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What happens when women run the economy? We're about to find out – The Guardian

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By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Women now hold many of jobs controlling the world’s largest economy – and they’re trying to fix it.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and trade czar Katherine Tai hold top jobs in U.S. President Joe Biden administration and many of his economic advisers also are women, as are nearly 48% of his confirmed cabinet-level officials.

This sea change may already be affecting economic policy – a new $2.3 trillion spending plan introduced by Biden last week includes $400 billion to fund the “care economy,” supporting home- and community-based jobs taking care of kids and seniors, work normally done by women that has mostly gone unacknowledged in years past.

The plan also has hundreds of billions more to fix racial and rural-urban inequalities that were created in part by past economic, trade and labor policies.

Yellen says the focus on “human infrastructure,” and the earlier $1.9 trillion rescue bill should result in significant improvements for women, whose share of the workforce had hit 40-year lows even before the crisis, and for everyone else as well.

“In the end, it might be that this bill makes 80 years of history: it begins to fix the structural problems that have plagued our economy for the past four decades,” she wrote on Twitter, adding, “This is just the start for us.”

Women leaders can bring fresh perspective to economic policy, experts say.

“When you’re different from the rest of the group, you often see things differently,” said Rebecca Henderson, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of “Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire.”

“You tend to be more open to different solutions,” she said, and that is what the situation demands. “We’re in a moment of enormous crisis. We need new ways of thinking.”

EMPATHY, STABILITY

Over the past half-century, 57 women have been president or prime minister of their countries, but institutions that make economic decisions have largely been controlled by men until recently.

Outside the United States, there’s Christine Lagarde at the helm of the European Central Bank with its 2.4 trillion euro balance sheet, Kristalina Georgieva at the International Monetary Fund with its $1 trillion in lending power, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the World Trade Organization – all jobs held by men a decade ago.

Overall, there are women running finance ministries in 16 countries, and 14 of the world’s central banks, according to an annual report prepared by OMFIF, a think tank for central banking and economic policy.

The limited measures available suggest women have a better track record of managing complicated institutions through crisis.

“When women are involved, the evidence is very clear: communities are better, economies are better, the world is better,” Georgieva said in January, citing research compiled by the IMF and other institutions.

“Women make great leaders because we show empathy and speak up for the most vulnerable people. Women are decisive … and women can be more willing to find a compromise.”

A study by the American Psychological Association showed that U.S. states with female governors had fewer COVID-19 deaths than those led by men, and Harvard Business Review reported that women got significantly better ratings in 360-degree assessments of 60,000 leaders between March to June 2020.

Women account for less than 2% of CEOs at financial institutions and less than 20% of executive board members, but the institutions they do run show greater financial resilience and stability, IMF research shows.

Eric LeCompte, a UN adviser and executive director of a non-profit that advocates for debt relief, said he noticed a clear difference during a meeting with Yellen and the leaders of Christian and Jewish faith groups last month.

“I’ve been meeting with Treasury secretaries for 20 years, and their talking points have been entirely different,” he said. “In every area we discussed, Yellen put an emphasis on empathy, and the impact of policies on vulnerable communities.”

Her male predecessors had a “brass tacks” approach that focused first on “numbers not people” and never mentioned words like “vulnerable,” he said.

THE GLOBAL SHE-SESSION

The stakes are high.

The global recession related to the coronavirus pandemic is actually a “she-session,” many economists say, because of how hard it has hit women.

Women comprise 39% of the global workforce but account for 54% of overall job losses, McKinsey found in a recent study. In the United States, women accounted for more than half the 10 million jobs lost during the COVID-10 crisis https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-women-jobs/pushed-out-by-pandemic-women-struggle-to-regain-footing-in-u-s-job-market-idUSKBN2AW19Y, and over 2 million women have left the labor force altogether.

Bringing these women back to work could boost gross domestic product by 5% in the United States, 9% in Japan, 12% in the United Arab Emirates and an astounding 27% in India, the world’s largest democracy, the IMF estimates.

The rise of female leaders should lead to “a more inclusive – in the true sense of the word – response to the many, many challenges that are the legacy of COVID,” Carmen Reinhart, the World Bank’s chief economist, told Reuters.

Tai, the first woman of color to lead the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, has told her staff to think “outside the box”, embrace diversity and talk to communities long ignored.

Okonjo-Iweala, also the first African to head the World Trade Organization, which oversaw trade flows of nearly $19 trillion in 2019, said addressing the needs of women will mark an important step toward rebuilding deeply eroded faith in government and global institutions.

“The lesson for us is (to) make sure … that we don’t sink into business as usual,” said Okonjo-Iweala, who was also Nigeria’s first female finance minister. “It’s about people. It’s about inclusivity. It’s about decent work for ordinary people,” she told Reuters.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Additional reporting by Karin Strohecker; Editing by Heather Timmons and Andrea Ricci)

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Canada to go big on budget spending as pandemic lingers, election looms

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By Julie Gordon

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada‘s Liberal government will deliver on its promise to spend big when it presents its first budget in two years next week amid a fast-rising third wave of COVID-19 infections and ahead of an election expected in coming months.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has pledged to do “whatever it takes” to support Canadians, and in November promised up to C$100 billion ($79.8 billion) in stimulus over three years to “jump-start” an economic recovery in what is likely to be a crucial year for her party.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals depend on the support of at least one opposition group to pass laws, and senior party members have said an election is likely within months as it seeks a clear majority and a free hand to legislate.

Furthermore, by September, all Canadians who want to be vaccinated will be, Trudeau has said.

Freeland has said the pandemic created a “window” of opportunity for a national childcare plan, and that will be reflected in next Monday’s budget along with spending to accelerate Canada‘s shift toward a more sustainable economy.

“It will be a green and innovative recovery plan aimed at creating jobs,” said a government source who declined to comment on specific measures. The budget will aim to help those “who have suffered most” the effects of the pandemic, the source said.

Critics say the government would be better to hold off on blockbuster spending because the economy has shown it is poised to bounce back, and to prevent the country from racking up too much debt.

“Clearly a garden-variety stimulus package is the last thing we need. This is pile-on debt,” said Don Drummond, an economist at Ontario’s Queen’s University.

“The risk is that at some point interest rates are going to go up and we’re going to be in trouble,” he said, pointing to the mid-1990s when Canada‘s debt-to-GDP ratio skyrocketed, leading to rating agency downgrades and years of austerity.

The Bank of Canada cut its benchmark interest rate to 0.25% to counter the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis and has said rates will not rise until labor market slack is absorbed, currently forecast for into 2023. That may change when it releases new projections on April 21.

EXPANDING ECONOMY

More than 3 million Canadians lost their jobs to the pandemic. As of March, before a third wave forced new lockdowns, only 296,000 remained unemployed because of COVID.

Despite still-high unemployment levels in hard-hit service sectors, the economy has expanded for nine straight months even as provinces have adjusted health restrictions to counter waves of infections.

“Once we see sustained reopening, we do think that the recovery will have quite a bit of momentum on its own,” said Josh Nye, a senior economist at RBC Economics.

“We think Canada‘s economy will be operating pretty close to full capacity by this time next year,” he said.

Economists surveyed by Reuters expect Freeland to project a deficit in the range of C$133 billion to C$175 billion for fiscal 2021/22, up from the C$121.2 billion ($96.7 billion)

deficit forecast in November. https://tmsnrt.rs/3wSJPcm

The deficit for fiscal 2020/21 ended in March is forecast by the government to top a historic C$381.6 billion ($304.5 billion).

Canada announced on Monday a C$5.9 billion ($4.7 billion) aid package for the country’s largest airline carrier, Air Canada, and said talks were ongoing with No. 2 carrier WestJet Airlines Ltd and others.

 

(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Additional reporting by Fergal Smith in Toronto; Editing by Steve Scherer and Peter Cooney)

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Economy

CANADA STOCKS – TSX ends flat at 19,228.03

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* The Toronto Stock Exchange’s TSX falls 0.00 percent to 19,228.03

* Leading the index were Corus Entertainment Inc <CJRb.TO​>, up 7.0%, Methanex Corp​, up 6.4%, and Canaccord Genuity Group Inc​, higher by 5.5%.

* Lagging shares were Denison Mines Corp​​, down 7.0%, Trillium Therapeutics Inc​, down 7.0%, and Nexgen Energy Ltd​, lower by 5.7%.

* On the TSX 93 issues rose and 128 fell as a 0.7-to-1 ratio favored decliners. There were 26 new highs and no new lows, with total volume of 183.7 million shares.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Toronto-dominion Bank, Nutrien Ltd and Organigram Holdings Inc.

* The TSX’s energy group fell 1.61 points, or 1.4%, while the financials sector climbed 0.67 points, or 0.2%.

* West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 0.44%, or $0.26, to $59.34 a barrel. Brent crude  fell 0.24%, or $0.15, to $63.05 [O/R]

* The TSX is up 10.3% for the year.

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Economy

Canadian dollar outshines G10 peers, boosted by jobs surge

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Canadian dollar

By Fergal Smith

TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian dollar advanced against its broadly stronger U.S. counterpart on Friday as data showing the economy added far more jobs than expected in March offset lower oil prices, with the loonie also gaining for the week.

Canada added 303,100 jobs in March, triple analyst expectations, driven by the recovery across sectors hit by shutdowns in December and January to curb the new coronavirus.

“The Canadian economy keeps beating expectations,” said Michael Goshko, corporate risk manager at Western Union Business Solutions. “It seems like the economy is adapting to these closures and restrictions.”

Stronger-than-expected economic growth could pull forward the timing of the first interest rate hike by the Bank of Canada, Goshko said.

The central bank has signaled that its benchmark rate will stay at a record low of 0.25% until 2023. It is due to update its economic forecasts on April 21, when some analysts expect it to cut bond purchases.

The Canadian dollar was trading 0.3% higher at 1.2530 to the greenback, or 79.81 U.S. cents, the biggest gain among G10 currencies. For the week, it was also up 0.3%.

Still, speculators have cut their bullish bets on the Canadian dollar to the lowest since December, data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed. As of April 6, net long positions had fallen to 2,690 contracts from 6,518 in the prior week.

The price of oil, one of Canada‘s major exports, was pressured by rising supplies from major producers. U.S. crude prices settled 0.5% lower at $59.32 a barrel, while the U.S. dollar gained ground against a basket of major currencies, supported by higher U.S. Treasury yields.

Canadian government bond yields also climbed and the curve steepened, with the 10-year up 4.1 basis points at 1.502%.

 

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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