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Employers must remove barriers to work for all generations

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Governments and employers should work together to promote multi-generational workforces to adapt to ongoing changes in the world of work that have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new OECD report.

Promoting an Age-Inclusive Workforce says that, by 2050, more than four-in-ten people in the world’s most advanced economies are likely to be aged older than 50. And there will be one person aged 65 and over for every two persons aged 20-64 in OECD economies compared to one for every three today.

Yet current public employment and retirement policies, as well as many corporate practices, are often closely tied to the age of workers, rather than to their actual work capacity and individual needs. Despite older adults being healthier and better educated than ever before today, their talent often remains underutilised and overlooked.

“Promoting greater diversity of experience, generations and talent has the potential to bring enormous benefits to workers, companies and society as a whole,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “Employers need to develop initiatives that nurture an age-diverse workplace and take a life-cycle perspective with supportive public policies and good social dialogue.”   

Living standards across the OECD would be improved substantially by increasing the participation of older workers in employment, according to the report. Extending working lives could boost GDP per capita by 19% in 2050 on average in OECD countries if employment rates of older workers everywhere caught up with the best‑performing countries like Iceland and New Zealand.

Age-discrimination remains a common problem across the world, restricting employment choices for older and sometimes even younger workers, representing a considerable cost to business.

Rather than focusing on age, labour market policy should be tailored to different individual circumstances and contexts. This implies eliminating age-bias recruitment practices and encouraging age‑diverse cultures where all workers feel comfortable and appreciated regardless of age.

Retaining talent is key. The report provides evidence that employers who respond positively to the changing needs of employees during their lifecycle and career stages improve their success in attracting, motivating and retaining workers. These workers, in turn, are likely to make a greater contribution to their workplaces, and play a full part in making it efficient and productive.

Along with more flexible working arrangements, implementing returnship programmes and providing opportunities for career and financial planning throughout employees’ lifecycles can act as effective retention policies for both younger and older workers. Reverse mentorships also offer many advantages in the context of multigenerational workplaces and can help breakdown age-stereotypes.

Governments and companies should revise their approach to training and skills development. Currently, only 41% of adults across the OECD take part in job-related training. And employees who are younger, more highly qualified, and on full-time contracts are more likely to receive training than those who are older, lower skilled and working part-time. Encouraging people to maintain and develop their skills during their careers and lifetimes would generate significant productivity gains and help more older people extend their working lives.

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Corporate Boards are Critical Starting Points for Implementing Stakeholder Capitalism

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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”.

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