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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Finland"

Daniel Hannan: Sweden settled in for the long haul, and now doesn’t need to worry about a second surge

Daniel Hannan is a writer and columnist. He was a Conservative MEP from 1999 to 2020, and is now President of the Initiative for Free Trade.

You know who isn’t worried about a second wave? Sweden. Covid cases may be rising worldwide but, in that stolid, sensible monarchy, they are down nearly 90 per cent from peak. “I think to a great extent it’s been a success,” says Anders Tegnell, the country’s chief epidemiologist. “We are now seeing rapidly falling cases, we have continuously had healthcare that has been working, there have been free beds at any given time, never any crowding in the hospitals, we have been able to keep schools open which we think is extremely important, and society fairly open.”

Uncomplicatedly good news, you might think. Yet the overseas media coverage of Sweden is brutal. Its fatality rate is endlessly compared to the lower rates in Norway and Finland (never the higher rates in Italy or Britain). Many commentators sound affronted, as though Sweden were deliberately mocking the harsher prohibitions imposed in most of the world.

The nature of their criticism is telling. To condemn Sweden for its relatively high number of deaths per capita suggests a worrying inability, even after five months, to grasp what “flattening the curve” means. In the absence of a cure or vaccine, an epidemic will end up reaching roughly the same number of people. That number may differ from country to country for all sorts of possible reasons: age profile, weather, family living patterns, openness to international travel, incidence of obesity, past exposure to different coronaviruses, differing levels of genetic immunity.

But it won’t be much affected by lockdown measures. To put it at its simplest, flattening the curve doesn’t alter the area underneath the curve. No country can immobilise its population indefinitely; so all we are doing, in the absence of a medical breakthrough, is buying time.

The UK lockdown was intended to string things out while we built our capacity. “It’s vital to slow the spread of the disease,” said the PM in his televised address of March 23. “Because that is the way we reduce the number of people needing hospital treatment at any one time, so we can protect the NHS’s ability to cope – and save more lives.”

Sweden judged that it could manage to keep its hospitals functioning with only relatively minor restrictions – and it was right. With hindsight, it seems likely that the UK could have got away with a similar approach. Not only did our Nightingale hospitals stand largely empty throughout; so did many of our existing hospital beds. The expected tidal wave, mercifully, did not come – probably because the rate of infection, worldwide, turned out to be lower than was first feared.

No one should blame public health officials for erring on the side of caution. Still, it ought to have been clear by late May that we could start easing restrictions. We knew, by then, that the infection rate had peaked on our around March 18 – that is, five days before the lockdown was imposed.

But, alarmingly, liberty turns out to be more easily taken than restored. The easing of the lockdown was achieved in the face of public opposition: British voters were global outliers in their backing for longer and stronger closures. The media, never having internalised what flattening the curve meant, failed to distinguish between preventable deaths and deaths per se.

In March, according to the official minute, “Sage was unanimous that measures seeking to completely suppress the spread of Covid-19 will cause a second peak.” As far as I can tell, it has never rescinded that view. The question is not whether there will be some post-lockdown uptick in infection rates – releasing an entire population from house arrest is bound to lead to an increase in all sorts of medical problems, from common colds to car crashes. The question, rather, is still the one we faced in March, namely can we be certain that our healthcare capacity will not be overwhelmed.

Given what we can see in Sweden – and, indeed, in developing nations which lack the capacity to isolate their teeming populations – it seems pretty clear that we can.

Yet the original rationale for the closures has somehow got lost. Commentators now demand the “defeat” of the disease, and hold up league tables of fatality rates as if that were the only gauge by which to measure the performance of different countries. Covid, like everything else, has been dragged into our culture wars, so that one side revels in excessive caution, ticking people off for the tiniest lockdown infractions, while the other argues that lockdowns don’t work at all.

The case against the lockdown is not that it was useless, but that it was disproportionate and had served its purpose long before it was eased. Confining an entire population is bound to have some impact on slowing a disease – any disease. The question is how high a price we should be prepared to pay.

Sweden seems to have got it right. It banned large meetings and urged people to stay home where possible. But, beyond one or two targeted closures, it broadly trusted people to use their nous. Because it judged coolly at the outset that there would be no immediate vaccine, it never got into the ridiculous position of being unable to restore normality in the absence of one. It settled in for the long haul, understanding that the disease would be around for a while, and that acquired immunity would be part of the eventual solution.

The figures for Q2 growth are published later today. Yes, Sweden will have suffered. The distancing measures taken by most Swedes, and the global downturn, will have taken their toll. Still, my guess – judging from retail figures, credit card activity, employment rates and other extant data – is that Sweden will comfortably have outperformed most European countries, as well as avoiding the costs of furlough schemes and massive borrowing.

It may turn out, when all is said and done, that the international variable was not the eventual death toll so much as the price exacted from the survivors.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Older Children Spread the Coronavirus Just as Much as Adults, New Study Finds

Westlake Legal Group merlin_174135054_aed03bad-4e4b-4a8f-8ee7-b89113da5478-facebookJumbo Older Children Spread the Coronavirus Just as Much as Adults, New Study Finds Youth your-feed-science Teachers and School Employees South Korea Shutdowns (Institutional) Research Quarantines Israel Hanage, William P Finland Education (K-12) Denmark Coronavirus Risks and Safety Concerns Coronavirus Reopenings Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) China Children and Childhood

In the heated debate over reopening schools, one burning question has been whether and how efficiently children can spread the virus to others.

A large new study from South Korea offers an answer: Children younger than 10 transmit to others much less often than adults do, but the risk is not zero. And those between the ages of 10 and 19 can spread the virus at least as well as adults do.

The findings suggest that as schools reopen, communities will see clusters of infection take root that include children of all ages, several experts cautioned.

“I fear that there has been this sense that kids just won’t get infected or don’t get infected in the same way as adults and that, therefore, they’re almost like a bubbled population,” said Michael Osterholm, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Minnesota.

“There will be transmission,” Dr. Osterholm said. “What we have to do is accept that now and include that in our plans.”

Several studies from Europe and Asia have suggested that young children are less likely to get infected and to spread the virus. But most of those studies were small and flawed, said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

The new study “is very carefully done, it’s systematic and looks at a very large population,” Dr. Jha said. “It’s one of the best studies we’ve had to date on this issue.”

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Updated 2020-07-18T22:55:44.073Z

Other experts also praised the scale and rigor of the analysis. South Korean researchers identified 5,706 people who were the first to report Covid-19 symptoms in their households between Jan. 20 and March 27, when schools were closed, and then traced the 59,073 contacts of these “index cases.” They tested all of the household contacts of each patient, regardless of symptoms, but only tested symptomatic contacts outside the household.

The first person in a household to develop symptoms is not necessarily the first to have been infected, and the researchers acknowledged this limitation. Children are also less likely than adults to show symptoms, so the study may have underestimated the number of children who set off the chain of transmission within their households.

Still, experts said the approach was reasonable. “It is also from a place with great contact tracing, done at the point interventions were being put in place,” said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Children under 10 were roughly half as likely as adults to spread the virus to others, consistent with other studies. That may be because children generally exhale less air — and therefore less virus-laden air — or because they exhale that air closer to the ground, making it less likely that adults would breathe it in.

Even so, the number of new infections seeded by children may rise when schools reopen, the study authors cautioned. “Young children may show higher attack rates when the school closure ends, contributing to community transmission of Covid-19,” they wrote. Other studies have also suggested that the large number of contacts for schoolchildren, who interact with dozens of others for a good part of the day, may cancel out their smaller risk of infecting others.

The researchers traced the contacts only of children who felt ill, so it’s still unclear how efficiently asymptomatic children spread the virus, said Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“I think it was always going to be the case that symptomatic children are infectious,” she said. “The questions about the role of children are more around whether children who don’t have symptoms are infectious.”

Dr. Rivers was a member of a scientific panel that on Wednesday recommended reopening schools wherever possible for disabled children and for those in elementary schools, because those groups have the most trouble learning online. She said the new study does not alter that recommendation.

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The study is more worrisome for children in middle and high school. This group was even more likely to infect others than adults were, the study found. But some experts said that finding may be a fluke or may stem from the children’s behaviors.

These older children are frequently as big as adults, and yet may have some of the same unhygienic habits as young children do. They may also have been more likely than the younger children to socialize with their peers within the high-rise complexes in South Korea.

“We can speculate all day about this, but we just don’t know,” Dr. Osterholm said. “The bottom line message is: There’s going to be transmission.”

He and other experts said schools will need to prepare for infections to pop up. Apart from implementing physical distancing, hand hygiene and masks, schools should also decide when and how to test students and staff — including, for example, bus drivers — when and how long to require people to quarantine, and when to decide to close and reopen schools.

But they face a monumental challenge because the evidence on transmission within schools has been far from conclusive so far, experts said. Some countries like Denmark and Finland have successfully reopened schools, but others, like China, Israel and South Korea, have had to close them down again.

“People, depending on their ideology on school opening, are choosing which evidence to present — and that needs to be avoided,” said Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York.

Although the new study does not offer definitive answers, he said, it does indicate that schools can increase virus levels within a community.

“So long as children are not just a complete dead end — incapable of passing the virus on, which does not seem to be the case — putting them together in schools, having them mix with teachers and other students will provide additional opportunities for the virus to move from person to person,” he said.

At the same time, Dr. Shaman said, it’s important for children not to miss out on critical years in education and socialization, and school districts have the unenviable task of choosing between those options: “It’s hard trying to find the right balance.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Exit strategies: What do these look like in other countries?

Germany:

  • Shops smaller than 800 square metres can open from April 20.
  • Auto showrooms, bike shops and bookshops are allowed to open – regardless of size.
  • Pupils to return to school from May 4, with priority for children in their final years of primary or secondary school.
  • Hairdressing salons are allowed to reopen on May 4 – so long as they take steps to guarantee customers’ safety.
  • But… widespread social distancing measures are to stay in place until May 3.
  • Large events, including concerts and festivals, will be banned until the end of August.
  • And: Angela Merkel has recommended that people wear protective masks while out and about.

Italy:

  • Bookshops, laundries, stationers, children’s clothing stores opened from yesterday in some regions.
  • Forestry workers and IT manufacturers are allowed back to work.
  • But Lombardy and Piedmont, the provinces worst-affected by the pandemic, remain on full lockdown.

Spain:

  • Factory and construction workers returned on Monday.
  • But… Spain continues to have some of the strictest rules in Europe; children cannot exercise and the lockdown is expected to be extended after its April 26 expiry date.

Denmark:

  • Daycare centres and some primary schools have opened (as of Wednesday).
  • Although it’s worth bearing in mind – Denmark has no stay-at-home order. Even though bars, gyms and hairdressers are closed, most shops remain open.

France:

  • Creches, schools and colleges will be “progressively” reopened after May 11.
  • But, cafes, restaurants and hotels will remain closed.
  • Mass gatherings and events not permitted to open until at least mid-July.

Austria:

  • Smaller, non-essential stores and DIY shops opened on April 14.
  • All shops, malls and hairdressers to open on May 1.
  • But schools are to remain closed for the foreseeable future.

Switzerland:

  • Companies providing personal services, such as hairdressers and physiotherapists, will be allowed to return to work on April 27.
  • Following gaps of two or three weeks for monitoring, schools may be allowed to reopen on May 11.
  • But bars and restaurants have to stay closed until at least June 8.

Finland:

  • Ban on all but essential travel in and out of the Helsinki region lifted.
  • Restrictions to stay in place until further notice.

Czech Republic:

  • Bike shops and DIY stores reopened before Easter weekend.
  • Universities will partially reopen for final-year students on April 20.
  • Farmers’ markets and car showrooms will be allowed to resume business on April 20.
  • Weddings of ten people or less will be permitted on April 20.
  • Shops are allowed to gradually resume business depending on their size – with shopping centres the last to reopen on June 8.
  • Schools and colleges will allow students preparing for exams to return from May 11.
  • Cinemas, theatres, hotels, bars, restaurants and cafes to reopen June 8 – though it’ll be legal to serve food and drink in beer gardens and outdoor spaces from May 25.
  • Cultural, sports and other events allowed to open from June 8.

Norway:

  • Kindergartens now to reopen between April 20 and 27.
  • Schools from first grade to fourth grade to reopen from April 27.

China:

  • Citizens were allowed to leave the city of Wuhan (where the pandemic started) on April 8 – upon designation of a “green code” on an official smartphone app.
  • As infection rates dropped in March, people were allowed out of their home for two hours a day.
  • In less-affected regions and cities, the majority of shops, restaurants and workplaces have gradually re-opened.
  • Starting from this month, Chinese citizens returning from overseas have to declare their health status and travel history before boarding using a social media app.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Frederick Shepherd: The virus brings with it another invisible enemy. A mental health crisis.

Frederick Shepherd is a former Parliamentary researcher.

The Government’s ‘total’ response to the coronavirus and the severity of the measures it has introduced has resulted in the greatest scale of public awareness of a news story since the Second World War.

Severe choices have been foisted upon us which permeate into our homes, our work and our relationships, forcing a response. A knock-on mental health crisis seems certain – likely to be large and already begun.

Building on the Government’s announcement of a £5 million grant to be used by the charity sector to support the general public, the NHS launched its mental health helpline for staff battling on the frontline last week. Both have come in response to a surge in NHS, police and third sector ‘cases’ of what practitioners haved called, “symptoms consistent with clinical diagnoses of mental health conditions”.

Further still, there has been a marked increase in the number of suicides since the pandemic began. Of course one of the difficulties in knowing precisely what is happening on the ground is the lag time in collecting any form of meaningful data. Due to social distancing measures, fewer formal diagnoses can be made and, even were matters otherwise, it would take months to analyse them.

That patients are unable to have face to face consultations and therapy is also a concern. A backlog of patients at GP’s surgeries, Community Mental Health Teams (CMHT) and ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’ (IAPT) services – the NHS’s talking therapies service – will inevitably follow. Apart from adding pressure to the NHS, this backlog will exacerbate the symptoms of individuals and worsen patient outcomes.

The implications for a patient’s mental health often extend beyond their presentation of acute symptoms, too. Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, for example, are known for their tendency to resurface, with sufferers relapsing long after going into remission from their their first episode.

A greater problem than the immediate pressures on the NHS and the fear and bereavement associated with the virus itself, however, is the likelihood of a deep and protracted global recession. Job losses, debt, domestic abuse, and the lack of meaningful routines point toward a longer-term mental health pandemic. According to research by the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical medicine, the 2008 recession was linked with over 10,000 suicides across Europe and North America between 2008 and 2010.

The research team analysed suicide data from the World Health Organisation covering 24 EU countries and two North American countries which observed that the downward trend in suicide rates in the EU reversed when the economic crisis began in 2007, rising by 6.5 per cent by 2009 and remaining at the higher level through to 2011. In Canada, suicides rose by 4.5 per cent between 2007 and 2010, while in the USA, the rate increased by 4.8% over the same period.

As would be expected, the implications extended more widely too. The prescription rates for antidepressants, beta-blockers, benzodiazepines, antipsychotics and mood stabilizers rose markedly too. In the UK, a rise of 11 per cent in antidepressant prescribing between 2003 and 2007 went up to 19 per cent between 2007 and 2010. The above figures were described as ‘conservative’ estimates by the authors.

Yet the Oxford research also showed that there are things the Government can do to prevent this. The study suggests that nations that invest in active labour market programs reduce the risk of suicide, with the authors estimating that for each US$100 spent per capita on programmes offering such assistance for the unemployed, the risk of suicide reduced by 0.4 per cent.

The authors highlight, for example, that Sweden, between 1991 and 1992, and Finland, between 1990 and 1993, both experienced rises in unemployment, yet at the same time as the rate of suicide decreased. In the most recent recession, suicide rates remained stable in Sweden and Finland, while the rate declined in Austria, despite rising unemployment.

A critical question for policy and psychiatric practice is whether mental health and suicide rises are inevitable. The study showed that rising rates have not been observed everywhere so, while recessions will continue to hurt, they don’t always cause self-harm. A range of interventions, from return to work programmes through to antidepressant prescriptions, can reduce risk during future economic downturns.

The Government’s departure from the George Osborne economic model and an increased focus on public spending would indicates a greater appreciation of the role of services to a well-functioning society. Such thinking is likely to indicate a greater willingness to spend in this area of policy. Whether it will be able to commit to doing so on a large scale after the pandemic is another question, but it must do what it can, and fast. A focus on divising programmes is tantamount only to the speed at which something must be implemented. Lives will depend on it.

The Government’s measures to date aren’t short-term precautions for a situation that’s likely to disappear. As with their approach to the virus, their interventions are timed, acting as a first line of defence in an effort to contain the spread of a pandemic they know will grow and develop.

When a drop in the curve of the virus is seen and restrictions are lifted, the concern for the nations public’s health mustn’t be endangered by a blinkered pursuit of economic growth and balancing the books. Investment in mental health and wellness has risen considerably under previous Conservative Governments, and will need to rise more than ever.

The Government has risen to the challenge in response to the public health crisis presented by COVID-19 so far; it must continue to do so if we are to defeat the next invisible enemy.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The World Wastes Tons of Food. A Grocery ‘Happy Hour’ Is One Answer.

HELSINKI, Finland — “Happy hour” at the S-market store in the working-class neighborhood of Vallila happens far from the liquor aisles and isn’t exactly convivial. Nobody is here for drinks or a good time. They’re looking for a steep discount on a slab of pork.

Or a chicken, or a salmon fillet, or any of a few hundred items that are hours from their midnight expiration date. Food that is nearly unsellable goes on sale at every one of S-market’s 900 stores in Finland, with prices that are already reduced by 30 percent slashed to 60 percent off at exactly 9 p.m. It’s part of a two-year campaign to reduce food waste that company executives in this famously bibulous country decided to call “happy hour” in the hopes of drawing in regulars, like any decent bar.

“I’ve gotten quite hooked on this,” said Kasimir Karkkainen, 27, who works in a hardware store, as he browsed the meat section in the Vallila S-market. It was 9:15 and he had grabbed a container of pork mini-ribs and two pounds of shrink-wrapped pork tenderloin.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160177314_3d2b8a6f-c181-45f0-a3fd-d3ed5602cfce-articleLarge The World Wastes Tons of Food. A Grocery ‘Happy Hour’ Is One Answer. Supermarkets and Grocery Stores Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Greenhouse Gas Emissions Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Food Finland Europe Discount Selling Denmark

Discounted food items on the shelves at the S-market in Vallila. Food whose price has already been cut 30 percent is reduced to 60 percent off at 9 p.m., three hours before its midnight expiration date.CreditJuho Kuva for The New York Times

Total cost after the price drop: the equivalent of $4.63.

About one-third of the food produced and packaged for human consumption is lost or wasted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. That equals 1.3 billion tons a year, worth nearly $680 billion. The figures represent more than just a disastrous misallocation of need and want, given that 10 percent of people in the world are chronically undernourished. All that excess food, scientists say, contributes to climate change.

From 8 to 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are related to food lost during harvest and production or wasted by consumers, a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found. Landfills of rotting food emit methane, a gas that is roughly 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. And to harvest and transport all that wasted food requires billions of acres of arable land, trillions of gallons of water and vast amounts of fossil fuels.

For consumers, cutting back on food waste is one of the few personal habits that can help the planet. But for some reason, a lot of people who fret about their carbon footprint aren’t sweating the vegetables and rump steak they toss into the garbage.

A price discount table and discount stickers that are used before almost-expired food’s price is cut 60 percent.CreditJuho Kuva for The New York Times

“There’s been a lot of focus on energy,” said Paul Behrens, a professor in energy and environmental change at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. “But climate change is as much a land issue and a food issue as anything else.”

Reducing waste is a challenge because selling as much food as possible is a tried, tested and ingrained part of all-you-can-eat cultures. Persuading merchants to promote and profit from “food rescue,” as it is known, is not so obvious.

“Consumers are paying for the food, and who wants to reduce that?” said Toine Timmermans, director of the United Against Food Waste Foundation, a nonprofit in the Netherlands composed of companies and research institutes. “Who profits from reducing food waste?”

A growing number of supermarkets, restaurants and start-ups — many based in Europe — are trying to answer that question. The United States is another matter.

“Food waste might be a uniquely American challenge because many people in this country equate quantity with a bargain,” said Meredith Niles an assistant professor in food systems and policy at the University of Vermont. “Look at the number of restaurants that advertise their supersized portions.”

Nine of the 10 United States supermarket chains that were assessed by the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity last year were given a C grade or lower on food-waste issues. Only Walmart did better, largely for its efforts to standardize date labels and to educate staffers and customers.

Some of the most promising food waste efforts are apps that connect food sellers to food buyers. Think Tinder, except one party in this hookup is a person and the other is an aging loaf of bread.

Among the most popular is Too Good to Go, a company based in Copenhagen, with 13 million users and contracts with 25,000 restaurants and bakeries in 11 countries. Consumers pay about one-third of the sticker price for items, most of which goes to the retailer, with a small percentage paid to the app.

In Denmark, food rescue has attained the scale and momentum of a cultural movement, one with its own intellectual godmother: Selina Juul, a graphic designer who immigrated from Russia at the age of 13.

A variety of marked-down food items are on display at the S-market in Vallila.CreditJuho Kuva for The New York Times

“I came from a country where there was a fear that we wouldn’t have food on the table tomorrow, where there were food shortages,” she said in a phone interview. “When we emigrated, I had never seen so much food. I was shocked. Then I was shocked again when I saw how much food people wasted.”

In 2008, at the age of 28, she started a Facebook group called Stop Wasting Food. Within weeks, she was being interviewed on the radio. Soon after that, she came to the attention of Anders Jensen, the buying director at REMA 1000, the largest supermarket chain in Denmark.

“I was on a business trip to Scotland and I read about Selina in a newspaper,” Mr. Jensen recalls. “Around that time, we learned that every Dane was throwing out 63 kilos of food per year” — about 139 pounds — “and I was sitting in this airport thinking, she’s right.”

After the two met in a Copenhagen cafe, REMA 1000 eliminated in-store bulk discounts. As of 2008, there would be no more three hams for the price of two, or any variations on that theme.

“It exploded in the media because it was the first time a retailer said, ‘It’s O.K. if we sell less,’” Mr. Jensen said.

REMA 1000 and Ms. Juul recognize that there is a limit to how much one company can do to reduce waste. Consciousness raising was necessary. So Ms. Juul has enlisted famous Danes to join her cause.

She’s co-writing a book on cooking with leftovers with Princess Marie, who worked in advertising and marketing before marrying into the Danish royal family. Celebrity chefs, like Rene Redzepi, have spread the word. Mette Frederiksen, the current prime minister, even made it a campaign issue this year.

In Finland, reducing food waste has yet to become a political issue, but it is a selling point for at least one restaurant. Every dish on the menu of Loop, which is housed in a former mental hospital in Helsinki, is made from past-due ingredients donated by grocery stores and bakeries. Donations vary, so Loop’s chefs have no idea what they’ll be making until they walk into the restaurant’s kitchen.

The S-market in Vallila. Scientists say all excess food contributes to climate change.CreditJuho Kuva for The New York Times

“It’s like an episode of ‘Master Chef’ every day,” said Johanna Kohvakka, founder of the nonprofit From Waste to Taste, which operates Loop. “But we try to make every dish look great so that people can share images online and say, ‘This was about to be wasted.’”

Ms. Kohvakka says Loop turns a profit and could serve as a model for similar ventures. Executives at S-market in Finland make no such claims about their happy hour. Mika Lyytikainen, an S-market vice president, explained that the program simply reduces its losses.

“When we sell at 60 percent off, we don’t earn any money, but we earn more than if the food was given to charity,” he said. “On the other hand, it’s now possible for every Finn to buy very cheap food in our stores.”

It’s not unusual to find groups of S-market shoppers milling around with soon-to-be-discounted items from the shelves and waiting for the clock to strike at 9. “I’ve done that,” Mr. Karkkainen said, as he headed for the exits with his pork mini ribs.

Other Finns, it seems, haven’t fully embraced S-market’s anti-waste ethos. Harri Hartikainen, 71, was shopping one evening in Vallila and considered a 60 percent off box of Kansas City-style grilled chicken wings.

“I’ve never tried these before,” he said, dropping them into his shopping basket. “But it’s so cheap, if I don’t like it, I can just throw it out.”

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Alan Mak: Conservatism 4.0 – We must ensure that no-one is left behind by the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Alan Mak is MP for Havant and Founding Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Stanley Baldwin said the Conservative Party stood for “real England” – a Party defined by voluntary organisations and Christian patriotism, little platoons and big national causes.

His Conservative Party of the 1920s faced an upstart opposition in a Labour Party that had usurped the Liberals to become the second party of British politics. Outlining the growing threat from Labour, Baldwin described them as being for a nation of class divisions and over-mighty trade unions.

Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour has come full circle and is once again challenging the success and legitimacy of our free-market economy.

A century on from Baldwin, and despite being the natural party of government, our Party has often struggled to break out from its vote base of shire counties and market towns. It’s over 30 years since we won a majority of over 21 at a general election.

But there are signs of change. Our electoral success in recent years has been driven by securing more votes in Labour’s industrial heartlands. Dudley, Mansfield, Copeland and Teesside have all elected Conservatives in recent years, whilst the West Midlands and Tees Valley have elected Conservative Mayors on a region-wide basis.

This Conservative momentum in areas once dominated by trade unions and the Old Left shows that our message of hope, personal freedom and low taxation can re-define our path to a majority.

Yet our progress in these Labour heartlands is not concrete and shouldn’t be taken for granted. A pro-Leave electorate that has trusted another party for so long will be looking to the Conservatives to not only deliver Brexit, but ensure they are not left behind by the next big technological revolution either. As I said in yesterday’s article, this commitment must be a central tenant of Conservatism 4.0 – Conservative ideology for the Fourth Industrial Revolution [4IR].

The last time our country went through a technological revolution we had a strong leader with a firm ideology. The computing revolution of the 1980s powered Britain to economic success – and political success for Thatcherism. Through deregulation and an unwavering belief in the free market, the City of London prospered from the Big Bang, and our economy was transformed into a services-based powerhouse. From the stuttering, strike-crippled, state-dominated closed market that Thatcher inherited, the foundations were laid for rapid economic growth and the business-friendly, pro-innovation environment we enjoy today.

Our next Leader will also find themselves at an inflection point. They will have to harness the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) as artificial intelligence, big data and automation change our economy and society beyond recognition – and ensure that every community and region benefits from the wealth that it creates. Whilst Margaret Thatcher’s transformation of Britain’s economy for the better is undeniable, there are mining and industrial communities who felt they were left behind as other parts of the country raced ahead. To win a majority at future elections, today’s Conservatives need to attract working class and northern votes, so we cannot allow the positive impact of the 4IR to be absent from any region or for its benefits to be inaccessible to any social group.

The 4IR will radically change how we work, regardless of sector or industry. Instead of dockers and miners being at risk of automation, in the near future it will be call centre operators, lorry drivers and factory workers. With a path to electoral victory that increasingly runs through industrial towns, every factory closure or job lost to robots without alternatives emerging, will make a majority harder to achieve for our next leader.

That’s the reason why, whilst we still have an opportunity to shape the 4IR, our policies must be focussed on creating an Opportunity Society centred around social mobility powered by lifelong learning, high-quality education and skills training for everyone at every stage of their lives. Our Opportunity Society must be more than just a short-term policy objective. It has to be an integral part of the future of capitalism and a key part of Conservatism 4.0.

As robots slowly replace human workers, many on the radical-left are arguing for a Universal Basic Income (UBI), a minimum wage paid by the Government to every citizen regardless of their productive capacity. Every single country that has trialled UBI – from Kenya to Finland – has found it expensive and ineffective. Research by the International Labour Office has estimated that average costs would be equivalent to 20-30 per cent of GDP in most countries. In Britain, this would be more than double the annual budget of the NHS, yet John McDonell says a Corbyn-led Labour Govnement would trial it. These are just two of the reasons why we Conservatives should reject UBI as the solution to growing automation in the 4IR.

The truth is work has always paid, and work for humans will always exist. Work drives our economy, multiplies and makes the world richer. It takes people out of poverty and gives them purpose, and this will continue to be the case in the 4IR. In fact, many more new jobs are likely to be created than are lost to robots because the technology of the 4IR will drive economic growth, which in turn will create new and more interesting jobs, especially in new tech sectors such as advanced manufacturing, 3D printing, precision medicines and AI-powered creative industries.

Not enough is made of our job creation miracle since 2010, which has seen our economy put on three million new jobs. As we enjoy the lowest unemployment rates since the 1970s, we need to re-emphasise the value of work and the benefits to be derived from a good job. A UBI would be defeatist, signifying that humans had ceased to be useful in a world of machines, and be the antithesis of social mobility – there would be no need to work hard to move upwards on the income and living standards scale if we are all paid to stay at the same level. A UBI would also stall our economy through either crippling debt on the public purse or new taxes imposed on innovation. Similarly, Jeremy Corbyn’s proposed Robot Tax would simply mean a left behind country – a nation that fails to attract foreign investment and which becomes known for its anti-innovation approach to technology.

Instead, true devolution must be at the heart of delivering an Opportunity Society and making sure no community or individual is left behind. Our next Prime Minister must invest in the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine so regional economic growth is put in the hands of regional leaders. The benefits of the 4IR, from new start-ups to overseas investment, must be enjoyed beyond the “Golden Triangle” of London, Oxford and Cambridge. As Juergen Maier who led the Government’s Made Smarter Review, argued, it’s about creating an “innovation climate” in regions such as the North.

We cannot expect the heavy industries of the past to return, but instead our focus should be on ensuring the new technologies of the future are exploited in every area of the country to create new jobs and rising skills levels in every community. The Liverpool City Region understand this, and have already taken the initiative. They have launched LCR 4.0, an ambitious plan to support manufacturing and advanced engineering organisations in the region by funding practical support to transform businesses through digital innovation. By helping traditional manufacturers upgrade their technology, they enable firms to stay in business and keep their workers employed by becoming more productive. Conservatism 4.0 should support more initiatives like this.

Moving towards a system of local business rates retention will also encourage further investment in skills and business support from local authorities as they reap the rewards of encouraging local growth. There should also be more scope for local taxation and decentralisation as a central tenet of Conservatism 4.0 to empower local areas to evaluate their workforces and set-up true long-term strategies for delivering local economic growth, building on the work of existing Local Enterprise Partnerships and new Local Industrial Strategies.

Conservatism has always evolved and must do so again as we enter a new technological age by putting social mobility and reginal devolution centre stage. They are the two key building blocks to ensuring that every community and region can benefit from technology-driven economic growth. While Thatcherism delivered for the Third Industrial Revolution, we need a new brand of Conservatism to build an Opportunity Society for the Fourth. My final article in this series, published tomorrow, will set out the four principles that should guide us as we re-calibrate Conservatism in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This article is the second in a three-part series explaining why adapting to a society and economy shaped by technology is key.

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