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A singing robot factory can’t find enough human workers



“Digital skills, IT skills, all the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills are really very important for…the workers of the future,” said Stefano Scabbio, president of Northern Europe, Mediterranean, and Eastern Europe at ManpowerGroup, a global staffing firm.

In a January survey of 20,000 employers from 42 countries, ManpowerGroup found 86 percent of companies plan to increase or maintain headcount in the next two years due to automation, with the biggest job gains in the IT, customer service and advanced manufacturing sectors.

But employers said they struggle to find talent with the right mix of skills, like problem solving, communication, organization and collaboration.

“It’s important that we educate companies of every size to really understand the importance of re-skilling and skilling people,” Scabbio said.

There’s plenty of debate over just how many jobs will be lost to robots. A widely-cited study by two Oxford economists in 2013 found 47 percent of jobs in the U.S. were at risk of being automated over the next 20 years. Last year, McKinsey Global Institute, a think tank, estimated a similar 50 percent of activities in the global workforce are automatable.

Other experts point to history as proof that job losses from automation will be outweighed by the creation of new jobs. A 2017 report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation analyzed job growth in the locomotive and automobile industries at the turn of the 20th century. While railroad job growth slowed during the proliferation of the automobile, car mechanic and repairmen professions surged.

“Technology clearly creates jobs when it enables the creation of whole new industries and occupations,” the study said.

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India’s recovery is ‘here to stay,’ economic advisor to PM Modi says



India’s economic growth has picked up momentum, indicating the recovery is “here to stay,” according to an economic advisor to India’s Prime Minster Narendra Modi.

After two consecutive quarters of contraction, India’s economy expanded by 0.4% year-on-year in the October-December quarter, according to data released from the National Statistics Office last Friday. That compared with revised contractions of 7.3% in July-September and 24.4% in April-June.

“I think on balance, I would say the recovery is here to say,” Anantha Nageswaran, a member of the economic advisory council to the prime minister, said in an interview on CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Monday. 

“Early indicators for January and February show that recovery has picked up momentum, and there is a continuation of what has happened in Q3,” he added.

India’s finance ministry said in a statement after the release of the GDP data, that the economy has returned to the “pre-pandemic times of positive growth rates,” which it said reflected a continued V-shaped recovery.

Roadside barber Ranjit (R) shaves a customer’s beard under the flyover in Amritsar on September 22, 2019.

Narinder Nanu | AFP | Getty Images

After reporting a significant drop in the number of Covid-19 cases for months, some Indian states have seen a sharp uptick in infections in February.

Still, Nageswaran is optimistic India’s economic progress will continue to gather pace as the country stands to gain from its “vaccine diplomacy,” which he said could boost business confidence.

“Overall, India’s vaccines rollout and export to other countries is an important step for India in reestablishing the confidence of global investors on its manufacturing capabilities,” he said, adding the strategy will also help to “cement India’s goodwill” among its neighboring countries.  

The Indian government has announced a vaccine diplomacy strategy, giving nearby countries millions of doses of the locally made AstraZeneca vaccine, even as its domestic immunization drive has just begun. India has supplied 15.6 million doses of the vaccine to 17 countries either through donations or commercial contracts, according to Reuters.

In an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” last week, JPMorgan’s chief emerging markets economist Jahangir Aziz, however, warned the Indian government could be underestimating the level of potential damage to the economy.

He cautioned that a major risk to India’s economic recovery is that millions of households and small businesses may potentially be cut off from the credit they need.

“The loss of income related to the coronavirus pandemic has run into billions of dollars on an annual basis, according to Aziz. “We know that the listed companies did not suffer that much, so, it has to be that the SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and the households took a much larger hit,” he said.

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China calls for supply chain resiliency, no chip production targets



BEIJING — In the face of a global chip shortage and U.S. sanctions, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology declined Monday to name targets for semiconductor production.

China would like to build up self-sufficiency in competitive technologies and rely less on imports of semiconductors, or chips, which are used in products ranging from laptops to automobiles. The country had previously announced that by 2020, it would like to produce 40% of the chips it uses, and raise that ratio to 70% by 2025.

But when asked at a press conference Monday about chip production goals, the ministry’s spokesperson Tian Yulong did not share specific figures. Instead, he laid out how the government was supporting the industry with measures such as tax cuts and talent development.

“The semiconductor industry’s development faces opportunities and challenges that require the world to strengthen cooperation and build the semiconductor industrial chain together, to allow it to develop in a healthier and more sustainable way,” Tian said, according to a CNBC translation of his Mandarin-language remarks.

His comments come as a global shortage in chips is forcing major automobile manufacturers to cut back on production. The backlog in semiconductor manufacturing grew out of high demand for electronics amid the coronavirus pandemic, and a highly specialized global supply chain that has faced additional pressure from the U.S.-China trade tensions that began under former President Donald Trump.

Last year, the Trump administration put restrictions on China’s biggest chip manufacturer, SMIC, that prevent it from buying high-end equipment needed for production.

It’s not yet clear what specific action U.S. President Joe Biden will take. Last week, he signed an executive order to review supply chains in an effort to address the shortage.

Meanwhile, China’s industry and technology ministry is trying to improve supply chain coordination in the country’s automobile industry, where 90% of chips used are imported, according to a state media report Friday.

During Monday’s press conference, ministry head Xiao Yaqing said ensuring supply chain resiliency is a priority.

“We must put improving the stability and competitiveness of industrial chains and supply chains in a position of prominence … and firmly seize the initiative in the fiercely competitive international market,” Xiao said.

Nationwide, data indicate China did not meet its goal of 40% domestic sourcing in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Only 15.9% of the $143.4 billion worth of integrated circuits — another name for semiconductors — sold in China last year were produced in the country, according to U.S.-based market research firm IC Insights.

China’s leaders are set to kick off an annual parliamentary meeting this week to determine national development goals for the next five years and beyond.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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Charts show how vaccines are working



Pharmacist, Murtaza Abdulkarim (L) administers a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine to a patient at a temporary vaccination centre, staffed by pharmacists and pharmacist assistants, at the Al-Abbas Islamic Centre in Birmingham, West Midlands on February 4, 2021.

Oli Scarff | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — The first real-world data from the U.K.’s inoculation program has given an insight into how effective vaccines have been against Covid-19.

The vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine was the first shot to be approved and rolled out in the U.K. in December. The over-80s, health care workers and care home staff were the first in line to be immunized. That was soon followed by the shot developed by British frim AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Here are four charts summarizing how effective these vaccines are, and how they’re playing their part in the fight against the pandemic:

Falling deaths in the over-85s

A surge in antibodies

A blood test study published last week by Imperial College London showed that almost 14% of the British population now has antibodies against the coronavirus. While this doesn’t necessarily mean immunity, what was interesting was the results from the people that had been vaccinated and how high their antibody levels were. 18,000 participants of the 155,000 person study had been vaccinated and the results are in the chart below. Click here for the full data.

A separate study in England has shown the highest percentage of people testing positive for antibodies was those aged 80 years and over, at 41%, which the statisticians said was “most likely due to the high vaccination rate in this group.”

The real-world effectiveness of the Pfizer shot

…and the AstraZeneca vaccine

Public Health Scotland also collected data on the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine for all age groups. The chart shows that, by the fourth week after receiving a first dose, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines were shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization from Covid-19 in up to 85% and 94%, respectively. Click here for the data and full methodology.

Since the start of the vaccination rollout, the U.K. has immunized all its top four priority groups, on target. It now aims to vaccinate all over-50s by mid-April, and all adults by end of July, two months ahead of a previous target.

As of Sunday, over 20 million people have received their first dose of a vaccine, and almost 800,000 have received both doses, government data says.

The U.K.’s vaccination program has been widely hailed as a triumph amidst tragedy; the U.K. has seen the fifth-highest number of infections worldwide, after the U.S., India, Brazil and Russia, with over 4.1 million infections recorded and 123,083 deaths, the fifth-highest death toll in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

—CNBC’s Bryn Bache contributed to this article.

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