Friday, 31 May 2013

Mental Health: The New Frontier for Labour Economics

CEP Discussion Paper No 1213 by Richard Layard (Centre for Economic Performance and London School of Economics and Political Science) published May 2013


This lecture argues that mental health is a major factor of production. It is the biggest single influence on life satisfaction, with mental health eight years earlier a more powerful explanatory factor than current income.

Mental health also affects earnings and educational success.

But, most strikingly, it affects employment and physical health.

In advanced countries mental health problems are the main illness of working age – amounting to 40% of all illness under 65. They account for over one third of disability and absenteeism in advanced countries. They can also cause or exacerbate physical illness. It is estimated that in the absence of mental illness, the costs of physical healthcare for chronic diseases would be one third lower.

The good news is that cost-effective treatments for the most common mental illnesses now exist (both drugs and psychological therapy). But only a quarter of those who suffer are in treatment. Yet psychological therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, if more widely available would pay for itself in savings on benefits and lost taxes.

The lecture ends by illustrating how rational policy can be made using life-course models of well-being. Such policies should include a much greater role for the treatment and prevention of mental illness.

JEL classification: I30, J30

Full text (PDF 20pp)

Localism, voluntarism and devolution: Experiences, opportunities and challenges in a changing policy context

an article by Mike Woolvin (SRUC, UK) and Irene Hardill (Northumbria University, UK) published in Local Economy volume 28 Number 3 (May 2013)


This article focuses on the importance of the community context for voluntarism within shifting discourses of localism in England and Scotland.

Mobilising communities through the encouragement and support of voluntarism is an important policy and practice driver in both jurisdictions, but is non-reserved. In this context, we outline the ways localism discourses have been mobilised, drawing on case study research in deprived urban areas of Scotland and England to explore the implications of these for sustaining voluntarism.

We argue it is important to recognise that the social, spatial and economic context in which voluntarism takes place is multi-layered: some acts are undertaken through an organisation, others may be part of one-to-one acts of helping, or through semi-formal or informal neighbourhood/community groups.

If expectations of further voluntarism are to be realistic and sustainable, discourses of localism must support this at the local level and recognise the diverse range of both visible and less visible acts which take place over time. Otherwise unrealistic, unsustainable and ultimately unachievable models and amounts of voluntary participation may be asked of communities, posing serious challenges for ‘localism’ discourse.

Persons with Disabilities: Entitled to Beg, not to Work. The Argentine Case

an article by Eduardo Daniel Joly (Fundación Rumbos and REDI (Red por los Derechos de las Personas con Discapacidad), Argentina) and María Pía Venturiello (Universidad de Buenos Aires and CONICET (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas), Argentina) published in Critical Sociology Volume 39 Number 3 (May 2013)


The article analyses the structural unemployment that characterises persons with disabilities from a social, economic and political perspective.

As long as persons with disabilities continue to be defined as unable to perform productive work, they will remain condemned to poverty, begging, dependency and a life without projects to fulfill.

With reference to the history and struggles of the disability rights movement in Argentina, it focuses on understanding this struggle as a collective endeavour, aimed at establishing the right to earn a living by working, i.e. via paid productive employment.

It concludes by positing that in the long run, social inclusion can only be realised in a society that is organised so that each individual can contribute what he or she is capable of, with the necessary means put at his and her disposal; and that in return, his and her needs (as they may evolve over time) will be met.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Policy feedback and support for the welfare state

an article by Jason Jordan (Drew University, USA) published in Journal of European Social Policy Volume 23 Number 2 (May 2013)


How does the structure of social policy institutions shape the level of public support for the welfare state?

The policy feedback literature predicts that highly inclusive welfare institutions generate larger bases of public support by shifting the focus away from redistribution and toward common market insecurities felt across classes, while more selective strategies erode support by highlighting the conflicts of interest imbedded in clearly redistributive social programs.

This paper expands on existing research by adopting a disaggregated approach to measuring both welfare state structure and public support, uncovering important cross-program variations in public attitudes and welfare state design masked by traditional measures of universality and public support.

This project applies this method to public opinion data in 17 advanced capitalist democracies across three policy areas: healthcare, pensions, and unemployment. The findings offer evidence of policy feedback effects.

The Great Recession and State Unemployment Trends

an article by William B. Beyers (University of Washington, Seattle, USA) published in Economic Development Quarterly Volume 27 Number 2 (May 2013)


The recession that began in January 2008 was the deepest business downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

This recession has been referred to as The Great Recession due to its severity and the length of its duration. As the U.S. economy has experienced a shift in its industrial structure toward an ever-larger service sector, there is a literature that argues that economic fluctuations should be less than was the case in a goods-production dominated economy, as it is presumed that the demand for services is less cyclical than the demand for goods.

The Great Recession challenges this presumption.

This article reports on the unemployment experience of states through the Great Recession with regard to their industrial structure, finding that there is a correlation between industrial structure and unemployment trends.

Transition From School to Work: Where Are We and Where Do We Need to Go?

an article by Paul Wehman (Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, USA) published in Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals Volume 36 Number 1 (May 2013)


As children become teenagers and move into early adulthood, there are many transitions they face.

For young people with disabilities, this is no different except that there are invariably additional complex challenges that must be overcome.

Evidence-based research is the foundation for best transition practices, but too many studies seem abstract, distant, and far removed from their classroom or school world.

This article seeks to overcome the abstract by describing evidence-based transition research and recent findings. Teachers’ classroom needs are highlighted with special emphasis on how research can be useful for them on a day-to-day basis.

Finally, we highlight six guidelines for helping implement best practices in transition.

Why Can’t A Woman Be More Like A Woman?

via The Future of Work by Lynda Gratton

London Business School’s Global Leadership Summit was an opportunity to see senior executives and CEOs come together to talk about their views. It was fascinating stuff. We heard how Tim Breedon, a recent joiner to the Barclays Board, has put values at the centre of the bank’s transformation; how Unilever CEO Paul Polman is creating deep alliances with NGOs and multi-lateral organisations like the UN to work on some of the world’s most intractable problems; and how Aberdeen Asset Management’s CEO Martin Gilbert is particularly interested in investing in the “frontier markets” of the world.

Continue reading (and feel the suppressed anger)

Slowing down Social Europe? The struggle over work and employment regulation

an article by Mikkel Mailand (Employment Relations Research Centre (FAOS), University of Copenhagen) published in Industrial Relations Journal Volume 44 Issue 3 (May 2013)


The present article discusses whether the strengthening of the regulation-sceptical actors during the 2000s has affected the scope and content of EU-level regulation in two work-and-employment-related areas, and the role coalitions have played in the decision-making processes.

In the employee involvement area, the pro-regulation forces still appeared able to get new regulation adopted and to prevent unwanted regulation from being adopted.

In the employment policy area, a few examples of successful attempts by the regulation-sceptical actors to slow down Social Europe were found, but these were fewer than could be expected.

One explanation for this relatively weak impact might be that the Commission’s search for legitimacy in order to be re-elected functions as an ‘automatic stabiliser’. Contrary to studies of previous processes, no solid coalitions were found in any of the cases analysed, although several actors took positions as expected.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Graduate earnings premium 'drops by a third' in 20 years

via Telegraph Education by Graeme Paton

The value of a degree has slumped by almost a third in the last 20 years because of a sharp rise in the number of people taking university courses, according to research.

Continue reading

Hazel’s comment:
Are we supposed to be surprised by this?

Symptoms of Mental Health Problems: Children’s and Adolescents’ Understandings and Implications for Gender Differences in Help Seeking

an article by Alice MacLean, Kate Hunt and Helen Sweeting (MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, UK) published in Children & Society Volume 27 Issue 3 (May 2013)


Amidst concerns that young people’s mental health is deteriorating, it is important to explore their understandings of symptoms of mental health problems and beliefs around help seeking.

Drawing on focus group data from Scottish school pupils, we demonstrate how they understood symptoms of mental health problems and how their characterisations of these symptoms as ‘rare’ and ‘weird’ informed participants’ perceptions that peers, teachers and parents would respond to disclosure in stigmatising ways.

Consequently, participants suggested that they would delay or avoid disclosing symptoms of mental health problems.

We highlight subtle gender and age differences and outline implications for policy and practice.

Full text (PDF 13pp)

Shifting sands: Regional perspectives on the role of social capital in supporting open innovation through knowledge transfer and exchange with small and medium-sized enterprises

an article by Antonio Padilla-Meléndez and Ana R. Del Aguila-Obra (University of Malaga, Spain) and Nigel Lockett (University of Leeds, UK) published in International Small Business Journal Volume 31 Number 3 (May 2013)


This article explores the role of social capital in enabling knowledge transfer and exchange (KTE) between higher education institutions (HEIs) and spin-off (academic and non-academic) small and medium-sized enterprises in the context of open innovation, in order to convert knowledge into innovation within regional innovation systems. It presents the findings from 18 in-depth interviews with related stakeholders, and social network analysis of relationships in an exemplar technology park in Andalucía, southern Spain.

The main findings suggest that there are many challenges to achieving successful KTE in regional innovation systems: recognition, intellectual property contracts and timescales.

Similarly, there are opportunities related to intermediaries, joint teams and market impact. Significantly, the study highlights the importance of both formal and informal relationships as enablers of successful KTE involving HEIs and spin-off small and medium-sized enterprises in the context of open innovation.

The Political Economy of Work and Employment: The business case for equal opportunities

an article by Rebecca Riley, Hilary Metcalf and John Forth (NIESR) published in Industrial Relations Journal Volume 44 Issue 3 (May 2013)


It has long been argued that equality of opportunity brings business benefits and that it is in employers’ interest to implement policy to promote equality of opportunity.

Our analysis of the Workplace Employment Relations Survey 2004 found neither large and widespread business benefits, nor large and widespread costs associated with Equal Opportunities policies amongst the establishments that implement these.

Given the net benefits to society of equal opportunities policies, this suggests that public and private benefits are likely to differ substantially and points to the need for policy intervention.

Career coaching:

via Guardian Careers by Clare Whitmell

Before splashing out on a career coach, do your research to make sure you’re getting the best advice. Here’s our guide to exploring your options

Hiring a career coach is a big decision. Julian Childs, who coaches people from postgraduates to senior managers, says that most people invest in coaching because of an accumulative process – perhaps realising that their job is not a good fit – or an event, such as redundancy.

Sometimes changes in the job or company also prompt coaching. Career management coach, Ruth Winden, says that many of her clients are “survivors of restructuring”, who want help to get their next position.

But, with thousands of career professionals in the UK, finding the right one can be daunting. Here are some useful criteria for narrowing down your choice.

Continue reading

ONS opens up geographic data behind UK statistics

A new online portal that gives people open access to the wealth of geographic information behind official statistics has been launched by ONS.

The Open Geography portal unlocks a world of digital geographic data, from postcodes and boundaries to area codes, mapping, and aerial imagery.

Customers can use the data to produce and present statistics that are geographically accurate, consistent and comparable. For instance, the portal can help users create statistical maps for their regions or neighbourhoods.

Developed by the Office for National Statistics in partnership with Landmark Solutions, the portal uses open source software. Datasets are provided free of charge, mostly under Open Government Licence terms and conditions.

Glen Watson, Director General of ONS, said: “The portal provides an important and innovative solution to opening up access to ONS geographical data – boundaries, maps and locations. We wanted to make it easier for people to incorporate ONS standard geographical products into their own systems and analyses. The portal looks great if, like me, you’re interested in the mapping and boundaries behind our neighbourhood level statistics.”

Chris Brackley, Managing Director of Landmark Solutions, said: “This new cutting edge service not only provides geographic data to ONS stakeholders and the public, but also allows ONS to manage their entire spatial library distribution using cloud web services. Landmark is delighted to have had the opportunity to partner with ONS on this project and is proud of our joint achievements to date.”

The portal allows ONS to comply with the EU's INSPIRE Directive that harmonises how geographic datasets are supplied across Europe. The tool also meets government aims for delivering “digital by default” services, and for delivering “5 star” data, directly and through APIs. It also helps ONS reduce the cost of managing and disseminating geographic data.

The portal complements other ONS initiatives which unlock valuable information for users.
Maps and graphs at help make statistics memorable and help people understand ONS outputs.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Appointment Time: Disability and Neoliberal Workfare Temporalities

an article by Karen Soldatic (Curtin University, Australia) published in Critical Sociology Volume 39 Number 3 (May 2013)


My primary interest in this article is to reveal the complexity of neoliberal temporalities on the lives of disabled people forced to participate in workfare regimes to maintain access to social security measures and programming.

Through drawing upon some of the contemporary debates arising within the social study of time, this article explicates what Jessop refers to as the sovereignty of time that has emerged with the global adoption of neoliberal workfare regimes.

It is argued that the central role of temporality within the globalizing project of neoliberal workfare and the positioning of disability within these global macro-structural processes requires the sociological imagination to return to both time as a theme and time as a methodology.

New directions in economic development: Localist policy discourses and the Localism Act

an article by Gill Bentley (University of Birmingham, UK) and Lee Pugalis (Northumbria University, UK) published in Local Economy Volume 28 Number 3 (May 2013)


Since entering office in 2010, a distinct grammar of localism has pervaded the UK Coalition Government’s philosophical outlook inflecting localist policy discourses and practice.

This article, written in June 2012, considers the implications of this new grammar for the scope, organisation and mobilisation of economic development interventions, through a focus on the 2011 Localism Act, which applies to England and Wales.

Interpreting these changes through a localist conceptual prism, which helps to refract varieties of localism, it raises some serious concerns regarding localism in action through exposing the controlling tendencies of central government. Analysis is also directed towards the uneasy relationship between centralised powers, conditional decentralisation and fragmented localism.

Nevertheless, emergent practice serves to demonstrate how ‘constrained freedoms’ can be negotiated to undertake innovative actions.

It concludes by suggesting some foundational elements that would support the notion of ‘empowered localities’ that may secure the government’s imperative to enable private sector-led growth.

Where will all the new jobs come from after the 'Great Reset'?

via The Work Founation News by Will Hutton

So what will happen after economic 'recovery' when it finally does arrive and which will be the areas that will create new human job opportunities as machines take over more and more traditional areas of work?

Full text of blog post

Hazel’s comment:
So, where are the jobs going to come from?

Young People Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET), May 2013

This Statistical Bulletin contains estimates for Young People who are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET).

For January to March 2013:
  • There were 1.09 million young people (aged from 16 to 24) in the UK who were Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET), up 21,000 from October to December 2012 but down 101,000 from a year earlier.
  • The percentage of all young people in the UK who were NEET was 15.1%, up 0.3 percentage points from October to December 2012 but down 1.3 percentage points from a year earlier.
  • Just over half (53.0%) of all young people in the UK who were NEET were looking for work and available for work and therefore classified as unemployed. The remainder were either not looking for work and/or not available for work and therefore classified as economically inactive.
Full bulletin (PDF 7pp)

The work test that doesn’t work

via ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC by Colin Hampton

The government’s Work Capability Assessment is finding people fit for work but then leaving them to the mercies of a labour market that fails to employ them. That is the bleak finding of Fit for Work? So why am I not working? a new report for Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centres.

continue reading

Saturday, 25 May 2013

The complex NEET problem demands a tailored approach

via The Work Founation News by Katy Jones

The number of NEET young people continues to remains stubbornly high. The latest figures show that 15% of 16-24 year-olds in the UK are not in employment, education or training and the number has been hovering around the million mark for some time.

Full text of press release

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Millions Now Living Will Never Die: Cultural Anxieties About the Afterlife of Information

an article by Grant David Bollmera (Digital Cultures, Department of Media and Communications, University of Sydney, Australia) published in The Information Society: An International Journal Volume 29 Issue 3 (May-June 2013)


This article examines cultural anxieties surrounding the life and death of online data.

Through the examination of a wide range of discourses, including “lifestyle” news articles, online user comments, essays and books by novelists and engineers, and the websites of information management services, I argue that death online – defined as the persistence of informatic remainders after the death of the human user – reveals how networked data are constructed as both an authentic duplicate of identity and as a threat to personal identity that must be managed.

Because humans are understood as finite and mortal, while data are immortal and everlasting, the “life” formed out of online data is understood as beyond any possible control of the user. With the death of the user, the perceived connection between the user and data is revealed as a contingency rather than a necessity. Information is produced as autonomous.

It is nearly identical to yet separate from the user; it belongs to nobody except, perhaps, the network itself.

Can Intangible Investment Explain the UK Productivity Puzzle?

an article by Peter Goodridge (Imperial College Business School, UK), Jonathan Haskel (Imperial College Business School, UK and CEPR, IZA) and Gavin Wallis (University College London, UK and Bank of England) published in National Institute Economic Review Volume 224 Number 1 (May 2013)


This paper investigates whether intangibles might explain the UK productivity puzzle.

We note that since the recession:
  1. firms have upskilled faster than before;
  2. intangible investment in R&D and software has risen whereas tangible investment has fallen; and
  3. intangible and telecoms equipment investment slowed in advance of the recession.
We have therefore tested to see if:
  1. what looks like labour hoarding is actually firms keeping workers who are employed in creating intangible assets; and
  2. the current slowdown in TFP growth is due to the spillover effects of the past slowdown in R&D and telecoms equipment investment.
Our main findings are:
  1. measured market sector real value added growth since the start of 2008 is understated by 1.6 per cent due to the omission of intangibles; and
  2. 0.75 per cent per annum of the TFP growth slowdown can be accounted for by the slowdown in intangible and telecoms investment in the early 2000s.
Taken together intangible investment can therefore account for around 5 percentage points of the 16 per cent productivity puzzle.

British workers have suffered 8.5 per cent real-term wage drop, says TUC

via Trades Union Congress news releases

British workers have seen the value of their real wages fall by 8.5 per cent over the last three years, according to new analysis from the TUC today (Tuesday).

Full story

Improving large-scale search engines with semantic annotations

an article by Damaris Fuentes-Lorenzo, Norberto Fernández, Jesús A. Fisteus and Luis Sánchez (Carlos III University, Madrid, Spain) published in Expert Systems with Applications Volume 40 Issue 6 (May 2013)


Traditional search engines have become the most useful tools to search the World Wide Web. Even though they are good for certain search tasks, they may be less effective for others, such as satisfying ambiguous or synonym queries.

In this paper, we propose an algorithm that, with the help of Wikipedia and collaborative semantic annotations, improves the quality of web search engines in the ranking of returned results.

Our work is supported by
  1. the logs generated after query searching,
  2. semantic annotations of queries and
  3. semantic annotations of web pages.
The algorithm makes use of this information to elaborate an appropriate ranking.

To validate our approach we have implemented a system that can apply the algorithm to a particular search engine.

Evaluation results show that the number of relevant web resources obtained after executing a query with the algorithm is higher than the one obtained without it.


► We present a ranking algorithm for large-scale web search engines.
► The algorithm is built upon disambiguation with Wikipedia and semantic annotations.
► We have not built a new search engine from scratch; ranking algorithm enhances existing search engines with a semantic layer.
► We focus on the suitability of the ranking for a large amount of data.

Creating a model for work-based learning in a post industrial region

an article by Kelly Edwards (University of Wales Newport, UK), Kirsten Merrill-Glover, (University of Wales Newport, UK) and Robert Payne and Danny Saunders (University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, UK) published in Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning Volume 3 Issue 2 (2013)


The aim of this paper is to describe a successful strategy for a HE partnership engaging with businesses in a socially deprived area.

The approach to this project and report is one of a case study, the paper tells a whole story from inception to delivery and reports on the lessons learned in delivering in a socially deprived region. Success for the project has been based on partners’ existing frameworks allowing accredited outcomes at CQFW levels 4 and 5 which provides a curriculum offer tailored to sector priorities and provides progression opportunities within the broader HE framework.

The project has demonstrated the point that employer responsiveness is fundamental to success. To build upon the experiences of the project team, a work-based learning project forum has been set up between similar projects within both institutions, to disseminate information and minimise the duplication of employer engagement activities. Based on previous experience, there is little direct mailing to companies as this has activity has not provided value for money in terms of student recruitment and awareness raising. The work of the Employer Engagement Training Officers in identifying demand for learning amongst employers and employees in the region has been critical in developing appropriate provision which employees will choose to engage with. Changes have been made in the philosophy of recruiting tutors to ensure the most experienced staff are engaged. The planning of delivery takes place even earlier to combat associated delays in validation, procurement and marketing.

Distinctive features of the project are twofold. First, the majority of learning takes place through active and reflective engagement within places of work. Second, cognisant of both the geography and economic demography of the region, employers and employees take advantage of work-based learning opportunities in cluster groups and hence the curriculum offer reaches out across both sectors and workforce subgroups.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Student loan reform, interest subsidies and costly technicalities: lessons from the UK experience

Alison Johnston (Oregon State University, Corvallis, USA) and Nicholas Barr (London School of Economics and Political Science, UK) published in Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management Volume 35 Issue 2 (April 2013)


In this paper, we consider lessons for other countries about the design of student loans with income-contingent repayments (i.e. repayments calculated as x per cent of each borrower’s subsequent income).

Using a dataset of 20,000 simulated lifetime graduate earnings paths, we estimate the cost and distributional effects of reforms in England in 2012. Introducing a real interest rate produces significant savings, mostly from graduates in the middle and upper earnings deciles. But those gains are offset by an increase in the income threshold at which loan repayments start.

We conclude with discussion of policy changes to offset the increased cost of student loans (roughly £4,400 per graduate) within the current austerity climate, namely significant reductions in the higher education block teaching grant and a cap on the number of students.

Has the Expansion of Higher Education Led to Greater Economic Growth?

an article by Craig Holmes (Oxford University, UK) published in National Institute Economic Review Volume 224 Number 1 (May 2013)


There is an enduring belief by UK policymakers that a large higher education sector is an important driver of long-run economic growth, which has been part of the narrative since the Robbins Report.

Back then, there was plenty of conjecture and assumption, but strikingly little concrete evidence to support such a belief. This paper asks whether the evidence base has strengthened in the 50 years since it was published. It looks at a number of different growth equation specifications and, using international education data, attempts to draw out the contribution of both the number of, and the growth in, graduates since the 1960s.

There are three main findings.

Firstly, many growth relationships, including those estimated elsewhere in the literature, are quite sensitive to the countries included – which often depends on the variables used – and time period of analysis. I argue that, given these issues, growth equations should always be treated with caution.

Secondly, and remembering this caveat, neither the increase nor the initial level of higher education is found to have a statistically significant relationship with growth rates both in the OECD and worldwide. This result is robust to numerous different specifications.

Thirdly, there is some evidence, consistent with the existing literature, that levels of technical skills at the end of compulsory education matter. The employment of higher level technical skills (proxied by the number of employed researchers in an economy) is also a strong predictor of growth. This gives a possible mechanism linking the output of (some) of the higher education sector with economic growth. However, it does not imply that mass higher education necessarily leads to higher growth. This depends on the skills produced by an expanding tertiary sector and their utilisation (or underutilisation) in the jobs available to increasing numbers of graduates.

Are employability skills learned in U.S. youth education and training programs?

an article by Robert Lerman (Urban Institute, Washington DC, USA; American University, Washington DC, USA and IZA, Bonn, Germany) published in IZA Journal of Labor Policy Volume 2 Number 6 (2013)


Skills are a central source of high productivity and economic well-being. But what do we mean by productive skills?

Both with regard to measurement and policy, the primary focus in the U.S. has been on academic skills, as measured by tests of reading, writing and math abilities and by educational attainment, including degrees completed.

However, a new consensus is emerging that an array of non-academic skills and occupational skills may be at least as important for labour market success.

After reviewing the evidence on respective roles of various types of skills required by employers, this paper examines the skill-enhancing roles of several youth programmes and demonstrations, with an emphasis on how well these efforts raise non-academic skills directly through purposeful activities or indirectly as a result of other employment-enhancing services.

JEL classification: I28, J08, J24

Full text (PDF 23pp)

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Early intervention to support the academic recovery of first-year students at risk of non-continuation

an article by Alf Lizzio and Keithia Wilson (Griffith Institute for Higher Education, Queensland, Australia) published in Innovations in Education and Teaching International Volume 50 Issue 2 (May 2013)


The widening participation agenda and related concerns about student retention require a more systematic focus on supporting student success.

This paper describes a process designed with the dual goals of supporting the short-term academic recovery of students at risk of non-continuation due to early difficulties with assessment and developing their ongoing capabilities for self-regulation around challenging assessment tasks.

Commencing students who failed or marginally passed their first piece of university assessment were invited to participate in a two-stage process: independently completing a reflective workbook designed to help them understand the reasons for their assessment performance, followed by a structured consultation with their tutor to identify improvement goals and strategies.

Students undertaking the academic recovery process achieved higher pass rates for the second assessment item and for the course overall than a comparative group of students who did not participate.

Findings indicate that a self-regulation-based intervention can contribute to students’ academic persistence and success. Importantly, students experienced the intervention as providing insight into their underperformance on assessment and developing their capacity for meta-learning.

Finding a future: the role of careers services in promoting employability

a report by recruitment and and training company Working Links This is a bit of an unusual one for this blog because:
  • there is no author listed,
  • there is no abstract,
  • the preface by the employment and skills director of Working Links reads more like a government press release, and
  • the executive summary is too long to include here.
Don’t let that put you off from having a look at the full thing (PDF 38pp)

Working together: community and university partnerships

an article by Yvonne Hillier (Education Research Centre, University of Brighton, UK) published in Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning Volume 3 Issue 2 (2013)


The purpose of this paper is to examine how government policy has encouraged universities and their community group partnerships to work together through the relationship between the University of Brighton and members of community groups in Hastings who are researching recent educational regeneration in the town. It identifies lessons learnt from engaging community members with such research.

The University of Brighton in Hastings was set up to be a catalyst for change in one of the most deprived coastal towns in the country. The Coastal Regeneration Research Centre (CRRC) was created in 2008 to undertake a research-led programme within, and focused upon, the community and has established a track record of research and engagement in this community. Research projects have been supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), East Sussex County Council (ESCC) and Hastings Borough Council (HBC) and the Ore Valley Forum.

The relationship between the University and its partners is exemplified through an example of a pilot project examining use of a children’s centre in Hastings. This research draws upon work by Turning Point, a charity engaged primarily with social care which engages users within the community to become involved in research into the needs of their peers. Turning Point’s successful approach was subsequently adopted in the pilot project examining how parents of pre-school children engage with a children’s community centre in a deprived area of Hastings. The pilot project involved two experienced parent researchers supporting six parent volunteers in their interviews with local parents of young children who engage to varying degrees with the local children’s centre.

This paper examines how government policy has encouraged universities and their community group partnerships to work together to research recent educational regeneration in Hastings. It identifies lessons learnt from engaging community members with such research.

Long-Term Growth in Europe: What Difference does the Crisis Make?

an article by Nicholas Crafts (Warwick University, UK) published in National Institute Economic Review Volume 224 Number 1 (May 2013)


OECD projections for European countries imply that the crisis will have no long-term effect on trend growth.

An historical perspective says this is too optimistic.

Not only is the legacy of public debt and its requirement for fiscal consolidation unfavourable but the experience of the 1930s suggests that much needed supply-side reforms are now less probable – indeed policy may well become less growth friendly.

Whereas the 1940s saw the Bretton Woods agreement and the Marshall Plan pave the way for the ‘Golden Age’, it is unlikely that anything similar will rescue Europe this time around.

The Youth Contract: Findings from research with Jobcentre Plus staff in five case study districts

DWP research Report 833 (April 2013) by Lizzie Jordan and Andrew Thomas (TSN BMRB)

The Youth Contract was launched in April 2012 to provide additional support for unemployed young people between the ages of 18 and 24, including:
  • more intensive support from Jobcentre Plus advisers;
  • additional funding for up to 250,000 work experience and sector-based work academies (sbwa) placements; and
  • a wage incentive of up to £2,275 for employers recruiting a young person who has been claiming for over six months or is attached to the Work Programme.
Further information on the Youth Contract can be found under the following link:

The evaluation of the Youth Contract consists of a mixed methods approach, including impact assessments carried out in-house, as well as externally commissioned research involving interviews and surveys with staff, claimants, employers and Work Programme providers.

The first report from the evaluation on early findings from research on wage incentives can be found here:

This latest report provides feedback on the implementation and delivery of the Youth Contract, based on interviews and focus groups with advisers; adviser and office managers; employer engagement and partnership staff; and District Managers, in five Jobcentre Plus case study districts. Discussions also explored specific elements of the Youth Contract including additional adviser support, work experience, sector-based work academies and the wage incentive (two of the case studies included a ‘hotspot area’ eligible for the wage incentive).

Interviews were carried out in November 2012, around 3 months after wage incentives had been introduced in the ‘hotspot’ areas. Since the research was carried out the wage incentive scheme has been rolled-out to all Jobcentres for young 18-24 year old claimants from 6 months of their claim (from 17 December 2012).

DWP has used findings from the research to inform continuous improvement activity for delivering the Youth Contract. This includes:
  • a wide range of marketing activities, including a media campaign for the wage incentive scheme linked to the extension of eligibility
  • continuing to set up mechanisms to share learning and good practice amongst Jobcentre Plus districts, given the increased flexibility and responsibility they have to provide individually-tailored services and support to claimants more widely (through the Jobcentre Plus Offer).
Summary document (PDF 4pp)

Full report (PDF 40pp)

Monday, 20 May 2013

The scaling-up of assessment in one institution

an article by Ray Van Dyke (Office of Assessment and Evaluation, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, USA) published in European Journal of Higher Education Volume 3 Issue 1 (March 2013)


Given increasing emphasis on assessment and accountability across the globe in higher education, it is clear that individual institutions must take action and provide evidence in response to these concerns.

This article provides an example of how one university has developed a central office for assessment, facilitated the development of an assessment process across the university and in departments and programmes, and provides assessment services to the institution that include both academic and administrative areas.

Using aptitude testing to diversify higher education intake – an Australian case study

an article by Daniel Edwards (Australian Council for Educational Research and Centre for Population and Urban Research, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia). Hamish Coates (Australian Council for Educational Research and L. H. Martin Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Management, University of Melbourne, Australia) and Tim Friedman ( Australian Council for Educational Research, Melbourne, Australia) published in Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management Volume 35 Issue 2 (April 2013)


Australian higher education is currently entering a new phase of growth.

Within the remit of this expansion is an express commitment to widen participation in higher education among under-represented groups – in particular those from low socioeconomic backgrounds. This paper argues that one key mechanism for achieving this goal should be the re-evaluation of university selection processes. The paper explores outcomes of an aptitude test pilot study, focusing on issues of access and equity in selection to university.

The results show that, in general, those who gain access to university on the basis of results in the aptitude test have different characteristics than are found in the general university population – in particular, they are more likely to come from a low socioeconomic background.

The outcomes of the pilot are important in demonstrating how equity in access to higher education can be improved through the use of supplementary selection metrics.

Room for improvement

An article by Colin Beard and Ilfryn Price published in RSA Journal (Spring 2013)

Some businesses have begun to make space work for their staff, while others are stuck in a different age.

Read in full

Hazel’s comment:
A fascinating look at how the space in which you work can be made to work better for you. I’m just so sorry that readers of the e-journal (and that includes you) have to miss out on the wonderful images available in the hard copy. They made my day!

ESF in London blog

A new “ESF in London” blog has been set up by Greater London Enterprise (GLE) to provide news

of ESF activities and opportunities across the many London ESF programmes. GLE is running a
Technical Assistance project to help local authorities in London influence, plan and engage in the
delivery of ESF. The blog includes an article about a recent London Councils event to look at how
boroughs can shape the priorities of the 2014-2020 ‘EU Structural and Investment Fund Growth

ESF in London
London Councils holds 2014-2020 programme event for boroughs

via ESF Newsletter no 27

Is a Temporary Job Better Than Unemployment? A Cross-country Comparison Based on British, German, and Swiss Panel Data

SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research (number 543-2013) by Michael Gebel (University of Mannheim) published by SOEP


While many previous studies on temporary work have found disadvantages for temporary workers as compared to workers with a permanent contract, this study compares temporary work to the alternative of unemployment. Specifically, this paper investigates the potential integrative power of taking up a temporary job for unemployed workers as compared to the counterfactual situation of remaining unemployed and searching for another job.

Applying a dynamic propensity-score matching approach based on British, (West and East) German, and Swiss panel data during the period of 1991–2009, it is shown that taking up a temporary job increases the employment chances during the subsequent five years in (West and East) Germany and the UK.

Moreover, the chances of having a permanent contract remain higher and a persistent wage premium can be found during the subsequent five years of the career. Advantages of taking up a temporary job are slightly stronger in West Germany compared to East Germany, where temporary contracts are often based on public job creation measures with limited integration potential.

Neither long-run advantages nor disadvantages of taking up a temporary job can be found in the case of the flexible Swiss labour market

JEL classification: C14, C41, J41, J60, J64

Full text (PDF 32pp)

Friday, 17 May 2013

The place of community-based learning in Higher Education: a case study of Interchange

an article by Louise Hardwick (School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Liverpool, UK) published in Journal of Further and Higher Education Volume 37 Number 3 (May 2013)


This article focuses on one strand of community engagement: community-based learning for students.

It considers in particular Interchange as a case study.

Interchange is a registered charity based in, but independent of, a department in a Higher Education Institution. It brokers between undergraduate research/work projects and Voluntary Community Organisations who are seeking to address issues that require research-evidence or assistance with a discrete work project related to the organisation.

The case study is used to discover aspects of this pedagogy peculiar to Interchange as well as those common to other community-based learning initiatives in Higher Education (HE). The case study cannot be properly understood without reference to broader notions of community engagement, predominantly the policy agendas that shape initiatives in UK HE.

These initiatives tend to be geared towards business and the needs of the economy above reciprocal engagements that contribute to civil society. It is argued that this bias may eclipse the benefits of community-based learning initiatives that engage with civil society. This is especially pertinent in the current context of financial cuts to HE. Given this, the local community perspective facilitated by community-based learning should not be overlooked and should be recognised, not only as part of the diverse range of knowledge exchange and teaching enhancement within universities, but also as a progressive pedagogy that has the potential to contribute to civil society.

Separate data protection law for employment relations recommended

via Out-Law News

New laws should be drafted to set specific rules around data protection in employment relations, a new report has recommended.

Read all about it here

An international comparison of school to work transition systems: how best to evaluate outcomes

an article by Alex Sharland and Mohan Menon (University of South Alabama, Mobile, USA) and David Mitchell (University of Central Arkansas, Conway, USA) published in International Journal of Society Systems Science Volume 5 Number 2 (2013)


The school-to-work (S2W) transition system is a key component in creating and maintaining a productive labour force in any economy. Prior research evaluating these systems has focused on the superior outcomes of the German and Japanese systems; especially the German S2W system. Several researchers have suggested that transplanting the German system, to the US especially, will result in an improved transition for students into productive workers.

This paper provides a comparison of four S2W transition systems (USA, UK, Japan, and Germany).

It is based on five datasets with time spans going from 1990 to 2009.

We question the conclusions drawn in previous studies about the superiority of the German system and suggest that FDI inflows and the ratio of youth to mature adult unemployment need to be included in any future S2W transition system comparisons.

Real Wages, Amenities and the Adjustment of Working Hours Across Regional Labour Markets

SERC Discussion Paper 130 by Teresa Schlüter (SERC and London School of Economics and Political Science) published by SERC (Social Economics Research Centre) (March 2013)


This article establishes a link between the traditional labour economics and the urban economics literature by analysing differences in working hours across regional labour market areas in the UK.

Using a real wage index reflecting skill adjusted earnings net of quality adjusted house prices in Britain and panel data on working hours the effect of regional real wages on labour supply is assessed. The identification strategy relies on workers who move across 157 labour market areas in Britain and includes individual fixed effects.

The main finding is that working hours are significantly higher in labour market areas that offer lower real wages. Decreasing real wages by £1,000 results in an increase of working hours of 0.3 %. Real wage differentials can be seen as a proxy for the local amenity level. I can replicate my finding including a set of amenities instead of the real wage index.

The effect is mainly due to labour supply decisions of low-skilled workers who work significantly longer hours in low real wage areas than high skilled workers. This indicates that low skilled workers are willing to increase their labour supply in order to afford living in high amenity areas.

Full text (PDF 35pp)

The official discourse of fair access to higher education

an article by Darryll Bravenboer (Middlesex University, UK) published in Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning Volume 14 Number 3 (Winter 2012-13)


Despite significant public investment in the sector, selective universities in the UK have made little if any progress in widening participation over the last ten years. There are also increasing incentives for universities to become more selective in the context of government-driven higher education market competition.

At the same time, while some universities may view the pursuit of academic excellence as incompatible with widening participation, key policy documents have consistently included descriptions of a variety of strategies designed to promote wider and fairer access. This paper is concerned with how the idea of fair access has been constructed within official higher education discourse.

A method of ‘constructive description’ is employed to analyse the discursive strategies at play within selected governmental texts. The analysis indicates that the primacy of institutional autonomy in the official discourse of fair access operates to exclude descriptions of a ‘common currency’ of merit and potential, which may leave potentially unfair admissions practices unchallenged. The paper proposes a change in ‘mind set’ from universities operating as exclusive ‘gate keepers’ admitting students, to that of the inclusive recognition of applicants’ merit and potential.

This may have significant implications for admissions policy, particularly in the light of the shift away from traditional models of funding towards empowering individual or employer ‘buyers’ in the higher education market.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Labour Market Statistics, May 2013 & Regional Labour Market Statistics, May 2013

Labour Market Statistics, May 2013

For January to March 2013:
  • The employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 71.4%, down 0.2 percentage points from October to December 2012 but up 0.8 percentage points from a year earlier. There were 29.71 million people in employment aged 16 and over, down 43,000 from October to December 2012 but up 434,000 from a year earlier.
  • The unemployment rate was 7.8% of the economically active population, up 0.1 percentage points from October to December 2012 but down 0.4 from a year earlier. There were 2.52 million unemployed people, up 15,000 from October to December 2012 but down 92,000 from a year earlier.
  • The inactivity rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 22.4%, up 0.1 percentage points from October to December 2012 but down 0.6 from a year earlier. There were 9.00 million economically inactive people aged from 16 to 64, up 47,000 from October to December 2012 but down 212,000 from a year earlier.
  • Total pay rose by 0.4% compared with January to March 2012; the growth rate has not been lower since March to May 2009. Regular pay rose by 0.8% over the same period, the lowest growth rate since comparable records began in 2001.
Full text (PDF 60pp)

Regional Labour Market Statistics, May 2013

Key points:
  • Employment rate highest in the East of England (74.7%) and lowest in the North East (66.6%).
  • Unemployment rate highest in the North East (9.8%) and lowest in the South West (6.1%).
  • Inactivity rate highest in the North East (26.0%) and lowest in the East of England (19.8%).
  • Claimant Count rate highest in the North East (7.3%) and lowest in the South East (2.8%)
Full text (PDF 13pp)

Does job insecurity deteriorate health? A causal approach for Europe.

a working paper (number 2013-01) by Eve Caroli (University Paris-Dauphine, LEDa-LEGOS, Paris School of Economics and IZA) and Mathilde Godard (CREST and University Paris-Dauphine, LEDa-LEGOS) published by the Paris School of Economics (February 2013)


This paper estimates the causal effect of job insecurity on health in a sample of 22 European countries.

We rely on an original instrumental variable approach based on evidence that workers feel more insecure with respect to their job if employed in sectors with a high natural rate of layoff, but relatively less so if they live in a country where employment is strongly protected by the law. Using cross-country data from the 2010 European Working Conditions Survey, we show that when the potential endogeneity of job insecurity is not accounted for, the latter appears to deteriorate almost all health outcomes.

When tackling the endogeneity issue, the health-damaging effect of job insecurity is confirmed for a subgroup of health outcomes, namely self-rated health, being sick in the past 12 month, suffering from headaches or eyestrain and depression or anxiety.

As for other health variables, the impact of job insecurity appears to be insigni cant at conventional levels.

JEL classification: I19, J28, J63

Full text (PDF 30pp)

A matter of time: young professionals’ experiences of long work hours

an article by Jane Sturges (King’s College London, UK) published in Work Employment & Society Volume 27 Number 2 (April 2013)


This article examines young construction industry professionals’ experiences of working long hours from the perspective of the meanings that they ascribe to work time and how these influence the hours that they work.

It considers how such notions of ‘qualitative’ time spent on work may shape attitudes and behaviour relating to ‘quantitative’ work hours.

The findings show that, for the interviewees, work time has meanings chiefly associated with enjoyment, being professional and being part of a work family.

The article contributes to the long work hours literature by broadening our understanding of how young professionals experience long work hours, why they may not always view them negatively and how the meanings that they attach to them can lead to particular patterns of work hours. It also highlights gender differences in this regard.

Why do English Universities really Franchise Degrees to Overseas Providers?

an article by Nigel Healey (Nottingham Trent University, UK) published in Higher Education Quarterly Volume 67 Issue 2 (April 2013)


Franchising degrees to overseas providers, normally for-profit private companies, has become big business for English universities. The latest data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency reveal that there are now more international students registered for the awards of English higher education institutions that are studying wholly offshore than are on campus.

There is an extensive economic literature exploring the role of franchising (or licensing) in the internationalisation of multinational companies. There are, however, few studies that have attempted to understand the reasons why so many English universities have moved beyond exporting (educating foreign students on campus) to franchising their degrees to overseas partners.

This study uses an exploratory research methodology to get ‘inside the black box’. It investigates the motivations of decision-makers entering and maintaining franchising operations at four English universities, revealing that financial considerations are less dominant than widely believed within the sector and are overshadowed by other, non-commercial considerations.

Empowering vulnerable adults to tackle labour market challenges

A Cedefop publication (number 4122)

This publication presents findings from 25 study visits, in 2010/11 and 2011/12, related to empowering vulnerable adults to tackle labour-market challenges. It focuses on ways to support vulnerable adults to exploit their knowledge, skills and competences to the full, to get information and guidance, to participate in vocational training, to recognise their skills and competences, and to have access to meaningful and rewarding employment.

Group reports prepared by study visit participants were the main source of information; 29 successful initiatives are featured. These were presented at a Cedefop seminar on 6 and 7 June 2012 in Thessaloniki, Greece.

This publication aims at enriching the awareness and understanding of decision-makers and practitioners on how European countries deal with the specific challenges of education, training and employment. It should also help them find partners for cooperation projects and networks at national and European levels.

Full text (PDF 86pp)

Growing risk of inequality and poverty as crisis hits the poor hardest

via – Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs

Income inequality increased by more in the first three years of the crisis to the end of 2010 than it had in the previous twelve years, before factoring in the effect of taxes and transfers on income, according to new OECD data.

Full press release

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Low-wage service occupations in Europe: an inevitable underclass?

NEUJOBS Working Paper 3.7 by Moira Nelson (Lund University) published by the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme (March 2013)


Low-wage service occupations occupy an important part of the employment structure of post-industrial labour markets and this transformation raises alarms about inequality since employment in such occupations arguably depends on weak working conditions.

This study examines trends in low-wage service employment across 19 European countries between 1992 and 2010 in order to get leverage on whether their expansion and poor quality are both as inevitable and inter-related as the literature suggests.

Full text (PDF 26pp)

Labour market integration of immigrants in the EU: key trends and policy issues

a discussion paper by Anna Platonova (Regional Office for EEA, EU AND NATO, International Organization for Migration (IOM)) published by Itinera Institute for International Organization for Migration (March 2013)


One of the main challenges of an effective integration policy is that its intersection with a number of other major policy areas, such as protection of human and labour rights, promoting equal opportunities and non-discrimination, employment and labour market policy, regional development, national security, social cohesion, public health, education, and naturalisation and citizenship.

IOM takes a comprehensive view of integration policy as a set of legal and policy measures that define the parameters of migrants’ stay and involvement in the country of destination, which go beyond specific immigration and integration measures, but extend to mainstreaming migration considerations into relevant areas of economic and social governance. In particular, it is of paramount importance to move towards improving the knowledge of effective immigrant integration governance in each related policy field, including employment and education, as well as developing mechanisms for inter-policy coordination.

This paper presents an overview of the key trends in the European Union with respect to labour market integration outcomes for immigrants, and the relevant areas for public policy engagement, as well as proposed recommendations. The paper largely draws on several studies carried out by the IOM Independent Network of Labour Migration and Integration Experts (LINET) in 2010-2012 based at the Regional Office of IOM in Brussels and funded by Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion of the European Commission.1

Full text (PDF 18pp)

Strategic contextualisation: free movement, labour migration policies and the governance of foreign workers in Europe

an article by Regine Paul (Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences, Universität Bremen, Germany) published in Policy Studies Volume 34 Issue 2 (2013)


Heightened levels of internal labour mobility since the European Union (EU)’s Eastern enlargements in 2004 and 2007 have shifted the context for member state policies geared towards the admission of non-EU workers.

This article contends that the strategic use of the internal mobility régime by member states, as a justification for selective recruitment of labour from outside the EU, deserves more analytical attention.

This contribution examines how labour migration policies (LMP) in the United Kingdom, France and Germany make use of the EU free-movement framework in current legislation, and how associated policy rationales are justified.

In an interpretive policy analysis of legislative documents and decision-makers’ meaning-making, as related in semi-structured interviews, the article identifies the logics, tools and rationales which link LMP to EU free movement. These links are shown to be highly selective and they serve common as well as nationally distinct governance goals.

Across all three cases LMPs ascribe various degrees of relevance to EU internal labour supply, depending on the different skill levels of migrants targeted in respective policies. This shared pattern of economic coordination of LMP by skill level – in which the EU common labour market plays the role of delimiting additional migration in the skilled and especially low-skilled segments – is conflated with national migration control agendas.

Member states draw on EU free movement to justify migration restrictions targeted at specific sending countries. As a result, the governance of the foreign workforce produces skills- and origin-based privileges rather than granting rights to mobile migrant workers in Europe.

Individual Choice and Risk: The Case of Higher Education

an article by Malcolm Brynin (University of Essex, UK) published in Sociology Volume 47 Number 2 (April 2013)


The expansion of higher education raises the risk environment for school-leavers as more occupations become partially graduate with the result that occupational signals are fuzzy.

This makes the educational decision more difficult and more risky, especially with more of the cost of higher education being transferred to the individual.

After a discussion of the nature of risk, derived from Beck, and of the role of government policy and of economics in obscuring this, the analysis uses simple quantitative techniques, based on British Labour Force Survey data, to demonstrate the increased fuzziness of graduate work.

It is also shown that a rising proportion of graduates receive only average pay, thus raising the risks associated with educational investments even further.

Comparing disabled students’ entry to higher education with their non-disabled peers — barriers and enablers to success

an article by Mike Wray (York St John University, UK) published in Widening Participation & Lifelong Learning Volume 14 Issue 3 (Winter 2012-13)


Statistical evidence and qualitative research from within higher education (HE) in England suggests that disabled people underachieve in comparison to their non-disabled peers and that they face a range of barriers that militate against their success throughout their educational journey.

This article discusses a research project that utilised focus groups to compare the experiences of disabled HE learners with their non-disabled peers and compared the reported experiences of learners who had entered HE with those that had decided not to pursue this path.

Disabled learners in this study did report significantly more difficulties in their progression to HE than the non-disabled learners who were interviewed. However, both groups of learners also encountered a number of enabling factors that assisted their educational progress.

Findings from learners who decided not to enter HE also reinforced these assertions. The research begins to answer the critique of previous studies by providing comparison groups and will assist practitioners in implementing evidence-based practice in supporting disabled learners to progress to HE.

Yet another apology

This time, however, not a recurrence of the depression which has been hitting me on and off for most of my life but a physical health problem. And such a very silly one really.

I’ve just come back from four days in Italy (birthday present from my daughter) with so many mosquito bites that in some places you can’t see a gap between them. Right ankle badly infected so now on antibiotics in addition to the antihistamine and soothing cream.

Very tired yesterday but am a bit better today and, with the day half gone, I’m about to embark on yet another catch-up exercise. Seems to be the story of my life.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Do fathers work fewer paid hours when their female partner is the main or an equal earner?

an article by Shireen Kanji (University of Basel, Switzerland) published in Work Employment & Society Volume 27 Number 2 (April 2013)


Mothers are increasingly likely to be the main or equal earners in heterosexual couples with children.

This study assesses the impact of the mother being the main or an equal earner on her partner’s hours of work. The performance of normative gender roles predicts that fathers increase their hours whereas specialization theories predict they will decrease their hours. Another possibility is that fathers work fewer hours because they have a relatively weak labour market position.

We test these alternative propositions using panel data on co-resident parents from the UK’s Millennium Cohort Survey. The results show that fathers with a female partner who is the main earner work considerably fewer hours than other fathers. This also holds for equal-earner fathers to a lesser extent.

In part, fathers work fewer hours because their partner is the main or an equal earner, but they are also less likely to work in occupations entailing long hours.

One System or Four? Cross-Border Applications and Entries to Full-Time Undergraduate Courses in the UK Since Devolution

an article by David Raffe and Linda Croxford (Centre for Educational Sociology, University of Edinburgh, UK) published in Higher Education Quarterly Volume 67 Issue 2 (April 2013)


This paper uses Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) data on applications and entries to full-time undergraduate courses to examine the changing flows of students across the boundaries of the four countries of the United Kingdom (UK), over a period (1996–2010) that embraces parliamentary devolution.

It asks whether the emergence of more distinct administrative systems of higher education, following devolution, is reflected in more distinct social systems as reflected in reduced cross-border flows of students. It reveals a declining tendency for UK applicants to apply to, and enter, higher education in another UK country.

This trend is partly attributable to devolution and to consequent changes such as differential fees. However the detailed patterns vary widely across the countries of the UK, across categories of student and across types of institution and programme.

Discourses of inclusion and exclusion: Religious students in UK higher education

an article by Jacqueline Stevenson (Leeds Metropolitan University, UK) published in Journal Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning Volume 14 Number 3 (Winter 2012-13)


Despite a decade of research into ‘inclusion’, religious students have been largely ignored within the widening participation and diversity literature. Researching religion and higher education (HE) in the UK, unlike within the US context, is seen as potentially risky territory.

Where religion is discussed it is largely in relation to a discourse that problematises and demonises religion around ideas of religious fundamentalism – in particular within the Muslim community – or as formal and technical responses to equality legislation.

Consequently, unlike considerations of class, race or gender, the widening participation literature has mostly ignored or racialised religious affiliation, and religion remains, for the most part, unrecognised within institutional policy making.

Drawing on research with Christian, Sikh, Muslim and Jewish students, this paper highlights the ways in which such a tacit avoidance of the subject of religion on the ‘secular’ campus, punctuated only by the discourse of fundamentalism, results in the silencing and marginalisation of many religious students.

Gender Differences in Involuntary Job Loss: Why Are Men More Likely to Lose Their Jobs?

an article by Roger Wilkins and Mark Wooden (The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) published in Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society Volume 52 Issue 2 (April 2013)


Empirical studies have consistently reported that rates of involuntary job loss are significantly lower among female employees than among males. Only rarely, however, have the reasons for this differential been the subject of detailed investigation.

In this article, household panel survey data from Australia are used that also find higher rates of job loss among men than among women. This differential, however, largely disappears once controls for industry and occupation are included.

These findings suggest that the observed gender differential primarily reflects systematic differences in the types of jobs into which men and women select.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Changes in relative deprivation and social well-being

an article by Jayanta Sen (West Bengal State University, Kolkata, India) and Dipti Prakas Pal (University of Kalyani, India) published in International Journal of Social Economics Volume 40 Issue 6 (2013)


Individuals earn their income from different sources in an economy. Persons being engaged with different occupations have different income levels. Welfare level thus varies from person to person. Obviously an indignant feeling arises out of interpersonal shortages of income which is viewed as relative deprivation of the person to whom shortages are inflicted. This paper attempts to analyse geometrically inter-temporal variations in relative deprivation.

Temporal movement has been analysed in terms of iso-deprivation curves.

Reduction in relative deprivation is the cherished goal of every welfare economy. But how it should be pursued is a matter of concern to the policy makers. In the present analysis five paths are discussed along which the deprivation level may be reduced. The most desirable path is identified.

Different components and their relative contributions to changes in relative deprivation have been identified in a geometrical decomposition framework. The analysis is of use in framing policies for reduction in relative deprivation and increase in social well-being.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Slow progress: improving progression in the UK labour market

a research paper by Paul Garaud and Matthew Oakley (Policy Exchange) published by Policy Exchange

Executive summary

The challenge of progression

Since coming to power, the Coalition government has embarked on a radical programme of welfare reform. Its flagship Work Programme scheme is now in place and providing support to the long-term unemployed and disadvantaged to help them to enter and stay in work. In a few weeks, Universal Credit, the benefit that will replace a series of income-replacement benefits and tax credits, will begin its staged roll out. These are positive steps and the extent to which they represent a step change in our approach to welfare policy should not be underestimated.

In particular, helping claimants of in-work benefits to sustain their jobs for longer and increase their earnings (to “progress”) are now key goals of government welfare policy. This approach will significantly increase the number of people able to take on support and also subject to more intensive conditions in return for benefit. In particular, once rolled out, current claimants of tax credits who are working relatively few hours are likely to be subject to increased requirements. If successful in increasing earnings, this approach would increase living standards of families and reduce the benefit bill. However, there are significant challenges to achieving this goal.

Existing evidence tells us that staying in work and increasing earnings can be extremely difficult for individuals with relatively low levels of qualifications and for employees in low-income jobs. At the most basic level, the median length of continuous employment for those employed in the bottom decile of the earnings distribution is just over two years. For those in the top decile the equivalent figure is around eight years. Some 14% of employees in the bottom decile of the earnings distribution are in temporary employment. Only 2% of those in the top decile of the earnings distribution are in this position.

The recession clearly has an impact on the ability of some employees to increase their earnings. One respondent to our call for evidence summarised:

“How can you just ‘magic up’ extra hours if you only work part-time? Most companies can’t just give you more hours.”

However, a lack of progression is not just a result of the recession. Even during past periods of relatively strong growth we could see that the labour market in the UK was changing: jobs have become more flexible and potentially more insecure; the “job for life” is no-longer a standard form of employment; and due to technological changes, many of the jobs which were relied upon for employees to progress over their working lives no longer exist. Reports over the last decade have continually highlighted that a low-pay, no-pay cycle exists in the UK and that policy interventions are not helping to tackle it.

In particular, while around 70% of JSA claimants move off benefit within six months of initiating a JSA claim, success in terms of finding claimants sustainable work is far less convincing. As documented in our earlier report, Welfare 2.0:
  • Only 68% of those leaving JSA actually enter employment;
  • Around a third (30%) of those leaving JSA are claiming benefits again within eight months; and
  • Of those who started work nearly one in ten (8%) were employed for fewer than 16 hours a week.
Overall, this means that just 36% of claimants will find a job within six months of receiving JSA and still be in work seven or eight months later. Other research from DWP shows the depth of movements between fragile employment and benefits. After following a group of 22–24 year olds and 32–34 year olds, it found that over one in ten of those in these groups making a new claim for JSA in 2010/11 had spent at least half of the previous four years on benefit.

Combined with a lack of evidence around policy interventions that are effective in helping people to increase their earnings, these challenges mean that the government is faced with a difficult task in designing an effective and efficient system of support and requirements. This lack of evidence makes it essential that the government is fully committed to piloting and fully evaluating potential policy interventions to help people to increase their earnings. For this reason it is encouraging that the government has issued a call for ideas in this area and looks set to implement a number of pilots.

A breakdown of in-work claimants

This commitment to piloting is even more important because our analysis suggests that a large variety of individuals and families may come under a new programme of support and requirements for in-work benefits claimants.

Overall, analysis in this report suggests that around 1.3 million people will be subject to some form of in-work requirements and support. Of these, Chapter 1 demonstrates that:
  • Around two thirds of the group do not have dependent children. However, alongside these families without dependent children, there are also a significant minority of the group who are lone-parents with dependent children aged between 5 and 17;
  • Almost two thirds of the group are female;
  • The group has a broad mixture of individuals of different ages. However, just over half are over 45 years old;
  • Nearly 45% of the group has relatively low qualifications or no formal qualifications at all;
  • Many of the group are currently in stable employment, with over half having been with their current employer for over two years. However, working hours are relatively low for the majority of the group (typically between 15 and 24 hours a week); and
  • A large majority of the group are not currently looking for additional employment.
Such a diversity of individuals and families in this group will present DWP with challenges in terms of targeting effective personalised support in order to help claimants to increase their earnings. A particular challenge will be the fact that our research suggests that a large majority of the group do not seem to be motivated to increase their earnings. This point is also supported by recent reports from DWP. For instance, one report suggests that among part-time workers on Working Tax Credit, only around one fifth were seeking additional hours. The DWP report also looks at reasons for not wanting more work. It shows that, of part-time recipients of working age benefits or tax credits, 43% agreed that ‘I don’t need more hours because I get by okay on what I currently earn’.

Evidence on the diversity of this group also echoes the concerns of a number of respondents to our call for evidence. In particular, because of caring responsibilities, ill health or a disability some families and individuals might have limited scope for increasing their earnings. As we outlined in Personalised Welfare, it is essential to approach these issues in a way that does not simply consider benefit type and length of claim, but instead to effectively target personalised support.

Combined with existing evidence of the chances of progression and the impact of policy, this leaves the government facing significant challenges:
  • A large proportion of individuals in low-paid or low-hours work do not regard progression as a priority.
  • Current policy interventions (e.g. JCP) can be counter-productive to the goal of progression.
  • Temporary jobs, part-time work, and mini-jobs do not, on average, appear to help individuals progress.
  • Training does not, on average, appear to lead to progression, though implementation and differential impact across groups may cloud results.
  • Financial incentives for employment retention may work for some groups.
  • Employment retention appears to be encouraged by job-seeking while in work.
All of these factors present government with a significant challenge in helping individuals and families to increase their earnings. The groups that it wants to support and encourage to increase their earnings are the same groups that currently seem to find it hardest to achieve significant earnings progression and who may not want to progress anyway. This means that if it is to design policy interventions to support and encourage Universal Credit claimants to progress in work and move towards self sufficiency, new policy solutions and a significant level of testing will be needed. If implemented effectively and comprehensively evaluated, the policy pilots that DWP are likely to announce will provide a valuable evidence base to inform future policy decisions.

Making progress

Based on the limited existing evidence and our own analysis, this report outlines areas where we believe that the government should focus its pilots. However, we are also clear that these pilots alone will not be enough. It is essential that freedom is given to Jobcentres and power devolved through the City Deals process in order to leverage a far greater range of piloting and policy innovation. By doing so, we will begin to get a better picture of policy interventions that are effective in supporting and encouraging in-work claimants to increase their earnings.

We also outline reforms that are essential to roll out now, before piloting begins. These include fundamental changes in the way in which Jobcentre performance is measured and in how Work Programme providers are rewarded for helping the claimants placed with them. Alongside these measures it will also be essential to put in place a baseline conditionality regime right from day one of Universal Credit being rolled out. Without this, the moment of change will be missed and an important opportunity to influence the attitudes and behaviour of benefit claimants lost.

Together our proposals outline the basis for a strong system of support and conditionality for in-work claimants. Once pilots have been evaluated and lessons learned, this system can be built up in order to put in place a comprehensive programme of personalised and targeted support and requirements for claimants in order to improve earnings, boost living standards and help more families move towards independence.

Risk, responsibilities and rights: Reassessing the ‘economic causes of crime’ thesis in a recession

an article by Ross Fergusson (Open University, Milton Keynes, UK) published in Youth Justice Volume 13 Number 1 (April 2013)


This article explores competing accounts of an apparent inversion of the previously prevailing relationship between young people’s unemployment and the incidence of youth offending at a time of economic recession.

It begins by highlighting the faltering association between unemployment and offending, and considers the paradoxical implications for risk-based methodologies in youth justice practice. The article then assesses explanations for the changing relationship that suggest that youth justice policies have successfully broken the unemployment–offending link; and alternatively that delayed effects of recession have yet to materialise, by reference to the work of four inter-governmental organisations and to youth protests beyond the UK.

In place of ever more intensive risk analyses, the article then focuses on the adverse effects of unemployment on social cohesion, and proposes a rights-based approach to youth justice that recognizes the growing disjuncture between the rights afforded to young people and the responsibilities expected of them.

Overwork and the Persistence of Gender Segregation in Occupations

an article by Youngjoo Cha (Indiana University, USA) published in Gender & Society Volume 27 Number 2 (April 2013)


This study investigates whether the increasingly common trend of working long hours (“overwork”) perpetuates gender segregation in occupations.

While overwork is an expected norm in many male-dominated occupations, women, especially mothers, are structurally less able to meet this expectation because their time is subject to family demands more than is men’s time.

This study investigates whether the conflicting time demands of work and family increase attrition rates of mothers in male-dominated occupations, thereby reinforcing occupational segregation.

Using longitudinal data drawn from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, I show that mothers are more likely to leave male-dominated occupations when they work 50 hours or more per week, but the same effect is not found for men or childless women.

Results also show that overworking mothers are more likely to exit the labor force entirely, and this pattern is specific to male-dominated occupations. These findings demonstrate that the norm of overwork in male-dominated workplaces and the gender beliefs operating in the family combine to reinforce gender segregation of the labor market.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Reframing workplace relations? Conflict resolution and mediation in a primary care trust

an article by Richard Saundry and Louise McArdle (University of Central Lancashire, UK) and Peter Thomas (Lancaster University, UK) published in Work Employment & Society Volume 27 Number 2 (April 2013)


In recent years, workplace conflict has become increasingly manifest in individual employment disputes as collective labour regulation has been eroded. Accordingly, attention has been focused on finding ways to facilitate the early resolution of such disputes.

Policy-makers have placed a particular emphasis on workplace mediation.

However, the broader impact of mediation on conventional grievance and disciplinary processes and on the workplace relations that underpin them has been largely ignored. This article reports on research into the introduction of an in-house mediation scheme within a primary care trust. It explores the implications of the scheme for: workplace relations within the organisation; the dynamics of conflict management; and trade union influence.

It argues that the introduction of mediation provided a conduit through which positive workplace relations were rebuilt which in turn facilitated informal processes of dispute resolution. Furthermore, it allowed trade unions within the organization to extend their influence into areas traditionally dominated by managerial prerogative.

Economic socialization, saving and assets in European young adults

an article by Paul Webley (SOAS, University of London, UK) and Ellen K. Nyhus (University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway) published in Economics of Education Review Volume 33 (April 2013)


We analyse the role economic socialisation plays in the economic behavior and asset accumulation of young adults by parents using data from European young adults and teenagers.

We study the role of four distinct strands of economic socialisation (providing pocket money, jobs at home, work for others, and parental encouragement) using a Dutch sample of young adults (age 18–32, n = 392).

Results show positive links between parental encouragement and ability to control spending, saving preferences, future orientation, conscientiousness, and saving.

A sample of teenagers (age 14–15, n = 548) and their parents (256 mothers, 227 fathers) is drawn for a Norwegian study of economic socialisation. Analyses reveal a small difference in the socialisation of adolescents from poorer and less educated backgrounds: they are less likely to receive pocket money and to have part-time work but are more likely to have piggy banks and savings accounts at a younger age.

Variations in the economic socialisation by parents highlight the importance of financial education in schools.


► We analyse the role of economic socialisation by parents using data from Dutch and Norwegian young adults and teenagers.
► Young adults who had been encouraged to save and taught to budget were more conscientious, more future oriented and better able to control spending.
► The total savings of young adults could be predicted from psychological characteristics and parental encouragement to save as an adolescent.
► Working as an adolescent was positively associated with the amount of debt, and negatively with total savings.
► The socialisation experience of those from poorer or less educated backgrounds was no worse than that of those from more affluent backgrounds.

Exploring the linkage between the home domain and absence from work: Health, motivation, or both?

an article by Lieke L. ten Brummelhuis (Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands and University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA), Claartje L. ter Hoeven (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands), Menno D. T. de Jong (University of Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands) and Bram Peper (Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands) published in Journal of Organizational Behavior Volume 34 Issue 3 (April 2013)


The aim of this study was twofold.

First, we examined depleting and enriching effects of employees’ home domain (home demands and quality time spent at home) on unscheduled absence from work.

Second, we tested the assumption of the medical and withdrawal models that absence duration and frequency are uniquely predicted by respectively health condition and job motivation.

We used longitudinal, different-source data from 1,014 employees. The results showed that home quality time was negatively related to absence frequency and duration in the following year through a physical pathway (less physical stress symptoms and health complaints) and through a psychological pathway (less psychological stress symptoms, increased job motivation).

Employees with heavy home demands reported more physical and psychological stress symptoms, more health complaints, and lower job motivation. Accordingly, they had longer and more frequent sick leaves in the consecutive year.

We conclude that the home domain adds to our understanding of absence from work. In addition, the model including cross pathways between health complaints and job motivation on the one hand, and absence frequency and duration on the other, best fitted the data. Thus, a clear distinction between volitional absence (frequency) and absence due to illness (duration) seems hard to justify.
Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Will future tax cuts reach struggling working households?

a briefing paper by Donald Hirsch published by Resolution Foundation Publications


All political parties today say they want to help working people on low to middle incomes who struggle to make ends meet. Under the last government, in terms of direct financial support, this was achieved mainly through in-work tax credits. Today, the emphasis is shifting in favour of cutting taxes in ways that have the objective of helping low earners. Tax cuts, however, will not, in large part, reach low to middle income working households under the government’s flagship welfare reform Universal Credit (UC) as UC is calculated on the basis of net income, meaning that any tax cut that boosts a household’s income also reduces their UC support. Put another way, any tax cut will give with one hand and take away immediately most of the gains with the other.

This briefing looks at how exactly tax cuts interact with Universal Credit and quantifies how little low to middle income working households will keep from a higher personal allowance or a 10p tax rate under UC. It also suggests a simple way in which the Government could ensure that the benefits of tax cuts do flow through to the pockets of the three million taxpayers who claim UC. Any party proposing tax cuts that does not adopt this or an equivalent policy cannot claim to be targeting low to middle income households by cutting taxes.

Full text (PDF 16pp)

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


OK, so this isn’t, strictly speaking, anything to do with careers but it certainly is something that needs to be thought about in terms of social inclusion (remember that buzz phrase?).

Anyway, glancing through an issue of School Library Journal (Vol 59 N 4 (April 2013)) I came across some reviews of fictional works which aim to help 11-13-years-olds with the issue of bullying whether from a victim or perpetrator viewpoint.

Looked good so I thought I would share

OUCH, such a lot of typing – can’t do it.

YAY, don’t need to!

It is all here for you to read for yourselves.

A New Model of Social Class? Findings from the BBC’s Great British Class Survey Experiment

an article by Mike Savage (London School of Economics, UK), Fiona Devine, Niall Cunningham, Yaojun Li and Andrew Miles (University of Manchester, UK), Mark Taylor (University of York, UK), Johs Hjellbrekke (Universitetet i Bergen, Norway), Brigitte Le Roux (Université Paris Descartes, France) and Sam Friedman (City University London, UK) published in Sociology Volume 47 Number 2 (April 2013)


The social scientific analysis of social class is attracting renewed interest given the accentuation of economic and social inequalities throughout the world.

The most widely validated measure of social class, the Nuffield class schema, developed in the 1970s, was codified in the UK’s National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification (NS-SEC) and places people in one of seven main classes according to their occupation and employment status.

This principally distinguishes between people working in routine or semi-routine occupations employed on a ‘labour contract’ on the one hand, and those working in professional or managerial occupations employed on a ‘service contract’ on the other.

However, this occupationally based class schema does not effectively capture the role of social and cultural processes in generating class divisions.

We analyse the largest survey of social class ever conducted in the UK, the BBC’s 2011 Great British Class Survey, with 161,400 web respondents, as well as a nationally representative sample survey, which includes unusually detailed questions asked on social, cultural and economic capital. Using latent class analysis on these variables, we derive seven classes.

We demonstrate the existence of an ‘elite’, whose wealth separates them from an established middle class, as well as a class of technical experts and a class of ‘new affluent’ workers.

We also show that at the lower levels of the class structure, alongside an ageing traditional working class, there is a ‘precariat’ characterised by very low levels of capital, and a group of emergent service workers. We think that this new seven class model recognises both social polarisation in British society and class fragmentation in its middle layers, and will attract enormous interest from a wide social scientific community in offering an up-to-date multi-dimensional model of social class.