Wednesday, May 26, 2010

IMF Middle East Youth Dialog

صندوق النقد الدولي : حوار مع الشباب في الشرق الأوسط

The IMF has a website, IMF Middle East Youth Dialog, especially for Middle East young people near the point of entering the job market.

The IMF wants to hear first-hand from the youth of the region about their concerns and interests, and their suggestions about how the IMF can serve them better.

As Masood Ahmed, of the IMF notes,
[The global economic] downturn has heightened the core challenges that countries faced before the crisis took hold. Among these, one that stands out in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa is youth employment—or a lack of it.

Simply put, the region is facing unparalleled demographic pressures. Population growth over the past two generations has been among the fastest in the world: the region’s work force is projected to reach 185 million in 2020, 80 percent higher than in 2000. And the region is one of the most youthful in the world—with about 60 percent of the population less than 25 years old.

But employment growth has lagged far behind the demands of growing populations, even when the region was experiencing good economic growth. Now with growth rates likely to be more modest after the crisis, the task of generating enough jobs for young men and women is becoming more challenging.


Monday, May 03, 2010

Spin in the Spring, Flip in the Fall

All you ever wanted to know about keeping your mattress in the best shape -- literally speaking. It's all mathematics.
Now for the payoff. The diagram shows how to get the most even wear out of a mattress. Any strategy that samples all four states periodically will work. For example, alternating R and H is convenient — and since it bypasses V, it’s not too strenuous. To help you remember it, some manufacturers suggest the mnemonic “spin in the spring, flip in the fall.”
Of course, if you have one of the new "improved" one-sided mattresses the solution is considerable easier, although your mattress will last only half as long.

Speaking of one-sided mattresses, I've always wanted to use this since I heard it last year:
TERRY GROSS: I thought great, no-flip mattresses, you don't have to go through the work of flipping it, and the bed's kind of extra-good, so you don't have to flip it, but there's another reason why you don't have to flip it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KOSMAN: That's right. Initially, they made the mattresses thick. They kept putting - creating thicker and thicker mattresses so they had an excuse to keep raising and raising the prices. So they thought, both Sealy and Simmons both had the same thought. The private equity firms that owned them both thought, well, why don't we cut costs significantly and cut the beds in half and introduce these no-flip mattresses.

Simmons did it first, early this decade. Sealy stood back. Sealy even made a statement when Simmons did it, saying we would never offer a no-flip mattress. That's why you should buy our mattresses. Simmons's sales didn't rise, but their earnings went through the roof. The private equity firm that owned Sealy at the time, which was Bain Capital - the same firm that Mitt Romney owned during that period, the Republican presidential candidate - decided okay, well, we'll change tack. You know, even though our market share is growing, their earnings are going through the roof, and that's what we care about. So then they introduced no-flip mattresses, and now and for the last six or seven years, Sealy and Simmons only offer no-flip. There are no two-sided beds anymore.

GROSS: But are their no-flips any better or worse than the two-sided ones?

Mr. KOSMAN: Well, they certainly have less of a life. You can't flip them, so just like a tire, you know, when you rotate your tire, you know, beds that used to last 15, 20 years on average - and those were Sealy and Simmons beds - now these beds last six, seven years. So it's a much cheaper bed. And what ended up happening in the middle of this decade is Tempur-Pedic came out of nowhere. And Tempur-Pedic offered a very nice sleep on a - I guess they call it, you know, it's those foam beds, and those mattresses, on the high end, which is all that Sealy and Simmons at this point were now competing in, they started to really outsell Sealy and Simmons. And that puts - and then Sealy - for Sealy and Simmons, not only were they losing market share, now their earnings were starting to fall.
And it certainly makes the mathematics of mattress flipping a lot less interesting.