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COVID heroes left behind: the ‘invisible’ women struggling to make ends meet

Britain is now desperately short of workers in some sectors. Yet our interviews with 100 women aged 50 and over show how hard it is for them to find secure…



Iryna Shek/Shutterstock

Kesrewan* holds herself upright and speaks confidently, even though English is her second language. But she admits that her “heart is beating faster”. Talking to us is reminding her of her most recent failed job interview – one of many since she arrived from the Middle East seeking asylum more than 20 years ago.

Kesrewan, now in her 50s, is a pragmatic woman but she grows emotional telling her story. She wishes she knew why her latest interview for a staff job at the information service where she already volunteers has again been unsuccessful. She would like some feedback on what she did wrong, or how to improve.

Aged 30, Kesrewan arrived from the Middle East as a highly qualified woman with experience as a newspaper editor and librarian. Yet despite her best efforts – taking multiple classes, working voluntarily to maintain her skills, helping out in community organisations – she has always struggled to translate this into meaningful work in the UK.

Given her limited language skills and with children to support, once she gained legal status she initially took on any work she could find, such as cleaning and kitchen jobs. She thinks her employers often preferred that she had no English because she could not complain about the conditions. She says she was “too ashamed” to tell family and friends in the UK and back home about her cleaning work.

This article is part of Conversation Insights
The Insights team generates long-form journalism derived from interdisciplinary research. The team is working with academics from different backgrounds who have been engaged in projects aimed at tackling societal and scientific challenges.

Kesrewan’s story is indicative of most of the 100 women aged 50 and over that we have interviewed for the Uncertain Futures project. All live in Greater Manchester, often precariously. Not all are permitted to work in the UK, but those who do typically struggle to find secure, full-time employment.

New research by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has found that UK firms and public services are much less open to hiring older workers than their younger peers. Its survey of more than 1,000 managers found that just 42% were “to a large extent” open to hiring people aged between 50 and 64, compared with 74% for those aged 18-34 and 64% for 35 to 49-year-olds.

Our interviewees typically work in kitchens, warehouses, or as cleaners maintaining the environments of offices, schools and high-street stores. Others work in badly paid or voluntary care roles, supporting older people and those with disabilities. Most who do get paid are on zero-hour contracts. Many describe having experienced abuse and discrimination.

Kesrewan now seems resigned to her “life in the shadows” – struggling even to secure the kinds of job that the UK desperately needs to fill but which offer little reward and poor conditions. Women like her are largely unseen and their voices usually go unheard – whether because of their lack of English, their employers’ failure to recognise their experiences and skills, or the blind eye that the authorities and general public often seem to turn to them.

“I haven’t done enough jobs – I didn’t have the chance,” she reflects sadly. “Really that’s confusing for me. It wasn’t like me to sit at home and not want to get a job.”

A ‘watershed moment’

The COVID pandemic was briefly imagined to be a watershed moment for “invisible workers” in the UK and elsewhere. Jobs that had traditionally been undervalued were now understood to be “essential”. The importance of keeping workspaces clean and germ-free was suddenly appreciated. Carers, nurses, bus drivers and many more put themselves at enormous personal risk to keep people safe and society functioning. Volunteers stepped in to help the vulnerable when statutory support all but collapsed. Many people died because of the work, paid or unpaid, that they continued to perform.

Löis, who works full-time while also caring for her mother who has dementia, describes the countless attributes required of carers like her:

You have to be kind, patient. You have to be a good planner. You have to be able to pick up the unexpected, mentally, physically. You have to coordinate the services that may or may not help you.

But Löis struggles with the idea that none of this is recognised as a skill, or as experience which is valued by society. When she asks herself what all of this is worth, she replies quietly: “I’m not sure.”

Three illlustrations of the same woman, from invisible to visible
Hub Design/Shutterstock

For Kesrewan too, it is a source of pain to feel so invisible. While she has helped younger, more inexperienced volunteers to secure paid roles, she feels her age is now an additional factor hindering her own ability to get a job. She has applied five times for a paid role in the information service where she has volunteered for seven years, but has always failed at the interview on the grounds that she does not have “sufficient experience”. She feels sad that discrimination based on age – “coupled with your skin colour, your background, your nationality” – is still so prevalent in recruitment practices.

The cruel irony is that there are now severe labour shortages across the UK’s care, health and social work sectors, and in some administration and office support activities. Non-British migrant workers are over-represented in these sectors but, despite the pressing need to fill these roles, they are often non-permanent jobs offering only zero-hour contracts.

The women we meet are keen to work hard in fulfilling roles that support themselves and their families. Some have little understanding or knowledge about retirement and pensions, and many express deep concern about whether they will ever earn enough money to retire. Gemma, 59, says she can see herself “cleaning toilets till I’m 85”, adding:

You’re always scrabbling to pay rent in the private sector – it’s very expensive and precarious. I think I could live on the living allowance [state pension], but I might be living in a treetop in a park to do it.

Illustration of an older woman

Degrading work

Many of the women we meet are extremely well qualified, but that hasn’t stopped them experiencing degrading working situations. Azade is 60 and her story is fairly typical.

Qualified with a degree in agriculture from a university in the Middle East and with many years’ experience in gardening and managing farms, Azade arrived in the UK 24 years ago with two little girls – one of whom had been born en route. “Very long travel,” she recalls. “I have my baby on my way as it was a really awkward time.”

Needing to support herself and her children, Azade was only able to work after securing her refugee status, which took two years. She initially sought out work as a tailor but describes the conditions as “slave work – for a very, very small amount of money. But still I had to do it because I am a single mum with two children.”

She went on to study accountancy but has not been able to secure any work as a qualified accountant. Instead she works as an agency interpreter, but describes the unfair power dynamics within this work:

If you are late by five minutes, they charge you £25 – [yet] they pay me only £14 for one hour … If you are late by ten minutes, this would be classified as “did not attend” and they charge you £100.

Equally, if a client cancels a video call at the last minute, Azade does not get paid. This is essential work, assisting people to communicate with state and semi-state agencies about their legal situations and health matters. Yet there is little value or respect attributed to the role, as a result of the unstable nature of the agency’s relationship with its employees.

Video made as part of the Uncertain Futures project.

Other women describe outright discrimination and racism as a regular part of their work. Much of it goes unreported, let alone addressed.

Murkurata trained as a nurse after arriving from Africa in 2001, where she had worked for more than 20 years as a civil servant. She had expected to continue in a similar line of work here, but says when she arrived here she was “shocked … I got no response. Nothing. Nothing. I don’t think anybody looked at my papers. So I went to nursing and loved it, because I was touched by the people I cared for.”

At the same time, however, Murkurata speaks candidly about being undermined in her role by other nursing staff, including those of a lower rank:

I was the nurse in charge. But the carers, because they are white, they want to tell me what to do with my patients … If I tell them what to do, [another nurse] might tell me that she has been there for years and she knows better. They really, really undermine your intelligence and understanding, you know.

She also recalls a number of occasions when her patient would ask for a “proper nurse” on seeing that she was black. The managerial support given to her in such circumstances would vary, she says:

Some managers were very good, but others would just let this happen. So sometimes you just end up not saying it because it’s pointless. Even if you tell them that’s what they a patient is saying, somebody will always say: “It’s nothing, just brush it off … it’s nothing to talk about.”

Murkurata – who is now training to be a church minister – wearily complains that this effectively put the blame on her for such behaviour by patients:

I’m giving this person care and I’m the one who is at the receiving end. I don’t deserve that kind of treatment, because I’m trying my best and just a human being, just like anybody else … But whatever goes wrong, they find a black person to blame for it. When we are in the same ward working, if you leave a catheter not emptied because you are white, it’s OK. But if it’s [a black nurse] who leaves it unemptied, everybody in the ward should know it.

Women gathered together in an art gallery
All 100 women interviewed for the Uncertain Futures project at Manchester Art Gallery. Andrew Brooks, Author provided

Feelings of uselessness

A November 2022 report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlighted the increasing numbers of UK adults who are struggling both financially and with mental health problems. Many of the women we meet fit this demographic: limited financial security for housing and necessities, reduced standard of living, and poor health and wellbeing (which itself can exacerbate poverty).

Just under two-thirds of the women we have interviewed are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. All are heavily over-represented in shift work and non-permanent jobs in the UK. A quarter of UK adults in “deep poverty” are from minority ethnic populations.

Their lack of financial security may stem from unemployment, poor and precarious working conditions, or a lack of financial provision in retirement. The cost of living crisis – which research shows is being felt harder by people living in the north of England compared with much of the south – is increasing the pressure on them to work for longer (both each day and before retiring), even in very difficult conditions.

Mari, who was in the UK asylum system for five years, describes the feelings of uselessness associated with the inability to secure paid employment – and how this feeling was made worse by the pandemic. Her voice softens and quietens as she echoes: “Long time to stay home, stay home, stay home.”

She fled to the UK from the Middle East without her children because she was facing “great danger” as a newly divorced woman. She had previously worked for more than 20 years in banking, and although she arrived speaking very limited English, was optimistic about the many transferable skills that she could use here.

The reality, she says, has been very different. Throughout her interview she remains stoical as she describes obstacle after obstacle: being refused English lessons after her initial asylum application was declined; spending time in a detention centre and facing potential deportation; “shaking” every time she came into contact with the police; becoming ill and temporarily losing her eyesight to a thyroid disease while waiting so long for her asylum application to be processed.

Display from the Uncertain Futures exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery.
Display from the Uncertain Futures exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery. Andrew Brooks, Author provided

Mari, who is now in her 60s, has worked hard to overcome all these challenges. She has picked up “street English’” through speaking with friends. Her eyesight recovered and she was granted leave to remain in the UK, but the stress of the limbo she was living in remains with her. Having previously always worked in a respected professional role, she says this period has altered her life completely:

Those five years were very difficult, because they don’t allow any work, just voluntary – no college, no job, no anything. When you can’t go to any job, the first thing is you think you are not useful, you are not able to do anything. This feeling is very bad.

At one point during her interview, however, Mari becomes quite emotional as she speaks about the voluntary organisation which supported her during this difficult time:

Sorry… My life … All my life, it’s thanks to them.

She is talking about one of the 90-odd organisations throughout the UK that provide essential support for asylum seekers and refugees. Mari attributes much of her current, more stable situation to this organisation.

With its help, she has managed to take up voluntary roles which make her “feel good” and give her “hope”. She works as a cook for a local charity as well as helping to care for her grandson and older neighbour, who is 97. But she wants to earn her own money and gain the independence that would come from this. She says she will do anything – for example, “packing at home for retail companies, packing clothes.”

But it is not only community organisations that can have a major impact on the lives of undervalued women such as these. Enlightened employers have an important role to play too – one which could also pay dividends for their companies.

A better future?

FemmeCapable, 54, embodies the tenacity we see in so many of our interviewees. Struggling with her English and experiencing prejudice in her role as a care assistant – “I faced discrimination a lot” – she retrained herself using every community resource she could find, then established a mobile food business selling barbecued African cuisine. At the same time, she set up a charity supporting women from ethnic backgrounds in her community.

Even when COVID shut down her business, FemmeCapable used her entrepreneurial skills to transform it into a mobile food response team, part-funded by her local council, which provided culturally appropriate food and transport to families in her local area. She was effectively a frontline worker during the pandemic, even though her work was not perceived in this way.

Her enthusiasm, intelligence and drive permeate the interview. She oozes energy to create something and “make it real life”, and to “share it with the public or the world” so it can have lasting value. Yet her nursing contributions have been overshadowed by racist attitudes, and her work in the community has largely gone unrecognised.

Uncertain Futures posters outside the Manchester Art Gallery.
Uncertain Futures posters outside the Manchester Art Gallery. Andrew Brooks, Author provided

FemmeCapable credits her local Council for Voluntary Service for providing all-important support in setting up her business and community organisation, including applying for funding. These services work closely with local councils to help people use their skills and have their contributions recognised – a vital first step in ensuring a better future for older women like FemmeCapable.

However, announcements made in the UK government’s 2022 autumn statement now threaten the existence of these voluntary services. According to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO):

[They] are on the verge of buckling under the compounding pressures of increased demand, skyrocketing operational costs, eroding income, and challenges recruiting staff and volunteers.

Such pressures are exacerbated by increased energy costs and cuts to public services. In a combined response, the Institute for Government and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy noted that public services “not protected in the autumn statement now face day-to-day spending cuts of 1.2% per year on average over the next two years”.

A lightbulb moment

Victoria, 63, migrated to the UK from Africa more than 22 years ago. As her story unfolds during the interview, it shares the trajectory of so many of the other older migrant women we have met: a professional woman spending many years in immigration limbo while volunteering in community organisations to maintain her skills.

She originally came to the UK on a six-month tourist visa, then fell ill with cancer and had to stay for treatment. She applied for an extension to her visa on medical grounds, but the process took over six years to resolve.

Victoria has since attempted to get jobs in banking and finance in the UK, as this is her employment background, but has struggled, she suspects, due to her age and skin colour. She has concerns about retirement due to her fragmented working life, much of which has consisted of zero-hours employment:

I have not worked in this country for long enough. Although I have contributed to a pension, I don’t know if that’s going to be enough to retire on.

However, her story takes a positive turn when she describes a “lightbulb moment” – when she was at last offered a staff job after years of temporary agency work by an employer who is, in her eyes, “different”. She says this employer treats her “like a person”.

Victoria now works full-time as a homeless support officer for a Manchester housing charity. She says, with evident pride, that her employer “wants a workplace that is equal for everyone”, offering personal development programmes and wellbeing support for staff.

It was such a relief to be acknowledged and have someone appreciating you – I must add that this is a white employer and the majority of the workers are white. You can count people of my colour on one hand out of about 500 … But they have given me an opportunity and, from what I have experienced right from the interview itself, they don’t treat me like I am different. You are just a person in a workplace – that’s how I feel, that’s how they place me.

Art gallery exhibition room
Uncertain Futures exhibition room, Manchester Art Gallery. Andrew Brooks, Author provided

According to the Centre for Ageing Better, there are a multitude of advantages to hiring and retaining older workers – not least, benefiting from their skills, strong work ethic, and experience. They tend to retain business knowledge and networks and, by better matching the profile of customers, can improve services. There are also established benefits to multigenerational teams, both in terms of productivity and in passing on valuable experience to younger colleagues.

Hearing Victoria’s story is a moment for reflection. She shows us there are ways to break the cycle of invisibility; to help these older women’s voices to be heard and their expertise to be valued. But it requires continued financial support for community organisations, and enlightened employers who recognise the skills and experience of older women.

There is encouraging news from Kesrewan, too. After all those rejection letters from the information service, she has just been offered a part-time job as a welfare adviser and outreach worker at a local charity she volunteered with during the pandemic. She can only work ten hours a week, or she may end up financially worse off due to the strict rules of Universal Credit – but still expresses joy that at last her skills are being recognised.

This work for me – it’s life, wellbeing, being fit and active. You see that you have something to offer. You see that they value you. It’s not just because you are working and they pay you. It’s what you can do for the community and others.

For Kesrewan, Victoria and, hopefully, more of the women we have met, the veil of invisibility may finally be lifting.

All names have been changed to protect the interviewees’ anonymity. They were invited to choose their own pseudonyms.

For you: more from our Insights series:

To hear about new Insights articles, join the hundreds of thousands of people who value The Conversation’s evidence-based news. Subscribe to our newsletter.

This project has been partly funded by the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing, Manchester Art Gallery, and the ESRC Festival of Social Science. Both authors are members of the Labour party.

The authors would like to thank the Uncertain Futures Advisory Group: Akhter Azabany, Erinma Bell, Sally Casey, Atiha Chaudry, Rohina Ghafoor, Marie Greenhalgh, Teodora Ilieva, Tendayi Madzunzu, Jila Mozoun, Elayne Redford, Charity Rutagira, Nadia Siddiqui, Circle Steele, Patricia Williams and Louise Wong. Thanks also to Suzanne Lacy, who led the participatory art and research project, Ruth Edson at Manchester Art Gallery, and research assistants Tanya Elahi, Lila Nicholson, Amanda Wang, Jess Wild and Robyn Dowlen. And to the 100 women who participated in the research and shared their stories.

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As We Sell Off Our Strategic Oil Reserves, Ponder This

As We Sell Off Our Strategic Oil Reserves, Ponder This

Authored by Bruce Wilds via Advancing Time blog,

One of Biden’s answers to combating…



As We Sell Off Our Strategic Oil Reserves, Ponder This

Authored by Bruce Wilds via Advancing Time blog,

One of Biden's answers to combating higher gas prices has been to tap into America's oil reserves. While I was never a fan of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) program, it does have a place in our toolbox of weapons. We can use the reserve to keep the country running if outside oil supplies are cut off. Still, considering how out of touch with reality Washington has become, we can only imagine the insane types of services it would deem essential next time an oil shortage occurs.

Sadly, some of these reserves found their way into the export market and ended up in China. We now have proof that the President's son Hunter had a Chinese Communist Party member as his assistant while dealing with the Chinese. Apparently, he played a role in the shipping of American natural gas to China in 2017. It seems the Biden family was promising business associates that they would be rewarded once Biden became president. Biden's actions could be viewed as those of a traitor or at least disqualify him from being President.

The following information was contained in a letter from House Oversight Committee ranking member James Comer, R-Ky. to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen dated Sept. 20. 

"The President has not only misled the American public about his past foreign business transactions, but he also failed to disclose that he played a critical role in arranging a business deal to sell American natural resources to the Chinese while planning to run for President.”

Joe Biden, Comer said, was a business partner in the arrangement and had office space to work on the deal, and a firm he managed received millions from his Chinese partners ahead of the anticipated venture. While part of what Comer stated had previously been reported in the news, the letter, cited whistleblower testimonies, as well as emails, a corporate PowerPoint presentation, and a screenshot of encrypted messages. These as well as  bank documents that committee Republicans obtained suggest Biden’s knowledge and involvement in the plan dated back to at least 2017.

The big point here is;

  • The Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which was established in 1975 due to the 1973 oil embargo, is now at its lowest level since December 1983.

In December 1975, with memories of gas lines fresh on the minds of Americans following the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, Congress established the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). It was designed “to reduce the impact of severe energy supply interruptions.” What are the implications of depleting the SPR and is it still important?

The U.S. government began to fill the reserve and it hit its high point in 2010 at around 726.6 million barrels. Since December 1984, this is the first time the level has been lower than 450 million barrels. Draining the SPR has been a powerful tool for the administration in its effort to tame the price of gasoline. It also signaled a "new era" of intervention on the part of the White House. 

This brings front-and-center questions concerning the motivation of those behind this action. One of the implications of Biden's war on high oil prices is that it has short-circuited the fossil investment/supply development process.  Capital expenditures among the five largest oil and gas companies have fallen as the price of oil has come under fire. The current under-investment in this sector is one of the reasons oil prices are likely to take a big jump in a few years. Production from existing wells is expected to rapidly fall.

The Supply Of Oil Is Far More Constant And Inelastic Than Demand

It is important to remember when it comes to oil, the supply is far more constant and inelastic than the demand. This means that it takes time and investment to bring new wells online while demand can rapidly change. This happened during the pandemic when countries locked down and told their populations and told them to stay at home. This resulted in the price of oil temporarily going negative because there was nowhere to store it.

Draining oil from the strategic reserve is a short-sighted and dangerous choice that will impact America's energy security at times of global uncertainty. In an effort to halt inflationary forces, Biden released a huge amount of crude oil from the SPR to artificially suppress fuel prices ahead of the midterm elections. 

To date, Biden has dumped more SPR on the market than all previous presidents combined reducing the reserves to levels not seen since the early 1980s. In spite of how I feel about the inefficiencies of this program, it does serve a vital role. It is difficult to underestimate the importance of a country's ability to rapidly increase its domestic flow of oil. This defensive action protects its economy and adds to its resilience. 

Biden's actions have put the whole country at risk. Critics of his policy pointed out the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was designed for use in an emergency not as a tool to manipulate elections. Another one of Biden's goals may be to bring about higher oil prices to reduce its use and accelerate the use of high-cost green energy.

Either way, Biden's war on oil has not made America's energy policies more efficient or the country stronger.

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/25/2023 - 18:30

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The Disinformation-Industrial Complex Vs Domestic Terror

The Disinformation-Industrial Complex Vs Domestic Terror

Authored by Ben Weingarten via,

Combating disinformation…



The Disinformation-Industrial Complex Vs Domestic Terror

Authored by Ben Weingarten via,

Combating disinformation has been elevated to a national security imperative under the Biden administration, as codified in its first-of-its-kind National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism, published in June 2021.  

That document calls for confronting long-term contributors to domestic terrorism.

In connection therewith, it cites as a key priority “addressing the extreme polarization, fueled by a crisis of disinformation and misinformation often channeled through social media platforms, which can tear Americans apart and lead some to violence.” 

Media literacy specifically is seen as integral to this effort. The strategy adds that: “the Department of Homeland Security and others are either currently funding and implementing or planning evidence–based digital programming, including enhancing media literacy and critical thinking skills, as a mechanism for strengthening user resilience to disinformation and misinformation online for domestic audiences.” 

Previously, the Senate Intelligence Committee suggested, in its report on “Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 Election” that a “public initiative—propelled by Federal funding but led in large part by state and local education institutions—focused on building media literacy from an early age would help build long-term resilience to foreign manipulation of our democracy.” 

In June 2022, Democrat Senator Amy Klobuchar introduced the Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act, which – citing the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report – would fund a media literacy grant program for state and local education agencies, among other entities. 

NAMLE and Media Literacy Now, both recipients of State Department largesse, endorsed the bill. 

Acknowledging explicitly the link between this federal counter-disinformation push, and the media literacy education push, Media Literacy Now wrote in its latest annual report that ... 

... the federal government is paying greater attention to the national security consequences of media illiteracy.

The Department of Homeland Security is offering grants to organizations to improve media literacy education in communities across the country. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense is incorporating media literacy into standard troop training, and the State Department is funding media literacy efforts abroad.

These trends are important for advocates to be aware of as potential sources of funding as well as for supporting arguments around integrating media literacy into K-12 classrooms. 

When presented with notable examples of narratives corporate media promoted around Trump-Russia collusion, and COVID-19, to justify this counter-disinformation campaign, Media Literacy Now president Erin McNeill said: “These examples are disappointing.”

The antidote, in her view is, “media literacy education because it helps people not only recognize the bias in their news sources and seek out other sources, but also to demand and support better-quality journalism.” (Emphasis McNeill’s)

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/25/2023 - 17:30

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G7 Vs BRICS – Off To The Races

G7 Vs BRICS – Off To The Races

Authored by Scott Ritter via,

An economist digging below the surface of an IMF report has…



G7 Vs BRICS - Off To The Races

Authored by Scott Ritter via,

An economist digging below the surface of an IMF report has found something that should shock the Western bloc out of any false confidence in its unsurpassed global economic clout...

G7 leaders meeting on June 28, 2022, at Schloss Elmau in Krün, Germany. (White House/Adam Schultz)

Last summer, the Group of 7 (G7), a self-anointed forum of nations that view themselves as the most influential economies in the world, gathered at Schloss Elmau, near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, to hold their annual meeting. Their focus was punishing Russia through additional sanctions, further arming of Ukraine and the containment of China.

At the same time, China hosted, through video conference, a gathering of the BRICS economic forum. Comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, this collection of nations relegated to the status of so-called developing economies focused on strengthening economic bonds, international economic development and how to address what they collectively deemed the counter-productive policies of the G7.

In early 2020, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov had predicted that, based upon purchasing power parity, or PPP, calculations projected by the International Monetary Fund, BRICS would overtake the G7 sometime later that year in terms of percentage of the global total.

(A nation’s gross domestic product at purchasing power parity, or PPP, exchange rates is the sum value of all goods and services produced in the country valued at prices prevailing in the United States and is a more accurate reflection of comparative economic strength than simple GDP calculations.)

Then the pandemic hit and the global economic reset that followed made the IMF projections moot. The world became singularly focused on recovering from the pandemic and, later, managing the fallout from the West’s massive sanctioning of Russia following that nation’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The G7 failed to heed the economic challenge from BRICS, and instead focused on solidifying its defense of the “rules based international order” that had become the mantra of the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden.


Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, an ideological divide that has gripped the world, with one side (led by the G7) condemning the invasion and seeking to punish Russia economically, and the other (led by BRICS) taking a more nuanced stance by neither supporting the Russian action nor joining in on the sanctions. This has created a intellectual vacuum when it comes to assessing the true state of play in global economic affairs.

U.S. President Joe Biden in virtual call with G7 leaders and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Feb. 24. (White House/Adam Schultz)

It is now widely accepted that the U.S. and its G7 partners miscalculated both the impact sanctions would have on the Russian economy, as well as the blowback that would hit the West.

Angus King, the Independent senator from Maine, recently observed that he remembers

“when this started a year ago, all the talk was the sanctions are going to cripple Russia. They’re going to be just out of business and riots in the street absolutely hasn’t worked …[w]ere they the wrong sanctions? Were they not applied well? Did we underestimate the Russian capacity to circumvent them? Why have the sanctions regime not played a bigger part in this conflict?”

It should be noted that the IMF calculated that the Russian economy, as a result of these sanctions, would contract by at least 8 percent. The real number was 2 percent and the Russian economy — despite sanctions — is expected to grow in 2023 and beyond.

This kind of miscalculation has permeated Western thinking about the global economy and the respective roles played by the G7 and BRICS. In October 2022, the IMF published its annual World Economic Outlook (WEO), with a focus on traditional GDP calculations. Mainstream economic analysts, accordingly, were comforted that — despite the political challenge put forward by BRICS in the summer of 2022 — the IMF was calculating that the G7 still held strong as the leading global economic bloc.

In January 2023 the IMF published an update to the October 2022 WEO,  reinforcing the strong position of the G7.  According to Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, the IMF’s chief economist, the “balance of risks to the outlook remains tilted to the downside but is less skewed toward adverse outcomes than in the October WEO.”

This positive hint prevented mainstream Western economic analysts from digging deeper into the data contained in the update. I can personally attest to the reluctance of conservative editors trying to draw current relevance from “old data.”

Fortunately, there are other economic analysts, such as Richard Dias of Acorn Macro Consulting, a self-described “boutique macroeconomic research firm employing a top-down approach to the analysis of the global economy and financial markets.”

Rather than accept the IMF’s rosy outlook as gospel, Dias did what analysts are supposed to do — dig through the data and extract relevant conclusions.

After rooting through the IMF’s World Economic Outlook Data Base, Dias conducted a comparative analysis of the percentage of global GDP adjusted for PPP between the G7 and BRICS, and made a surprising discovery: BRICS had surpassed the G7.

This was not a projection, but rather a statement of accomplished fact:

BRICS was responsible for 31.5 percent of the PPP-adjusted global GDP, while the G7 provided 30.7 percent.

Making matters worse for the G7, the trends projected showed that the gap between the two economic blocs would only widen going forward.

The reasons for this accelerated accumulation of global economic clout on the part of BRICS can be linked to three primary factors:

  • residual fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic,

  • blowback from the sanctioning of Russia by the G7 nations in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and a growing resentment among the developing economies of the world to G7 economic policies and

  • priorities which are perceived as being rooted more in post-colonial arrogance than a genuine desire to assist in helping nations grow their own economic potential. 

Growth Disparities

It is true that BRICS and G7 economic clout is heavily influenced by the economies of China and the U.S., respectively. But one cannot discount the relative economic trajectories of the other member states of these economic forums. While the economic outlook for most of the BRICS countries points to strong growth in the coming years, the G7 nations, in a large part because of the self-inflicted wound that is the current sanctioning of Russia, are seeing slow growth or, in the case of the U.K., negative growth, with little prospect of reversing this trend.

Moreover, while G7 membership remains static, BRICS is growing, with Argentina and Iran having submitted applications, and other major regional economic powers, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, expressing an interest in joining. Making this potential expansion even more explosive is the recent Chinese diplomatic achievement in normalizing relations between Iran and Saudia Arabia.

Diminishing prospects for the continued global domination by the U.S. dollar, combined with the economic potential of the trans-Eurasian economic union being promoted by Russia and China, put the G7 and BRICS on opposing trajectories. BRICS should overtake the G7 in terms of actual GDP, and not just PPP, in the coming years.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for mainstream economic analysts to reach this conclusion. Thankfully, there are outliers such as Richard Dias and Acorn Macro Consulting who seek to find new meaning from old data. 

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/25/2023 - 07:00

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