“There are so many people who want to connect and talk to somebody, but the fact is we can’t answer all of them”
TOKYO — The phones at the Tokyo suicide hotline start ringing as soon as it opens for its once-weekly overnight session. They don’t stop until the lone volunteer fielding calls from hundreds of people yearning to talk signs out early the next morning.
Both operating days and volunteer numbers at the volunteer-run Tokyo Befrienders call center have been cut to avoid coronavirus infection, but the desperate need remains.
“There are so many people who want to connect and talk to somebody, but the fact is we can’t answer all of them,” center director Machiko Nakayama told Reuters.
Health workers fear the pandemic’s economic shock will return Japan to 14 dark years from 1998 when more than 30,000 people took their lives annually. With the grim distinction of the highest suicide rate among G7 nations, Japan adopted legal and corporate changes that helped lower the toll to just over 20,000 last year.
Worried the current crisis will reverse that downward trend, frontline workers are urging the government to boost both fiscal aid and practical support.
“We need to take steps now, before the deaths begin,” said Hisao Sato, head of an NGO that provides counseling and economic advice in Akita, a northern prefecture long known for Japan’s worst suicide rate.
National suicides fell 20% year-on-year in April, the first month of the country’s soft lockdown, but experts said that was likely due to an internationally recognized phenomenon in which suicides decrease during crises, only to rise afterwards.
“It’s the quiet before the storm, but the clouds are upon us,” Sato said.
Prevention workers see echoes of 1998 when a sales tax hike and the Asian economic crisis first drove annual suicides above 30,000, then to a peak of almost 34,500 in 2003.
Economic circumstance is the second biggest reason for suicides, behind health, according to 2019 police data, which also shows that men are nearly three times more likely to kill themselves than women, and most are in the 40-60 age group.
The current crisis, which is forecast to shrink Japan’s economy 22.2 percent this quarter, is especially dangerous for cash-strapped small and medium-sized businesses for whom government subsidies might not arrive in time.
“It’s tough. A lot of people are really worried,” said Shinnosuke Hirose, chief executive of a small human resources firm that has lost nearly 90% of its business. “It’s like waiting at the execution grounds to see if they survive or not.”
A Health Ministry official in charge of suicide policy told Reuters his department planned to ask for more money from a $1.1 trillion central government stimulus package to help fund measures such as extra hotlines. The official, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak on the record, added there were limits to central government action and local efforts were crucial.
Some believe the steps taken in recent years to bring down the suicide rate will hold firm through the current crisis, but others are not so sure.
Kyoto University’s Resilience Research Unit has predicted 2,400 more suicides for each 1% rise in unemployment. If the virus subsides in a year, unemployment could peak at around 6% by March, lifting annual suicides to around 34,000, it estimated. If pandemic conditions persist for two years, a rise to 8% unemployment by March 2022 would see suicides spike over 39,000.
“Of course social support is important … but they won’t be able to ramp this up suddenly,” said unit director Satoshi Fujii. “Preventing bankruptcies will start helping immediately.”
At the Tokyo Befrienders call center, the phones continue to ring. The formerly nightly service now opens on Tuesdays only, with one volunteer a shift instead of four, although it plans to reinstate another day in June.
“Everyone has tried hard to get through lockdown, but now they’ll reflect and think ‘why was I doing it? What hope do I have?’” Nakayama said. “At that time I think a lot could choose death.” (Reporting by Elaine Lies; editing by Jane Wardell)
Australia central bank sees glimmer of hope as economy restarts after pandemic shutdown – The Guardian
By Swati Pandey
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s central bank held rates at all-time lows on Tuesday and sounded less gloomy as the economy gradually re-opens during what is likely to be the worst quarter since the Great Depression.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) left rates at 0.25% at its monthly policy meeting in a widely expected decision, and said the “accommodative approach will be maintained as long as it is required.”
In a short post-meeting statement Governor Philip Lowe said the RBA was prepared to scale up government bond purchases if needed to ensure three-year yields held around 25 basis points.
Australia’s A$2 trillion ($1.4 trillion) economy is experiencing its biggest contraction since the 1930s in the current quarter but “it is possible that the depth of the downturn will be less than earlier expected,” Lowe added.
A significant decline in new infections, earlier-than-expected easing of restrictions and signs that hours worked stabilised in early May auger well for a recovery.
“There has also been a pick-up in some forms of consumer spending,” Lowe added.
States and territories across Australia have been easing social distancing regulations at differing paces in recent weeks, slowly ending a partial lockdown ordered in March, having largely contained the COVID-19 pandemic.
Australia, which has about 7,200 coronavirus cases, has not reported a death from the disease for more than a week.
The country’s success in containing the virus has sent the Aussie dollar soaring to five-month highs. Yet, that is leaning against monetary stimulus and won’t be welcome by the RBA.
The central bank made no mention of the exchange rate in the statement.
Highlighting the depth of the pandemic-driven global economic downturn and the fallout on Australia, many economists expect interest rates to remain at record lows for at least two more years.
Some are even predicting negative interest rates, though Lowe has ruled it out.
“While we have also become more optimistic about the outlook for the economy in recent weeks, we still expect the unemployment rate to jump to nearly 9% by Q3,” said Capital Economics analyst Marcel Thieliant.
He expects the central bank to announce an expansion of its government bond buying programme at its August policy meeting.
“And we only expect the unemployment rate to fall below 7% by 2022. That would leave it far above the RBA’s estimate of the natural rate of 4.5%, underlining that the RBA will miss its full employment mandate for years to come.”
Q1 GDP MAY DODGE CONTRACTION
Official data out earlier showed Australia boasted a record current account surplus last quarter as firm export prices and a fall in imports provided a timely boost to growth.
Other data out on Tuesday showed government spending also added to growth in the March quarter, while companies reported better sales and profits than many expected.
The figures led analysts to upgrade their forecast for first-quarter gross domestic product due Wednesday with some saying the economy might not have shrunk in the quarter as previously feared.
GDP had been forecast to show output contracted 0.3%, the first fall since early 2011.
“A small positive print cannot be ruled out,” said Su-Lin Ong, chief economist at RBC Capital Markets.
“But the likely collapse in activity in the current quarter and accompanying impact on the labour market…is a sharp and deep shock through the whole economy with likely lasting ramifications.”
(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
Saskatchewan's economy was already shrinking before COVID – Regina Leader-Post
New data from Statistics Canada suggests Saskatchewan was already in a “mild recession” last year, even before COVID-19 and the latest oil shock began pummelling the province.
Saskatchewan’s gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of total economic output, shrunk from $82.2 billion in 2018 to $81.5 billion 2019 after factoring in inflation. That’s a decrease of 0.8 per cent, the worst number of all the provinces. The only other province to see its economy shrink last year was Alberta, which faced a contraction of 0.6 per cent.
We apologize, but this video has failed to load.
Joel Bruneau, head of the economics department at the University of Saskatchewan, said the new data shows the province wasn’t even managing to tread water before COVID hit.
“We’ve averaged negative growth over four quarters, so I would call it a mild recession,” he said.
The data shows that most of the hit to Saskatchewan in 2019 came from goods-producing industries, rather than the service sector. Industrial production was down, as was mining and quarrying, while the energy sector was basically flat.
Lockdown or no lockdown, study shows COVID-19's economic destruction followed a similar path either way – National Post
A group of economists studying how South Korea fought the COVID-19 outbreak without stay-at-home orders found that the country still experienced significant job losses in a pattern similar to that of countries that imposed lockdowns.
The study, from economists at Seoul’s Myongji University, Queen Mary University of London and St. Louis’s Washington University, also suggests that Canada’s slowly reopening economy may not go back entirely to normal as long as the virus is still prevalent.
“At most, half the job losses in the United States and the United Kingdom can be attributed to lockdowns,” the economists argue. Most job losses came from reduced hiring by businesses and a significant amount of non-participation in the labour market, rather than unemployment.
The same types of workers are feeling the effects, whether their country implemented a lockdown or not, the study claims. Less-educated workers, young people, workers in low-wage occupations and the self-employed lost were hardest hit, even when researchers controlled for industry effects that might over-represent these people.
“Lifting of lockdowns may lead to only modest recoveries in employment absent larger reductions in COVID-19 rates,” the paper warns.
The economists looked at labour-market effects in South Korea, where no lockdown was imposed, and compared the economic impact across different areas. One particularly bad local outbreak allowed the researchers to estimate that one additional infection for every thousand people causes a two to three per cent drop in local employment.
“The best way to revive the labour market is to eradicate the virus,” reads the paper by economists Sangmin Aum from the Myongji University in Seoul, Sang Yon Lee from Queen Mary University of London and Yongseok Shin from Washington University in St. Louis.
The study manages to untangle the many different factors in unemployment by concentrating on a localized outbreak in South Korea caused by a notorious event that spiked the transmission rate in the country.
In mid-February, the country had only 30 infections, but “Patient 31” attended a religious gathering in the city of Daegu. Ten days later, the country had more than 3,000 infections almost entirely clustered around Daegu. More than 60 per cent of them were traced back to that single gathering.
South Korea managed to quash the outbreak and maintains one of the lowest death rates in the world, mainly due to widespread testing, a robust contact-tracing regime and comparatively intrusive tracking measures, including monitoring quarantine-breakers with electronic wristbands.
The study is a working paper released for discussion by the National Bureau of Economic Research in the United States before peer review. Although working papers haven’t gone through the rigorous publication process, they are a timely way to compare the results of the COVID-19 outbreak around the world.
Countries that didn’t implement a lockdown have also suffered economic damage from the pandemic due to the disruptions in global travel and trade.
Sweden, which kept most schools, businesses and restaurants open after experiencing its own COVID-19 outbreak, is still expecting its economy to contract by seven per cent this year. Sweden’s exports depend heavily on demand from other countries, many of which went into full lockdowns.
Xiaomi Mi Band 5 launch date set for June 11: All you need to know – Android Authority
Testing for COVID-19: Your questions answered – CBC.ca
Theatre and film are inherently political, say art critics – CBC.ca
- Health20 hours ago
Employees at St. Catharines greenhouse test positive for COVID-19
- Sports19 hours ago
Morning Report: John Oliver reacts to Dana White trademarking ‘UFSea’ – MMA Fighting
- Sports8 hours ago
Judge dismisses Dykstra’s suit against ex-teammate Ron Darling
- Economy24 hours ago
South Korea Unveils $62 Billion 'New Deal' to Reshape Post-Virus Economy – BNNBloomberg.ca
- Health18 hours ago
NB health authority CEO says COVID-19 outbreak is 'worst possible scenario' – OHS Canada
- Sports18 hours ago
Video shows Jon Jones confront vandals during George Floyd protest in Albuquerque – MMA Junkie
- Science7 hours ago
SpaceX captures the flag, beating Boeing in cosmic contest
- Tech22 hours ago
Wallpaper crash explained: Here's how a simple image can soft-brick phones – Android Authority