Pandemic hits female professionals – business news 20 May 2021.

James Salmon, Operations Director.

Pandemic hits female professionals, HMRC and ministers urged to help companies at risk of failure, inflation doubles, hotels hit by pandemic, house prices rise £24k in a year and other news.

Pandemic hits female professionals

A study from Deloitte has found that the pandemic has dented female professionals’ work-life balance and overall wellbeing. The Women @ Work survey found that the pandemic, which drove a wave of home-working and home-schooling, has taken “a heavy toll on women’s wellbeing, motivation and careers”.

Researchers found that 31% of British professional women surveyed believe they have a good work-life balance, down from 71% pre-pandemic. While 68% said they had “good” mental health before the coronavirus crisis, the rate has now fallen to 27%. With 59% less optimistic about their career prospects, 24% are considering leaving the workforce altogether. The report saw just 32% of women say they currently feel satisfied and motivated at work compared to 70% before the crisis.

Jackie Henry at Deloitte said the last year has been a “perfect storm” for many women, delivering increased workloads and greater responsibilities at home, “and a blurring of the boundaries between the two”. She added that the pandemic has seen women’s job satisfaction and motivation at work “severely impacted”.

HMRC and ministers urged to help companies at risk of failure

The Institute of Directors and R3 have urged HMRC to help businesses at risk of collapse due to debt built up during the pandemic, with several kept afloat by Government support schemes.

Inflation doubles in April

We touched on this yesterday as breaking news but annual inflation more than doubled in April, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows. The increase to 1.5% in April from 0.7% in March means consumer prices are rising at their fastest rate since March 2020.

We can now look at some of the comments on the increase.

The ONS said the increase was driven by sharp rises in domestic energy prices and transportation costs. Core inflation, which excludes energy prices and other volatile items, rose by 1.3% in the 12 months to April.

ONS chief economist, Grant Fitzner, said: “Inflation rose in April, mainly due to prices rising this year compared with the falls seen at the start of the pandemic this time last year”.

The Bank of England (BoE) recently said that UK inflation is heading above its 2% target and is expected to hit 2.5% at the end of 2021.

PwC economist Hannah Audino expects inflation to continue to rise as lockdown restrictions ease and the economy continues to reopen, saying consumers will look to “unleash some of their excess savings”. She added that a rise in inflation above the BoE target was unlikely to trigger an increase in interest rates.

Hotels hit by pandemic

Analysis by Azets warns that up to 10% of Scottish hotels could close permanently because of the coronavirus pandemic, with the firm’s Derek Forsyth saying debts amassed while hospitality was closed during lockdowns and concerns over staff shortages will put additional pressure on hoteliers.

House prices rise £24k in a year

Official figures show that the average UK house price has jumped by £24,000 in a year. The Office for National Statistics said prices rose 10.2% to £256,000 in the year to March 2021. March’s increase outpaces the 9.2% recorded in February and marks the fastest annual climb since August 2007. London saw the lowest annual price growth with a 3.7% increase, while Yorkshire and the Humber saw the biggest climb at 14%. Average house prices rose 10.2% in England, 11% in Wales, 10.6% in Scotland and 6% in Northern Ireland.

Jamie Durham of PwC said an accumulation of more than £140bn of savings over the last year, low interest rates and the stamp duty holiday continue to drive price growth, adding: “We expect that these forces will continue to support price growth over the coming months, even as the stamp duty holiday winds down.” Howard Archer, chief economic advisor to the EY Item Club, believes “behavioural shifts” may be boosting activity, with people reassessing their “housing needs and preferences” as a result of lockdown.

House price growth is set to continue across the UK with May prices expected to be 11.4% higher than where they were in the same month last year, according to Property Price Advice. The site saw valuation requests drop 29% below the four-year average in April. However, annual house price growth is forecast to reach 9.9% in June, and 10% in July. Transaction figures across England are also predicted to spike in May, June and July.

Think-tank calls for new levy

Think-tank Bright Blue has suggested that stamp duty and council tax should be scrapped and replaced with an annual levy amounting to a share of each home’s value. The report proposes an annual proportional property tax that would pull in the same amount as existing property taxes but more closely reflect the value of homes than the existing system.

Ryan Shorthouse of Bright Blue said the reform would help to level up the country, arguing: “The property tax system provides significant advantages to those who have substantial wealth, and is quite punishing to those with relatively little. This system would change that”.

Reflecting on the report, a Treasury spokesman said: “An annual house price tax would mean soaring bills for many hard-working families and pensioners who have saved and improved their homes. We have no plans to make these changes.”

KPMG chair in numeracy call

Writing for City AM, KPMG chair Bina Mehta calls for greater emphasis on boosting numeracy skills, warning that almost half of the UK’s working population has the numeracy level expected of a primary school child. She notes that poor numeracy is estimated to cost the UK economy £25bn a year and calls for a coalition of businesses, policy makers and education leaders to be “part of the solution to enable greater social mobility, as well as a more prosperous and fairer economy.”

Bitcoin falls sharply after China signals crypto crackdown

With Chinese regulators cracking down on cryptocurrencies, Henri Arslanian at PwC says other regulators and policymakers may also warn investors over the risks of speculative trading and crypto market volatility. Bitcoin took investors on a wild ride Wednesday, plunging as much as 31% before cutting the drop by two-thirds in a bout of volatility that drew attention across Wall Street and social media.

Not so Easy Jet

EasyJet reported wider first-half losses as revenue slumped amid travel restrictions that weighed on demand, but the budget airline said it expected capacity levels to pick up from June onwards. For the half-year ended 31 March, pre-tax losses widened by 82.7% to £645 million year-on-year as revenue slumped 89.9% to £240 million. Capacity fell 85% to 6.4 million seats as Passenger numbers for decreased by 89.4% to 4.1 million.

Carbon trading

Britain’s post-Brexit emissions-trading system began to operate. Prices hit £50 a tonne, beating the record highs set this week by the EU’s carbon market . Such schemes put a cost on each unit of carbon dioxide produced by companies. The high price puts disproportionate pressure on heavy polluters, such as steel mills. The government may intervene to lower prices.

U.K. Is Pushing for G-7 to Adopt Mandatory Climate Reporting

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is pushing the Group of Seven economies to impose mandatory reporting of environmental risks on their big companies. Under the proposals Big companies would have to report on the risks and opportunities of climate change.

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