'Agile financial protection’ is the key to safeguarding workers in an era of unprecedented global change

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A comprehensive, global study carried out by Zurich Insurance Group and the University of Oxford has revealed some fascinating insights about the changing world of work.

In an era of unprecedented global change, ‘traditional’ forms of employment are being replaced by new ways of working, driven primarily by innovations in technology. This has prompted questions about how workers can be protected in a time of such profound developments, and the research provides some valuable insights and answers.

Zurich Insurance Group collaborated with the University of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (Oxford SSEE) on the study which is based on data from 16,500 respondents (all from the working age population) in 15 countries across Europe, Asia Pacific, North America, and Latin America. The results – published in a report titled Perceptions On Protection – focuses on how individuals might adapt their career and financial decisions to changing labour markets, the main drivers and impediments, and the role that insurance plays in this process.

One of the main findings is the seismic shift from ‘traditional’ forms of employment to on-demand working that is likely to happen in the years ahead (on-demand working being defined as those who are self-employed as a freelancer, temporary workers via an agency, or crowd workers via an online platform). Today, one in five full-time workers already indicate that they are highly likely to leave their current job and become on-demand workers, but the report indicates that trend will accelerate in the years ahead.

Peter Huber, CEO of Zurich International which is based here on the Island, said: “We’re seeing the early stages of developments and trends in employment which will have far reaching financial and social effects on businesses and employees around the world – and that’s why the research published in the Perceptions On Protection report is so important. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand, and prepare for, these developments.”

One of the report’s most significant conclusions is that it is in every company’s interest, as well as the workers themselves, that a new system of workforce protection is established. It points out that geographical, geopolitical, and demographic influences have a significant role to play in the emergence of this more ‘agile’ age of employment. However, the report also notes that certain facts cannot and should not be ignored - such as the sobering reality that less than 50% of the workforce (and this applies among all worker types) consider themselves knowledgeable about insurance. The value of creating an ecosystem of solutions - including workplace incentives, education and insights – is also highlighted, along with the need to educate workers to be more proactive to make themselves and their families financially resilient is crucial.

Professor Gordon Clark, professional fellow of Oxford SSEE, commented: “This has implications for all the stakeholders in the global workplace. Companies around the world are facing skills shortages. It is in their interest, as well as the workers themselves, that a new system of workforce protection is established. In these circumstances it is essential that everyone is better informed about how best to arrange and protect their finances. Conventional employers can provide cover through the employment contract procedure, but what about younger, on demand workers? This is where disruptors and innovators are starting to use the social media platforms and the protocols that come with gaming to engage the younger generation, bypassing conventional insurance models.”

Stefan Kröpfl, Global Head of Life Business Analysis for Zurich, said: “According to the study there are as many people voluntarily choosing to leave their job as there are people afraid of being fired, so you could describe this as an age of opportunity. The crucial development is that people need to assume responsibility for their own lives and careers, perhaps more so than they did 10 or 15 years ago. But that’s a positive thing. You can drive your own life and write your own story. We look to employers, governments, and insurers to create the overall framework, then it is down to the individual to do their bit. What may appear threatening at first is a great opportunity. It’s like climbing a mountain: from the bottom it seems daunting but once you get to the top it is an amazing feeling.”

Zurich has been operating in the Isle of Man since 1982, and today Zurich International employs around 300 staff at its modern, purpose-built, headquarters at Isle of Man Business Park. For more information about the Perceptions On Protection research go to https://www.zurich.com/agileprotection


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