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SMEs are driving job growth, but need higher investment in skills, innovation and tech

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Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been a significant driver of employment growth in recent years, mainly through the creation of new firms, including in high-growth sectors such as information and communication technologies (ICT). But the new OECD SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook highlights that most SME job creation has been in sectors with below average productivity levels, with SMEs typically paying employees around 20 percent less than large firms.

While SMEs are more engaged in new organisational or marketing practices than large firms, and sometimes more innovative in developing new products and processes, many continue to struggle disproportionately to navigate the increasing complexity in technologies and markets.

“We need a fundamental rethinking of SME and entrepreneurship policies to improve business conditions and access to resources. This will enable workers to have higher wages and greater productivity, as smaller employers harness major trends like digitalisation,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, launching the report at the annual OECD Forum. “We need a renewed policy and measurement agenda to understand how countries, regions and cities can capitalise on their many diverse small businesses as drivers for inclusive and sustainable growth.”

Bringing together unique data and evidence on SME performance and policies, this first edition of the OECD SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook offers policymakers new benchmarking tools and insights on good practices to help frame national SME and entrepreneurship policies. The report illustrates that SMEs are more dependent on the business ecosystem and the policy environment than large companies, and identifies a number of key challenges:

  • While the wage gap is smaller for exporting SMEs, trade barriers are disproportionately large, and recent trade tensions may further hamper their ability to benefit from globalisation.
  • SMEs struggle to combine different types of innovation, and continue to face size-related barriers in accessing strategic resources, such as skills, finance and knowledge. A quarter of SMEs in the EU reported a lack of skilled staff or experienced managers as their most important problem and, in most OECD countries, less than one-quarter of small firms provided ICT training in 2018.
  • The digital transformation provides scope for productivity growth but large adoption gaps exist compared to larger firms, with half as many small firms in the OECD investing in cloud computing services in 2016, for example.

Governments have been proactive in their efforts to improve framework conditions and address size-related barriers for SMEs. The 36 country profiles in the OECD SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook show that, in the OECD area, governments are focused on accelerating innovation diffusion to SMEs; ensuring SMEs keep pace with the digital transformation; engaging SMEs in upskilling; scaling-up innovation networks and MNE-SME linkages; and levelling the playing field in product markets, public procurement and ‘lead’ innovative markets. Small businesses are also benefiting from the strengthening of e-government services and from reforms undertaken in OECD countries aiming to lower administrative and tax burdens and enforce smart regulation.

Despite these efforts, the complexity of regulatory procedures remains a major obstacle for SMEs and entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the pace of structural reform has slowed in recent years and progress remains uneven in areas that are key for business creation and SME investment, such as insolvency regimes, civil justice and enforcement of competition laws.

The report argues for more efficient governance and more coherent arrangements across national and subnational levels, regions and cities. It also calls for fostering international peer learning and enhanced monitoring and evaluation capacity.

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Half of Working Adults Fear for Their Jobs

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In a new World Economic Forum-Ipsos survey of more than 12,000 working adults in 27 countries, more than half (54%) say they are concerned about losing their jobs in the next 12 months. Perceived job insecurity varies widely across countries: it is stated by three in four workers in Russia, compared to just one in four in Germany.

Two thirds of workers worldwide say they can learn skills needed for the jobs of the future through their current employer. Nearly nine in ten workers in Spain think they can gain essential new skills on the job, whereas fewer than half in Japan, Sweden and Russia.

Concern about job losses

On average, 54% of employed adults from 27 countries say they are concerned about losing their job in the next 12 months (17% are very concerned and 37% somewhat concerned). The prevalence of job-loss concern in the next year ranges from 75% in Russia, 73% in Spain, and 71% in Malaysia, to just 26% in Germany, 30% in Sweden, and 36% in the Netherlands and the United States.

Ability to acquire new skills

Globally, 67% of employed adults surveyed say they can learn and develop skills needed for the jobs of the future through their current employer (23% are very much able to do so, 44% somewhat able). Across the 27 countries, perceived ability to learn and develop those skills on the job is most widespread in Spain (86%), Peru (84%), and Mexico (83%) and least common in Japan (45%), Sweden (46%), and Russia (48%).

Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director at the World Economic Forum said, “The current crisis means that the job creation rate has gone significantly down compared to two years ago, but there is an optimistic scenario overall compared to the rate of job destruction. Of course, it depends on the choices we make today. It depends on the kinds of investments governments make today – and the investments workers make in terms of their own time. And it depends on the choices that business leaders make when it comes to retaining and protecting jobs versus shorter-term decisions that are more focused on quarterly results.”

New skill acquisition versus job insecurity

Globally, workers are more likely to say they can learn and develop skills needed for the jobs of the future through their current employer (67%) than to express concern about losing their job in the next 12 months (54%), a difference of 13 percentage points.

The countries where those who can gain new skills on the job outnumber those who are concerned about losing their job by the largest margins are the United States and Germany (by 40 points).

In reverse, job loss concern is more prevalent than perceived ability to acquire skills in Russia (by 28 points) and, to a lesser extent in Malaysia, Poland, Japan, Turkey, and South Korea.

World Economic Forum Jobs Reset Summit

Job losses and the skills challenge are two of the issues that will be addressed at the forthcoming Jobs Reset Summit. The summit brings together more than 1200 visionary leaders from business, international organizations, government, civil society, media and the broader public to shape a new agenda for growth, jobs, skills and equity.

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2020 Deloitte-NASCIO Cybersecurity Study Highlights Imperatives for State Governments

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Deloitte and The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) released their 2020 Cybersecurity Study, “States at Risk: The Cybersecurity Imperative in Uncertain Times.” The national study is based on responses from 51 U.S. state and territory enterprise-level chief information security officers (CISOs). This is the 10th year of this study and the sixth iteration, with a record number of state and territory CISO’s participating this year.
The key themes in this year’s study are:

  • COVID-19 has challenged continuity and amplified gaps in budget, talent and threats, and the need for partnerships.
  • Collaboration with local governments and public higher education is critical to managing increasingly complex cyber risk within state borders.
  • CISOs need a centralized structure to position cyber in a way that improves agility, effectiveness and efficiencies.

The report also details focus areas for states during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic has highlighted the resilience of public sector cyber leaders, it has also called attention to long-standing challenges facing state IT and cybersecurity organizations such as securing adequate budgets and talent; and coordinating consistent security implementation across agencies.

These challenges were exacerbated by the abrupt shift to remote work spurred by the pandemic. According to the study:

  • Before the pandemic, 52% of respondents said less than 5% of staff worked remotely.
  • During the pandemic, 35 states have had more than half of employees working remotely; nine states have had more than 90% remote workers.

“The last six months have created new opportunities for cyber threats and amplified existing cybersecurity challenges for state governments,” said Meredith Ward, director of policy and research at NASCIO. “The budget and talent challenges experienced in recent years have only grown, and CISOs are now also faced with an acceleration of strategic initiatives to address threats associated with the pandemic.”

“The pandemic forced state governments to act quickly, not just in terms of public health and safety, but also with regard to cybersecurity,” said Srini Subramanian, principal, Deloitte & Touche LLP, and state and local government advisory leader. “However, continuing challenges with resources beset state CISOs/CIOs. This is evident when comparing the much higher levels of budget that federal agencies and other industries like financial services receive to fight cyber threats.”

State governments’ longstanding need for digital modernization has only been amplified by the pandemic, along with the essential role that cybersecurity needs to play in the discussion. Key takeaways from the 2020 study include:

  • Fewer than 40% of states reported having a dedicated budget line item for cybersecurity.
  • Half of states still allocate less than 3% of their total information technology budget on cybersecurity.
  • CISOs identified financial fraud as three times greater of a threat as they did in 2018.
  • Overall, respondents said they believe the probability of a security breach is higher in the next 12 months, compared to responses to the same question in the 2018 study.
  • Only 27% of states provide cybersecurity training to local governments and public education entities.
  • Only 28% of states reported that they had collaborated extensively with local governments as part of their state’s security program during the past year, with 65% reporting limited collaboration.

The 2020 study also revisits the three “bold plays” of the “2018 Deloitte–NASCIO Cybersecurity Study,” covering funding, innovation and collaboration, to assess progress on these strategic issues. While CISOs have made progress in the intervening years, more is needed.

The study is based on responses from U.S. state and territory enterprise-level CISOs. CISO participants answered 61 questions designed to characterize the enterprise-level strategy, governance and operation of security programs.

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Critical gaps in social protection hampering Asia-Pacific region’s resilience to COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for well-functioning social protection systems in the region as never before. A new UN report released today reveals that despite their rapid socioeconomic ascent, most countries in the Asia-Pacific region have weak social protection systems riddled with gaps.

About half of the region’s population has no social protection coverage, according to the publication The Protection We Want: Social Outlook for Asia and the Pacific, jointly produced by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and International Labour Organization (ILO) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. Only a handful of countries have comprehensive social protection systems with relatively broad coverage.

“Comprehensive social protection creates the foundation for healthy societies and vibrant economies. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought this imperative into sharp focus, by demonstrating the stabilizing effect well-functioning social protection systems have and how their absence exacerbates inequality and poverty,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.

She added, “Delivering effective social protection to all people across our region is already shaping our approach, as we advocate combining short-term relief with longer-term strategies to build back better in the aftermath of the pandemic.”

The scope and scale of existing programs is still limited. Most poverty-targeted schemes are failing to reach the poorest families and the pandemic risks further reversing progress to eradicate poverty by almost a decade. Many countries are also facing high levels of inequality, both in outcomes and opportunities, which the pandemic has exacerbated. Population ageing, migration, urbanization, natural disasters and climate change, as well as technological advancements are further compounding these challenges.

The report identifies significant underinvestment as one of the main factors for the huge coverage gap. Excluding health, many countries in the region spend less than 2 per cent of GDP on social protection. This low level of investment in people stands in stark contrast to the global average of 11 per cent. Another key reason is the high prevalence of informal employment in the region, representing close to 70 per cent of all workers.

“The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the precarious situation of many working women and men and especially those in the informal economy. There is a clear need for further investment in public social protection systems if we are to avoid the stagnation of social and economic progress made across the region in recent decades,” said Ms Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa, Regional Director ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

Expanding social protection would have an immediate impact on reducing poverty, inequality and purchasing power disparities. For example, the proportion of households living in poverty would fall by up to 18 percentage points if governments were to offer basic child benefits, disability benefits and old-age pensions.

While the required investment of two to six per cent of GDP is significant, the report demonstrates that it is within the grasp of most countries. The report recommends governments to reprioritize existing resources, boost public revenues, tap into new technologies and embed social protection into national development strategies, underpinned by social dialogue.

The report was launched on the sidelines of the fifth Regional Conversation Series on Building Back Better. The high-level dialogue on “Social Protection: A Right for All, or A Privilege for a Few?” featured eminent personalities from across the region including Guy Ryder, ILO Director General; Mereseini Vuniwaqa, Minister of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Fiji; Haiyani Rumondang, Director General for Industrial Relations and Worker’s Social Security, Ministry of Manpower; Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety to the Prime Minister, Pakistan; Kung Phoak, Deputy Secretary-General for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community; Sarah Cook, Director, Institute for Global Development, University of New South Wales; and Michael Cichon, Professor Emeritus, Graduate School of Governance at UNU, Maastricht.

Read the full report: http://bit.ly/APSocialOutlook2020 

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