Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Ekonomist – Generation K Interview

March 6th, 2017 by admin

Please click on the image to enlarge Noreena’s interview for Die Zeit discussing her research on Generation K.


Die Zeit - scan


Please click here to view article on Noreena’s ITV blog.

The big news today is that the economy is doing significantly better post the EU Referendum than the Bank of England has initially envisaged.

Expect the pound to strengthen today off the back of this announcement.

The Bank’s GDP estimate for 2017 is now 2%.

Back in November, it estimated that it would would only be 1.4% this year – and as far back as August, it forecast that GDP would be just 0.8% this year.

So what accounts for this big change in the Bank of England’s forecast? Why do they think the UK economy is going to do better than expected this year?

It’s to do with a number of factors.

In part, it is to do with how well it expects the global economy as a whole to do this year; in part because unemployment has not increased as they thought it would.

But largely, it’s to do with the resilience of the British consumer who has not only kept calm and carried on spending, but actually been spending more. The Bank notes “robust growth in consumer spending”.

Remember retail sales rose by 1.3% from August to November. This is partly because people have been drawing on savings significantly (the savings rate is down to a record low), and in part because credit card debt has gone up.

Of course, both of these behaviours, if they persist, could prove problematic later down the line.

When it comes to next year and the year after, the Bank’s forecasts from November remain broadly speaking unchanged, although slightly better than expected.

Next year they expect the economy to slow down – a GDP of 1.6%. In 2019 they expect it to be 1.7%.

A large part of the reason the Bank expects growth still to slow down next year and the year after is because the Bank does still expect consumer spending to drop – it just now predicts it will happen later than initially expected.

The key reason it will slow down? Inflation.

The Bank expects inflation to rise this year at a higher rate than it had initially thought – 2% this year, and then 2.7% in 2018.

And because it expects wages to basically remain flat, households will soon feel the squeeze.

Basically, the drop in sterling since the referendum will lead to this surge in inflation. While the pound has strengthened in past few weeks, it’s still 18% below its late 2015 peak.

Forecasting in what I have called ‘The Age of Radical Uncertainty’ is, of course, incredibly hard.

So it’s worthwhile thinking about some of the key game changers that could up end the Bank’s forecast:

  • Brexit: At the moment the Bank is using an average of potential post-Brexit trading relationships in its forecasting. Once it adjusts this to the reality this will of course have a significant impact on its forecasts.


  • The US: At the moment the market (and the Bank) is assuming that Trump Presidency will boost the US economy this year because of its planned fiscal stimulus. But is the “Trump Risk” being adequately priced in?


  • China: Should the Chinese domestic debt situation require government intervention that could impede growth.


  • Russia: An emboldened Russia now that Trump is president inevitably increases geopolitical risk.

The truth about Trumponomics

January 23rd, 2017 by admin

Trump 2

Click here to view article on Noreena’s ITV blog.

The America that voted in Donald Trump is a divided one.

Since the 1990s, the gap between the haves and have-nots has increased, manufacturing jobs have been lost and for most workers real wages have been flat or falling.

Home ownership is now at its lowest level in 51 years. No wonder Trump’s message of more jobs, better pay, more growth resonated with so many.

But Trump’s analysis of America’s economic troubles is seriously flawed.

He ignores the role the financial crisis has played in America’s economic trajectory and blames China and Mexico for job losses – ignoring the reality that in a time of technological advancements the loss of blue collar jobs is an inevitability.

Even China is experiencing a loss of manufacturing jobs.

As for Trump’s medicine? That is not only unlikely to deliver to the “ordinary” American he supposedly champions – it may well make their lives worse. At best his proposed income cuts look like benefiting the rich much more than the poor.

Brookings Institution research suggests that they would lead to the 0.1% of the population who earn over £3 million seeing their taxes fall on average by £88,000 (a cut of 14%). The poorest 20% of households, on the other hand, would see their taxes cut by only £88 (a cut of 0.8%).

Lily Batchelder of NYU and the Tax Policy Center are even more pessimistic.

According to their calculations, those who are just about managing will become in real terms worse off, whilst millionaires will get an average tax cut of £255,000, a single parent earning £60,000 with two school age children will face a tax increase of over £1,900.

Trump’s proposed corporation tax cuts – whilst candy for the stock market – won’t necessarily lead to more jobs and more investment.

History teaches us that such gains do not inevitably trickle down.

A similar tax reform in 2004 which encouraged US companies to bring their funds back into the US by cutting slashing taxes lead to no increase in investment and only a transitory increase in employment.

Companies instead increased their dividend payments and share buybacks.

As for Trump’s plans to invest £800 billion in infrastructure, another proposal the markets have initially rewarded?

Although this could boost the economy in the short term – creating a sugar rush in year one – the increased debt that the US would inevitably rack up could well have a pernicious impact later on.

The fiscal stimulus would also likely have an upward effect on interest rates. And higher interest rates, mean higher mortgage rates, which could lead housing activity to slow down.

As US growth has historically been influenced by housing activity, any slowdown here could constrain US growth.

Then there’s Trump’s proposed repeal of the Dodd-Frank act, the set of regulations that came into force in the US after the financial crisis with the aim of making the financial markets safer.

Trump claims these are stopping banks lending to people and businesses and that the regulations are behind America’s sluggish recovery. But even conservative economists who have looked into this admit that such evidence is not forthcoming.

Less regulation of the financial markets could of course increase the likelihood of another financial crisis which would be bad for us all. We saw in 2008 just how quickly instability in American financial markets can spread to the rest of the world.

Trump’s commitment to repeal America’s climate change regulation – all references to climate change have now been purged from the White House website – is of course also of significant global concern.

Whilst his “America First” trade policy and border tax proposals risk not only igniting a global trade war, but also harming America itself, imports are likely to become more expensive as other countries retaliate with tariffs of their own.

US manufacturing is likely to suffer given its reliance on imports in the supply chain, while American goods are likely to become less competitive and manufacturing jobs and wages further depressed.

The Peterson Institute has estimated that a trade war – should Trump impose the 35% and 45% tariffs on Mexico and China he has threatened and they do the same to the US – would lead to 4.8 million job losses by 2019.

No wonder the dollar, which initially strengthened on the prospects of Trump presidency, is today weakening as the “reality” of the impact of Trump’s vision is sinking in.

The “reality” – in a world where the President of the US claims that it didn’t rain when it did, and that his inauguration enjoyed the biggest crowd ever when it clearly didn’t – it’s essential we focus on that.

Because under a Trump Presidency it already feels like it will be a question of who you believe.

Regardless of what the economic statistics show Trump and his team are likely to spend the next four years proclaiming that the US economy is booming, that jobs are growing and that Trump is making America great again.

The media, civil society and academia have a huge responsibility to scrutinise these claims and hold the Trump Administration to account.


Click here to view article on Noreena’s ITV blog.

If Theresa May wanted her speech at Davos today to reassure British businesses about a post-Brexit UK, I’m not sure it did. Whilst she did reiterate her vision of a “Global Britain” “open for business” she also went on the attack – she said that she expects businesses to pay their fair share of tax, recognise their responsibilities to workers and play by the same rules as everyone else.

(I’m not sure how her “fair tax” rhetoric squares with Philip Hammond’s recent threat that he will lure multinationals to our shores by offering lower taxes if we don’t get the EU trade deal we want, but I won’t dwell on this now.)

A globalisation that works for all was essentially her message today. It’s one we’ve heard before. But again her speech was light on detail. What actually is she going to do? When? And how?

Her speech on Tuesday in which she laid out her post-Brexit vision was another which was light on the “how” especially when it comes to trade.

I met with Dutch Finance Minister and President of the Eurogroup earlier today – Jeroen Dijsselbloem. He will be a key figure in the negotiations the UK is about to embark upon with the EU. And his message was clear. Theresa May might be telling us that a post-Brexit deal with the EU can be even better than the deal we currently have. But as far as he’s concerned, this simply isn’t feasible.

Dijsselbloem told me: “She’s trying to tell the British audience that you can have your cake and eat it. And it’s not possible. There will have to be compromises, there will have to be costs, trade will be more difficult and there will be an economic price.”

On our prospects for agreeing some sort of customs union arrangement with the EU post Brexit whilst at the same time pursuing bilateral free trade deals with the rest of the world he was unequivocal.

“It is not realistic to be in a customs union with the EU and at the same time have trade deals with other countries. It’s not possible. It’s not realistic. It’s not available”.

And as far as agreeing our new EU trade deal quickly? Well, Dijsselbloem made clear that this again was wishful thinking, very wishful. “We are heading for a very long and difficult negotiation” he said.

Until we “divorce” from the EU, unravel our existing relationship with it and sort out who will still pay for what, Dijsselbloem believes we cannot even begin negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal. How long will this unravelling phase last? Dijsselbloem thinks quite possibly as long as two years.

A trade deal with the EU not even starting to be negotiated for at least two years; a customs union in any shape or form simply not possible if we want to negotiate trade deals with other countries at the same time; a hard negotiation process ahead. For those businesses whose initial reaction to Theresa May’s speech on Tuesday was positive, Dijsselbloem’s words undoubtedly are not what they would’ve wanted to hear.




for the


Click here to view this article for The Guardian online.

Did you know that Jennifer Lawrence earns less than Matt Damon? Or that for every pound a man earns a women will earn only 80 pence?” In my ongoing research with 14-21 year olds – a generation I call Generation K – I am repeatedly reminded of how aware even the youngest are of the gender pay gap. And of how profoundly unjust they feel it to be. So I was very interested in the Resolution Foundation’s research published this week that revealed that a woman aged between 17-36 will now earn only 5% less than a man of similar age through her 20s.

The news was reported as something of a Hallelujah moment. I’m more sceptical. Yes, it is better than it was. Women of my generation earned 9% less when we were a similar age; my mother’s generation, 16% less. But the stark reality is that right from the get-go women still earn less than men.

This is partly about career choice. Society undervalues those who care and more women than men choose teaching over engineering, nursing over becoming an airline pilot. But there is more at play. Even when one compares male and female graduates who go into the same job upon graduation, a gap exists. Women graduating with a degree in engineering will earn £1,500 less than men in their first job. Outside of science and technology the gap remains pronounced. A woman with a degree in modern languages, classics or philosophy will earn on average £2,000 less than her male counterpart.

Throw babies into the mix and for mothers (but not fathers) it is pay Armageddon. The gender pay gap explodes during one’s 30s and 40s. For my generation, it tripled by the time we reached 40. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies discovered last year, there are penalties to be paid both for taking time off work and for working part-time. For mothers, this is a penalty that persists even if they subsequently return to full-time employment.

So what is to be done to close the gender pay gap? Should women just stop having babies? It is something an increasing number of Generation K females are contemplating. My research has found that 35% of 14-21 year old women are either unsure if they want to have children or definitely do not – seismic difference compared even to millennials. While 90% of Generation K girls think success in a high-paying career or profession is important many simply do not believe that this is attainable with a child in tow.

Looking purely through an economics lens (and without going into the other pros and cons of having children), a child-free existence only provides a partial solution. This is because women without children also earn less than men throughout their careers, albeit to a lesser extent.

So is this about women making different career choices? Potentially. More male than female students still choose to study subjects such as computing and physics at A level and the financial return on Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects is significant – Stem graduates can earn nearly more than 20% more than their peers. Alternatively we could start a proper conversation about why it is that we so undervalue those who choose to care as a career – and what role the state should play in mitigating this market failure. This question becomes even more pertinent now that we are entering a period of economic downturn. Typically at such times those who earn less are penalised more.

There is clearly also a role for the state to play in making it easier for mothers to re-enter full time work faster. Iceland, which instituted the most generous paternity pay in the world in 2000, has seen this strategy deliver, and 90% of fathers now leave the labour market for at least three months. As a result, their partners return to full-time work faster. Highly subsidised infant care and kindergarten care is another state intervention that makes a difference.

Men can play their part, too. Celebrate your partner if she earns more than you. Do your fair share of the housework – women still do 40% more than men. And push your employer to be transparent about pay and to address differentials where they exist. Finally, there is undoubtedly a role for women themselves. I am frequently struck by how many smart, successful women I speak to have never initiated a pay-rise conversation at work. Most of my male friends have. If you do not ask, you will never get.

Noreena Hertz is economics editor at ITV News


Please click here to view the interview for the Business Insider online.

Noreena Hertz to wybitna ekonomistka, profesor prestiżowej University College London i wykładowczyni Harvardu. Doradzała prezesom zarządów największych spółek świata, a magazyn “The Observer” uznał ją za jedną z najważniejszych myślicielek w historii. Jej prognozy gospodarcze na przestrzeni dwóch dekad były niemal bezbłędne. Nam opowiedziała o tym, jak lepiej podejmować decyzje i co kieruje nami w tym procesie, a o czym nie zdajemy sobie sprawy.

W 2014 r. w Polsce pojawiła się książka Noreeny Hertz o podejmowaniu decyzji “Oczy szeroko otwarte”. Ekonomistka odwiedziła wtedy Polskę, a ja miałem przyjemność porozmawiać z nią o tym, w jaki sposób podejmujemy decyzje – i co w tym jest najważniejsze. Dziś po raz pierwszy publikujemy tę rozmowę na Business Insider Polska.

Michał Wąsowski, Business Insider Polska: Co najważniejszego powinniśmy wiedzieć o podejmowaniu decyzji?
Noreena Hertz: Przede wszystkim musimy sobie zdać sprawę z tego, ile czynników świadomie i podświadomie bierzemy wtedy pod uwagę. Badania na ten temat są fascynujące – na przykład podejmujemy decyzje na podstawie… koloru tła zdjęcia. Okazuje się, że mężczyźni uważają kobiety na czerwonym tle za bardziej atrakcyjne niż na białym, zielonym czy szarym. Trzeba więc bardzo uważać w aplikacjach randkowych (śmiech). Tylko przez kolor tła możemy odnieść wrażenie, że ktoś świetnie wygląda, ale na żywo w ogóle nie będzie nam się podobał.

Kolory mogą też być jednym z czynników decydujących o tym, czy damy kelnerce napiwek – te, które nosiły na sobie czerwone ubrania, dostawały napiwki częściej niż kelnerki w innym kolorze.

Czy jest jakiś czynnik, który ma największy wpływ na podejmowaną decyzję?
Zarówno w relacjach prywatnych, jak i biznesie, zawsze stan emocjonalny, w którym się znajdujemy, wpływa na to, jak sobie radzimy z daną sytuacją. Jeśli dopiero co widzieliśmy radosny film, mamy dobry humor, będziemy bardziej ufni. Jeśli zaś czujemy się kiepsko, boimy się np. wyników badań medycznych, będziemy bardziej skłonni do ryzyka, nawet przy podejmowaniu ważnych decyzji. Tak więc na pewno każdy z nas powinien być świadom swoich stanów emocjonalnych, bo wpływają one na nasze decyzje o wiele bardziej, niż nam się wydaje.

Jeśli decyzje podejmujemy częściowo nieświadomie czy podświadomie, co w takim razie nazywamy intuicją?
Dobre pytanie. Gdy zaczynałam robić research do swojej książki, jednym z wielkich pytań było oczywiście: czy powinniśmy ufać naszej intuicji, wewnętrznemu głosowi? Czy to powinno nas prowadzić w podejmowaniu decyzji? Tak naprawdę są dwa rodzaje intuicji i bardzo się od siebie różnią. Coś, co tradycyjnie tak nazywamy, to tak naprawdę doświadczenie. Nasz mózg skraca drogę do każdego doświadczenia, które mieliśmy na dany temat i dzięki temu reagujemy bez opóźnienia czasowego, podejmując decyzje na podstawie tego, co już wiemy. Na przykład chirurg, gdy dzieje się coś złego, reaguje instynktownie, natychmiast – to właśnie ta intuicja.

A drugi typ intuicji?
To może być chwilowe uczucie. Na przykład w związku, gdy ktoś nas kontroluje, dominuje, w pewnym momencie zorientujemy się – miejmy nadzieję – że to nie jest dla nas odpowiednia osoba. Albo wracając do przykładu z tłem zdjęcia: to ono może powodować uczucie, iż wydaje się nam, że ta osoba jest odpowiednia. Podobnie zdradliwe mogą być stereotypy płciowe. Było takie badanie, w którym pracodawcom dano dokładnie to samo CV, tylko część była podpisana Jane, a pozostałe Bryan. Pracodawcy musieli wskazać, kogo chcieliby zaprosić na rozmowę rekrutacyjną. Gdy widzieli CV mężczyzny, mówili, że ma świetne referencje i powinni go zatrudnić. Z kolei w przypadku Jane często twierdzili, że nie ma wystarczającego doświadczenia.

Tak więc pracodawcy mogą podświadomie podejmować decyzję opartą o stereotyp płci, ale są przekonani, że robią słusznie – na podstawie swojego doświadczenia?
Właśnie tak. Czasem wydaje ci się, że kieruje tobą intuicja, ale tak nie jest. Pytanie jednak, jak odróżnić od siebie decyzję podjętą na podstawie doświadczenia od chwilowego przeczucia? Moją odpowiedzią zawsze będzie: zaufaj tylko swojemu doświadczeniu.

Czy współcześnie ludzie mają jakiś jeden, główny problem w podejmowaniu decyzji?
Myślę, że wiele osób cierpi na coś – i moje badania to potwierdzają – co nazywam “obawą przed podejmowaniem decyzji”. Liczba wyborów, z którymi stykamy się każdego dnia, zaczynająca się od “jakie płatki zjeść” przez “jaki film obejrzeć” aż po “z kim się spotkać”, jest znacznie większa niż jeszcze dekadę temu. Wiele osób ma z tym problem i wykańcza ich zastanawianie się nad każdą, nawet najmniejszą decyzją, a nie można być sparaliżowanym przez codzienne wybory.

Czy można sobie z tym poradzić?
Jest na to sposób: ograniczanie swoich wyborów. Na przykład, jeśli zastanawiasz się, jaką sukienkę dzisiaj założyć, powiedz sobie: dzisiaj będzie to jednolity kolor. W ten sposób zawęża się wybór. Musisz też nauczyć się ustalać priorytety, na które decyzje warto poświęcać czas. Jest do tego ćwiczenie: narysuj okrąg, wpisz w niego to, co jest dla ciebie naprawdę ważne, np. rodzinę, karierę, zdrowie, hobby. Gdy musisz podjąć jakąś decyzję, spójrz na swój okrąg: czy ta decyzja jest w środku? Jeśli nie, prawdopodobnie nie warto na to tracić czasu. Nałóż sobie limit – nie więcej niż 3 minuty na myślenie o tym, co zjeść na śniadanie. Oczywiście, poważne problemy, jak rozwód czy wzięcie ślubu, zawsze wymagają dłuższego zastanowienia (śmiech).

Jak jeszcze objawia się strach przed podejmowaniem decyzji?
Bardzo często wypełniamy swój czas właśnie małymi decyzjami, łatwymi do podjęcia, ale niekoniecznie najważniejszymi – te odkładamy. Zazwyczaj nie poświęcamy odpowiednio dużo czasu na ważne sprawy. Gdy pracowałam z prezesami miliardowych spółek, wszyscy musieli przeznaczać odpowiednio dużo czasu na przemyślenie dużych decyzji. Są bardzo krytyczni, zawsze przetwarzają informacje, które otrzymują, weryfikują swoje cele.

Da się żyć zgodnie z wszystkimi twoimi radami?

Gdyby chcieć je wszystkie stosować, trzeba by chyba na to poświęcać dużo czasu.
Oczywiście, nie da się zastosować takich porad do każdej decyzji, którą podejmujemy każdego dnia. Ale znam wielu liderów, którym pomogły one rozwijać ich biznes, a matkom wychowywać dzieci. Warto wiedzieć, co wpływa na to, jakie podejmujemy decyzje – i sama bardzo dużo nauczyłam się w trakcie pisania książki, dzięki czemu dzisiaj o wiele lepiej radzę sobie z podejmowaniem decyzji.


Please click here to read this article for the Mail online.

There are many reasons why people might be concerned about a Donald Trump victory – from his attitude to women to his endorsement last week by the Ku Klux Klan. But what would a Trump presidency mean for the world economy?
I fear we would wake up on Wednesday facing a global recession within the next 18 months. In the immediate term – I’m talking hours and days – it’s extremely likely the US stock market would plunge.
When it was announced that Hillary Clinton’s private email server was back under investigation, the Dow Jones fell by 125 points – about 0.7 per cent. If the mere prospect of a Trump victory so spooks the market, imagine if he actually won.





Leading hedge fund managers I’ve spoken to estimate a fall of around 5 per cent. And this would not be confined to America – in our interconnected world it would also mean falls in Frankfurt, Tokyo, and London. Anyone with a UK pension, or a stocks and shares Isa would see the value of their investments fall.


The impact of Trumponomics longer term is arguably of even more concern. Throughout the campaign he has threatened to tear up trade agreements and impose a whopping 45 per cent tariff on Chinese goods. Were Trump to make good on his protectionist rhetoric, we could be facing a major global trade war.
This may, of course, all be bluster, and presidential power is not absolute. But history teaches us not only that US Presidents tend to deliver on their main campaign pledges, but also that America is not averse to using protectionism when it suits. Remember Obama’s tariffs on Chinese tyres a few years back?


But the extremes to which Trump appears willing to take trade barriers would cause a global trade earthquake. It would inevitably lead America’s trading partners to retaliate in a destructive cycle.
The respected Peterson Institute estimates Trump’s trade barriers would send America into a recession within two years. And when the US sneezes, the world economy catches a cold.
Then there’s Trump’s take on foreign policy – or rather his wantonness when it comes to geopolitical stability. His proposal to scale back Nato would provide a welcome opening for China and Russia, both of whom would relish the opportunity to eclipse the US’s role as global policeman. A world led by Russia or China is less likely to be one in which Western investment and trade will flourish.


So there’s a host of reasons why Trump’s policies would have dire consequences – even without the question of his temperament.
A thin-skinned man-child, too proud to do his homework, many believe Trump would make a highly impulsive world leader – and an irrational one.
Only last week, 370 economists, including eight Nobel Laureates, signed a letter warning against a Trump victory because ‘he promotes magical thinking and conspiracy theories’.
And we all know how much markets hate uncertainty.
The US think-tank the Brookings Institution estimates a Trump presidency would knock ten per cent off the value of the FTSE 100 and lead to a three per cent fall in the pound.
So I’m not surprised the markets are quaking. If anything, I’m surprised at how long it’s taken them to price in The Donald risk.
If we really do have an angry reality TV star running the world’s largest economy, perhaps it’s time we all started praying.
Noreena Hertz is the ITV News economics editor.


Click here to view the article for the Guardian online.

Since 1975, the Nordic country has blazed the trail in gender equality and now, from infancy to maternity, women and girls enjoy a progressive lifestyle. But how did they achieve it?

Rebekka is so tiny that, even on her tiptoes, arms aloft, she cannot reach. So her teacher lifts her up to the unvarnished wooden monkey bar. “One, two, three,” her classmates count. She hangs on, determinedly. When she reaches 10, she jumps to the ground. “I am strong,” she shouts proudly.

It’s an ordinary morning for this single-sex class of three-year-olds at Laufásborg nursery school in Reykjavik. No dolls or cup-cake decorating on the lesson plan here. Instead, as Margrét Pála Ólafsdóttir, the school’s founder, tells me: “We are training [our girls] to use their voice. We are training them in physical strength. We are training them in courage.”

It’s a fascinating approach to education. And a popular one. In a country of only 330,000 people, there are 19 such primary and nursery schools, empowering girls from an early age.

For the past six years, Iceland has topped the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index and looks likely to do so again this week. The Economist recently named Iceland the world’s best place for working women – in comparison, the UK came in at No. 24. Ólafsdóttir’s philosophy seems to sit well with the nation’s progressive accomplishments, but her network of schools has been going for less than 20 years. So, if preschoolers trained in feminism aren’t the reason for this gender success story, what is?

History may provide us with clues. For centuries, this seafaring nation’s women stayed at home as their husbands traversed the oceans. Without men at home, women played the roles of farmer, hunter, architect, builder. They managed household finances and were crucial to the country’s ability to prosper.


By 1975, Icelandic women were fed up. It wasn’t just that they weren’t being properly paid for their labour, they also were sick of their lack of political representation: only nine women had ever won seats in parliament. So, against the backdrop of the global feminist movement, Iceland’s women decided to take things into their own hands.

An outpouring of women on to the streets was, by then, a well-trodden form of activism. In 1970, tens of thousands of women had protested on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. In the UK, that same year, 20,000 women marched in Leeds against discriminatory wages. But what made Iceland’s day of protest on 24 October 1975 so effective was the number of women who participated. It was not just the impact of 25,000 women – which, at the time, was a fifth of the female population – that gathered on the streets of Reykjavik, but the 90% of Iceland’s female population who went on all-out professional and domestic strike. Teachers, nurses, office workers, housewives put down tools and didn’t go to work, provide childcare or even cook in their kitchens. All to prove how indispensable they were.

Thordis Loa Thorhallsdottir, CEO of a tourism company, was on the streets that day: “I was 10 at the time, and I remember it very clearly, standing there with my mother, fighting. I can still feel the crowd and the power that was there. The big message was that if women don’t work, the whole community is paralysed – the whole society.”

Grassroots activism at such a scale unsurprisingly had a significant material impact. Within five years, the country had the world’s first democratically elected female president – Vigdis Finnbogadottir. Now in her 80s, this steely-eyed powerhouse tells me of the impact that day of protest had on her own career trajectory.

“I would never have been elected in 1980 if it hadn’t been for the women’s day of action … because when my predecessor announced that he was not going to stand again, the voices were immediately heard: now we have to have a woman among the candidates.”

Other landmarks soon followed. An all-female political party – the Women’s Alliance – was established. More women were elected to parliament; by 1999, more than a third of MPs were women.

And then, in 2000, parental leave legislation came into effect: whichevery person I spoke to highlighted this moment as key to Iceland’s march to the top of the gender-equality table. Today, every parent receives three months’ paid leave that is non-transferable. Parents then have an additional three months to share as they like.

Because the pay is significant – 80% of salary up to a ceiling of £2,300 a month – and because it’s on a use-it-or-lose-it basis, 90% of Icelandic fathers take up their paternal leave. This piece of social engineering has had a profound impact on men as well as women. Not only do women return to work after giving birth faster than before, they return to their pre-childbirth working hours faster, too. Research shows that, after taking the three months’ leave, fathers continue to be significantly more involved in childcare and do more housework. Sharing the parental responsibilities and chores from the beginning, it seems, makes a difference.

“It’s a good place to be a woman,” says Thorhallsdottir. And it is. Almost 80% of Icelandic women work. Thanks to mandatory quotas, almost half of board members of listed companies are now women, while 65% of Iceland’s university students and 41% of MPs are female.

Yet, women I met on my journey were also clear that the country has a long way to go. They still have less economic power than men – only 22% of managers are women; only 30% of experts on TV are women and, overall, men earn 14% more. Iceland’s record on all of these fronts is better than most countries; in the UK, women’s hourly pay is 18% less than men.

It is the gender pay gap that puzzles me the most. How can it be that it is still so significant given the huge efforts the state has put into mitigating the “mummy penalty”? Not only when it comes to parental leave, but with heavily subsidised nursery schools and after-school care?

Explanations vary: from women going into less well-paid professions, to the penalty paid for working part-time that we’ve found in the UK as well, to the time it takes for employers’ implicit gender biases to shift.

Steiney Skuladottir, one of Reykjavíkurdætur (or the Daughters of Reykjavik) – a feminist rap collective who rap about gender issues – puts the blame in part on women’s reluctance to ask for sufficient pay compensation. Fellow rapper Bloer Johanusdottir concurs. “It’s like we can’t be cocky. We are supposed to be modest.”

Back at the school, Ólafsdóttir has this to say: “If you are learning from a young age that you are not getting your rightful share, if you are taught and trained in waiting, what do you expect?”

The Icelandic government has pledged to close the gender pay gap by 2022. And the women of the country continue to be highly organised and socially aware; an astonishing one- third of Iceland’s women are members of a Facebook group – ironically named Beauty Tips – in which they actively discuss gender issues.

History teaches us that progress doesn’t come about in a vacuum and that grassroots pressure plus investment in politics is a very powerful catalyst for change. In Iceland, it seems that they have both. In spades.


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Esplora il significato del termine: Ritratto dei nuovi millennials (quelli dai 14 ai 20) basato su 2000 interviste a teenager sui temi caldi della loro esistenza. Ansiosi, depressi e alle prese con molte incertezze, ma meno egoisti di quanto tutti i loro selfie potrebbero far pensareRitratto dei nuovi millennials (quelli dai 14 ai 20) basato su 2000 interviste a teenager sui temi caldi della loro esistenza. Ansiosi, depressi e alle prese con molte incertezze, ma meno egoisti di quanto tutti i loro selfie potrebbero far pensare.


Sarah ha 18 anni e dopo un intervento medico, uscita dalla stanza d’ospedale ancora confusa, non ha chiesto né della mamma né del papà. Ha chiesto del suo iPhone. Sarah fa parte a pieno titolo della generazione K, quella che segue i Millenials (o Y), che va dai 14 ai 21 anni e che, secondo gli esperti, non se la passa poi così bene.
Il ritratto
Indebitati e spaventati, preoccupati per questioni che da ragazzino non dovrebbero nemmeno sfiorarti, ossessionati dalla tecnologia e dalla connessione perenne, dalla recessione, dai rischi geopolitici e dal terrorismo. Ma anche molto più sensibili ala giustizia sociale di quanto il loro proverbiale narcisismo potrebbe suggerire e fondamentalmente infelici. Questo è il ritratto che ne fa l’economista e accademica inglese Noreena Hertz dopo aver intervistato 2000 rappresentanti di questo segmento generazionale per 18 mesi e aver raccolto le loro paure, ma anche i loro valori, o talvolta dis-valori, e la loro percezione del futuro. «Per la Generazione K il mondo odierno è una giungla senza regole», teorizza Noreena Hertz, enfatizzando soprattutto un sentimento diffuso di pessimismo e una depressione strisciante. Negli Stati Uniti un report del Center for Disease Control and Prevention riporta non a caso che il 17 per cento dei liceali ha seriamente considerato il suicidio e nonostante si tratti di un’età fisiologicamente portata alla drammatizzazione, il dato è ovviamente allarmante e significa che si tratta di una generazione di persone che si sentono eccessivamente caricate di problemi più grandi di loro.


Lavoro e debiti
Il 79 per cento degli intervistati, per esempio, si dichiara molto preoccupato per il lavoro e il 72 per cento per i debiti, che raffigurano come una sorta di prigione alludendo ai debiti della vita futura e non certo solo a quelli da studenti. E poi la generazione K ha molto pensiero per il cambiamento climatico e per il terrorismo e non stupisce per nulla che si senta appesantita da questo clima (non solo meteorologico) e che reagisca peggio dei grandi, proprio perché mancano ai ragazzi le conoscenze e gli strumenti psicologici per affrontare le paure. Inoltre la generazione K non crede nella meritocrazia ed è disillusa, quasi come gli over cinquanta. Forse persino di più.
Solidali, malgrado le apparenze
Ma tra le preoccupazioni lavorative e finanziarie e la sfiducia nella classe politica (per altro tipica della società in modo trasversale) e nel futuro c’è anche un dato positivo che emerge. I K infatti ritengono molto importante la giustizia sociale, indicata come prioritaria nel 92% dei casi, e il 70% tra questi ragazzi è seriamente allarmato per la disuguaglianza dilagante. Sintomo che nonostante tutti gli ego-post e i selfie gli adolescenti di oggi pensano al prossimo e stanno male per i mali del mondo. Altro tratto che contraddistingue la generazione K è il desiderio di co-creare, di sentirsi parte di un progetto comune. Starbucks per esempio ha intercettato astutamente questa propensione giovanile con l’opzione “menù segreto”, che offre appunto ai giovani la possibilità di progettare la propria bevanda partecipando dal basso alla sua creazione. I ragazzini di oggi vogliono mettere il proprio nome sugli oggetti e sulle idee e sentirsi parte di un progetto comune, anche nel piccolo.
Le loro icone
Ma sono i loro simboli e i loro modelli a raccontarci più di tutto di come concepiscono il mondo. Prima tra tutte le loro icone femminili è Katniss Everdeen, l’infallibile arciera dalle frecce di fuoco protagonista di Hunger Games, costretta a combattere per la sopravvivenza in un Paese governato dalla paura, eroina spaventata, proprio come si sentono loro. La superstar dei teenager infine è tal Felix Kjellberg, in arte PewDiePie, bel ragazzo svedese considerato un idolo tra gli adolescenti. Attore? Cantante? Niente di tutto questo. O meglio non propriamente. Felix è un game-player, ma anche molto di più: è una star di YouTube di difficilissima definizione che si filma mentre gioca ai videogiochi e che intrattiene gli utenti di YouTube commentando, urlacchiando e parlando a ruota libera. Incomprensibile a noi grandi, ma molto gradito ai ragazzi perché è connesso, perché è lisergico e disinvolto, perché ha tanti like, perché è uno di loro. I media lo definiscono «un intrattenitore svedese, divenuto famoso grazie alla sua attività su YouTube». Il suo canale YouTube, creato nel 2010, ha raggiunto nel 2015 i 10 miliardi di visualizzazioni e nel mese di febbraio 2016 il suo canale YouTube contava oltre 42 milioni di iscritti. La natura dei suoi contenuti è stata spesso descritta come sciocca, energica, detestabile e piena di parolacce, ma i suoi video sono assolutamente genuini e senza filtri. Ha una narrazione carismatica che a chi non fa parte dei K sembra abbastanza delirante, tra urla di spavento, voci buffe, battute, bestemmie e commenti politicamente scorrettissimi. Il fatto è che ai teenager piace e se vogliamo capirli dobbiamo partire da questo. Alla fine PewDiePie rivela il grande senso di solitudine che contraddistingue la generazione K, abituata a essere sola di fronte a degli schermi e a cercare dunque inevitabilmente e comprensibilmente una connessione con il mondo.