health. This has driven me to write the blog: Is it healthful, in order to analyse sound scientific research to determine if a product, service or intervention is healthful, or simply a waste of money or time.

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Trees and plants can feel stress, need time to recharge like humans


Trees

KEPONG: Trees feel stress and need rest the same way humans do, and the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) is playing doctor to keep them healthy.

FRIM director-general Datuk Dr Abdul Latif Mohmod said trees in the cities were the worst affected.

“It causes them to fall sick, making them susceptible to attacks from fungi and pests,” he said at the institute’s open day and World Environment Day yesterday.

He said a tree that looked healthy on the outside could be hollow inside, making it hard to diagnose its problem with the naked eye.

Dr Latif said FRIM used sonar technology as an “X-ray” machine to diagnose such trees.

Research officer Ahmad Aza­ruddin Mohd Noor demonstrated the use of the device called the Picus Sonic Tomography.

“The device generates a 3D image of a tree’s insides, effectively identifying decay and cavities in the trunk,” said Ahmad Azaruddin, a certified arborist (professional in cultivating, managing and the study of trees) who has helped local councils manage trees.

“A tree that has become 30% hollow can fall in the event of a thunderstorm. If that happens, it can be very dangerous,” he said.

To prevent this, his team would usually prune it to preserve its structural integrity.

He said the team would do its best to preserve a tree due to its benefits to the urban ecosystem.

“We will be forced to cut it down only if the damage is too severe,” he said, adding that less than 20% of trees faced such a problem.

“In the cities, it only happens to trees that are more than 100 years old or those with roots that have been damaged.

“In the forests, the usual culprits are termites,” he said.

Dr Latif said as trees feel stress, FRIM closes its canopy walkway on Mondays and Fridays to let them rest.

“Our canopy walkway can accommodate 200 visitors a day. We don’t want to give the trees too much stress,” he said.

He also said Malaysians should be proud of FRIM’s man-made tropical forest as it was the world’s largest and oldest.

The forest covers seven arboreta (repositories of living plants) and a botanic garden.

He said it was originally an abandoned mining land and that the Forestry Department, which owned less than a hectare of it, planted its first tree there in 1923.

“Today, it spans 544.3ha and houses 73 out of 92 critically endangered plants in Malaysia,” he said, adding that more than 1.3 million people visited FRIM last year.

Dr Latif said FRIM prided itself as a community-friendly institute that facilitated learning and embraced outstanding universal values.

“Because of this, we are working towards being gazetted as a Unesco World Heritage site by 2020.”

By Adrian Chan The Star/Asia News Network

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One to call their own: Residents and families posing with a tree they just planted for the programme. The particular tree will remain as part of each family’s responsibility and heritage in USJ Heights, inherited by future generations.

One to call their own: Residents and families posing with a tree they just planted for the programme. The particular tree will remain as part of each family’s responsibility and heritage in USJ Heights, inherited by future generations.

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