The right statistic is often worth a thousand words—and sometimes much more than that. These five weekly data points, put together by Ian Bremmer, president and founder of the risk consultancy Eurasia Group, provide a glimpse into global trends, political dangers and international power dynamics. Some are counterintuitive facts. Others are small stats that tell a big story. This week, Ian looks at everything from airplane premiums to German immigration.
Hong Kong’s shrinking importance
Last Sunday, the National People’s Congress of China announced a rigorous vetting system for candidates in the 2017 elections for Hong Kong’s top post of Chief Executive that effectively puts the city’s leadership under Beijing’s control—all that despite the fact that in 2012, the Chinese government promised the citizens of Hong Kong that in the next electoral cycle they would enjoy “universal suffrage.” Hong Kong’s citizens may vote freely only for candidates that have been approved by a nominating committee whose composition is nearly as opaque as the Chinese Communist Party’s. But the city’s newsworthy moment obscures its waning importance to the growth-obsessed Chinese government at-large. With mainland China’s growth skyrocketing, Hong Kong now represents only 2.9 percent of the country’s total economy, compared to 15.6 percent in 1997.
Germany has soared from eighth in 2009 to second in 2012 on the list of largest immigrant destinations according to the OECD, now trailing only the United States. Because of its aging population and low birthrate, Germany’s concerns about a shrinking labor pool are growing. The government projects that, by 2030, it may have a deficit of as many as 2.3 million workers. As a result, Germany has pushed for more inviting immigration policy, simplifying the process for non-EU immigrants in 2012 and initiating the “Blue Card” system last year that offers entry to those with university degrees and job offers with salaries above $50,000 per year. Now, the average immigrant moving to Germany is more skilled and better educated than his average German counterpart. Immigration to Germany in 2012 was up almost 40 percent from the year before.
Over 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies—businesses that pursue outstanding debts for a fee or percentage of what is owed. There are plenty of employees to address this massive group of indebted Americans: the collections industry has 140,000 workers that together recover $50 billion a year.
The spate of plane crashes that we’ve seen in recent months has primed the airline insurance industry for its most expensive year since the 9/11 disaster inflated costs in 2001. In some instances, airline insurers are demanding threefold increases in premiums for so-called "war insurance" policies, which cover damage to aircraft involved in "hostile acts" and which brokers can cancel with as little as a week's notice. Before this recent surge, airline insurance costs had almost halved over the past five years.
Though the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has infected more than 3,600 in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, along with more than 20 in Nigeria, the disease thus far has barely touched the United States. Nebraska Medical Center began treatment of Dr. Rick Sacra this week, the third American infected with the disease, after Americans Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly survived the virus with the help of ZMapp, an experimental treatment. Still, even though the United States has hosted no transmissions thus far, some experts warn that because of the ease of international airline travel and Ebola’s average 7-day incubation period, a stateside outbreak could be forthcoming. The United States welcomes between 3,000 and 6,000 passengers per week from Nigeria, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.