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The world has made extraordinary progress in various fields of human development over the past decades. Global life expectancy jumped from 53 to 72 years from 1960 to 2016. And although we are living longer, the population crisis that was predicted in the 1970s has not happened. This is partly because richer families have fewer children but also because the children they do have are surviving. Meanwhile the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has plummeted. In 1800 almost all of humanity was destitute. By 2013 that was down to just 11 per cent.

This progress is astounding, writes Martin Wolf in his column. But we should not assume that it will be self-sustaining. The challenges ahead are different. From mass urbanisation, to the rapid spread of disease, to global warfare and environmental disaster. To tackle these problems, argues Martin, the west (especially the US) needs to learn to intervene less and cooperate more. If western countries abide by the rules and the agreements they themselves created, they might encourage others to do the same. Unfortunately, this is the opposite path to the one the US is taking.

Workforce crunch
As Brexit approaches, and migrants from the EU head home, the UK's labour market is starting to feel the strain, says Sarah O'Connor. Worse, it turns out the British economy needed them after all. The crunch has shone a harsh light on the UK's visa policy, which, on the one hand, invites wealthy people to buy "golden visas" by investing in bonds, shares and other assets and, on the other, denies visas to people who can offer human capital. If policy does not change, those skilled workers will simply look elsewhere.

Nonsense prevails
Italy's president has rejected the nomination of a Eurosceptic finance minister out of concern that he might try to pull the country out of the eurozone. The move is not just dramatic but strange, observes Bill Emmott, because neither of the populist parties who nominated him campaigned on that promise. And for good reason: there is no scenario in which leaving the euro would be good for Italy and Bill explains why.

Red alert
Margaret Atwood arrived at the Hay literature festival last week followed by flanks of young women dressed in the distinctive scarlet capes and white bonnets worn by the handmaids in her 1985 novel. In a time of women's rights marches and revelations of sexual harassment that prompted the #MeToo movement, The Handmaid's Tale has been seen as a dire prediction of the future. But in an interview with Fred Studemann, Atwood said she was optimistic about the world at a watershed moment for feminism.

Best of the rest

The only Northern Irish woman with a choice about abortion? Arlene Foster — Stella Creasy in the Guardian

Britain considers life without its Russian oligarchs — Sam Knight in the New Yorker

Data Subjects of the World, Unite! — Atossa Araxia Abrahamian in the New York Times

What France’s “Spiderman” reveals about your views on immigration — Nesrine Malik in the New Statesman

Trump's right-hand troll — McKay Coppins in the Atlantic

What you've been saying

Letter by Steven E Cerier in response to Turkey's strongman grapples with the markets

President Erdogan’s decision to sanction a substantial rise in interest rates to boost the sagging Turkish lira is unlikely to have anything but an ephemeral impact on the beleaguered currency. The sharp tightening in monetary policy serves only to act as a “red flag”, highlighting the imbalances in the economy such as high inflation, high levels of foreign currency denominated debt in the corporate sector and a large current account deficit. Only measures designed to deal with these imbalances as well as the implementation of structural reforms to boost Turkey’s international competitiveness will reassure foreign investors. Without these measures, the lira is certain to resume its decline.

Comment by Polonius in response to Arbitrary UK visa quotas lead to perverse and damaging outcomes

The current system for 'rationing' immigrant visas is idiotic. Because of the limited number of work visas, the minimum effective salary is much higher than the levels set out in the regulations - visas are effectively rationed to the highest bidders, with absolutely no allowance made for the types of skills needed. So we get lots of 50 year-old investment bankers, but no 27 year-old PhD scientists (unless they are earning >£65k, which is unlikely). To make matters worse, young EU professionals don't want to risk starting their careers in the UK, when they can't be sure how long they can stay after Brexit. And there are not enough of you British scientists to fill available posts.

Letter from Martyn Thomas in response to Uber safety shortcomings

We should require strong evidence that self-driving cars are at least as safe as human drivers. How much testing could provide that evidence? On what roads and weather conditions? Should the testing start again following software changes? Current testing is unscientific experimentation on public roads — why is it lawful?

Today's opinion

Red capes at Hay book festival are a haunting reminder of misogyny
‘Handmaid’s Tale’ author Margaret Atwood warns against taking progress for granted

The world’s progress brings new challenges
Preserving peaceful relations in an era of rapid shifts in relative power is tough

Instant Insight: Britain’s foreign policy lacks vision for its post-Brexit future
The Foreign Office needs more heft and to be able to speak on behalf of the government

Driving Italy out of the euro makes no sense at all
Another election should focus on economic stagnation, not the currency issue

Free Lunch: Italy’s new technocrat should find his inner populist Carlo Cottarelli could co-opt the Eurosceptics by adopting some of their policies

The ‘offshore processing centre’ I live in is an island prison
Australia has sent refugees like me to Papua New Guinea and Nauru for political gains

Arbitrary UK visa quotas lead to perverse and damaging outcomes
British migration policy puts too much emphasis on money instead of human capital

FT View

FT View: Colombia turns a page in polarising election
Despite divisions, there is much to celebrate in the first vote since Farc ceasefire

FT View: Italy’s president gambles on the centre holding
But the collapse of the coalition risks reinforcing the populist vote

The Big Read

The Big Read: Radical reform: Switzerland to vote on banking overhaul
Supporters promise the proposal will end boom-and-bust, but critics say it is a dangerous experiment

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