Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

Swiss cities rated most expensive in the world for fun

If it’s cheap recreation and entertainment you want, go to Zurich and Geneva – and keep going. The two Swiss cities are the dearest in the world for these two categories, according to the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey 2019.  This year’s survey, published on Tuesday by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), reveals that Zurich is the fourth-priciest city overall, just behind joint “winners” Singapore, Paris and Hong Kong. Geneva is tied in fifth with Osaka in Japan.  “In general over the past few years we’ve seen European cities having the highest costs in several categories, for example household and personal care, as well as recreation and entertainment. Zurich and Geneva actually led all the 133 cities we surveyed in those categories,” report author Roxana Slavcheva told swissinfo.ch.  “This perhaps reflects a greater premium that those cities or people in Switzerland in general place on discretionary spending [on non-essential items]. Zurich and Geneva are the only two ...

Austerity created this mental-health crisis. Brexit has sent it into overdrive | Frances Ryan

Calls not to politicise mental-health issues fall flat when an era of cuts and uncertainty sees our mental wellbeing plummet

There was something about the events in Westminster this week that made me think of the news that sales of self-help books in Britain are at a record high. As we encounter an ever more stressful and unsteady climate, we are turning to those who offer answers (an issue not least for those who can’t afford the price of a book). Some of this anxiety must come down to more global patterns – climate change, say, or the fragility of democratic norms – but much can come down to the more prosaic matters of life: ability to pay the bills, job prospects, or simply the sense that we have a grasp on the future.

Just look at Brexit. More than four in 10 people say that Brexit has impacted on their mental health in the past two years; hardly surprising considering 44% of respondents to the YouGov survey believed EU withdrawal will worsen their lives. Some EU nationals living in the UK have even reported feeling suicidal as uncertainty about their future steps up.

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What can we expect from Hammond’s spring statement?

The chancellor has a chance to outline plans for Brexit, GDP, public spending and austerity

Philip Hammond is poised to deliver the spring statement on Wednesday against a backdrop of mounting political turmoil over Brexit, with increasing risks to the UK economy from a no-deal exit.

No major tax and spending changes are expected, as the main budget is now held in the autumn rather than the spring, but there will be a key update on the state of the economy from the Office for Budget Responsibility.

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Despite Hammond’s threat, the Tories cannot be trusted to end austerity | Richard Partington

Chancellor hints that a no-deal Brexit will mean an unwanted extension to austerity

Do you remember the days when the big debate in British politics was not interminable talk of backstops, parliamentary process and obscure trade deals? The days when it was about something far more simple: tax and spending.

When Philip Hammond stands up at the dispatch box on Wednesday to deliver the spring statement, the agenda will remain all about Brexit. The traditional levers of government policy used to influence our everyday lives – income tax, NHS spending, school budgets and so on – will take a backseat.

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Swiss workplace inequality, by the numbers

Work, politics, wages: the differences between women and men in Switzerland are significant. We look at five areas in which women are still underrepresented, and how the Swiss compare internationally. Equality between women and men has long been enshrined in the Swiss constitution - since 1981. But differences remain when it comes to working life. 1. Employment What percentage of the population over the age of 15 has paid jobs? In most countries, the proportion is higher among men, even in Switzerland. According to World Bank data, the difference between women and men is greatest in Turkey. In Switzerland, around 60% of women aged 15 and over are employed, while the figure for men is 70%, which is the average among member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The differences between women and men are smallest in Scandinavia. 2. Working time There is a significant gender gap when it comes to full- and part-time work. In all OECD- ...

I used to pretend my epilepsy didn’t exist. Like a no-deal Brexit, it’s a dangerous game | Hadley Freeman

I try to avoid writing about Brexit. But one question has become too pressing to ignore

Like everyone else at this point, I have many questions about Brexit, starting with “why” and going from there. For example: are concerns about how Britain is going to cope merely “project fear”, as some Brexity folk still have it? Is it going to be like the blitz, as other Brexity people have promised enthusiastically? Such people include someone called Ant Middleton from Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins, who said last year in a tweet (since deleted): “A ‘no deal’ for our country would actually be a blessing in disguise. It would force us into hardship and suffering which would unite & bring us together, bringing back British values of loyalty and a sense of community!” Truly, there are few things as touching as a grown man playing soldiers by waxing nostalgic for a time he didn’t live through. And by “touching” I mean “nauseating”.

I try to avoid writing about Brexit for the same reason I avoid eating my hair: you just end up choking on the pointlessness of it all. But one question has become too pressing to ignore: just how self-centred do you have to be to think the risk of making it harder for people to get necessary medications is an irrelevant niggle while you achieve your masturbatory fantasy of “sovereignty”? Sure, talk of insulin supplies, say, is a bummer when you are entertaining dreams of sailing victoriously back from Brussels beneath a St George’s flag, like George Washington crossing the Delaware in Emanuel Leutze’s painting, only less American (although, given that our supermarkets may soon be stuffed with chlorinated chicken from the US, maybe not). But for those who have long been dependent on certain drugs, these niggly questions make a no-deal Brexit less of a blessing in disguise.

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Sick children being denied drugs are a grim foretaste of a post-Brexit NHS | Polly Toynbee

The US drug company Vertex is playing hardball with Nice over a drug for cystic fibrosis. A US-UK trade deal would make matters worse

Today, in front of the health select committee in the Commons one of the bravest and best elements of the NHS has been giving evidence against Vertex, a pantomime-villain US drug company. Caught in between are unfortunate patients also giving evidence today about their need for Vertex’s cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi, which Nice is so far refusing to approve.

This is an everyday painful dilemma in the life of Nice – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – one of the Blair government’s best creations. With transparent criteria, panels of expert and lay assessors examine the evidence to decide which new drugs offer enough new benefit at an acceptable price. The Nice rule of thumb (there are exceptions) is a price of some £30,000 for every good year of life gained by a patient – a QALY – a quality-adjusted life-year.

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