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The virus that shut down the world: Economic meltdown – UN News

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The early warning signs


UNCTAD/Jan Hoffmann

UNCTAD has estimated global economic losses of $1 trillion in 2020.

Even before the virus had officially been declared a pandemic, it was clear that the shutdowns, travel bans and other restrictions on movement would be serious.

Back in March, the UN trade agency, UNCTAD, was forecasting that around $1 trillion would be lost to the global economy over the year, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank arranged for a multi-billion dollar injection of UN-back global funds to be made available to low-income and emerging markets.

Despite this assistance, the outlook, especially for some six billion people living in developing countries, was grim, with UNCTAD warning of a “looming financial tsunami.

Young and lower-skilled workers bear the brunt


ILO/Feri Latief

A woman follows health protocols by wearing a face mask at work in a restaurant in Indonesia.

In May, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) forecast that the global economy would shrink by almost 3.2 per cent in 2020, equivalent to some

$8.5 trillion in losses, and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) warned that nearly half of the global workforce could see their livelihoods destroyed due to the continued decline in working hours brought on by lockdowns. The following month, the World Bank confirmed that the world was in the middle of the worst recession since World War Two.

Lower-skilled workers were hard hit, in wealthier as well as developing economies. Mass lay-offs took place in the service sector, particularly industries that involve personal interactions such as tourism, retail, leisure and hospitality, recreation and transportation services. The ILO followed up in December, with a report showing that wage increases are slowing, or even reversing, hitting women workers and the low-paid hardest: this trend is expected to continue even with the rollout of vaccines. Young people were also particularly affected: more than one in six had stopped working by May and those who were still in work saw their hours cut by almost 23 per cent.

Is universal basic income the answer?


World Bank/Jonathan Ernst

Providing a universal basic income could be a central part of fiscal stimulus packages.

Confronted by this flood of negative data, the idea of universal basic income (where governments give a minimum sum of money to all citizens, regardless of work status or income) began to gain traction within the UN.

In May, A report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) proposed that governments ensure immediate temporary cash transfers to help millions of people struggling to meet basic needs, as the massive fallout from COVID-19 rippled across the region’s economies.

When UN News interviewed a senior official at UNDP, Kanni Wignaraja, she said that the pandemic had upended economies so severely, that bolder ideas were now needed.

“At the UN, we’re saying that, if there isn’t a minimum income floor to fall back on when this kind of massive shock hits, people literally have no options. Without the means to sustain themselves, they are far more likely to succumb to hunger or other diseases, well before COVID-19 gets to them. This is why, for UNDP, it is so essential to bring back a conversation about universal basic income, and to make it a central part of the fiscal stimulus packages that countries are planning for”.

 By Summer, a UN Development Programme (UNDP) report was recommending a temporary universal basic income, for the world’s poorest people, as a way to slow the surge in COVID-19 and enable close to three billion people to stay at home.  The study showed that workers who lack any kind of social safety net have no choice but to venture outdoors, putting themselves and their families at risk. 

Contacted in December by UN News, UNDP elaborated on some of the way that temporary basic income has helped to slow the spread of COVID-19, and provide a safety net for people in need.

For example, this year saw several UN agencies working together to help the Government of Cambodia roll out their first digital cash transfer system for people living below the poverty line, a system which is, says UNDP, now the backbone of the Government’s COVID-19 cash transfer program for the poor. The Governments of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Viet Nam and other countries have introduced similar cash transfer systems.

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Taiwan economy seen growing 3.61% in fourth quarter on boost from exports: Reuters poll – The Guardian

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TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s economy is expected to have expanded 3.61% year-on-year in the fourth quarter, a Reuters poll showed, as the export-dependent island continued to shake off the coronavirus jolt with a return of strong shipments and consumer confidence.

The trade-dependent economy grew 3.92% in the third quarter from a year earlier, in a solid rebound from a 0.58% contraction in the second quarter.

Taiwan, a key hub in the global technology supply chain for tech giants such as Apple Inc, is expected to have posted slightly slower gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 3.61% on year in October-December, according to the poll of 14 economists.

Predications varied widely from growth of 2.1% to as high as 6.83%.

Exports in 2020 rose 4.9% to $345.28 billion, a record high by value for a single year.

In December, Taiwan’s central bank revised up its growth outlook for this year.

It raised its 2020 forecast for GDP growth to 2.58% from 1.6% predicted in September, and projected 2021 growth at 3.68%, compared with 3.28% seen at its last quarterly meeting.

Taiwan’s exports have benefited from the work-and-study from home trend around the world, which has boosted demand for laptops, tablets and other electronics made with components supplied by firms like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC).

Taiwan’s largest trading partner China registered faster-than-expected economic growth in the fourth quarter of last year, with GDP up 6.5% year-on-year.

Taiwan’s preliminary fourth-quarter figures will be released on Friday. Revised figures, including details and government forecasts, will be published about three weeks later.

(Poll compiled by Carol Lee; Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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Taiwan economy seen growing 3.61% in fourth quarter on boost from exports: Reuters poll – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s economy is expected to have expanded 3.61% year-on-year in the fourth quarter, a Reuters poll showed, as the export-dependent island continued to shake off the coronavirus jolt with a return of strong shipments and consumer confidence.

The trade-dependent economy grew 3.92% in the third quarter from a year earlier, in a solid rebound from a 0.58% contraction in the second quarter.

Taiwan, a key hub in the global technology supply chain for tech giants such as Apple Inc, is expected to have posted slightly slower gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 3.61% on year in October-December, according to the poll of 14 economists.

Predications varied widely from growth of 2.1% to as high as 6.83%.

Exports in 2020 rose 4.9% to $345.28 billion, a record high by value for a single year.

In December, Taiwan’s central bank revised up its growth outlook for this year.

It raised its 2020 forecast for GDP growth to 2.58% from 1.6% predicted in September, and projected 2021 growth at 3.68%, compared with 3.28% seen at its last quarterly meeting.

Taiwan’s exports have benefited from the work-and-study from home trend around the world, which has boosted demand for laptops, tablets and other electronics made with components supplied by firms like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC).

Taiwan’s largest trading partner China registered faster-than-expected economic growth in the fourth quarter of last year, with GDP up 6.5% year-on-year.

Taiwan’s preliminary fourth-quarter figures will be released on Friday. Revised figures, including details and government forecasts, will be published about three weeks later.

(Poll compiled by Carol Lee; Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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Grace: Post-COVID, the economy will not recover unless we properly support women – Ottawa Citizen

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Article content continued

Compared to men, more women in Canada have stopped working during the pandemic. Not surprisingly, women with children under the age of six have been the most likely to leave paid employment, followed by women with kids aged six to 17. This isn’t just because of entrenched beliefs that women should be primary caregivers. Women in Canada still earn less than men, especially if they are mothers – they earn 29 per cent less than men if they are between the ages of 25 and 44 and have at least one child. So for many families it comes down to a calculation. Who earns more and gets to keep working? Who lets go of their career and heads back to the kitchen?

Back in the spring of 2020, experts were warning that the impact on women was going to be severe if real measures were not introduced to support their roles as employees. Last summer, women’s participation in the labour force in Canada fell to its lowest level in three decades. How much farther down are we going to go?

This downward trend is not just concerning because of the massive setback in gender equality. It represents a significant loss to the economy overall. In recent years, earnings by women between ages of 25 and 54 accounted for 47 per cent of their family’s employment income. Without women’s income, families reduce spending and the tax base drops. In short, the economy will not recover without women’s participation.

Ford’s stay-at-home strategy might be able to slow the spread of infection. But it does nothing to slow the economic fallout of this pandemic. What is needed is forward thinking and long-term planning, such as job protections for those with caregiving roles, and leave protections designed with gender and class equality in mind so that more men are encouraged to share in caregiving.

I recognize that the safest thing to do right now is to stay home and stop the spread of COVID. But eventually this pandemic will end. Measures need to be taken now to ensure that once it is safe to return to work, women are not still stuck at home.

Anita Grace is a postdoctoral researcher at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University and a mother of two. 

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