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SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST
South China Morning Post (SCMP) is an English-language daily published in Hong Kong. Co-founded in 1903 by the British journalist Alfred Cunningham, the newspaper has an estimated circulation of 104.000. It is currently owned by Alibaba group.
Work → In Progress: Why 'Financial Wellness' Is Not Just About A Raise
Work In Progress
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: Why 'Financial Wellness' Is Not Just About A Raise

The workplace wellness trend now includes the very practical questions about how, when and how much we get paid, and is shaping up to be the next step in blurring the lines between personal and professional that were once so neatly divided.

We’re approaching the end of Q1 of 2022 and the “wellness” trend that’s usually reserved for millennials’ yoga mats has officially made its way into the professional world. After two years of realizing that job setups don’t always favor employees’ health, the call for sweeping workplace changes — ranging from more medical access to an HR focus on mental well-being — is in full swing.

But wouldn't you know: the latest professional self-care trend carries a notably practical air: financial wellness.

Bank of America’s 2021 Workplace Benefits Report mentioned “financial wellness” 43 times, which it defined as “the type of support employers are offering to address financial needs.” But is making money not the point of work? It seems this new rebranding of how work relates to cash is indicative of how differently we now view employment.

The financial wellness movement doesn’t want companies to just fairly compensate employees but instead to teach them how to manage their salaries, be it saving for retirement, navigating debt or budgeting.

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Photo of a sunset over Chicago's O'Hare airport with backlit plane tails
Future
Carl-Johan Karlsson

7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.

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As long as there's good WiFi ...
REUTERS
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: Second Wave Seals A New Future For Work

COVID-19 shook up the world of work last spring. Since the virus (and lockdowns) returned this fall, the changes underway have only accelerated.

As the year comes to an end, much of the world is re-confining — or never left quarantine. Although COVID-19 has been with us for nearly 12 months, many of the questions it's triggered about our way of work (and life) have yet to be answered. How do companies factor in their employees' cost of living when so many are moving away? How do workers unionize when they're all working remotely? Can we efficiently network at online conferences? While we may not have all of the solutions just yet, conversations around these themes are swiftly ramping up as businesses prepare for an increasingly remote, digitized world — even post-vaccine.

From Sweden to Silicon Valley to the screen of your computer, this edition of Work → In Progress looks at how companies around the globe are shifting their attitudes as the pandemic rolls on, planting the seeds for the workplace trends of tomorrow.

HERE AND THERE Remote work: Some love it, some hate it. How do companies adapt to the mixed feelings of their employees? Brazilian magazine Epoca highlights how Brazilian companies such as IFood are preparing for a "free model" once the pandemic subsides, meaning that employees will decide where it's best for them to perform their activities (with guidance from HR and management, of course). According to the article, Milton Beck, LinkedIn general manager for Latin America, says that employees were working 28 more hours per week since the pandemic, as work-life balances were thrown into chaos. He believes we can expect to see more hybrid models incorporating both in-person and at-home solutions in a post-COVID world.

PRODUCTIVITY DEVELOPMENT After one of the world's strictest lockdown regimes returned to France, some have begun to ask if it's time for employers to change how they measure productivity. While unions fight for more telework days and the legal acknowledgement of more work-at-home professions, numerous companies are worried about not being able to monitor their employees' efficiency from afar. Philippe Emont, of the AlterNego consultancy firm, argues in French daily Les Echos that this is actually a fantastic opportunity for progress in HR, as companies have necessary conversations not just about how we work, but how we recognize work. "The trust necessary between employer and employees cannot rest exclusively on indicators of control," Emont writes.

GAME ON While last year's International Conference on Distributed Artificial Intelligence took place in Beijing, this year's conference took place in … a video game. While many salons and symposiums have moved online since the pandemic, few have allowed participants to dress their own avatar. The conference could be the next step in digital events, and perhaps even lead to better online networking — a pet dragon is a great conversation starter.

STAT DU JOUR

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION COVID and the ensuing rise of telework has brought about a migration boom as people leave cities for more spacious homes. Now, companies who already had a significant number of employees working from home before the pandemic are thinking about adjusting employee's pay based on where their home base is. Facebook was criticized for considering the idea of changing the salaries' of employees who now have a lower cost of living, while Stripe offered a $20,000 bonus to employees who left New York, Seattle or San Francisco — followed by a 10% pay decrease. This burgeoning phenomenon may turn into a global conversation about how best to establish a cost of living, and how much it should factor into employee compensation.

UNIONS.COM? How do workers unionize in digital industries? Spanish media El Pais wonders if the traditional codes of employee organization will still apply in a future world, or if it's time to find new methods. How can employees assemble if they're all working remotely? How do the self-employed monitor their working conditions? Which government should digital nomads appeal to? What will define a trade union as jobs rapidly shift and no longer fit into old categories? Whatever the outcome, classic methods of negotiation will surely see an upgrade in years to come.

THE ODD JOB

TRIP OUT According to Swedish website Vagabond, 79% of Swedish employees in the private sector believe business travel will significantly decrease from pre-pandemic levels after COVID subsides. While it may seem logical that companies would rush to meet their customers, partners and contractors, 33% feel that remote meetings are sufficient to get most jobs done. Many Swedes, however, feel that trips will increase in the form of digital nomadism. It seems the travel industry may be taking on less work and more play!

A Dallas voter waving an American Flag during a rally
U.S. Election 2020 - Views From Abroad
Rozena Crossman

American Tragedy, Trump Is Taking Democracy Down With Him

PARIS — Watching the non-stop coverage of the U.S. election, a line from Shakespeare kept flicking at my mind. It's a grim image from that tragic tale of love, hate and disinformation, Romeo and Juliet: "A plague o" both your houses! They have made worms' meat of me." Now, the graphic allegory was unfolding on my computer screen in real time: No matter which candidate wins — and with plagues of our own spreading all around — we risk making worms' meat of democracy.


After growing up in Massachusetts, I've lived abroad ever since reaching voting age, and always dutifully sent my absentee ballot from Canada or France. It used to be a moment of clarity and civic pride, but dropping my vote in the mail, and waiting for the results, has felt very different in 2020.


The Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, is of course far better than the alternative. But after five decades in Washington and two weeks shy of his 78th birthday, he hardly inspires — and apparently didn't excite enough voters to provoke the predicted Democratic landslide across the country in the face of Republican mismanagement of the pandemic.


But make no mistake, this election season's real plague is President Donald Trump. An election night report from the international election observer body, OSCE, gave an assessment usually reserved for countries with scant experience in representative democracy: "Baseless allegations of systematic deficiencies, notably by the incumbent president, including on election night, harm public trust in democratic institutions."


President Donald Trump upped the ante further Thursday night as challenger Joe Biden approached victory, launching a diatribe of falsehoods from the White House that combined the petulance of an 8-year-old sore loser and a demagogue's tactics for inciting civil war.

This election season's real plague is President Donald Trump.

The damage for a country that maintains its superpower status is bound to spread abroad. Other powers often criticized by Washington for their substandard democracies seem to be reveling in America's current upheaval. As Trump demands the vote counting to stop, as his social media posts are published with disinformation warnings on Twitter and Facebook, China's Xi Jinping and Russia's President Vladimir Putin are given more ammunition. "Xi and Putin have held onto power by convincing their citizens that their systems of government are superior to the democracies of the West," reads a recent article in the Hong Kong-based South Morning China Post.


Even other democratic nations are shaking their heads in disbelief. An op-ed in Foreign Policy by Barkha Dutt, a New Delhi-based journalist, is titled "India Would Have Counted the Votes Already." Meanwhile, French daily Le Monde published an editorial Wednesday entitled "The United States, A Democracy In Danger," while Berlin-based Die Welt describes "a certain weariness with the institutions of the republic, just like in Ancient Rome."


The very principles that the United States has been so used to boasting about, the system of government it has so zealously prosthelytized, are now being undermined by the way we've conducted the most basic function of an open and modern society. I've always rolled my eyes at my fellow Americans who describe our country as the "leader of the free world." With any remnant of that status vanishing, we're all holding our breath to see what comes next.

Stepping out (for good)?
COURRIER INTERNATIONAL
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: Why Our Work Days Will Never Be The Same Again

The world found out quickly that COVID-19 would be a major interruption to the way we worked. By now, there is little doubt that the health pandemic — and resulting lockdown measures and travel bans — will leave permanent traces in company policies, employee behavior and our relationship with work spaces and technology.

Yet it goes even further: Since work is so central to people's lives, we are beginning to see how these changes could reshape the broader organization of our economies and societies.

Still, the changes will reveal themselves over time — and as this new edition Work → In Progress shows, the devil will be in the details. What both employees and employers must do right now is begin to think hard about the trade-offs implicit in such potentially big changes to our working habits and policies. Teleworking, for example, has ushered in a new era of flexibility but also raises questions about the potential loss of in-person mentorship; in Ivory Coast, mobility restrictions and closed schools have exacerbated alarming labor issues; while in South Africa, medicine delivery service is helping pharmacy employees handle a growing workload.

TAKE OUT Thanks to COVID-19, the delivery sector has expanded way past pizza and Amazon orders. South Africa, battling both coronavirus and an HIV epidemic, has instituted a medicine delivery service with 240,000 chronic medication packages reported as delivered in mid-June. Although pharmacy employees are struggling to adjust to the unprecedented workload, this new mode of distribution looks like a promising tool for both governments and companies fighting the economic impact of coronavirus. If this trend continues, delivery driver may be the next hottest job on the market.

ETHICS MATTER There's lots of talk about how quarantine has accelerated new work trends, but it has also exacerbated alarming labor issues. According to the International Cocoa Initiative, lockdown in the Ivory Coast has led to a rise in child labor. The combination of closed schools with a lack of adult workers due to mobility restrictions has caused the number of children performing dangerous tasks such as heavy lifting or working with chemicals to increase from 16% to 19%. It's an urgent example of how labor legislation should not take a backseat during the pandemic. On the contrary, it should be front and center, an integral part of every country's fight against the growing economic depression.

STAT DU JOUR

LOST MENTORS "I can only sustainably work from home because I have 40 years of office experience behind me," wrote Richard Harris, a Hong-Kong based CEO and investment manager in the South China Morning Post. In an age of coronavirus and Zoom meetings, he wonders how younger employees will be able to grow professionally without hands-on help from a mentor. HR departments should think carefully about how educational relationships between colleagues can be fostered digitally, or the results may be dire for the future workforce.

HOT TOPIC As the climate continues to change, so do our work habits. Vietnamese rice farmers had their work hours turned upside down by a recent heat wave, forcing them to pick the paddies at 2 a.m. instead of during the day. Temperatures of 40 °C have made outdoor labor impossible after 8 a.m., and the only source of light during night shifts are small head and pocket lamps. Because of this, workers are half as productive and their family lives are heavily affected. It's another item on the long list of reasons why fighting global warming is our most pressing issue.

THE ODD JOB

GOOD INVESTMENTS Social and political issues can spill into workplaces of every sector, and industries around the world felt the effects of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and protests against the murder of George Floyd. Big corporations are seeing pressure to make real change, as some investors are turning away companies that aren't committed to diversity. One resulting example is BlackRock announcing a plan to increase their number of Black employees to 30% in the next four years. According to the Financial Times, however, "shaping investment portfolios to achieve racial justice is incredibly difficult, primarily because of the lack of data." It looks like companies will need to combine technological savvy with CSR in order to attract tomorrow's investors.

ARTIFICIAL ACTING "LOL," as the kids say: The most beautiful robot in the world is unemployed (until movies can start filming again)! When we hear about robots stealing our jobs, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not the movie industry. Yet, the android Erica will be the lead lady in Life Productions' $70 million sci-fi picture, "b," which tells the tale of a scientist tasked with creating perfect human DNA. Created by Hiroshi Ishiguro, a roboticist at Osaka University in Japan, Erica's features were modeled after Miss Universe pageant finalists to make her the most beautiful robot in the world. As an aspiring actress, Erica is great at remembering lines but struggles with adapting her tone of voice to a given context. As she keeps practicing lines with human actors, the developers hope she will be ready to perform when production resumes.

Roquefort may be delicious, but it doesn't cure coronavirus
Coronavirus

From French Cheese To Cow Urine, A Roundup Of Fake COVID-19 Remedies

As the coronavirus has spread across the world, so too have an array of fake remedies and cures that promise to protect people. Social media have been flooded with claims about foods, products and other assorted concoctions that can allegedly cure or prevent the virus. Up to the point that the World Health Organization had to issue warnings about such myths. Needless to say, they vary by location, culture and tradition — but no matter where you live, don't follow these faux cures at home:

  • French cheese: A Facebook post that was widely shared suggested that "Penicillium Roqueforti", the mold used to make Roquefort, the French blue cheese, was used by professor Didier Raoult in the creation of chloroquine and tested by the French physician in the fight against coronavirus, Le Monde reports. The author of the post himself admitted later on that his post was a "positive ‘fake news'" to add a "touch of humor in this difficult time" as well as to promote Roquefort.

Bananas to fight the virus? — Screenshot

  • Bananas: A video entitled "A banana a day keeps the coronavirus away" circulated online, which appeared to be a report promoting bananas as a way to improve the immune system thanks to fruit's concentration of vitamin B6. The video turned out to be a mix of two reports from an Australian television channel and The Wall Street Journal which didn't mention bananas at all.

  • Cow urine: In India, a group of Hindu activists organized a "cow urine drinking party" in an attempt to ward off the virus, The Wire reports. Hindus consider the cow sacred and some believe that the animal's urine, called "Gomutra", has medicinal properties.

  • Garlic: It may be of the most mentioned fake health tips online and despite the fact that there is no evidence that eating raw garlic protects people from the virus, the myth seems to endure. The The South China Morning Post reported the case of a woman who, after eating around 1.5 kilograms of garlic over two weeks, needed hospital treatment as her throat was inflamed to the point she could no longer speak.

  • Vodka to herbal remedy: While Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko have been encouraging its citizens to drink vodka, Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina has launched "Covid-Organics', a herbal tea to cure the virus. According to RFI, the decoction will be sold in supermarkets and pharmacies and some students who were going back to school will be required to take it.

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Screen capture of Chan's Jan. 24 performance
Coronavirus

Jackie Chan Helps Lead China's COVID-19 Propaganda War

The COVID-19 propaganda war in and around China now includes a familiar face: There's only one Jackie!

The martial arts movie legend, who is a native of Hong Kong, has long since evolved into a fervent supporter and spokesman for the Communist regime on the mainland. Now critics of Beijing, both inside China as well as Hong Kong and Taiwan, are taking shots at Chan for being a mouthpiece for the alleged cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak. Taipei-based daily Liberty Times reports criticism of Chan began spreading on the Chinese-language internet last week after a CCTV Jan. 24 televised performance reemerged of Chan surrounded by hundreds of dancers performing a patriotic song, in response to news around the world of coronavirus spreading in China. "Does my country look sick?", says one refrain of the elaborate song-and-dance routine aboard a massive (and crowded) cruise ship.

In retrospect, with thousands having died since, Chan's chest-thumping looks more than a little bit off-tune: "This walking disaster! Watch out for the bad luck he is bringing!", one Chinese commented on social media last week. Another added: "Jackie's endorsement, China's demise!"

More recently, Chan appearing more subdued on Instagram, advised his fans to follow social distancing advice. The 66-year-old star ends the bilingual video with "Go China! Go the World!" in Chinese, and just "Go!" in the English version.

This is not the first time Chan has been under fire for his overt nationalism and support of the regime, including criticism of anti-government protesters and regional rivals. "Hong Kong and Taiwan have too much freedom," he declared in 2012. More recently he declared himself China's "national flag guard," demonstrating his loyalty to the Chinese authorities during the months of anti-government protests last year in Hong Kong.

Writing after that incident in The South China Morning Post, Chiu-Ti Jansen said the Chinese government's policy of leveraging soft power through celebrities, like Chan, is short-sighted for all. "It seems certain that there will be more pressure on entertainers to declare their positions and also more policing of their public statements. Stars with international reach must be thoughtful, if not strategic, before endorsing any side." With a deadly virus now spreading worldwide, that seems more relevant than ever.

Assembling robots in central China's Hunan Province.
Geopolitics
Anne Sophie Goninet

Robots, A Not-So-Secret Weapon Against COVID-19

There are many reasons robots can help — for starters, they can't catch it.

We've been hearing for years how robots, for better or worse, were going to change our lives. Now in the battle against the highly contagious COVID-19, we're seeing them in a whole new light. Of course it all begins with the fact that, no, robots can't get infected. Winks aside, these artificially-intelligent machines are allowing people to avoid physical contact and maintain social distancing, easing the burden on health providers, helping police officers to implement lockdowns, and allowing people to better face life under quarantine.

  • Health: The most urgent need robots are filling is as healthcare assistants. In Italy, hospitals are turning to robots to replace doctors and nurses and keep them safe from the virus. A child-size robot named Tommy allows care providers to avoid direct contact with patients and limit the use of masks, able to monitor the equipment's parameters in a room and record messages from patients, to transfer them to the staff.

  • Law & Order: The interior ministry in Tunisia has deployed a police robot in the country's capital Tunis to make sure its inhabitants are observing the coronavirus lockdown, reports Jeune Afrique. The four-wheeled robot is equipped with a camera and controlled remotely by officers, in order to check pedestrian's ID or other papers. Drones have also been used in several countries to reinforce patrolling of certains areas. According to Le Monde, in France for instance, police officers used drones to scan beaches where people were still taking walks despite the lockdown, or to broadcast social distancing guidelines.

  • Being there: Robots have also undertaken unexpected social roles during the crisis, allowing people to be present at big life events. With the help of "Newme" avatar robots, the Business Breakthrough University in Tokyo, Japan, was able to hold a virtual graduation ceremony. The remotely controlled robots were equipped with a tablet that used video-conferencing tool Zoom and were dressed in graduation caps and gowns. This allowed students to experience the celebration of walking on the stage to accept their diplomas. In the United States, a father who was in quarantine in California after travelling on the Grand Princess cruise ship, was able to attend his daughter's wedding in Arizona with a help of a "telepresence robot" the family nicknamed the "Papabot", Voice of America reports.

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