GLOBILITY® - 23 June 2016 

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China Tops Global Supercomputer Speed List for 7th Year
For the seventh consecutive year, a Chinese supercomputer has topped a list of the world's fastest—and for the first time, the winner uses only Chinese-designed processors. The announcement is a new milestone for Chinese supercomputer development. Also this year, China displaced the United States for the first time as the country with the most supercomputers in the top 500. China had 167 systems and the United States had 165. Supercomputers have been given significant financial support, targeted as one of a series of technologies by China's ruling Communist Party for development. This year's champion is the Sunway TaihuLight at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, west of Shanghai.

The TaihuLight is capable of 93 petaflops, or quadrillion calculations per second, according to TOP500. It is intended for use in engineering and research including climate, weather, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and data analytics.

Its top speed is about five times that of the Titan, the system developed by the U.S. government's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which took the third place spot.  

Other countries with computers in the Top 10 were Japan, Switzerland, Germany and Saudi Arabia. “As the first No. 1 system of China that is completely based on homegrown processors, the Sunway TaihuLight system demonstrates the significant progress that China has made in the domain of designing and manufacturing large-scale computation systems,” said Guangwen Yang, director of the Wuxi center. Read the full article for more details and information. 

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Guidelines on Contract Employment Terms Released
Employers in Singapore can now have greater clarity on the employment terms they should be providing to term contract employees, with new guidelines on leave benefits and notice period recently released. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM), National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) worked together to jointly develop the guidelines. Term contract employees are defined as those who are employed on fixed-term contracts that will terminate upon the expiry of a specific term unless it is renewed. Currently, such employees who have worked for the company for at least three months without a break in service are entitled to statutory leave benefits. However, some who have worked for the same employer for a long time do not get those benefits, because they are on separate contracts that are each shorter than three months, and renewed with a break in between. Under the new guidelines, for contracts of 14 days or more, employers are encouraged to treat contracts renewed within one month of the previous contract as continuous, and grant or accrue leave benefits based on the cumulative term of the contracts. Read on for more information and details.

 

 

 

 

Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train Project Clears Major Roadblock
With the Maharashtra government withdrawing its objections regarding land use at the Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) in Mumbai, a major roadblock to India’s proposed Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project has been cleared. The railway ministry required 0.9 hectares of BKC land for access to the underground station. The Maharashtra state government had said relinquishing that land to railways would hamper the state's project—the Mumbai International Financial Services Centre—also located in the BKC complex. A revised plan was recently submitted to the state and deemed viable, according to a source quoted in the Indian Express. During Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to India in December last year, it was announced that Japan will provide $12 billion to support the building of India's first high-speed bullet train, connecting the financial capital city of Mumbai with Ahmedabad. See more.

Greece's Bailout Funds Released; EU's Juncker Hails Greek Efforts
The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) “disbursed today 7.5 billion euros ($8.50 billion) to Greece,” reported managing director Klaus Regling on 21 June, after meeting Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos in Athens. Greece needs the money to pay off growing state arrears, maturing ECB bonds and International Monetary Fund loans. Athens will use 5.6 billion euros of the amount to pay debts and 1.8 billion euros for state arrears. The ESM, Greece's largest creditor, will continue to loan Athens money under favorable conditions. “I'm absolutely content,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who was visiting Athens when Regling met with Tsakalotos. “Greece is on the right path and I would like it to have national ownership of the programs which are currently being implemented.” Read the full article.

Brazil’s Stocks Rally as Growth Outlook Adds to Brexit Optimism
Brazil’s stocks joined a global rally on Monday, after polls indicated that the campaign seeking to persuade Britons to remain in the union had gained momentum, and amid optimism that the economy is recovering faster than previously predicted. The Ibovespa rose 1.6 percent to 50,329.3, as all but 10 of its 59 stocks advanced. 

Commodity producers were among the best performers on the benchmark equity index as raw materials rose. Analysts surveyed by the central bank pared their forecasts for the economy’s contraction for a fifth straight week. The improvement in estimates is driven by expectations that Acting President Michel Temer will be able to enact measures to restore confidence in Latin America’s largest economy and shore up the budget balance, paving the way to pulling the country out of its worst recession in a century. “The mood is much more positive in Brazil now with the recovery plan that the new administration is putting in place,” said Paulo Henrique Amantea, an analyst at the brokerage Guide Investimentos. See the complete article for more information.

FedEx to Settle Driver Lawsuits in 20 States for $240 million
In a deal to settle misclassification lawsuits, FedEx Ground Package System Inc. has agreed to pay drivers $240 million in 20 states. Pending approval by a federal judge in Indiana, where the cases have been consolidated, the settlement would be divided across 12,000 individuals. The filings in New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and other states said both sides faced significant risks in moving forward with the lawsuits, the first of which was filed in 2005. FedEx said in a statement on Thursday it was pleased to end the lawsuits. Up until 2011, FedEx worked directly with independent contractors. It now works with businesses that employ drivers. The claims made the case that because the drivers were required to use company-branded trucks, uniforms and scanners, FedEx was their employer under federal and state laws, and that they were owed such employee benefits as overtime pay and reimbursement for expenses, among others. Misclassification lawsuits have been on the rise over the last several years. Ride-share service Uber said in April it would pay up to $100 million to 385,000 drivers in California and Massachusetts who claimed they were misclassified and owed overtime pay, tips and reimbursements for expenses, and Lyft has also asked a federal judge to approve a $27 million deal in a similar case in California. Continue through to read more.

U.S. Housing Starts Slip, Permits Maintain Gains
The number of housing starts slipped in May, amid a slowing rate of the construction of multi-family housing units. Groundbreaking fell 0.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.16 million units, the Commerce Department reported, on the heels of a 4.9 percent surge in April. However, gains in building permits point to a rebound continuing to support economic growth in the second quarter, and suggesting that housing remains a pillar of strength in the U.S. economy. Residential construction added almost six-tenths of a percentage point to first-quarter gross domestic product, the biggest contribution in more than three years. Groundbreaking on single-family homes, the largest segment of the market, rose 0.3 percent to a 764,000-unit pace last month. Single-family starts in the South, where most home building takes place, rose 2.6 percent to their highest level since December 2007. Continue reading the full article for additional data and what may be driving the volatile multi-family unit segment of the housing market.

PTO Programs Are Changing With Employee Needs
According to a recent WorldatWork study, nearly 90 percent of 625 organizations surveyed believe it is necessary to offer some type of paid time off (PTO) program to attract top talent and drive organizational success. But with workers increasingly seeking leave programs that address specific needs, employers may want to consider expanding traditional programs. “Organizations understand they can no longer be competitive if they don't get creative with their own paid time off benefits. For many employees, paid time off is more important than other traditional pay and benefits,” says Lenny Sanicola, senior practice leader at WorldatWork. For traditional paid time off benefits, employers may want to consider rewarding high-performing employees with more leave, instead of basing the leave on seniority,” Sanicola said. Often, leave programs that best resonate with employees are those that address specific life needs. Generation X employees, for example, may favor paid parental leave, while for a millennial, flexibility in how and when to use the time is in greatest demand. PTO banks can be one way to appeal to different demographics, because they combine sick leave, vacation days and personal leave into one pool to be used as the employee chooses. Obtain more information about the study, including a link to the survey.

The Future of the IoT Job Market
With an industry defined by “bringing physical things online,” many Internet of Things (IoT) business models are predicated on improving efficiency by eliminating labor. But Tech Crunch writer Zach Supalla points out that the IoT is actually creating new opportunities, supplanting many low-skilled jobs with high-skilled opportunities. Citing a recent posting by retailer Target for a Lead Engineer, Internet of Things, and the addition of IoT Manager as one of three new positions in technology consulting firm Janco Associates’ latest handbook of corporate IT jobs, Supalla reports there is opportunity on the horizon. Machina Research predicts that “at least one Fortune 500 company will appoint a Chief IoT Officer (CIoTO)” this year. Additional studies have shown that more than half of U.K. businesses plan to invest in and employ a CIoTO in the next 12 months, especially in the education, retail and telecom industries. Other related jobs, such as IoT business designers and developers skilled in working with both back- and front-end technologies—or “full stack developers”—round out the list of future jobs likely to be in high demand. Over a short-term horizon, technology and labor markets may seem at odds with one another. But while advances in technology can displace certain types of work, over a long-term horizon, technology has been a net creator of jobs. Read on for more information, including the specific skill sets these positions are likely to require.