Monday Briefing Christmas Robin

Our Christmas Quiz offers an eclectic test of knowledge of economics and business. The answers, and a brief explanation of the factors at work, are at the end of this note.

1. According to the OECD Mexicans work the longest hours. In 2014 the average Mexican worker put in 2,228 hours, equivalent to a 43-hour working week with no holidays. Which country's workers worked the fewest hours in 2014.

a) Greece

b) Germany

c) France

2. Travelling over the festive period can be a stressful and tiring experience, especially for those travelling long-haul. According to the 2015 Guide to Sleeping in Airports, which is world's most sleep-friendly airport?

a) Reykjavik-Keflavik International Airport (Iceland)

b) Seoul Incheon (South Korea)

c) Changi Airport (Singapore)

d) Paris Beauvais-Tille International Airport (France)

3. Earlier this year we examined Census data for England and Wales to gauge the pace of job creation and destruction over the last 150 years. Which of the following occupations saw the fastest job growth between 1871 and 2011?

a) Barstaff

b) Hairdressers

c) Accountants

4. Three of the following were added to the basket of goods used to calculate Consumer Price Inflation in the United Kingdom this year, while three were removed from the basket. Which were added?

a) e-cigarettes

b) Yoghurt drinks

c) Satellite navigation systems ('sat navs')

d) Craft beer

e) Protein powders

f) Foreign exchange commission

5. A university degree remains one of the best long-term investments. The Pew Research Centre estimates that US university graduates in the United States aged 25-32 earn 63% more than those with high-school degrees. But degrees from some universities are much more valuable than others. Graduates of which of these US colleges have the highest median earnings 10 years after university enrolment?

a) Stanford

b) Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science (MCPHS) University

c) Harvard University

d) San Francisco Art Institute

6. China's annual GDP growth averaged 10.0% between 2004 and 2014. Chinese growth has slowed this year with forecast activity of 6.8%. Which of the following economies is predicted to have grown faster than China in 2015?

a) Brazil

b) Ethiopia

c) Norway

7. Since 2012 the United Nations has surveyed people's happiness across the world, ranking 158 countries on factors including incomes, psychology, health and public policy. Which country is ranked as the happiest in 2015?

a) Norway

b) Costa Rica

c) Switzerland

8. In which of these countries does organized crime impose the lowest costs on business, according to the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index 2015?

a) Rwanda

b) Italy

c) United Arab Emirates

9. How many hours a week does the average UK worker spend composing emails?

a) 5 hours

b) 3 hours

c) Less than one hour

10. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime periodically estimates the US dollar street price of drugs around the world. The price of a gram of cocaine in Greece was estimated to be $120 in 2012, when the survey was last carried out. How much did the same amount of cocaine cost in Britain?

a) $175

b) $63

c) $146

11. Prices do not always reflect value. In a blind test by a panel of experts conducted by Which? magazine Lidl Luxury mince pies scored 67%, well above Fortnum & Mason's mince pies at 58%. How many Lidl mince pies can you buy for one Fortnum's mince pie?

a) 4

b) 7

c) 9

12. In 2015 which country's government:

a) Announced that it will begin a process to "demonetise" [withdraw] its all-but-worthless currency?

b) Denied it has plans to open a state-backed restaurant in Scotland, in order to show solidarity to the left-leaning Scottish National Party?

c) Relaxed the last of the restrictions on the production of a range of goods, including pickles and chutneys, which have been reserved exclusively for small business for decades?

d) Introduced plans to regulate square dancing, claiming "the overenthusiasm of participants has dealt it a harmful blow with disputes over noise and venues"?

e) Resorted to chopping down trees lining the streets of its capital to thwart black market money changers who use the cover of the trees to conduct their illegal work?

Answers options: North Korea, China, Zimbabwe, India, and Nigeria.

13. Which euro area economy has seen the most unexpected revival of growth over the course of 2015?

a) Germany

b) Spain

c) Ireland

14. Match the quotes to the following individuals: Candidate for the Republican US Presidential nomination, Donald Trump; former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis; German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Shaeuble; former Greek Prime Minister, Alex Tsipras; and Conservative MP and London Mayor, Boris Johnson.

a) "Give €50bn yourself to save Greece!"

b) "Honey I shut the banks!"

c) "My wife will leave me if I surrender to Europe."

d) "First of all, he [Mitt Romney] isn't rich."

e) "We have just played a game of street rugby with a bunch of kids and I accidentally flattened a 10-year-old, on TV unfortunately."

15. It is often said that you save money by flying on Christmas Day. By flying from London on December 25th, rather than December 20th, which of the following destinations offers the greatest savings?

a) Spain

b) Italy

c) USA

16. Japanese female labour force participation has been rising steadily in recent years, and has reached all-time highs this year. What has been an unexpected side-effect of record numbers of Japanese women going to work?

a) Rising gang membership

b) Rising popularity of laundrettes

c) Rising spending money for men

ANSWERS: Based on market data at 4th December 2015:

1. According to the OECD Mexicans work the longest hours. In 2014 the average Mexican worker put in 2,228 hours, equivalent to a 43-hour working week with no holidays. Which country's workers worked the fewest hours in 2014?

a) Greece

b) Germany

c) France

Answer: Germany. The average German worked 1,371 hours in 2014, 39% less than the average Mexican. French workers worked 1,473 hours. Contrary to popular perceptions, Greece features among the countries where people work long hours (2,042 hours). By-and-large people in nations with higher levels of productivity work fewer hours, enabling Germans – who have among the highest productivity in the world – to produce more in a relatively short working week.

2. Travelling over the festive period can be a stressful and tiring experience, especially for those travelling long-haul. According to the 2015 Guide to Sleeping in Airports, which is world's most sleep-friendly airport?

a) Reykjavik-Keflavik International Airport (Iceland)

b) Seoul Incheon (South Korea)

c) Changi Airport (Singapore)

d) Paris Beauvais-Tille International Airport (France)

Answer: Changi Airport. Singapore's Changi Airport beat Seoul Incheon, Helsinki, Munich and Vienna to the top spot – with Changi lauded for its free massage chairs and low-lit relaxation zones – while Reykjavik was rated the world's most sleep-unfriendly, due to its zero tolerance policy approach to sleeping travellers. Paris Beauvais was ranked second worst, as it is technically closed at night and "cancellations often leave travellers stuck sitting outside the terminal or in the quiet town of Beauvais."

3. Earlier this year we examined Census data for England and Wales to gauge the pace of job creation and destruction over the last 150 years. Which of the following occupations saw the fastest job growth between 1871 and 2011?

a) Barstaff

b) Hairdressers

c) Accountants

Answer: Accountants. The number of people in work in England and Wales has more than doubled in the last 150 years. Technological change and globalisation have reduced or eliminated whole categories of work but, in the process, lowered the cost of essentials and raised incomes, welfare and employment. The number of people working as accountants increased more than twentyfold between 1871 and 2011, from 9,800 to 215,700. The number of hairdressers rose almost tenfold, from around 18,100 to 177,400 and the number of barstaff rose more than fivefold, from around 28,600 to 176,400.

4. Three of the following were added to the basket of goods used to calculate Consumer Price Inflation in the United Kingdom this year, while three were removed from the basket. Which were added?

a) e-cigarettes

b) Yoghurt drinks

c) Satellite navigation systems ('sat navs')

d) Craft beer

e) Protein powders

f) Foreign exchange commission

Answer: E-cigarettes, craft beer and protein powders were all added. Yoghurt drinks, sat navs and foreign exchange commission were among the items removed in the annual reshuffle of the 'shopping basket' that the Office for National Statistics uses to gauge changing the spending habits of UK consumers. Other items added included sweet potato, streaming music subscriptions and online subscriptions for gaming consoles. Yoghurt drinks have faded in popularity, whilst sat navs were also removed – partly as a result of the increased use of smartphone apps by motorists. Foreign exchange commission has dropped out of the basket as consumers are increasingly using bank cards to buy goods and services abroad.

5. A university degree remains one of the best long-term investments. The Pew Research Centre estimates that US university graduates in the United States aged 25-32 earn 63% more than those with high-school degrees. But degrees from some universities are much more valuable than others. Graduates of which of these US colleges have the highest median earnings 10 years after university enrolment?

a) Stanford

b) Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science (MCPHS) University

c) Harvard University

d) San Francisco Art Institute

Answer: MCPHS University. Graduates from medical and pharmacy colleges generally receive the highest salaries following graduation, with MCPHS University graduates ($116,400) earning more than graduates from Ivy League universities including Stanford ($80,900) and Harvard ($87,200) ten years after enrolment. Degrees from maritime colleges, which train engineers for careers in the navy, shipping and energy, also deliver high returns in terms of incomes. Universities specialising in humanities – especially religion and art – tend to lie at the bottom end of the earnings table. Median earnings for graduates of the San Francisco Art Institute are $24,600 a decade after enrolment. The average annual tuition cost of a US degree is $16,800. But for Ivy league colleges, such as Yale and Harvard, the annual cost of tuition and living expenses is around $50,000.

6. China's annual GDP growth averaged 10.0% between 2004 and 2014. Chinese growth has slowed this year with forecast activity of 6.8%. Which of the following economies is predicted to have grown faster than China in 2015?

a) Brazil

b) Ethiopia

c) Norway

Answer: Ethiopia. Economists have dubbed Ethiopia the "African Lion" and many attribute much of its success to pro-growth government reforms. Three decades after the famine which ravaged the country the International Monetary Fund forecasts that Ethiopian GDP will expand by 8.9% in 2015 – having grown by an average of more than 10% over the last decade. The Brazilian economy, forecast to contract by 3.0%, is seeing its deepest recession since the 1930s. Meanwhile low oil prices have significantly dampened growth in Norway (0.9%).

7. Since 2012 the United Nations has surveyed people's happiness across the world, ranking 158 countries on factors including incomes, psychology, health and public policy. Which country is ranked as the happiest in 2015?

a) Norway

b) Costa Rica

c) Switzerland

Answer: Switzerland. Switzerland topped the third annual World Happiness Index, followed by Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada. All score strongly on rankings for measures of GDP per capita, social support and life expectancy. Australia is ranked 10th, the United States 15th, Britain 21st, Germany 26th and France 29th. Richer countries tend to have higher levels of happiness though some lower-income countries do well in the happiness ranking. Costa Rica, with a GDP per head of just over $10,000, was the highest-rated emerging market at 12th, well ahead of many far richer nations.

8. In which of these countries does organized crime impose the lowest costs on business, according to the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index 2015?

a) Rwanda

b) Italy

c) United Arab Emirates

Answer: United Arab Emirates. The WEF survey ranks 144 economies on the extent to which organized crime (mafia-type racketeering and extortion) imposes costs on business. The Middle Eastern economies of United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman have the lowest reported costs of organised crime and top the rankings, followed by Singapore. Rwanda (9th) is the best ranked African nation and Italy is the lowest ranked European nation at 132. Businesses in South American face the highest costs from organised crime, with Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela and Mexico at the bottom of the ranking. The United Kingdom is ranked 29th and the United States 73rd.

9. How many hours a week does the average UK worker spend composing emails?

a) 5 hours

b) 3 hours

c) Less than one hour

Answer: 5 hours. According to research by O2 Business the average British worker spends 36 days every year composing emails at work – equivalent to 10% of their working life. We send an average of just over 4,000 emails at work a year and receive more than 6,000. Workers in the South West of England receive the most emails (10,800) annually and Scottish residents the fewest (3,600). The O2 research found that, paradoxically, most of those surveyed, some 56%, felt that phone calls were more effective than emails.

10. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime periodically estimates the US dollar street price of drugs around the world. The price of a gram of cocaine in Greece was estimated to be $120 in 2012, when the survey was last carried out. How much did the same amount of cocaine cost in Britain?

a) $175

b) $63

c) $146

Answer: $63. Cocaine is relatively cheap in Britain and sold at $63 per gram in 2012. Poland is the only European country where it sold for less, at $50 a gram. According to The Economist, a key reason for low cocaine prices is that British dealers have discovered alternative cutting agents which allow them to adulterate the drug without losing custom. As a result, the quality of cocaine available in Britain has deteriorated. However, more recent surveys indicate that users are becoming picky, demanding purer forms of the drug.

11. Prices do not always reflect value. In a blind test by a panel of experts conducted by Which? magazine Lidl Luxury mince pies scored 67%, well above Fortnum & Mason's mince pies at 58%. How many Lidl mince pies can you buy for one Fortnum's mince pie?

a) 4

b) 7

c) 9

Answer: 9. Lidl Snowy Lodge Luxury mince pies, at £1.49 for six, achieved the third-highest score on appearance, taste, aroma and texture in the Which? test. Experts described them as "good all-rounders and a great choice for those preferring a slightly firmer filling". By contrast, most experts disliked "the soft pastry and indistinctive filling" in the mince pies from Fortnum and Mason, at £13.95 for six. The top two slots went to mince pies from Harrods and Waitrose, respectively.

12. In 2015 which country's government:

a) Announced that it will begin a process to "demonetise" [withdraw] its all-but-worthless currency?

b) Denied it has plans to open a state-backed restaurant in Scotland, in order to show solidarity to the left-leaning Scottish National Party?

c) Relaxed the last of the restrictions on the production of a range of goods, including pickles and chutneys, which have been reserved exclusively for small business for decades?

d) Introduced plans to regulate square dancing, claiming "the overenthusiasm of participants has dealt it a harmful blow with disputes over noise and venues"?

e) Resorted to chopping down trees lining the streets of its capital to thwart black market money changers who use the cover of the trees to conduct their illegal work?

Answer: a) Zimbabwe b) North Korea c) India d) China e) Nigeria

13. Which euro area economy has seen the most unexpected revival of growth over the course of 2015?

a) Germany

b) Spain

c) Ireland

Answer: Ireland. Ireland is forecast to be Europe's fastest growing economy in 2015. In January the Irish economy was expected to grow by 3.1% in 2015; the actual outcome seems likely to be closer to 5.6% (a +2.5 percentage point upgrade). Despite plenty of negative news from the euro area, growth prospects for the region have improved over the year, with consensus or average growth forecasts rising by 0.4 percentage points (pp). The greatest improvement in sentiment has been for 'peripheral' euro area countries, with upgrades to growth forecasts in Spain (+1.2 pp), and Italy (+0.4pp), greater than for northern European economies such as Germany (+0.3pp) and France (+0.2pp).

14. Match the quotes to the following individuals: Candidate for the Republican US Presidential nomination, Donald Trump; former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis; German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Shaeuble; former Greek Prime Minister, Alex Tsipras; and Conservative MP and London Mayor, Boris Johnson.

a) "Give €50bn yourself to save Greece!"

b) "Honey I shut the banks!"

c) "My wife will leave me if I surrender to Europe."

d) "First of all, he [Mitt Romney] isn't rich."

e) "We have just played a game of street rugby with a bunch of kids and I accidentally flattened a 10-year-old, on TV unfortunately."

Answer: a) Wolfgang Schaeuble to US Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew; b) Vaoufakis to his wife on returning from work after imposing capital controls in Greece; c) Alex Tsipras to reporters before the conclusion of Greek debt negotiations; d) Billionaire Donald Trump responding to a reporter's question on whether he expected a backlash like that against the wealthy ex-presidential-candidate, Mitt Romney; e) Boris Johnson after knocking down a small child during a game of touch rugby in Japan.

15. It is often said that you save money by flying on Christmas Day. By flying from London on December 25th, rather than December 20th, which of the following destinations offers the greatest savings?

a) Spain

b) Italy

c) USA

Answer: USA. Flying to the United States on Christmas Day is 29% cheaper than on December 20th according to price comparison sites. Other large savings can be found for long-haul flights to Australia (26%), Thailand (24%) and India (22%). The savings on shorter flights are more variable and flights on Christmas Day can even be more expensive. A Christmas Day flight from London to Spain is 10% more expensive while the price of a trip to Italy is unchanged. Over the festive period prices for flights vary significantly on daily basis. Eagle-eyed travellers are most likely to bag a bargain.

16. Japanese female labour force participation has been rising steadily in recent years, and has reached all-time highs this year. What has been an unexpected side-effect of record numbers of Japanese women going to work?

a) Rising gang membership

b) Rising popularity of laundrettes

c) Rising spending money for men

Answer: Rising popularity of laundrettes. Since 1996, 6,500 new laundrettes have opened in Japan – a rise of 63% – driven in part by the fact that fewer women are at home doing housework. Despite more women being in work the traditional monthly allowance granted to many Japanese men by wives who often control family budgets has reportedly fallen by almost 5% this year. Separately, membership of Japan's famous Yakuza crime groups has fallen to an all-time low due to tougher policing and years of slowing economic growth reducing the profitability of gangs.