Author Archives: TBR Team

How COVID-19 is Impacting Gender Inequality

BY Gaia Aviloff

COVID-19 has exacerbated gender inequality in the job market. Recent studies have shown that the global pandemic is disproportionately affecting women in two main ways. Firstly, women work in the hardest-hit sectors. Secondly, the closure of schools and the shift to online learning have impacted women’s ability to work from home. 

The study The Labour Market Impacts of the COVID‑19: A Global Perspective shows how 40% of all employed women work in the sectors that have been most affected by COVID-19.  The UN WOMEN has released data revealing how female unemployment fell by 50% in Asia and the Pacific compared to 35% in male unemployment. To help evaluate which sectors have been most affected, the study The Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Inequality has distinguished two criteria:

  1. Whether or not current regulations have limited the sector’s output
  2. Whether or not the sector allows for telecommuting

The sectors considered ‘essential’ are Transportation and Material Moving; Healthcare Support; Farming, Fishing, and Forestry; Installation, Maintenance, and Repair; Protective services; Healthcare Practitioners and Technicians. Women work in 4 out of these six sectors, and men work in 6 out of the six sectors. Moreover, 70% of women who work in healthcare services, social work, or who are frontline workers are paid less than their male counterparts.

On average, in the United States, 28% of men work in sectors that allow for telecommute compared to 22% of women. Thus, women will be more likely to face unemployment as they work in industries that cannot adapt to the new remote working format. The graph below shows which sectors are considered essential and which allow for telecommuting in the United States.

 In households where both married members can telecommute for work, the wife will most likely quit her job to provide childcare and housework. In Europe, the pandemic has exacerbated these gendered patterns, with women reducing their work hours 4 to 5 times more than men.

The closure of schools, childcare services, and day centres coupled with older relatives’ unavailability has further splintered gender inequality. There has been an increase in childcare needs with children staying at home and having classes online. The distribution of childcare needs varies on the work arrangements of the members within a household. In the United States, 25% of married couples have a traditional labour division in which men are employed full time and women stay at home. However, in only 5% of married couples, the arrangement is the opposite. In marriages with traditional work distribution, the increase in childcare needs will fall on women. The European Institute for Gender Inequality shows how, before COVID-19, married women provided 39 hours of childcare and married men provided 21 hours. The rise in childcare needs has further amplified the gendered patterns in the unequal distribution of childcare. The graph below illustrates the division of childcare and housework in households across 22 countries.

                                   Source: UN WOMEN

The division of childcare within a family reflects the existing disparities between men and women.

Single mothers are the most vulnerable to these changes. They must juggle home-schooling, the rise of childcare needs, and work. Single mothers must also rely on a single income; however, studies have shown that they are more likely to work in sectors that have been most affected by current restrictions. According to the Central Statistics Office, there are 44.5% single mother households in Ireland compared to only 18.6% single fathers. Single mother households are more at risk of living in poverty since most governments worldwide do not supply social coverage.

Nonetheless, the study The Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Inequality proposes that the flexible working format may produce greater gender equality. The conversion to remote working, adopted during the pandemic, is likely to persist in a hybrid form. More fathers will be able to participate in childcare needs and housework actively. Which can lead to an equal distribution of household tasks as both members may balance their careers with childcare needs and housework. Studies have shown that boys with a working mother will be more likely to marry a working woman contributing to changing gendered norms.

The European Institute for Gender Inequality suggests that the EU promotes education free from gendered stereotypes. Women may access less impacted sectors which allow for telecommuting. The study also states how: “Addressing women’s under-representation in STEM occupations could create up to 1.2 million jobs and increase GDP by up to EUR 820 billion by 2050.” By implementing policies that aim to reduce gender inequality in the labour market, EU member states will see higher economic growth and greater financial stability.

Goodbye 9-to-5, Salesforce to offer flexible work schedules to employees

By Matthew Quick

“The 9-to-5 workday is dead.”

Coronavirus has drastically changed the way business is handled since it first began over a year ago, including the way we work.

Last Tuesday, Salesforce announced that the company will no longer expect their employees to follow the 9-to-5 work schedule that has defined the modern workplace. Instead, Salesforce will be introducing a new system in which employees can choose a more flexible working schedule that determines how often they come into the Salesforce offices.

The company has offered three separate options to employees. A flex option will see employees returning to the office one to three days a week, once it is deemed safe to do so. The company states that most Salesforce employees will work via these conditions, as 80% of those surveyed still seek a physical connection to the workplace. A fully remote and a more traditional office-based option will also be offered based upon the employee’s needs.

The changes come after the company surveyed its employees at the start of the pandemic. “We learned that nearly half of our employees want to come in only a few times per month, but also that 80% of employees want to maintain a connection to a physical space,” Brent Hyder, President of Salesforce, wrote in a blog post announcing the changes.

Hyder also wrote that offering a more flexible work schedule is aimed at increasing productivity and creating greater equality in both terms of hiring and work-life balance. “In our always-on, always-connected world, it no longer makes sense to expect employees to work an eight-hour shift and do their jobs successfully,” Hyder wrote. “Whether you have a global team to manage across time zones, a project-based role that is busier or slower depending on the season, or simply have to balance personal and professional obligations throughout the day, workers need flexibility to be successful.”

Salesforce is among a growing list of tech giants allowing their employees to have more freedom over their work schedules. Last October, tech giant Microsoft announced that the company would be embracing a more flexible workplace that would allow some employees to work from home even after coronavirus restrictions are lifted. Salesforce is also looking to update its office spaces once employees return to work. Diverting from a more traditional workplace, “community hubs” will replace desks with breakout spaces meant to foster human interaction.

Salesforce employees began working from home in early 2020 and are expected to continue working from home until at least July 31, 2021, the company stated. The latest changes being made by Salesforce and fellow tech companies indicate an evolution brought on by coronavirus. Companies and employees alike have developed different expectations from one another as a majority of the global workforce works from home.

“This isn’t just the future of work, this is the next evolution of our culture. We’re combining the strength of our values, our platform and our people to reimagine the way we work for the better — whether in-person or in the cloud,” Hyder wrote.

Trinity Entrepreneurial Society: Dragons’ Den Through the Years

by Daryna Kushnir and Urte Perkauskaite

The show Dragons’ Den is based on the Japanese television series ‘Manē no Tora’ (‘The Tigers of Money’). It was broadcast from 2001 to 2004. Since then, the concept of ‘Dragons’ Den’ has gained popularity in many countries. For example, in the United States the show is known as ‘Shark Tank’ and the panel of investors are known as the ‘Sharks.’

Entrepreneur Michael Cotton made history in the show as his invention – a device used to stop motorists filling up their diesel cars with petrol – received the largest investment to date, totalling £250,000. While ‘Tangle Teezer’ which did not receive investment in the show is now worth an estimated £200m.

Pitching competitions are held in many world-renowned universities. For example, the University of Oxford launched its ‘Humanities Innovation Challenge,’ where students pitch their entrepreneurial ideas and compete for a prize of £5000. Similarly, in 2020, Durham University held its fourteenth pitching competition ‘Dragons’ Den with a Difference’ with environmental sustainability as the event’s focus.

The TES Dragons’ Den has been active in Trinity’s college community for a long time, we look back on some successful and strange ideas that have gone through the competition over the years;

Equine MediRecord

A company which hails to be the first of its kind, Equine MediRecord was founded by Trinity students Pierce Dargan and Simon Hillary. The idea was first pitched at the TES Dragons’ Den competition in 2016. The equine startup went onto Launchbox and has become a successful business operating in Ireland, the UK and France.

Bounce Insights

The novel market research startup placed second in Dragons’ Den 2019, also securing a place in Launchbox. It has been operating successfully ever since. The team consisted of five Trinity undergraduates – some making sacrifices such as foregoing Erasmus to work on their idea! An interview with Charlie Butler, one of the founders is available on the TES website.

CFlood

Winner of last year’s Dragons’ Den competition, CFlood’s core product is a simple and accurate tool which visualises flood data. The company is currently looking for investors and hopes to make its product available to the market very soon. More information about their plans are available here: https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/cflood-visualise-flood-data-tcd-launchbox/

Aurius

The winner of Dragons’ Den in 2017 aimed to sell hearing aids at a much more consumer-friendly price of €550. The company also secured funding at the Irelands Funds competition.

Little Farms

A startup proposing to grind up crickets into flour as a sustainable alternative to beef came close to winning Dragons’ Den back in 2016! It didn’t seem to work out, but a California company called Little Farms is doing very well with the same idea.

Despite the pandemic, the TES Dragons’ Den competition persists, taking place over Zoom this time. The society’s current ‘Incubator’ participants suggest some very promising ideas for Dragons’ Den 2021. The competition will offer more than €20,000 worth of prizes, with judges Alison Treacy, Kate Fullen and Sean Judge representing the sponsors Elkstone, Amazon Web Services and Tangent. Be sure to apply before it’s too late!

More information is available at https://www.testrinity.com/dragons-den

How Covid-19 Has Affected Amazon

By Udita Gulati

COVID-19 has drastically changed the dynamic of businesses and the economy. Ecommerce is a sector that has experienced an interesting impact due to how consumer behaviour has adapted in response to the world-wide lockdown. Consumers have turned to online shopping in order to fulfil their needs from home. Businesses that cater to essentials in the healthcare industry such as facemasks and hand sanitizers, and online grocery shopping have experienced a dramatic spike in demand. Amazon is a company that has strategically taken advantage of this consumer demand and reacted accordingly to make provisions for these new needs. 

Negative impacts of COVID-19 

According to Fortune, Amazon was met with an enormous upsurge of orders as customers resorted to online shopping to acquire essential supplies. It had to enlarge its workforce and recruit an additional 175,000 employees in order to meet these demands.  Subsequently, the company faced a labour crisis as workers complained about the lack of adequate safety measures in warehouses. Amazon was quick to implement stronger precautions to keep its employees safe, and hence had to increase its costs. It spent US$4 billion on protective equipment, COVID-19 testing, and increased salaries for frontline workers. 

In addition, Amazon’s USP of prompt delivery was impaired – especially for Prime customers who specifically signed up for one day delivery – thus hurting its reputation. The surge of orders consequently caused its sellers to suffer. For a period of time, Amazon was forced to prioritise medical supplies and household staples at its warehouses. It temporarily discontinued FBA (Fulfilment By Amazon), a service that aids sellers with shipping logistics by sending products directly to an Amazon warehouse, for sellers with nonessential items. Small businesses, that make up 58% of its third-party sellers, were especially vulnerable due to this decision as they struggled to cut costs and re-evaluate their business plans. This left third-party sellers feeling helpless as Amazon failed to provide them with a contingency plan. 

Positive impacts of COVID 

Amazon braved these initial challenges by tackling the issues COVID-19 posed and has, as Time believes, emerged stronger than ever. It announced record sales and profit in spite of the world being in a pandemic. Its website traffic jumped to 2.54 billion visits in March and its revenue increased by 40% compared to a year before from US$89.9 billion to $122 billion. 

As brick-and-mortar stores were forced to shut down, consumers turned to Amazon’s diverse online marketplace to satisfy their needs. After Amazon resolved its operational strain and lifted the restrictions on FBA, customers began to increasingly rely on the wide array of products that could meet their needs in a speedy fashion. Economies of scale and efficiency have allowed the company to quickly adjust to the new external business environment – which works as the catalyst for moving past COVID-19 hurdles faster and stronger than its competitors. 

Not only did Amazon’s B2C model progress, but the B2B model also experienced growth. The company’s cloud business, Amazon Web Services (AWS), faced a higher demand as companies such as Netflix, Zoom, Facebook, Twitter, and Epic Games (developers behind Fortnite) that run on AWS faced a surge in traffic as people spent more time indoors. The rise in working and studying remotely resulted in the demand for cloud services to substantially increase. Amazon’s Twitch in particular has been popular in the digital entertainment industry as professional basketball and football players now stream themselves playing video games due to the hiatus live sports has taken. 

How might COVID affect Amazon’s future? 

As the pandemic prevails, Amazon will continue to reap the benefits of changing consumer habits becoming increasingly dependent on technology. As users spend more time online, they could be inclined to subscribe to other Amazon services such as Prime Video or Audible. The diversity of its product portfolio, ability to continually meet consumer needs, and methods of excelling in its supply chain management – amidst one of the most trying periods businesses have ever faced – bolsters its aggressive hold on customers and aggressive position against rivals. 

That being said, this power comes with its own predicaments. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has had to previously partake in an investigation regarding online platforms and market power wherein he was questioned if “in the age of Big Tech, how big is too big?”. Amazon’s drastic growth may push the firm further in this undesirable direction. Its increasing market share and the world’s dependence on it alarms policymakers and makes them question whether the company is too powerful and thus behaving in a monopolistic and anti-competitive manner. 

What the EU Court Ruling On The Apple-Ireland Tax Case Means

By Isha Neurgaonkar

On 15th July, the European General Court in Luxembourg ruled that the Republic of Ireland did not give Apple illegal state aid, reversing the decision of the European Commission. In 2016, the Commission stated that Ireland broke EU state aid rules by granting undue tax benefits to Apple. It had ordered the Irish government to collect €13.4 billion of unpaid taxes from 2003–2014.
    
What happened? 
Ireland has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the EU (12.5%). It is Apple’s base for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In 2016, the European Commission said that Ireland had allowed Apple to attribute nearly all of its EU earnings to an Irish head office that only existed on paper, thereby avoiding paying tax on EU revenues. The Commission declared this constituted illegal aid given to Apple by the Irish state. The Irish government argued that Apple should not have to repay the taxes, deeming that its loss was worth it to make the country an attractive home for large companies.


In 2014, Apple’s Irish structure consisted of two subsidiaries, Apple Operations Ireland (AOI), an Irish-registered holding company and the Apple Sales International (ASI) an Irish-registered subsidiary of Apple Operations Europe (AOE). Apple did not follow the Double Irish structure by using two separate Irish companies but instead used two separate branches inside one single company, ASI. The EU Commission alleged this was illegal state aid. This structure was not offered to other multinationals in Ireland, which had used the traditional “two separate companies” version.


The Commission argued that the rulings allowed Apple to make most of its European sales through an employee-less head office, which was non-resident for tax purposes. Only the activities of the Irish branches within the same units were subject to tax in Ireland. The intellectual property behind Apple products lay inside these Irish branches, signifying that most of the profits were taxable by Revenue. Apple argued that it was held outside the branches and controlled by the group headquarters. 


What next? 
A report from the OECD predicts that the rate of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) internationally may fall by 30-40% as companies re-evaluate their strategies post the COVID 19 pandemic. FDI has been an integral part of the Irish economic strategy since the 60s. To this day, the Irish economy is still reliant on FDI. Eduardo Baistrocchi, a professor of tax law at the London School of Economics, described Ireland as a “non-G20 hub in the international tax system” to DW. He then explained that Non-G20 hubs are “a group of countries that connect multinational enterprises (MNEs) with market jurisdictions to minimise the tax entry and tax exit costs of the MNEs. Ireland connected Apple with markets across all continents. Baistrocchi also remarked that “in 2014, for every $1 million of profit that Apple earned from its European operations, Apple paid $50 tax in Europe: an effective tax rate of 0.005%.”

According to both Baistrocchi and Liz Nelson at the Tax Justice Network, this problem is global. Baistrocchi comments that the tax-hub model is not prohibited by the international tax regime. Thus, the international tax regime is “broken” due to the power and influence of big multinationals like Apple. While the General Court said that there were “inconsistencies” and “defects” with Revenue’s approach, the Commission failed to show that the outcome was flawed and that Apple paid less tax than it should have. The ruling of the court has since been appealed by the European
Commission before the Court of Justice of the European Union, the EU’s highest court.

In the current global politico-economic scenario (where all countries are fighting to gain more in an environment of uncertain economic globalisation), abiding by the rules of geopolitical organisations like the EU and implementing strong FDI policies are both important factors for the growth trajectory of relatively smaller economies like Ireland. Ultimately, balancing these factors correctly could help both national and global economies and businesses thrive.

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