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Feds to create EI-like benefit for gig workers

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The federal government plans to move as many out-of-work Canadians into the employment insurance system when a key emergency benefit runs out in the fall, and provide an EI-like support for millions who can’t qualify under existing rules.

The change signals a potentially sweeping overhaul to the decades-old social safety net criticized in recent years for not keeping up with a modern labour force marked by increasing contract and gig work.

It was partly because of those holes that the government created the $80-billion Canada Emergency Response Benefit at the start of the pandemic, which is set to wind down over the coming weeks.

Those who already qualify for EI will be moved to that program.

The government is promising a parallel, transitional benefit with EI-like components for those who can’t yet — “and I emphasize yet,” said Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough — get into the EI system. It will include access to training and the ability to work more hours without having as steep a clawback in benefit payments.

The government is also promising to relax EI eligibility rules like the number of hours required to receive support payments.

Speaking Friday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the goal is to move everyone receiving CERB to employment insurance, and cover anyone looking for work “with a better, 21st-century EI system.”

Details will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

The government’s most recent CERB figures show $62.75 billion in benefits to 8.46 million people. About half of those recipients have gone to EI-eligible workers.

Those eye-popping numbers were the reason the EI system was shelved in favour of the CERB in March, as federal officials worried the volume of claims would overwhelm the decades-old system.

The government is still expecting millions to be on EI come the fall — about four million, Qualtrough said, adding that the system has been tested and was ready to handle the deluge upon its restart.

The federal government plans to move as many out-of-work Canadians into the employment insurance system when a key emergency benefit runs out in the fall, and provide an EI-like support for millions who can’t qualify under existing rules.

“We believe that the CERB has served its purpose and the reason it was created is no longer the main focus of our efforts as a government to support workers,” Qualtrough said during a mid-afternoon press conference.

“We are going to move on to something different.”

The Liberals are hoping the change prods more Canadians to either go back to work or look for a job as the economy moves into what the Bank of Canada has described as a recuperation period before a long, bumpy recovery.

The recuperation appears to have started in May when the economy grew by 4.5 per cent, Statistics Canada reported Friday, re-emerging from severe lockdowns in March and April. That figure beat expectations, and a further sign of optimism was a preliminary estimate of five per cent growth in June, which will be finalized next month.

The national data agency said rebounds in May were seen across multiple industries, including retail trade registered that saw its largest monthly increase since comparable readings began in 1961.

“May’s GDP numbers demonstrate that our economy is rebounding from all-time lows, but the growth numbers we’re seeing simply represent businesses reopening after needed lockdowns,” said Trevin Stratton, chief economist at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

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, which would be a historic drop.

Statistics Canada said economic activity still remained 15 per cent below pre-pandemic level despite the gains over May.

Recouping the remaining percentage points will take months, if not longer. Much will rest on how many companies may yet close, how many jobs disappear with them.

“It’s a question of uncertainty at this point and how much damage the shutdowns have done,” said Benjamin Reitzes, BMO’s director of Canadian rates and macro strategist.

“We don’t really have that much information at this point, but if you consider the number of small businesses that are under significant pressure, maybe not surviving this period and the scarring broadly on the economy from things like that … it’s going to take time to recover from that.”

The federal government also announced Friday that it is extending a commercial rent-relief program through August as a lifeline to many small businesses whose revenues, while slowly returning, still lag behind their fixed costs.

So far the program has helped about 63,000 small business tenants through forgivable federal loans totalling $613 million. It is well below what the government hoped when it rolled out the aid.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said the announcement is good news for those who can access the program, but called it a “slap in the face” for those whose landlords refuse to apply.

The organization called on the federal government to allow tenants to apply directly for help.

“Rent relief needs an overhaul now,” said Laura Jones, CFIB’s executive vice-president.

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

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Workers

New weekly unemployment claims in state rise to 17,130, gig worker claims spike – The Fort Morgan Times

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DENVER — An additional 17,130 people filed for traditional unemployment benefits in the week ending Nov. 28, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said Thursday, an increase of 2,001 from the week prior.

The number of people in Colorado who applied for state-level Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in that week rose nearly 93%, from 7,369 claims in the week ending Nov. 21 to 14,242 in the week ending Nov 28. That program is assistance for gig workers, the self-employed and others who wouldn’t normally qualify for regular benefits.

CDLE senior economist Ryan Gedney said the increases in that segment of claims coincided with 15 counties in Colorado going to higher levels of COVID-19 restrictions and may also be driven by claimants exhausting other types of benefits.

The total number of continuing claims made in the state was at 224,076 for the week of Nov. 7, which include all state and federal assistance programs, up 10,373 from the week before.

The amount of regular benefits paid out by the department declined by $2.4 million from the prior week to $30 million.

Several unemployment beneficiaries are expected to receive a one-time $375 payment from the state coffers after Gov. Jared Polis ordered payments as a small stimulus.

Nationwide, the U.S. Labor Department said 712,000 Americans filed for first-time benefits in the period, an increase of 75,000 from the week prior.

© 2020 BizWest Media LLC

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Gig economy is here to stay; let’s make it productive

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Covid-19 has impacted the lives of everyone. From working to learning remotely to increased dependency on online shopping platforms, our lives are undergoing many a transformations. The need to take precautionary measure like social distancing, curfews, etc., made gig workers, especially those in the essential category as heroes. The scope of employment opportunities for them grew multifold.

The pandemic has also remodeled the way we work. The stress on cash flow owing to the pandemic made businesses to seek the help of “experts” on short-term assignments rather than full-time permanent employees.

The pandemic had opened many a new avenue for talent who preferred to work on projects. Studies show that this trend will continue in some shape and form. The gig economy is here to stay.

In fact, even the government through the Code of Social Security announced the need to extend the social security benefits to gig workers, thereby making this model as an acceptable model of employment.

While the model has been accepted by employers, employee and government, this sector is also not devoid of the skill gaps. For any talent to stay relevant even in this mode of employment will require continuous upskilling.

As per the ASSOCHAM, India’s gig sector is expected to grow to $455 billion by 2024; however, with COVID it has the potential to grow at least twice the previous estimates. All it means is that the need for skilled individuals in the gig economy is increasingly high. But the biggest question is who will skill the gig workers? Will companies hire gig workers since they come with “readymade skills”, or will they hire them and then make investments in their upskilling leading to higher productivity?

The primary onus to upskill will be with gig workers. They will have to make investments in skilling and upskilling themselves so that they can continue to attract assignments consistently. Having said that, if companies want to leverage the advantage or full potential that a gig talent may bring will require investing in them, especially in sharing the knowledge that they have acquired owing to their exposure.

Corporates need to partake and provide training in various skill sets such as critical thinking, communication, project management and finance, which are, indeed, important to manage their assignments and relationships with companies effectively.

Some of the key skill sets that employers should invest in training gig workers are:

Soft skills

In today’s world wherein customers are increasingly making choices based on reviews, perception plays an important role. In fact, in many a new age B2C organisation it is the gig workers who are the first contact for customers and customers build a perception about the brand based on the way these gig workers behave.

Employers would need to train them on the how to address customers, how to speak courteously, the importance of being empathetic, etc., making it imperative for organisations to invest in skilling of even gig workers. Some of the behaviour skills that employers need to focus on are leadership, soft skills, customer service, and delivery skills.

Team management skills

Many a times companies tend to hire gig workers to helm assignments. While they are experts in their domain, they may not have the know-how to manage a team. This lack of knowledge on how to manage a team can be detrimental and can affect the outcome. Hence, it is prudent for companies to include even gig talent whenever they are organising short-term team management skilling programs.

Customer service

As mentioned earlier, in many of the new-age companies gig workers are the face or the first person from the brand that customers touch base with; therefore, it is imperative for companies to train gig workers on the basics of customer service.

Finance management

As many of the gig workers are independent players, they may not have the expertise in managing project finance. An investment in training them on how to manage monetary resources and complete the project will be well appreciated with the talent pool as well as by the eco-system.

Technology enablement

Technology is increasingly being applied to organisations across sectors. Gig workers need to understand their way around technology and how it is used for productivity, governance and outcome delivery.

Businesses have realised that gig workers are reliable when it comes to executing a business plan in a limited time frame. With the increased adoption of digitisation and tools in skilling, it has become extremely easy to impart skilling programs.

Virtual and self-paced learning have made the programs more affordable. Hence, extending the skill training programs to them can also help in building a long lasting bridge with the eco-system.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)



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New weekly unemployment claims in Colorado rise to 17,130, gig worker claims spike – Loveland Reporter-Herald

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An additional 17,130 people filed for traditional unemployment benefits in the week ending Nov. 28, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said Thursday, an increase of 2,001 from the week prior.

The number of people in Colorado who applied for state-level Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in that week rose nearly 93%, from 7,369 claims in the week ending Nov. 21 to 14,242 in the week ending Nov 28. That program is assistance for gig workers, the self-employed and others who wouldn’t normally qualify for regular benefits.

CDLE senior economist Ryan Gedney said the increases in that segment of claims coincided with 15 counties in Colorado going to higher levels of COVID-19 restrictions and may also be driven by claimants exhausting other types of benefits.

The total number of continuing claims made in the state was at 224,076 for the week of Nov. 7, which include all state and federal assistance programs, up 10,373 from the week before.

The amount of regular benefits paid out by the department declined by $2.4 million from the prior week to $30 million.

Several unemployment beneficiaries are expected to receive a one-time $375 payment from the state coffers after Gov. Jared Polis ordered payments as a small stimulus.

Nationwide, the U.S. Labor Department said 712,000 Americans filed for first-time benefits in the period, an increase of 75,000 from the week prior.

© 2020 BizWest Media LLC

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