The impact of conflict, businesses need skills, and Amex encourages charitable giving

Inequality hinders Arab world development

Recent political instability has had a negative effect on life-expectancy, living standards and other core development indicators, despite gains in education and health in the three decades between 1980 and 2010. The United Nations Development Partnership’s latest Human Development Index for the Arab region highlights growing inequality as a particularly worrying recent phenomenon. The region’s overall development score suffers an average loss of 24.9% when the UNDP’s benchmark Index is adjusted for inequalities, a full 2% above the world average loss. Inequality is widest in the education component of the inequality-adjusted Index, at about 38%.
The negative impact of conflict stands out as another key finding in the UNDP regional report. Between 2000–2003 and 2010–2015 the number of armed conflicts in the region rose from four to eleven. Although the Arab world is home to only 5% of the world’s population, it has witnessed 17% of the world’s conflicts between 1948 and 2014, and 45% of the world’s terrorist attacks in 2014. Widespread unemployment represents an important backdrop to the development struggles and conflict of Arab countries. Three in every 10 (29.73%) young Arab adults are out of work, more than double the global average of 14%. Arab countries need to generate 60 million new jobs between now and 2020 to stabilise current unemployment levels.

Marketing skills represents biggest challenge for UK businesses

Finding skilled staff is the biggest barrier to growth for small UK businesses, with small firms in London most affected. According to a new report by venture capital investor Albion Ventures, skills shortages tip red tape and regulation into second and third place, respectively. Conversely, finding unskilled staff has fallen to 15th place in the list of challenges for small firms. The biggest skills gap is marketing, with more than one quarter (26%) of small and medium enterprises reporting problems in find competent employees to fill roles. This is followed by new technology (21%) and business planning (17%). The findings are based on a survey of more than 1,000 small and medium-sized UK businesses by polling firm YouGov.

Amex reveals impressive community investment

American Express last year donated more than $70m in volunteers’ time, benefiting more than 200,000 young people, the credit card company revealed in its latest sustainability report. Through its community service grants, meanwhile, it made direct financial grants of $39m. These supported 6,180 organisations in 10 countries. This community investment enabled the training of around 6,000 non-profit and social sector leaders, and the preservation of 33 historic sites, among other outcomes. In the company’s homes market of the US, Amex encourages employees to donate to charity via a matched giving programme. Four in five (80%) of employees participate in the Give2Gether scheme, which is capped at matched donations of $8,000 per person per year. Last year, Amex employees gave $6m to charity, which their employer duly matched. The total donations benefited more than 4,800 charities.

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