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Teaching activity

Labour markets - what jobs do UK workers actually do?

Penny Brooks

24th May 2017

As part of their build up to the Election next month, the BBC website carries an article by Laura Gardiner of the Resolution Foundation. It examines the current data behind the headline that there are record numbers of people in work at the moment. This makes for some very useful background on the Labour Market for A level students about to sit their exams, and could also be a useful resource when teaching the topic to next year's crop of students.

In my school we will probably introduce Labour Markets towards the end of this term, after AS level exams and during the annual round of University Open Days. This inevitably means that some students miss one or more lessons, so it is useful to have research tasks available that they can catch up on afterwards. With that in mind, I may well set up the concept of Supply of Labour with this set of five one-minute videos, introducing the Five Most Unusual Jobs, and ask students to list factors that they think would persuade them to supply their labour to each of the tasks, from snake-milker to emoji-translator - without confining themselves to the wage rate alone. Following that, I might give them Laura Gardiner's article with a set of questions such as the ones below, and follow up with a discussion about why employers in each of the sectors listed are willing to pay people to work for them - so that we can work towards the factors determining Demand for Labour.

What jobs do UK workers actually do?

1. The number of people working in Manufacturing industry in December 2016 was 2,623. Using that figure, and the percentages given in the article, how many people worked in:

a.Public administration, education and health

b.Retail, hotels and restaurants

c.The whole service sector


e.Agriculture and energy

f.The whole economy

2 a. Which employer pays the salaries of (most of) the workers in the category which represents the largest proportion of the Service sector?

b. How does this relate to AD?

3. Why do you think that the share of jobs in UK manufacturing has halved since the 1990’s? (you may give more than one reason)

4 a. Why has “…rising female employment been one of the key drivers of improvements in living standards over the past 50 years”?

b. Evaluate your answer using either Assumptions that you/the journalist are making, or consideration of the issue from the Perspective of different stakeholders.

5. Give three economic effects of the rising proportion of people in work aged 50 or over.

6. The article says that there is some disagreement about what the ‘gig economy’ actually is. How would you define it?

Given your answer to 1f above, what percentage of employed people are either self-employed, agency workers or on zero-hour 7 a. contracts?

b. What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of each of these forms of employment?

8. Research the current rates for National Minimum Wage and National Living Wages. Using the number of hours in a full-time working week given in the article, and assuming a 48-week working year, calculate the annual earnings for a worker earning NMW or NLW, at ages 17, 19, 23 and 30.

9. Average earnings growth has been very low (or negative) since 2008. Why does the writer of the article suggest that, in order to improve this, “improving productivity is going to be key”.

Penny Brooks

Formerly Head of Business and Economics and now Economics teacher, Business and Economics blogger and presenter for Tutor2u, and private tutor

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