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European Edition
12th February 2024
Regulators urged to implement post-Brexit reforms faster
Regulators in the UK need to adopt an "ambitious growth mindset" to implement post-Brexit financial sector reforms quickly and prevent businesses from relocating, according to industry body TheCityUK. The proposed "Edinburgh Reforms" aim to maintain London's competitiveness as a global financial centre after Brexit. However, the reforms cannot be implemented without a similar mindset from regulators, said Bruce Carnegie-Brown, chair of TheCityUK's leadership council. Carnegie-Brown highlighted the need for faster approval of top hires and criticised the lengthy decision-making process of regulators. The Bank of England and Financial Conduct Authority have a new objective to consider the City's global competitiveness and growth when writing rules.
Finnish construction workers on jobless benefits increase by 2,500 in January
The Finnish Construction Trade Union has reported a significant increase in unemployment among its members. In January, about 22% of the union's members were unemployed or temporarily laid off, compared to 14.3% in the same month last year. This reflects the "crisis" the construction sector is facing, according to union president Kimmo Palonen. Despite the high rate of furloughs, there is still a high demand for new housing and renovation projects. The union has proposed measures to the government, including increased state subsidies for housing construction and a temporary grant to stimulate the renovation market. However, the planned labour market reforms and cuts to social security benefits are exacerbating the challenges faced by the industry. The construction sector is also experiencing bankruptcies, with three subsidiaries of Lehto, one of Finland's largest construction companies, filing for bankruptcy.
Home Office faces surge in work visa demand ahead of salary threshold increase
The Home Office is facing unprecedented demand for work visas before the increase of the minimum salary threshold in April. The minimum salary needed for a foreign migrant to qualify for a skilled worker visa in the UK will rise by nearly 50% on April 4. The demand to obtain visas under the existing rules has led to the visa allocation system struggling to keep up. Yash Dubal, a visa expert and director of AY & J Solicitors, said: "The rush to complete the visa process ahead of the increase in minimum salary requirements was inevitable, given the size of the increase. It will affect around 30%of skilled worker visas, mainly in middle-income roles. Our clients are understandably anxious to get all their relevant overseas recruitment in place ahead of the spring, at which time many roles that would previously have qualified for a skilled worker visa will be effectively priced out of the international market."
UK employment rate falls to its lowest in a decade
Employment levels in the UK's private sector have dropped to their lowest in a decade, reaching 98.77 on BDO's employment index. The decline is attributed to uncertainty surrounding the economy, high interest rates, and weak consumer demand. Starting salary growth has also slowed, and permanent hiring has been in contraction territory since October 2022. Meanwhile, a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reveals that employers believe that pay in private firms will rise by 4% in 2024, while pay increase expectations in the public sector have fallen from 5% to 3%. It was also shown that 60% of employers surveyed by the CIPD reported hard-to-fill vacancies, while one in five expect significant problems filling vacancies in the next six months.
Agreement reached to expand rights for people with disabilities in the EU
An agreement has been reached in the European Union to expand the rights of people with disabilities. The directive, which implements stronger access to services for disabled travellers in other EU countries, is seen as a milestone in ensuring freedom of movement for all. MEP David Casa, who was the EPP's negotiator on the EU Disability Card and the EU Parking Card, stated that the new directive will eliminate challenges and bolster inclusion. The limited pilot programme run by the Commission will now become law across the continent, improving the quality of life for millions. Casa urged for a strong vote in plenary later this year and emphasized that this change is long overdue.
Accountants demand more DEI efforts, ACCA survey finds
A new survey from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) reveals trends in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), artificial intelligence (AI), employee retention, hybrid work, and mental health for accountants. The survey, which polled nearly 10,000 professional accountants from 157 countries, found that a strong diversity and inclusivity culture is a key attraction factor for accountants when choosing an employer. However, some accountants feel that existing diversity initiatives focus too heavily on certain facets, potentially neglecting other types of differences that could enhance creativity and innovation. The survey also highlights concerns over unequal career advancement prospects, favoured networks, and a lack of psychological safety. Additionally, it shows that hybrid work is preferred by most employees, but many employers still insist on full-time office arrangements. The report emphasizes the need for employers to prioritise diversity, inclusivity, and mental health support to attract and retain talent in a competitive market.
Italian bank to hire 300 new workers
State-owned Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) plans to hire 300 new workers by the end of this year, according to the FABI banking union. The announcement comes after MPS announced its first dividend in over a decade and reported a fourth-quarter profit that exceeded analysts' expectations.
Roche to cut 345 jobs in response to lower profit
Roche is cutting 345 jobs in response to lower profit and a more cautious outlook for the year ahead. The jobs will be eliminated in the product development area, accounting for about 6% of the workforce in that area. Around 1,800 of Roche's 5,800 jobs worldwide in pharmaceutical product development or IT support are in Switzerland, with approximately 100 jobs expected to be affected by the cost cuts. Roche's adjusted operating profit decreased by 1% last year, while sales were 7% lower. The company employs approximately 101,000 people globally, including 14,200 in Switzerland. Roche has not yet commented on the job cuts.
Advisers flag regulation fears as a cause of stress
Fears of tighter regulation keeps a third of advice firm owners awake at night, according to the Lang Cat's State of the Advice Nation report. The poll of 400 members of the advice profession found that advisers are concerned about the pace and volume of regulation. Steve Nelson, director and co-author of the report, said: “The burden of regulation continues to be a massive headache for firms and it’s a real concern to see this driving some to breaking point.  Many respondents from smaller firms talked about the disproportionate impact on them.” It was also found that one in ten advisers are concerned about failing to meet client expectations, while 9% flagged fears over managing workloads. For 8%, the rising cost of doing business linked to regulatory fees and increase in tech budgets is a source of stress. While 14% of advice business owners are considering selling their business to a consolidator in the future, this rises to a third for advisers aged 65 and over.
Australians cheer proposed 'right to disconnect' laws
Australians are celebrating new proposed laws that would give workers the "right to disconnect" from calls and messages outside of work hours. The laws, part of a parliamentary bill introduced by the federal government, have already been passed in the Senate. Similar laws are already in place in France, Germany, and other EU countries. The bill also includes provisions for clearer pathways to permanent work and minimum standards for temporary workers. While many Australians support the idea of being able to switch off after work, some business leaders have criticized the legislation as anti-business. The chambers of commerce and the Business Council of Australia have called for careful reconsideration of the implications of the laws. However, supporters argue that the "right to disconnect" is a reasonable measure to ensure work-life balance.
Decline in overseas Japanese population
The number of Japanese people living abroad has been declining since 2020, with Shanghai and New York experiencing significant drops in their Japanese populations. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that the number of long-term overseas Japanese residents increased annually from 1989 to 2019, reaching 1.41 million. However, in 2020, the number fell to 1.36 million and continued to decline in the following years. While Japanese expatriates in Asia, Europe, North America, and South America have decreased, more Japanese people are living in Africa, the Middle East, Central America, and Oceania. The reasons for the decline in overseas Japanese are varied, including concerns over anti-Asian racism in the US, arrests of Japanese nationals in China, and economic factors. Some Japanese families returned to Japan for their children's education.

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