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The future of work: promoting gender equality, diversity and inclusion

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Image: European Wilderness Society

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Vienna Regional Office of the International Organization for Migration  (IOM) have organized a webinar on flexible working arrangements (FWAs) and the future of work. The webinar was part of the 19-23 October 2020 Enabling Environment Week, a joint initiative of the Gender Focal Points and Focal Points of Women of the Vienna-based United Nations organizations (VBOs) and the International Gender Champions initiative.

Enabling Environment Guidelines (EEGs) and their accompanying Supplementary Guidance for the United Nations System were developed in 2019 in response to the UN Secretary General’s System-wide Strategy on Gender Parity. The EEGs provide UN system-wide guidance to create a more diverse, inclusive and respectful work environment – both as a precursor to achieving gender parity and a key to sustaining it. Implementing FWAs is one of the measures recommended in the EEGs.

“Workplace flexibility can be mutually beneficial to an organization and its personnel, and is recognized to help achieve gender parity,” said Fatou Haidara, Managing Director of the UNIDO Directorate of Corporate Management and Operations, who moderated the webinar. “Our transition into the Fourth Industrial Revolution has been marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which for many employers and employees represented their first-ever experiences with flexible working arrangements.”

Dr. Heejung Chung, Principal Investigator of the Work Autonomy, Flexibility and Work-life balance project at the University of Kent, shared insights from her research on how work from home during the lockdown has impacted a series of work-life issues. She said  that employees have been able to spend more time with their families and expressed better well-being and improved work schedules and productivity. The pandemic has caused a cultural shift towards work from home, with employees feeling more trusted and supported by managers during this time, and many employees who did not want to work remotely before now changing their mind.

The pandemic has undoubtedly shaken up how we work – what we thought would be the future of work has been abruptly made the present. “Corona has somehow accelerated this way of using flexible working hours,” said Ambassador Pirkko Hämäläinen, Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN in Vienna. ”You don’t even need to be in the office to give a service to your customers, like this webinar. That is so important to realize and, with corona, we have realized it.”

The Finnish government codified flexible working arrangements as early as 1996 through the Working Hours Act, a policy which was updated this year to allow employees to decide when and where they work for at least half of their hours. “It’s a win-win situation for people. Gainful employment must be options for both women and men,” said Hämäläinen.

Whether men and women will be able to equally benefit from gainful employment will largely depend on the future of work, which will be impacted by frontier technology brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As such, digitalization may facilitate telecommuting for those jobs that can be carried out remotely. Prof. Damian Grimshaw, Professor of Employment Studies and Associate Dean for Research Impact at King’s Business School, noted that challenges remain in ensuring that everyone can benefit from workplace flexibility. This is especially linked to the need to create a culture of trust between managers and employees, and to phase out rigid workplace structures revolving around a time-keeping and high presenteeism approach.

Evidently, a sophisticated and reliable digital infrastructure is a precondition for the successful implementation of FWAs, which raises the issue of the digital divide which is especially pronounced in the developing world. The COVID-19 pandemic has already exacerbated inequalities, notably for women, hence inclusive, human-centered digitalization is needed to leave no one behind and to ensure all can reap the benefits of workplace flexibility.

In implementing FWAs, employers can contribute to addressing these inequalities and achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women. Chung revealed that by allowing mothers the option of staying in the labour market and maintaining their incomes, workplace flexibility can help reduce the overall gender pay gap. It also encourages fathers to take a greater role in unpaid domestic care work, which contributes to transforming social norms.

“Flexwork helps change the culture of whose responsibility it is to care,” Chung said. The still heavily unequal distribution of household duties continues to be especially visible and pronounced during the current pandemic, as school closures have added homeschooling to the unpaid domestic care work predominately carried out by women.

The private and public sector around the world, as well as many UN system entities, have recognized the benefits of FWAs in fostering a more enabling, diverse working environment and promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. Michael Emery, Director of Human Resources at the International Organization for Migration, noted that there has been a general call through the High-Level Committee on Management (HLCM) of the United Nations’ Chief Executive’s Board for a more flexible approach. “A lot of research shows the more flexible we are, the more attractive we are as an employer – particularly to women,” he said.

While acknowledging difficulties in implementing FWAs in the UN’s field operations due to digital infrastructure issues, the recent increase in remote work has challenged the idea of international civil service as we know it. Emery shared that UNICEF has just cancelled a lease on one of its buildings as it expects a lot of its staff will continue to work from home. “We can perfectly survive with 20% of staff in Headquarters in the office.”

Juliane Drews, Advisor at UNAIDS, explained that already six years before the COVID-19 pandemic, UNAIDS abolished core working hours and defined office opening hours from 7am to 7pm to provide staff with a twelve-hour window to complete their workload at their ease. The objective was also to empower employees and teams to have conversations about healthy ways to organize their work. “The United Nations and a lot of international organizations need to recognize there’s a new generation of employees coming that have different expectations of an employer,” Drews said. “We need to use training and reskilling to prepare middle managers and senior leaders to be ready to welcome the next generation in the workplace. It’s about thinking differently and taking this disruption as an opportunity to leap forward to a better, different normal.”

She also raised the issue that remote work allows individuals to safely work on issues that are criminalized in their home countries: UNAIDS works, for example, with sex workers, users of intravenous drugs and the LGBTIQ+ community. It is not just about the binary approach to gender equality. “We need to take this gender conversation and put an intersectional lens on it,” she added.

The discussion concluded that implementing FWAs has many benefits, for example increased well-being, efficiency and business continuity, as well as decreased absenteeism and operating costs. FWAs also play a crucial role in fostering diversity and inclusion, and promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has fast-forwarded us into the future of work, with many managers now recognizing and trusting that employers can and will deliver when using any form of flexible working arrangements, such as remote work, compressed hours, and scheduled breaks for external learning activities. The Enabling Environment Guidelines provide the UN with an overarching framework to successfully implement FWAs and foster a welcoming, safe, equal and discrimination-free workplace that allows the UN to produce better results for the people they serve. That’s the beauty of the UN System,” Drews said. “Most of us are driven by our passion, not by doing our eight hours and ticking the box.”

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26 million jobs lost in Latin America and the Caribbean during a year of the pandemic

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The Latin American and Caribbean region lost 26 million jobs as a result of the pandemic, and started 2021 with a complex employment landscape aggravated by new waves of contagion and slow vaccination processes that make the prospects for recovery in labour markets more uncertain, says a new technical note from the International Labour Organization (ILO).

“The quest for better normality will require ambitious action to recover from setbacks in the world of work”, warned Vinícius Pinheiro, ILO Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, when commenting on the note, which presents the latest data on the impact of COVID-19 over the past year.

“It is now time to rebuild the jobs lost by the pandemic and create new decent work opportunities,” Pinheiro said, noting that despite adversity, action must be taken and consensus reached so that “2021 is the year of vaccination and economic recovery with more and better jobs”.

However, the ILO Regional Director highlighted that “in the pursuit of recovery, addressing pre-existing conditions in the region will be unavoidable and those conditions are key to understanding why the impact of the pandemic on employment was so strong. Many of the challenges we had before the pandemic remain in place, although they are now more urgent”.

“High informality, small fiscal spaces, persistent inequality, low productivity and poor coverage of social protection, coupled with problems that still persist such as child labour and forced labour, are part of the ongoing challenges in the region”, he added.

The ILO regional technical note, “The employment crisis in the pandemic: Towards a human-centred job recovery”, emphasizes that the labour impacts were devastating in the second quarter of 2020 when the employment and participation indicators plummeted, and then partially recovered.

However, by the end of 2020 the region’s average employment rate had fallen from 57.4 per cent to 51.7 per cent, a sharp drop equated to the loss of around 26 million jobs, of which 80 per cent, or more than 20 million people, left the workforce.

This significant exit from the workforce was unprecedented and has been characteristic of 2020. By comparison, the unemployment rate has only partially reflected the magnitude of the difficulties faced by labour markets in the region, increasing by just over 2 percentage points between 2019 and 2020, from 8.3 per cent to 10.6 per cent.

This situation would have begun to change, explained Roxana Maurizio, ILO Regional Labour Economics Specialist and author of the technical note, who commented that in 2021 there could be “a significant increase in the employment rate when millions of people who had ceased to participate in the labour force return to the workforce”.

In addition to lost jobs, the region experienced a sharp contraction in working hours, as well as a reduction in labour incomes, which account for 80 per cent of what people in Latin America and the Caribbean earn. The region has recorded the largest losses in hours worked worldwide.

The ILO’s technical note indicates that during the crisis both formal and informal employment experienced very pronounced contractions, but with greater intensity for the latter and for this reason the informality rate was reduced (temporarily), in the context of the widespread collapse in employment demand, especially in the early months of the pandemic.

But that situation has already started to change.

“There is a high risk of informalization that adds to the already high levels of labour informality that countries had before the pandemic”, said Maurizio.

According to available data from seven countries, employment recovery in the second half of 2020 has been almost entirely contracted by informal employment growth. These occupations account for more than 60 per cent of the total increase in employment.

“The formal work deficit, in turn, is likely to become more apparent to certain types of workers such as young people, women and adults with lower qualifications – groups that traditionally experience greater difficulties in accessing formal employment”, she added.

“The macroeconomic collapse has disproportionately impacted some segments of the population, amplifying labour and social gaps – especially gender gaps – that characterize the region”, she continued.

“The outlook for economic recovery by 2021 is modest and still very uncertain, so expectations about a possible reversal of the critical labour market situation should be very cautious”.

The ILO has proposed developing recovery strategies based on a Policy Framework with four main pillars: stimulating the economy and employment; support businesses, jobs and incomes; protect workers in the workplace; and resort to social dialogue to find solutions.

The technical note highlights that in a scenario as complex as the current one “social dialogue and the building of new consensuses, pacts or agreements are more relevant than ever” to advance the recovery of employment.

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How to Start a Profitable Clothing Business

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You may think that it’s too late for this, but why not? Think of the possibilities – you could make a much-needed change in the world of fashion without breaking your bank. Let’s not beat around the bush; starting an online clothing business is no rocket science. It can be done within a few hours. With a positive mindset and a bit of creativity, you are bound to enjoy immense success with your online clothing business. In this tutorial, we are going to help you learn how to start an online clothing business and how to scale it

Determine your niche

You’ve probably heard the term “niche marketing” and wondered how it could help you as an online clothing retailer. Some people believe that niche marketing is only for business-to-business or service businesses, but it applies to any business. In this article, we’ll show you why it’s important to have a niche and how it can help you build an online clothing business profitable. The best way to pick out a niche is to understand what motivates people to shop for certain products. One easy way to look at a niche is by a keyword, but you have to make sure that the niche has enough search volume. For example, if you have a ski clothing store, then you may want to rank for the term “ski clothes for sale” or “ski clothes cheap”.

Key Takeaways

• Picking a niche determines the type of audience you reach.

• Picking a niche will affect your business model and operations

• Picking a niche can determine your success

Determine the business market level to suit your brand

For anyone wanting to start an online clothing business, the early research and planning stages can seem daunting. How do you even decide what market level you will operate in? The answer is, like everything in business, no set rule fits all scenarios. The choice you make about which market level to choose for your brand will be influenced by your goals, target market, and product range. Here are a few things you need to consider when making this decision;

  • Who is your target audience?

Your target audience will help you build up your strategies and determine which marketing methods will be more successful for your brand. If we take the example of Zalando, they have three online clothing business marketing strategies available for their consumers: home delivery, shop now, and mobile shopping.

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What is your budget?
  • Create a Business Plan

The startup world, and the business-planning process, can seem daunting to experts and amateurs alike, but it doesn’t have to be. If you have a basic understanding of your business’s needs and a clear idea of your goals and mission, writing a business plan is just like making a shopping list. Just like shopping, there are countless articles and resources out there for you to help you create a plan that works for your business.

The first step in creating your business plan is to start with a strong foundation: what do you want to spend, why, how much, etc. From there, you can move into determining what your startup costs will be to get things up and running.

Designing your shopping list of startup costs is almost exactly the same as designing your business or project’s marketing plan.

Now that you have your idea start creating something!

  • Pick Your Materials. Pick fabrics you’d like to use, whether it’s cotton or polyester, and a color. If it’s based on the color of your logo, make sure the fabric can be seen in the correct shade.
  • Design

Product development is one of the most exciting stages in starting an online clothing business. Even if you only have a design concept for one product in these early days, start getting it on paper or screen as a sketch. Once you’re ready, turn rough ideas into nailed-down digital sketches. Programs like Adobe Illustrator can do a lot of the hard work for you.

However, if you’re a skilled sketcher, feel free to continue this old-school technique. Sketches add personality and give ideas a human touch that computer drawings sometimes lack. At this point in your business, you will need to make decisions about your product’s overall look. This involves choosing colors, logo design, materials, sizing, and more. Your competitors might be making similar choices at this point, so try to avoid jumping ahead of them, as it will grant you more time to sell.

Create Product samples

The next step in the process is to get a good sample of the product and photographs. Creating a good product sample is very important as it is the first thing your potential customer will see. You can do that with companies like GearBubble or Thrive Screen Printing. You can produce a prototype on your own, but this can be costly. You have two other options;

You can use a professional sample maker. You can have a design company make the sample for you.

The decision between these two options depends on your budget and the quality of the product. Either way, you should still look to market test your product before committing to mass production. This will help you refine your idea and increase sales once you do launch your item.

Market your product and sell online

Taking them to market can be a great way to test your product without committing to the full product run. Market trading spaces, school fairs, and online platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Instagram, can be great places to start, take notes, ask your customers all the time for their feedback on the product and anything else they’re looking for. Posting your products on a well-known e-commerce platform, like eBay, Etsy, or Amazon, will allow you to reach a broader audience and take your business to the next level. Some of these platforms are more hands-on, with you having to take care of the selling, while others are more hands-off, leaving most of the work on the platform itself.

Scale Up

If you’re planning on scaling up your business, maybe you should look at improving your business. so here are my 3 tips for scaling up:

  • Work out what you want

Before you do anything, ask yourself, what do I want? Is it to make money, or do you want to see your clothing company as a fully fledged brand eventually? This comes back down back to knowing who your customer is. If you’ve already done that, then you know exactly how much to charge for your clothing and thus will be able to know roughly how much money to make every month at minimum.

  • Collaboration with other brands

Have other companies approached you to create a product for them? Working with other brands can be of great benefit to you both. Always be on the lookout for brands that compliment your product so that the collaboration can appeal to a wider audience. Let’s say, for instance, you sell women’s accessories. You may want to work with another women’s clothing brand on a line of bags or scarves.

  • Brand awareness

When working in collaboration with another brand, there is always an opportunity to work towards an image in which both brands are familiar. This could consist of branded merchandise sold separately from the main product line and is good for overall brand awareness.

The thing is, plotting the next steps for your company is less about indulging in dreams of grandeur and more about carefully crafted plans to ensure business sustainability. With the right growth in place, expanding a physical or online clothing business can be a good long-term strategy.

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Polish Economy Returns to Growth Amidst Pandemic-Related Setbacks

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The Polish economy is expected to grow by 3.3 percent in 2021, as a recovery in trade in the euro area, combined with improved confidence and a rebound in private consumption and investment partly offset the negative impacts of the resurgence of the pandemic late in 2020 and a recent flareup in new cases, says the latest edition of the World Bank’s Economic Update for Europe and Central Asia, released today.

The projected rebound in 2021 is weaker than previously anticipated (3.5 percent), reflecting uncertainty surrounding the emergence of new strains of COVID-19 and the uneven pace of vaccination in Europe.

The World Bank expects that following the moderate recovery this year, growth will accelerate to 4.2 percent in 2022. The 2022 projection is faster than previously envisioned (3.4 percent), owing in part to a robust rebound in domestic demand, particularly in investment.

“Although Poland’s GDP declined in 2020 for the first time in 30 years, the well-diversified Polish economy is one of Europe’s least affected amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcus Heinz, World Bank Resident Representative for Poland and the Baltic States. “A key challenge over the short term is to continue supporting the sectors most affected by the pandemic, while ensuring public debt sustainability and transparency. Poland also needs to continue strengthening its institutions to prepare for a new wave of absorption of EU funds, a big part of which will go into low-carbon and greener projects”.

The emerging and developing economies in Europe and Central Asia are projected to grow by 3.6 percent this year and by 3.8 percent in 2022, as the effects of the pandemic gradually wane and trade and investment gather momentum.

The pandemic is expected to erase at least five years of per capita income gains in several of the region’s economies and raise the poverty headcount, largely due to job losses. Overall, despite the rebound in growth, the recovery in per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of the region is subdued and below pre-pandemic trends.

Fundamental to achieving long-term inclusive and sustainable growth is good governance. The pandemic has underscored the need for good governance given the important role governments around the world have played in mitigating the health, economic and social impacts of the virus. The range of measures has included restrictions on movement to control the spread of the infection, vaccination programs, relief packages to protect individuals and businesses from the economic fallout of the pandemic, and devising ways for virtual learning for millions of school children.  

In Europe and Central Asia, good governance is all the more important given the large role governments have played historically in shaping the economy. Government expenditures in the region represent nearly 40 percent of the economy and governments employ more than a quarter of the region’s most educated and productive workers, with women constituting 57 percent of public sector employees. And the role of government in the region’s countries is likely to further increase in the coming years, driven largely by the need for expansion of health and long-term care for aging populations and public support for government interventions to tackle inequality and, in the face of COVID, improve health and education systems.  

In a special analysis on ‘Data, Digitalization, and Governance in Europe and Central Asia’, the report examines the potential role of data and digitalization in improving governance in the region.

“To effectively address the challenges brought on by COVID-19, improving governance has assumed an even greater importance in the region,” said Asli Demirgüç-Kunt, World Bank Chief Economist for Europe and Central Asia. “Digital technology and the data revolution offer the potential to increase efficiency, transparency, responsiveness, and citizen trust, all of which directly improve the quality of government.”

Data lay the ground for improved decision making, optimized government functioning, and more effective resource allocation, while digitalization strengthens these processes and enables greater efficiency and transparency.

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