IL SOLE 24 ORE
Il Sole 24 Ore ("The Sun 24 Hours") is Italy's leading business daily. Founded in 1965 as a merger between Il Sole and 24 Ore, the Milan-based publication is owned by Italy's main industrial association Confindustria.
Coronavirus
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: Why Our Work Days Will Never Be The Same Again

The world found out quickly that COVID-19 would be a major interruption to the way we worked. By now, there is little doubt that the health pandemic — and resulting lockdown measures and travel bans — will leave permanent traces in company policies, employee behavior and our relationship with work spaces and technology.

Yet it goes even further: Since work is so central to people's lives, we are beginning to see how these changes could reshape the broader organization of our economies and societies.

Still, the changes will reveal themselves over time — and as this new edition Work → In Progress shows, the devil will be in the details. What both employees and employers must do right now is begin to think hard about the trade-offs implicit in such potentially big changes to our working habits and policies. Teleworking, for example, has ushered in a new era of flexibility but also raises questions about the potential loss of in-person mentorship; in Ivory Coast, mobility restrictions and closed schools have exacerbated alarming labor issues; while in South Africa, medicine delivery service is helping pharmacy employees handle a growing workload.

TAKE OUT Thanks to COVID-19, the delivery sector has expanded way past pizza and Amazon orders. South Africa, battling both coronavirus and an HIV epidemic, has instituted a medicine delivery service with 240,000 chronic medication packages reported as delivered in mid-June. Although pharmacy employees are struggling to adjust to the unprecedented workload, this new mode of distribution looks like a promising tool for both governments and companies fighting the economic impact of coronavirus. If this trend continues, delivery driver may be the next hottest job on the market.

ETHICS MATTER There's lots of talk about how quarantine has accelerated new work trends, but it has also exacerbated alarming labor issues. According to the International Cocoa Initiative, lockdown in the Ivory Coast has led to a rise in child labor. The combination of closed schools with a lack of adult workers due to mobility restrictions has caused the number of children performing dangerous tasks such as heavy lifting or working with chemicals to increase from 16% to 19%. It's an urgent example of how labor legislation should not take a backseat during the pandemic. On the contrary, it should be front and center, an integral part of every country's fight against the growing economic depression.

STAT DU JOUR

LOST MENTORS "I can only sustainably work from home because I have 40 years of office experience behind me," wrote Richard Harris, a Hong-Kong based CEO and investment manager in the South China Morning Post. In an age of coronavirus and Zoom meetings, he wonders how younger employees will be able to grow professionally without hands-on help from a mentor. HR departments should think carefully about how educational relationships between colleagues can be fostered digitally, or the results may be dire for the future workforce.

HOT TOPIC As the climate continues to change, so do our work habits. Vietnamese rice farmers had their work hours turned upside down by a recent heat wave, forcing them to pick the paddies at 2 a.m. instead of during the day. Temperatures of 40 °C have made outdoor labor impossible after 8 a.m., and the only source of light during night shifts are small head and pocket lamps. Because of this, workers are half as productive and their family lives are heavily affected. It's another item on the long list of reasons why fighting global warming is our most pressing issue.

THE ODD JOB

GOOD INVESTMENTS Social and political issues can spill into workplaces of every sector, and industries around the world felt the effects of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and protests against the murder of George Floyd. Big corporations are seeing pressure to make real change, as some investors are turning away companies that aren't committed to diversity. One resulting example is BlackRock announcing a plan to increase their number of Black employees to 30% in the next four years. According to the Financial Times, however, "shaping investment portfolios to achieve racial justice is incredibly difficult, primarily because of the lack of data." It looks like companies will need to combine technological savvy with CSR in order to attract tomorrow's investors.

ARTIFICIAL ACTING "LOL," as the kids say: The most beautiful robot in the world is unemployed (until movies can start filming again)! When we hear about robots stealing our jobs, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not the movie industry. Yet, the android Erica will be the lead lady in Life Productions' $70 million sci-fi picture, "b," which tells the tale of a scientist tasked with creating perfect human DNA. Created by Hiroshi Ishiguro, a roboticist at Osaka University in Japan, Erica's features were modeled after Miss Universe pageant finalists to make her the most beautiful robot in the world. As an aspiring actress, Erica is great at remembering lines but struggles with adapting her tone of voice to a given context. As she keeps practicing lines with human actors, the developers hope she will be ready to perform when production resumes.

Geopolitics
Rozena Crossman

Black Lives Matter To The Whole World

The U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th century took inspiration from the minds of freed American slaves and abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and black artists and poets like Langston Hughes. But there was also a central place in that history for a soft-spoken lawyer from the western coast of India.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. repeatedly cited Mahatma Gandhi as a moral and spiritual guide, helping to shape the strategy and spirit of the Movement that King led. As the Indian news site The Wire recalled, King used a 1959 sermon to speak at length about the modern father of civil disobedience, who was able to free "his people from the domination of the British Empire without lifting one gun or uttering one curse word."


Of course MLK himself became a symbol for liberation movements and non-violent protesters around the world for decades to come, from South Africa to South America, which in turn inspire others. And so on.

These crucial moments of social justice have a global domino effect.

Today, all eyes are back on the United States' continued struggle to overcome its poisoned history of slavery and racial oppression — and the whole world is watching. As a country with unmatched cultural and political influence, America's reactions to its systemic racism have repercussions for the entire world. Back when King was making headlines in the 1960s, the British government introduced the Race Relations Act. This week, following the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African American, spontaneous marches in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement have taken place from Brazil to Denmark to New Zealand.

The question of police violence is itself a topic in many countries, but as Milan-based daily Il Sole 24 Ore notes, this has a particularly American angle: "George Floyd is the latest in a long list of African Americans killed by white police officers. Because in the United States, questions of public order often cross with the problem of racism that has never been resolved, and has actually become more evident since the election of Barack Obama, the first black president."

It is indeed undeniable that so much of the oppression against Black Americans is intertwined with the country's unique history. Yet it's also true that these crucial moments of social justice have a global domino effect, reminding people of injustice — racial and otherwise — that may be happening closer to home. But at least one thing has changed since the 1950s: Back then, it may have taken years for the speeches of an Indian lawyer to reach an American pastor — today, it's as quick as turning on your phone.

Geopolitics
Carl-Johan Karlsson

A New Marshall Plan? Why Europe Isn't Ready To Save Itself

We've heard repeatedly the past two months that the coming economic crisis only compares to the rubble after World War II. It would then follow that leaders would look to the Marshall Plan as a model for economic revitalization. That is indeed the reference for European Commission chief Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen, who added in a recent speech that the European Union budget "will be the mothership of our recovery."

Marshall Plan or Mothership, pick your metaphor. But it should be noted that the leading proponents of a joint stimulus plan include Italy, Spain and France, the European countries most affected by the crisis and also the ones with some of the biggest piles of debt (Italy has a debt-to-GDP ratio of around 130%, while Spain's and France's debt are near 100% of GDP.) Northern European nations such as the Netherlands, Germany and Austria remain reluctant to the EU issuing joint debt. Their preference instead for making use of existing financial relief facilities is seen by Italy, Spain and France as a path that will lead to stringent austerity programs dictated by Brussels.

The 19 Eurozone members have so far failed to resolve the deadlock — with no agreement reached during the initial negotiations early this month which will resume on April 23.

Invoking the Marshall Plan has served as powerful symbolism, but the conflict between northern and southern states of Europe is a symptom of a very different situation. Most obviously, what is being discussed is not an enormous U.S.-financed program to rebuild the European market, as was launched after the War by then American Secretary of State George Marshall. Instead, the vast plan for post-coronavirus recovery would require EU-members to pool resources to fund themselves through a budget that has always been a considerably smaller part (about 1%) of the bloc's Gross National Income than the $13 billion of U.S. aid sent to Europe between 1948 and 1951 (roughly $142 billion today). It's also happening as nationalism is rising steadily across Europe, rather than in the wake of the total defeat of the worst kind of nationalism in Nazi Germany.

While the original Marshall Plan forced European integration by barring communists from recipient governments, national leaders today are likely weary of fueling right-wing populism by allocating funds to other countries at a time of national need. Hélène Laporte, Member of the European Parliament from French right-wing party Front National labeled an increased French contribution to the EU budget as "madness."


So far, the EU has made available 37 billion euro as part of a package to cushion the bloc's economies from the impact of coronavirus, while also granting flexibility on budget deficits and state aid. The European Central Bank has also committed to purchase at least 750 billion euro of government and corporate bonds this year. However, with a predicted drop in Eurozone GDP of up to 7%, a viable relief package would have to be in the trillion-euro category.

But beyond the scale of the investment, leading Milan economic daily Il Sole 24 Ore notes that there's also the question of "political responsibility." In an article entitled "The Mythology of the Marshall Plan, Mauro Campus concludes: "To really be honest, nobody in the EU today has the intention to lead the dramatic and much needed transition that's about to open. So let's stop the mindless evocation of historical fetishes."


So while pasting a Marshall Plan onto our current crisis isn't possible, some imminent and forceful action from the EU is clearly needed. If half-measures become the way, it's easy to imagine a scenario where relatively strong economies manage a proper recovery and weaker states see major parts of their private sector go bankrupt. Most certainly, this would fuel nationalism and pose an existential risk to the European single market. That would send the Mothership in a very different direction.

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Economy
Brant deBoer

Starbucks In Italy, Latest Stop On U.S. Food Imperialism Tour

Taco Bell in Mexico? McDonald's in Hamburg? Americans find the recipe abroad, bastardize it, and then have the stomach to go back and sell it where it all began.

PARIS — Italy's borders have been breached, but this time it isn't by the Huns, the Visigoths or the Normans. It's Starbucks. The world's largest chain of coffee houses boasts more than 28,000 venues in 78 countries. But only now has the retailer finally found its first location in caffè-craving Italy, with the opening last Friday of a new Starbucks in Milan.

Howard Schultz, who recently stepped down as CEO and executive chairman of the U.S. company, had been trying for years to gain access to what he calls "the country of coffee." Both Italian habits and government regulations had resisted the advances — until now. Fittingly, the chic northern city of Milan is where Schultz was initially inspired to create his own spin on coffee culture back in 1983.

Starbucks is just one in a succession of American restaurant chains that have pillaged another nation's cuisine, tweaked it for U.S. consumers, and returned triumphantly (or otherwise) to sell it in the market where it originated. In another Italian case, Domino's Pizza brazenly landed three years ago, also opening its first store in Milan. Naples, the proud home of the modern pizza, remains unsullied.

McDonald's did the same thing almost 50 years ago. The hamburger, as its name implies, originates from a similar dish created in Hamburg, Germany in the 19th century. The French fry, whose name may be misleading, actually comes from francophone Belgium. McDonald's started selling hamburgers and French fries in the United States in the 1940s before bringing the fare back to Europe in 1971.

Our espresso is the envy of the whole world.

Assimilating these American companies can be challenging. There has been controversy over the presence of McDonald's in Europe for decades. Notably, two franchises were destroyed by protesters in 1999, one in Belgium by arson and the other in France, where a crowd dismantled the building, plank by plank.

Starbucks and Domino's have been the targets of a rash of insults. On a Twitter account "Italians Mad at Food," a recent post lamented what Americans were inflicting on the authentic pizza menu. "Chicken wings as a side dish for pizza," it said. "GTFO. All of Italy just died of disgust."

Milan-based business daily Il Sole 24 Ore reports that several leading politicians have used the new Starbucks as an opportunity to declare their national culinary pride. Center-right leader Giorgia Meloni tweeted, "Tomorrow is the opening of Italy's first Starbucks, the American chain of "coffee." I'm trying to figure out how you can prefer their beverage to our espresso, which is the envy of the whole world."

Meanwhile, in Mexico, Taco Bell has persistently failed to establish a stronghold in the birthplace of the taco. After nearly 20 years of trying, it closed its last store in Monterrey in 2010. Ten years before, Dunkin" Donuts abandoned an effort to penetrate the market in the Netherlands, whose olie koeken, or oily cakes, are the foundation of the modern doughnut.

The invaders have proven, however, to be persistent. Dunkin" Donuts eagerly returned to the Netherlands in 2017, where it plans to open 25 new store locations in the next five years. American culinary usurpers have even managed to enter the Chinese market amid a simmering trade war and posturing over territory in the South China Sea. P.F. Chang's China Bistro, headquartered in Arizona, opened its first restaurant in a Shanghai department store earlier this year (it is advertised as an American bistro). And Panda Express, whose founders are first-generation Chinese immigrants, are looking to expand there as well.

Fries at the Louvre? — Photo: McDonald's France via Instagram

The situation for McDonald's in France has come full circle, as employees at a franchise in the southern city of Marseille are currently fighting to prevent its closure, which they say will take away a longtime employment opportunity for the community's vulnerable youth.

"Our battle is not to defend McDonald's, it is the honor of the workers of these neighborhoods," one of the protesters told Libération newspaper. "They're always talking about crime and kalashnikovs. But here, there are people who want to work and come to McDonald's as a way out."

Yes, it should be noted that (gourmet chefs and anti-globalists be damned) there are now more than 1,400 McDonald's across France. As for Starbucks, in China alone the java giant is reportedly opening one new store every 15 hours.

Geopolitics
Benjamin Witte

The World Marks One Year Since Trump Elected

-Analysis-

A political neophyte who launched his presidential campaign by railing against Mexican "rapists' and "murderers' was never supposed to win, especially against a seasoned stateswoman backed by her party's establishment. Add to that unthinkable episodes, like his mocking a disabled reporter or the revelation of the infamous "grab ‘em by the p***y" recording, and a continued refusal to divulge his tax history. In a normal campaign, any single such element would almost surely have derailed his White House ambitions.

Yes, exactly one year after Donald Trump's stunning victory, on Nov. 8, 2016, over Hillary Clinton, the world is still asking how it happened. Twelve months and 2,400 "sulfurous tweets' later — to borrow a term from the French daily Sud Ouest — the world now also seems to ask itself how the brash billionaire is still president of the United States. No toning things down, no acting "more presidential," as many expected or at least hoped: Trump clearly has no intention to abandon his divisive, campaign-mode approach.

For the president's countless detractors, the past year has felt like a lifetime.

That, note analysts from around the across globe, is his strategy, and he's sticking to it. "Donald Trump has never changed his method," writes Frédéric Autran from France's Libération. "The billionaire thrives in chaos. It has served him." Key to the approach, Autran adds, is never apologizing. That, and responding to every bit of criticism with a counter-attack, usually via Twitter — at an average rate of six per day, various news sources have pointed out.

Needless to say, Trump's Twitter tirades and other off-the-wall antics are highly polarizing. They're also counterproductive — at least according to conventional wisdom. The president's overall approval numbers continue to decline, calls for his impeachment grow louder by the day, and even would-be allies in Congress are at odds with the oddball leader who has struggled to to pass basic legislation despite having Republican majorities in both houses of the U.S. legislature.

"The 140-character president" — Kleine Zeitung"s Nov. 8 front page

And yet, none of that seems to really bother Mr. Trump. As Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics told the Spanish daily El País, the U.S. leader is sticking with the same "divide and conquer" approach he successfully employed in the campaign: "Trump has abandoned the presidential tradition of reconciling the American people."

Andrew Selee, a former executive vice president of The Mexico Institute, notes that the President is "both a symptom and a cause" of U.S. political polarization. "He didn't create the country's ideological and ethnic divisions," Selee writes in Mexican daily El Universal. "But he's continued feeding and deepening them with his postures and statements."

Critics can take some satisfaction in Trump's low approval ratings and obvious failures on the legislative front. But they should be wary of dismissing him off-hand, warn analysts like Oliver Georgi, politics editor with Frankfurter Allgemeine. He's still the president, after all, and his impact, be it through executive orders or as an instigator of deeper political polarization, is undeniable. Trump's adversaries tend to "underestimate" him to a fault, overlooking the fact, for example, that he did follow through on threats to remove the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change and undo parts of Obamacare, at least by executive order, Georgi notes.

"From Promises To Reality, One Year Of Trump" — Publico"s Nov. 8 front page

The boastful business mogul also has the benefit of a booming U.S. economy, as Maximilian Cellino of the Milan-based financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore points out. "Not only have Wall Street markets risen 20%, reaching record levels and defying the laws of gravity of financial markets, but also the drop in the dollar and perilous rise in bond yields that some predicted have not come to pass," Cellino writes.

The Italian writer is among those who argue that the U.S. economy would have fared well with or without the new president, thanks to a strengthening recovery in Europe and continued low interest rates. Still, Trump is more than happy to take credit for the boom. And to the degree that American voters are swayed by the state of their wallets, positive economic indicators could translate into pro-Trump votes in the next election cycle and beyond.

Not that there's any way Trump could be reelected.

Right?

For the president's countless detractors, the past year has felt like a lifetime. Little wonder that hundreds of people are planning to "howl" their frustrations today in Dallas, Texas.

Still, the world should plan for at least three more years for Trump to serve the rest of his first term. But four more years after that? Impossible. Impossible? John Zogby, founder of the U.S. polling firm Zogby Analytics told Chile's La Tercera, Trump's approval numbers — between 37% and 41% — aren't good. "And he never had his post-election honeymoon period," the pollster explained. "But so far he's kept his base. And given that no one else on the national scene has better numbers, Trump could in fact be re-elected."

Trump And The World

Italian Magazine: Behind Bars Of Trump Presidency

Il Sole 24 ORE magazine, March 17, 2017 — Photo: Charles Ommanney

"The Closing Of The American Mind," reads the April cover of Il Sole 24 ORE's monthly magazine IL. This month's cover is a photograph at the fence between the United States and Mexico, as U.S. President Donald Trump vows to follow through on his campaign promise to build a wall at the Mexican border.

IL writer Francesco Pacifico sat down with acclaimed American author Jonathan Franzen to discuss walls, world affairs, and the impact Trump's presidency will have on his country, and the world.

Here is a collection of other international and U.S. stories about Trump.

Economy

The Fiat Split: Sergio Marchionne’s Global Vision

The markets react well to the Fiat CEO's decision to separate the core auto business from farm and truck sectors, a vote of confidence for Marchionne's vision that could have reverberations for all of Italian industry

Sergio Marchionne

Sergio Marchionne (flickr)

By Giuseppe Berta

IL SOLE 24 ORE/Worldcrunch

The split of Fiat's core auto business from its farm machinery and truck units marks a fundamental transformation destined to have an impact across the entire landscape of Italian industry.

By splitting the two operations, Fiat has abandoned for good its 20th century structure, a model that was marked by aggregating non-homogenous businesses. This model had characterized Fiat's development and expansion, turning it into the formidable force that merged economic capability, political power and social influence that generations of Italians have come to know well.

That model was also linked to a family-based ownership, that of the Agnellis. For all of the past century, to say Fiat meant to evoke not just a car company, but a more complex entity with a strong presence across Italian society, one that was capable of exercising a persuasive and adaptable public role.

This extraordinary story, which marked the history of 20th century Italy, has come to an end with the separate listings on the Milan stock exchange that began with Monday's trading, as noted by the architect of the split, Sergio Marchionne, Fiat's CEO.

(Fiat auto and Fiat Industrial, which includes Iveco trucks and CNH Global farm equipment, each performed well as they began trading separately Monday in Milan, an initial approval of the strategy of Marchionne, the Italian-Canadian CEO who has been revamping Fiat. The Turin-based company already owns 20 percent of Chrysler and the split is seen as clearing the way for Fiat to increase its stake in the U.S. automaker. Marchionne attended Monday's session at the Milan Stock Exchange, underscoring the event's significance. He said it was "possible" that Fiat increase its stake in Chrysler to more than 50 percent if the American automaker is listed this year.)

The new chapter has yet to be written

By no coincidence, the man behind the split is also the one who, since taking over the company at a time of deep crisis in 2004, has taken advantage of a governance no longer overshadowed by the charismatic presence of Giovanni Agnelli. The late patriarch's strong personality had blurred the lines between ownership and management. But Marchionne acted in a period when these lines were more clear, and the separation between ownership and the management entrusted by it was again established.

Since then, Marchionne has followed a clear path and acted with autonomy. It's the same level of freedom also enjoyed by Alan Mulally, the manager who has revamped Ford's fortunes, making it the only Detroit-based car company to regain significant market share without state aid.

The spin-off was part of Marchionne's strategy. If the goal is to maximize performance of each specific unit amid global competition, then it makes sense to provide each unit with the freedom of movement necessary to develop individually. Fiat Auto has paved the way with its alliance with Chrysler. Now the other sectors must follow suit and show they can move with the same degree of autonomy in order to grow on a global scale.

This strategy inevitably projects Fiat onto the whole world. It is worth noting that the last thing Marchionne did in 2010 was to open a new car-production plant in Brazil.

From now on, the scene where both Fiat units need to act is a global one. It is a grave error to keep separating what happens within Italian borders from what happens outside of them, as many still do in this country. It is now necessary to see things from another perspective, for example assessing the European and American car markets together, because they are bound to interact with and affect one another.

Marchionne is also doing away with an anomaly that had always made Fiat exceptional: the fact that it was not just an economic subject but very much a political one, too. His bet will be won or lost in the global marketplace, no longer dependant on negotiations with domestic political powers and labor confederations.

Those who today are lamenting the difficulties that this country will be forced to face as a result of this strategy forget that, in the long term, Italy can only benefit from a clear distinction between politics and business.

Read the original article in Italian