Your commercial news round-up: gender gap, clean air, Wales, gender care

updated on 21 March 2024

Reading time: four minutes

This week’s round-up takes a deep dive into what the future may look like. We look at discriminatory laws against women, air quality worldwide and the future of Wales under the first Black leader in Europe. Plus, we cover NHS wait times and the lives lost as a result. This week’s stories highlight some of the most pressing issues in the world right now, so settle in for an important read.

  • The global gender gap is far bigger than originally thought according to a new report by the World Bank. Considering the impact of childcare and safety policies for the first time, the bank found that “no country in the world affords women the same opportunities as men in the workforce”. Taking these factors into account, it’s revealed that on average women:
    • receive just 64% of the legal protections men do (down from the previously estimated 77%); and
    • earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

While laws exist to ensure issues such as pay parity exist, the report found that there was a significant gap between the laws and policies needed to implement them. Chief economist at the World Bank, Indermit Gill, said: “All over the world, discriminatory laws and practices prevent women from working or starting businesses on an equal footing with men.” The report also found that closing this global gender gap “could raise global gross domestic product by more than 20% – essentially doubling the global growth rate over the next decade”.

  • Sticking with shocking reports for our next story, IQAir, a Swiss air quality organisation, has found that just seven countries are meeting international air quality standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). IQAir surveyed 134 counties to review whether they were meeting WHO’s guideline limit for airborne particles expelled by cars, trucks and industrial processes. Of these countries, only Australia, Estonia, Finland, Grenada, Iceland, Mauritius and New Zealand are meeting the mark. This poor air quality can cause significant health problems and even deaths, killing approximately seven million people each year – more than malaria and AIDS combined.
  • Turning our attention to Wales now, Vaughan Gething officially became the Welsh first minister yesterday (Wednesday 20 March) after slimly winning the ballot of Labour Party members. This is a historic moment, as Gething becomes the first Black head of government in Europe. Gething beat his opponent, Jeremy Miles, by 51.7% of the vote to 48.3% and replaces Mark Drakeford after five years of service. He’s already facing backlash, not only because his win against Drakeford was so slim, but because he also accepted £200,000 in donations from a firm run by someone convicted of environmental offenses. In addition, Gething’s relationship with trade union group Unite has also been called into question after they publicly expressed support for him prior to the vote. In his first words after nomination Gething said: "As first minister, I’ll bring together a government that constantly makes the positive case for progressive politics.” He also acknowledged that he expected to receive “abuse on social media, racist tropes disguised with polite language”, and to be accused of “playing the race card”. He added to this by stating: "To those people, I say once more − it's very easy not to care about identity when your own has never once been questioned or held you back."
  • Our final story takes us to NHS waiting lists and the horrific impact waiting times are having on the lives of transgender people. Data gathered by Newsnight, and analysed by the BBC, has found it’ll take 10 years to clear the backlog of individuals waiting to receive their first gender care appointments. Alice Litman, age 20, took her own life after waiting for treatment for more than three years. Her mother described the waiting time as a “death sentence”, adding that her daughter felt like she was “living in a society that didn't really value her enough to offer her timely treatment". Dr Mike Shaw, a lead clinician at a gender clinic in the North of England, flagged shortages of specialist staff and surgeons as a major contributor to waiting times. He claimed: “On occasions, the waiting time for surgery has got so long that actually, the patient needs to be re-interviewed for surgery.” The NHS target wait for a first gender appointment is 18 months; however, current waiting times stand at:
    • just over 14 months in Wales;
    • two to five years in Scotland;
    • more than five years in Northern Ireland; and
    • seven years in England.

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