Economics in the News – Feb 14-20, 2022
Economics impacts our lives every day. Below are some of the top storylines from this past week related to economics.
- Avocado has become a staple in the diets of many Americans, but experts are warning of a price hike for the fruit in the coming weeks. The U.S. Department of Agriculture temporarily suspended imports of avocado’s coming from Mexico on Feb. 11, after receiving a verbal threat that was not made public. The export of avocados from Mexico to the United States resumed Monday, Feb. 21.
The average price of an avocado is $1.43 – nearly 11 percent higher than last year. Eighty percent of the avocados consumed in the United States come from the western state of Michoacán in Mexico – the only region in Mexico approved to send avocados to the United States. Annual exports from Michoacán bring nearly $3 billion in revenue, with the majority coming from the United States. [The New York Times]
- Parts of Africa are dealing with a wave of inflation that has caused food insecurity and has driven some in places such as Uganda to drastic measures such as emigrating. Increasing food prices compounded the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns have driven an estimated 40 million people into poverty, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.
Over the last year, an estimated 100,000 people in Uganda have migrated to other regions. Most African nations are net food importers and have become significantly more dependent on imported staples such as rice, corn and pasta. That leaves the continent’s population vulnerable to the rising cost of shipping food globally. [The Wall Street Journal]
- The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games came to a conclusion with the closing ceremonies and the handing off the Olympic torch to Italy – the host nation of the 2026 Winter Olympic Games in Milan-Cortina. The 2022 Winter Olympics followed the rescheduled 2020 Summer Olympic Games – due to the COVID-19 pandemic – by six months. The Olympics will not be back in Asia until at least 2030. Norway led the medal count, followed by Russia, Germany, Canada and the United States.
In the United States, TV viewership was down, but streaming viewership was up on NBC’s Peacock platform. The Games certainly had their share of controversy, including the diplomatic boycott of several countries, such as the United States, the doping controversy of Russian 15-year old figure skater Kamila Valieva, and the overshadowing of geopolitical tensions with Russia’s buildup of troops along its border with Ukraine spurring fears of war. [Associated Press]
- Is it time to rethink the 40-hour workweek? Spearheaded by a research experiment in Iceland, the idea of a four-day workweek seems to be gaining ground. Iceland has experimented with a shorter workweek, without pay cuts, over several years. Eighty-six percent of workers expect to adopt it after the success of the experiment. Other countries, such as Belgium, have plans to implement four 10-hour shifts, while there is a proposed bill in Congress that would reduce all standard workweeks to 32 hours in the United States.
Those in favor of a shorter workweek argue that it doesn’t seem to harm productivity and cite improvements in the long-term health implications by reducing stress. However, a four-day workweek isn’t without challenges for those in task-based jobs and could put colleagues out of sync. [The Washington Post]
- The number of Russian troops along the Ukraine border has continued to build, drawing global speculation and tension. World leaders are continuing diplomatic talks in a high-stakes effort to avoid conflict. How will an invasion by the Kremlin impact Americans?
President Joe Biden and other global leaders have promised sanctions against Russia, if the Kremlin invade. U.S. officials have warned of supply chain disruptions, specifically in the semiconductor and aerospace industries. Global financial markets have already had a negative reaction to the tension at the Ukraine border, but a further conflict could accelerate the shock to the markets. U.S. officials also warn of possible cyberattacks, specifically on big banks and power grid operators. [NPR]