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UK job vacancies hit record high amid worker shortages – The Zimbabwe Mail

Long queues have been seen at petrol stations across the UK (Image: Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)

LONDON (AP) — Job vacancies in the U.K. rose to a record high of nearly 1.2 million, official figures showed Tuesday, a further sign that the British economy is experiencing worker shortages in an array of sectors as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Following weeks of long lines at gas stations as motorists struggle to fill up their cars amid a shortage of truck drivers to deliver the fuel and empty shelves at supermarkets, the Office for National Statistics pointed to shortages across the whole economy, including hospitality and transport.

It’s become increasingly evident in recent weeks that the British economy is experiencing shortages of labor, and not just of truck drivers. The causes are widespread but it’s clear that the combination of Brexit and the pandemic prompted many EU workers to leave the U.K. and head home.

The Institute for Employment Studies estimates that the U.K. has a shortfall of 900,000 workers between the number of people in the labor market now and what would have been expected based on pre-pandemic trends.

“This is being driven by large falls in participation for older people and young people, alongside continued wide employment gaps for disabled people and those with health conditions,” said IES director Tony Wilson.

Though there’s a shortfall in workers, the statistics agency said the number of workers on payroll in the U.K. rose to a record 29.2 million in September as the British economy bounced back following the lifting of restrictions.

The International Monetary Fund forecast Tuesday that the U.K. will grow by 6.8% this year, more than any other Group of Seven industrial nation, and by a still-high 5% next. That means the economy will have recouped the 9.8% output lost during 2020 after the pandemic struck some time next year.

The increase in hiring and vacancies should help workers returning to the jobs market following the end of a salary support program at the end of last month, which the government introduced at the outset of the pandemic to keep a lid on job losses.

For much of the time that the Job Retention Scheme was in place, the government paid 80% of the salaries of those workers unable to work because of lockdown measures. At its peak, it helped support over 11 million people, but with many workers returning to their former jobs following the reopening of the economy, that fell to a little more than 1 million.

The unemployment figures provided further evidence that the program did what it was intended to to. The statistics agency found that the U.K.’s rate of unemployment also fell further to 4.5% between June and August, down from 4.6% in the quarter to July.

Wages rose steeply again, with average weekly earnings up 7.2% with bonuses or 6% without bonuses in the three months to August. However, the agency stressed that the figures continue to be skewed by the impact of the pandemic on wages a year ago.

With inflation set to hit 4% in the coming months and productivity levels low, there are worries that wages will soon be running below price rises, further pressuring household incomes at a time when the tax burden is at its highest level in decades.

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“Zim dollar now in real peril,” back on the slippery slope again – Cathy Buckle – BizNews

Our neighbouring country, Zimbabwe, yet again finds itself at the cusp of an economic crisis. Zimbabwean author Cathy Buckle compares its current state to that of being dragged up a steep, slippery slope, going nowhere without help. She notes that even while the Zimbabwean dollar is in trouble and losing confidence as a currency, its leaders carry on with old habits: “shouting, blaming, arresting, accusing, and threatening”. The value of the Zimbabwean dollar against the US dollar has greatly depreciated as a result of short supply on the foreign currency auction system. The system would resolve its year-old foreign currency crises, but it now poses a significant threat on importers and retailers to keep business afloat. Officials have arrested plenty foreign currency traders for being “saboteurs” and “fraudsters”. Meantime, life for the ordinary Zimbabwean is becoming increasingly worse. Buckle notes that perhaps the slippery slope needs a different approach. – Sharidyn Rogers

By Cathy Buckle*

When it started raining at dusk and went on all night I knew I had a problem. With a friend on the banks of a river in a mountainous area where the roads are all steep hills, sharp corners and red soil I knew it was going to be a treacherous 17km journey the following morning. Still raining at 7.30am we had to abandon one last walk along the banks of the beautiful crystal clear river and leave it rushing along the pebbles and gushing over the rocks. The first 15 km were bad: heart pounding, hands gripping the wheel and sideways driving we crept along, the red roads sticky, clingy and slick. Three or four bends from the end the wheels gave up, thick red mud in the tread and then another inch on top of that and a steep slippery slope ahead. We were going nowhere without help, a tow rope and a powerful pull.

Cathy Buckle
Cathy Buckle

Being dragged up the hill was very appropriate for the state of Zimbabwe which again finds itself driving sideways and backwards and on a slippery slope to nowhere. Zimbabwe is on the cusp of another economic crisis. The last one was between 2005 and 2008 and in just thirteen years our leaders are doing the same things all over again: shouting, blaming, arresting, accusing, threatening. (See my book “Millions, Billions, Trillions” for that slice of our history)

Foreign currency is in such short supply that the value of US dollars against the Zimbabwe Bond dollar is soaring. The government’s auction system where companies and businesses have to bid for US dollars to meet their costs and imports is a joke. Successful bids for US dollars which are supposed to result in currency arriving in two days are now taking 15 weeks before funds are allocated by the Reserve Bank. It’s all but impossible for importers and retailers to do business when they have to wait almost four months for the currency they need to keep operating.

In 2019 President Mnangagwa ordered the return of the Zimbabwe dollar saying it was “the strongest currency in the region.” At that time one US dollar was the same value as one Zimbabwe dollar. Two years later one US dollar is equivalent to 170-200 Zimbabwe dollars on the street. Meanwhile the government continues to insist that one US dollar is worth 88 Zimbabwe dollars but you can only get that one US dollar on the black market and it costs 170 to 200 Zimbabwe dollars.

Over the past few weeks scores of foreign currency traders have been arrested. Government says they are weeding out ‘saboteurs’ and ‘fraudsters.’ Government is threatening to suspend operating licences of businesses they accuse of using black market rates to price their goods and services. Vice President Chiwenga said the Zimbabwe dollar was being deliberately sabotaged and said “I wish to warn perpetrators of this heinous crime that the long arm of the law will soon catch up with them.” Chiwenga said people being arrested on “currency manipulation” charges will spend Christmas in prison. The CZI (Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries) said: “The Zimbabwe dollar is now in real peril” and“ clamping down on informal foreign exchange trading in the absence of a viable formal market will have catastrophic consequences for the economy.”

Meanwhile for ordinary Zimbabweans the nightmare is getting worse. Food prices are increasing because retailers are charging more in order to keep up with the cost of buying US dollars to import goods to restock their shelves. Tel One, the country’s telecommunications provider which is owned by the government, just increased their prices by 30%. Fuel prices increased from $1.25 a litre to $1.35 this week. And then, to make life harder my home town is crippled by electricity power cuts which are lasting up to 14 hours at a time, three or four or five times a week. An enquiry to the local electricity supplier (ZESA) requesting the schedule of power cuts they said they aren’t following their own recently published Load Shedding Schedule anymore saying they just get instructions from HQ to load shed which they do. Oh Zimbabwe, the slippery slope needs a different approach this time surely?

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Zimbabwe may be close to adopting cryptocurrency – Micky News

Zimbabwe’s hardline attitude on cryptocurrency may be softening. Mthuli Ncube, the country’s increasingly crypto-friendly finance minister, recently stated it would be hard for the country to ignore cryptocurrencies at this time.

Ncube feels that cryptocurrency will be best suited as an investment class instrument rather than legal cash, according to a Herald report. This means that the Victoria Falls stock exchange platform may list cryptocurrency-based items in the not-too-distant future.

The Central Bank of Zimbabwe published a statement in 2017 outlining its position on cryptocurrency use in the country. It said that Bitcoin and other digital currencies were not legal currencies and should not be considered as such.

Virtual currencies not covered

Zimbabwe’s laws do not govern virtual currencies, according to the central bank. As a result, they risk being used as facilitators for money laundering, fraud, tax evasion, and even terror financing.

Following this, the central bank instructed all banks under its jurisdiction to halt all digital currency transactions. These activities include holding, trading, or transacting in these currencies, as well as providing services to businesses that do so.

Minister Ncube’s recent words may signal a shift in the Zimbabwean government’s attitude toward digital currencies. The minister appears to be lobbying for his administration and others to use blockchain technology to their advantage. That is, without relinquishing economic power.

Reducing costs and increasing remittance value

With commission fees for all remittances from Zimbabweans residing abroad as high as 20%, disruptive technology like blockchain could dramatically reduce these costs, increasing the value of remittances to the Zimbabwean economy from its present 7%.

According to the minister, the Zimbabwean government has started the process of regulating digital currencies. The government has already put in place a regulatory sandbox in which bitcoin use in the country can be evaluated in a controlled environment.

Image courtesy of Cointelegraph News/YouTube

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'Offshore centre plans on track' – NewsDay


FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube says Zimbabwe has made significant strides in its quest to set up an offshore financial services centre in Victoria Falls.

He said a planned commodities exchange would be a key component of the offshore financial services centre, which had been on the cards for some time.

The offshore financial services centre is expected to scale-up foreign direct investment inflows.

Speaking during a virtual workshop hosted by the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange (VFEX) in partnership with the Dubai Gold and Commodities Exchange (DGCX) yesterday, Ncube said the offshore financial services centre would help develop and deepen the financial services sector.

“We can all agree that investment is essential in driving economic growth and creating an attractive investment climate is one step towards achieving that,” said Ncube.

“An offshore financial services centre is in reality an attempt to create an investment environment in which international capital can flow freely,” he said.

He said the free flow of capital required supporting legislation.

Yesterday’s event came after a high-level ministerial delegation accompanied the VFEX to Dubai recently, where the VFEX and DGCX inked a memorandum of understanding.

As part of the agreement, DGCX undertook to extend technical support, knowledge and skills to VFEX.

The organisations are planning to establish an international commodities exchange in Zimbabwe.

“My ministry has supported the VFEX since it was mooted as an idea and we are encouraged to see that such a young exchange is quickly looking to broaden its products and services.

“DGCX is a leading derivatives exchange in the Middle East and has played a pioneering role in developing the regional market for derivatives trading, clearing and settlement. It is, therefore, prudent and opportune for VFEX to tap into their expertise in setting up a commodities exchange,” Ncube said.

He added that enhancing investment in the mining sector towards exploration, beneficiation and value addition of minerals including levelling the playing field to accommodate small-scale miners, would create more jobs and increase foreign currency earnings for the country.

The establishment of a local commodity exchange is one of the major steps towards achieving this goal, the minister said.

“If we are to make an impact in the global financial markets, we have to diversify from share trading into bonds and commodity trading.

“The growth in our financial markets will no doubt lead to creation of employment, increase export earnings in the formal channels and strengthen capital-raising opportunities for our extractive sectors.

“This will ultimately help in transforming our country to an upper middle-income economy in line with Vision 2030,” Ncube said.

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