Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Global middle class nears 1bn; The strange revival of nationalism; Three acceptable lies in an interview

1 Global middle class nears 1 bn (Alberto Nardelli in The Guardian) The global gross financial assets - namely securities, bank deposits, and claims on insurance and pensions - of private households grew by 9.9% in 2013, the highest rate of growth since 2003. This brought total global financial assets up to a new record level of €118 trillion. Switzerland, the US and Belgium are the top-three countries in the world when it comes to net per capita financial assets. This is one of the main findings in the most recent edition of the Allianz Global Wealth Report.

Since the end of 2000, the proportion of global gross financial assets that is attributable to North America and western Europe has fallen by 6%, yet both regions still account for a combined total of almost 70% of the global asset base. In other words, more than four-fifths of global financial assets are still in the hands of private households living in the world’s richer areas, even though these households make up 18.8% of the earth’s population.

One of the most interesting sections in the report is on the growth of a global middle class - which is now nearing the one billion mark. Allianz defines this “wealth middle class” by taking the average global net per capita financial assets (€17,700 in 2013), as a basis, and then encompasses all individuals with assets corresponding to somewhere between 30% and 180% of this figure.

The flows between wealth classes are particularly interesting. The middle class includes both 65 million people that have been demoted from the “wealth upper class” since 2000, and 491 million new entrants. The share of the population that falls into the wealth middle class in global terms has doubled in Latin America, has almost trebled in eastern Europe and has increased seven-fold in Asia.

2 Nationalism’s strange revival (Gideon Rachman in Financial Times/Straits Times) In 1990 management consultant Kenichi Ohmae published a book called The Borderless World, whose title captured the spirit of globalisation. Over the next almost 25 years, developments in business, finance, technology and politics seemed to confirm the inexorable decline of borders and the nation states they protected.

But last week, 45 per cent of Scots voted in favour of setting up a nation independent from the United Kingdom. The referendum was watched eagerly by separatist movements in Catalonia, Tibet, Quebec and elsewhere. Separatist movements are one facet of the resurgence of nationalism. In Europe, Asia and the Middle East, nationalist politicians are on the march - even in well-established states.

The most dangerous nationalist in Europe is Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who has annexed Crimea, proclaiming his right, indeed duty, to protect Russian speakers wherever they live. The three most powerful Asian countries - China, Japan and India - are led by charismatic nationalist leaders. China's President Xi Jinping, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi use a similar rhetoric of national revival as a spur to economic and social reform at home.

What accounts for this strange global resurgence of nationalism when so many economic and technological forces push in the opposite direction? The disorientating effects of globalisation probably encourage people to look for reassurance and meaning in things that are more local or national, whether it is a common language or a shared history. Suspicion of globalisation and international finance also received a huge boost after the economic crisis of 2008.

Perhaps most dangerously, the sense that the global order is newly unstable may be stoking nationalist sentiment, as countries or separatist movements see an opportunity to push their previously dormant agendas. In a more optimistic age, it was a Japanese thinker - Mr Ohmae - who popularised the notion of a borderless world. For 25 years, his insight had seemed powerful and prescient. Sadly, it now looks increasingly out of tune with a world in which nationalism is resurgent.

3 Three acceptable lies in an interview (Belo Cipriani in San Francisco Chronicle) In a competitive job market, people sometimes stretch the truth to help themselves stand out from the pack. But while lying on resumes and cover letters is frowned upon, there are some instances in the interview process when it’s OK not to be fully honest. Here are three things that are OK to lie about during an interview.

Your future plans: We can prepare, outline, and even draft a five year plan; yet, life can take us on a completely different course. This is why, when asked about your future, it’s OK not to have a specific answer. It’s fine to alter your five year future plan to include the potential employer. And if it turns out you are not with them in five years, you can be sure it won’t be held against you.

Your weaknesses: When interviewers ask for your biggest weakness, they already suspect your answer will not be completely honest. For example, if you say your biggest weakness is being a perfectionist, the person doing the interview will be more interested in knowing how you cope with your perfectionist attitude. And if you do decide to be completely open about your pitfalls, keep in mind that what you identify as a drawback may not be what others see as a flaw and hiring managers may not take your confession to heart.

Your state of emotion: If you are nervous or anxious during the interview, admitting your feelings may make your symptoms worse. Telling others that you are doing great, even if you got no sleep, will help you feel better and help push negative feelings away.

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