“With the leverage that employees have, and the proof that they can work from home, it’s hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube,” he said.

Fearful of losing one more junior employee in what has become a tight job market, Mr. Singer has allowed a young colleague to work from home one day a week with an understanding that they would revisit the issue in the future.

doctrinaire view that folks need to be in the office.”

Amanda Diaz, 28, feels relieved she doesn’t have to go back to the office, at least for now. She works for the health insurance company Humana in San Juan, P.R., but has been getting the job done in her home in Trujillo Alto, which is about a 40-minute drive from the office.

Humana offers its employees the option to work from the office or their home, and Ms. Diaz said she would continue to work remotely as long as she had the option.

“Think about all the time you spend getting ready and commuting to work,” she said. “Instead I’m using those two or so hours to prepare a healthy lunch, exercising or rest.”

Alexander Fleiss, 38, chief executive of the investment management firm Rebellion Research, said some employees had resisted going back into the office. He hopes peer pressure and the fear of missing out on a promotion for lack of face-to-face interactions entices people back.

“Those people might lose their jobs because of natural selection,” Mr. Fleiss said. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if workers began suing companies because they felt they had been laid off for refusing to go back to the office.

Mr. Fleiss also tries to persuade his staff members who are working on projects to come back by focusing on the benefits of face-to-face collaborations, but many employees would still rather stick to Zoom calls.

“If that’s what they want, that’s what they want,” he said. “You can’t force anyone to do anything these days. You can only urge.”

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Farewell, Millennial Lifestyle Subsidy

A few years ago, while on a work trip in Los Angeles, I hailed an Uber for a crosstown ride during rush hour. I knew it would be a long trip, and I steeled myself to fork over $60 or $70.

Instead, the app spit out a price that made my jaw drop: $16.

Experiences like these were common during the golden era of the Millennial Lifestyle Subsidy, which is what I like to call the period from roughly 2012 through early 2020, when many of the daily activities of big-city 20- and 30-somethings were being quietly underwritten by Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

For years, these subsidies allowed us to live Balenciaga lifestyles on Banana Republic budgets. Collectively, we took millions of cheap Uber and Lyft rides, shuttling ourselves around like bourgeois royalty while splitting the bill with those companies’ investors. We plunged MoviePass into bankruptcy by taking advantage of its $9.95-a-month, all-you-can-watch movie ticket deal, and took so many subsidized spin classes that ClassPass was forced to cancel its $99-a-month unlimited plan. We filled graveyards with the carcasses of food delivery start-ups — Maple, Sprig, SpoonRocket, Munchery — just by accepting their offers of underpriced gourmet meals.

tweeted, along with a screenshot of a receipt that showed he had spent nearly $250 on a ride to the airport.

“Airbnb got too much dip on they chip,” another Twitter user complained. “No one is gonna continue to pay $500 to stay in an apartment for two days when they can pay $300 for a hotel stay that has a pool, room service, free breakfast & cleaning everyday. Like get real lol.”

Some of these companies have been tightening their belts for years. But the pandemic seems to have emptied what was left of the bargain bin. The average Uber and Lyft ride costs 40 percent more than it did a year ago, according to Rakuten Intelligence, and food delivery apps like DoorDash and Grubhub have been steadily increasing their fees over the past year. The average daily rate of an Airbnb rental increased 35 percent in the first quarter of 2021, compared with the same quarter the year before, according to the company’s financial filings.

set up a $250 million “driver stimulus” fund — or doing away with them altogether.

I’ll confess that I gleefully took part in this subsidized economy for years. (My colleague Kara Swisher memorably called it “assisted living for millennials.”) I got my laundry delivered by Washio, my house cleaned by Homejoy and my car valet-parked by Luxe — all start-ups that promised cheap, revolutionary on-demand services but shut down after failing to turn a profit. I even bought a used car through a venture-backed start-up called Beepi, which offered white-glove service and mysteriously low prices, and which delivered the car to me wrapped in a giant bow, like you see in TV commercials. (Unsurprisingly, Beepi shut down in 2017, after burning through $150 million in venture capital.)

These subsidies don’t always end badly for investors. Some venture-backed companies, like Uber and DoorDash, have been able to grit it out until their I.P.O.s, making good on their promise that investors would eventually see a return on their money. Other companies have been acquired or been able to successfully raise their prices without scaring customers away.

Uber, which raised nearly $20 billion in venture capital before going public, may be the best-known example of an investor-subsidized service. During a stretch of 2015, the company was burning $1 million a week in driver and rider incentives in San Francisco alone, according to reporting by BuzzFeed News.

But the clearest example of a jarring pivot to profitability might be the electric scooter business.

Remember scooters? Before the pandemic, you couldn’t walk down the sidewalk of a major American city without seeing one. Part of the reason they took off so quickly is that they were ludicrously cheap. Bird, the largest scooter start-up, charged $1 to start a ride, and then 15 cents a minute. For short trips, renting a scooter was often cheaper than taking the bus.

But those fees didn’t represent anything close to the true cost of a Bird ride. The scooters broke frequently and needed constant replacing, and the company was shoveling money out the door just to keep its service going. As of 2019, Bird was losing $9.66 for every $10 it made on rides, according to a recent investor presentation. That is a shocking number, and the kind of sustained losses that are possible only for a Silicon Valley start-up with extremely patient investors. (Imagine a deli that charged $10 for a sandwich whose ingredients cost $19.66, and then imagine how long that deli would stay in business.)

Pandemic-related losses, coupled with the pressure to turn a profit, forced Bird to trim its sails. It raised its prices — a Bird now costs as much as $1 plus 42 cents a minute in some cities — built more durable scooters and revamped its fleet management system. During the second half of 2020, the company made $1.43 in profit for every $10 ride.

“DoorDash and Pizza Arbitrage,” about the time he realized that DoorDash was selling pizzas from his friend’s restaurant for $16 while paying the restaurant $24 per pizza, and proceeded to order dozens of pizzas from the restaurant while pocketing the $8 difference, stands as a classic of the genre.)

But it’s hard to fault these investors for wanting their companies to turn a profit. And, at a broader level, it’s probably good to find more efficient uses for capital than giving discounts to affluent urbanites.

Back in 2018, I wrote that the entire economy was starting to resemble MoviePass, the subscription service whose irresistible, deeply unprofitable offer of daily movie tickets for a flat $9.95 subscription fee paved the way for its decline. Companies like MoviePass, I thought, were trying to defy the laws of gravity with business models that assumed that if they achieved enormous scale, they’d be able to flip a switch and start making money at some point down the line. (This philosophy, which was more or less invented by Amazon, is now known in tech circles as “blitzscaling.”)

There is still plenty of irrationality in the market, and some start-ups still burn huge piles of money in search of growth. But as these companies mature, they seem to be discovering the benefits of financial discipline. Uber lost only $108 million in the first quarter of 2021 — a change partly attributable to the sale of its autonomous driving unit, and a vast improvement, believe it or not, over the same quarter last year, when it lost $3 billion. Both Uber and Lyft have pledged to become profitable on an adjusted basis this year. Lime, Bird’s main electric scooter competitor, turned its first quarterly profit last year, and Bird — which recently filed to go public through a SPAC at a $2.3 billion valuation — has projected better economics in the years ahead.

Profits are good for investors, of course. And while it’s painful to pay subsidy-free prices for our extravagances, there’s also a certain justice to it. Hiring a private driver to shuttle you across Los Angeles during rush hour should cost more than $16, if everyone in that transaction is being fairly compensated. Getting someone to clean your house, do your laundry or deliver your dinner should be a luxury, if there’s no exploitation involved. The fact that some high-end services are no longer easily affordable by the merely semi-affluent may seem like a worrying development, but maybe it’s a sign of progress.

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‘It’s Going to Be a Big Summer for Hard Seltzer’

The music should be pumping and the burgers and jerk chicken wings flying out of the kitchen this holiday weekend at the Rambler Kitchen and Tap in the North Center neighborhood of Chicago.

To wash it down, patrons might go with a mixed drink or one of the 20 craft beers the bar sells. But many will order a hard seltzer. The Rambler expects to sell close to 500 cans in flavors like peach, pineapple and grapefruit pomelo.

“We’ll sell a lot of buckets of White Claw and Truly seltzers,” said Sam Stone, a co-owner of the Rambler. “It’s going to be a big summer for hard seltzer.”

The Memorial Day weekend kicks off what many hope will be a more normal summer, when kids start counting down the number of days left in school, people head back to the beach and grills heat up for backyard parties that went poof last year because of the pandemic. And for the hard seltzer industry, it’s the start of a dizzying period when dozens of old and new competitors vie to be the boozy, bubbly drink of the season.

ad campaign with the British pop singer Dua Lipa. This spring, the hip-hop star Travis Scott released Cacti, a seltzer made with blue agave syrup, in a partnership with Anheuser-Busch. It quickly sold out in many locations.

“People were lining up outside of the stores to buy Cacti and share pictures of themselves with their carts full of Cacti,” said Marcel Marcondes, the chief marketing officer for Anheuser-Busch.

Also this spring, Topo Chico Hard Seltzer was released. A partnership between Coca-Cola and Molson Coors Beverage, it hit shelves in 16 markets across the country, chasing the cult following of Topo Chico’s seltzer water in the South.

“I feel like I can walk into a party saying, ‘Oh, yeah, I brought the Topo Chico,’” said Dane Cardiel, 32, who works in business development for a podcast company and lives in Esopus, N.Y., about 60 miles south of Albany.

How flavored bubbly water with alcohol became a national phenomenon is partly due to social media videos that went viral and clever marketing that sold hard seltzers as a “healthier” alcohol choice.

White Claw’s slim cans prominently state that the drinks contain only 100 calories, are gluten free and have only two grams each of carbohydrates and sugar. The brand is owned by the Canadian billionaire Anthony von Mandl, who created Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

“The health and wellness element is front and center in terms of the visual marketing,” said Vivien Azer, an analyst at the Cowen investment firm. “Every brand’s packaging features its relatively low carb and sugar data.”

On top of that, the alcohol content in most hard seltzers, about 5 percent, or the same as 12 ounces of a typical beer, is less than a glass of wine or a mixed drink. That makes it easier for people to sip at a party or while watching a game without getting intoxicated or winding up with the belly-full-of-beer feeling.

“It’s a nice drink for an afternoon on the patio,” said Shelley Majeres, the general manager of Blake Street Tavern in downtown Denver. “You can drink four or five of them in an afternoon and not have a big hangover or get really drunk.”

Blake Street, an 18,000-square-foot sports bar, started selling hard seltzers two years ago. Today, they make up about 20 percent of its can and bottle sales.

The industry has also neatly sidestepped the gender issue that plagued earlier, lighter alcoholic alternatives like Zima, which became popular with women but struggled to be adopted by men.

“I’ve got just as many men as women drinking it,” said Nick Zeto, the owner of Boston Beer Garden in Naples, Fla. “And it started with the millennials, but now I have people in their 40s, 50s and 60s ordering it.”

That kind of broad appeal is attractive to beer, wine and spirits companies.

“We view ourselves as the challenger brand,” said Michelle St. Jacques, the chief marketing officer of Molson Coors, which has been making beer since the late 1700s but hopes to end this year with 10 percent of the hard seltzer market.

Last spring, the company released Vizzy, a hard seltzer that contains vitamin C. Top Chico came this spring. “We feel like we’re making great progress in seltzer by not trying to bring me-too products, but rather products and brands that have a clear difference,” Ms. St. Jacques said.

While grocery and liquor stores have made plenty of space available to the hard seltzer brands that people drink at home, the competition to get into restaurants and bars is fierce. Most want to offer only two or three brands to their customers.

“Oh, my god, I get presented with new hard seltzer whenever they can get my attention,” said Mr. Stone, who sells six brands at the Rambler. The crowd favorite, he said, is the vodka-based High Noon Sun Sips peach, made by E.&J. Gallo Winery. “Everybody, from the big brands to small, new ones, are getting into the hard seltzer game.”

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Vets Go Upscale to Care for Pets (and Their Owners)

When Allegra Brochin and her boyfriend adopted Sprinkles, a feisty white Maltese, last year, they set about finding pet care.

“I immediately started looking,” said Ms. Brochin, 23, who works as a communications coordinator for Michael Kors in New York.

She saw ads for Bond Vet pop up on her Instagram feed, and when she took in Sprinkles for her shots, she was won over by the look and feel of the clinic, “especially when it’s for a pet you care about and feel responsible for,” she said.

Ms. Brochin is not alone in her devotion to her pandemic pet. More than 12.6 million households adopted animals from March to December of last year, according to the American Pet Products Association, helping to propel an increase in visits and revenue to veterinary offices, as new owners took pets in for their first checkup.

pet care business is riding a growth spurt: Morgan Stanley projected that it would be a $275 billion industry in 2030, up from $100 billion in 2019, with vet care the fastest-growing segment over the next decade.

“Ten years ago, there was a baby boom,” Arash Danialifar, chief executive of GD Realty Group, a California company that has leased space to a veterinary start-up, said about the proliferation of shops selling children’s fashion. “Now it’s all about pets.”

Small Door Veterinary recently announced it had raised $20 million and planned to go from a single location to 25 by 2025. The firm operates on a membership model, with 24/7 telemedicine and waiting areas with arched, white oak-paneled alcoves that give owners and their pets an intimate place to chill before appointments. Designed by Alda Ly Architecture, the clinics are rented storefronts of 2,000 to 3,000 square feet and cost about $1 million to kit out, said Josh Guttman, Small Door’s co-founder and chief executive.

Bond Vet, another New York start-up, models itself on CityMD clinics; it recently raised $17 million and now has six offices, including its first suburban location, in Garden City on Long Island.

Modern Animal, has an office in a high-end shopping district in West Hollywood, with three more to come in the city by year’s end and a dozen clinics in California by 2022, said the company’s founder and chief executive, Steven Eidelman.

new pet owners during the pandemic. Seventy-six percent of millennials own pets, according to a recent survey, and they are spending generously on their charges.

Terravet Real Estate Solutions, founded in 2016, now owns more than 100 buildings in 30 states, many of them housing practices owned by consolidators. For instance, Terravet owns the building housing CountryChase Veterinary Hospital in Tampa, Fla., and the American Veterinary Group, which operates practices across the South, owns the business.

Hound Properties, founded two years ago, has been buying buildings with an investor-backed fund. And Vetley Capital, started this year, has a portfolio of 20 buildings in nine states, most of them on the small side, ranging from 2,500 to 4,000 square feet and costing around $1 million, said Zach Goldman, the company’s founder and president.

The price of real estate has risen, but the returns are generally modest. “It’s the ultimate slow and steady income,” said Tripp Stewart, co-founder and chief executive of Hound Properties, who is also a practicing vet.

Despite the interest, there are obstacles to opening pet hospitals. Zoning sometimes limits their locations. In Pasadena, Calif., GD Realty had to request a zoning change for Modern Animal.

Because such businesses revolve around animal doctors, who are in demand as veterinary companies expand, there are shortages of vets in some parts of the country, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The improvements in vet facilities are thus aimed not only at pets and their owners, but also at the doctors themselves, who can choose where they want to work.

“It used to be that when you went to a vet, it was a family vet who worked out of a kitchen in an old house,” said Dr. Stewart. “Today, you’re not going to attract new young vets to an old house.”

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Existing-Home Sales Declined in April, With a Tight Supply and Record Prices.

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Soaring prices and a shortage of available homes are starting to hold back the blazing U.S. housing market.

Sales of existing homes fell 2.7 percent in April, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. It was the third straight monthly decline after a surge in transactions earlier in the pandemic.

Mortgage rates have crept up since the start of the year, which has likely put a crimp in demand. But the main force holding back sales isn’t a lack of willing buyers. It is a lack of homes for them to buy — especially at prices they can afford.

The median sales price of an existing home was $341,600 in April, up 19.1 percent from a year earlier. Both the price and the increase were record highs. The number of homes on the market rose in April but was down 20.5 percent from a year ago and remained close to a record low.

gone for more than their asking price, up from about a quarter a year ago.

“Even if demand comes down, supply is the issue, and until we see more homes come on the market, that’s going to limit sales,” said Glenn Kelman, Redfin’s chief executive. “When you meet a new buyer you almost say, ‘Good luck.’”

The increase in remote work during the pandemic has led to an increase in demand for homes, particularly outside of city centers. That demand has remained as the economy has begun to reopen, even as millions of millennials are reaching the age when Americans have historically looked to buy homes. But the combination of high prices and limited inventories is making it especially hard for young people to get into the housing market.

“First-time buyers in particular are having trouble securing that first home for a multitude of reasons, including not enough affordable properties, competition with cash buyers and properties leaving the market at such a rapid pace,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said in a statement.

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Zwirner May Disrupt Art Gallery Model With Click-to-Buy Business

The art world is only just beginning to address the questions raised by the pandemic, such as: Are in-person art fairs a thing of the past and virtual viewing rooms the future? Will museums maintain no-touch ticketing and auction houses continue global online salesrooms?

One mega-gallerist, David Zwirner, has decided to double down on what he took away from the last year: the need for a click-to-buy marketplace to sell original works of art. As a result, Zwirner has created Platform, a website that debuts Thursday and which each month will offer 100 works presented by about 12 independent galleries around the world with prices ranging from $2,500 to $50,000.

“We learned there is a real place in the art world for e-commerce,” Zwirner said in a recent telephone interview. “There is an audience out there we did not know existed. They don’t go to galleries necessarily and they don’t really go to art fairs. They look at things online.” He noted that the audience was “almost all millennials,” who discover art through Instagram and word of mouth. “The art world has never catered to them,” Zwirner added. “They can graduate into a much broader participant.”

earlier pilot of Platform last year, and several of the participating galleries are returning for the new iteration, including Bridget Donahue and Night Gallery. Among the new partners are Bortolami, Charles Moffett, and Jessica Silverman. The artists that Platform is presenting initially include Kenny Rivero, Jane Dickson and Jibade-Khalil Huffman.

Gallery Network, an online, buy-now marketplace for works valued up to $150,000.

But for a blue-chip behemoth like Zwirner, the Platform venture represents a significant departure from the traditional in-person gallery model. The additional information provided about the works of art is more extensive, and in many cases artists are making work for the site.

“Everybody is trying to figure out this new landscape, which relies so much on digital content and selling material without actually seeing it in person,” Moffett said. “We’ve tried a number of different platforms and have been less than satisfied with the results. Obviously the David Zwirner brand is one that is very well respected and my artists liked the idea that they would be presenting on the Zwirner platform, so we figured, why not give this a shot?”

Skeptics will say that Zwirner is just trying to garner publicity and generate good will with a paternalistic, Robin Hood move that ultimately gives his own gallery 20 percent of every sale on Platform. And some in the art world worry that Platform is merely a farm team for Zwirner — a way to develop emerging artists, woo them from smaller galleries, and harvest information about those galleries’ clientele.

Ramiken Crucible, and to Harold Ancart, who continues to work with a smaller gallery, Clearing.

Lucas Zwirner, the son of the dealer, who led the creation of Platform, pointed out that the mega-gallery is investing in material on the site that gives the artists greater visibility, including interviews and videos.

Mike Steib, the chief executive of Artsy, said he welcomed Platform into the arena: “Anything we can do that makes buying art as accessible as buying cars, jewelry or luxury goods is great.”

Platform is staffed by a team of 10 young gallerists — in addition to his son, it includes Zwirner’s daughter, Marlene — who bring different backgrounds to the venture. Bettina Huang, for example, Platform’s general manager, has held leadership roles at e-commerce companies like Fab.com and the Amazon subsidiary Quidsi.

Silverman, who just opened a new space in San Francisco, said the two artists she will feature are Clare Rojas and Catherine Wagner. “I’m interested in experiments,” the dealer said of Platform — “who might come to the work who we don’t know.”

Lily Stockman, who shows with Moffett.

sold Jeff Koons’s “Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red) (2013-19)” for $8 million, and in the last 12 months has sold over $100 million worth of art online.

What particularly fueled the dealer’s interest in the venture, he said, was his experience with the gallery’s fund-raiser, “Artists for Biden,” in which more than $2.5 million worth of art by Koons, Kehinde Wiley and Carmen Herrera, among others, sold through a “buy now” option.

Dorian Grinspan, a New York City collector. “It’s exciting to have a place where you have a more curated showing of what’s around the market.”

(While the smaller galleries propose the artworks for Platform, the Zwirner specialists may weigh in.)

The mechanics of the site have been their own challenge. Zwirner Gallery is partnering with the fine-art shipping company Dietl International, using a custom-built system that provides shipping quotes at checkout.

a new $50 million gallery in Chelsea, which has been delayed by the pandemic.

“It creates a golden opportunity for me to think about what I really want,” he said. “I’m no longer as sure as I was four years ago.”

Zwirner said he also likes the idea of a business like Platform saving his gallery — and the smaller ones collaborating with him — the steep costs of multiple art fairs every year.

“We will never go back to the old way of working,” the dealer said. “We’ve encountered a much larger art world than we thought existed. If it proves to be a robust primary market, the sky’s the limit.”

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He’s a Dogecoin Millionaire. And He’s Not Selling.

Last February, when Glauber Contessoto decided to invest his life savings in Dogecoin, his friends had concerns.

“They were all like, you’re crazy,” he said. “It’s a joke coin. It’s a meme. It’s going to crash.”

Their skepticism was warranted. After all, Dogecoin is a joke — a digital currency started in 2013 by a pair of programmers who decided to spoof the cryptocurrency craze by creating their own virtual money based on a meme about Doge, a talking Shiba Inu puppy. And investing money in obscure cryptocurrencies has, historically, been akin to tossing it onto a bonfire.

But Mr. Contessoto, 33, who works at a Los Angeles hip-hop media company, is no ordinary buy-and-hold investor. He is among the many thrill-seeking amateurs who have leapt headfirst into the markets in recent months, using stock-trading apps like Robinhood to chase outsize gains on risky, speculative bets.

In February, after reading a Reddit thread about Dogecoin’s potential, Mr. Contessoto decided to go all in. He maxed out his credit cards, borrowed money using Robinhood’s margin trading feature and spent everything he had on the digital currency — investing about $250,000 in all. Then, he watched his phone obsessively as Dogecoin became an internet phenomenon whose value eclipsed that of blue-chip companies like Twitter and General Motors.

disavowed the coin, and even Mr. Musk has warned investors not to over-speculate in cryptocurrency. (Mr. Musk recently sent the crypto markets into upheaval again, after he announced that Tesla would no longer accept Bitcoin.)

What explains Dogecoin’s durability, then?

There’s no doubt that Dogecoin mania, like GameStop mania before it, is at least partly attributable to some combination of pandemic-era boredom and the eternal appeal of get-rich-quick schemes.

But there may be more structural forces at work. Over the past few years, soaring housing costs, record student loan debt and historically low interest rates have made it harder for some young people to imagine achieving financial stability by slowly working their way up the career ladder and saving money paycheck by paycheck, the way their parents did.

Instead of ladders, these people are looking for trampolines — risky, volatile investments that could either result in a life-changing windfall or send them right back to where they started.

posted a screenshot of his cryptocurrency trading app, showing that he’d bought more. And on Thursday, when the value of his Dogecoin holdings fell to $1.5 million, roughly half what it was at the peak, he posted another screenshot of his account on Reddit.

“If I can hodl, you can HODL!” the caption read.

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China’s Census Shows Population Barely Grew in 10 Years as Births Plummet

China’s population is growing at its slowest pace since the 1960s, with falling births and a graying work force presenting the Communist Party with one of its gravest social and economic challenges.

Figures for a census conducted last year and released on Tuesday showed the country’s population at 1.41 billion people, about 72 million more than the 1.34 billion who were counted in the last census, in 2010.

Births have fallen in recent years, and with rising longevity have pushed China to the verge of a demographic crisis that could stunt growth in the world’s second-largest economy. China faces aging-related challenges similar to that of developed countries, while having a much smaller household income — that is, the country is growing old without first having grown rich.

Beijing is now under greater pressure to abandon its family planning policies, which are among the world’s most intrusive; overhaul an economic model that has long relied on a huge population and growing pool of workers; and plug yawning gaps in health care and pensions.

turned to robots because they cannot find enough workers.

getting older, China’s demographic problems are largely self-inflicted. The one-child policy, imposed in 1980, may have prevented 400 million births, but also shrank the number of women of childbearing age. As the population gets older, it will impose tremendous pressure on the country’s overwhelmed hospitals and underfunded pension system.

eased to limit couples to two children. Already, many local governments are allowing families to have three children or more without making them pay fines.

But demographers say there are no easy fixes. A growing cohort of educated Chinese women are putting off marriage, which has declined since 2014. The divorce rate has risen consistently since 2003. Many millennials are put off by the cost of raising children.

In the southwestern city of Chengdu, Tracy Wang, the 29-year-old founder of an English enrichment center for children, said she had decided in her early 20s that she did not want children.

“In essence, I don’t like children very much — yes, they might be cute — but I don’t want to give birth to them or take care of them,” Ms. Wang said.

“Before, many people used to think it was such an incredulous thought: ‘How could you even think this way?’” she said. “But now, they all understand that you can’t afford it.”

Elsie Chencontributed reporting.

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The Watch Industry Lacks Transparency. That Is Changing.

The Swiss have long had a reputation for being discreet when it comes to business. (Think banks). And their watch industry is no different.

But growing pressure for environmental and ethical accountability — from activists, investors and consumers — has convinced a few brands that it is time to reveal where they obtain some of their raw materials.

They are fighting the industry’s deep-rooted tradition of discretion, a practice born of watchmakers’ fear that identifying suppliers will reveal details of their expertise and give rivals an advantage.

Many, however, are secretive for a very different reason: They are reluctant to admit their “Swiss Made” watches contain numerous components manufactured in China. These aren’t legal concerns: Swiss law dictates that at least 60 percent of the manufacturing costs of a product must be incurred in the country for it to qualify for the label.

the pandemic and digital growth, a new generation of chief executives, public pressure — to rethink long-established notions about the way they do business, including the value of collaborating with other watchmakers.

where brands get their gold and how they produce their timepieces, more available. Some watchmakers are even going out of their way to share it.

During the virtual Watches and Wonders fair in Geneva that began April 7, for example, Panerai introduced the Submersible eLAB-ID, a 44-millimeter wristwatch built almost entirely from reused raw materials, including recycled Super-LumiNova on its hands, recycled silicon in its movement escapement and a recycled titanium alloy known as EcoTitanium on its case, sandwich dial and bridges.

In a news release, the brand named the nine companies that worked on the timepiece, which will remain a one-of-a-kind concept watch until 2022, when Panerai plans to release a limited edition of 30 pieces, each tentatively priced at around 60,000 euros ($70,530). “We would love to be copied and improved upon,” Jean-Marc Pontroué, Panerai’s chief executive, said during a video interview last month.

a reputation for transparency and activism in a sector not known for either quality.

Kering has gone this way, at least in part, because it has an eye on what its buyers — and potential future buyers — want.

“All over the world,” Marie-Claire Daveu, Kering’s chief sustainability officer, said on a video call last month, “you have millennials and Gen Z [customers] asking more questions and wanting more answers with more details.”

Claudio D’Amore, a watch designer based in Lausanne, is one of the few Swiss watch executives to welcome such scrutiny. In 2016, he created a crowdfunded brand called the Goldgena Project, later renamed Code41, whose radical approach to transparency was a response to the industry’s long-simmering debate over the Swiss Made label.

table that lists all the components and processes that went into its latest crowdfunded timepiece, the NB24 Chronograph, along with their prices and origins. For instance, the watch’s Swiss-made movement cost the company $1,056 (including taxes), while the titanium case, dial and packaging — manufactured in China — cost $167, $56 and $22. In total, the watch cost $1,474 to produce.

Below the table, the brand explained that it arrived at a retail price of $3,500 by adding what it called a “minimal markup” for profitability.

sustainability report — what’s new is how easy it will be to access online, a spokeswoman said.

Chopard is another high-profile watchmaker striving to make its business more transparent. In late February, the Geneva-based brand updated its website with more information about its raw materials, including gold from the Barequeros, a community of artisanal miners in the Chocó region on Colombia’s Pacific coast. It also posted its Code of Conduct for Partners for the first time.

And yet Juliane Kippenberg, a Berlin-based expert on mineral supply chains at Human Rights Watch, says these measures still fall short of what other sectors, such as the garment industry, are doing to implement transparency, particularly on the complex topic of gold sourcing.

“Big companies like Adidas and H&M release Excel spreadsheets where they list the names of the garment factories where their products are being made,” Ms. Kippenberg said. “But in this sector, there’s far more reluctance to do that.” (Of course, those companies aren’t immune to controversy, either; H&M for example, is embroiled in one over its cotton sourcing.)

That hesitancy may be because many watchmakers are still wary of transparency’s threatening implications for their intellectual property.

“Part of our know-how is the know and the how — why would you share it?” said Wilhelm Schmid, chief executive of A. Lange & Söhne, a prestige watchmaker based in the German city of Glashütte.

Swiss voters rejected the Responsible Business Initiative, a proposal by a civil society coalition that would have required Swiss companies to conduct due diligence on human rights and environmental risks throughout their supply chains, and publicize their reports. But a counterproposal from the Swiss Parliament that would require companies to ensure the traceability of their supply chains, and make their reports publicly available for 10 years, is expected to become law in 2022.

That means even the notoriously tight-lipped Rolex, the world’s biggest brand by sales — a Morgan Stanley report on Swiss watches published last month found that the company now has an estimated market share of 26.8 percent — will need to make its business more transparent.

“They can’t claim they’re a private company because no one’s asking for their trade secrets,” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the New York City-based Luxury Institute. “They will have to answer. There’s no place to hide.”

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Canadian Housing Boom Raises Concern, With Homes Selling Far Above Prices Asked

OTTAWA—The U.S. may be experiencing its biggest housing boom in decades, but one country has been outpacing its peers in home-price growth: Canada.

Just like in the U.S., the U.K., Australia and elsewhere, Canada is experiencing a housing craze fed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the demand for more space, rock-bottom interest rates, and demographics, with millennials moving into their prime-buying years. Yet Canada has seen a more dramatic price run-up than all Group of Seven countries. According to housing data collected by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, nominal house prices in Canada rose at an annual rate of about 16% in the fourth quarter from the previous three-month period, outpacing the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere.

While in the U.S. there are few concerns about a bubble or a 2008-style crash, that’s not the case in Canada, where some analysts and economists worry about real estate’s outsize role in the country’s economy that could be exposed in the next downturn. Canadian housing as a share of gross domestic product was 9.3% as of the fourth quarter of 2020, up from 7.5% a year earlier and from 6.6% a decade ago. In the U.S., housing is 4.6% of GDP, and the U.S. level at the height of its housing boom reached only 6.7%, according to data from BMO Capital Markets.

In addition, starting in the third quarter of last year for the first time since data were collected in the 1960s, Canadian investment in real estate outstripped business investment in nonresidential structures, machinery and equipment as a share of GDP. While money is going into real estate, economists point out that houses don’t produce the goods and services to meet domestic and foreign demand, and expand an economy’s long-term potential.

Real estate in Canada has become “just one giant consumer durable,” akin to a car or a home appliance, said David Rosenberg, an economist and head of forecasting firm Rosenberg Research.

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