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New regulations to improve safety in the gig economy

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New regulations requiring online platforms to provide food delivery riders with personal protective equipment and induction training have been announced by NSW Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson.

A new penalty system for riders will also be introduced as part of the reforms “to crackdown on repeated unsafe practices”.

The NSW Government intends to finalise the regulations by November 2021. Public consultations on the proposed laws are expected in September 2021.

The reforms follow a safety blitz conducted by SafeWork NSW, which found 9 out of 10 food delivery riders were not wearing safe, high-visibility clothing. Forty percent of the riders observed were also riding in an unsafe manner.

The measures reflect the recommendations of the final report of the Joint Taskforce into Food Delivery Rider Safety (the Taskforce), which was released on 5 June 2021. The Taskforce was setup in November 2020 to investigate the deaths of 4 food delivery riders in 2020, and to identify safety improvements for the industry.

Other recommendations in the Taskforce’s final report include:

  • further compliance monitoring of the food delivery sector by SafeWork NSW
  • ongoing enforcement activities by NSW Police to ensure food delivery riders comply with road rules
  • finalisation of the Guide to Managing WHS in the Food Delivery Industry, as well as the development of supporting factsheets in multiple languages
  • the provision of reported incident data to food delivery platforms to assist continual improvement of compliance within the industry, and
  • development of guidance on delivery bag standards by Transport for NSW.

Explore further on CCH Pinpoint® — Topic Guide: Gig economy.

Sources:

Minister for Better Regulation and Minister for Transport and Roads, New laws to drive safety outcomes in the gig economy, [media release], 5 June 2021, accessed 7 June 2021.

SafeWork NSW and Transport for NSW, Joint Taskforce: Food Delivery and Rider Safety (Final Report), 1 April 2021, 7 June 2021.

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‘Gig workers of all trades, unite!’ China’s state trade union calls for branches for gig economy workers

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China’s gig economy workers employed by online platforms, including deliverymen and ride hailing drivers, should be encouraged to form unions to boost their negotiating power with Big Tech, the country’s government-backed union said.

The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), which answers to the Chinese Communist Party and is the only legal labour union in China, issued “opinions” this week calling for better protection of labour rights in China’s gig economy, which is estimated to provide around 200 million jobs in the country.

The state labour union made the call at a time when Beijing is turning up the heat on the country’s big technology platforms, including criticising them for exploiting workers. One recent opinion piece in an official newspaper affiliated with the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the country’s top political advisory body, even used concepts direct from Karl Marx to take a jab at China’s internet platforms.

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On-demand services providers such as Meituan and Ele.me, and ride-hailing companies like Didi Chuxing, have employed millions of employees on a temporary basis. However, labour protections for those “employed in a flexible manner”, are often limited compared with full-time employees and the negotiating power of these workers is usually weak.

Grievances have been rising among these new types of workers, and Beijing has not hesitated to raise its concerns about the potential for social unrest with Big Tech. The Hong Kong-based NGO China Labour Bulletin (CLB) recorded 131 cases of food delivery worker protests between 2016 and 2021.

High profile cases of gig workers seeking better rights have hit the headlines recently, including the dramatic self-immolation of a delivery worker at Alibaba Group Holding-backed food delivery platform Ele.me in January. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

As Big Tech pushes for profit, labour conditions show little sign of improvement

“The state has praised the achievements of these big platform companies in the past, about how they have pushed the economy into a more hi-tech direction,” said Aidan Chau, researcher at CLB. “But in the meantime, the platforms have come to control a large amount of data generated by workers and consumers, often neglecting the lives of their workers as they conquer new industries.”

More than 95 per cent of food delivery workers work more than 8 hours a day, with 28 per cent clocking up more than 12 hours a day, according to a 2020 survey conducted by Beijing Yilian Labor Law Centre, a non-government organisation.

Beijing has recently upped the ante on tech firms, with eight government departments lecturing representatives of online ride-hailing providers over payment practices in May. The government has also been pushing tech platforms to provide basic welfare benefits to part-time employees.

At the same time though the Chinese government has maintained a strict ban on any kind of spontaneous labour union formation or strikes by gig economy workers. The Chinese authorities also arrested one of the most prominent gig worker activists, delivery worker Chen Guojiang, who had repeatedly called on fellow food deliverymen to take group action. He is currently awaiting trial on several charges, including credit card fraud and “provoking trouble”.

Why this flexible work platform is seeing a boom in sourcing riders for delivery giants

The state labour union submitted proposals on strengthening the protection of gig workers in March 2021 during the Two Sessions, the country’s most important political event. Despite the political pressure, not all analysts are convinced that the latest “opinions” will radically change the situation for gig workers.

“The union will not challenge the informal or flexible labour arrangement of these workers,” said CLB’s Chau. “Worker competition with each other will continue to be intense and their sense of insecurity will likely persist.”

This article ‘Gig workers of all trades, unite!’ China’s state trade union calls for branches for gig economy workers first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.

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From the gig economy to working from home — these trends are changing the future of our jobs

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Working from home has become increasingly popular, necessary and in many cases compulsory due to the pandemic.

A recent study of corporate executives around the world found 19% said they expected employees to work three or more days remotely post-pandemic.

These results showing a shift towards working from home is mirrored in other studies from the US to Europe.

The tech that makes working from home possible

Adam McHale is the European Vice President of Cisco, a company that builds the technology that enables people to work from home. He told Euronews’ The Exchange that due to the pandemic, “broadband infrastructure became critical national infrastructure”. He added that internet traffic grew at a rate we would normally see in the space of 18 months in the space of a few days.

Cisco did a survey of 13,000 people across six different countries and 78% of them told the company that broadband connectivity “was absolutely critical to them”.

‘We can’t put everybody in the same box’

Estonia is a nation pushing the boundaries of remote and home working, often hailed as the most digitally advanced country. It is the nation that gave us Skype and made internet access a basic human right.

Its Minister for Health and Labour, Tanel Kiik, gave us his thoughts on how we should approach this new way of working.

He said that he thinks the changes to the way we work and the new forms of work are “only a positive thing”. “We can’t put everybody in the same box and say that this is your work contract and these are your working hours and this is your salary and be happy with that,” he added.

The Gig Economy

For a long time, this sector has been popping up on the news and not always for positive reasons, including cases of employment disputes and claims of infringement of workers’ rights.

But what exactly is the gig economy?

Dictionaries describe it as “a job market which consists of short-term or part-time work done by people who are self-employed or on temporary contracts”. However, this definition leaves out online platforms that many have started associating with it. In its simplest form, the gig economy can be described as flexible, temporary, or freelance jobs that often involve connecting clients or customers via apps and websites.

Its advocates say the new mode of work allows employees, businesses and consumers to adapt quickly to the needs of the moment. They also say it can also give workers more flexible hours to fit their lifestyles.

Kiik believes that the gig economy is something that is here to stay and is likely to grow in popularity. For that reason, he doesn’t see any point in fighting against it. “The world is changing constantly, the economy is changing and of course the work market and the jobs market are also changing”, he adds.

Online platforms and changing employment

Brands like Amazon and Alibaba have created profound changes to the way people live and work. Despite these billion-dollar success stories, people are still divided about the gig economy.

Qatari startup Snoonu, which offers a one-stop application that facilitates online shopping and deliveries, relies on the gig economy but is trying to remedy flaws in the mode of work’s fabric.

It has some 600 drivers poised to react to the ping of an order for thousands of locations around the country who are fully trained by the company. It also has over 250 young employees from 35 different countries whose jobs are constantly evolving thanks to digital innovation.

Entering the job market

The world of recruitment is also transforming to match new employee and employer needs. Juliet Eccleston is an employment expert and she told The Exchange that when people are straight out of college, it’s often “difficult to see the difference” on their CVs.

To her, and new employers like Snoonu, what makes people stand out are their vocational experience. “A lot of younger people have gone onto platforms and they’re actually micro-entrepreneurs behind the scenes, sharing things, renting things out and selling goods,” she explained. “Those kinds of skills are actually incredibly interesting for businesses”.

Whether employees are working from home, on a temporary contract, or on flexible hours, one thing is for sure; the future of work is changing.

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‘Gig economy can boost jobs for women’

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New Delhi: Alternative work arrangements in the gig economy can lead to the absorption of more women and increase their participation in the workforce with some re-skilling, according to a new study by the United Nations Development Programme in India (UNDP India) and industry federation Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).

The rise of the gig economy following the coronavirus outbreak has the potential to boost women’s employment in formal jobs, said the study that collected data from 150 firms, of which one-third were from the manufacturing sector and the remaining were service firms.

“The adoption of new technologies could create better opportunities for women. However, re-skilling will be crucial to expand opportunities for women in the formal sector,” said the study that received support from the government of Japan.

The survey claimed that sectors such as health and pharmaceuticals, electrical and electronics, and fast-moving consumer goods are likely to see more female employment. At the same time, women’s employment in the finance and accounting divisions may moderately change because of the adoption of new technology.

“At least 57% of the heads of surveyed firms felt that the advent of the gig economy would boost women’s employment, while just 4% said that it would not. The remaining 39% of the heads of firms surveyed remained inconclusive,” according to the study titled Future of Work for Women in the Formal Sector in India.

Around 57% of the surveyed firms agree that the gig economy will itself expand and boost women’s job prospects because it is based on flexible, temporary or freelance jobs, often involving connecting with clients or customers through an online platform.

“This underscores that alternative work arrangements in the gig economy have the potential to absorb more women and increase their participation in the workforce,” the study said. However, it did not address the question that gig work is often not a primary assignment and there is no job security. A boost in the use of technology and increased acceptance of virtual working for sales and distribution jobs could open up opportunities for women in fields where interactions are managed via apps and phone calls, it said.

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