Connect with us

Finance

Finland: boost employment and productivity growth to avoid lasting scars from COVID-19 crisis

Published

on

The COVID-19 crisis has plunged Finland into its deepest recession since the early 1990s even though swift government support has cushioned the shock, making for a smaller output drop than in many other OECD countries. To limit the scars from the pandemic and sustain the recovery, Finland should address underlying challenges such as boosting employment and productivity, according to a new OECD report.

The latest OECD Economic Survey of Finland notes that the COVID-19 crisis hit against a background of slowing economic growth and rising financial stability risks. The government should stand ready to provide further support to firms and workers if necessary, then focus on getting people back into viable jobs and restoring public finances. Enhancing education and skills, improving wage flexibility and reducing barriers to competition in sectors like transport, energy and retail, would help to spur productivity growth and bolster the recovery, the Survey says.

“Finland’s effective management of the pandemic is to be commended. It is now vital to support economic activity and reduce unemployment to pre-crisis levels to avoid lasting social and economic scars,” said Alvaro Pereira, Director of Country Studies in the OECD Economics Department, presenting the Survey. “Increasing the employment rate, particularly among seniors, and boosting productivity through enhancing the supply of skilled workers and reforming regulations that hamper competition, would prevent a long-term erosion in relative living standards.”

Finland’s GDP shrank by 5% in the first half of 2020, a historic contraction, but among the mildest of OECD countries thanks to targeted confinement measures that limited loss of mobility, and financial support that prevented mass bankruptcies and saved jobs. Job losses and bankruptcies will likely increase in the short run, as relief measures run out. The Survey projects Finland’s 2020 GDP will shrink by 3.3% and recover only gradually with growth of 2.1% in 2021 and 1.8% in 2022, led by private consumption and exports.

The temporary layoff scheme played a key role in protecting jobs and incomes, and Finland has long enjoyed low income inequality and relative poverty by international standards. However, 15% of workers aged 15-74 have been temporarily or permanently laid off since the crisis. The impact has been hardest on lower-income households who tend to be less able to switch to teleworking and have less secure contracts. Furthermore, some 25% of temporarily laid-off workers were not eligible for earnings-related unemployment benefits because they were not members of unemployment insurance funds. The Survey thus recommends creating a government unemployment insurance fund into which all workers – or all workers who are not members of another fund – would be automatically enrolled.

Prior to the crisis, Finland’s employment rate was already low by Nordic standards, reflecting the low employment rate of older workers. They still have access to early retirement routes, in contrast to their Nordic counterparts. Phasing out extended unemployment benefit for older workers would help to increase the employment rate of seniors.

Productivity growth is low in Finland compared with other European economies, owing to skills shortages and high regulatory barriers to competition in some sectors. The Survey recommends encouraging more school leavers to enter tertiary education by reforming the highly selective admission system and increasing the number of study places. Softening the country’s restrictive product market regulations and coordinating wage bargaining across sectors could help to gain competitiveness.

The Survey notes that recovery from the COVID-19 crisis provides an opportunity to move to a more environmentally sustainable growth trajectory compatible with meeting Finland’s demanding GHG emissions abatement targets.

Continue Reading
Comments

Finance

Corporate Boards are Critical Starting Points for Implementing Stakeholder Capitalism

Published

on

COVID-19 has led to global and systemic economic, social and environmental disruption, and an increasing number of companies are recognizing the need for pragmatic approaches to implement the principles of stakeholder capitalism.

A new white paper, The Future of the Corporation: Moving from Balance Sheet to Value Sheet, provides analysis about the important role boardrooms and corporate governance play in addressing the environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges their companies face. Focusing on practical tools for corporate leaders, the white paper, produced in collaboration with Baker McKenzie, provides a set of actions and stakeholder governance considerations boardrooms can take to reshape their company’s purpose and practices.

This includes leadership-level actions, such as aligning company purpose and incentives with transparent goals and KPIs, increasing board diversity and adopting the common stakeholder capitalism metrics to measure and manage global risks and opportunities related to business, society and the planet.

“Business leaders are increasingly implementing business models that create value based on stakeholder needs,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum. “While there’s increasing momentum towards stakeholder capitalism, many businesses are also looking for practical solutions to help them fully understand and address the concerns of all their stakeholders. The Forum is committed to providing measurement and governance tools that will help these leaders succeed, thereby advancing stakeholder capitalism globally.”

Effectively aligning a company’s practices with its purpose is another key role boardrooms must play when integrating stakeholder interests into their business models. Setting clear metrics for management, which align with company purpose is an important step for boards.

Ørsted, a company who successfully transformed its business from fossil fuels to renewable energy, is a clear example of how effective governance is critical to company-wide transformation For example, in its transition to being a sustainable business, Ørsted made it a board-level priority to ensure its transformation was transparent, the journey was measured with concrete metrics and it was communicated to all relevant stakeholders.

“The pandemic, climate and inequality challenges of the last year were and continue to be unprecedented. Against this backdrop, how can companies drive long-term value creation and sustainable growth? A good stakeholder governance framework will help companies mitigate risk, build resilience and enjoy sustainable value creation and long-term success; at the heart of good stakeholder governance is clearly understanding who key stakeholders are, engaging with them and bringing their voice into decision-making,” said Beatriz Araujo, Head of Corporate Governance, Baker McKenzie. She added: “There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach; each company must embark on its own stakeholder governance journey and we have suggested some of the steps companies should consider taking on such a journey.”

In addition to the examples above, the white paper provides a stakeholder governance framework centred around four key areas of four key areas of leadership focus. These are:

1) Purpose

Purpose is returning centre stage as an enabler for long-term sustainable value creation for corporate success.

Boards should ensure their companies have a clear and well understood purpose, informed by their key stakeholders’ expectations, and regularly use this purpose as a guide in their strategic decision-making.

2) Strategy

Corporate leaders should ensure their company’s strategy is robust and designed to deliver the company’s purpose.

This strategy needs to be flexible to take account of changing stakeholder considerations. Periodic ESG risk and opportunity assessments are a tool that leaders can use to ensure they are pursuing an appropriate strategy in light of changing externalities and stakeholder feedback.

3) Culture/Values

A company’s culture and values are important in ensuring decisions and daily business practices appropriately reflect their stated purpose.

4) Governance

Effective governance, which regularly addresses stakeholder input, is critical for running a sustainable, resilient business.

Board composition, diversity and inclusion are important factors in ensuring boardrooms are equipped with the skills needed adequately understand and consider the needs of their stakeholders.

Along with input from the Forum’s Community of Chairpersons, the whitepaper is based on interviews with senior leaders at bp, the Cambridge University Institute for Sustainability Leadership, Fidelity International and Ørsted.

Continue Reading

Finance

Digitalization crucial to SIDs’ COVID-19 recovery, long-term development

Published

on

The upscaling of digital technologies presents a host of opportunities for small island developing states (SIDS) to diversify their economies, boost manufacturing, gain greater access to global value chains, and improve disaster preparedness. However, significant obstacles remain, including inadequate digital infrastructure, insufficient training opportunities for women and young people, a growing digital divide, and a lack of data and policy knowledge. That’s according to an expert panel convened for the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit’s Digital Series on the topic: “How Information and Communication Technologies can foster inclusive and sustainable industrial development in Small Island Developing States”.

Ralf Bredel, Chief of the Asia-Pacific Regional Programme at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said that SIDS share common challenges such as limited resource bases, long distances to primary markets, and vulnerability to climate change.

“ICT has the potential to help SIDS in overcoming some of the challenges derived from the isolation and remoteness. It can support trade in economic diversification. This is even more true under the current circumstances, with COVID-19 and the restrictions on people’s movements and the heavy blow to SIDS’ economies in relation to their continued reliance on tourism,” said Bredel.

Vanessa Gray, Head of the Division for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Emergency Telecommunications at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), added, “We know that small islands are naturally prone to disasters caused by earthquakes and severe weather events and are being affected by climate change, resulting in increased tropical cyclones, hurricanes, flood and landslides, to name a few. Connectivity can help address these events by providing remote communities with access to early warning systems, real-time weather information, remote sensing and geographic information systems.”

Gary Jackson, Executive Director of the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE), said that countries in the region are “pushing the envelope” towards energy efficiency.

“We have to recognize that islands don’t have what we call a supergrid, don’t have a lot of interconnections that would give us reliability and availability and that’s what people really want,” said Jackson. “So one of the things we have to consider is how we move towards decentralization, decarbonization and some of the things that we need to do to ensure that reliability, availability and affordability are consistent with what people require.”

Michelle Marius, Publisher of the ICT Pulse blog highlighted a continuing gender gap concerning digital employment. “We do have so many girls and women in the workforce. Many of them, sometimes even in management positions in reputable organisations, but somehow we still have not been able to crack that barrier between women in tech and digital entrepreneurship by women” she noted.

Amjad Umar, Director and Professor of ISEM (Information Systems Engineering and Management) programme at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, said, “We know that, in many cases, SIDS do not have 3G technologies – they are still at 2G range. So, we specifically designed this plan (for the ICT4SIDS Partnership) that produces solutions that would work with very, very low technologies…”

“Digitalization consists of people, processes and technologies,” underlined Umar.

Concluding, moderator Martin Lugmayr, Sustainable Energy Expert at UNIDO, stressed that there is a long way to go towards realizing inclusive and sustainable industrial development in SIDS, particularly in light of current circumstances. “COVID-19 recovery must have a long-term perspective. Iit has to be green, it has to be blue in the case of Small Island Developing States, and it has to be digital,” he said.

Continue Reading

Finance

Fewer protections, lower wages, and higher health risks: Homeworking in the COVID era

Published

on

Image: European Wilderness Society

The UN’s labour agency (ILO) called on Wednesday for greater recognition and protection for the hundreds of millions of people who work from home, accounting for almost eight per cent of the global workforce even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since movement restrictions linked to the global spread of the virus were implement in many countries, the number of people working from home has increased sharply, and that trend is expected to continue in coming years, despite the rollout of vaccines that began in late 2020.

Drop in wages in rich and poor countries

According to a new ILO report, many of these “invisible” workers experience poor working conditions, face greater health and safety risks, and lack access to training, which can affect their career prospects. They are also likely to earn less than their counterparts who work outside the home, even in higher-skilled professions.

“Homeworkers earn on average 13 per cent less in the United Kingdom; 22 per cent less in the United States; 25 per cent less in South Africa; and about 50 per cent in Argentina, India and Mexico”, ILO said in a news release on Wednesday.

The report, “Working from home. From invisibility to decent work”, also showed that homeworkers do not have the same level of social protection as other workers, and are less likely to be part of a trades union or to be covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

Homeworkers include teleworkers who work remotely on a continual basis, and a vast number of workers who are involved in the production of goods that cannot be automated, such as embroidery, handicrafts, and electronic assembly. A third category, digital platform workers, provide services, such as processing insurance claims, copy-editing, or cutting edge specializations such as data annotation for the training of artificial intelligence systems.

Growth likely to continue

According to ILO estimates, prior to COVID-19, there were approximately 260 million home-based workers globally, representing 7.9 per cent of global employment.

However, in the first few months of the pandemic, an estimated one-in-five workers found themselves working from home. Data for the whole of 2020, once available, is expected to show a “substantial increase” over the previous year, said the agency.

The ILO predicts that the growth of homeworking is likely to continue and take on greater importance in the coming years, bringing renewed urgency to the need to address the issues facing homeworkers and their employers.

Poorly regulated

At the same time, homeworking is often poorly regulated, with little compliance with existing laws, and homeworkers usually classified as independent contractors, which means that they are excluded from the scope of labour legislation. In response, ILO outlined clear recommendations to make working from home “more visible and thus better protected”.

Industrial homeworkers should be made part of the formal economy, given legal and social protection, and made aware of their rights, ILO urged. Similarly, teleworkers should have a “right to disconnect”, to ensure the boundaries between working life and private life are respected.

The report also urges governments to work closely with workers’ and employers’ organizations, to ensure that all homeworkers move from invisibility to decent work, “whether they are weaving rattan in Indonesia, making shea butter in Ghana, tagging photos in Egypt, sewing masks in Uruguay, or teleworking in France”.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Intelligence1 hour ago

Indian Chronicle: Exposing the Indian Hybrid warfare against Pakistan

In recent years Indian hybrid warfare against Pakistan has intensified manifold to malign Pakistan Internationally through disinformation and propaganda tactics....

Finance3 hours ago

Corporate Boards are Critical Starting Points for Implementing Stakeholder Capitalism

COVID-19 has led to global and systemic economic, social and environmental disruption, and an increasing number of companies are recognizing...

Middle East4 hours ago

Why is Melih Bulu Seen as a Pro-AKP “Trustee” Rector?

The new year started under the shadow of social tensions triggered by Melih Bulu’s appointment to the rectorate of Bosphorus...

Middle East5 hours ago

Morocco Increases Pressure on Hezbollah by Arresting One of its Alleged Financiers

At a time when global attention is focused on the fight against the pandemic and the global effort to vaccinate...

Health & Wellness5 hours ago

Guterres warns against self-defeating ‘vaccinationalism’

With more than two million lives now lost worlwide to COVID-19, the UN Secretary-General appealed on Friday for countries to...

Europe6 hours ago

The projection of Turkish power in the Eastern Mediterranean

The recent military conflict between Greece and Turkey over potential gas fields located in disputed waters is linked to a...

Human Rights7 hours ago

Pandemic curbs trend towards ever-increasing migration

Travel restrictions and other curbs to movement put in place in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, have put a...

Trending