Sunday, 30 September 2012

10 non-work-related items that should have been published yesterday!

Why Do We Say That Someone is “Hot”?
by Kai MacDonald in Scientific American via 3quarksdaily by Azra Raza
fire, heat, greet, why do we say someone is hot
Our brains blur heat and greet
Image: iStock / Konstantin Yuganov
What do a chilly reception, a cold-blooded murder, and an icy stare have in common? Each plumbs the bulb of what could be called your social thermometer, exposing our reflexive tendency to conflate social judgements – estimations of another’s trust and intent – with the perception of temperature. Decades of fascinating cross-disciplinary studies have illuminated the surprising speed, pervasiveness and neurobiology of this unconscious mingling of the personal and the thermal.
Continue reading

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
English spelling: “the world’s most awesome mess” and “an insult to human intelligence“. How did this nonsensical system come together?... more

Making Books in 1947: A How-to Video
via Reading Copy Book Blog by Beth Carswell

Boy, does this ever look labour intensive. All that type-setting, all those machines and fumes and people and copper and wax involved in the making of one book. But it sure is charming. And am I alone in missing the days when men used enough pomade in their hair to retain comb marks?

How to make corn more sustainable? Grow less of it.
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker

Image via WATTAgNet
I wrote a story about the future of crop science that’s printed in the June issue of Popular Science. When I was doing the research, the big question I wanted to ask was this: “How can we take the most important agricultural crops and make them more sustainable and adapted to climate change?”
I suppose there are a lot of ways to define “most important”, but I went with the crops that feed the most people. Wheat, rice, and corn account for more than 50% of all the calories consumed on Earth. So those are the plants I looked at. And that’s where I ran into a surprise. Scientists had some really interesting, concrete suggestions for how to prepare wheat and rice for a changing world. But with corn, they took a different tack. Basically, the scientists said the best thing to do with corn was use less corn.
Continue reading here.
Read about the other suggestions for adapting major food crops to climate change.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Orhan Pamuk has built a museum, in effect, to himself. A colossal act of ego? Perhaps. But it’s also an ingenious work of art... more

Open Sesame: 1907
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive - Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Open Sesame: 1907
Chicago, Illinois, circa 1907
“Jackknife Bridge, Chicago River”
The Pueblo passing through the open span
Glass negative by Hans Behm
View original post

101 books to read: a flowchart
via The Daily Buzz
Do you like contemporary fiction with a touch of mystery? Classic novels with relationship intrigue? Or a good biography? Whatever your taste, has put together this great flowchart to help you find the perfect book to bury your head in.
101 books to read
Via and USC Rossier Online

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Joseph Brodsky brooded on the meaning of life and the place of art in it. The purpose of poetry, he concluded, is “to make the future more tolerable”... more

Domino Dump Turns Into Van Gogh Painting
via How-To Geek by Jason Fitzpatrick

We’ve seen a lot of domino projects in our day, but this is the first one we’ve seen that turns into a piece of classic art when it’s done.
Courtesy of domino enthusiast FlippyCat:
I recreated Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” from just over 7,000 dominos. The second attempt took about 11 hours total to build.
The first attempt failed, when I dropped a screw from the camera rig onto it. I was able to improve the swirling clouds better in the second attempt as a result though. I do not know how long the first attempt took, but I did not have any accidents building like I did in the second attempt!

More than you maybe needed to know about the echidna
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Echidnas are one of those weird Australian animals that seems to have been pieced together from leftover bits of other animals. Mammals that lay eggs, echidnas are covered in pointy hedgehog-like spines, but with a long snout and sticky tongue of an anteater.
Also, the males have a four-headed penis.
Not kidding. One shaft, four heads. Which is odd, because the female echidna reproductive tract only has two branches. Some of the stuff I’ve read this morning says that the male echidna mates using only two of his four heads at a time. Then, he’ll find another lady echidna and let the other two heads have a turn. Another option, presented by National Geographic: He mates twice with each lady echidna, using first two heads, and then the other two.
National Geographic has helpfully provided visual evidence of this four-headed penis. I’m putting the photo under a cut. Partly for comic effect, and partly because what is seen can never be unseen.

Read the rest of the National Geographic article on the lives and weird biology of the echidna. (That's the only penis shot. Promise.)

Saturday, 29 September 2012

This is Friday's miscellaneous stuff!!

Show the poor: returning to the art of the Great Depression
an article by Alice Béja published in Eurozine
When Roosevelt insisted that photographers and writers document the Great Depression, they produced lasting, iconic work that allowed America to doubt its myths but also to get back on track. So where, asks Alice Béja, are today’s Dorothea Langes and John Steinbecks?
Full article (HTML)

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Nations are rich or poor because of government and social institutions. But the decay rate of organic matter plays a part, too... more
I plead guilty to reading this one – all the way through!

Fort Blaster – Ahoy There
via How-To Geek by Asian Angel
In this game you and your pirate crew luck out and find a series of forts full of treasure waiting for you to claim in a campaign of high seas terror. So hoist the colours, grab your favorite cannon, and get ready to blast your way to fame and fortune!
Follow Asian Angel’s walk-through here or take your chances and go straight to the game here.

Bookcase that cunningly stores a table and chairs
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

Orla Reynolds’s “As If From Nowhere” is a bookcase with four removable chairs and a dining table cunningly worked into its frame. It’s basically a storage unit for an extra table.
As if from nowhere (via Bookshelf)
Watch it through to the end and then tell me what is wrong with the music credit, please.
Oh dear, embed code took some finding and then needed tweaking!

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
By speeding the change in middle-class courtship from parlour to public dating, the automobile did women no favour in the 1920s...more

Seeing Beyond the Human Eye: Video of beautiful scientific and artistic photography
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

The latest installment of the “Off Book” series from PBS and Kornhaber Brown is called Seeing Beyond the Human Eye and features microphotography, astrophotography, slow-motion video, and time-lapse video. My favourite part is Cameron Michaels’ time-lapse scenes of Manhattan.
This piece explores the beautiful imagery that has been uncovered thanks to modern technology. Because of advancements made in photomicrography, astrophotography, high-speed and stop-motion photography, we’re now able to see the world (and galaxy) as we never have before.
It’s our curiosity and thirst for the unknown that has driven us to uncover the beauty of the universe. Technology has allowed us to overcome the boundaries of human perception and explore beyond the limits of the naked eye. Told through the voices of scientists and artists, this video illustrates how size and distance are no longer barriers, and how through innovation we see the universe, time, and humanity in a new light.

The Athletes: 1897
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive - Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
The Athletes: 1897
Circa 1897
“U.S.S. Oregon - the athletes”
8x10 inch dry plate glass negative by Edward H. Hart, Detroit Publishing Company
View original post

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Mixing perfumes, or “layering” them, as it’s said, is like going crazy with pizza toppings – you, of course, being the pizza...more

Now *that’s* a “girls in science” video: “The Longest Time”, by the Barber Lab Quartet
via Boing Boing by Xeni Jardin

Miles O’Brien points me to this cute musical video written and performed by young female scientists at the Barber Lab. The video was discussed on a recent email thread of scientists debating the (lack of) merit of this EU PSA.
Commenters: before you say anything mean about the fact that their homemade Billy Joel cover ditty is a little off-key here and there, or the rhymes a little dorky... that’s the point. These women are actual researchers, who care passionately about the subject of their research, and they’re sharing that in an authentic way with the world.
Unlike this shit.
The Coral Triangle is one of the most threatened, yet understudied, ecosystems in the world. We are working to understand the processes creating and maintaining biological diversity in this region, while building the capacity of researchers and students to contribute to local conservation efforts. Terima kasih Pak Ngurah Mahardika dan Indonesia untuk menyambut kami! For more information please visit, or contact us at

New Video Techniques for Monitoring Health
via The Scholarly Kitchen by Kent Anderson

A fascinating set of new video techniques being developed at MIT hint at how cameras might someday intervene in crib death, help diagnose heart disease, and more.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Long-distance moves and labour market outcomes of dual-earner couples in the UK and Germany

a research paper by Philipp M. Lersch published in the SOEP papers series


Chances are high that partners in dual-earner couples do not receive equal occupational returns from long-distance moves, because job opportunities are distributed heterogeneously in space.

Which partners are more likely to receive relatively higher returns after moves?

Recent research shows the stratification of returns by gender and highlights the importance of gender roles in mobility decisions.

I extend past literature in two ways.
First, while past research mostly examined partners separately, I directly test for gender differences in matched pairs of women and men in dual-earner couples and account for the non-independence of both careers.
Second, I compare evidence from the United Kingdom (UK) and Germany to shed light on the effects of institutional and normative contexts.

For my analysis, I draw longitudinal data from the British Household Panel Survey and the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (1991-2008).

My results show that women in dual-earner couples are temporarily adversely affected in their careers by long-distance moves in the UK and West Germany after controlling for various characteristics of both partners.

Women in East Germany are not affected by long-distance moves.

Moves do not change wage rates significantly for women and men that stay in employment in both countries.

Full text (PDF 45pp)

Gender gaps in performance

an article (CEPCP379) by Ghazala Azmat (Queen Mary, University of London) and Rosa Ferrer (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) published in CentrePiece - The Magazine for Economic Performance (Autumn 2012)

Are differences in earnings between highly skilled men and women the result of differences in performance – and if so, what explains the gender gaps in performance? Ghazala Azmat and Rosa Ferrer explore these questions by analysing data on the careers of young American lawyers who graduated at the turn of the millennium.

Full article (PDF 2pp)

This article summarises Gender Gaps in Performance: Evidence from Young Lawyers by Ghazala Azmat and Rosa Ferrer, CEP Discussion paper No.1136, March 2012 (PDF 45pp)

Are public sector employees overcompensated?

an article (CEPCP377) by Alexander Danzer and Peter Dolton published in CentrePiece - The Magazine for Economic Performance (Autumn 2012)

The UK’s coalition government has suggested that both pay and pensions in the public sector are too high relative to the private sector. Alexander Danzer and Peter Dolton use the concept of ‘total reward’ to evaluate this claim, comparing the lifetime compensation available to highly educated men working in the two sectors.

Full article (PDF 4pp delightfully illustrated with hares and tortoises)

This article summarises Total Reward and Pensions in the UK in the Public and Private Sectors by Alexander Danzer and Peter Dolton, Labour Economics 19(4): 584-594, August 2012 [about which I blogged in August here]

Spoilt for choice, spoilt by choice: Long-term consequences of limitations imposed by social background

an article by Vicky Duckworth and Matthew Cochrane (Edge Hill University, Ormskirk) published in Education + Training Volume 54 Issue 7 (2012)


The purpose of this paper is to explore the choices learners have in steering their way through the educational system in the UK.
The paper draws on data from two studies, one conducted in a state secondary school and the other in a Further Education College, both based in the north-west of England. Both used interviews (either individual or focus-group) to collect data, which were then analysed using a grounded approach.
In linking the two studies the authors highlight how the impact of symbolic violence and the relations between groups and classes at school continue into the “choices” the learners make during adulthood and also into the learner’s working life, and that these “choices” are often a large-scale consequence of many “micro-choices” arising from day-to-day situations. The acts of symbolic violence described in the college group are not of themselves very different from those described by the school group, though the consequences for the school group cannot yet be known.
Research limitations/implications
The participants in the two groups are unconnected in that they attend different institutions and are at very different stages of their education. However the authors contend that there is a connection in terms of the participants’ experience of symbolic violence.
The paper draws attention to the existence of symbolic violence in everyday school life, and highlights how these instances can have significant impact.

The role of universities in higher apprenticeship development

an article by Adrian Anderson (UVAC and University of Bolton), Darryll Bravenboer (Institute for Work Based Learning, Middlesex University) and David Hemsworth, (Haywards Heath, UK) published in Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning Volume 2 Issue 3 (2012)


To date, few universities have been involved in the Government-funded drive to expand higher apprenticeships across England. Universities have a track record of expertise and innovation in professional and work-based learning that can significantly contribute to the higher-level skills agenda and could have a pivotal role in the rapidly growing initiative to develop higher apprenticeship programmes. The purpose of this paper is to outline the potential contribution universities could make to higher apprenticeship and the potential barriers to university engagement.
The paper provides an analysis of skills and higher education policy, initiatives and related research in England as the context for university involvement in higher apprenticeship. A case study is used to illustrate the benefits of and barriers to university involvement, including an uneven funding policy playing field for universities and misconceptions regarding professional competence and practice-based higher-level learning.
The paper illustrates the potential benefits university involvement in higher apprenticeship could deliver for employers and learners by supporting individual career progression and social mobility, and by providing employers and employees with clear and cost effective work-based pathways to management roles. It concludes that the current barriers to university involvement may result in a missed opportunity to maximise value from public investment in the workforce development expertise of universities, redeployed to realise higher apprenticeship innovation.
The authors believe this paper is the only academic analysis of the value of and barriers to university involvement in the current Westminster Government flagship Higher Apprenticeship programme. The case study included has not featured in any other academic journal.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A long division: closing the attainment gap in England's secondary schools

a research paper by Jonathan Clifton and Will Cook (IPPR) published by Institute for Public Policy Research (September 2012)


This paper investigates the role schools can play in ensuring all children get a fair start in life. The issue of social mobility has risen up the political agenda in recent years, amid concerns that the opportunities provided by over a decade of economic growth have been too narrowly concentrated among a few groups in society. A series of reports has highlighted Britain’s low levels of social mobility, showing how children from poorer backgrounds struggle to gain access to university, enter professional jobs and earn decent wages (see Milburn 2012, Sutton Trust 2011, Blanden et al 2005). This in turn means disadvantage can become entrenched across the generations.

Low levels of social mobility are rooted in wider changes to the British economy since the 1970s, following the loss of decent jobs at the bottom of the labour market, the professionalisation of jobs at the top of the labour market, and an increase in income inequality, which have all combined to make it harder for people to climb the ladder of opportunity (Duncan and Murnane 2011). A concerted effort will be required in a number of policy areas to address this problem, but education can play a crucial role. A high level of education has become more important for getting a decent job over the past 30 years, meaning those families which are unable to invest in education are left further behind (Lindley and Machin 2012). Education can provide access to many opportunities later in life, and schools can help to create a level playing field for young people as they start out.

The government, in particular, has turned to schools to try and solve this problem, producing a social mobility strategy that focuses heavily on the academic performance of poorer pupils (Clegg 2012). It has introduced a number of policies designed to raise the achievement of pupils from deprived areas, including converting failing schools into academies, reforming the accountability system to put more pressure on weaker schools to improve, and allocating an additional sum of money, known as the ‘pupil premium’, to schools that teach children from poorer homes. Government ministers have expressed a desire to close the ‘stubborn’ gap in achievement at GCSE level that exists between children from deprived areas and their wealthier peers (Gove 2012).

This paper uses original analysis of the latest data available from the National Pupil Database to assess the challenge the government has set itself. It explores the role that schools can play in tackling the link between educational achievement and family income. The first half of the paper sets out the scale of the challenge, and puts the issue in context by comparing how the achievement gap – or, as it is often known, the attainment gap in England has changed over time and in relation to other countries. The second half of the paper examines the nature of the gap in achievement, and argues for the use of targeted interventions as well as wider ‘school improvement’ policies. The paper concludes by modelling the impact that the government’s flagship policy in this area, the pupil premium, might have on the achievement gap, and sets out what it would take to reach the government’s aim of closing it for good.

This paper is concerned with the specific question of what official data sources can reveal about the size and nature of the achievement gap, and how this can inform the design of current government policies. A more comprehensive book, in which leading academics will propose new policy ideas to break the link between poverty and educational achievement, will be published by IPPR later in the year.

Full text (PDF 50pp)

Earning Not Learning? An Assessment of Young People in the Jobs Without Training (JWT) Group

an article by Sue Maguire (University of Warwick) and Thomas Spielhofer and Sarah Golden (National Foundation for Educational Research) published in Sociological Research Online Volume 17 Number 3 (2012)


In recent years, mass participation in post-16 education and training in England has led to a diminishing understanding about young people who leave education at the end of compulsory schooling to enter “jobs without training” (JWT).

Drawing on data from three recent studies, this article argues that the JWT group is not homogeneous in its composition. Similar findings led to the development of a common typology across all three studies to define young people’s position in the labour market, their motivations and aspirations, and their access to training and development.

It concludes with a series of recommendations for addressing the deficit in knowledge about the composition of the JWT group, and the learning and training needs of young workers.

This discussion is set in the context of the implementation of the Raising of the Participation Age (RPA) in England for all 17-year olds from 2013 and for all 18-year olds from 2015, although within the Coalition Government’s current proposals, its delivery will lack any form of immediate enforcement. Therefore, unless young workers and their employers are committed to the acquisition of accredited qualifications, RPA delivery will be seriously undermined and intervention to support school to work transitions among the JWT group will remain negligible.

Full text (HTML)

Student awareness of the costs and benefits of higher education

an article (CEPCP376) by Martin McGuigan, Sandra McNally and Gill Wyness published in CentrePiece - The Magazine for Economic Performance (September 2012)

What impact did media reporting of the near trebling of tuition fees have on school students’ understanding of the costs and benefits of university?
A CEP experiment run by Sandra McNally and colleagues sheds light on this question as well as on broader issues about the importance of clear information about the value of higher education.

Full article (PDF 7pp)

This article summarises Student Awareness of Costs and Benefits of Educational Decisions: Effects of an Information Campaign (PDF 57pp) by Martin McGuigan, Sandra McNally and Gill Wyness, Centre for the Economics of Education Discussion Paper No.139, August 2012

The impacts of demographic change: Young workers, older workers and the consequences for education, skills and employment

an article by John Goodwin and Henrietta O’Connor (Centre for Labour Market Studies, University of Leicester) published in Education + Training volume 54 Issue 7 (2012)


The purpose of this paper is to introduce the key themes in the area of the impact of demographic change on young workers and older workers in relation to education, skills and employment, as discussed in the papers included in this section. The authors have also drawn upon data from their project “From Young Workers to Older Workers” as a context for the papers.
This paper draws out the main themes from the papers contained within this section and presents original data from interviews with 97 older workers who were interviewed at two points in time – labour market entry and labour market exit.
The selection of papers in this section is outlined, as well as offering some findings from the authors’ research on older workers.
The papers in this section, including this paper, offer an overview of some of the key debates in relation to the impact of demographic change on both young workers and older workers.

Bad evidence: the curious case of the government-commissioned review of elective home education in England and how parents exposed its weaknesses

an article by Bruce Stafford (affiliation(s) not provided) published in Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice Volume 8 Number 3 (August 2012)


Governments in the United Kingdom have been contracting out policy reviews to individuals.

One such review, of elective home education in England, reveals serious shortcomings to this practice.

This paper explores the shortcomings – methodological and presentational – with the review, and highlights the fact that there was no governmental mechanism or code against which a commissioned review can be held accountable.

Although a select committee held an inquiry, it was home educators using the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and social media who identified weaknesses in the review.

The review’s recommendations were not implemented, but this was only because a general election was called.

Hazel’s comment:
I include this item here not because of its inherent subject matter but because of the lack of accountability apparent in this specific case. Had it not been for some very determined people we, the general public, would never have known what was happening.
How many other policies are based on dubious evidence?

My cynical core tends to ask about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but should perhaps be concentrating on the evidence for the demise of Connexions services.

Annual Mid-year Population Estimates for England and Wales, Mid 2011

Statistical Bulletin via ONS Media Centre RSS

Key Points
  • The population of England and Wales was estimated to be 56,170,900 in mid-2011, with the population of England estimated to be 53,107,200 and the population of Wales estimated to be 3,063,800
  • The population of England and Wales increased by 95,000 (0.2 per cent) between 2011 Census day (27 March) and the mid-year point (30 June)
  • In England and Wales there were 187,600 births and 121,000 deaths in the three months between 2011 Census day and the mid-year point
  • The estimated flow of international migrants into England and Wales between 2011 Census day and the mid-year point was 98,200 and the estimated flow out of England and Wales was 68,500
  • Compared to the 26 member states of the European Union (excluding the UK), the population of England and Wales ranks fourth, behind Germany, France and Italy
Full text (PDF 15pp)

Get all the tables for this publication in the data section of this publication

Hazel’s comment:
There’s a very interesting chart of males and females by age which has an indent for age 69 (that’s where I am) which is not entirely explained by 1943 being in the middle of WWII.

Raising aspirations and smoothing transitions: the role of careers education and careers guidance in tackling youth unemployment

a policy snapshot report by Brhmie Balaram and Lizzie Crowley published by The Work Foundation (part of the Lancaster University) in The Missing Million Programme (September 2012)

Executive Summary

School-to-work transitions are increasingly challenging for young people. Changes in the occupational landscape and reduced demand in the economy mean that choices are becoming more complex and opportunities more competitive. Young people need greater support to navigate pathways to employment and/or further training.

Together Careers Education and Careers Guidance can improve transitions. The evidence shows that good provision of careers education makes a difference in the long run by raising aspirations and encouraging academic achievement. When combined with careers guidance in the lead up to transitioning from school-to-work, it can minimise the risk of young people becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training). Face-to-face guidance plays an integral role in smoothing this transition.

However, changes to Careers Education and Careers Guidance that will come into effect in September 2012 are likely to compromise the quality, and availability, of provision. The Education Act 2011 ends the statutory requirement for local authorities to deliver a universal careers service for young people. Schools have instead been placed under a duty to secure independent and impartial careers advice, but have not been given any additional funding to do so. There is concern that ambiguity within the Act may allow for schools to fulfill their obligations by simply referring young people to the new National Careers Service (NCS), despite that those under 19 will only be able to access an adviser online or by telephone rather than face-to-face.

The statutory requirement to provide careers education has been removed, reversing the progress made towards establishing a long-term process of guidance. Without careers education, careers guidance is reduced to an abrupt and isolated intervention. Careers education should be embedded in the curriculum as early as primary school and expanded on with age in an effort to prevent young people from becoming NEET later on in life. Preventative measures like careers education are preferable for addressing young people at-risk of being NEET. If fewer intensive interventions are needed greater resources can be freed to help all young people as they attempt to make transitions post-16.

While we are concerned about changes to provision of Careers Education and Careers Guidance, now represents an opportunity to reinvent provision, particularly for those from disadvantaged groups.
Policy should consider the following principles:
  • From Connexions – formerly the primary provider of careers guidance for young people – we learn that we should value diverse outcomes. Guidance should be as much about developing young people’s self-confidence and ability to manage transitions over time as it is about influencing destinations. By integrating guidance with careers education, young people can learn career management skills from an early age and work towards becoming self-sufficient. This is important if young people are expected to access and utilise resources on their own, such as the growing number available online, but also if they are to remain resilient in spite of multiple barriers to employment.
  • Face-to-face provision is essential – particularly for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Young people prefer face-to-face guidance over all other sources1 because they are more likely to trust personalised support. Access to face-to-face guidance should be guaranteed onwards from age 13 at the very minimum. The lack of funding is likely to be the main barrier for schools in contracting independent advisers, and for those able to buy-in services there are further concerns about quality of provision. Greater standardisation and regulation of the careers guidance market is needed to ensure quality across the board.
Young people should still be able to access other resources; however, these resources must be user-friendly. The internet is a medium of information that young people know how to use well, but the way in which the information is presented is failing to engage them. Presentation needs to be improved, along with young people’s ability to understand and interpret labour market information (LMI) found online.

Collaboration is key to achieving impact. The delivery of Careers Education and Careers Guidance needs to be widened to go beyond careers advisers and seek to include schools, employers and the third sector in engaging young people. Involving other key players will ease the pressure on careers advisers and above all, create a more engaging, interactive and healthy system of support. Just as tackling the problem of youth unemployment is a collective responsibility, so is Careers Education and Careers Guidance.

1 See for instance: Joyce, L. and White, C. (2004) Assessing Connexions: Qualitative Research with Young People. London: Department for Education and Skills.

Full text (PDF 24pp)

Monday, 24 September 2012

Mind the Gap: the size and costs of pay differentials between the public and private sectors in the UK

a research paper by Matthew Oakley published in the Policy Exchange (September 2012)


This paper considers how public and private wages differ in local areas. It extends the UK literature in two key ways.

First it uses the Special License version of the Annual Population Survey to allow wage differentials to be identified using quantile regression estimation at a Local Authority level with the most up to date data available. This approach demonstrates a complex picture of mismatches between the wages one might expect individuals to receive based on their characteristics and types of job, and the public sector wages they receive: pay differentials vary dramatically both across and within regions and across the pay distribution.

Secondly, this paper puts forward tentative estimates of the overall value of the pay differentials in order to inform discussion over how much it would cost or save, should differentials be reduced, ceteris paribus, over time. These results are also split by region. Total costs are found to be sensitive to whether or not other factors, such as pension entitlements, are accounted for.

Full text (PDF 66pp)

JEL classifications: J3, J7

The only way is up? The employment aspirations of single parents

a research paper published by Gingerbread – the charity for single parents

Introduction: Background

One in four UK families with dependent children is headed by a single parent. They account for just under 2 million families, containing 3 million children1. These families face particular disadvantage, with 41 per cent of children in single parent households living in poverty, compared to 23 per cent of children in couple households2. For at least the past 15 years there has been a strong political consensus that work is one of the best routes out of poverty, and a concomitant drive to increase levelsof single parent employment as part of a broad government strategy to reduce child poverty3.

In this context, over recent years there has been a number of policy initiatives aimed at increasing employment amongst single parents. These have included the New Deal for Lone Parents (NDLP), a voluntary scheme to help improve job readiness and employment opportunities for single parents; additional in-work financial support, specifically through the introduction of working tax credits, and included support for childcare costs; and the introduction of Lone Parent Obligations (LPO), which has applied conditionality for benefit receipt to successive groups of single parents – according to the age of their youngest child – and actively required them to seek work.

From November 2008 most single parents with a youngest child aged 12 or over were no longer eligible for Income Support4. Instead those able to work could claim Jobseeker’s Allowance and were expected to look for suitable work in return for personalised help and support. Further changes have been introduced in three phases: for those with a youngest child aged ten or over from October 2009; for those with a youngest child aged seven or over from October 2010; and for those with a youngest child aged 5 or over from May 2012.

This focus on increasing the level of employment amongst single parents – and in particular the impact of tax credits and the support offered through NDLP5 – has achieved a degree of success: by 2012 59 per cent of all single parents were in work6, an increase of 14 percentage points from the rate in the mid-1990s. It is worth highlighting that the employment rate for single parents does vary depending on the age of their youngest child, and once children are aged 12 or over, single parents’ employment rate is similar to the employment rate for mothers in couples: 71 per cent of single parents whose child is aged 12-15 are in work7, the same as the employment rate for all couple mothers8.

Although the single parent employment rate has increased substantially over the last decade and a half, work is not yet a guaranteed route out of poverty; the poverty rate for single parent families where the parent works part-time is around 1 in 4 (23 per cent), and around 1 in 5 (18 per cent) where the parent works full-time9.

There have long been – and there remain – significant concerns about the quality of part-time work that is available, which is of particular relevance given that the UK has one of the highest levels of part-time working in Europe, and many women with young children work part-time in order to combine work and caring responsibilities. Nearly half (45 per cent) of working women and 13 per cent of working men are currently in part-time employment, and there has been a steady and consistent rise in the proportion of women working part-time, according to the number of children aged under 16 within the household10.

Part-time work is a particularly important source of employment for single parents, with three-quarters of single parents entering work on a part-time basis11. However, a shortage of high quality part-time work across sectors and occupations in the UK means that many women are being crowded into a narrow range of low paid, part-time jobs which do not fully utilise their skills12. Though the availability and take up of flexible working practices is increasing, some forms of flexible working – especially part-time work – are still concentrated in low-paid and low-skilled jobs, where opportunities for progression may be limited. Indeed, research has shown that less than three per cent of part-time vacancies were for roles with salaries starting at £20,000 FTE, compared with the majority of full-time vacancies which pay over £20,00013.

 1 Office for National Statistics (2012) Lone parents with dependent children
2 DWP (2012) Households Below Average Income: An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2010/11
3 E.g. HMT (2004) Child Poverty Review; Department for Education (2011) A new approach to child poverty: tackling the causes of disadvantage and transforming families’ lives
4 Exceptions exist for those whose children receive the middle or higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance, those in receipt of Carer’s Allowance, and those who are registered as foster carers
5 Finn, D and Gloster, R (2010) Research Report No. 632 Lone Parent Obligations: A Review of recent evidence on the work-related requirements within the benefit systems of different countries, DWP
6 ONS (2012) Working and Workless households: ONS Statistical Bulletin
7 Analysis of Labour Force Survey data from April-June2009 produced for Gingerbread, in Peacey V (2009) Signing on and stepping up? Single parents’ experience of welfare reform
8 ONS (2011) Working and workless households 2011 – Statistical Bulletin
9 DWP (2012) Households Below Average Income: An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2010/11
10 ONS (2009) Labour Force Survey data
11 Sissons, P (2012) Quantitative background paper on the introduction of LPO for single parents, Work Foundation (unpublished)
12 The Women and Work Commission (2006) Shaping a Fairer Future
13 Stewart, E et al. (2012) Building a sustainable quality part-time recruitment market, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Full text (PDF 100pp)

Decline in European road freight transport in 2011 reflecting the economic climate

Eurostat Statistics in focus Issue number 38/2012

Analysis of trends in EU road freight transport


  • European road freight transport declined in 2011 in terms of tonne-kilometres (tkm) after a slight recovery in 2010, reflecting the economic climate.
  • However, there was a small rise in tonnage terms. Cabotage bucked the trend by growing strongly in 2011.
  • National, international and cross trade transport declined.
  • Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria recorded a strong rise in tkm performed, while Italy registered a significant decline.
  • Household and office removals transport rose sharply in 2011.
  • Construction industry related products are the major group in tonnage terms; food dominates transport in tkm.
  • Transport for all distance classes is below the 2007 level. European road freight transport under 300 km decreased by 9% between 2007 and 2011.
  • Poland achieved growth in all distance classes in 2011, while Bulgaria saw growth in all but the very shortest distances, less than 50 km. A strong rise is observed in shorter distance movements of transport equipment.

Full text (PDF 8pp)

Stagnating incomes for the middle, more hardship for the poorest

by Richard Exell via Touchstone from the TUC

Sometimes official statistics throw a light on a completely separate issue and that’s the case with today’s personal finance figures from the government’s Measuring National Well-being project.

This programme dates back to the time when David Cameron wanted to establish his progressive credentials and aims to measure ‘well-being’. I’d guess that most commentators are going to note that average families’ incomes have stopped rising, but the figures also show how a controversial benefit change is going to hit the poorest hardest.

Continue reading here

Hazel’s comment:
I live in a relatively deprived area of the south Midlands and the hardship is noticeable. It’s not so bad for those of us who have a pension coming in regularly but the benefits for those of working age do not allow people to have a balanced diet and still pay the bills for heating and light.
And now the TUC says it will get worse. I try so hard to keep this blog apolitical but …

‘Nothing gets done and no one knows why’: PCS and workplace control of Lean in HM Revenue and Customs

an article by Bob Carter (De Montfort University), Andy Danford (University West of England), Debra Howcroft (Manchester Business School and Social Informatics, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden), Helen Richardson (Salford University), Andrew Smith (Bradford University) and Phil Taylor (University of Strathclyde) published in Industrial Relations Journal Volume 43 Issue 5 (September 2012)


This article examines the willingness and capacity of public sector unions to mobilise action against changes in the labour process in order to maintain some measure of control at the point of production.

Taking as an instance an extended dispute in Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs over the introduction and impact of Lean processes, it marshals evidence gathered from documentary sources, branch representatives and national lay full-time officers to engage with the notion of a trade union bureaucracy.

In taking a union with a left-wing leadership and a section with 80 per cent membership with an expressed willingness to escalate industrial action, the article tests Hyman’s 1979 contention that, rather than a concentration on a bureaucratic caste, a much better explanation for conservatism centres on the nature of social relations within the union that encompass a wider layer of representatives.

Hazel’s comment:
’Twas ever thus!

Radical political unionism in France and Britain: A comparative study of SUD-Rail and the RMT

an article by Heather Connolly (De Montfort University) and Ralph Darlington (University of Salford) published in European Journal of Industrial Relations Volume 18 Number 3 (September 2012)


Many recent pessimistic academic assessments of the prospects for the revival of European trade unionism fail adequately to capture evidence of continuing union resilience and combativity in certain areas of employment.

An example is the distinctive and relatively successful form of highly militant and politicised trade unionism which has emerged in both the French and British railway sectors over the last 10 years. This has involved the repeated mobilisation of members through strike action, combined with vigorous left-wing ideological opposition to both employers and government, as the pathway both to both advancing workers’ interests and to revitalising union organization.

This article provides a comparative analysis of SUD-Rail and the RMT, documenting the dynamics, causes, effectiveness, limits and potential of such ‘radical political unionism’ and considers its implications for debates about union renewal.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

10 items of non-work "stuff" to brighten your weekend

Captain of the Guards: 1904
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive - Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Captain of the Guards: 1905
New York circa 1904
“Capt. Riley and lifeguards, Coney Island”
No horseplay or swooning allowed
8x10 glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co.
View original post

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Eric Hoffer wore the bluest of collars but lived the life of the mind, writing about man as a social, political, and religious being... more

How NASA’s Mars Rover Will Help Humans Reach the Red Planet
via Big Think by Orion Jones
With just 32 days [it will have happened by the time this gets to you] until Curiosity, NASA’s newest Mars rover, is set to touch down, scientists are planning to evaluate how suitable its landing technology could be for a manned mission to the Red Planet.
Read More

The Stars of Fireworks
via Britannica Blog by Britannica Editors

Fourth of July celebration featuring fireworks, Portland, Ore. 
Credit: Eric Baetscher, Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)
GNU Free Documentation License Version 1.2
Tomorrow [as it was when this was originally posted], as people across the United States celebrate Independence Day, they will be treated to dazzling pyrotechnic displays, in which fireworks explode into fantastic showers of sparkles, strobes of colour, and even smiley faces, much to the delight of onlookers. How those bewildering arrays of patterns and fusions of color emerge from what essentially amounts to a paper cylinder with some string and a few “stars” packaged inside comes down to chemistry.
A firework consists of a small handful of parts, which typically include a lift charge, fuse, and launch tube for propelling the device off the ground and a concoction of black powder (potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulfur), “stars”, and a time-delay fuse, which together produce the explosion and colour display. The stars are the secret to color. Although their appearance in the packaged firework is rather uninspiring (they look like dense, dark lumps), upon ignition of the black powder in mid-air, they burst into brilliant colours, owing to their secret ingredient – metal salts.
Continue reading here
I was blessed with a scientist for a father so I learned the secrets of fireworks at a very early age even though I didn’t get the opportunity to try actually making them for myself until my chemistry A-level course. Great fun working out the colours!

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
When liberals invoke Jewish tradition, it’s to the prophets they turn. But the prophets’ calls for justice, says Michael Walzer, weren’t political. They were demands for submission to God... more

Rainbow school remodel
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

Palatre & Leclère did this spectacular remodel on the Ecole Maternelle Pajol in Paris’s 18th arrondissement. As Tuija Seipell writes on The Cool Hunter: “The building has kept its 1940s brick-wall feel, yet it radiates exuberance and has an up-to-date energy. Most likely its current users feel it was built just for them.”
Ecole Maternelle Pajol - Paris [lots of stunning pictures] (via Super Punch)

Giant frogfish and its egg raft, and other strange reef fishes
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
 Wpf Media-Live Photos 000 557 Overrides New-Species-Reef-Fish-East-Indies-Frogfish-Spawning 55793 600X450
This is a giant frogfish with its floating egg raft, a mass of mucus laden with eggs. The rare photo appears in Reef Fishes of the East Indies, a huge new book set detailing 2,500 fishes of the area based on more than 60 years of research. The collection also describes 25 newly-described species.
See many of them at National Geographic.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Secret of Playboy’s success: “It was a Midwestern magazine, designed for people there”. But now, old dear, it’s off to the Coast...more

The beginning of life
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker

Sea urchin egg undergoing mitosis with fluorescent-tagged/stained DNA (blue), microtubules (green).
Cells divide. One single piece of life tugs itself apart and splits in two. It sounds like a purely destructive process, reminiscent of medieval woodcuts where the hands and feet of some unfortunate thief are tied to horses heading in opposite directions. But that's the macro world. On the micro scale, to split is to live. A dividing cell doesn't just rip itself to pieces. Instead, the cell first makes a copy of its genetic information. When the cell splits, what it's really doing is making a new home for that copy to live in. Make enough copies – and enough copies of the copies – and you eventually end up with a living creature.
Continue reading here
The images and video are amazing.

Holocaust: The ignored reality
an article by Timothy Snyder published in Eurozine.
If we concentrate on Auschwitz and the Gulag – generally taken to be adequate or even final symbols of the evil of mass slaughter – we fail to notice that over a period of twelve years, between 1933 and 1944, some 12 million victims of Nazi and Soviet mass killing policies perished in a particular region of Europe, one defined more or less by today's Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.
Read in full (HTML)

Friday, 21 September 2012

10 items I found interesting but NOT WORK

Good Coal and Wood: 1909Good Coal and Wood: 1909
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive - Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Good Coal and Wood: 1909
New York circa 1909
“Broadway – Saranac Lake, Adirondack Mountains”
8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company
View original post

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Because good theology makes for good humor, The Daily Show has more fun with exegetics than any other show on television... more

The physics of crowds can kill
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Almost two years ago, 21 people died when they were crushed to death in the crowd at the Love Parade music festival in Germany. Now, scientists have been able to pinpoint exactly what lead to those deaths. Here's a hint: It wasn't a stampede, there's no evidence of intentional pushing, and it doesn't look like mass hysteria had anything to do with the deaths. So how did those 21 people die? Physics.
via Jennifer Ouellette

Young Winston Churchill in uniform, 1895
via Retronaut by Chris

See larger image and one other here.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Musicologists tend to discuss harmony in technical terms. So they write knowingly about Duke Ellington and miss the central mystery of the music.. .more

Bacteria, I Want You Back: Five Friendly Microscopic Creatures In Your Body
via Big Think by Stephen Coscia
We think of bacteria as irredeemably evil microscopic creatures; their sole purpose being to make us sick. Thus, we have taken up such practices as incessantly washing our hands and blasting our bodies with antibiotics at the sound of the slightest cough.
Read More

24 Writers’ Jobs, Before They Were Writers
via Reading Copy Book Blog by Beth Carswell
MentalFloss put up a great post on 26 June about the early jobs of 24 famous writers. It’s definitely worth clicking through to read the whole post, but here are seven of Beth’s favourites:
2. William S. Burroughs was an exterminator.
4. Nabokov was an entomologist of underappreciated greatness.
7. Ken Kesey was a voluntary participant in CIA psych tests.
10. Zane Grey was a dentist.
13. Haruki Murakami (whose most recent title is 1Q84) worked in a record store during college.
15. Before writing 1984, George Orwell (born Eric Arthur Blair) was an officer of the Indian Imperial Police in Burma.
24. Harper Lee …
Continue reading here

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The menhaden, a small fish, is big business in the Atlantic, where predation involves not just ecology, but also economics and politics.. .more
A frightening story in anyone’s book.

The perilous world of banana slug sex
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker

Banana slugs are hermaphrodites. Every slug has both a penis (which pops out of a pore on its head, like you do) and a vagina. Or, rather, every slug should have a penis. The truth is that quite a few of them don’t and the story behind that discrepancy is rather strange and horrifying. Since there’s little I love more than strange and horrifying stories from nature, you get to hear all about it.
At The Last Word On Nothing, Cassandra Willyard tells the story of a nearly 100-year-old effort by scientists to understand why some banana slugs appear to be missing their penises, or have penises that are stunted. We have known since 1916 how those penises came to be missing. Willyard describes the situation, which you can also watch in action in the video above:
Continue reading here and realise that there are times when nature in the raw is just raw!

The Molecular Nature of Water
via Britannica Blog by Britannica Editors
As far as chemical formulas go, H2O is probably the most widely recognized in the world. But for as much as we might think we know about this everyday substance, when it comes to the basic molecular nature of water, we hold some of the strangest misconceptions. For example, it is common to think that as water boils, it decomposes into separate hydrogen molecules and oxygen molecules. Likewise, some may think that the shape of the individual H2O molecules differs for each of water’s three states, ice, liquid, and vapour. The diagram shown here helps demonstrate why neither of these statements is true.

Credit: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Continue reading here – and very interesting it is, too.

What makes a frame persuasive? Lessons from social identity theory

an article by Frank Mols (affiliation(s) not provided) published in Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice Volume 8 Number 3 (August 2012)


We know from the issue-framing literature that politicians “frame” issues strategically to influence public perceptions and preferences.

We also know that there are different framing techniques.

What remains poorly understood, though, is what makes a frame persuasive.

The proposition put forward in this debate paper is that social psychological research into leadership and persuasion can shed light on this question. Social Identity theorists have shown that influential leaders are crafty “identity entrepreneurs”, whose social influence derives, not from their ability to frame issues, but from their ability to redefine the collective self-understanding.

Just how potent this framing technique is becomes visible when examining the way in which radical opposition leaders call the electorate to arms. As will be shown with the help of two examples, by persuading the electorate of an imminent threat to the collective “us”, radical opposition leaders are able to gain considerable control not only over whether an “issue” becomes regarded as a problem requiring a policy-solution, but also over whose evidence/knowledge counts.

Hazel’s comment:
I think that this explains something that most of us instinctively understood about evidence-based policy.

Devalued, deskilled and diversified: explaining the proliferation of the strip industry in the UK

an article by Teela Sanders and Kate Hardy (School of Sociology, University of Leeds) published in The British Journal of Sociology Volume 63 Issue 3 (September 2012)


This paper looks beyond the debates that focus on the objectification of the female body to examine the question as to why strip clubs have proliferated and found a permanent place in the night-time economy in the UK.

Using empirical qualitative and quantitative data from the largest study into the strip industry in the UK to date, we challenge the common assumption that ‘demand’ is responsible for the rise in erotic dance.

Instead, we argue that the proliferation of strip clubs is largely due to the internal economic structures of the industry which have developed partly in response to the financial crisis beginning in 2008.

First, we argue that clubs profit from individual dancers through an exploitative system of fees and fines, rendering a strip club business a low cost investment with high returns and little risk to club owners.

Second, we note that the last decade has seen diversification of the industry accompanied by deskilling and devaluing of dancing and dancers’ labour.

Third, we demonstrate that despite the negative effects of these changes on workers, there has been an expansion of the industry as the ability to make profit, even during a financial crisis, was ensured through the transferral of risk to workers.

Overall, we suggest that far from proliferating as a response to demand, the industry has maintained its market presence due to its ability to establish highly financially exploitation employment relationships with dancers at a time of economic fragility.

Twitter and the Law

A report by a technology law expert at law firm Pinsent Masons has highlighted some of the potential dangers facing an organisation that users Twitter.

The report published, on, lists the top ten potential problem areas.

From NFP Techno (the online newsletter for the Not-for-Profit sector)

Recent high profile and celebrity cases have demonstrated how easy it is to breach the bounds of reasonable behaviour. When tweeting we must all be careful not to breach (in chronological order):
  • the Protection from Harassment Act 1997,
  • the Communications Act 2003,
  • the Fraud Act 2006,
  • the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, and
    the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 - to name just a few.
In my opinion, the three most likely areas that should concern non-profits are:
  • tweets revealing personal or confidential information
  • tweets that offend copyright regulations
  • misuse of brand names and trade marks

The report concludes that Twitter raises important issues about privacy, free speech, censorship and individual rights and responsibilities and warns that legal differences exist between the UK and other countries - meaning that messages tweeted internationally could offend legislation abroad, if not in this country. Report

And the Guardian has an article on this issue

TAEN Survey of 50+ Jobseekers

TAEN (The Age and Employment Network) has just released its third online survey for 50+ jobseekers.

TAEN’s area of interest focuses on people in mid and later life and the labour market.

We recognise that there are specific problems and issues that older jobseekers face when looking for work.
Every day, we hear of these difficulties from the 50+ population. By carrying out this survey, we hope to capture the experiences of older jobseekers in order to represent their views and concerns to Government, employers and the recruitment industry.
The survey has been produced in collaboration with Wendy Loretto, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at University of Edinburgh Business School. Wendy has been researching in the field of older age and employment for over a decade and is delighted to be involved with colleagues at TAEN in this important project.

If you are over 50 and looking for work, please complete the online survey at:

Paper copies can be requested by emailing

Towards a European labour market? Trade unions and flexicurity in France and Britain

an article by Susan Milner (University of Bath) published in European Journal of Industrial Relations Volume 18 Number 3 (September 2012)


The flexicurity approach to labour market policy may offer advantages for trade unions but also poses challenges, given their weak situation in policy formulation at EU level and in many member states.

This article explores unions’ capacity to mobilise around flexicurity issues and to influence policy debates and outcomes in two member states.

In the UK, flexicurity has low political salience and unions have little capacity for mobilisation or influence, although they have linked flexicurity to campaigns on agency workers and restructuring.

In France, unions have developed alternative proposals on making employment pathways secure and have succeeded in shifting debate towards these proposals rather than the Commission’s flexicurity recommendations, although differences with the positions of employers and the state have limited outcomes to date.

EU policies provide only weak leverage, since trade unions’ ability to influence labour market policy depends on their position within domestic institutions.

Related post
Flexicurity under the spotlight

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Library Catalogues of the Future: A Social Space and Collaborative Tool?

an article by Laurel Tarulli and Louise F. Spiteri (affiliation(s) not provided) published in Library Trends Volume 61 Number 1 (Summer 2012)


Next-generation catalogues are providing opportunities for library professionals and users to interact, collaborate, and enhance core library functions.

Technology, innovation, and creativity are all components that are merging to create a localised, online social space that brings our physical library services and experiences into an online environment.

While patrons are comfortable creating user-generated information on commercial websites and social media websites, library professionals should be exploring alternative methods of use for these tools within the library setting.

Can the library catalogue promote remote readers’ advisory services and act as a localized “Google”?
Will patrons or library professionals be the driving force behind user-generated content within our catalogues?
How can cataloguers be sure that the integrity of their bibliographic records is protected while inviting additional data sources to display in our catalogues?

As library catalogues bring our physical library services into the online environment, catalogues also begin to encroach or “mash-up” with other areas of librarianship that have not been part of a cataloguer’s expertise. Using library catalogues beyond their traditional role as tools for discovery and access raises issues surrounding the expertise of library professionals and the benefits of collaboration between frontline and backroom staff.

Employment stable in the euro area and up by 0.1% in the EU27

via Eurostat News releases

The number of persons employed remained stable in the euro area (EA17) and increased by 0.1% in the EU27 in the second quarter of 2012 compared with the previous quarter, according to national accounts estimates published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In the first quarter of 2012, employment fell by 0.3% in the euro area and by 0.1% in the EU27. These figures are seasonally adjusted.

Full text (PDF 4pp)

Families, communities and social change: then and now

an article by Nickie Charles (Centre for the Study of Women and Gender, University of Warwick) published in The Sociological Review (Special Issue: Community re-studies and social change) Volume 60 Issue 3 (August 2012)


At the beginning of the 1960s, Colin Rosser and Chris Harris worked together on a community study in Swansea, south Wales, UK. It explored how families, in particular extended families, had been affected by social change since the early years of the 20th century.

The re-study, which began in 2001, investigated the nature of social change and how it had affected extended families in the four decades since 1960. Research that is framed in terms of contemporary sociological theory asks different questions from those that were asked in the 1950s when structural functionalism was the dominant paradigm.

The re-study, which replicated (as far as possible) the methodology of the original study, asked similar questions to those that had been asked in 1960. This meant that, inadvertently, it relied on a Durkheimian conception of society and social change.

In this article I explore some of the methodological implications of asking the same research questions 40 years apart and reflect on how the two studies differ in the way they address issues of ‘race’/ethnicity, gender and social class.

I suggest that asking the same questions allows an appreciation of the continuities as well as changes in how family and community are experienced.

Youth representatives’ opinions on recruiting and representing young workers: A twofold unsatisfied demand?

an article by Kurt Vandaele (European Trade Union Institute, Brussels) published in European Journal of Industrial Relations Volume 18 Number 3 (September 2012)


Unionisation levels are far lower among young workers than for the workforce in general. How can trade unions become more responsive to their particular interests and needs?

Union confederations, even in countries with decentralised union structures, have the potential to take effective initiatives to facilitate and support new organising strategies targeted at young workers, for example by spreading knowledge, practical skills and vision of relevance for improving the representation and recruitment of young workers.

Yet the survey findings reported here show that youth representatives across Europe find their confederations’ responsiveness and commitment to organising to be inadequate. Their dissatisfaction confirms previous research findings concerning young workers and their unfulfilled desire for unionisation.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Excuses, excuses, excuses

Actually I think these are more “reasons” but we are not going to argue, are we?

I had to get up at what was, for me, a completely unheard of time of day to take one of my two dogs for a long walk and then to the vet to be spayed. Did a bit of shopping on the way back.

Having got home and had one, and only one, cup of coffee and a bite to eat, read a few emails and updated Facebook (I have the feed the addictions on a daily basis) I set out to walk to the GP’s surgery.
Long wait because something had gone wrong with the booking system but well worth it as I have been referred for some psychological support in view of the “wobble” I experienced a couple of weeks ago.
Went to the bank on the way home, had lunch and thought “now I have time to turn two or three drafts into posts”.

Vet has phoned to say the dog is fine. Please come and collect in an hour. Since it takes half an hour to walk there I will need to leave fairly soon. Another cuppa and that will be my limit.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Using and Sharing LMI to Inform Future Choices

This practical guide authored by Abigail Diamond, Simon Bysshe, Lindsey Bowes and Sophie Spong is published by UKCES (UK Commission for Employment and Skills) for managers in career organisations that want to improve the way that advisers use and share career related LMI.

The guide identifies five areas that organisations wishing improve their organisational practice can focus on:
  • vision and strategy
  • partnerships
  • systems and processes
  • resources
  • professional development.
Practical examples from a range of organisations across Great Britain are included as well as tips from people working in the field.

Effective career guidance is underpinned by robust information and intelligence about the labour market. Good LMI helps advisers to answer questions such as ‘what is the age and gender of people in different parts of the labour market?’, ‘where are the jobs in my local area?’, ‘what skills do I need to do a particular job?’, ‘what am I likely to earn in a particular job?’ There are numerous sources of LMI but it can be difficult for advisers to know what the best source is and where to access this.

The UK Commission carried out work to identify the organisations that are using and sharing career-related LMI effectively and has published a series of reports. This report is a practical guide for managers in careers organisations that want to improve the way that career-related LMI is used and shared. It draws on the experience of people working in the field and provides examples. Names and contact details are included so that users of the guide who would like further information can contact them.

Full report (PDF 30pp)

The other reports available are a research report (PDF 58pp) which includes the 12 detailed case studies and a summary (PDF 6pp) of the first stage of the research which identifies some of the challenges and issues for advisers.

The 10 Best Websites For Your Career

Susan Adams and Jacquelyn Smith in Forbes

Forbes is an American business magazine which is published biweekly featuring original articles on finance, industry, investing, and marketing topics. It is also well known for its lists e.g of the 400 richest Americans.

The latest list is of “websites for your career” which contains 75 links with short descriptions. Remembering the American origins of the list I would advise individuals who read this blog to take care. Not all the advice provided for US citizens translates easily (or at all) into English practice even if the words do. And many of the entries are geographically specific and can, therefore, be ignored for those looking for advice about job-hunting in Britain.

Click here for the full list and here for the “top ten”

If You're Stressed at Work, Don't Blame Your Employer, Says Study

via Big Think by Orion Jones

Should you feel stressed at work, a new study published in the scientific journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes suggests that environmental factors at your place of business are not necessarily what is causing your constricted feelings. Led by Timothy Judge, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, the research followed some 600 twins and concluded that genetic factors are about four times as important as shared environmental circumstances when it comes to personality, stress and health.

One of Judge’s most important conclusions is that stress levels, as reported by individual employees, are not objective measurements of how demanding a particular job is. When asking ourselves if our job is too stressful, we must also ask whether our disposition tends toward being stressed. “The battle of nature vs. nurture shows that even at work, nature wins. Changing a job to free yourself of stress is probably not going to do the trick unless you appreciate your own predispositions toward stress.”

Up to a point, how you feel at work is a reflection of how you deal with responsibility, says Judge.

Read it at Science Daily

A critical review of cloud computing: researching desires and realities

an article by Will Venters and Edgar A Whitley (London School of Economics and Political Science) published in Journal of Information Technology Volume 27 Number 3 (September 2012)


Cloud computing has become central to current discussions about corporate information technology.

To assess the impact that cloud may have on enterprises, it is important to evaluate the claims made in the existing literature and critically review these claims against empirical evidence from the field.

To this end, this paper provides a framework within which to locate existing and future research on cloud computing. This framework is structured around a series of technological and service ‘desires’, that is, characteristics of cloud that are important for cloud users.

The existing literature on cloud computing is located within this framework and is supplemented with empirical evidence from interviews with cloud providers and cloud users that were undertaken between 2010 and 2012.

The paper identifies a range of research questions that arise from the analysis.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Work and the welfare system: a survey of benefits and tax credits recipients

a research report (DWP RR 800) by Trinh Tu and Steven Ginnis (Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions)

This quantitative research looked at the views and attitudes to work, budgeting and internet use among a representative sample of benefit units receiving working age benefits and tax credits who would be impacted by the transition to Universal Credit. The survey fieldwork took place between June and August 2011 and involved 5,529 individuals in 4,315 households (including 1,249 interviews with the partners of main claimants). The sample was randomly selected from Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) claimant databases and covered Great Britain.

The research was commissioned to help DWP implement Universal Credit by providing detailed information on views and attitudes to work, internet use and budgeting skills among a representative sample of claimants who would be impacted by the transition to Universal Credit. These topics were chosen because work-related requirements will be extended under Universal Credit, and will depend on the particular circumstances of individual claimants. Also, Universal Credit will be paid as a single, monthly household payment and claims will be made online.

The survey has identified a range of distinct attitudes to work and the Department will use this information to help improve and target our services to help Universal Credit claimants increase their work readiness and/or levels of work. The results show that 78% of those surveyed already use the internet – we will use the findings to inform our approach to encouraging and supporting claimants to use the online service. The findings also indicate that most respondents would be comfortable moving to a single, household payment. The concept of a monthly payment causes more concern, but we want to help claimants to manage their finances in preparation for taking on (more) work. We will use the findings to inform our approach to promoting financial capability and to develop appropriate and tailored support for extremely vulnerable claimants.

The research will also inform communications surrounding transition to Universal Credit and the development of appropriate strategies for differently affected customer groups.

ISBN 978-1-908523-67-9

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The virtues in international society

an article by Jamie Gaskarth (University of Plymouth, UK) published in European Journal of International Relations Volume 18 Number 3 (September 2012)


Although there has been a significant growth in the literature on the ethics of international politics in recent years, much of this has focused on the normative structure of international relations and has downplayed the role of individuals in constituting the understandings and actions in this practice.

However, individual agency and accountability are apparent in recent world events. Meanwhile, developments in moral philosophy have increasingly led scholars to re-examine the role that individual character traits – virtues – have in affecting how norms are selected and operationalised.

Building on these insights, I argue here that a fully realised appreciation of the morality of international politics requires us to consider what character traits – virtues – its individual participants are expected to exhibit to support and realise its norms.

To do so, I begin by outlining how the virtues are deemed to underpin ethical practice and highlight two forms of analysis that may be used to explore this: decision-oriented virtue ethics and constitutive virtue ethics. I then suggest that these can be used to analyse the ethical foundations of international society.

Specifically, I adopt a constitutive virtue ethics approach to show how the virtues help to constitute international society using the case study of the establishment of the International Criminal Court. In the process, I aim to highlight both the extent to which the virtues are a feature of the rhetoric of global politics, and – more importantly – how they play a significant role in normative practice.

Hazel’s comment:
In answer to the question about relevance of this article to careers information I have to say, “Not much”. However, as we are living in an increasingly globalised society, and given that many young people are becoming more concerned about ethical practices than former generations I thought it was at least interesting.

The benefits and dangers of enjoyment with social networking websites

an article by Ofir Turel (California State University, Fullerton, USA) and Alexander Serenko (Lakehead University, Ontario, Canada) published in European Journal of Information Systems Volume 21 Issue 5 (September 2012)


Information Systems enjoyment has been identified as a desirable phenomenon, because it can drive various aspects of system use.

In this study, we argue that it can also be a key ingredient in the formation of adverse outcomes, such as technology-related addictions, through the positive reinforcement it generates.

We rely on several theoretical mechanisms and, consistent with previous studies, suggest that enjoyment can lead to presumably positive outcomes, such as high engagement. Nevertheless, it can also facilitate the development of a strong habit and reinforce it until it becomes a ‘bad habit’, that can help forming a strong pathological and maladaptive psychological dependency on the use of the IT artifact (i.e., technology addiction).

We test and validate this dual effect of enjoyment, with a data set of 194 social networking website users analysed with SEM techniques. The potential duality of MIS constructs and other implications for research and practice are discussed.

Employer Engagement in English Independent Schools

a paper by Prue Huddleston (University of Warwick) and Anthony Mann and James Dawkins (Education and Employers Taskforce) published by Education and Employers Taskforce, July 2012


This review of the engagement of English independent schools (and high performing independent schools in particular) with employers to support the learning and progression of pupils was undertaken by the Education and Employers Taskforce and Warwick University.

The project asks:
  • To what extent do independent schools engage with employers?
  • Why do they do it?
  • How do they go about it?
The research methods included:
  • Desk research to identify the extent of employer engagement in 20 high performing independent schools.
  • In-depth face-to-face interviews with a total of 15 staff in six of the schools (lasting on average half a day).
  • Analysis of data from a survey of 987 young adults (aged 19-24) which provided evidence on the extent to which employer engagement practices identified in high performing independent schools are typical of the sector. In addition, a comparison of the impact of activity on pupils in both state and independent schools was undertaken.
The purpose of employer engagement

Employer engagement in independent schools (work experience, careers advice from employers, enterprise activities, business mentoring, visiting speakers, workplace visits) is commonplace, although some activities are more prolific than others, and undertaken to an extent largely comparable with the state sector.

High performing independent schools primarily and consistently engage employers to:
  • Help pupils decide on and achieve their career goals
  • Support pupil admission to university courses of choice
  • Help pupils develop social or personal skills, including employability skills
  • Help pupils develop networks of value after leaving school
  • Stimulate a culture of expectation and aspiration
  • But not typically to increase pupil motivation or aid classroom learning
The practice of employer engagement

High performing independent schools are skilful in exploiting existing social networks to identify relevant workplace opportunities for pupils. To access employers, high performing independent schools make extensive use of networks of alumni, parents, governors and teachers. Pupils commonly approach employers directly themselves. Intermediary, or brokerage, organisations are rarely used.

A distinct advantage of such approaches is that many people in the social networks linked to schools work in occupational areas (notably, the professions) highly relevant to the career aspirations of pupils. Among the most effective practice identified was the systematic use of alumni aged in their late twenties to provide pupils with insights (through careers fairs or talks) into their transitions from education to early employment within a profession.

In all schools visited, there was an expectation that all pupils would take part in the majority of employer engagement activities (work experience, workplace visits, careers events), even though such activities might take place outside the timetabled teaching time. A minority of activities (enterprise competitions, visiting speakers) were seen as optional for pupils but were very popular with them. Staff did not see the majority of required employer engagement activities as extracurricular events. They saw the activities as part of a broadly defined curriculum which prepared pupils effectively for adult life. However, little evidence was found of links to the taught curriculum.

Reflecting much higher progression rates to higher education the delivery of work experience was found to be distinctive in comparison to the state sector. Pupils at independent schools would typically undertake work experience at an older age (16-17), in occupational areas closely tied to career aspirations and relevant to preferred university subjects of study. The experiences are used effectively to provide pupils with information for UCAS personal statements and often took place during vacation periods, in part to reduce the perceived health and safety obligations falling on the school.

In the most effective practice observed, employer engagement was embedded in careers advice and guidance provided by the school and was used effectively to help pupils clarify, confirm and support their progression towards career aspirations.

The relative impacts of employer engagement

Data from a February 2011 survey of young British adults, aged 19-24, segmented by school type attended asked respondents to reflect on the utility of work experience, careers advice (from employers), enterprise competitions and business mentoring in deciding on a career, getting a job after education and getting into university. The survey finds that in a number of important areas, the former pupils of independent schools felt that they had, for whatever reason, derived a significantly greater value from the activities which they took part in when compared to their state school-educated peers (and especially those attending non-selective state schools).