The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 30 August 2018

Politics

Image: Getty Images

All work and no play

His popularity plummeting, Putin has eased plans to increase the retirement age (for women, at least) – but is it enough?

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, softened plans to increase the country’s retirement age yesterday. Initial government proposals suggested raising the state pension age from 55 to 63 for women and from 60 to 65 for men but, after an outcry, the women’s age will be raised to 60. The plan for men, however, won’t change. Official figures from the World Health Organisation show that Putin needs to tread carefully: the average life expectancy for men in Russia is just 66. The proposals have seen Putin’s personal approval ratings plummet to a five-year low, a development that will unsettle the Russian leader, according to strategist Stephen Dalziel: “The thing that frightens Putin the most is what the Russians call ‘bunt’,” he explains. “Bunt is a popular uprising. If his problems all come together then some sort of spontaneous revolution is feasible.”

Education

Image: Shutterstock

Speak easy

In a bid to distance itself from China, Taiwan is making English an official second language.

Taiwan has announced a plan to become a bilingual country, with an intention to grant English the same official status as Mandarin Chinese. The country’s premier William Lai wants English to become a key component of syllabuses in elementary schools as early as next year. The initiative is a considered play to improve the island’s economic prospects with a working populace who can do business and converse in a global lingua franca. With the island further distancing itself from China, Lai will be hoping that a proficiency in English will enable Taiwan to forge new diplomatic and commercial ties irrespective of its acrimonious relationship with Beijing.

Fashion

Coming into fashion?

With luxury fashion houses flocking to the West Coast, will Silicon Valley’s ill-fitting hoodies give way to something a little smarter?

Most would struggle to relate the slouchy varsity-wear of Silicon Valley’s technology geeks to the fine apparel of industry leading high-fashion houses. But in the past few months the Bay Area has seen multiple luxury brands open up shop, including Hermes in May and Jeffrey Kalinsky earlier this month. All of which has us pondering two questions: considering Silicon Valley’s reputation for the nonchalant outfit, what has drawn these brands from across the pond? And more importantly, will technology bros be willing to sacrifice their lounge uniforms for fine tailoring and cashmere? Find out more in the new issue of the Monocle Summer Weekly, out now.

Design

Made to last

As furniture fairs kick up a gear, the need for sustainable design becomes ever more apparent.

Milan’s Salone del Mobile may seem just moments ago but the next round of furniture fairs has already kicked off. Oslo Design Fair opened yesterday with international collaborations rife: Japanese furniture-maker Ariake is showcasing its products designed by Norway’s Anderssen & Voll. Next week in Paris, Maison et Objet will reveal a new layout focussed on the design-driven (and international) buyer. Then China International Furniture Expo will greet thousands of Asian buyers in Shanghai in mid-September. While it’s good to see designers getting more opportunities, we hope sustainably minded work (which bubbles up in fairs like Stockholm and Oslo) starts to saturate a bulging design market dealing with disposability issues.

From Monocle 24

Image: Shutterstock

Iran: parliament vs president

The Foreign Desk: Explainer

This week Iran’s parliament moved a step closer to impeaching president Hassan Rouhani. Despite his high public ratings, the dire economic situation since the US pulled out of the nuclear deal have led to his colleagues losing faith in his leadership. Andrew Mueller asks if Rouhani is really to blame.

From Monocle Films

The secret to building affordable homes

As part of our new series we visit the architecture practice of Andreas Martin-Löf, which is reinventing residential housing in Stockholm.

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