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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...»
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...»
Several news sources are quoting a new report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) which estimates that as many 1 million people are on zero-hours contracts in the UK. For a summary of the report go to this link to see the CIPD version.
Zero-hours contracts are those where an employer gives no guarantees about the amount of hours an employee may work in any given period. In effect, the employee waits to find out how many hours they may be required and generally does not earn anything if they do not work. Whilst the zero-hours contract are controversial (trade unions are generally opposed and even Vince Cable is investigating their use), the CIPD report suggests that only about 14% of employees on these types of contracts do not earn a living wage.
The UK's approach to part-time, flexible and non-contract employment is often quoted as one of the reasons why unemployment figures have not matched those of previous recessions in the UK - someone on zero-hours contracts may not be classified as unemployed even if they do not work. A relatively large proportion of workers in the UK are working part-time would rather work full-time but have less choice in the current job market.
Fascinatingly, the Education sector is now one of the biggest users of zero hours contracts (approximately 35% of education establishments have at least one person employed using the method).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...»
In its annual assessment of the U.K. economy, the IMF called on the UK to invest in skills and infrastructure and increase banking sector competition in order to foster growth and achieve a sustainable recovery.
The report can be found here and contains plenty of relevant background information on the current situation facing the UK - here is a selection of quotes from their summary
The UK Coalition government has introduced a controversial welfare cap - imposing a maximum on the total social security spending per year for each family. The welfare cap limits households to £26,000 a year. Couples and single parents receive no more than £500 a week in benefits, while the limit for single people is £350, although there are some exemptions.
The cap is designed to ensure that benefits payments do not exceed the income of the average working household and is designed both to cut total welfare spending and as part of a strategy of improving incentives for people to actively look for and take paid work.
Critics argue that a welfare gap does little or nothing to address deeper underlying problems such as the soaring cost of renting property and the lack of affordable child care.
Social spending varies greatly across different countries. The Economist live chart below looks at some of these differences.read more...»
Miners made redundant from Maltby Colliery in Yorkshire many of whom with decades of experience faced years on the unemployment register when the mine closed earlier in 2013. But some have been thrown a lifeline with the rising demand for miners in the UK potash industry.
FOOD banks are a rapidly growing phenomenon in the UK. A few years ago, they barely existed, but an estimated half a million people now make use of them every week. On the face of it, it seems that poverty has sadly become endemic since the financial crisis, with many families unable even to feed themselves. Real incomes have declined since 2007, putting pressure on household budgets. But the pace of increasing demand is surprising.
In fact, the food bank is a market. It is, however, complex – with particular features which mean that it is likely to grow rapidly, exactly as we have seen. The key point is that food is not the only commodity traded.
Interesting article from the New York Times digging into perhaps the most worrying legacy of this Great Recession, the problem of hysteresis and structural unemployment. It looks at the causes and potential solutions as well as including some great images included below illustrating the concept.
"Unemployment is staying high despite the end of the recession because we are now in a historic transition. Because of automation, globalization, efficiency and other factors, we no longer need the share of people working that we have had in the past. With these trends moving in only one direction, it is clear that the job crisis is permanent and will not go away with better economic times."read more...»
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
For many years Professor Andrew Oswald has researched the links between home ownership levels and labour market performance. This new paper with Professor David Blanchflower takes the debate forward - they argue that rising home ownership can bring about negative externalities for the rest of the economy, damaging labour mobility and curtailing new business start-ups. It is an argument worth looking at when we discover some of the structural causes of joblessness. Read the article here
See also: It's not the deficit that will haunt our children: it's unemployment (Heather Stewart, The Observer, May 2013)
See also: Forget inflation – what hurts the most is unemployment (David Blanchflower, Independent, April 2013)
This two-minute video from The Economist analyses the growing problem of youth unemployment in selected developed economies since the start of the financial crisis in 2007, including Greece, Spain, the UK, France, US and Germany. The chilling statistic from The Economist is that almost a quarter of the world's young people eligible for employment are without a job.
Youth unemployment in the UK
In the period from June to August 2013, 958,000 young people in the UK aged 16-24 were unemployed. The unemployment rate for those aged 16-24 was 21.0%read more...»
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.
Fantastic interactive website here lets you check out migration flows both inward and outward from any country you care to look at.
Introducing The Government Game - tutor2u's new Economic Simulation game that is just perfect for revising for AS & A2 Macroeconomic Policy topics!
Increasing foreign language proficiency could be a key policy tool for encouraging greater mobility of labour between countries of the European Union and reducing the huge differences in rates of youth unemployment. According to research by Professors Ainhoa Aparicio-Fenoll and Zoe
Kuehn, including foreign language studies in the compulsory school curriculum fosters migration across European countries.
A recent World Bank report asked ‘Where is the Wealth of Nations?’ Calculations presented at the Economic History Society’s 2013 annual conference show that for Britain, the answer is undoubtedly in its people.
Dr Jan Kunnas and his colleagues calculate that Britain’s ‘human capital’ has grown by a multiple of 123 over the past 250 years. The main drivers of this phenomenal growth have been the growth in the workforce and the growth in wages.
The researchers define human capital as the knowledge and skills embodied in individuals – and they measure it by the discounted earnings the population is expected to earn during their time in the labour force.We have an extended revision note on human capital and economic growth - read it here
The Changing Wealth of Nations - World Bank reports can be accessed here
How Britain escaped from the travails of the Great Depression and achieved 4% a year growth in the years from 1933 to 1937 has important lessons for today’s policy-makers, according to research by Professor Nicholas Crafts, presented at the Economic History Society’s 2013 annual conference.read 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...»
Germany’s low unemployment is in large part due to the ‘Hartz Reforms’, which started as early as 2003 and have reduced the long-run rate of unemployment by 1.1%. That is the central finding of research by Matthias Hertweck and Oliver Sigrist, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2013 annual conference.
Unemployment rates across much of Europe have surged to unprecedented levels in recent years, particularly among the southern countries. In contrast, German unemployment has continued to fall even during the Great Recession. The authors conclude:
‘Our results build a solid basis for the macroeconomic effectiveness of such labour market reforms. This is particularly important for policy-makers across Europe who are currently planning to undertake similar structural reforms.’
The scale and depth of the unemployment crisis in Europe is confirmed by fresh figures released by Euro Stat. Unemployment in the Euro Zone was 12.0% in February 2013 and the jobless rate for the European Union as a whole was 10.9%. Last month there were 26.3 million people counted as out of work in the twenty-seven countries within the single market, 19 million of whom live in Euro Zone countries. In the last year alone, unemployment in the Euro Zone has jumped by over 1.7 million but this aggregate figure hides large country differences and persistent regional and local variations. Here is the contextual data to take into the exam:
Economic commentators love their acronyms and abbreviations - they come in handy when reaching character capacity limits on a tweet and also for students fighting the exam clock to complete a timed essay. Two new ones have come to my attention in recent days. What does ZIRP and PLOG mean to you?read more...»
This 10-question revision quiz focuses on unemployment.
It’s not often you read such a clearly set out, even-handed article on macroeconomic policy, so this relatively lengthy piece was interesting in itself as its writer appears to deal relatively equally with both sides of the big austerity debate. But you really have to take notice when the writer is the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable.
On Thursday 31st of January 2013, the long-awaited LSE Growth Commission Report was published and launched in London. The document itself is available for download from this link and I urge all teachers and students interested in growth, competitiveness and the fairness agenda to have a look at it. It is full of rewarding and important insights into the drivers of balanced growth in a modern advanced economy.
I will be adding new resources and links to this blog following the launch event
Key Points from LSE Growth Report
- Strong rule of law
- Generally competitive product markets
- Flexible labour market
- A world-class university system
- Openness to foreign investors and migrants
- Independent regulators including competition authorities
- Strengths in many key sectors including high end manufacturing
LSE Commission Growth Agenda
- Greater autonomy for schools, tackle the long tail of under-performance. Conditional cash transfers for families to pupil attendance and performance. Focus league tables less on % attaining 5 A-C grades. Reveal performance at the bottom end.
- Concentrating on skills (improving human capital) gives people the resilience to recover from global shifts in the division of labour
- Critical infrastructure essential for competitiveness in modern economy. For the UK, transport and energy are infrastructure areas with biggest issues; there has been a lack of clear strategy and lots of dithering / political delays.
- Huge opportunities for UK - industrial revolution driven by search for low-carbon technologies driving innovation - can the UK keep up?
LSE Commission proposes:
- 1) Strategy Board (for planning)
- 2) Planning Commission (for delivery)
- 3) Infrastructure Bank (for funding)
- Innovation is the third channel for increased growth
- Problems in UK capital markets mean innovation is not properly funded - short-termism remains a structural weakness of the markets
- More competition in retail banking
- Business bank that prioritises lending to SMEs and innovative firms
Changing the compass of economic performance
- Commission suggests that focus on GDP is not helpful
- GDP misses out on who gets the growth and measures production not income
- Need more focus on Median Household Income
- Median household income and GDP per capita have been decoupled since about 2002. GDP no longer tracks it
UK trend growth rate can be lifted by 0.5% with effective structural reforms - large compound effect on incomes over the long run
Institutions and incentives matter for growth. Macro stability important too. UK politics too short term and adversarial. Fundamental weakness is the failure to create a stable policy framework.
More focus needed on evidence based policy making to make government smarter.
Here Professor John Van Reenen, Director of CEP and co-chair of the LSE Growth Commission, presents a 'manifesto for growth' for the UK economy over the next 50 years, backed up by the Growth Commission's report.read more...»
Here is a selection of links and news videos on the vexed economic, social and political issue of fiscal austerity - there is a particular focus on the effects of austerity in the debt-ridden crisis countries of the Euro Zoneread more...»
An updated glossary of key terms for AS macroread more...»
As the sun rises on another year will the headwinds be favourable for Britain or are we facing up to another year of stresses and strains? Here is a brief commentary and overview of some of the key macroeconomic data for the UK economy together with some links to external articles and videos on economic prospects for Britain as we head in 2013.read more...»
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.
Here is a film of the Royal Economic Society's annual
public lecture 2012 by Nobel laureate Professor Chris Pissarides
|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.
The Office of National Statistics published some important data this week on the state of the UK labour market as the economy struggles to sustain a decent recovery. They released information showing that the number of underemployed workers i.e. those who want to work more hours, has risen by an estimated 1 million (or 47.3%) since the start of the economic downturn in 2008 to stand at 3.05 million in 2012. Nearly two thirds of the 1 million increase took place in the 12 months between 2008 and 2009, when the economy was in recession.
From 2000 to just before the 2008/09 recession the number of people underemployed was relatively steady and since 2009 the number has been rising, although at a much slower rate than during the recession.
We thank Hannah Thomas from the ONS who has provided us with this superb info-graphic on under-employment
This will make for a terrific teaching resource in the classroom and help to deepen student understanding of differences between unemployment and under-employment.
Youth unemployment is higher than adult unemployment even in normal economic times. But in recessions, especially in countries with rigid labour markets, young people typically stay unemployed for too long. In these circumstances, urgent policy action is needed to avoid long-term unemployment, which destroys talent and creates social problems.
Premier Foods is the UK's largest food manufacturer but in November 2012 they have announced the closure of two large bakeries that have - for many years - produced Hovis bread for supermarkets. The closure of the factories follows the loss of its £75m-a-year contract with Co-operative supermarkets. Hundreds of jobs are set to be lost in the spring of 2013 with damaging consequences for the local economy. What types of unemployment can you associate with these factory closures? What measures might be appropriate in addressing the extra unemployment problem that will result?
BBC news: Hovis shuts bakeries - click here
Hovis bakery worker devastated - click here
Here are collections of regularly updated resources on two key AS macro topics, inflation and unemployment
This article in the BBC about the 21st anniversary of the launch of the Big Issue newspaper acts as a timely reminder that we can find our very own examples of absolute as well as relative poverty in the UK.read more...»
As unemployment hits the headlines for the wrong reasons again : ‘The Eurozone is heading for disaster’.... ‘the lost generation’.... it is a great opportunity to study the theoretical concepts in this area. Unemployment in the eurozone hit a fresh high of 18.2 million in August; the highest unemployment rate was recorded in Spain, where 25.1% of the workforce is out of a job! Youth unemployment remains a particular concern, with the rate among under-25s hitting 22.8% across the eurozone and data from Eurostat shows that 55.4% of adults under 25 are out of work in Greece, compared to 52.9% in Spain!read more...»
In this 60 second summary, David Mitchell explains that Bill Phillips' curve historically described an inverse relationship between the rate of unemployment and the rate of wage (and therefore price) inflation - but since his analysis became popular the relationship has changed.read more...»
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...»
Lots of students will be revising the economics of supply-side policies this week with their AS macro paper coming into view. There are different interpretations of what constitutes a supply-side policy measure. I like to label SSP (supply-side policy) to any policy or group of measures where emphasis is given to improving the working of markets, raising factor efficiency, improving the quantity and quality of labour and in lifting the capacity and competitiveness of an economy in a constantly-changing international environment.
Many supply side policies focus on improving incentives and outcomes in the labour market, others are geared towards bettering the performance of markets for goods and services, All of them centre on helping to sustain non-inflationary growth, improve trade performance, lift living standards and create new and fulfilling jobs opportunities.
This revision blog looks in particular at some evaluation points on supply-side approaches:read more...»
A revision blog on the economic impact of migration on the UK economyread more...»
An initial change in aggregate demand can have a much greater final impact on equilibrium national income. This is known as the multiplier effect. It comes about because injections of new demand for goods and services into the circular flow of income can stimulate further rounds of spending – in other words “one person’s spending is another’s income”. Put another way, spending becomes someone else’s income. This can lead to a bigger eventual effect on output and employment.read more...»
The unemployed are people able, available and willing to work at the going wage rate but cannot find a job despite an active search for work.
Unemployment means that scarce human resources are not being used to produce goods and services to meet people’s needs and wants. Persistently high levels of joblessness have damaging consequences for an economy causing both economic and social costs.read more...»
How much spare capacity does an economy have to meet a rise in demand? How close is an economy to operating at its productive potential? Has the recession damaged the economy’s productive potential? These sorts of questions all link to an important concept – the output gap. The output gap is the difference between the actual level of national output and the estimated potential level and is usually expressed as a percentage of the level of potential output.read more...»
A revision blog on possible unemployment questions on AS and A2 papersread 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...»