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The pandemic is undoing gender equality progress in the workplace

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Women’s progress in the workplace is set to reverse due to the coronavirus pandemic, professional services firm PwC found in its analysis of developed countries. 

PwC said that the pandemic was set to push the progress towards gender equality in the workplace back to 2017 levels, in a report published Tuesday, ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8. 

This was according to PwC’s analysis of women’s economic empowerment, across 33 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, for its annual Women in Work index. The index measures women’s participation in the labor market and equality according to a weighted average in five categories. 

PwC applied OECD forecasts of the unemployment rate and labor force size for 2019, which was latest data available, to its Women in Work index results in order to gauge the potential impact on these countries in 2020-22. It found that the gender equality index is expected to fall 2 points between 2019 and 2021, below the overall average score of 62 points in 2017.

In order to undo the pandemic’s damage to women’s position in the workplace by 2030, PwC projected that progress towards gender equality needed to be twice as fast as it was in the previous decade. 

Laura Hinton, chief people officer at PwC, said that these findings showed there was “absolutely no time to lose in addressing the very real impact of the pandemic on women.” 

Gender equality affects economic growth 

Research has shown that women in the global workforce have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, in being more likely to work in the sectors hardest-hit by the crisis. A United Nations study also found that women have been taking on the brunt of extra childcare and domestic duties since the onset of the pandemic. 

Hinton said that governments and business both had parts to play in “addressing the gender inequalities in unpaid work, through promoting and championing schemes like shared parental leave, affordable childcare and flexible working arrangements.” 

Larice Stielow, senior economist at PwC, pointed out that losing women from the workforce “not only reverses progress towards gender equality, it also affects economic growth.” 

In its ranking of the 33 countries analyzed in the report, based on the 2019 data, PwC found Iceland and Sweden retained their place as the top performing countries for women’s progress in the workplace. New Zealand moved into third place, thanks to progress in closing its gender pay gap and an increase in the number of its full-time female employees. 

In fact, PwC’s analysis showed that boosting women’s employment within the OECD — which spans 37 developed economies —  to match the rate in Sweden would increase gross domestic product by $6 trillion a year across this group of countries. Closing the gender pay gap would add $2 trillion to the OECD’s GDP each year.

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Stock futures inch higher after S&P 500 retreats from record

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Futures contracts tied to the major U.S. stock indexes ticked higher at the start of the overnight session Wednesday evening after the S&P 500 retreated from record levels during the regular session.

Contracts tied to the Dow added 34 points, while those pegged to the S&P 500 rose about 0.1%. Nasdaq 100 futures advanced about 0.2%.

The moves in the overnight session came after the S&P 500 slipped from record levels during Wednesday’s regular session as pressure on tech offset optimism sparked by the first round of major corporate earnings that largely exceeded expectations.

The broad equity benchmark dipped 0.4% after hitting a fresh record high earlier in the session. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained just 53 points.

The Nasdaq Composite lost about 1% as Tesla fell nearly 4%, Netflix and Facebook dropped more than 2% each, and Amazon, Microsoft and Apple all dipped at least 1%.

With the first-quarter earnings season now underway, investors will on Thursday pore over financial results from snack company PepsiCo, asset manager BlackRock and both Citigroup and Bank of America.

The season began in earnest with bank results on Wednesday, when Goldman Sachs climb more than 2% after blowing past analysts’ expectations with record first-quarter net profits and revenues on strong performance from the firm’s equities trading and investment banking units.

JPMorgan Chase also topped forecasts on the top and bottom lines, helped by a $5.2 billion benefit from releasing money it had previously set aside for loan losses. Bank stocks have climbed across the board this year, with the S&P 500 financials sector up nearly 20% compared to the S&P 500’s 9.8%.

Investors will on Thursday review the Labor Department’s latest report on the number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance. Economists polled by Dow Jones expect the government to report that another 710,000 filed claims for the first time during the week ended April 10.

March retail sales data, also due Thursday morning, are expected show a robust uptick in consumer spending, with some economists seeing a gain of 10% or more thanks to the arrival of the $1,400 stimulus checks. The consensus forecast is more modest growth of 6.1%.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration called for a pause in administering J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine after six people in the U.S. developed a rare disorder involving blood clots. The announcement triggered a sell-off in reopening plays earlier in the week, but is not expected to have a material impact on the pace of the U.S. vaccine rollout.

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Here's who just got rich from the Coinbase debut

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New York’s Union Square Ventures first invested in Coinbase at 20 cents a share in 2013. Eight years later, the stock debuted on the Nasdaq at $381.

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Biden announces U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11

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US President Joe Biden speaks during remarks on the implementation of the American Rescue Plan in the State Dining room of the White House in Washington, DC on March 15, 2021.

Eric Baradat | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he will withdraw U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by September 11, ending America’s role in what has become its longest war.

The removal of approximately 3,000 American servicemembers coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks which spurred America’s entry into lengthy wars in the Middle East.

“It is time to end America’s longest war,” Biden said. “It is time for American troops to come home.”

Biden said that he coordinated his decision with international partners and allies as well as with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The withdrawal of U.S. troops will begin on May 1. Following his remarks, Biden said he would visit Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place for Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ghani said he spoke with Biden and respects the U.S. decision to withdraw its forces. Ghani said Afghanistan’s military is “fully capable of defending its people and country.”

A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Tuesday that the orderly withdrawal of U.S. and foreign troops from the war-torn country could happen well before September. The official added that Washington is prepared to “strike back hard” if American troops are attacked ahead of the September departure.

CIA Director William Burns acknowledged in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday that Washington’s ability to act on threats will be diminished by the U.S. withdrawal. However, Burns said some U.S. capabilities will remain in place.

“When the time comes for the U.S. military to withdraw, the U.S. government’s ability to collect and act on threats will diminish. That’s simply a fact,” Burns said. 

“It is also a fact, however, that after withdrawal, whenever that time comes, the CIA and all of our partners in the U.S. government will retain a suite of capabilities, some of them remaining in place, some of them that we will generate, that can help us to anticipate and contest any rebuilding effort,” Burns said.

Lance Cpl. Patrick Reeder, with Combined Anti-Armor Team 2, patrols in Nawa district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 28, 2009.

Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. James Purschwitz

In February 2020, the Trump administration brokered a deal with the Taliban that would usher in a permanent cease-fire and reduce further the U.S. military’s footprint from approximately 13,000 troops to 8,600 by mid-July last year.

By May 2021, all foreign forces would leave Afghanistan, according to the deal. The majority of troops in the country are from Europe and partner nations. About 2,500 U.S. service members are now in Afghanistan.

Under the agreement, the Taliban promised to not let terrorist groups use Afghanistan as a base to launch attacks against the U.S. or its allies and agreed to conduct peace talks with the central government in Kabul.

The White House, when pressed Wednesday about whether the Taliban will use the U.S. withdrawal to topple the central government in Kabul, said it expects the militant group to abide by its commitments.

“We have an expectation that the Taliban is going to abide by their commitments and that they are not going to allow Afghanistan to become a pariah state. That’s our view, that’s also in their interests,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.  

However, the Taliban said earlier this week that it will not attend a summit on Afghanistan in Turkey set for later this month and will not attend any conference until foreign forces leave the country.

Last month, Biden told reporters during his first press conference that he could not yet commit to the May 1 deadline. “It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline,” Biden said, adding, “it is not my intention to stay there for a long time.”

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When asked if U.S. service members would remain in Afghanistan another year, Biden said he did not see that being the case.

“We are not staying a long time. We will leave, the question is when we leave,” the president said, adding that his administration was in consultations with NATO allies and partners in the region.

The announcement to leave Afghanistan comes on the heels of a Wednesday meeting between NATO allies and Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. NATO joined the international security effort in Afghanistan in 2003 and currently has more than 7,000 troops in the country.

“Our allies and partners have stood beside us shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan for almost 20 years and we are deeply grateful for the contributions they have made to our shared mission,” Biden said. “The plan has long been in together and out together.”

The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1.57 trillion collectively since Sept. 11, 2001, according to a Defense Department report

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