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DAILY BRIEFING

The hidden costs

Written by Ralitsa Bobcheva, associate
Edited by Harriet Moll, creative director
10 November 2020

Good morning,

Among the few perks of growing up in a country recovering from a communist regime was that I hardly ever contemplated workplace gender equality. 
 
In the late 1940s, socialist regimes located behind the Iron Curtain championed policies aimed at women’s emancipation, passing laws that guaranteed women’s equality in society and marriage, all of which ensure that women become productive members of society who work and more easily engage in political activism.
 
This culture of equal opportunity was strongly pronounced in my life since an early age and effectively nurtured Bulgaria as one of the highest performing economies where women’s legal rights in the workplace are concerned.
 
You can imagine, then, my dismay at yesterday’s findings from UNISON, according to which significant progress, made over more than 50 years,towards economic equality is rapidly going into reverse as the pandemic continues.
 
As part of the equality survey, 7.5% of female respondents have seen their wages cut while 12% more are in debt since the start of the outbreak. One reason for that is the fact that women make up around three-quarters of the part-time labour force today; the same jobs that fell by nearly 70% in the first three months of the pandemic.
 
The long-term effects of this reverse in financial equality are yet to be fully unveiled. First comes the economic case for gender equality: the more women work, the more the economy is likely to grow. Research shows that an increase in female employment rates in OECD countries to match that of Sweden could boost GDP by more than $6 trillion. Conversely, estimates indicate that gender gaps cost economies in the OECD some 15% of GDP annually.
 
Next are the more subtle costs. In the long run, the prospect of low pay and job loss means pension poverty for women inevitably translating into a significant increase in pension injustice. The effects of that would impact the economy’s growth and financial gender inequalities. 
 
Like many other girls, being surrounded by strong, driven women as I was growing up showed me first-hand what resilience and hard work looks like. We must not allow women to bear the lion’s share of the pandemic’s economic burden. It’s a cost I am simply not willing to count.  

News

A preliminary analysis published yesterday reported that a Covid-19 vaccine developed by US pharma Pfizer and BioNTech has been 90% effective in protecting people from transmission of the virus. The vaccine has performed better than expected, according to the companies’ analysis, but the trial will continue into December.

In the meantime, the Brazilian clinical trial for Chinese Covid-19 vaccine has been suspended following reports by health authorities of a “severe adverse” incident. The Sinovac vaccine ranked among one of several in final stage testing globally and has been used by China already to immunise thousands of people at home in an emergency use programme.

Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia have signed an agreement to end military conflict over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Under the agreement, Azerbaijan agrees to hold on to areas of Nagorno-Karabakh that it has taken during the conflict while Armenia agrees to withdraw from several other adjacent areas over the following weeks.

Business and economy

The European Union is proceeding with plans to impose tariffs on $4bn of American goods in response to US subsidies for Boeing. The taxes come into effect today and affect items such as tractors, ketchup and orange juice. However, EU officials are still keen to settle the fight, with a trade official sharing hopes that the election of Joe Biden could help “reboot” talks.

A study by the London School of Economics found that close to a million people in the UK may give up self-employment amidst financial pressure caused by the pandemic. According to the report’s findings, in August 58% of the UK’s five million self-employed people had less work than normal while a fifth of those self-employed anticipated quitting altogether.

According to new numbers released by the Office for National Statistics, UK’s unemployment rate rose to 4.8% in the three months to September as the pandemic continued to hit the jobs market. In this period, unemployment was up from 4.5% while redundancies rose by a record 181,000.

Prime minister Boris Johnson risks a dispute with US president-elect Joe Biden after pressing ahead with a Brexit bill that would allow ministers to overrule parts of the EU withdrawal agreement. Following a defeat in the House of Lords and warnings by Biden that the bill could be a threat to a post-Brexit deal for Northern Ireland, Boris Johnson signalled that he would press ahead with the legislation unless the UK agrees a free trade deal with the EU. (£)

Columns of note

This week’s Economist turns to the fresh announcement by two pharmaceutical firms, Pfizer and BioNTech, that the vaccine on which they have been working is more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19. While this is a legitimate cause for celebrating, there are three key questions that still remain to be answered.  (£)

In the Financial TimesSarah O’Connor questions the future of an economy which has pioneered a new way of assembling a workforce: gig companies. Is there a way, though, to let gig companies maintain flexibility for employees while still offering proper employment protections? (£)

Cartoon source: The Times

Markets

What happened yesterday?

Wall Street’s three main indexes climbed to record levels yesterday, amidst positive news about a potential coronavirus vaccine and the prospect of improved trade relations under President-elect Joe Biden. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 4.45%, to 29,583.56, the S&P 500 gained 2.65%, to 3,602.53 and the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.01%, to 11,894.02. 

Similarly, London stocks closed well into positive territory, with the FTSE 100 going up 4.67% to 6,186.29, and the FTSE 250 rising 5.2% to 18,850.36.

In the meantime, sterling had a mixed day, last weaking 0.13% against the dollar to $1.3139, while strengthening 0.48% on the euro to €1.1122.

In company news:

Chemicals company Ineos is set to launch a clean hydrogen business in a bid to drive green energy.

Two of Britain’s largest fund shops AJ Bell and Hargreaves Lansdown, buckled yesterday buckle as investors rush to buy on a ‘busiest day ever’ for web traffic. (£)

What’s happening today?

Interims
DCC
Electrocomponents
Land Securities
Manolete Partn.
Oxford Instruments
Renewi Plc
Zoo Digital

AGMs
Harvest Mi (Di)
Pacific Horizon

GMs
Design Group

UK economic announcements
(00:01) Retail Sales
(07:00) Claimant Count Rate
(07:00) Unemployment Rate

Int. economic announcements
(10:00) ZEW Survey (GER) – Current Situation
(10:00) ZEW Survey (GER) – Economic Sentiment
(10:00) ZEW Survey (EU) – Economic Sentiment

Source: Financial Times

did you know

On average, women around the world spend more than twice as many hours as men doing unpaid work.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (including Topical Questions)
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Jet Skis (Licensing) – Hywel Williams
 
Consideration of Lords amendments
Parliamentary Constituencies Bill
 
Motion
Exiting the European Union (Merchant Shipping) – Grant Shapps
 
Motion
Exiting the European Union (Agriculture) – Edward Argar
 
Motion
Committee on Standards (No.1) – Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg
 
Adjournment
Safety and littering on the A34 and A420 – David Johnston

Scottish Parliament 

Time for Reflection: Imam Hashim Matin, Imam & Principal, Livingston Islamic Centre & Mosque
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Topical Questions (if selected)
Ministerial Statement: COVID-19
Scottish Government Debate: Remembrance Commemorations
Committee Announcements
Business Motions
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Decision Time
Members’ Business — S5M-22992 Alexander Stewart: World Stroke Day and Stroke Care in Scotland During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Time for Reflection: Imam Hashim Matin, Imam & Principal, Livingston Islamic Centre & Mosque

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