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UK workers face return to 2006 real-term wages in ‘highly challenging’ 2023

PwC predicts increase in divorces, slide in house prices and drop in happiness index
British wages next year will fall back to 2006 levels, while 2023 will also bring a slide in house prices and an increase in divorces, according to a forecast that finds the UK is on course to be a less happy place to live.

The consultancy firm PwC said a look ahead to 2023 showed there were few positive indicators, with most measures of the UK’s economic and social performance going into reverse.

Wages adjusted for inflation will fall below those in France, ending a brief period during the pandemic when earnings were higher. PwC said average real wages in the UK would fall from a peak in 2020 of £36,330 to £34,643 next year. Meanwhile, in France, where inflation has been much lower, real wages will only slip back from £35,848 in 2021 to £35,462 in 2023.

Higher taxes are also expected to play a part in making 2023 more difficult for many, with the UK government freezing income tax thresholds again from next April while cutting energy subsidies.

An 8% slump in house prices will add to the gloom. Those who treasure the high value of their homes will be upset and those who might benefit will be unable to take advantage because of higher interest rates. The number of housing market transactions will drop below 1m for the first time in more than a decade, according to the forecast.

One result will be a 20% rise in divorces to almost 140,000 in England and Wales, according to PwC, equivalent to 16 divorces every hour, although the introduction of no-fault divorces in April 2022 will be an important factor spurring the increase.

As the combines with rising unemployment, an increase in bankruptcies and struggling public services, the main measure of life satisfaction is expected to slump to its lowest level since records began in 2013. The happiness index will drop from a peak of 7.7 in 2019 to 7.3 in 2023, the report said.

Barret Kupelian, senior economist at PwC, said the UK economy faced “a highly challenging” year, and “it is not surprising that these chilly headwinds will continue throughout 2023, bringing with it some unwelcome milestones in terms of economic and social wellbeing measures”.

He said there was light at the end of 2023, with a predicted fall in inflation, a more stable outlook for the global economy and a rise in immigration that would increase the number of skilled workers and add £19bn to economic output.

Victory by the England women’s football team in next year’s World Cup, which is a good bet after recent performances and success at the Euros, would also lift the mood, the report .

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Japan just found 7,000 islands it didn’t know it had

Japan has recounted its islands – and discovered it has 7,000 more than it previously thought.

Digital mapping by the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI) recently found there to be 14,125 islands in Japanese territory, more than double the figure of 6,852 that has been in official use since a 1987 report by Japan’s Coast Guard.

However, the GSI this week stressed that the new figure reflected advances in surveying technology and the detail of the maps used for the count – it did not change the overall area of land in Japan’s possession.

It said that while there is no international agreement on how to count islands, it had used the same size criterion as the previous survey 35 years ago.

That entailed counting all naturally occurring land areas with a circumference of at least 100 meters (330 feet).

The new number does not include any artificially reclaimed land.

The islands surrounding Japan have been at the heart of several territorial disputes.

Japan lays claim to the Russian-held southern Kuril islands, which Tokyo calls the Northern Territories, a dispute that dates to the end of World War II, when Soviet troops seized them from Japan.

Japan also says it has a historical claim to the uninhabited Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which it currently administers, but China has repeatedly challenged that claim.

Meanwhile, Japan and South Korea remain locked in a more than 70-year dispute over the sovereignty of a group of islets known as Dokdo by Seoul and Takeshima by Tokyo in the Sea of Japan, which Korea calls the East Sea.

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Yosemite National Park to partially reopen after 3-week closure

Yosemite National Park will begin to reopen Saturday with limited access and hours, the US National Park Service has announced. The park remains closed today.

The popular park, nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, was closed because of a series of damaging storms that have swept across the region in recent weeks.

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Charles and Camilla

Britain’s King Charles III and his wife, Queen Camilla, have been married since 2005. They reportedly met at a polo match in 1970 and became friends when Charles was a prince.

When Charles joined the Royal Navy in 1971, Camilla married cavalry officer Andrew Parker Bowles.

Charles married Diana Spencer in 1981 but then admitted in 1994 that he had been having an extramarital affair with Camilla. Diana confirmed his infidelity and her own the following year.

Camilla got a divorce in 1995, and Charles and Diana divorced in 1996. Camilla all but vanished from public life at the time as public and media support swung behind Diana.

In 1999, Clarence House embarked on a program to reintroduce Camilla to the public with a carefully orchestrated first appearance with Charles outside the Ritz Hotel in London.

Six years later, their decades-long love story culminated in a wedding that had the consent of Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II. Camilla was confirmed as Charles’ official consort and future queen.

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