Friday, 23 August 2013

Zero-hours Contracts - The Underemployed

Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life” – Confucius
Imagine a world where everyone springs out of bed each morning knowing they are heading to a workplace they love.
It’s not easy.
Lives lived on the rubbish tips in Lagos, in clothes factories in Bangladesh and on the manufacturing lines of our best-loved tech brands in China leave an incredible stain on our consumer conscience.
And even in the UK, one of the richest countries in the world, the zero-hours contracts that have become the norm for upward of 1m people working everywhere from local councils to large chains, are another blemish. They leave many employees uncertain, uninvested in and ultimately underemployed.
Consider this: strolling to work knowing that representatives directly elected by you are happily working alongside those chosen by your employer. You’re looking ahead to your first sailing holiday, taken at the retreat owned by your firm, and your future is assured by the company pension scheme. In fact, you even know you’ll get six months off, paid , when you reach 25 years – who wouldn’t stay at a place like this? And in the meantime, you’re able to take paid leave to work within your community. Not to mention, your company bonus has been on average an extra 15 per cent of your salary for the last five years.
A fantasy? A work of fiction? Or one of the UK’s most well-known stores?
Unlike many workers in the UK, this is a reality for employees, not just ‘partners’ working at John Lewis, one of the UK’s largest chains of department stores. A successful British brand, and an employee-owned business, not failing, but actually bringing in more profit than many years pre-recession, in spite of, or rather because everyone has a stake in its success.
Profit rose too at McDonald’s this year, increasing 3.7 per cent to $1.4bn. The same McDonald’s that has used zero-hours contracts since it rocked up here in 1974, underemploying 90 per cent of its 92,000-strong workforce. At Sports Direct, profits soared 40 per cent to more than £200m. But 90 per cent of its 23,000 staff, those working with zero guarantee of hours or workplace benefits, won’t be sharing in it. The Queen’s very own Buckingham Palace has likewise taken people on with no guarantee of work and pay. Although the nature of the latter’s jobs are seasonal, surely managers at each of these large employers can be sure of how many people they need from one week to the next?
Zero-hours contracts, the increase in part-time and casual work, the failure of the minimum wage to deliver anything other than the bare minimum and a lack of a true living wage are symptoms of a sick system. They symbolise a short-sightedness where cynical employers see their workers as a cost, not a valuable resource, merely something that could one day be replaced by a machine.
We know that executive pay and bonuses go up in both the corporate and public sector, while the gap between the rich and the poor widens and 700,000 public sector workers are laid to rest. Agency staff, guaranteed no paid holiday, sick days, bonuses, job security, or even working hours, obligingly take their place. ‘At least I have a job’, they think.
This is typified in care work, where the modus operandi should, of course, be caring, but instead councils cut corners by buying cheap private sector services where workers are badly paid, poorly trained and are ultimately replaceable. Those at the top call it ‘flexible’, they say it’s a ‘buyers’ market’ for employers – workers are a commodity to be bought and sold after all – so turnover of staff doesn’t matter. There are plenty more where they came from.
New Labour called this globalisation, while the Coalition is now pitting ‘us’ (British Nationals) against ‘them’ (Illegal Immigrants) with vitriolic ‘Go Home’ messaging, omitting the fact that we welcomed in immigrant workers to ensure there would always be someone more desperate to do it for less. Meanwhile our education system, failing on maths and languages, left us ill-prepared to be able to go and do work elsewhere.
Our global economy failed. That’s what the Conservatives have been blaming on Labour for the last three years while further deconstructing workers’ rights and our public institutions. Labour has looked on, knowing full well it sold out the hard-working people that made its name and bought into the kind of corporate thinking that helped get us to where we are today.
No one has the right to a job, many will argue, much less one they like, but every unemployed person could become the next benefit claimant, the next person seeking help for depression from the NHS or the next crime statistic. The next member of the ‘undeserving poor’ scrounging from the tax payer.
There is no getting away from the fact that the UK’s economy has a few broken cogs that have contributed to the failed system, like the minor detail that many big corporations don’t pay taxes. And, the in-work benefits system – a supplement for low wages – is used by more people than the amount spent on welfare for the unemployed. A policy which incidentally also serves as good ploy to ensure unemployment figures are within ‘acceptable’ levels come election time.
Perversely, our rotten economy actually depends on people having money to spend. These same businesses that pay their workers poorly need consumers to be able go out and buy things just as much as their staff need security in work. With wages held down and little confidence in the future, the tills are unlikely to be ringing as loudly as shareholders and pension fund managers would like.
Like the environment, tax avoidance and housing, our politicians have failed us on ensuring we have the jobs that we need, and we have, knowingly or not, left ourselves with very little means of protection. While the Trade Union Congress has recently analysed the phenomenon of the casualisation of labour, falling union membership and successive government attacks on organised labour have left them in little position to bolster a meaningful fight back.
For every John Lewis, it appears, there are many more McDonalds. And there is always a high-paid exec who argues that their industry will go elsewhere if pay and bonuses are curbed, while millions have to wait silently for a call into work that might never come.
We consider ourselves world leaders, but how can we lead the world’s workers into secure and meaningful work when we can’t even guarantee it for our own? The Government not only tells us to get on our bikes and find a job, but also knows that there may be zero work when we get there, even if we’ve signed a contract.
In a world where a contract means nothing, where work means nothing, where next?
Illustration by Sky Nash
Written for Let's Be Brief.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Microsoft Offers Ad-free Bing Search for Schools

Bing has launched a pilot scheme in the US to offer all schools ad-free access to the platform. 

Bing for Schools also offers enhanced privacy settings and filters to block adult content, along with a digital learning exercise delivered everyday via the homepage at the right level for each student. 

This is the first time a service like this has been offered by a major search engine, giving schools the ‘choice to avoid the commercialisation of student web searches’. More than 800,000 students have already been signed up, from school districts in LA, Atlanta, Fresno and Detroit. 

Parents have the opportunity to earn Bing Rewards for participating schools by using the regular search engine at home - and no doubt a sweetener for the company as it seeks to increase its share of search users. Microsoft says that 30,000 credits will get the school a Mircosoft Surface RT  - which the company estimates would only take 60 regular users a month to do.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here:

A Car is Bought Every 3 Minutes in the UK Using eBay on Mobile

A car is bought every three minutes by someone using eBay on their mobile in the UK – totalling more than 175,000 vehicles sold every year – making motoring the third most popular mobile purchase. 

Fashion is the top mobile purchase on eBay, with a pair of shoes snapped up every 15 seconds and a handbag sold every 30 seconds. Tech is the second most popluar purchase for mobile eBayers in the UK. 

eBay has revealed that Birmingham is the top mobile shopping city in the UK, followed by South London, Sheffield, Nottingham and Belfast. The 21 per cent of cross-platform shoppers on eBay make up 44 per cent of total global sales, the company also said. 

eBay forecast at the beginning of the year that the value of its mobile transactions in 2013 would be $20bn. It also revealed in July that it had seen 197m downloads to date worldwide.

Top 20 destinations 

  1. Birmingham 
  2. South London 
  3. Sheffield 
  4. Nottingham 
  5. Belfast 
  6. North London 
  7. Leicester 
  8. Peterborough 
  9. East London 
  10. Bristol 
  11. Newcastle 
  12. Manchester 
  13. Cardiff 
  14. Portsmouth 
  15. Doncaster 
  16. Coventry 
  17. Derby 
  18. Brighton 
  19. Reading 
  20. Chelmsford


Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here:

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Mirror’s Mobile Traffic Reaches 73 Per Cent at Weekends

The Mirror has relaunched its website using responsive design, managing to significantly condense and declutter its content for mobile browsers compared to those accessing via desktop.  

Advertising currently running on the site when accessed using a mobile device is limited to banners for the company’s PaperPay app, while those using desktop will see a full takeover advertising Mirror Bingo. 

The publisher has also revealed that its UK mobile traffic now beats desktop at every hour of the weekend, according to stats shared with The Media Briefing.  On Sunday mornings, mobile’s share grows to 73 per cent of traffic, while weekdays see mobile traffic plummet as workers move back to their desks. 

Trinity Mirror is currently pushing its credential's as a free online newspaper, aiming to fight off its main rival The Sun, which has moved behind a paywall. The Sun does not have a mobile-optimised website.  Trinity Mirror made a pre-tax profit of 2.5 per cent in H1 2013, reaching £49.3m, although ad revenues declined by 12.6 per cent to £132.1m.  

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here:

Friday, 16 August 2013

Going OTT: Messaging Apps Stats Roundup

Following our roundup of the key features and user numbers of the most popular messaging apps around the world, we’ve gathered together some more detailed stats shared with Mobile Marketing by Onavo

Gender and age 

Using messaging apps, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a slightly more female-slanted pursuit than male, with highest usage among women seen on MessageMe, KakaoTalk and Snapchat. Men are slightly more likely to use Skype and Viber, while WhatsApp is an even split.

Messaging apps are nearly all most popular among 25 to 34-year-olds, particularly MessageMe, LINE and KakaoTalk. Snapchat was the only app that bucked this trend, being most popular among 18 to 24-year-olds, who take a 39 per cent share of the app’s global iOS audience. The most popular app among 55 to 64s and the over 65s is trusty Skype. Usage of MessageMe among 55 to 64s was the only instance where where activity exceeded those aged 45 to 54. 

US, UK and Canada compared 

When comparing the usage of messaging apps by iPhone users in the US, Canada and the UK, the largest stat is that WhatsApp is used by 49 per cent in the UK – the highest reach of any app in any of the countries we looked at. In contrast, it reaches just 12 per cent of US iOS app users. WhatsApp is followed rather distantly in the UK by Skype at 22 per cent reach and Snapchat at 21 per cent. 

In the US, Snapchat has the greatest reach, used by 26 per cent of iOS app users, followed by Skype on 21 per cent and Facebook Messenger on 17 per cent. This is the only time Facebook Messenger appears among the top three – and it has only been downloaded by 19 per cent of Facebook users worldwide. 

In Canada meanwhile, Skype edges into number one, with 22 per cent reach, closely followed by Snapchat, with 20 per cent, and WhatsApp on 18 per cent. Across the three countries, Skype enjoys the most consistent reach in all countries. 

WhatsApp is a success - whatever its limitations 

WhatsApp is clearly hit and miss, with a number of limitations, including a lack of voice calls, but does directly link in to Skype if both have been downloaded. That’s probably why, worldwide among these three apps, 44 per cent of WhatsApp users also using Skype as well. Viber supplements WhatsApp’s service for 28 per cent of users. Just 23 per cent of Skype users also have WhatsApp. 

Whatever WhatsApp’s limitations, among messaging app users on iOS worldwide, it is present on 99 per cent of handsets it Spain, along with 96 per cent in Hong Kong, Columbia and Argentina, showing it has achieved international fame.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here: