Death of Venice

The Times has a couple of sad pieces on Venice.

Kneeling, he touches the foundation of one of the marble columns holding up St Mark’s Basilica, which symbolised Venetian power for a millennium. Fragments come away in his fingers.

“Water now enters the church 200 times a year,” said Mr Tesserin, administrator of the 11th century Italo-Byzantine masterpiece overlooking St Mark’s Square. “The marble is literally crumbling thanks to the corrosive salt.”

Venice is one of the most magical places on earth. I love the light, the architecture, the ambience of inevitable entropy: the faded and peeling, green shutters; the flaking stonework, the timeless, silent side-alleys and back-canals. You can find moments of peace even in the summer when obscene, towering cruise ships vomit their contents over St Marks’ Square and suck them back laden with Made in China masks and glassware.

Sadly though, even the most sincere and diligent traveller can’t avoid the feeling he or she is contributing to the death of a noble city.

This caught my eye:

“Venice needs jobs for the middle classes, and if nothing happens, there will be no one left in 2050,” Mr Gasparinetti said.

It seems a tragedy that a city that has drawn artists from Titian to Hemingway can’t attract creative middle-class jobs.

Read Tom Kington’s article, Crumbling Venice plumbs new depths, here.

 

Image: Andrew Munro

 

What does a freelancer look like? Survey from @FlexJobs

FlexJobs has surveyed 1,000 (US) freelancers and found, yet again, that these are not desperate and abused individuals forced into abusive contracts by uncaring, capitalist overlords.

In fact, as TechRepublic summarises:

the average full-time freelance worker is a female Gen Xer working in the writing, marketing, editing, or creative career fields. This person works primarily for small companies and individuals, and juggles two to three jobs at a time, the report found. The average worker freelances by choice, and has been doing so for at least three years, and envisions continuing this type of career for the long-term, though they have worked at traditional companies in the past.

Among the more interesting findings:

  • 92% of freelancers said the freelance lifestyle is either extremely (55%) or somewhat (37%) important to them
  • 70% said that work-life balance was a top factor in deciding to freelance, followed by “Desire to chose when I work” (62%) and freedom (56%)
  • 84% said the biggest benefit was a flexible schedule
  • 65% held either bachelor’s or graduate degrees
  • The most popular ways of finding new clients (the biggest challenge cited by 69%) were through networking (63%) and job sites (47%)

As regards quality of life:

  • 63% said freelancing had a “positive impact.”
  • 60% said freelancing has helped them become healthier
  • 66% said they are less stressed as a freelancer.

Interestingly though, “asked if freelancing is their primary source of income, 43% said yes, while 58% said no”. That chimes with a recent report from  JP Morgan Chase (The Online Platform Economy in 2018) that found most participants in the online platform economy are active for just a few months in the year. My own view of the Chase report though, is that both the nature of the research and of the use of platforms skews the finding towards part-time rather than full-time freelancers.

Interesting reading though.

The TechRepublic article is here.

FlexJob’s press release is here.

And, the main FlexJob’s report is here.

 

Photo by Jane Palash on Unsplash

Freelancer? Are you ready for the coming storm?

A recession, or at least a significant downturn, is inevitable. No-one knows when or what the cause will be, but recessions are a part of the economic cycle. Will you be ready?

It comes with the deal. If you are a sovereign professional, your sovereignty requires that you make provision for whatever fate my fling at you. That can be tough to hear if you haven’t even got the hang of saving cash for your tax bill.

Here’s a great article from Forbes, by Jon Younger: Freelancers, Get Ready For The Coming Recession.

Have a read. It’s not all about money. It’s about being ready.

 

Photo by Pop & Zebra on Unsplash

 

Tax-man rapped for aggressive approach to freelancers

Levies for allegedly unpaid taxes, no supporting calculations and no right of appeal. The House of Lords finds that HMRC has been acting aggressively and disproportionately to freelancers it suspects of having avoided tax.

From David Byers in The Times:

The economic affairs committee in the House of Lords this week said that HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) was overusing “disproportionate” powers that allow it to demand swift payments of unpaid tax from those it suspects of tax avoidance. Those suspected have no right to appeal to a tribunal.

Members said that accelerated payment notices (APNs) and follower notices were being aimed unfairly at lower and middle-income freelancers such as IT workers and NHS nurses, rather than the promoters of tax avoidance schemes.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, chairman of the committee, said the balance of power had “tipped too far in favour of HMRC and against the fundamental protections every taxpayer should expect”.

Two pieces in The Times, here and here.

The report from the House of Lords committee, here.

 

Image via Pixabay.

The Gig Economy Data Hub

This looks interesting and useful.

The Gig Economy Data Hub aims to provide comprehensive information on all aspects of the gig economy.

The home page gets off to a great start:

A freelance graphic designer earns $25,000 for an ad campaign. A teacher drives for Uber on the weekends. An electrician owns and operates a successful small business. A stay-at-home mom sells Mary Kay cosmetics on Facebook. A recent immigrant cleans houses under the table. A retired woman knits hats to sell at craft fairs. What do these workers have in common?

There is more to what is currently called the gig economy than flavour-of-the-month media stories suggest.

The Data Hub is a collaboration between the Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative and Cornell University’s ILR School. The data appears to be all US-focused, but the lessons and many of the findings will doubtless translate at least to the UK and possibly beyond.

 

Photo by Lucian Novosel on Unsplash

The Economist on the Conservative Party

From last week’s Economist, a thoughtful piece on the state of the Conservative party:

If it can keep its head, though, and bring off a Brexit that does not plunge the country into chaos or paupery, then its long habit of exercising power, its ruthlessness with its leaders and its ability to mix firmness with flexibility—qualities which have made the Conservative Party the democratic world’s most successful political machine—may yet see it through. And the intellectual skills of a rising generation—not something it has always been able to count on—may, if exercised to the full, allow not mere survival, but success.

Image: Getty Images

Reinventing Liberalism – The Economist

Last week’s Economist, on its 175th anniversary, has a ten-page essay on  Reinventing Liberalism for the 21st Century.

If, like me, you’ve sometimes struggled to join the dots between the classical liberalism of, say, John Stuart Mill and the snowflakey, leftish liberalism that seems to be growing in US, and now UK, universities, this is an essential read. It offers a history and diagnosis of what is wrong with liberalism today, the challenges that need to be addressed – immigration and refugees; the social contract; China, Trump and right wing populism in Europe – and a call to arms for radical, liberal changes.

Set your Sunday aside and read the full essay, here.

 

Image: The Economist