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Insurance platform Collective Benefits raises £3.3M to give gig economy workers a safety net – TechCrunch

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The famous phrase “software eats the world” was originally coined to describe how technology gradually replaces the old industrial norms of production. But few realized that when Uber started to ‘eat’ the taxi industry it would also be among the first harbingers of a new wave of what it meant to be ‘employed’. As similar ‘gig economy’ platforms start to eat the old relationship between employer and employee — where some semblance of ‘duty of care’ had developed — the gig platforms have yet to develop much caring for the gig-worker. And as these platforms gain power, do they really want this to look like the re-emergence of serfdom? Gig work is coming to an industry near you, whether we like it or not.

Ideally, we need a new model that can deal with income minimums, benefits, insurance, pensions, etc. which responds to the dynamic way the world of work is evolving.

Collective Benefits is a startup aimed at tackling this growing ‘protection gap’ created by the gig economy where so-called ‘self-employed’ workers must often go without basic benefits such as family leave and sick pay, not to mention mental health support and critical injury pay. 

The startup has today announced the closing of £3.3 million in Seed led by UK-based Stride.VC, alongside existing investors Delin Ventures, Insurtech Gateway and several angels from executives in Uber, Deliveroo, and Urban.
 
Collective Benefits has set out to build a tech platform that gives gig workers access to a full range of affordable, portable protections and benefits which they can carry around with them between the platforms they work on.

So instead of your benefits being tied to one employer, as is the current case, they can apply to any gig economy ‘employer’ someone works for.

It’s also working with a number of on-demand service platforms who are giving their workforces access to these benefits. The startup will use the funding to further its growth and offering for gig platforms. A consumer service aimed at freelancers will follow later this year.

Anthony Beilin, CEO and Co-Founder of Collective Benefits said in a statement: “There are six million self-employed workers in the UK, which includes both higher-paid freelancers and gig economy platform workers. Yet, neither group typically has a safety net – no holiday pay, no family leave, no mental health support, not even paid sick days. We are building Collective Benefits so that the gig economy workers are covered by the same protections typically reserved for full-time employees.”

The company provides a benefits platform for both gig economy platforms and self-employed freelancers (such as sick pay, family leave, and mental health support), but the platform is also designed to boost loyalty to the gig platforms amongst the workers, as well as reduce churn and talent acquisition costs.

Fred Destin, partner at Stride.VC Said: “We’re seeing services platforms gain unstoppable momentum in every segment of our lives, from rides to food delivery to freelancing. We need a new playbook. Collective Benefits addresses one of the core challenges in this brave new world of work, using technology to design and deliver a new type of safety net to all the participants in this fast-growing part of our economy.”

Robert Lumley, Director and Co-founder of Insurtech Gateway, said: “The insurance industry faces a massive challenge in keeping up with the extraordinary growth in self-employment. Collective Benefits has created entirely new insurance products for the self-employed not addressed by traditional insurers and accessible through a flexible tech platform that allows them to get the cover they need.”

The fact this startup has appeared just goes to show the market failure today due to the on-rush of new technology sprinting ahead of regulation. Some 96% of UK self-employed have no income protection, while 93% of UK self-employed have no health or critical illness cover. PWC estimates that self-employed will account for 20% of labour force by 2025.

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French Economy Shows Little Sign of Succumbing to Omicron Angst – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — French economic activity will continue to rise in December, despite another wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and fresh uncertainty over the omicron variant, according the Bank of France.

Completed at the end of last week, the central bank’s monthly survey of 8,500 firms is the first indicator of how businesses in the euro area’s second-largest economy are faring since the new coronavirus strain emerged.

Based on their responses, the bank estimates economic activity was 0.5% above pre-crisis levels in November and will be 0.75% higher this month. That means output for the whole fourth quarter will also expand by almost 0.75%.

The report provides some reassurance on the capacity of European economies to weather the latest virus surge. It follows bullish remarks last week by Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau, who said omicron wouldn’t change the outlook “too much.”

While France late Monday introduced further restrictions — including closing nightclubs — to slow the spread of the disease, the moves are designed to have limited economic impact and the government has pledged to compensate those affected.  

Even so, the central bank’s survey found that some companies “indicated difficulties in giving a short-term outlook” because of the uncertainties — particularly in industries like hospitality and air travel.

In addition, hiring difficulties and supply disruptions persist. About half of firms polled said they’re struggling to find staff and 57% of industrial companies said supply snarls have dented activity, according to the Bank of France.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Japan economy contracts 3.6% in Q3 on weaker consumer spending, trade – Business Standard

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Japan’s contracted at a 3.6% annual rate in July-September, according to a revised estimate released Wednesday.

The downgraded growth estimate for the last quarter, down from an earlier report of a 3.0% contraction, reflected weaker consumer spending and trade, the government said.

The world’s third-largest has been mired in recession and struggling to recover from the impact of waves of coronavirus infections.

The latest outbreak, in the late summer, has receded for now with a sharp drop in cases. But it hit during the usually busy summer travel season, with calls for restricted business activity and travel hurting restaurants, hotels and other service sector industries.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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New immigrants, international students needed to fuel Canada’s bio-economy – Rocky Mountain Outlook

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NEW CANADIAN MEDIA:  Canada’s bio-economy will require about 65,000 additional workers by the end of this decade and companies will be challenged to fill positions due to a highly competitive labour market, states a new nation-wide region-by-region analysis.

The national report by BioTalent Canada, which guides bio-economy stakeholders, states Internationally Educated Professionals (IEPs) and recent immigrants could help fill the gap but currently make up only a small percentage of the bio-economy workforce.

“Newcomers to Canada, with valuable skills, can quickly enter the workforce bringing their diverse perspectives to help access new markets and contribute to solutions,” states the report.

To address the skills needed in the bio-economy up to 2029, BioTalent Canada is calling for a subsidy program for immigrants in order to reduce the perceived risk of hiring new Canadians, as well as new pathways to integrate the talent of international students and IEPs into the labour market.

They are among the key recommendations in today’s regional reports as well as in a national study completed last fall that together unpack the current landscape, trends, challenges and opportunities in Canada’s bio-economy.

The report defines the bio-economy as “the economic activity associated with the invention, development, production and use of primarily bio-based products, bio-based production processes and/or biotechnology-based intellectual property.”

It estimates there are “roughly 12,000 organizations in Canada’s bio-economy (which) collectively employed some 200,000 people in 2019.” 

The field is multidisciplinary in that it cuts across the bio-health, bio-energy, bio-agriculture (agri-bio) and bio-industrial (chemicals and materials) sub-sectors.

“The industry has to develop new strategies focused on breaking down barriers to entry for recent immigrants, Indigenous workers and workers with disabilities — all of whom are seriously under-represented in the bio-economy today,” said BioTalent president and CEO Rob Henderson.

Insufficiently stocked

Today’s analysis on Ontario — and an accompanying report on the Greater Toronto Area — conclude the region will require another 24,500 bio-economy workers by 2029, and that the current talent pipeline is three-quarters empty.

It states women account for an average of roughly one-third (35 per cent) of Ontario bio-economy workers. Other groups have less representation, with IEPs making up 17 per cent of the bio-economy workforce, and recent immigrants (those who have been in Canada less than five years) 9 per cent.

“Immigration is one solution right now. We can hire workers from other countries who are fully trained and have often been doing the job for years, so they’re able to come on board and get up to speed very quickly” — Keith Tucker, senior human resources director at National Resilience, Inc., a Mississauga-based biomanufacturing facility.

“We also want to support programs that encourage Canadian students to specialize in this highly competitive career,” said Tucker, whose company works with researchers, biotech and pharmaceutical companies, and governments to help develop and produce a range of experimental and commercialized therapies.

The report on Western Canada — including British Columbia and Alberta — and an accompanying report on Metro Vancouver, similarly conclude that the region’s pipeline is insufficiently stocked to meet demand. 

“It is likely that Western Canada’s biotech industry will lack 18,800 bio-economy workers by 2029, and current estimates indicate there will not be enough workers to meet labour needs,” the report states.

Western Canada accounts for 28 per cent of Canada’s bio-economy, with over 3,800 organizations — mainly small and medium-sized businesses — collectively employing some 48,000 people in 2019.

Decentralizing works

Handol Kim is the co-founder and CEO of Vancouver-based start-up Variational AI, whose innovative machine-learning platform generates novel and optimized molecules and has the potential to eventually cut preclinical drug discovery times from years to months.

“We need cheminformaticians, computational chemists, medicinal chemists and synthetic chemists,” he said.

For Kim, the local skills shortage and the pandemic solidified the idea that a decentralized team can work well.

“It’s the cost of doing business. Uprooting someone from Boston to work in Vancouver is expensive and they won’t be productive for six months. I’d rather pay someone 30 per cent more to stay where they are and contribute right away,” he said.

“We prefer to hire from within Canada, but we’ll hire the right person from anywhere.”

Elsewhere in Canada, today’s reports show Atlantic Canada’s bio-economy is likely to require 3,300 additional workers by 2029; Quebec will require 15,500 additional workers while the Prairies are likely to require 3,400 additional workers over the next 10 years.

Sub-sectors

According to the report, the bio-economy includes “the use of resources from agriculture, forestry, fisheries/aquaculture, organic waste and aquatic biomass” and its “sub-sectors share a common objective: the commercialization of resultant bio-products, processes and/or intellectual property.”

Its subsectors include:

Bio-health

“The bio-health sub-sector encompasses the invention, development, manufacturing, commercialization and use of products that improve therapeutics, diagnostics, prevention and health administration, as well as the development and production of nutraceuticals and applications of medical cannabis. Research and development activities contribute to the development of new products, bio-based technologies and intellectual property related to the production of bio-health products and technologies.”

Medical cannabis
  
Medical Devices
  
Biopharmaceuticals
  
Nutraceuticals
  
Natural-compound bioactives
  
Bio-molecules
  
eHealth/Artificial Intelligence

Bio-energy

“The bio-energy sub-sector encompasses the invention, development, production, commercialization and use of renewable fuels through the conversion of organic material into heat or power. Research and development activities contribute to the development of new products, bio-based technologies and intellectual property related to the production of bio-energy.”

Biodiesel
  
Ethanol
  
Methane
  
Bio-oil
  
Sustainable development

Bio-industrial

“The bio-industrial sub-sector encompasses the invention, development, manufacturing, commercialization and use of goods for industrial use, such as bio-chemicals and bio-materials, through the conversion of organic material. Research and development activities contribute to the development of new products, bio-based technologies and intellectual property related to the production of bio-industrial products. Among others, the development and production of biocatalysts are an integral part of this sub-sector.”

Biocatalyst
  
Biosolvents
  
Bioplastics
  
Biocoatings
  
Bioadhesives

Agri-biotech

“The agri-bio sub-sector encompasses the invention, development, production, commercialization and use of new or modified products resulting from the manipulation, modification or alteration of the natural features of plants and crops, animals and/ or other food sources. Research and development activities contribute to the development of new products, bio-based technologies and intellectual property that support improved quality, yield and efficiency in the agricultural sector and food production.”

Agri-fibre composites
  
Animal Genetics
  
Plant Genetics
  
Livestock Vaccines
  
Animal Nutritional Supplements
  
Functional Foods

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