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2020 to be year of ‘slowbalisation’ for global economy

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Global economic growth in 2020 is expected to grow at a rate of around 3.4% in purchasing power parity terms compared to its long-term average of a 21st century average of 3.8% per year, according to new projections by PwC.

PwC predict that 2020 will be a year of ‘slowbalisation’ in the global economy, where trade tensions continue to create challenges for global supply chains and further integration of the global economy.

Nevertheless, PwC expect that services will remain a bright spot for global trade, with the total global value of service export forecast to hit a record $7 trillion in 2020. The US and UK are likely to remain the leading exporters of services, although China is expected to overtake France in fourth place during the year.

Uncertain outlook for global trade

The overall picture for 2020 is that global economic growth will continue at a modest pace, as the major economies will be buoyed by accommodative financial conditions and an increased reliance on household consumption as a source of growth instead of net exports and investment.

Barret Kupelian, senior economist at PwC UK, says,

‘Globalisation has been a defining feature of the global economy since the 1970s. Yet the global volume of merchandise traded slowed down dramatically and even went into reverse in 2019. Coupled with the effective disbandment of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) dispute settlement mechanism in December, we can expect more challenging times ahead for global trade.

‘Yet we should be clear this is a period of “slowbalisation”—with integration and trade flows still growing but at a slower rate. Given the links between merchandise trade flows and economic growth, we can expect to see a similar effect of below-average growth in the global economy in 2020.’

More jobs across the board but not necessarily spread equitably

PwC expect the G7 to continue to create jobs, to the tune of around 2 million. Four out of the five new jobs in the G7 will be created in the US, UK and Japan. As the pool of labour resources in the G7 gradually dries up, earnings will continue their upward trajectory. But in the absence of productivity improvements, corporate profit margins could be squeezed. 

Similarly, the International Labour Organization (“ILO”) expects the seven largest emerging economies– the E7–to create about 8 million jobs in net terms. The ILO’s employment projections for the G7 show that jobs will be taken up by men and women in equal measure. Within the E7, however, the ILO expects job creations to be less evenly distributed across genders.

India expected to rise in global economic rankings

According to the IMF’s latest estimates, 2019 was the year when India overtook the UK and France to become the fifth largest economy in the world. This is an ongoing process with India likely on current trends to overtake Germany before 2025 and Japan before 2030 to become the world’s largest economy behind China and the US. France and the UK will now vie for sixth place in the rankings, with their relative position dependent on the value of the pound against the euro which may remain volatile in 2020

US oil production equivalent to half of OPEC

Global renewable energy and nuclear consumption will make up more than 20% of global energy consumption, which is the highest it has ever been. The rise of renewable energy reflects how businesses, households and governments are adapting and changing their attitudes. 

China is expected to be the largest consumer of this type of energy closely followed by Europe. However, oil is expected to continue to remain the most preferred source of energy in 2020 for the world economy followed by coal and natural gas. The US and China will remain the largest consumer of oil in the world in 2020. 

Global population biggest it has ever been but also the greyest

In 2020, the world’s population is expected to reach 7.7 billion, which is around a 10% increase compared to a decade ago. China, India and Sub-Saharan Africa are expected to drive around half of the world’s annual population increase. At the same time, the number of people above the age of 60 globally is expected to surpass the one billion mark. China is expected to have a larger number of people above the age of 65 than all the six other largest emerging economies put together.

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Post-COVID-19, regaining citizen’s trust should be a priority for governments

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The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated governments’ ability to respond to a major global crisis with extraordinary flexibility, innovation and determination. However, emerging evidence suggests that much more could have been done in advance to bolster resilience and many actions may have undermined trust and transparency between governments and their citizens, according to a new OECD report.

Government at a Glance 2021 says that one of the biggest lessons of the pandemic is that governments will need to respond to future crises at speed and scale while safeguarding trust and transparency. “Looking forward, we must focus simultaneously on promoting the economic recovery and avoiding democratic decline” said OECD Director of Public Governance Elsa Pilichowski. “Reinforcing democracy should be one of our highest priorities.”

 Countries have introduced thousands of emergency regulations, often on a fast track. Some alleviation of standards is inevitable in an emergency, but must be limited in scope and time to avoid damaging citizen perceptions of the competence, openness, transparency, and fairness of government.

 Governments should step up their efforts in three areas to boost trust and transparency and reinforce democracy:

 Tackling misinformation is key. Even with a boost in trust in government sparked by the pandemic in 2020, on average only 51% of people in OECD countries for which data is available trusted their government. There is a risk that some people and groups may be dissociating themselves from traditional democratic processes.

 It is crucial to enhance representation and participation in a fair and transparent manner. Governments must seek to promote inclusion and diversity, support the representation of young people, women and other under-represented groups in public life and policy consultation. Fine-tuning consultation and engagement practices could improve transparency and trust in public institutions, says the report. Governments must also level the playing field in lobbying. Less than half of countries have transparency requirements covering most of the actors that regularly engage in lobbying.

 Strengthening governance must be prioritised to tackle global challenges while harnessing the potential of new technologies. In 2018, only half of OECD countries had a specific government institution tasked with identifying novel, unforeseen or complex crises. To be fit for the future, and secure the foundations of democracy, governments must be ready to act at speed and scale while safeguarding trust and transparency.

 Governments must also learn to spend better, according to Government at a Glance 2021. OECD countries are providing large amounts of support to citizens and businesses during this crisis: measures ongoing or announced as of March 2021 represented, roughly, 16.4% of GDP in additional spending or foregone revenues, and up to 10.5% of GDP via other means. Governments will need to review public spending to increase efficiency, ensure that spending priorities match people’s needs, and improve the quality of public services.

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Sweden: Invest in skills and the digital economy to bolster the recovery from COVID-19

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Sweden’s economy is on the road to recovery from the shock of the COVID-19 crisis, yet risks remain. Moving ahead with a labour reform to facilitate adaptation in a fast-changing economic environment, and investing in digital skills and infrastructure, will be crucial to revive employment and build a sustainable recovery, according to the latest OECD Economic Survey of Sweden.

The pandemic triggered a severe recession in Sweden, despite mild distancing measures and swift government action to protect people and businesses. GDP fell by less than in many other European economies in 2020, thanks to reinforced short-time work, compensation to firms for lost revenue and measures to prop up the financial system, but unemployment still rose sharply. Solid public finances provided room for further stimulus in 2021 to buttress the recovery.

 The Survey recommends maintaining targeted support to people and firms until the pandemic subsides, then focusing on strengthening vocational training and skills and increasing investment in areas like high-speed internet and low-carbon transport. Addressing regional inequality, which is low but rising, should also be a priority as the recovery takes hold.

 The Survey shows that Sweden has been among the most resilient OECD countries in the face of a historic shock. Yet, like other economies, it faces challenges from demographic changes and the shift to green, digital economies. Investments in education and training, and labour reforms along the lines negotiated by the social partners, will support job creation and strengthen economic resilience. Building on Sweden’s leadership in digital innovation and diffusion will also be key for driving productivity.

 After a 3% contraction in 2020, interrupting several years of growth, the Survey projects a rebound in activity with 3.9% growth in 2021 and 3.4% in 2022 as industrial production resumes and exports recover. The recovery in world trade is bolstering the Swedish economy, however the country remains vulnerable to potential disruptions in global value chains.  

The pandemic has aggravated a mismatch in Sweden’s job market, with unfilled vacancies for highly qualified workers coinciding with high unemployment for low-skilled workers and immigrants. The public employment service needs strengthening to provide better support to jobseekers, including immigrants and women, and labour policies should strike the right balance between supporting businesses and workers and supporting transitions away from declining businesses towards growing sectors.

A rising share of youths and older people in the population, especially in remote areas, is affecting the finances of local governments, which provide the bulk of welfare services. Strengthening local government budgets and ensuring equal welfare provision across the country will require providing tax income to poorer regions more efficiently and raising the economic growth potential across regions through investments in innovation. Improving coordination between government entities and reinforcing the role of universities in local economic networks would help achieve that aim.

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Fewer women than men will regain work during COVID-19 recovery

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Generations of progress stands to be lost on women and girls' empowerment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: ILO

Fewer women will regain jobs lost to the COVID-19 pandemic during the recovery period, than men, according to a new study released on Monday by the UN’s labour agency.  

In Building Forward Fairer: Women’s rights to work and at work at the core of the COVID-19 recovery, the International Labour Organization (ILO) highlights that between 2019 and 2020, women’s employment declined by 4.2 per cent globally, representing 54 million jobs, while men suffered a three per cent decline, or 60 million jobs. 

This means that there will be 13 million fewer women in employment this year compared to 2019, but the number of men in work will likely recover to levels seen two years ago. 

This means that only 43 per cent of the world’s working-age women will be employed in 2021, compared to 69 per cent of their male counterparts. 

The ILO paper suggests that women have seen disproportionate job and income losses because they are over-represented in the sectors hit hardest by lockdowns, such as accommodation, food services and manufacturing. 

Regional differences 

Not all regions have been affected in the same way. For example, the study revealed that women’s employment was hit hardest in the Americas, falling by more than nine per cent.  

This was followed by the Arab States at just over four per cent, then Asia-Pacific at 3.8 per cent, Europe at 2.5 per cent and Central Asia at 1.9 per cent. 

In Africa, men’s employment dropped by just 0.1 per cent between 2019 and 2020, while women’s employment decreased by 1.9 per cent. 

Mitigation efforts 

Throughout the pandemic, women faired considerably better in countries that took measures to prevent them from losing their jobs and allowed them to get back into the workforce as early as possible. 

In Chile and Colombia, for example, wage subsidies were applied to new hires, with higher subsidy rates for women.  

And Colombia and Senegal were among those nations which created or strengthened support for women entrepreneurs.  

Meanwhile, in Mexico and Kenya quotas were established to guarantee that women benefited from public employment programmes. 

Building forward 

To address these imbalances, gender-responsive strategies must be at the core of recovery efforts, says the agency. 

It is essential to invest in the care economy because the health, social work and education sectors are important job generators, especially for women, according to ILO. 

Moreover, care leave policies and flexible working arrangements can also encourage a more even division of work at home between women and men. 

The current gender gap can also be tackled by working towards universal access to comprehensive, adequate and sustainable social protection. 

Promoting equal pay for work of equal value is also a potentially decisive and important step. 

Domestic violence and work-related gender-based violence and harassment has worsened during the pandemic – further undermining women’s ability to be in the workforce – and the report highlights the need to eliminate the scourge immediately. 

Promoting women’s participation in decision-making bodies, and more effective social dialogue, would also make a major difference, said ILO. 

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