Study from Paymentsense also reveals how other alternative currencies have already established a foothold
Over a third (35%) of SME owners expect cryptocurrency payments to become a reality on the high street within two years, according to new research* from card machine provider Paymentsense. Some small business owners are even more optimistic about its potential, with over a fifth (21%) predicting that cryptocurrency will start appearing within one year.
Despite these bold predictions, the study revealed hesitation amongst SMEs to take the plunge and start accepting the payment method. Only one-in-ten small business owners said they already take cryptocurrency payments (13%).
The recent volatility of Bitcoin doesn’t seem to have discouraged SME owners when it comes to their own cryptocurrency investment, however. Almost six in ten (59%) said they’d consider investing in it, with approaching a fifth (18%) already investing.
International and Premiership footballer Thomas Hal-Robson-Kanu, who founded The Turmeric Co. in 2016 said: “We started taking cryptocurrency payments at the end of 2017, and believe they are going to revolutionise global transactions for businesses at all levels. Instantaneous settlements with no need for centralised third parties and fees are a big plus. We’re a forward-thinking company with ambitious growth plans, so this flexibility is important to us. Cryptocurrencies are a really exciting payment option.”
The study also revealed that other ways of paying have established a foothold amongst UK small businesses.
Almost half (46%) of SME owners questioned accept alternative currencies, with over a quarter (27%) involved in schemes such as the Bristol, Liverpool, Brixton and Lewes pound to encourage local spending. A further 15% said they accept national bartering schemes such as Bartercard, with 11% taking regional gift vouchers.
Guy Moreve, head of marketing at Paymentsense said: “It’s clear that cryptocurrencies are moving swiftly towards the mainstream. However, small business owners considering cryptocurrency as a payment option should be clear about how they can integrate it with their existing financial arrangements. Will suppliers or staff accept it? Can they pay local and national government agencies with it?
“Also, the value of unregulated cryptocurrency changes fast. This has significant implications for an SME’s revenue security. Using a trusted payment processor or merchant service provider can help guard against this by allowing a swift currency exchange, and improve security processes. For entrepreneurs in emerging sectors it might be worth the risks involved, but for others in more established or slower-moving areas it could be wiser to wait and see how things evolve over the next six to 12 months.”
* Commissioned research took place from January 17-21, 2018 amongst a nationally representative sample of 504 small business owners.
Egypt wants to register millions of gig workers for state insurance, aid
By Menna A. Farouk
CAIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Egypt will start registering millions of gig workers in order to offer them health insurance and emergency state aid during the coronavirus pandemic, which has taken a particularly heavy toll on the nation’s ad-hoc employees, officials said.
There are at least 14 million gig workers in Egypt, and while some workers and campaigners welcomed the government’s drive, others warned that many workers could be reluctant to sign up – fearing tax and social security payment demands.
The government said it plans to identify and support 2 million gig workers in the country of 100 million people by the end of this year, labour ministry spokesman Haitham Saad El-Din said on Saturday.
“It is part of a government plan to give assistance to this segment of the society which has been majorly affected by the pandemic,” he said, adding that officials were focusing first on identifying casual construction labourers.
Gig workers who have their employment status registered on their national identity cards under a new “irregular employment” category will be given free social security insurance and be eligible for state welfare programmes.
Egypt’s state-run insurance plan includes life insurance and disability cover, as well as covering healthcare costs.
The announcement is the latest in a series of government measures aimed at shielding vulnerable groups from the economic fallout of the pandemic.
Soon after the coronavirus outbreak began, it launched a programme that supports irregular workers with monthly aid, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called for financial support to be boosted when a second virus wave took hold.
State welfare spending surged 36% in the first half of the current fiscal year, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said recently.
ON THE BOOKS
Some daily labourers hailed the registration drive as a positive step, saying it would help bring them into the formal economy and recognise their economic contribution.
“Millions of Egyptians have been affected by this pandemic but it’s really good that the government is not leaving us behind,” said Farouk Mahmoud, 35, a temporary worker from the city of Sohag.
Still, while the latest data puts the number of gig workers at 14 million, the real number may be much higher – making registering them a daunting administrative task, said Bassant Fahmi, a member of parliament’s economic affairs committee.
Some workers may also be wary about being on the books.
“Many of them may fear being asked afterwards to pay taxes or insurance. That could mean a lot of gig workers avoiding being identified by the government,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
But besides any misgivings about being under the government’s radar, many gig workers in Egypt are more concerned about the dearth of permanent job opportunities – especially for young people – and the health of the wider economy.
“It isn’t crucial for me to have a job on my ID,” said Abanoub Lotfi, a 26-year-old driver for ride-hailing service Uber, who has a degree in commerce.
“What really matters is that the government offers me a stable job that suits my academic background and helps me afford my needs and those of my family.”
(Reporting by Menna A. Farouk; Editing by Helen Popper; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Women finance firm directors earn 66% less than men in UK, study finds
By Lin Taylor
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Female directors at Britain’s biggest financial services firms earn 66% less than their male counterparts on average, research showed on Monday, despite a rise in the number of women on company boards in recent years.
Women board members made 247,100 pounds ($349,720) on average per year while men earned 722,300 pounds, said the study by law firm Fox & Partners, which examined pay gaps in financial firms that are among the nation’s 350 largest listed companies.
“Despite having greater levels of diversity at more junior levels, financial services firms are still struggling to reflect that shift at the senior executive level,” said Catriona Watt, partner at Fox & Partners.
“In order to see long-term change, firms must be committed to taking steps that will lead to more women progressing through the ranks, getting into senior executive positions and closing the pay gap,” she said in a statement.
The number of women on FTSE 350 company boards has jumped by 50% in the last five years, reaching 1,026 in 2020, according to the Hampton-Alexander Review, an independent body aiming to boost gender diversity on FTSE boards.
More than a third of board positions are now held by women too, the Review said last week, hitting a target that it had set for the end of 2020.
Yet disparities exist, even at the top. The Fox & Partners study said female directors in FTSE 350 financial services firms were mostly in non-executive roles, which meant they were paid less and had fewer responsibilities than men.
“These shocking figures prove the gender pay gap is thriving,” said Felicia Willow, head of women’s rights group the Fawcett Society, which was not involved with the report.
“There are not enough women in top roles and those who have made it are all too often paid less than men.”
A year ago, Britain suspended the need for companies to report on the gender pay gap in their workforces due to the coronavirus pandemic, a step the government said would not derail attempts to pay men and women fairly.
Since 2017 the government has required employers with more than 250 employees to submit gender pay gap figures every year in a bid to reduce pay disparities.
The gap narrowed last year, with men earning 15.5% more than women on average, down from 17.4% in 2019, according to official data.
Companies will now have until Oct. 5 to report on pay gaps, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
($1 = 0.7066 pounds)
(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. )
UK consumer credit slumped as new lockdown hit in Jan – BoE
LONDON (Reuters) – British consumer borrowing fell at its fastest pace in January since May last year as the country went back into a coronavirus lockdown, Bank of England data showed on Monday.
Unsecured lending to consumers fell by 2.4 billion pounds ($3.35 billion), the biggest fall since last May’s 4.6 billion-pound drop and more than a median forecast for a 1.9 billion-pound fall in a Reuters poll of economists.
That took the year-on-year fall to 8.9%, the biggest decline since monthly records began in 1994, the BoE said.
British lenders approved 98,994 mortgages in January, down by about 4,000 from December.
The Reuters poll of economists had seen approvals falling more sharply, to 96,000.
($1 = 0.7174 pounds)
(Reporting by William Schomberg and Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken)
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