Asian Insider, Dec 16: China's crackdown on big tech firms; Covid-19's hammer-blow on regional jobs

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents and commentators.

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In today's bulletin: Younger people to get Covid-19 vaccines first in Indonesia; China to crank up anti-trust heat on Big Tech firms; Pork politics divides families in Taiwan; Covid-19 wiped out 81 million jobs in Asia-Pacific; Australia's competition regulator sues Facebook, and more.

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Indonesia to vaccinate young first & make vaccines free for all

Indonesia, Asean's largest economy and also its most populous, has opted to inoculate its young working-age population first before the elderly, in a move that contrasts with the preferred option elsewhere to vaccinate vulnerable older people ahead of the others.

People between the ages of 18 to 59 will be targeted for vaccination, starting with those working on the front lines of the pandemic, reports said. Experts say the move to contain the spread of the coronavirus infection among the most mobile people first will enable the building of a fortress and prevent further infections.

The country has the highest tally of coronavirus deaths and infections in South-east Asia. Driven by concerns on this issue, Taiwan extended a ban on Indonesian workers coming to the island.

Part of the problem Indonesia is facing is its ability to convince people to take the vaccine. To address this issue, President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo announced today that the country will make the vaccine free for all Indonesians and that he would be the first to take the vaccine.

China to crank up anti-trust heat on Big Tech firms

China is increasing pressure on the country's Big Tech firms, which rank among the world's largest and most valuable, driven by concerns that they have built market power that stifles competition, misused consumer data and violated consumer rights.

After announcing a probe on Monday into deals involving the Alibaba Group and Tencent, China's market regulator is set to investigate a US$3.5 billion (S$4.6 billion) plan for search engine Sogou to be taken private by shareholder Tencent Holdings, reports say.

Another transaction attracting scrutiny is a bid by private-equity firm MBK Partners to buy China's top online car rental firm, which could have a bearing on competition in the country with MBK already owning the industry's No.2 player.

Last month, Beijing issued draft rules aimed at preventing monopolistic behaviour by internet companies.

More on this:

China fines Alibaba, Tencent unit under anti-monopoly laws

China turns up heat on its Internet giants with new antitrust rules

Taiwan's decision to allow US pork imports divides families

A decision by the Taiwanese government to allow pork imports from the United States is dividing people as well as some members of the opposition. Much of the concern is on safety grounds.

Such has been the fury over the issue that the main opposition Kuomintang party has held noisy protests over the issue while some members even flung pig guts in parliament, on one occasion.

Pork is Taiwan's most popular meat and currently most of the meat is domestically-reared with just one per cent coming from the US.

Go deeper:

Fists and pig guts fly in Taiwan Parliament debate on US pork

Thousands join annual Taiwan protest, anger focused on US pork

Covid-19's hammer-blow on region's labour markets

Covid-19 wiped out 81-million jobs across the Asia-Pacific this year, with women and the youth disproportionately affected, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said. And low levels of social security and institutional capacity is making it difficult for many to get back on their feet.

With fewer paid hours of work available, median incomes are falling. Overall, labour incomes in the region fell by as much as 9.9 per cent in the first three quarters of the year, equivalent to a 3.4 per cent drop in gross domestic product.

The regional jobs disparity is largely driven by South Asia, where the 2020 employment estimate is nearly 50 million jobs below the pre-crisis baseline, according to the report. East Asia is estimated to see a gap of 16 million jobs, followed by South-east Asia and the Pacific Islands, with gaps estimated at 14 million and a half-million jobs, respectively.

Delve deeper:

Covid-19 pandemic will push millions across East Asia and the Pacific into poverty this year, says World Bank

Will Covid-19 create a 'lost generation' in Asia?

Australia's competition regulator sues Facebook

Australia's competition regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), filed a lawsuit against social media giant Facebook for misleading consumers over the use of data collected by an app that is now no longer being used.

ACCC said the Onavo Protect mobile app, which Facebook ended in 2019, told customers it would keep their data private but it had instead been used by Facebook for research and identifying future acquisition targets.

In other news…

Australia to challenge China barley tariffs through WTO: Australia will challenge tariffs imposed by China on its barley exports through the World Trade Organisation, the government said, in a further sign that relations between the two key trading partners are deteriorating.

Man charged with murder over Japan anime studio arson: Japanese prosecutors today charged a man with murder over the July 2019 arson attack on Kyoto Animation that killed 36 people, in a crime described as the country's deadliest violent crime in decades. There have been claims that the suspect accused the studio of stealing his work, which Kyoto Animation has denied doing.

Japan PM Suga under fire for year-end dinners as coronavirus cases mount: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has drawn criticism for joining end of year social gatherings after imploring residents to avoid such parties as the country sees record numbers of coronavirus cases.

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