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Welcome the Growing Tribe of Gig Workers- Business News

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Vidhya Anupkumar has an MBA degree and is a Six Sigma certified professional who used to work with GE in Bengaluru. These days she lives in Bharuch (Gujarat) and works remotely as a program manager for a company based in Delhi. She puts in about 9-10 hours a day of work with some flexibility built in. She is a gig worker.

Seema is an engineer, lives in Shimla and runs a crochet store online. She is also a part-time coder and splits time between her education and passion.

Asha is a commerce graduate. She owns a blogging and travel start-up, which she runs with another friend. This two-person set-up employs other bloggers across the country and the two spend their time travelling, blogging and building the business.

Aditi is an engineering graduate. She is a defence wife and her husband is often away. She takes care of her two kids and works as a quality assurance (QA) analyst from home. Aditi often picks up the night or early morning shifts to work.

Nitin moved to Goa a couple of years ago. He is an internet content professional and runs a website owned by his employer, who is based in Mumbai. He works 6-7 hours a day, producing content, editing videos and co-ordinating with his colleagues.

Shona is a doctor, who logs in to a website twice a day to offer consultations to patients via video calls. She lives in Trichy (Tamil Nadu) and her employer is based in Delhi. She works based on a roster and is able to do a few other projects on the side.

Lata is a housewife and lives in Meerut. She sources sarees and jewellery from an online wholesaler and sells them among her friends. She works for about four hours a day split between sessions. She has never worked before this and is earning her own money for the first time.

Seema, Asha, Aditi, Nitin, Shona and Lata are all gig workers.

Did you use that food delivery app and chat with that customer support person behind the chat window? There is a fair chance that he or she is a gig worker. Ever booked a home facial appointment or hired a driver for a day? You have probably taken Uber and Ola rides too. There is an ecosystem out there which sits on the shoulders of people who are connected to these organisations somewhere between an employee and an entrepreneur. That is the growing tribe of gig workers that we all meet and are supported by every day.

No other decade has brought in as much change in how we live, work and engage with the world as the one that is getting over. More people are going to be engaged in work outside the formal workforce than inside it. The predictability on business cycles is decreasing and the degree of uncertainty is increasing. Technology is changing faster than people are building it or using it and that is reflected in how work will take shape in the decade to come.


Getting Ready for the Future

  • Women stand to benefit from gig work in a big way in an increasingly marketplace-led, entrepreneurial economy.
  • Most gig workers do not get benefits or health insurance or pensions. Companies need to think through these gaps with empathy and long-term goals of their businesses.
  • Retention of gig workers and their engagement is an equally important metric to track when a large number of workers are gig workers.
  • Smart financial incentives and fair wages are the bare minimum a company looking to benefit from gig work would do.
  • Organisations need to offer space to their gig partners and workers to grow their skills, financial well-being and find support via mentoring.

More and more forms of employment look like gigs – short pre-defined stints or work set-ups in entrepreneur-led environments. Employment formats now look like an aisle of a mall with something for everyone. Almost all businesses are now Result Only Work Environment (ROWE) and that determines deep modularisation of work units but not so much of skills, since flat, generalist skill-sets topped with deep specialisations seem to be the winners.

Micro-entrepreneur: From work being a pre-defined pre-managed entity, it has come to be a unit of entrepreneurship for everyone. In today’s economy, all of us are micro-entrepreneurs, negotiating new, constantly evolving contexts and business variables much like in any business. The resources are limited and competition to gain them is high. In this environment, winners are those who have drive, ingenuity, resourcefulness and consistent performance.

Staying connected: We cannot live without food, water, shelter and the internet. Being disconnected is a form of exclusion in the age of digital work, payments, marketplaces and online identities. Remote work, off-location work, on-demand work, skill marketplaces – all these forms of work means one is constantly connected and able to work via the internet or a platform to connect with work peers or stakeholders.

Learning mode on: These professionals are constantly pushing themselves to stay aligned and updated with their fields and often with the upcoming fields of their choice or even dictated by the market. Learning is the new level-playing field, with newer technologies and platforms making it a welcome field for newcomers.

Specialist inside generalist: As a gig worker, a generally high level of competence, credibility, trust and capability is assumed. It is assumed that you will bring a sense of commitment, along with above-average skills, ability to time and manage stakeholders and not get bogged down by complex evolving situations. And on top of that, if there is a super skill you own, that puts you among the top one percentile of gig workers.

Remote as default: While a lot of gig work is locational, remote and on-device connectivity along with system access and other workflow automation tools make it as remote as it possibly can be. Even a plumber or a makeup professional is connected via an app or device to be able to connect to work or customers on demand.

Diverse: As the surface area of the gig economy grows, more and more workers from the margins of geography, society and polity find a way into the income opportunities around them and into the economic mainstream eventually. Gig work by design is built for all, though it is still not as open for women in some areas as it can be. Women stand to benefit from gig work in a big way in an increasingly marketplace-led, entrepreneurial economy.

Lead with empathy: Being a gig worker is lonely and community is often missing. Being able to offer a community and a safety net to this growing tribe will be a decisive factor in making gigs valuable socially too. Most gig workers do not get benefits or health insurance or pensions. Companies need to think through these gaps with empathy and long-term goals of their businesses.

Retention of gig workers and their engagement is an equally important metric to track when a large number of workers are gig workers. Smart financial incentives and fair wages are the bare minimum a company looking to benefit from gig work would do.

Safety nets and benefits: Gig workers stand a chance to be marginalised in the mainstream workforce since their presence is emerging and less weighty. Organisations need to offer space to their gig partners and workers to grow their skills, financial well-being, find support via mentoring and similar initiatives. Gig workers are precious since their bottom-line impact is immense and ever-growing. Companies need to realise, out of sight is not out of mind.

If we have to make gigs core to the economic mainstream, certain elements need to be kept in mind as more and more people enter the gig workforce.

Sairee Chahal is Founder & CEO of Sheroes



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Workers

CERB 2.0? Trudeau Hints at New Benefit for Gig Workers

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The CERB may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean out-of-work Canadians can’t still get benefits.

That’s the takeaway from a recent statement by PM Justin Trudeau, who announced that his government had been working on a “21st century EI system.” In covering Trudeau’s statement, the Canadian Press reported that the revamped EI system would replace the CERB, bringing more Canadians under coverage — including one group of Canadians who had been sorely neglected until the CERB came into effect.

An “EI-like benefit” for gig workers

One of the main beneficiaries of Trudeau’s “transitional EI-like benefit” would be gig workers. Under current rules, gig workers are considered self-employed. That means that they’re opted out of EI by default. Gig workers can indicate that they want to pay in to EI, but usually don’t. The self-employed pay twice the usual rate on CPP; passing on EI premiums is a way to partially offset that extra tax. As a result, many self-employed Canadians aren’t covered by EI.

Trudeau’s new EI benefit could remedy that. While details on the plan are scarce so far, it appears that there will be an interim benefit to cover non-EI eligible Canadians, followed by a totally revamped EI system. It’s hard to predict exactly what the latter will consist of, but the former will probably be regular EI with looser eligibility requirements.

Why this is good news

While many out-of-work Canadians may bemoan the loss of the $2,000 a month benefit, it may ultimately be a good thing. The CERB has always been beset by concerns about eligibility and fraud. Many Canadians have reported being “scared” to spend their CERB money, and ominous CRA statements probably haven’t helped with that.

Getting back to EI could therefore be a welcome development. While the average monthly amount isn’t as high as the CERB, EI has fewer eligibility questions hanging over it. As a result, individuals receiving EI may feel more free to spend it.

For example, if you received $1,000 a month in EI, you could spend that money on investments. If you took $1,000 worth of EI and spent it on shares in Fortis, you’d be within your rights to do so. After all, it’s a program you paid in to, and if you’ve been laid off, you’re eligible to benefit from it. It doesn’t matter how you spend the money.

With the CERB, it’s not quite so simple. There’s been a big question mark about eligibility ever since the program began, and spending CERB money on non-essential items has been frowned upon. If you took $1,000 worth of CERB money and bought FTS shares with it, that wouldn’t make you ineligible. However, it could be inconvenient if the shares declined in value, and you were later forced to repay the CERB. With EI, you always know that you’re entitled to the money you’re getting, as applications are pre-screened for eligibility. As a result, you can sleep soundly no matter how you spend the money — be it on groceries, Fortis shares, or anything in between.

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Observers call on National Wages Council for more aggressive wage support, office to look after gig workers, Manpower News & Top Stories

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In September and October 1998, as the full impact of the Asian financial crisis on Singapore’s economy became more apparent, the National Wages Council (NWC) was convened a second time that year to revise its annual wage guidelines.

Its original guidelines, issued in May, had called for wage restraint and non-wage cost-cutting measures, as the Trade and Industry Ministry forecast economic growth for the year of between 2.5 per cent and 4.5 per cent.

But as the crisis deteriorated, the growth forecast for the year was revised downwards in June to between 0.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent.

The NWC in November proposed that in addition to a 10 percentage point cut to employers’ Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions recommended by the Committee on Singapore’s Competitiveness, total wages for 1998 be cut by 5 per cent to 8 per cent, as compared with 1997.

This year, with Singapore headed for its worst recession since independence due to the Covid-19 pandemic, observers suggested that the council consider calling for more aggressive wage support, an office to look after gig workers and pay hikes for low-wage staff.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said in a Facebook post yesterday that the NWC will reconvene this year. The council made its annual wage guidelines in March this year.

Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP) chief executive Mayank Parekh said that without the prospect of a near-term recovery of demand, there could be more job losses and wage cuts on the horizon.

“It is timely for the NWC to review its earlier recommendations and seek support for additional measures to safeguard jobs and enhance employability,” he said.

“More aggressive wage measures, higher support for job redesign and re-training and additional guidelines on retrenchment payments could be considered.”

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Low Peck Kem suggested the council look at whether the Jobs Support Scheme of wage subsidies can be extended, as well as the need for funding to facilitate job redesign for future-ready jobs.

It could also propose the setting up of a tripartite office to help and protect gig workers, who tend to fall under the radar because they do not have employers, she said.

National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Zainal Sapari said the NWC should continue to push for wage increases for low-wage workers, even amid the pandemic.

“Instead of recommending a quantum wage increase, I would like NWC to set a long-term target of where wages of these vulnerable low-wage workers who are performing essential services should be at. This could then act as a guideline for the wage increases and the necessary productivity initiatives that must be embarked upon to make it sustainable,” he added.

This is only the fourth time since being set up in 1972 that the council has been convened twice in the same year.

Aside from 1998, it also released revised recommendations in 2001, after the Sept 11 attacks on the United States, and in 2009 amid the global financial crisis.

In January 2009, the council updated its guidelines to recommend – among other things – that companies work with unions and workers to manage costs, such as through wage freezes or wage cuts, to save jobs.

The NWC had in March this year considered whether to recommend reducing CPF contribution rates to cut wage costs.

But Permanent Secretary for Manpower Aubeck Kam had said then that as the Jobs Support Scheme wage subsidy far exceeds the employer CPF contribution rates of up to 17 per cent, the Government did not feel that a cut to the rate was warranted.

DBS Bank senior economist Irvin Seah said that short of extending the JSS payouts for worst-hit industries, a temporary cut in employer CPF contribution rates could be an option the NWC considers.

But he cautioned that such a move would need to be weighed very carefully. “It would be a reduction in workers’ savings, on top of already widespread wage cuts.”

Amid reports of major retrenchment exercises in recent weeks, Mrs Teo also commented yesterday on the Fair Retrenchment Framework proposed by the NTUC last month. It includes protecting the Singaporean core of the workforce, while foreigners with special or critical skills could be retained as well.

She said in her Facebook post that the Singapore National Employers Federation will consider the framework and discuss a mutually acceptable way forward with NTUC.

In the meantime, the Manpower Ministry will continue its work on the Fair Consideration Framework, she said, adding that there would be updates soon.

“Tripartite partners are aligned on one thing – the need to support our workers and businesses through the storm brought about by Covid-19. Much work ahead,” she said.



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Trudeau says feds will create EI-like benefit for gig, contract workers – Red Deer Advocate

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government plans to move out-of-work Canadians into the employment insurance system and provide parallel support for millions set to exhaust emergency pandemic aid who don’t have EI to fall back on.

The $80-billion Canada Emergency Response Benefit is set to wind down over the coming weeks, with those who are EI-eligible to start drawing assistance that way.

Speaking this morning, Trudeau said many people who don’t qualify for the program, such as gig or contract workers, will gain access to a transitional, parallel benefit that is similar to EI.

It will also include access to training, and the ability to work more hours without having as steep a clawback in benefit payments, Trudeau said.

He said more details will be unveiled at a later date.

The most recent figures on the CERB show that as of July 26, the government had paid out $62.75 billion in benefits to 8.46 million unique applicants since its launch.

About half those costs have gone to EI-eligible workers, leaving millions who don’t pay into EI unable to access the program once the emergency benefit ends.

“No one will be left behind,” Trudeau promised.

The economy started to reawaken after severe lockdowns in March and April as Statistics Canada reported the gross domestic product grew by 4.5 per cent in May.

The average economist estimate was for a 3.5 per cent increase in gross domestic product for May, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.

The national data agency said rebounds in May were seen across multiple industries with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Retail trade registered a 16.4 per cent bump to mark its largest monthly increase since comparable readings began in 1961.

Motor vehicle and car sales contributed the most to the retail growth. Statistics Canada says the sector would have grown by 11.4 per cent had they been excluded from calculations.

In a preliminary estimate for June, the agency said the economy continued to pick up steam, with a five-per-cent increase for the month.

Despite the two months of growth after two months of negative readings, Statistics Canada’s preliminary estimate is that economic output contracted by 12 per cent in the second quarter compared to the first three months of 2020.

The June and second-quarter figures will be finalized late next month.

CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes said in a note that a 12 per cent drop in the second quarter would be the largest decline ever by a long shot, even if such a decline is expected.

The Bank of Canada’s most recent economic outlook expected the second quarter of 2020 to be worse than the first, estimating a three-month drop in GDP of 14.6 per cent.

Overall, the central bank expected an economic contraction of 7.8 per cent this year, warning that after an immediate turnaround as restrictions eased, a recovery would be long and bumpy with some businesses and jobs not surviving the downturn.

Statistics Canada says economic activity still remained 15 per cent below pre-pandemic level despite the gains over May as business activity was slowly allowed to resume.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 31, 2020.

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