Workers Quit Jobs In Droves To Become Their Own Bosses

The pandemic has unleashed a historic burst in entrepreneurship and self-employment. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are striking out on their own as consultants, retailers and small-business owners.

The move helps explain the ongoing shake-up in the world of work, with more people looking for flexibility, anxious about covid exposure, upset about vaccine mandates or simply disenchanted with pre-pandemic office life. It is also aggravating labor shortages in some industries and adding pressure on companies to revamp their employment policies.

The number of unincorporated self-employed workers has risen by 500,000 since the start of the pandemic, Labor Department data show, to 9.44 million. That is the highest total since the financial-crisis year 2008, except for this summer. The total amounts to an increase of 6% in the self-employed, while the overall U.S. employment total remains nearly 3% lower than before the pandemic.

Entrepreneurs applied for federal tax-identification numbers to register 4.54 million new businesses from January through October this year, up 56% from the same period of 2019, Census Bureau data show. That was the largest number on records that date back to 2004. Two-thirds were for businesses that aren’t expected to hire employees.

This year, the share of U.S. workers who work for a company with at least 1,000 employees has fallen for the first time since 2004, Labor Department data show. Meanwhile, the percentage of U.S. workers who are self-employed has risen to the highest in 11 years. In October, they represented 5.9% of U.S. workers, versus 5.4% in February 2020.

The self-employment increase coincides with complaints by many U.S. companies of difficulties—in some cases extreme—in finding and retaining enough employees. In September, U.S. workers resigned from a record 4.4 million jobs, Labor Department data show.

Kimberly Friddle, 50 years old, quit her job as head of marketing for a regional mortgage company near Dallas in September 2020. Her daughters in the sixth and eighth grade were struggling with attending school virtually, and, months into the pandemic, both were showing signs of anxiety. Although her employer was understanding, she wanted flexibility to provide them help without juggling Zoom meetings and projects.

Ms. Friddle planned to stay home indefinitely with the support of her husband, a pharmaceutical-company executive. But when a friend contacted her the next month, she saw an opportunity.

The friend sold home décor items on Amazon.com from his home in Canada, and Covid-related border restrictions were making it difficult to process returns. When he explained what he needed—primarily, someone to examine returned items for damage and ship them back to Amazon—Ms. Friddle felt the work could be a good challenge and a chance for her older daughter, Samantha, to gain some work experience.

They began processing returns for him steadily. When other Amazon sellers he knew needed help with warehouse-related tasks that were also made harder by the pandemic, he referred them to Ms. Friddle.

Now she runs an Amazon logistics, warehousing and fulfillment business full time from the family’s home outside Houston and rented warehouse space nearby. Her older daughter works with her about 10 hours a week, and Ms. Friddle recently hired an assistant. She hopes to expand her services to Walmart vendors.

In July, the family’s monthly income returned to roughly what it was when she worked in marketing, Ms. Friddle said. Though the decision to leave that job was an emotional one, she said, a change after 27 years has given her new energy and confidence in addition to the flexibility.

“I didn’t have a plan when I left,” she said. “I wasn’t giving enough attention to the needs of my family. I wasn’t giving enough attention to the job that needed to be done. I felt like I was failing everywhere.”

Now, “I feel so successful and I wake up every day like, ‘I wonder what’s going to happen today.’ ”

Through the late 19th century, the majority of Americans worked for themselves, as farmers or artisans. With new technology such as electric lighting, manufacturing expanded, and many people left the field for the factory floor. They landed in an environment of strictly defined work hours and hierarchies—workers overseen by managers overseen by executives.

By the time Covid-19 arrived in the U.S., the advent of apps, websites and companies catering to entrepreneurs and freelancers was already giving employees options.

Then, the pandemic spurred some people to “pause and re-evaluate their priorities,” said Aaron De Smet, a McKinsey & Co. senior partner and consultant on labor trends. “When you have a big event where everybody takes stock, and trends are already in place, people working for an employer never thought of doing freelance but now when [they] think about it, why not?”

Marcus Grimm, a 50-year-old in Lancaster, Pa., worked at advertising agencies from the time he finished college. For years, he toyed with freelancing. “I had always considered it, but literally just never had the guts to make the move,” he said. “I was scared I would lose sleep every night worrying about my next dollar.”

Early in the pandemic, Mr. Grimm, a married father of two grown children, was laid off. He logged onto Upwork, a website that connects freelance workers from a wide range of industries with potential clients. He fielded several assignments doing ad campaigns for big companies, charging a low hourly rate.

Business flowed in. He has steadily raised his rate, to $150 an hour. Mr. Grimm said he now earns more than in his old job, which paid $130,000 a year.

His favorite part is not having to deal with corporate politics or any bureaucracy. He can go kayaking in the middle of the day.

“I’m the one who finds the client, I’m the one who does the work, and I’m the one who deals with any of the problems that come up,” he said.

One client offered to hire him full-time, but he declined, Mr. Grimm said. “I told them, ‘I’ve seen the light.’”

Etsy Inc., an online marketplace for individuals to buy and sell items, says it had 7.5 million active sellers as of Sept. 30—up 2.6 million from that time in 2019. Eight in 10 are women. Its surveys indicate more than 4 in 10 of the new sellers started their businesses for reasons related to the pandemic, including for some the need to stay home to care for family members.

On a recent investor call, Upwork Inc. Chief Executive Hayden Brown, citing a September 2020 survey, said: “A new type of career path has emerged, with half of the Gen Z [age 18 to 22] talent pool actually choosing to start their careers in freelance rather than full-time employment.”

Based on a summer 2021 survey, Upwork concluded that 20% of people working remotely during the pandemic were considering leaving their jobs for freelance work.

At LinkedIn, the number of members who indicate they are self-employed by listing services from a field called “Open to Business” has quadrupled since the pandemic began, to 2.2 million, the company said. Nearly half of the new entrepreneurs have a college degree and nearly 4 in 10 a postgraduate degree.

Enterprises founded by women have grown by 27% and male-founded ones by 17% since the pandemic started, according to a LinkedIn analysis of user profiles. Meanwhile, Labor Department data show that in the two years through July, the number of self-employed female workers actively at work has grown 4.3%, while the number of self-employed male workers is down 1%, according to a Pew Research analysis.

Limited child-care or commuting options have helped spur some of the moves.

Matt Parrish of Raleigh, N.C., worked for a company that built retaining walls since graduating from the University of Florida roughly a decade ago. An engineer who managed projects, Mr. Parrish, 31, grew tired of dealing with the bureaucracy, such as when he wanted to hire someone.

“I enjoyed the work I was doing, but I definitely felt like I was getting more and more pigeonholed because it was such a large company,” he said.

He also wanted a schedule allowing more time with his newborn daughter. His employer provided just two weeks of paid parental leave, he said.

Mr. Parrish resigned in August and went into business as a consultant to homeowners and commercial-building owners on building retaining walls for construction projects. Being able to work from home and care for his daughter throughout the day was a primary reason, he said.

Instagram, YouTube and TikTok have provided new avenues to raise cash for aspiring entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, Robinhood Markets Inc. and cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have spurred a new generation of traders, some so successful they have quit their jobs to trade.

Josh Dorgan, who is 32, started trading cryptocurrencies in 2017 with a straightforward goal: to pay off the mortgage on a house he and his wife had bought in Omaha, Neb., as fast as possible.

Mr. Dorgan continued working as a pediatric nurse while trading litecoin, ether and XRP. His trading, plus advisory roles he took on with crypto companies, started taking more time, hard to balance with his job managing the dialysis unit at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha.

When he told his wife, also a nurse, he wanted to quit and focus just on investing, she insisted they talk to a financial adviser first. With a professional’s signoff, he quit the hospital job in August 2020. He said his trading profits the following week equaled his previous full-year salary.

He tries to confine his work—including advising digital-currency firms and creating content for his nearly 200,000 Twitter followers—to between 8:30 a.m. and noon, leaving time to spend with his 10-month-old son, golfing and visiting a lake house he and his wife bought recently.

“You don’t just get into the markets and make money out of thin air,” said Mr. Dorgan. Yet even in volatile trading conditions, he said, he feels far less pressure than when he was juggling investing with a full-time job: “When I’m at a red light, I don’t feel like I’m rushed to get home anymore.”

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Part of the current shift to self-employment might prove temporary. The boom in self-employed day traders during the dot-com hoopla of the late 1990s deflated along with the stock bubble.

A sharp rise in savings—boosted by a federal supplement to unemployment benefits, most recently $300 a week, that was paid for as long as 18 months of the pandemic—provides some individuals a financial cushion to pursue self-employment. As they run down those savings, some might again want a regular paycheck, economists say.

In addition, if labor shortages ease, freelancers could face stiffer competition from companies in landing clients. Finally, if the pandemic recedes, so might one piece of the impetus to leave regular work in favor of self-employment. Five percent of unvaccinated adults say they left a job because of a vaccine requirement they opposed, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey in October.

Robert Spencer, 55, repaired bridges for Washington state’s government for nearly a decade as a welder and fabricator. Mr. Spencer, who had a bout of Covid-19 early in the pandemic, left the job in October because he wasn’t willing to comply with a vaccine mandate for state employees.

As his end-date approached, Mr. Spencer, who had worked for himself before joining the state, began buying supplies to run his own fencing business and lining up residential projects.

His wife now handles billing and accounts payable and receivable. He says the two will need to make financial adjustments in anticipation of a winter slowdown in home improvement.

If the state should change its rules and let everybody come back, “then obviously I would, because of the benefits,” Mr. Spencer said. “But until then—I’m not counting on it—I plan on doing what I’m doing now. I enjoy it.”

By: Josh Mitchell & Kathryn Dill

Source: Workers Quit Jobs in Droves to Become Their Own Bosses – WSJ

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China’s Burned Out Tech Workers are Fighting Back Against Long Hours

1The draining 996 work schedule—named for the expectation that employees work 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week—has persisted in Chinese companies for years despite ongoing public outcry. Even Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma once called it a “huge blessing.”

In early October this year, it seemed the tide might have been turning. After hopeful signs of increased government scrutiny in August, four aspiring tech workers initiated a social media project designed to expose the problem with the nation’s working culture. A publicly editable database of company practices, it soon went viral, revealing working conditions at many companies in the tech sector and helping bring 996 to the center of the public’s attention. It managed to garner 1 million views within its first week.

But the project—first dubbed Worker Lives Matter and then Working Time—was gone almost as quickly as it appeared. The database and the GitHub repository page have been deleted, and online discussions about the work have been censored by Chinese social networking platforms.  The short life of Working Time highlights how difficult it is to make progress against overtime practices that, while technically illegal in China, are still thriving.

But some suspect it won’t be the last anonymous project to take on 996. “I believe there will be more and more attempts and initiatives like this,” says programmer Suji Yan, who has worked on another anti-996 project. With better approaches to avoiding censorship, he says, they could bring even more attention to the problem.

Tracking hours

Working Time started with a spreadsheet shared on Tencent Docs, China’s version of Google Docs. Shortly after it was posted, it was populated with entries attributed to companies such as Alibaba, the Chinese-language internet search provider Baidu, and e-commerce company JD.com.  “9 a.m., 10:30 p.m.–11:00 p.m., six days a week, managers usually go home after midnight,” read one entry linked with tech giant Huawei. “10 a.m., 9 p.m. (off-work time 9 p.m., but our group stays until 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. because of involution,” noted another entry (“involution” is Chinese internet slang for irrational competition).

Within three days, more than 1,000 entries had been added. A few days later, it became the top trending topic on China’s Quora-like online forum Zhihu.  As the spreadsheet grew and got more public attention, one organizer, with the user name 秃头才能变强 (“Only Being Bald Can Make You Strong”), came out on Zhihu to share the story behind the burgeoning project. “Four of us are fresh college and master’s degree graduates who were born between 1996 and 2001,” the organizer said.genesis3-1-1

Initially, the spreadsheet was just for information sharing, to help job hunters like themselves, they said. But as it got popular, the organizers decided to push from information gathering to activism. “It is not simply about sharing anymore, as we bear some social responsibility,”

The spreadsheet filled a gap in China, where there is a lack of company rating sites such as Glassdoor and limited ways for people to learn about benefits, office culture, and salary information. Some job seekers depend on word of mouth, while others reach out to workers randomly on the professional networking app Maimai or piece together information from job listings.  “I have heard about 996, but I was not aware it is that common.

Now I see the tables made by others, I feel quite shocked,” Lane Sun, a university student from Nanjing, said when the project was still public. Against 996 According to China’s labor laws, a typical work schedule is eight hours a day, with a maximum of 44 hours a week. Extra hours beyond that require overtime pay, and monthly overtime totals are capped at 36 hours.125x125-1-1-1

But for a long time, China’s tech companies and startups have skirted overtime caps and become notorious for endorsing, glamorizing, and in some cases mandating long hours in the name of hard work and competitive advantage.  In a joint survey by China’s online job site Boss Zhipin and the microblogging platform Weibo in 2019, only 10.6% of workers surveyed said they rarely worked overtime, while 24.7% worked overtime every day.

 Long work hours can benefit workers, Jack Ma explained in 2019. “Since you are here, instead of making yourself miserable, you should do 996,” Ma said in a speech at an internal Alibaba meeting that was later shared online. “Your 10-year working experience will be the same as others’ 20 years.” But the tech community had already started to fight back. Earlier that year, a user created the domain 996.icu.

A repository of the same name was launched on GitHub a few days later. The name means that “by following the 996 work schedule, you are risking yourself getting into the ICU (intensive care unit),” explains the GitHub page, which includes regulations on working hours under China’s labor law and a list of more than 200 companies that practice 996.  Within three days, the repository got over 100,000 stars, or bookmarks, becoming the top trending project on GitHub at that time. It was blocked not long after by Chinese browsers including QQ and 360, ultimately disappearing entirely from the Chinese internet (it is still available through VPNs).

The 996.icu project was quickly followed by the Anti-996 License. Devised by Yan and Katt Gu, who has a legal background, the software license allows developers to restrict the use of their code to those entities that comply with labor laws. In total, the Anti-996 License has been adopted by more than 2,000 projects, Yan says. Today, 996 is facing increasing public scrutiny from both Chinese authorities and the general public.

After a former employee at the agriculture-focused tech firm Pinduoduo died in December 2020, allegedly because of overwork, China’s state-run press agency Xinhua called out overtime culture and advocated for shorter hours.This company delivers packages faster than Amazon, but workers pay the priceSouth Korean e-commerce giant Coupang uses AI to promise almost-instant delivery. But speed comes with troubling labor issues—including worker deaths.

And on August 26, China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the Supreme People’s Court jointly published guidelines and examples of court cases on overtime, sending reminders to companies and individuals to be aware of labor laws. But even though authorities and state media seem to be taking a tougher stand, it is unclear when or if the rules that make 996 illegal will be fully enforced. Some companies are making changes.quintex-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-2-2-1-1-1

Anthony Cai, a current employee of Baidu, says working six days a week is quite rare in big companies nowadays. This year, several tech companies including and ByteDance, the developer of TikTok, canceled “big/small weeks,” an emerging term in China that refers to working a six-day schedule every other week. “Working on Saturday is not that popular anymore,” Cai says. “However, staying late at the office is still very common, which is not usually counted as overtime hours.” 

 Source: https://www.technologyreview.com

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Scan QR Code Menus With a Side of Caution, Say Privacy Experts

Restaurant patrons who’ve grown accustomed during the pandemic to whipping out their phones to access menus using QR codes should understand the implications for their personal data, say privacy and cyber-security experts.

That’s especially important given some restaurant owners are finding electronic menus efficient and cost effective, and that they may hold onto the practice even after COVID-19 is more contained.

It’s not the QR code itself that collects customer data, said Dustin Moores, a privacy lawyer with nNovation LLP in Ottawa.

“What the QR code does is it sort of acts as a web link to a web page. So when you scan a QR code on your phone, in all likelihood it is going to send you to either the restaurant’s website, or to the website of a service provider that’s being used by the restaurant,” he told Cost of Living producer Jennifer Keene.

“What’s happening is we’re replacing a very sort of innocuous object, a restaurant menu, with a website that comes with all the sort of tracking technologies that you see in modern e-commerce today.”

A marketing device

Bringing up an online menu on your phone doesn’t mean you’re handing data such as your birth date and banking details to bad actors on the internet.

The more immediate implication is that it gives your local pub, or the platform they use, new knowledge of your behaviours and preferences that it can use to better sell to you.

“If you’re a returning customer to to one of these restaurants that use the QR code technology, they might be able to say, ‘Hey, we know that Jennifer ordered the Caesar salad last time; let’s put it at the top of our menu this time because we know that she likes it,'” said Moores.

The restaurant could also use the information it has gathered to upsell customers, such as suggesting the customer add chicken to that salad, he said. Ot it could try to influence your choices by offering a discount on the dish you enjoyed last time.

Moore said it’s also likely that the QR code will take you to a website that uses third-party cookies that can be used to track your web browsing habits. “Let’s say it was a Hungarian restaurant that you visited. Well then other Hungarian restaurants in the area might start advertising to you all of a sudden,” he said.

An issue of consent

Moore said his biggest legal concern about the spike in use of QR code-enabled menus is consent.

“I think what might get lost on a lot of restaurant owners is that, like every other business in Canada, they’re subject to our privacy laws,” he said. “Whenever a business collects, uses or shares personal information in the course of commercial activities, they need to have people’s consent to do that.”

Cyber-security expert Yuan Stevens, policy lead for technology, cyber-security and democracy at Ryerson University’s Leadership Lab, said the security concerns related to QR codes remain “fairly hypothetical.”

“I have not yet found any cases in Canada of QR codes being used for stealing data or violating your privacy,” she said. “But I also think it is useful to keep in mind what concerns we should be aware of as technology becomes ubiquitous.”

Someone who wants to direct you to a malicious website could “fast track” that process using a QR code, said Stevens. “Phishing and scams are already happening. And QR codes would just be another conduit to that.”

She said some restaurants are using QR codes to gather contact tracing information as well as for menus.

With the drive to reduce contact with surfaces and each other, QR codes have increased in popularity during the pandemic, said Stevens, particularly in China, where their use increased six per cent between 2019 and 2020.

Stevens notes that last month a benevolent hacking group already alerted the public that it had been able to hack the Quebec government’s new vaccine passport system, which led to 300,000 QR codes being exposed. The developer resolved the issue within 24 hours, but it’s good to be aware that there are privacy and security tradeoffs that come with using technology, she said.

QR-code enabled vaccination verification systems are now in place in Manitoba and New Brunswick, and will be in Ontario as of Oct. 22.

Jenny Burthwright, owner of Jane Bond BBQ in Calgary, said her business introduced QR code menus in the fall of 2020 when they’d been “ripping through” paper menus while trying to keep COVID-safe.She plans to keep the higher-tech system in place post-pandemic.

“There’s a very obvious cost savings to it,” she said. “With the rising costs of everything, we considered that, and also environmentally just wanted to move away from that paper.

Restaurants are also finding it easier and faster to update an online menu than a printed one, said Olivier Bourbeau, a vice-president of Restaurants Canada, the industry association representing food-service employers.

Being able to quickly add or remove a menu item, or update the price of the dish, is particularly useful given the complexities of running a food-service business during this crisis, including rising food costs and supply-chain problems that delay delivery of ingredients.

Those advantages will likely mean many restaurants will keep the QR-code system in place, Bourbeau said.

Protective measures

To mediate the risks associated with leaving a digital trail every time you order a brisket sandwich or a poke bowl, there are some precautions consumers can take, according to cyber-security expert Stevens.

The same principles that you’d apply to avoiding phishing and other online scams generally also apply to using QR codes, she said.

“Be careful of offers that seem too good to be true. Don’t give sensitive information over email or phone to untrusted sources. Be careful what you click on.”

Treat a QR code with the same care as an email attachment, and keep your eyes peeled for printed QR codes that look like they’ve been duplicated — one stuck on top of another, said Stevens.

It’s worth taking the time to check with your host or server to make sure the QR code you’re about to use is legit, she said.

“You want to be really careful that the QR code you’re scanning is actually the restaurant’s, otherwise you could be misled. And that’s when you’d be scammed.

By Brandie Weikle. Produced by Jennifer Keene.

Source: Scan QR-code menus with a side of caution, say privacy experts | CBC Radio

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China Leaps Ahead in Effort to Rein In Algorithms

Beijing is building a system to ensure that the automated processes of Internet platforms are fair, transparent and in line with the ideology of the Communist Party

Regulators called for the algorithms to be fair and transparent, following the ideology of the Communist Party of China.

The campaign puts China one step ahead in policing tech forums, as governments around the world grapple with how to respond to automated technologies that reshape business, social interactions and politics.

Earlier this year, the European Union proposed restricting certain uses of artificial intelligence to reduce potential harm. In the US, lawmakers are investigating Facebook’s influence Inc. NS

Algorithm-driven content on users, after Businesshala reported that the company’s Instagram app has a negative impact on children’s mental health.

China has targeted algorithms more aggressively under the close watch of its domestic tech sector. Draft guidelines released this summer would require algorithms to protect the rights of workers and consumers, and restrict the use of algorithms to manipulate user accounts, online traffic or search results.

“We don’t necessarily see China as a regulatory innovator, but in this case they are,” said Rogier Creamers, an assistant professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands, which focuses on Chinese technical policy.

Under a three-year plan released last week, Chinese regulators outlined steps to monitor algorithms, including a registration process and the establishment of a technical team to evaluate the mechanisms and risks of an algorithm.

The latest campaign builds on a broad regulatory push in China’s tech sector that has prompted investigations into some of the country’s biggest companies, including e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding. Ltd.

The push is partly directed at business practices that regulators deem harmful so workers or consumers.

Companies such as Meituan and Didi have faced heat over the working conditions of drivers, as well as calls for creating algorithms that schedule workers’ tasks and pay more transparently. Officials have also warned tech companies this year against exploiting personal data and using algorithms to charge discriminatory prices from customers.

China’s Cyberspace Administration, Alibaba and Didi did not respond to requests for comment. China is currently celebrating its National Day holiday.

Meituan declined to comment. The company previously published an explanation of its delivery algorithm and said it is making changes to give delivery drivers more flexibility.

Experts said it would be a challenge for regulators to tighten controls on algorithms without hindering development or innovation in one of China’s most successful sectors. Internet companies rely on complex mathematical instructions for tasks ranging from analysis of social-media behavior to mapping optimal distribution routes.

While algorithms have contributed to technological advancement and societal development, the CAC said in last week’s announcement, they have also brought “challenges to ideological security, a fair and equal society, and the protection of the legal rights of Internet users.”

Beijing-based partner at law firm Bird & Bird, James Gong, said tighter regulatory oversight of algorithms is likely to impact China’s internet industry.

Mr. Gong said of the country’s Internet companies, “Almost all of them use algorithms and automated decision-making and profiling to ensure that their marketing is more accurate and to improve business efficiency and increase profits.” Is.”

A senior manager at ByteDance Ltd said the requirement to register the algorithm would only add a step, restricting the learning of user behavior and recommendation services, as well as requiring disclosure of proprietary technology that could hurt the company’s business. .

ByteDance, which owns social-media sensation TikTok and its Chinese sister app Douyin, is known for its powerful algorithms that drive user recommendations and content.

“The regulatory environment is clear, and we need to start thinking about how to adjust accordingly,” the ByteDance manager said. He said that since most of the new regulation is still under debate, it is difficult to say what the immediate commercial impact will be.

ByteDance did not respond to a request for comment.

Sam Sachs, senior fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center, said China’s approach could appeal to other countries that want a thriving digital economy while maintaining a firm grip on political and social discourse. However, she said there is still a lot of uncertainty over the details and enforcement of these new rules.

“I think they understand that this is an impossible task that they have set for themselves,” Ms Sachs said. “I would also say that three years can be ambitious.”

The CAC guidelines also state that algorithms used by Chinese companies must uphold core socialist values ​​and promote “positive energy” in content provided to users.

China is taking more control of online content and communities. In recent months, it has severely restricted online-videogame time for players under the age of 18, banned pop-idol rankings and criticized online male personalities for being too sacrilegious. are visible.

“It’s almost taking online censorship up a notch,” Ms Sachs said. “It is saying that you have an obligation to ensure that any content that is algorithmically driven that you feed into the online space is to shape socialist values.”

By: Stephanie Yang, Reporter, The Wall Street Journal

Source: China Leaps Ahead in Effort to Rein In Algorithms

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The Future Is Looking Up for Small Businesses But Hiring Struggles Continue

A shortage of workers remains a big concern for business owners, and there’s no clear evidence yet that the end of federal unemployment benefits is boosting the labor supply

A lot has changed since unemployment reached a record rate of 14.8 percent in April 2020. Job openings are at their highest number since 2000 — and businesses can’t seem to fill them fast enough.

After any number of pandemic-related setbacks, small businesses are once again optimistic about the near future. Nearly three-fourths expect to increase sales in the next six months — but hiring struggles are putting a damper on these prospects, according to a survey of 500 small-to-medium-size businesses conducted in August 2021 and released yesterday by PNC.

Labor availability is the most-cited concern, and of the those experiencing hiring difficulties, 58 percent point to enhanced federal unemployment benefits as the culprit. With expanded federal unemployment benefits having ended on Labor Day — reducing unemployment pay by $300 a week — businesses widely believed this cut-off would lead to a surge in job applicants.

But the expected surge hasn’t yet materialized. A study released in late August authored by economists Kyle Coombs of Columbia University, Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and others, showed that in the 22 states that ended these federal employment benefits earlier in June, there was only a small rise in employment in subsequent months — 4.4 percent.

Small businesses are now addressing the labor shortage directly by improving pay and benefits. Of those businesses surveyed, more than four in 10 say they’ve increased compensation to help attract and retain talent, and 44 percent have started allowing more flexible work arrangements. Nearly half have also begun implementing improved health and safety measures.

These changes don’t come without a cost. More than half (54 percent) of business owners surveyed say they anticipate raising prices to compensate for increased labor costs and inflation. Once this cost is passed on to consumers, individuals who previously received federal unemployment benefits may, at last, feel increasing financial pressure to re-enter the job market.

By Rebecca Deczynski, Staff reporter, Inc.@rebecca_decz

Source: The Future Is Looking Up for Small Businesses — But Hiring Struggles Continue | Inc.com

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