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Renewed lockdown sends UK economy tumbling again: PMI – Cape Breton Post

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By Andy Bruce

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s relapse into a third national COVID-19 lockdown has sparked the sharpest drop in business activity since May, with services companies hit hardest, a survey showed on Friday.

A preliminary “flash” IHS Markit/CIPS UK Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 40.6 in January, down from 50.4 in December.

The drop below the 50 threshold for growth was bigger than any economist forecast in a Reuters poll, which had pointed to a reading of 45.5.

In addition to the latest lockdown, data company IHS Markit said Britain’s post-Brexit shift to a more bureaucratic trading arrangement with the European Union had contributed to the decline.

“Services have once again been especially hard hit, but manufacturing has seen growth almost stall, blamed on a cocktail of COVID-19 and Brexit, which has led to increasingly widespread supply delays, rising costs and falling exports,” Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said.

The pace of job losses accelerated, after easing in December.

Economists polled by Reuters last week forecast a 1.4% fall in output for the first quarter. [ECILT/GB]

The official death toll from COVID-19 in the United Kingdom is nearing 100,000 and is currently the highest in Europe and the fifth worst in the world after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico.

Britain is rolling out vaccines faster than many of its peers, which should bode for a swift economic rebound later this year.

Thursday’s survey showed companies were upbeat about their business prospects for the year ahead, with optimism hitting a 6-1/2-year high.

The PMI for the services industry, which accounts for the vast bulk of Britain’s private sector economy, fell to 38.8 in January from 49.4 in December, its lowest level since May and marking a third month of contraction.

Factories fared much better, despite fading growth in output and a renewed decline in order books. The manufacturing PMI fell to 52.9 in January from 57.5 in December, remaining above the 50 dividing line for growth.

(Editing by Toby Chopra)

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Freeland announces 18-member task force on women and the economy ahead of 2021 budget – The Globe and Mail

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Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question after delivering the 2020 fiscal update in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Nov. 30, 2020.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Timed to coincide with International Women’s Day, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has announced the creation of an 18-member Task Force on Women and the Economy.

The panel will begin meeting this month in advance of the 2021 budget, which has not yet been scheduled. The Globe and Mail reported Monday that the Liberal government has ruled out releasing a budget in March or early April, meaning more than two years will have passed since the last federal budget was released in March, 2019.

Ms. Freeland’s Monday announcement said women represented the majority of workers in industries that have been the most affected during the pandemic, such as service, hospitality and tourism.

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In the fall economic statement, Ms. Freeland said the 2021 budget will include a plan to spend up to $100-billion over three years on supporting Canada’s post-pandemic recovery.

Also on Monday, Ms. Freeland will host the opening discussion at a two-day federal conference called Canada’s Feminist Response and Recovery Summit.

The panel features Armine Yalnizyan, an economist and Atkinson Fellow who has popularized the term “she-session” to describe the fact that women are facing disproportionally negative economic consequences as a result of the pandemic. Ms. Yalnizyan is also on the new task force.

The other three summit panelists are Monique Leroux, former president and chief executive officer of Desjardins Group and chair of the federal Industry Strategy Council, which issued policy recommendations for the government in December; former Indspire CEO Roberta Jamieson; and Sarah Kaplan, Director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy at the University of Toronto.

The women on the new task force include CEOs, child care advocates, economists, academics, and labour and Indigenous leaders.

In a report this month, RBC economists Dawn Desjardins and Carrie Freestone warned that the effects of the pandemic will mean that women are more likely than men to face an extended period of joblessness this year.

The RBC report found that almost half a million Canadian women who lost their jobs during the pandemic had not returned to work as of January.

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“Women have shouldered a heavier burden when the pandemic added home-schooling to their load,” it said. “In the last year, 12 times as many mothers as fathers left their jobs to care for toddlers or school-aged children.”


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Women Will Come To The Fore In The Feeling Economy – Forbes

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A recent study from Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software, towed a familiar path.  It revealed that adding women to software development teams not only boosted team performance but also reduced workplace delinquency.

“Companies should recruit more women to their development teams not only for obvious ethical reasons but because this will improve performance. Indeed, women software engineers significantly differ from men in terms of personality traits, which are related to higher job performance, ethics, and creativity. Men, despite having lower scores on emotionality, exhibit higher scores on the psychopathy trait, which may lead to a reduced level of team performance,” the researchers argue.

The thing is, should we training girls to enter “male” occupations or should we instead be simply themselves? It’s a notion that Roland Rust and Ming-Hul Huang believe will be at the heart of what they refer to as the “feeling economy” in their eponymous book.

The feeling economy

The feeling economy marks the transition from both the physical economy, where our economies were driven largely by brute force, into the thinking economy, where brains and logic were the determining factors, and into the feeling economy that will come to be dominated more by emotional intelligence, empathy, and creativity.

It’s a transition that is largely driven by improvements in technologies, such as AI and robotics, which mean that both physical and thinking economy work can be done more effectively by machines than by humans. It also means that it’s an economy that they believe will come to be dominated by women, who tend to be stronger in the kind of traits that will come to the fore.

“In the feeling economy, we expect that females will outnumber males for higher pay feeling jobs, such as healthcare and education,” they say. “In fact, those service industries are growing much faster than manufacturing, which is stagnant or declining.”

Skills for the future of work

It’s also noticeable that in Google’s famous Project Oxygen a few years ago, they found that of the eight skills associated with Google employees’ jobs, STEM skills were bottom of the pile in terms of importance. Far more important was the kind of soft skills that humans, and especially women, excel in.

And yet, as Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic famously pointed out several years ago, we still tend to recruit and promote men who are often wholly lacking in these skills. Hence, we tend to get men who are “self-centered, overconfident and narcissistic individuals as leaders”.

Which is wholly detrimental to our organizations, and even to society more broadly. During the pandemic, the compassionate leadership of the likes of New Zealand’s Jacinda Arden and Germany’s Angela Merkel were lauded after data from the World Economic Forum showed that countries with female leaders fared better. 

Similarly, research from the University of Buffalo says that female leaders tend to fit the servant leadership mold that is so important in our current time better than their male peers.

Supporting innovation

This kind of servant leadership also plays a crucial role in supporting the kind of innovations that will be so important in the years ahead. The importance of the “pivot” has been a fundamental part of the entrepreneurial playbook for much of the near-decade it’s been since Eric Ries first published his groundbreaking The Lean Startup but the ability to adapt has been especially crucial during a pandemic in which so much of what we thought we knew has been tipped upside down.

While research suggests that we tend to think of men as more creative than women, the reality is quite the opposite. The dichotomy exists in large part because we falsely assume that innovation is simply having a “eureka” moment. A second study examined the various areas in which managers support innovation, including encouraging employees to pursue a broad range of knowledge, capturing any ideas they have, managing diverse teams, stretching employees, and providing feedback. Interestingly, across all eight of the domains, women outperform men.

The importance of psychological safety has been well documented due to the groundbreaking work of Harvard’s Amy Edmondson, but research from Cambridge’s Judge Business School shows that this is especially important during a crisis. Perhaps most importantly, the strong presence of women helped to provide the kind of psychological safety that is so important.

Holding women back

Despite the evident benefits women bring to teams and organizations, there continue to be numerous psychological biases that prevent them from contributing to their fullest.

For instance, research from Wharton’s Adam Grant revealed that it’s actually incredibly difficult for women to speak up with challenging ideas, whether involving innovations or otherwise. He reveals that when men do this, they tend to get praised in subsequent performance reviews, but for women, the reverse is true. 

A subsequent Yale study shows that this effect is not diminished when women gain leadership roles either. Indeed, the leadership capabilities of powerful women were diminished the more outspoken they were.

If, as Rust and Huang argue, we’re entering the age of the Feeling Economy, then the skills women so often bring to our organizations will be more important than ever before. It’s vital, therefore, that we find ways to remove those barriers and those biases that so often hold women back.

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Biodiversity and the circular economy | Greenbiz – GreenBiz

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Making its way to the top of global agendas and the bottom of balance sheets, biodiversity recently has risen through the ranks of planetary priorities. As a result, I’ve noticed a growing number of organizations calling to connect the dots between the circular economy and biodiversity, so I thought it worthwhile to consider their relationship — one that I instinctively felt to be a bit of a stretch. 

Although fundamentally aligned in their overlapping aims to address resource extraction, water scarcity, energy generation, toxicity and climate change, in practice circular economy strategies and biodiversity preservation seem to be one step removed. 

For example, repairing or reselling a pair of jeans does not directly preserve biodiversity. But done at scale, product life extension and keeping materials in use for as long as possible does reduce the need to extract the same quantity of natural resources, and therefore reduces the strain on our ecosystems. The same can be said for climate change mitigation, given that climate change contributes to 11 to 16 percent of biodiversity loss, and circular economy strategies can reduce carbon emissions

A central aim of the circular economy is to curb the extraction of finite resources and to regenerate living systems — two strategies that support the preservation of biological diversity, but only if they are done right. 

No one framework or priority is intended to stand alone or address every problem in the world.

As companies champion the $7.7 trillion potential of the bioeconomy by 2030, a gradual move away from nonrenewable (and often petroleum-based) inputs has made manufacturers and materials scientists alike turn to bio-based materials as ideal inputs to more circular systems.

One example is the nuances of bioplastics, which are often produced through monoculture farming in deforested areas and use synthetic fertilizer. This actively decreases biodiversity and contributes to the 90 percent of biodiversity loss created by the way that we extract and process materials, fuels and food. 

I think the Dutch consultancy Circle Economy posed the question best: “You need biodiversity for a circular economy, but do you need a circular economy for biodiversity?” 

Personally, I don’t care. Connecting the dots between biodiversity and circularity isn’t necessarily additive, although it certainly can’t hurt.

Whether a company’s primary lens is sustainability, regeneration, net-zero, biodiversity, the circular economy or something else, what matters most is an aligned orientation of these solution sets to make sure we’re moving in the right direction. Neither the circular economy nor biodiversity preservation are ends unto themselves. These are means to move us towards a clean and resilient economy, equitable and prosperous communities and a healthy planet. 

No one framework or priority is intended to stand alone or address every problem in the world. 

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