Once again in 2016, the population of picturesque Davos has tripled as the world's movers and shakers gather to discuss the top global issues of our time. Top of this year's agenda: what will the workforce of the future look like? We bring you the latest as it happens.
By Matthew Allen, Thomas Kern and newsdesk
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No sleep for the wicked
Given the frenetic nature of Davos when WEF is in town, I found it particularly apt that the organisers issued a report on sleep. The crux of the study is that we don’t get enough of it.
Maybe I missed the point because I stayed up all night to read it.
Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, gets it. She’s even written a book on the subject. “I think that Davos is an incredibly sleep deprived part of the world right now,” she said at a fringe meeting.
The problem with WEF Davos is that there is so much information blasting at you and so many people to meet, there are not enough hours in the day to take it all in. Applying a filter is an essential part of any Davos attendee’s toolkit. Environment, human rights, finance, business regulation, security, migration, politics from all corners of the world – you name it, they have it. It’s the Amazon of newsworthy subjects.
Having burned the candle at both ends for four days, I’m off to get some sleep – after a four hour journey home (I lost the keys to my private jet).
So what has WEF got to say about sleep? “Digital media users on average spend more hours online than they sleep, but only 50% believe it improves quality of life.”
So if you’re reading this online at 2am, I’ll forgive you if you stop now and switch your tablet off.
In the wake of the Paris COP21 agreement last month, the search is on to find reliable metrics to measure the specific promises of individual countries to reduce global warming. The Paris deal has benchmarks which will be checked up on at regular intervals.
For the last 10 years, Yale University has been producing its own Environmental Performance Index (EPI) that measures 180 countries in the areas of carbon emission, water quality and resources, biodiversity, forests, agriculture, fisheries, air quality and deaths by pollution.
Yale was in Davos promoting its research as a possible means of monitoring the post-Paris environmental record of countries. Switzerland might not like that.
In 2014 Switzerland was awarded top marks, but in 2015 (measured by the current report issued today), the alpine state slumped to 16th. The reason is surprising – poor air quality where Switzerland ranks 127th out of 180. That’s a worse rating than Indonesia (92) and Singapore (54).
For anyone who has skied or hiked in the Alps, that might come as a bit of an eye opener. Of course, cities and other urban areas are more polluted, but is the air quality in Switzerland really any worse than in Indonesia?
The issue, it seems, is that some new data has been factored into the latest EPI study – namely, deaths caused by air pollution. I’ve yet to receive Yale's data (2-3,000 premature deaths per year was quoted in a report from the Swiss Office for the Environment issued last year), but could it be that Switzerland’s reporting of air pollution deaths is somewhat more transparent than other countries?
Having said that, Switzerland’s image as a land of clean air (long before WEF, people used to come to Davos to treat tuberculosis) is not quite as realistic as many people would imagine. In December 2014, Switzerland fell from 8th to 11th spot in the Climate Change Performance Index, compiled by Climate Action Networks and Germanwatch.
One of the reasons (but not the only one) was, again, air pollution - in this case specifically caused by air traffic. The Environment Switzerland 2015 report (the source of the air pollution deaths statistic cited above) said that air quality had improved over the last 25 years but admitted that more could be done.
Back to Yale’s EPI report. How does Switzerland score in other areas? Very high in water resources (6th) and sanitation (9th) and forests (17th), not bad in carbon emissions (35th) and biodiversity (49th), but slipping up a bit in agriculture (63rd) and deaths from pollution (66th).
Since the February 2014 vote to re-introduce quotas for EU citizens to live and work in Switzerland, the Swiss presence in the science research programme Horizon 2020 has been under threat. Switzerland managed to just about hang on to its place in the programme, but it has until the end of the year before this temporary agreement runs out.
To regain full association - and access to funding - to the whole package, a solution has to be found regarding the free movement of persons.
On Friday in Davos Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann met the European Commission’s Carlos Moedas, who is responsible for research and science projects at the EU. They weren’t able to report a breakthrough, but Moedas did comment on Swiss Public Radio, SRF, “We need Switzerland and Switzerland needs Europe”. The commissioner added that he was working hard on solution.
Given the news on Friday that Switzerland has to wait before the EU will consider any compromises on the immigration issue until Britain has voted on whether it will stay or leave the EU, it will be at the earliest, late summer or autumn before any progress is seen.
Almost rubbing salt into Switzerland's wounds, the European Research Council (ERC) gave a presentation in Davos on Friday highlighting the most recent fruits of its labours. Last November, the ERC struck a deal with Mexico to attract the best of that country's talent to Europe.
"One of my major priorities is to be open to the world," Moedas said as he outlined his vision to expand European research "to the other side of the world."
As the ERC reaches out to other continents, direct neighbour Switzerland has to stand on the sidelines. Its top researchers are able to access only a small slice of the €13 billion (CHF14.2 billion) in grants that will be allocated by 2020. This year alone, the ERC's funding budget is €1.6 billion.
Despite the political stand-off, eight Swiss researchers were recently each awarded €150,000 Proof of Concept grants from the ERC – out of a total 135 winners worldwide.
You can watch the full session on research in Europe here.
It’s the final morning in Davos and the electric buggy drivers who take journos to the Congress Centre are demob happy, doing handbrake turns in the snow! The crystal balls are dusted down and will come out today for the traditional WEF forecasts on where things will go with the economy and the world in general this year.
That’s a tough ask – volatility and uncertainty have been the watchwords at this year’s annual meeting. WEF faced a difficult period of navel gazing after the 2008 financial crisis and Klaus Schwab was forced to admit that eyes had been taken off the ball.
Well, WEF has made up for its complacency in buckets this year, churning out one report after the other, highlighting some eye-watering risks to society in these changing times. Take five million lost jobs in the next four years for starters.
The last few days have heard even more alarming predictions, such as drone helicopters patrolling city streets with the intelligence to identify and kill specific groups of people.
But in the midst of all this gloom, some delegates yesterday attempted to provide some rays of sunlight. “Some people wonder whether we are now trapped in an inevitable decline,” said US Secretary of State John Kerry. “We are not trapped in a nightmare we cannot wake up from.”
He used his speech to remind delegates that a nuclear deal with Iran had recently been agreed and last year saw the successful Paris climate summit and the resumption of US relations with Cuba. Kerry’s address was rather more bullish last year.
On the Swiss front, President Johann Schneider-Ammann also had comforting words during an Open Forum debate entitled: Is The Swiss Model Under Threat? Whilst acknowledging the Switzerland faces some weighty issues, including a strong franc, recent Alstom job cuts and icy EU relations, Schneider-Ammann said he was “optimistic” about the coming year, particularly for the economy given the low rate of unemployment.
“You would not expect me to come to Davos to tell you that we are unable to meet the different challenges that lie ahead,” he said. "I have started the year on an optimistic footing, but not only because I am President."
Women have not had much to cheer about in Davos so far: they make up a paltry 18% of delegates and have been informed by WEF research that they are likely to be hit hardest by predicted job losses in the fourth industrial revolution.
One the face of it, a report from the United Nations group UN Women released in Davos on Friday contained little in the way of light relief for women. With a total global workforce comprising 40% women, just 27% are managers and 29% are on the boards of listed companies. Furthermore, just 5% of women are CEOs on major companies.
But the UN Women campaign HeforShe is determined to do something about this. On Friday they released their first ever gender parity report focused on ten major global brands: McKinsey, Barclays, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Twitter, Unilever, Vodafone, Tupperware, AccorHotels, Schneider Electric and Koc Holding.
These so-called Corporate Impact Champions have put into place gender equality programmes and exposed themselves to HeforShe scrutiny. The results were actually rather varied, with the proportion of women in the top 6% of senior management roles varying from 11% at McKinsey and 43% at Unilever (who were the only firm to measure women in the top 9% of executive roles).
Tupperware had 40% women in their boardroom while Koc Group had only 7%. The scatter-gun effect of the results makes it hard to draw any firm conclusions, but the fact that they put their heads above the parapet was seen as a milestone by UN Women, which is committed to achieving gender parity by 2030.
So how does Switzerland compare? A report by executive headhunter Guido Schilling last March found that of the boardroom directors present at top Swiss firms in 2015 just 15% were female, among executives the figure was 6%. These numbers are up on previous years, but the government has put forward a bill to introduce a mandatory quota of 30% women in boardrooms and 20% executives.
But the bill stopped short of recommending binding quotas on companies. Also, it remains to be seen whether parliament will follow Germany’s example last year of introducing quotas. The measure is opposed by the country’s largest business lobby group, economiesuisse, including its own female director Monika Rühl.
Speaking at a WEF session in Davos on Friday, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer and board member at Facebook, expressed reservations at how much could be achieved by introducing such quotas.
“While quotas may be good in certain circumstances, we can’t rely on them to change things to which they are not applied,” she said. In other words, if more women were appointed to management posts they would not necessarily receive the same pay as male peers.
Only a handful of European countries have adopted binding quotas so far.
For reference, here’s a 2014 comparative survey of women in the boardroom in European countries, compiled by gender equality group Catalyst.
The Swiss Italian-language newspaper Corriere del Ticino has reported that a dozen Swiss soldiers guarding WEF have been found to be using drugs. According to the paper, they had been using cocaine and marijuana during their time on duty.
The military police discovered the drug use while carrying out a search among the 30th army battalion, with soldiers mainly from cantons Ticino and Graubünden. The police was acting on a tip from within the battalion itself, Army Spokesman Stefan Hofer told Swiss Public Television SRF.
One soldier who had more than three grams of cocaine in his possession was immediately sent home and will have to answer to justice authorities. Others who used cocaine were also sent home. Those who used marijuana will remain on the job but will be punished during their time in service. Hofer did not say what their punishment would be - he said it would be up to their commander.
Hofer also confirmed reports that a member of the Swiss military guarding WEF fired a weapon by accident. No one was injured.
When it comes to using machines and robots to help us with complex jobs or everyday tasks, where do the boundaries lie?
Delegates in Davos had the chance to interact with their machine counterparts one-on-one, such as with ABB's YuMi industrial robot.
Discussions at Davos got heated over the question of whether to fear or welcome machines that are smarter than humans.
"We will be going beyond a limit that people find tolerable. This is a new development that requires new regulations,” Philip Jennings, General Secretary of the UNI Global Union, told swissinfo.ch
“Are we in the business of mistrusting smarter people?” asked Manuela Veloso, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in the United States. “I wish there were robots that were smarter than me at investing my money or changing my utility provider. I wish there were robots that could make better decisions than I do. There are so many benefits to having machines that can reason better than our limited ways.”
Good morning for day four of my coverage of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos. Yesterday the focus was on machines and what good – or evils – the next generation of cognitive robots will do in our society. I’ll be wrapping up those varied thoughts for you in an article this morning.
Today’s agenda in Davos will look at a very human issue – the problem of terrorism. That essentially boils down to two sides of the same coin: how to tackle the root causes of extremism (inequality, social displacement) and how to defend against its symptoms (bombs and guns).
We will hear from the Prime Minister of Iraq, Haidar Al Abadi, and the President of Lebanon, Tammam Saeb Salam, on how to bring stability in the Middle East and north Africa regions. The attention will turn to Europe with a panel debating how the continent can secure its borders from attacks without “betraying its values”.
From the United States side, we will hear addresses from Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
And of course, this issue also touches on the host country. Following the terrible Paris terrorist attacks in November, Geneva experienced a terror alert that resulted in the arrests of two Syrians. Delegates in Davos are constantly reminded about the menace of terrorist attack as they are daily confronted with highly visible armed police and army personnel and stringent, airport-style, security checks to get into the Congress Centre.
Switzerland also faces a host of other pressures that will be discussed at the Open Forum in Davos in a session entitled: “Is the Swiss Model under Threat?” Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann will join a panel discussing a wide range of themes from migration to the strong franc and the fourth industrial revolution.
I spent last night and this morning getting to know some of the world’s most prominent financial technology (fintech) start-up champions such as Chris Larsen of Ripple and Daumantas Dvilinskas of TransferGo. These are just two of the entrepreneurs who are disrupting the traditional world of finance with faster, cheaper options for everyday consumers.
Now, the very word disruption conjures up images of destruction in many people’s minds. Are these new digital platforms going to bring banks crashing to their knees?
It does appear that the new kids on the block certainly are gunning for the established big players, if TransferWise boss Taavet Hinrikus is anything to go by. “Why should a money transfer cost so much money?” he asked at an event hosted by the online technology magazine TechCrunch last night. “I am confused as to why a bank should charge 10% for something that’s as easy as sending an email.”
But are blockchain, TransferWise and other new money transfer systems going to wipe out familiar high street banking names? Not so, according to many of the actors gathered in Davos. For one thing, the slice of pie still available for the digital banking industry is huge – 85% of all consumer transactions around the world are still conducted in cash. That’s a lot of potential new customers.
And there already exists a surprising amount of collaboration between fintech and traditional goliath banks in designing the sleeker, smarter and more cost-efficient financial system of the future.
Here's what Ripple's Chris Larsen had to say about how the world of fintech will change things for consumers:
Spirit of collaboration
Both Ripple and TransferGo – a system for migrant workers to send remittances back home – have established strong links with plain vanilla banks. When TransferGo first started out, banks would shut down their accounts when they found out what the company was doing, Dvilinskas told me this morning. But this has now changed.
“Banks building monopolies was the old business model. The new era of banking is based on collaboration and cooperation,” he said. “Banks are realising that they can deliver a better product by partnering with specialised providers. This change is being driven by demand from consumers.”
Ann Cairns, president of International Markets for Mastercard told last night’s TechCrunch event that she is constantly on the lookout for new start-ups to partner with or acquire.
This new spirit of cooperation comes also from the unlikely source of Silent Circle, the Swiss-based maker of the encrypted Blackphone. It appears that hackers are constantly trying to break their codes, so Silent Circle employs its own team of hackers that test security and a separate dedicated team that provides patches when needed.
But Silent Circle also cooperates with technology giants, such as Google, sharing experiences on cyber attackers to better bolster their defences.
Finally, even the giant global banks have put aside some of their competitive instincts to team together on new technology. Eleven banks, including Switzerland’s UBS and Credit Suisse, announced on Wednesday that they have joined forces to test out blockchain capabilities.
Is there no end to this spirit of good neighbourliness?
There has been a lot of talk about robots this year at the WEF meeting. People are fascinated by what they can do and how fast the technology is changing, but are they going to take our jobs? Digitalisation of professions and occupations is a very real concern, but it doesn't stop us marvelling at how clever these robots have become.
They also have a more serious set of competencies and usage potential.
To read more in more detail about the 'fourth industrial revolution' and its potential threat to jobs, or at the very least, the changes it is bringing to the workplace, take a look at our latest article on the topic.
Europe has faced a number of significant problems in recent times, from currency issues within the EU to political disagreements over immigration and high numbers of people seeking refuge. Switzerland too has felt the impact of these issues.
This morning in Davos there is discussion over how European countries can resolve these problems together. Watch the debate below.
Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, has welcomed delegates to the WEF annual meeting in Davos.
In his speech, which follows that of WEF founder Klaus Schwab and starts after 8.45 minutes, he called for determination and resolution during "truly turbulent times".
"No times are ever calm, of course. But even just 12 months ago, the global mood was more upbeat, and the world order seemed a fair bit firmer than it does today. 2015 brought us endless flows of refugees, murderous terrorism and economic crisis. And it brought further worries, too: paralyzing debt, raging wars and simmering conflicts," he said.
"But it would be a fatal mistake to react to this backdrop with resignation instead of resolve. Because if we look at the bigger picture, we also see well-functioning democracies, well-performing industries, blossoming new markets and growth."
Iran is ready to open its doors to foreign investors after the lifting of economic sanctions. That should please Swiss companies that will be joining a trade delegation led by Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann at the end of February.
The United States, European Union and United Nations lifted sanctions last weekend following an agreement over Iran's nuclear programme. Switzerland already lifted its sanctions in August of last year.
The new business climate could see a stampede of corporations towards Iran looking to seal lucrative deals in the oil and gas rich country. The Swiss government estimates that Swiss exports to Iran, which were CHF610 million in 2014, could double or triple within a decade.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos on Wednesday, Mohammad Agha Nahavandian, Chief of Staff of the Presidency of Iran, said the country was open to business offers.
"Iran already has a strong economy that has proved its resilience during these long years of sanctions," he said. "We are ready for any constructive proposal for many projects that have already been prioritised. Unfortunately because of undue sanctions the world economy has not benefited from this economic opportunity."
Nahavandian said opportunities could be found in transport infrastructure projects, mining, ICT and the hospitality industry. He added that Iran was willing to sign up fully to World Trade Organisation rules.
"We have done a great deal of work in the last two years to improve the business environment," he said. "The government is very serious about cutting red tape and facilitating trade. The message from the Iranian economy is that Iran has the capacity to be the most promising emerging economy in the coming decades."
swissinfo.ch photographer Thomas Kern has been at WEF since early this week, seeing things from the point of view of the locals who don’t have access to all the restricted areas at the Forum.
He says Davos locals will have to do without some of their favourite bookstores and cafes, as they’ve been rented (presumably at a hefty cost) to businesses like marketing giant Sales Force and even the entire country of India, which is using part of a café to promote its economy.
For its part, Facebook has built a mammoth two-story tent that, like all the other temporary booths and installations, will be torn down again in less than a week.
Even the University of California Berkeley has rented a storefront in town.
Kern, who has been going to WEF for years, says the conference has expanded into the town “in the last few years” as space in the Congress Centre got tight.
Some people are asking why WEF's Davos meeting is focusing on technology when the world is riven by conflict and bloodshed. But Credit Suisse Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam is convinced that tech is the answer to a lot of the world's social problems.
The theme of the 46th WEF annual meeting in Davos is: Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Thiam, who is a co-chair of the annual Davos conference this year, drew on his experiences in government in Ivory Coast to make his point. In 1995 he witnessed an Ivory Coast citizen tell a World Bank delegation that wells and roads did not help his cause.
Thiam recounts: "[He] said: 'What I want is a telephone. My son is a doctor who lives in the capital. If I had a phone then I would get everything that I need because I could just tell my son and he would bring it to me.'"
"The reason that technology is relevant is that it is a big part of the answer [to pressing social problems such as migration]," Thiam added. "The empowering dimension of technology for people in unfavourable situations cannot be overestimated."
Tunisian Amira Yahyaoui, another Davos co-chair, reminded journalists that the revolution that swept across her country and others in 2011 was driven in large part by social media. Yahyaoui, who founded the humanitarian NGO Al Bawsala, admitted that many people in her country are more concerned about "how humans are hurting other humans" than technology.
"Of course you can look at it from a private sector perspective, but you can also look at it from a humanitarian or governmental perspective," she added. "The fourth industrial revolution does not just mean a tech discussion. In Tunisia, technology, especially phones and internet, has helped many people get access to markets that they would not otherwise have dreamed of."
A third Davos co-chair - Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation - said that technology itself is not the problem.
"Our fear is not that technology will simply displace jobs," she said. "Our fear is that technology will be used by the few that already have the wealth to simply create enclaves of greater wealth and further marginalisation and conflict."
Speaking of jobs, I asked Tidjane Thiam to comment on rumours of more cuts at Credit Suisse. This is what he said:
"It’s one of the challenges of running a business that you have to both cut costs to be competitive and you have to invest for the future – it’s a balance between those two."
Failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change has been listed as the number one threat in the world, according to the World Economic Forum's risk report. But Davos has heard that there is hope of this threat being averted.
Regular attendee Al Gore, former US Vice President turned environmental campaigner, gave an upbeat address to delegates on Wednesday. If the message from the Paris COP21 climate summit is being taken so seriously in Davos, then there is a greater chance that targets will be implemented, he said.
Swiss adventurer Betrand Piccard, initiator of the Solar Impulse solar powered aircraft project, gave business delegates another reason to take up green technology - it will end up costing you less. The same incentive applies to everyone, for that matter, according to Piccard.
Solar Impulse is currently grounded midway through its round-the-world flight, but the achievements it has made so far prove that renewable energy is ripe to replace outdated energy models, Piccard told delegates.
"We still have technologies for energy that are 100 years old," he said. The combustion engine loses 73% of its energy and light bulbs 95%. "The origin [of climate problems] is that we lose an incredibly high amount of energy because of outdated technologies."
By contrast, the engines on Solar Impulse are 97% energy efficient. That equates to a lower energy bill and more money in people's pockets.
"A few years ago I would have been very embarrassed to come on stage in Davos to talk about climate change," Piccard added. "The protection of the environment was always presented as something expensive, boring and threatening our lifestyle."
"We were asking people to make a sacrifice: to have less mobility, less comfort, less economic development. Today it is possible to fly around the world in an airplane that can fly forever with no fuel. This shows that without fuel, we can do better than with fuel."
The opening ceremonies are done and dusted, leaving space for the business to begin at the World Economic Forum's annual Davos meeting. The debates kick off on Wednesday with a range of topics on the menu - from climate change to new technology and sustainable development.
I'll be following the debate on migration and refugees today. Areas of geopolitical upheaval, particularly in Syria, are forcing people to leave their homes and find sanctuary in more stable regions, including Europe.
This increase in refugees has led to social issues in some receiving countries. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called off her visit to Davos to address these issues in her country.
In her place, German President Joachim Gauck will give his views on the topic at 11:30. Later on, the Open Forum - WEF's Davos event that is open to the general public - will tackle the issue by asking how receiving countries can integrate refugees.
Keep up-to-date with this blog also to hear the views of delegates on a range of other issues being raised today. This will include the opening address by Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann and US Vice President Joe Biden.
Corporate bosses around the world feel the need to win back public trust, according to the PwC CEO survey presented in Davos on Tuesday. And executives think they have found the answer - new technology.
More than half (55%) of the 1,400 CEOs surveyed said that "lack of trust in business" could threaten the performance of their companies.
But it appears that the fourth industrial revolution - the big theme of this year's World Economic Forum annual meeting - can lend a public relations hand to firms struggling with negative headlines. The key is to crunch enough data to find out what people really want - and then give it to them.
Nine out of 10 CEOs feels that technology can help them to "deliver against stakeholder expectations". This is PwC-speak for "figuring out what people don't like about you so that you can make a better impression."
According to PwC chairman Dennis Nally, global firms are taking a long hard look at themselves in the mirror and asking themselves how they can be better citizens. Four years ago, this concept barely registered during the survey but now it has become a major theme, Nally told journalists.
So what's changed? It appears that companies think they have struck a gold mine. Before big data they were groping in the dark about what people expected of them. Now they believe they can truly read people's minds.
So I've arrived in Davos for another installment of the WEF annual meeting. This year the big question will be: "What happens next?"
What happens when intelligent robots start making a more noticeable impact on our everyday lives? What happens after the Paris COP21 climate accord? What happens when migrants and refugees move from one place to another in increasing numbers? What happens when democratic states have to take further steps against terrorism?
And what happens when all this is going on against a backdrop of still unresolved issues from the financial crisis (high rates of unemployment, volatile currencies, volatile regions of the world and disappointing economic growth)?
There is a sense of uncertainty about the future. Just as the world readjusts to the new post-financial crisis world (and this is still happening), it is faced with a new set of game changing issues.
WEF Davos will never be able to find all the answers, but there will be a lot of opinions flying around over the next few days. If it does one thing, the WEF Davos summit provides a litmus test of what different stakeholders want the world to look like.
I'll be following the debates and speaking to delegates at Davos all week. On Wednesday, German President Joachim Gauck will give his views on migration - bearing in mind that Chancellor Angela Merkel cancelled her Davos trip to deal with migration problems in Germany.
For more in-depth info on WEF, here's our collection of news and articles: