The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 20 April 2017

Election

Image: Getty Images

Out for the count

Candidates won’t be the only ones scrutinised after France’s weekend vote: pollsters’ precision will also be in the spotlight.

Opinion polls ahead of this weekend’s French presidential election first round are astonishingly close, with just four percentage points separating the top-four candidates. But are they accurate? US polling expert Nate Silver worries that there is too little discrepancy between the different polling companies, suggesting a degree of “herding”. Meanwhile, other commentators point to the fact that Jean-Luc Mélenchon was polling at 17 per cent before the 2012 election but went on to receive just 11 per cent of the vote. Accurate opinion polling matters more than ever because it shapes an election campaign. If candidate A is rising in the polls they get more coverage; if candidate B is falling they get less. If Sunday’s election is not as tight as the polls have suggested, expect yet more discussion about the future of polling.

Aviation

Image: Getty Images

Crash and burn

Trump has publicly blessed Boeing but have the firm’s job cuts left him flying by the seat of his pants?

“God bless Boeing” – that’s how Donald Trump left the podium when he visited the aviation manufacturer’s South Carolina plant back in February. But his real opinion about the company may be a little more conflicted. On the one hand, Boeing is heralded as a shining example of “American-made” might. But the company announced at the start of the week that it is shelling jobs, including “hundreds of engineering employees” from its base in Washington state. It brings the tally of engineering job losses from the Pacific Northwest to more than 1,300 since the start of 2016, apparently due to a surplus of workers who had been helping with development. So if the name of Trump’s game is job creation in the US, surely this is a major fail?

Immigration

Image: Alamy

Barrier grief

Australia and New Zealand ramp up protectionism but businesses will lament skills shortfall.

This week Australia announced that it is scrapping its 457 visa for skilled foreign workers in order to protect jobs for Australian citizens; New Zealand followed suit a day later with stricter immigration rules citing a “Kiwi-first approach”. Sound familiar? Australia’s new temporary immigration scheme requiring better English proficiency and criminal checks, and New Zealand’s raised minimum-income threshold for low-skilled labour, echo the cacophony of protectionism ringing from the White House to 10 Downing Street. The changes aren’t that surprising if seen as moves to curb the exploitation of the visas as stepping stones to permanent residency at a time when Australia and New Zealand’s main cities are suffering from housing shortages, traffic congestion and overcrowding. But slamming their doors to foreign talent stands to make the severe skilled-labour shortages that both nations face a lot worse, leaving much of their business community bewildered.

Retail

Image: Getty Images

Dress sense

Amazon’s lean, mean fashion machine will have low-cost fashion all sewn up. How will other retailers react?

Zara’s parent company Inditex may be the current king of fast fashion but Amazon is set to mount a challenge. The e-commerce giant, which has been growing its fashion sector in recent years, has just received a patent for a new type of clothing factory. The facility – which, disconcertingly, will be run by computers and machines without any human presence – will see each item cut and sewn only after an order has been placed. “Made to order” has long been the domain of luxury fashion houses and tailors; to apply this concept to high-street clothing could be revolutionary. By eliminating the possibility for wasted, unsold items, it creates a super-lean supply chain that will likely enable Amazon to sell items at significantly reduced costs. The factory is still in its planning stages but the gauntlet has been thrown down: Primark and other retailers that rely on offering lower prices than anyone else will have to come up with a plan.

From Monocle 24

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The Entrepreneurs

Have you ever listened to an audiobook – that grandfather of the modern podcast, once defined by cassettes and CDs at your local bookstore? Now slick, digital and massively popular, audiobooks are the fastest growing segment in the publishing industry. But how are they made, what do the economics look like and will audio eventually kill the printed word? This week we’re talking to Laurence Howell from pioneering Amazon-owned company Audible.

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