Since the appalling fire a few months back at the Rana Plaza complex that cost the lives of more than 1100 people, there has been intense interest and scrutiny of working and living conditions of thousands employed in Bangladeshi clothing factories.
On Monday night the BBC programme Panorama broadcast an investigation into this and the findings were compelling and deeply disturbing.
In "Dying for a Bargain" Panorama discovered there have been at least 50 fires in Bangladeshi clothing factories in the last 10 months. Clothing factory workers filmed by
#BBCPanorama were released at 2:30 am, 19 hours after they started. They were due back at 7am. You can see a clip of this here. Events uncovered at the Ha Meem Sportswear factory will no doubt have left executives at Lidl scrambling to find out the truth about what is happening at one of their major clothing suppliers.
Why do CEO’s earn so much more than the regular workers? Why do managers of the largest teams earn disproportionately more than their corresponding managerial advantage affords them? The answer lies in the fact that these are both examples of winner-take-all markets.
A new report from the Resolution Foundation provides evidence for students and teachers on the deep structural divides between well paid and low paid jobs in the British labour market. According to a report in the Guardian "Today more than one in three people aged 16-30 (2.4 million) are low-paid, compared with one in five in the 1970s (1.7 million at that time)."
There are many causes of low pay and students who look at labour market economics will be expected to explore some of them as part of their course. Most of the jobs at risk of poverty pay are relatively low skilled, temporary, mainly non-unionised, often part-time and concentrated in service sector industries such as catering, caring, catering, cleaning and retail. What are the long term economic and social dangers from a deeply embedded two-tier labour market?
The campaign for an (optional) living wage continues to gather momentum. Businesses are being urged to pay employees at least £1 per hour more than the minimum wage in a bid to lift those on the lowest pay out of poverty.read more...»
In the United States many thousands of workers employed by fast-food businesses on low pay have launched a strike complaining against endemic low pay in their jobs. Workers want to be paid $15 (£10) an hour, the median wage [for service workers] is $9.08 an hour and the minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour - unchanged since 2009.
What are the main reasons why workers in these jobs are low paid? One contributory factor is the frequent absence of trade union representation when negotiating pay and conditions. Virtually all private sector fast food jobs in the United States are non-union.
To what extent might a higher minimum pay floor cost jobs? Or could it have the reverse effect and bring about higher productivity and employment? Would the profits of businesses such as McDonald's suffer if they were required to pay more? McDonald's profits totaled $5.47 billion in 2012 and the US fast-food industry each year generates revenues in excess of $200 billion.read more...»
How sticky is unemployment? Will it take three years to fall?
The views expressed by the new Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, on interest rates and unemployment remain a hot topic. Interest rates will not be raised until unemployment falls below 7 per cent, a process he thinks will take three years.read more...»
The Governor of the Bank of England has announced a change in the handling of monetary policy for the UK economy. Although the inflation target remains the same (CPI inflation of 2%) and the Bank remains committed to maintaining price stability as their main macroeconomic objective, they have decided to introduce forward guidance in the setting of policy interest rates. This takes the Bank of England closer to the approach to setting interest rates taken by the United States Federal Reserve.
Download this chart
What is forward guidance?
Forward guidance means that interest rates will stay at their historic low level of 0.5 per cent and monetary policy in general will remain expansionary until the unemployment falls below seven per cent. More here from the BBC news website.
However, that link could be put aside if the inflation rate threatens to rise above 2.5% in the medium term. Another wind-check to this system is that if the Financial Policy Committee judges that the UK economy is in danger of experiencing another credit boom then the Monetary Policy Committee will also re-visit their decisions on interest rates.
According to Ed Conway from Sky News "The UK inflation target remains in place - in theory - but in practice it has become significantly less important." Developments in the labour market and real output growth are likely to become more significant in helping to shape the future path of policy interest rates and whether monetary policy is expansionary, contractionary or neutral in its effects on the wider economy.
Sky news - Forward Guidance, a Monetary Policy Gamble
Anatole Kaletsky (Reuters): Carney at the Bank of England confirms the end of monetarism and return of neo-Keynesian demand management
With the unemployment rate currently at 7.8% of the labour force and predictions from the Bank that the jobless rate may take between two to three years to drop to the 7% way-marker, we can expect the period of exceptionally low monetary policy interest rates to remain with us well into 2015 and possibly 2016. This is not good news for savers struggling to find any kind of interest rate that at least matches the current rate of CPI inflation.
Governor Carney's response to this is to argue that what the economy needs most is a return to growth - in his words an economy growing sufficiently quickly to achieve "escape velocity". The current recovery has been the weakest for decades and real GDP remains below the peak achieved before the Global Financial Crisis took hold.read more...»
Access to affordable comprehensive child care and schooling is widely regarded as being crucial to improving the incentives for mothers to actively search for and take paid work. Effective early years education also has a long run positive effect on employment prospects and is important as part of the overall supply-side capacity of the economy.read more...»
Students looking for a good example of a supply-side policy for improving the economic performance of the UK may be interested in this news article about how increasing the labour participation rates of women in the UK could lead to an increase in GDP by up to a staggering 10%. This growth could be achieved by encouraging the number of women wishing to provide their labour (or increase the provision of their labour) to the same level as men.
The common view now is that legislation is no longer good enough in itself to provide this encouragement. The Equality Act of 2010 combined the various equal opportunity laws together to penalise businesses that operate unequally. What appears to be needed is an improvement in the accessibility, availability, cost and quality of childcare facilities to allow more mothers to work (or work longer).
A further article (follow this link) explores how this principle is equally true of the Japanese economy. This article has a fantastic graph comparing the female participation rates for many of the major economies which might be a fantastic data example for teachers to use as a compare and contrast exercise.
As for the costs on society of such a policy....... That's a different question!
As thousands of undergraduates across the country approach their final exams, a new study from the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) reveals the importance of the results for subsequent earnings – specifically the value of a First compared with an Upper Second and the difference between an Upper Second and a Lower Second.
employer's point of view, a zero hours contract is a great example of the
benefits of the flexible labour market. They allow the employer to change the
number of hours an employee works each week, with more shifts offered when they
are busy, and fewer when they are not; costs can therefore be controlled and
matched more exactly to revenue. Neil Carberry at the CBI says that they have
helped to save jobs during the recession and stagnant growth: "It's zero
hours contracts and other forms of flexible working that mean there are half a
million fewer unemployed people than there might otherwise have been." Now
figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS)
show the number of 16 to 24-year-olds on zero hours contracts has more than
doubled since the start of the economic downturn, rising from 35,000 in 2008 to
76,000 in 2012. This means that one in every three people on a zero-hours
contract is under 25 (- although that proportion doesn't look as if it has
changed very dramatically throughout the period shown). If this is good for the employer, how is it for the
Those of you who are about to take your Econ 3 exam (or whose students are getting ready for the final push), might find this story about sexism in TV an interesting example of inequality in the labour market. A report out yesterday and being pursued by Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman suggests that a lowly 18% of UK TV presenters over the age of 50 are women. Some channels are worse than others.
The story is also a good example of how current government intervention in this labour market is having little effect. Anti-ageist and sexist laws exist and yet there appears a very real 'glass-ceiling' when it comes to women over the age of 50 wishing to work on TV. If legislation is ineffective what other policies could students suggest might improve the situation? A quota system? Fines? Here is a real chance to offer critical and evaluative analysis on government intervention.
Follow this link to read a report.
Here is a streamed (and downloadable) presentation on policies to cut unemployment in the UK economy.read more...»
He's back but he's still angry! In this latest version of The Angry Economist, our favourite curmudgeonly analyst wants to know students' opinion on George Osborne's economic policies - no wonder his blood pressure has risen!
This simple Powerpoint resource is aimed at getting your students to analyse and evaluate economic policies - 8 of the Chancellor's policies are presented and the Angry Economist randomly picks a macro-economic objective to consider. All you have to do is get 8 volunteers from your class to do the analysing - a great 10 minute activity whilst revising for the up-coming macro exams at either GCSE, AS or A2 level.
Here is a list of the policies the Angry Economist wants students to look at (you may wish to recap on them before you start the activity):
- Reduce Government debt
- Increased number of private sector jobs
- Increased allowance before Income Tax needs to be paid
- Cut Corporation Tax
- Set up Regional Growth Fund
- Funding Lending Scheme
- Deregulating some planning rules
- Frozen Council Tax
Of course, the beauty of this resource is that you can change any of these policies to whatever you want them to be.
Click on this link to download the Angry Economist 2.
PS. Click on this link to have a look at the original Angry Economist.
Where have all the miners gone? To judge by the rhetoric of the BBC and other Leftist media outlets, whole swathes of Britain lie devastated, plagued by rickets, unemployment and endemic poverty – nearly thirty years after the pit closures under Lady Thatcher!
The reality is different. There is indeed a small number of local authority areas where employment has never really recovered from the closures in the 1980s. But, equally, there are former mining areas which have prospered.
The annual NORFACE migration conference at University College London this week has generated plenty of new research papers on the economics of international migration, a topic that of growing significance for students of globalisation, competitiveness, innovation and growth. Some of the key findings are summarised below together with external links to relevant articles and news reportsread more...»
GDP per hour – labour productivity – in the UK remains lower than at the beginning of the recession in 2008. A special session at the Royal Economic Society on Friday 5 April held jointly by the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) and Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) investigated the causes of this mystery. It was also the subject of BBC Rradio 4 In Business - click here
See also: the Job Rich Depression (The Economist)read more...»
The UK national minimum wage (NMW) has been in the news in recent days with several reports suggesting that Coalition government ministers are considering introducing a freeze on the pay floor or going further and reducing the minimum hourly pay rate. The NMW was introduced into the UK in the spring of 1999 and has been up-rated regularly but never cut. It is presently at £6.19 an hour and recommendations on changes to the pay floor come from the annual review conducted by the Low Pay Commissionread more...»
I know that it is April Fools Day, but the new and quite radical social welfare reforms are starting to come in to play from this week and they are genuine!
Use this link to access a document that summarises the main changes to the welfare reforms. You can use this document as a lesson activity to discuss government policies to achieve macro-economic objectives.
Are these reforms just aimed at reducing the government's debt or are they aimed at improving the unemployment situation? Are they part of a wider supply-side set of policies aimed at making the UK workforce more effective and flexible?
Could students discuss each policy's strength and weakness? Could they suggest alternative and (possibly) more effective policies.
Like many teachers, I'm firmly of the belief that money is not the root of happiness. I have to think like that - otherwise how do I argue with my old university friends who went to join the big banks that there’s more to life than big cars and foreign holiday homes ("Come and join us, Jon," they used to say to me, "you can set your own Libor rate and everything" ). It's important that we remind the 'those-who-can't-do' brigade that teaching is a life-style. It's a vocation. A calling.
Well, according to research by US academics Daniel Sacks, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, the evidence suggests that wealth is a determining factor in happiness after all. Apparently, the data shows that there are no upper limits to happiness with regards to money – yes, the increase in happiness slows down but still rises.
Quick, somebody tell Victoria Beckham before David gives away all of his cash to the Paris children.read more...»
Robert Nutter explains that, over recent years, the fear that the minimum wage would cause increased unemployment has not materialised, although since the start of the current economic crisis employers have expressed some concerns that employment may be affected in low paid jobs. Another concern has been the belief that a national minimum wage is inappropriate for an economy where costs and labour market conditions vary significantly between regions. The national minimum wage may perhaps provide a living wage in North-East England but certainly not in London.read more...»
Immigration lowers the wages of relatively low-skilled native employees in sectors of the service economy that hire bigger shares of foreign workers. But the cost reductions that employers enjoy from lower wages are typically passed on to consumers: price inflation is much higher for services with no change in immigrant employment than for services where immigrant employment is growing.
These are among the findings of research by Professors Bernt Bratsberg and Oddbjørn Raaum, published in the latest issue of the Economic Journal. Their study confirms that there are clear winners and losers from labour migration: low- and semi-skilled workers face increased competitive pressures on their wages and employment while consumers enjoy more services at lower prices.
Any visa policies that restrict entry by highly productive foreign students are a significant barrier to science and ultimately to innovation and growth. That is one of the conclusions of research by Professors Eric Stuen, Mushfiq Mobarak and Keith Maskus, published in the latest issue of the Economic Journal.
Their study of 700,000 postgraduates in the science and engineering laboratories of the top US universities finds that American students and foreign students are both highly significant contributors to the development of scientific knowledge. But greater diversity in the origins of foreign students raises their joint contribution to knowledge.
These findings imply that visa restrictions limiting the entry of high- ability foreign students – as well as visa policies that prioritise students’ ability to pay tuition fees over their technical merits – would significantly undermine scientific output.
|Employment Rate||Employment Rate||Unemployment Rate||Unemployment Rate||Inactivity Rate||Inactivity Rate|
|Mixed or Multiple||64.3%||55.3%||15.7%||15.8%||23.7%||34.3%|
|Chinese & Other||67.0%||51.8%||10.3%||10.6%||25.3%||42.1%|
If you have seen the news stories today showing how workplace discrimination towards ethnic minority women continues to cause the government concern, you may be interested to read the full report. It is available from the Runnymede Trust (it requires registration but it is free) and has been written for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community. There's a brief summary from the BBC, but the full report gives recommendations that you might like to present to students as possible government intervention strategies and get them to evaluate accordingly. The table above gives you a flavour of the statistics that can be used to discuss inequality of income and wealth.
If you can get beyond the monotone voice which accompanies the presentation, this ONS piece posted today gives a fascinating insight into reasons why there are differences in public and private sector pay. There are many high quality evaluative points made, and interestingly it is implied that average data is likely to suggest that pay in the public sector is more likely, on average, to be higher than that in the private sector.
How can this be?read more...»
My AS macroeconomics students this week are researching the topical issue of a living wage and the possible macroeconomic effects. The title of the assignment is:
"The introduction of a living wage in Britain to supplement a minimum wage will improve the long term performance of the UK economy" Discuss. (20 marks)
I have put together some news articles and videos on this topic using a Pinterest Board. You can find it by clicking here
BBC Newsnight Report on Living Wages - July 2012 - click here
You may have been too busy to notice but today has been National Stress Awareness Day. This comes just a few days after Ed Milliband's speech about the taboo of Mental Health and how it impacts upon people's lives. If you haven't done so recently, do check out the World Health Organisation 's website which has lots of data on the prevalence of mental health issues around the world with the most startling facts being that 1 in 4 people around the world suffer from mental health issues at some point in their lifetime affecting as many as 450 million people.
And yet, when was the last time you used this as an example of labour market failure or poor economic performance?read more...»
Jonny Clark has beaten me to it with his blog about today's news about the Living Wage - there is a rich seam of resources here for issues for study around poverty and inequality. The concept has high level support - hailed by Boris Johnson as it is "....not only morally right, but (it)makes good business sense too." and endorsed by Ed Miliband as " A really important idea". I would like to add a trio of items from the BBC website which could add evidence to student analysis - particularly as Nov 4th-10th is designated Living Wage Week , so this could make a timely topic on the return from half term!
Unit 4 essay from Max Goswami-Myerscough
China has undergone high levels of wage inflation since the turn of the century. As stated in the extract, a US Bureau of Labour report showed that between 2002 and 2008 real hourly wages more than doubled in China’s manufacturing sector. Comparatively, wages only rose by 20% in the US. In addition to this, according to Jim O’Neill, by 2009 over 5% of the population of China (approx. 65 million) had incomes of around $35,000 p.a. China has been considered to be one of the main outsourcing destinations for cheap labour over the years but this may change if such high levels of wage inflation persist.
This Financial Times news video is excellent on issues surrounding high rates of youth unemployment. The number of 18- to 24-year-olds out of work for at least six months has risen by more than a third in the past year to 403,000.
Many thousands are struggling to find work and the lack of apprenticeship schemes and the high level of short term or vulnerable contract work makes it extremely tough to get into formal work. More and more students are looking to establish their own businesses as an alternative. The rapid expansion of student-led entrepreneurship societies based around colleges and universities is a welcome development. So too is the rise of “start-up” milk-rounds at many of the UK’s universities. Challenging times yes, but opportunities will always exist for enquiring minds with ideas to incubate and grow.read more...»
Wages are rising fast in China – many economists believe that China has hit a stage in its development at which demand for labour starts to grow faster than supply, creating labour shortages and pushing up salaries. This is known as a Lewis Turning Point.read more...»
The financial crisis in the European Union is prompting an exodus of many young people from struggling EU countries - this short new report looks at the effects of people from France migrating to the Ivory Coast - does the host nation benefit in the medium term?read more...»
A revision blog on the economic impact of migration on the UK economyread more...»
Today, TUC figures showed that the number of men working part time who are looking for full time work has doubled in the last four years from 293,000 to nearly 600,000. Is this a sign of the recession or is it an inevitable result of a move towards more flexible working?read more...»
The campaign for a living wage has gained renewed prominence in the last year or so. Students and teachers wanting to know more about the minimum and the living wage debate might find this background blog from Channel 4 news relevant and useful. More here on the living wage from the Citizens UK web page.
Here is a pertinent and timely resource from Channel 4 news on overcoming the principle agent-problem. Are shareholders in some of our leading companies becoming more active in holding senior executives to account for poor performance? or more concerned with their own shareholder value at a time when CEO earnings continue to grow well above inflation? I own plenty of shares but have never once been to a company AGM or exercised my right to vote. Could planned legislation further embolden activist shareholders and shake up boardrooms across the UK? More on the debate over the shareholder spring here See also BBC news: FTSE 100 bosses’ pay ‘rose 11% last year’ And: FTSE 100 bosses’ pay unrelated to results, report says (BBC news, May 2012)read more...»
How long can China keep its comparative advantage of cheap production for manufacturing goods? We are aware of rising inflation in China which is eroding their advantage, and here is an article about a UK firm which manufactures cushions, some from a factory in Kirkby on Merseyside and some from his factory in the Zhejiang province in China. The story comes from a programme ‘The Town taking on China’ to be shown on BBC2 at 8pm tonight - and subsequently on i-player.read more...»
Here is an example of monopsony power in the labour market and the risk of exploitation of employees. Britain’s largest recruitment agency, Adecco, is being accused of short-changing temporary staff by rounding down their holiday pay. Hundreds of thousands of people are employed by contract recruitment businesses - this is a timely reminder of the importance of employment legislation as a means of protecting the pay and conditions of people in vulnerable jobs.read more...»
This excellent news video from Channel 4 news looks at the changing pattern of employment in the UK economy. The number of full time workers is dropping and there has been a big switch towards part-time employment. Who are the winners and losers in our labour market as the fragile recovery struggles to maintain momentum?read more...»
Professor David Blanchflower didn’t pull his punches when he was a member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee and he is making his mark once more with an attack on what he views as the Coalition government’s lacklustre approach to tackling youth unemployment. Blanchflower is reported in the Guardian as wanting zero national insurance contributions for employers who take on younger workers in depressed regions and localities. And he wants greater investment in vocational education in schools and colleges with the school-leaving age raised to 18.read more...»
As ever, there are loads of sources that students can use to analyse the Budget and to extract pieces of Evidence for the Examples they will need to add depth to their analysis in essays. Those who are attending the current round of revision workshops will recognise this as a key part of ensuring that they write essays which PEEL the answer (each paragraph makes one Point, using Examples with Evidence, offering Evaluation and Linking to the question). As start points, I would suggest these sources which are reasonably free of opinions:
BBC website: Budget 2012 at a glance, Farewell 50p tax rate, and Over 65-s tax-free income freeze
The Guardian Budget 2012: welfare cuts, tax cuts too, but retreat on child benefit and for the visual learners a nice graphic version: Tax and spending plans visualised
One of my favourite little statistical gems has always been the claim that the NHS is the world’s third largest employer, after the Indian Railways and the Chinese army, so it is deeply disappointing to find that this is not true - it’s actually only the fifth on the list with 1.7 million staff.
Ahead of the NHS are McDonalds’ global workforce in 4th place (1.9 million), Walmart, including Asda in the UK in third (2.1 million), the Chinese army 2nd with 2.3 million and, at the top of the table, the US Department of Defense with a whopping 3.2million staff - although only 1.6 million of these are on active service,with the rest in civilian and other support roles.read more...»
On Thursday, I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to see Michael Sandel speak at LSE. I have attended several events at LSE in the past two years and this was, by some margin, the best I have seen. Michael was delivering the first of three lectures and the subject for discussion was whether bankers should be paid more than nurses. Although this type of discussion is commonplace in our classrooms, Michael’s background as a philosopher meant that the event had me thinking about the issue in new ways. The style used relies almost entirely on contributions from the audience and makes it difficult to summarise but what follows is my best effort.read more...»
Migration from one country to another has become an increasingly important feature of our globalizing world and it raises many important economic, social and political issues. About 200-million people — about 3% of the world’s population — now live in countries in which they were not born. In the United Kingdom in 2010, the number of international migrants as a percentage of the population rose above 10% for the first time after several years of high rates of net inward migrationread more...»
A summary of the highest and lowest paid jobs in the UK labour market can be found here. I often use this data and resource links as starting points for discussion introductory labour market economics for EdExcel Unit 1 and it might also be handy for AQA Unit 3 economics.read more...»
Here is an updated presentation for A2 microeconomics on some economic aspects of trade unions in the UK. Updated in Nov 2013 with a clip from the FTread more...»
We have followed Stephen Stubbs on the economics blog before. This committed man from the north-east of England has been out of work for more than a year and had filed nearly two thousands job applications in a concerted and lengthy pursuit of a fresh job. What marvellous news it is that he has found work with the student loans company. Here are two videos that tell the story of his long and difficult pathway to finding new work.read more...»
Here is a selection of short news video resources on trade unions in the UKread more...»
I am teaching trade unions as part of our study of labour markets in the UK and the rest of Europe. This data from Timetric tracks the number of days lost from industrial disputes / stoppages and is always useful in providing historical context. Data on UK trade union membership can be found here
* Trade union density for employees in the UK was just 26.6 per cent in 2010
* Trade union membership levels for UK employees was 6.5 million compared with 2009. Across all sectors of the economy, just under half of UK employees (46.1 per cent in 2010) were in a workplace where a trade union was present
* The hourly earnings of union members, according to the LFS, averaged £14.00 in 2010, 16.7 per cent more than the earnings of non-members (£12.00 per hour)
The award-winning journalist Paul Mason provides this video report on low pay for hundreds of thousands of people who work for the big four supermarkets. I use this video when teaching monopsony power in the labour market. For many people, supermarket workers’ wages are being supplemented by state benefits such as child tax creditsread more...»
This article could be useful as an illustration of the EU context in relation to employment in general, and flexible employment in particular. Attracting inward FDI is arguably a significant benefit of UK membership of the EU, and one of the advantages which the UK can offer compared to, say, France is relatively flexible employment laws.read more...»