UK Political Economic Analysis?
The Economist on Employment and the United Nations’ Report on the UK’s Poverty
Lies, lies, lies and damn statistics – We need pESTLE to cut the (political) crap
– interpretation, interpolation ignoring the messaging
The Economist this week, 24th May 2019, published an editorial and briefing ‘Working It – Across the rich world, an extraordinary jobs boom is under way’ – https://www.economist.com/briefing/2019/05/23/across-the-rich-world-an-extraordinary-jobs-boom-is-under-way – debunking the somewhat simplistic answers as to why we are witnessing such vitriolic political debate in any number of countries regarding the status of economies. Youth employment is shocking:-
The gig economy has created a new precariousness about employment.
We are driven from job to job, unable to plan.
The Economist piece goes through and seeks to pick off the myths and highlight the statistics debunking many of these points. A US economy where the gig economy is reported as still only 1% of total employment. We are still moving jobs at the same frequency over the last two decades (stats say taken across the rich world). There is some change in lower income jobs increasing as ‘middlingly’, The Economist term, skills are not disappearing completely with the advent of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
The types of drudgery we, as individuals, undertake to earn a living have changed. Will continue to change; an altruism it does not take a soothsayer to see. Some, who have the choice brought about by a footloose lifestyle and a decent education, can make choices; if they can pay off their student loans or count on parents who bank rolled education and a step on to the property ladder.
In his ‘Statement on Visit to the United Kingdom’ (November 2018) Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights – https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23881&LangID=E – comes at matters from a different perspective as he reported on the contribution made by social security and related policies regarding his brief. His second paragraph (of his introduction) reads:-
‘…14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty. Four million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford basic essentials. The widely respected Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts a 7% rise in child poverty between 2015 and 2022, and various sources predict child poverty rates of as high as 40%. For almost one in every two children to be poor in twenty-first century Britain is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one.’
The references in his report cover both Government and independent, long standing, social conscience organisations who have consistently highlighted, and worked, to address not just the symptoms but the root causes of social injustice. The Institute for Fiscal Studies – https://www.ifs.org.uk – Joseph Rowntree Foundation – https://www.jrf.org.uk – and a numerous other references will be found with a quick scan of the document. This from the National Audit Office highlights the divide between data and the necessary interrogation to cause action; not political obfuscation but action of any kind:-
In March 2018 the National Audit Office criticized the lack of ongoing, coordinated monitoring of the impact of funding cuts on local authority services and raised the alarm that statutory services are at risk.
The Economist briefing looks at ‘the rich world’s jobs market’ with statistics at the state, country, level, Alston’s report looks in one specific state, the United Kingdom, and picks out some of the differentials geographically and socially. Both pieces look at the politics of social and economic policies noting how external factors are beyond short-term politics and how both are impacted by politics and technocracy implementation. The classic example is the Universal Credit where the UK’s Government sought to unify and simplify only to result in confusion and real needs for benevolence for a huge number of people.
But employment, without qualifying the quality of the work and the remuneration for the amount of work undertaken highlights the issues beyond quoting state level statistics – There are 2.8 million people living in poverty in families where all adults work full time. Families with two parents working full time at the national minimum wage are still 11% short of the income needed to raise a child. – Social Metrics Commission and Child Poverty Action Group figures quoted in Alston’s synopsis are damning of how The Economist have simply missed the issues of cost of living as the post World War II welfare state of the United Kingdom has been destroyed. Destroyed.
Not systematically made more a driver for individual empowerment through decent work and greater social cohesion
Left to neglect, and the vagaries of political whim as extremists have sought to take control of the means to influence
Inept strategic management creating neglect
Not made more amenable to people who are already bound into the fabric of British society or made more aware of how people need support to get ahead for themselves with skills and capital to be enterprising
But lied about to make right wing points not backed by any, any, facts and statistics however interpreted.
Here, the real issues appear from both the briefing and the report – the inequity within societies and the manner some groups of people have insulated themselves from the market forces The Economist seemingly advocates to work stronger and Alston appears to want closed off.
As is regularly the case, the practical way forward is the socially responsible way with proper safety nets and the market functional with a social ethos.
A social ethos?
Firstly, we seek to ensure people have a stake in what they do as they sell their labour, their skills and
Government addresses the underpinning infrastructure supporting people being able to do this in terms of education and on-going skills development.
A common refrain becoming louder during the last three years regards ‘freeloaders’. Neither the briefing nor the report directly addresses the politics of this but both bring forward the desires and need for market forces with a social safety net for those deserving the safety net.
A market cannot provide for all nor can a social safety net. This piece from the Finnish experience / experiment is revealing – https://www.helsinki.fi/en/news/nordic-welfare-news/heikki-hiilamo-disappointing-results-from-the-finnish-basic-income-experiment – No conclusions, however indications there are no panaceas given the multitude of factors, many external to the experience, some deliberately made to impact factors. Society is complex and the simplicity (even) The Economist has cut the OECD analysis to is demeaning. Alston’s work alludes to the differentials but is not in a position to offer a positive way forward.
However, broader measures beyond the fiscal have to be apparent. The Guardian published Gus O’Donnell’s piece – https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/24/wellbeing-should-replace-growth-as-main-aim-of-uk-spending?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other&fbclid=IwAR07HTiTrSzEq2DQ4t59WArp4pMGuS3UQIYnGLQ0kodJbg7KhoRP-u3fQBU – noting the need for broader measures of personal and societal wellbeing. Guardian middle class antsy predilections of there being a Utopia we-just-need-to-all-be-like-us aside, the need to, once more, drive toward promotive approaches in all aspects of wellbeing are clear.
This means education into employment, promotive health, all supported by an infrastructure enabling quality local employment and local good governance with devolved good government accountable to people – Less distance between government and the people it is supposed to serve.
Given the issues of working poverty and the breaking down of the National Health Service, this makes sense. Promotive health, fitting with wider policies to change the tax regimes still detracting from employment in key ways – note The Economist and Alston note the inability to address the step transition from no work to low paid work.
The lack of political leadership in this setting has been appalling, highlighting why political analysis must be led by social, technological, economic, environmental and legal elements as politics has become subservient to the last clarion call rather than the need for long term wellbeing of citizens.
Utopian? No, needs fleshing out but clearly not the regime we currently have where child benefits are taken, pensions supported through the triple link but fail to keep pace with a cost of living destroying people’s choices in later life.
Government, politics, has become an end in itself and lost touch with the realities of social, economic, environmental and technical issues now driving it. We are seeing a superficiality of political marketing deigning to be proactive policy. It is bullshit and should be treated in this pejorative manner.
The UK Government wanted governance to be ‘digital by default’ with e-governance being up there alongside e-commerce. Sadly, the inept and possibly incompetent nature of government is apparent, as markets are not functioning when there remains a monopoly on government with procurement systems still not matching the aspirations of publicity seeking politicians.
Digitalisation of aspects in the UK’s social security system, as well as other aspects of government’s services and revenue generation, have not been subject to the same rigours a business feels when offering products and services to its customers.
Here lies the next point – there is only so much to be done through privatisation when it comes to efficiency, effectiveness and staying relevant to the ethos of what government (and markets) are expected to deliver. The Economist briefing keeps bringing forward the economics of employment and the joys of averages
– Never buy shoes from a factory only making average sized shoes, the toes are bound to pinch for the vast majority and none of us will walk comfortably let alone stride out to a better life.
Lastly, the myopia of politics and economic analysis at the macro levels have been shown to miss the manner technology can deliver, as well as manipulate, at the individual level. The UK Government’s quality intention to have an ease of use is admirable. Sadly the efficiency and effectiveness of Cambridge Analytica’s capability to manipulate – https://www.wired.com/story/cambridge-analytica-facebook-privacy-awakening/ – has not been seen in the roll out of the positive governance work.
The lack of understanding of legal issues has also proved unequivocal; as ministers have been caught out time and again, note Raab’s lack of grasp in The Independent link below. Such lack of grasp of the legal issues and even the brief the minister’s are supposedly in charge of has been highlighted by the Ireland – Northern Ireland issues, but are synonymous with any number of blunders during the last decade. All come together to show an unbounded ignorance or devil-may-care attitude to the law, social issues and how these reflect on our environment. Grenfell Towers – https://www.independent.co.uk/topic/grenfell-tower – sadly, a nadir in this cost cutting and flagrant lack of social, legal and economic analysis.
This lack of engagement cost lives at Grenfell Towers and will cost more lives in direct violence – https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-northern-ireland-good-friday-agreement-hard-border-sectarian-violence-a8863516.html?fbclid=IwAR1uJAdF6B7Mn1BBp9FLDSSH8ukI4muZrT7cPA_gmf0yCGZL_QmKpJJpaYg – And more lives will be destroyed or lost as a result of not taking advantage of the opportunities brought forward in The Economist broad sweep on the employment cycles, now commencing to close, nor addressing the emergent social unrest the Alston Report alludes to.
Not in a hundred years has government been in such a state. The crises of 1919 and then 1947 gave birth to real changes. 2019 is in danger of being a year the obverse of this. We could see the start of some dystopian plunge in to new social orders where lip service is paid to fine ideals but no delivery to the vast majority.
Stand up, step forward and speak up –
whenever someone quotes some throw away political line
– we need Social, Economic, Environmental and Legal analysis well beyond the political rhetoric now propelling garrulous demagogues to power without the necessary intellectual capability.
Stand up, step forward and speak up