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UAE's migrant workers fret over future in coronavirus economy – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Alexander Cornwell, Lisa Barrington and Davide Barbuscia

DUBAI (Reuters) – When Kapil left his Nepali village for an airport job packing cargo in the United Arab Emirates, he thought he was securing a future for himself and his family.

But less than a year after arriving in the Middle East trade and tourism hub, he questions whether it was the right decision after learning there would be no work this month.

“I’m totally hopeless,” said 29-year-old Kapil, whose wife and five-year-old son are in Nepal.

The coronavirus crisis has taken a heavy toll on the economies of the oil-rich Gulf, heavily reliant on low-paid foreign workers.

They are the backbone of the Gulf economies, taking jobs in construction, services and transport, and are now facing the realities of the pandemic.

Reuters spoke to over 30 workers like Kapil in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, who all said they are now enduring hardship due to coronavirus.

Many have racked up debt and would go hungry without the help of charities as they wait for work and to be paid.

Some said they found little reason to stay without work and wanted to return to their home countries despite being owed months of wages; hundreds of thousands have already left.

The treatment of migrant workers in the Gulf has come under greater scrutiny, with human rights groups saying conditions have deteriorated because of the pandemic.

In the UAE, most attractive because of the economic opportunities it offers, there is no social safety net for foreigners, who make up about 90% of the population.

A laundry service worker from Cameroon told Reuters he had not been paid in months and was now selling fruit and vegetables on the street earning 30 to 40 dirhams a day ($8-$11).

The UAE government communication office did not respond to emailed questions about migrant worker welfare.

In May, the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said the Gulf state was committed to protecting the rights of all workers, state news agency WAM reported.

DEBTS

Those in blue collar jobs are the most vulnerable. They are paid low wages, work long hours and often live in cramped dormitories that have been coronavirus hotbeds.

Many also pay fees to recruiters in their home country, a practice common for low paying jobs in the Gulf.

Kapil, who said he paid a recruiter 175,000 Nepali rupees ($1,450) for his UAE job, is not sure when he will work again.

His employer told staff they would only be paid when they worked and it was unclear whether there would be any work next month, he said.

Kapil said he had been earning around $600 a month – six times more than his teacher salary in Nepal – working up to 12 hours a day, six days a week at the airport.

He said not working had left him stressed and unable to provide for his wife, child and elderly parents in Nepal.

Kapil, who showed his employment contract and other documents to Reuters, asked that his full name not be published and his employer not identified over fears he could face repercussions.

Arriving in the UAE last October, Kapil thought he would work at the airport for a few years before finding a better job, possibly using his teaching skills.

Now he just hopes to work until the end of the year to pay back his loans.

“The global economy is getting worse and it’s affecting each and every business … I think during this time it’s hard to find any other job.”

UNPAID WAGES

No official statistics of how many people have left the UAE are available. But at least 200,000 workers, mostly from India but also from Pakistan, the Philippines and Nepal, have left, according to their diplomatic missions.

Sectors like construction and retail were struggling even before the crisis, which exacerbated hardship for workers already exposed to payment delays.

Mohammed Mubarak has not been paid for around 11 months for security work at a Dubai theme park.

“The company doesn’t know when they’ll be able to pay us, and we are suffering,” the Ghanaian said.

Government coronavirus restrictions that forced many businesses to shutter for weeks began to ease in May. Shopping centres, water parks, bars and restaurants – all staffed by migrant workers – are once again open, raising hopes.

Zulfiqar, a Pakistani in Dubai for 12 years, sent his family home early in the outbreak but stayed on hoping for work, sharing a room and what cash he has with a dozen other unemployed men.

“Things in Pakistan are also not good,” he said.

(Reporting by Lisa Barrington, Davide Barbuscia, Aziz El Yaakoubi; Reporting and writing by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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Province ramping up efforts to restart economy – CHVN Radio

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Premier Brian Pallister is sharing ways the province is hoping to grow Manitoba’s economy.

Pallister says there are approximately 40,000 people unemployed who had jobs one year ago.

“If we have a safer society we’re going to have people more confident to go to work, to shop and create more job opportunities.”

He says both public safety and a growing economy are locked in a symbiotic relationship, which is why the province is paying for advertisements, highlighting things they say are important for Manitoba.

The province’s #RestartMB campaign is focusing on both public safety and economic recovery as officials say Manitobans are ready to live with COVID-19 while creating jobs and restarting services.

“Public health and safety is a key driver of recovery, and as we continue to safely restart our economy and reopen our communities, we must learn to live with this virus,” Pallister says. “We are committed to being ready for what lies ahead – ready to live with COVID-19, ready to return to school, ready to restart our services, create jobs and grow our economy.”

He adds the province must continue to act and follow public health advice to keep COVID-19 test positivity cases low.

“The past four months since COVID-19 arrived in Manitoba have been a period of rapid response and adaptation for programs and for public engagement,” Pallister says. “We have done well and accomplished much, adapting as we go and working rapidly to respond.

The campaign hopes to continue to encourage Manitobans to contact the Manitoba Economic Support Centre to access programs and resources. Pallister says the centre has called more than 20,000 businesses to promote programs such as wage subsidies and the Manitoba Gap Protection Program.

The Premier says the centre will promote program priorities in the coming weeks. 

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Japan's wholesale price fall eases further as economy emerges from coronavirus jolt – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s wholesale prices fell at a smaller annual pace in July than in the previous month as global and domestic demand rebounded, a sign the economy was gradually emerging from the damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

But analysts expect any pick-up in prices to remain shallow as fears of a huge second wave of infections weigh on business and consumer sentiment.

The corporate goods price index (CGPI), which measures the price companies charge each other for their goods, fell 0.9% in July from a year earlier, Bank of Japan data showed on Thursday, less than a median market forecast for a 1.1% drop.

The decline was less steeper than a 1.6% fall in June and the smallest downturn since March, when it was off 0.5%.

Declines in gasoline, chemical and nonferrous metal prices eased in July, reflecting a pick-up in demand as China and many advanced economies lifted lockdowns, the data showed.

Agricultural goods prices also fell at a much slower pace than in June, as demand for beef and other food products recovered after Japan ended lockdown measures in late May.

“As economies re-open, downward pressure on prices from the pandemic appears to be easing,” Ichiro Muto, head of the BOJ’s price statistics division, told reporters.

“But there’s no change to the broader picture, in which the pandemic is weighing heavily on wholesale prices,” he said.

Japan’s economy slipped into recession and is expected to have suffered an annualised contraction of 27.2% in April-June, as the coronavirus crisis crushed business and consumer spending.

While economic activity has re-opened, a recent surge in infection numbers is clouding the outlook for the recovery.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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U.K. economy plunges 20% as nation enters deepest recession on record – CBC.ca

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The United Kingdom’s economy shrank by a record 20.4 per cent in the second quarter when the coronavirus lockdown was tightest, the most severe contraction reported by any major economy so far, with a wave of job losses set to hit later in 2020.

The scale of the economic hit may also revive questions about U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic, with England suffering the highest death toll in Europe. More than 50,000 U.K. deaths have been linked to the disease.

“Today’s figures confirm that hard times are here,” finance minister Rishi Sunak said. “Hundreds of thousands of people have already lost their jobs, and sadly in the coming months many more will.”

The data confirmed that the world’s sixth-biggest economy had entered a recession, with the low point coming in April when output was more than 25 per cent below its pre-pandemic level.

Growth restarted in May and quickened in June, when the economy expanded by a monthly 8.7 per cent — a record single-month increase and slightly stronger than forecasts by economists in a Reuters poll.

However, some analysts said the bounce-back was unlikely to be sustained.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic is being questioned after the U.K.’s economy plummeted 20 per cent. (Christopher Furlong/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Last week, the Bank of England forecast it would take until the final quarter of 2021 for the economy to regain its previous size and warned unemployment was likely to rise sharply.

Any decision to pump more stimulus into the economy by the Bank of England and finance minister Sunak will hinge on the pace of growth in the coming months and whether the worst-hit sectors such as face-to-face retail and business travel ever fully recover.

The second-quarter GDP slump exceeded the 12.1 per cent drop in the eurozone and the 9.5 per cent fall in the United States.

Some economists said the sharper decline partly reflected the timing of U.K.’s lockdown — which fell more in the second quarter — and its dependence on domestic consumer spending.

Pent-up demand

Suren Thiru, an economist with the British Chambers of Commerce, said the recent pick-up probably only reflected the release of pent-up demand rather than a sustained revival.

“The prospect of a swift ‘V-shaped’ recovery remains remote,” he said.

The nation’s unemployment rate is expected to jump when the government ends its huge job subsidy program in October.

A wave of job losses is set to hit the U.K. later in 2020 as the ripple effects of the economic contraction are felt. (Simon Dawson/Reuters)

Sunak — who told the BBC he saw some “promising signs” in GDP data for the month of June — reiterated his opposition to extending the program.

In July, he cut sales tax for the hospitality sector and in August is subsidizing restaurants to draw in diners.

Hotels and restaurants did just one fifth of their normal business in June, when the lockdown was still largely in force.

Later lockdown

U.K. GDP shrank by 2.2 per cent in the first quarter of the year, reflecting the lockdown that started on March 24.

It closed restaurants, shops and other public spaces after many other European countries, meaning more of the hit was felt in the second quarter.

However, the Office for National Statistics said that over the first six months of 2020, GDP fell by 22.1 per cent, slightly less than Spain’s 22.7 per cent but more than double the 10.6 per cent fall in U.S.

“The larger contraction of the U.K. economy primarily reflects how lockdown measures have been in place for a larger part of this period in the U.K.,” it said.

Non-essential shops in England did not reopen until June 15, and pubs and restaurants were shut until July 4.

The Bank of England forecast it would take until the final quarter of 2021 for the economy to regain its previous size, and warned unemployment was likely to rise sharply. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Sunak, as well as some economists, said the U.K.’s greater reliance on consumer-facing services businesses — many of which were completely shut in the lockdown — also explained why the economy suffered more than its peers.

In both the U.K. and Spain, spending on hotels, restaurants, recreation and culture make up around 13 per cent of the economy, compared with around 10 per cent or less elsewhere in Europe and the United States.

Although some sectors appear to have made a rapid recovery, businesses are wary about the outlook, especially as a second wave of COVID infections could lead to the reimpositions of lockdowns.

Employers have already shed more than 700,000 jobs since March, according to tax data.

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