Friday, 28 June 2013

An evaluation of the Statement of Fitness for Work (fit note): a survey of employees

DWP Research Report No 840: A report of research carried out by the Office for National Statistics on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions



The Government introduced the Statement of Fitness for Work or ‘fit note’ in April 2010, to replace the previous medical statement (known as the ‘sick note’). GPs use fit notes to assess whether their patient ‘may be fit for work’ or is ‘not fit for work’. The patient and their employer can discuss the advice on the fit note to identify possible changes that could facilitate a return to work.


The Fit Note Survey was carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) between January and June 2012. The sample used was comprised of 1,398 eligible adults consenting to be interviewed. The survey included only individuals who were over the age of 16, in employment, and who had had a period of sickness absence from work that was covered by a fit note in the last 12 months. Individuals were interviewed mainly by telephone. Respondents were asked to recall any discussions relating to their sickness absence with their GP and employer in the last 12 months.

Key findings

Respondents were asked to rate how helpful the fit note was:
  • seventy-one per cent of respondents agreed that the fit note was helpful;
  • around two-thirds of respondents agreed that the fit note and discussions with their GP helped them to discuss changes with their employer;
  • around half of respondents agreed that the fit note and discussions with their GP made a difference to their employer’s willingness to make changes to help them return to work;
  • the majority of respondents agreed both that GPs and employers had understood the types of changes in work that would be helpful to them (70 and 82 per cent respectively).
The survey found that the likelihood of someone receiving a fit note is related to a number of characteristics, the most significant being whether they were disabled. Other key characteristics included occupational classification, sector worked in, sex and age.

Overall, the majority of individuals returned to work following their sickness absence (82 per cent). It was also found that: non-disabled respondents were most likely to return to work (88 per cent); most sickness absences lasted between eight and 14 days; and mental health conditions were the most common health condition specified on fit notes, followed by injuries and other musculoskeletal conditions.

Ninety-six per cent of first (or only) fit notes and 81 per cent of secondary fit notes recorded that the individual was ‘not fit for work’. When fit notes had advised that an individual ‘may be fit for work’, 78 per cent ticked the box suggesting a phased return to work, 52 per cent suggested amended duties, 49 per cent altered hours and 21 per cent workplace adaptations.

Around three-quarters of the total changes discussed by respondents with their employers were consequently made by respondents’ employers. The most common change made by employers was modified days or reduced working hours (59%).

Full text (PDF 115pp)

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Employer perceptions of work experience and sector-based work academies

DWP Research Paper number 842: A report of research carried out by TNS-BMRB on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions


Work experience and sector-based work academies are key elements of the Government’s Youth Contract measures. As part of the Youth Contract which was implemented from April 2012, it was announced that an extra 250,000 work experience or sector-based work academy places would be made available over three years. This will offer at least 100,000 opportunities a year and will offer a place for every 18-24 year old who wants one, before they enter the Work Programme.

This report contains findings from the quantitative survey with 3,000 employers offering work experience opportunities or taking part in sector-based work academies. It examines the characteristics of employers; the success of employer engagement and marketing and how employers have responded to the work experience offer; and how different types of employers have responded to the policy.

This survey of work experience and sector-based work academy employers forms part of the evaluation of the Youth Contract. The evaluation consists of a mixed methods approach including in-house analysis of administrative data as well as externally commissioned research involving interviews and surveys with staff, claimants, employers and Work Programme providers.

Full text (PDF 137pp)

Does wage regulation harm kids? Evidence from English school

CMPO Working Paper 12/293 by Carol Proper (University of Bristol, Imperial College London and CEPR) and Jack Britton (University of Bristol)


Teacher wages are commonly subject to centralised wage bargaining. This results in flat teacher wages across heterogeneous labour markets and means teacher wages will be relatively lower where local labour market wages are high.

The implication is that teacher output will be lower in high outside wage areas.

This paper investigates whether this relationship between local labour market wages and school performance exists.

We exploit the centralised wage regulation of teachers in England using data on over 3000 schools containing around 200,000 teachers who educate around half a million children per year.

We find that regulation decreases educational output. Schools add less value to their pupils in areas where the outside option for teachers is higher. This is not offset by gains in lower outside wage areas.

JEL classifications: I2, J3, J4,

Full text (PDF 33pp)

Hazel’s comment:
This is nearly a year old as a paper but was used as a base in the most recent journal from CMPO that I have just been reading! I guess I need to check the original source rather than relying on the journals. At least in this case I can.

Less education, less work: UK’s youth left without training or jobs

OECD says economic downturn has widened the gap between those with qualifications and those without, while young people are unemployed for an average of 2.3 years

An article in the Guardian on Tuesday 25 June

Economic analysis of workplace mental health promotion and mental disorder prevention programmes and of their potential contribution to EU health, social and economic policy objectives

I thought the executive summary a bit long to put in a blog post so I've used the introduction to this report instead.

Final report published May 2013 by Matrix for the European Union’s Executive Agency for Health and Consumers


Matrix was commissioned by the European Agency for Health and Consumers (EAHC) and DG Health and Consumers (SANCO) to assess the potential contribution that mental health promotion and mental disorder prevention programmes can make to the EU-policy objectives of promoting the sustainability of health and social welfare systems, increasing the employment rate of the population and increasing the productivity of the economy.

With this aim in mind, the objective of this study was to provide an economic analysis of mental health promotion and mental disorder prevention programmes at workplaces. Specifically, the study included a review of the existing scientific literature, case studies with Member States and workplaces, and an economic model.

In combination, these methods were designed to provide answers to the following questions:
  1. What are the major past and expected future trends in public and workplace mental health and illness in the EU?
  2. What is the economic impact of mental disorders on health and social welfare systems, employment and productivity in the EU?
  3. What type of workplace mental health promotion and mental disorder programmes are available? What is their economic return on investment? What is their impact on health and social welfare systems, employment and productivity?
  4. What is the role of health and social welfare systems in workplace mental health promotion and mental disorder programmes?
  5. What would be the contribution of mainstreamed workplace mental health promotion and mental disorder programmes to realising EU-health, social and economic policy objectives?
The remainder of the report is organised as follows:
  • Section 3 describes the different methods applied in the study.
  • Section 4 presents the results from the study. These are organised into five sections following the structure of the research questions presented above.
  • Section 5 summarises the results and provides recommendations for future research.
Full text (PDF 135pp)

Engaging Remote Employees: The Moderating Role of “Remote” Status in Determining Employee Information Security Policy Awareness

an article by Allen C. Johnston, Barbara Wech and Eric Jack (University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA) published in Journal of Organizational and End User Computing Volume 25 Issue 1 (January-March 2013)


Using social cognitive theory as a framework, this study proposes and tests a behavioural model to predict how “remote” status impacts the manner in which social learning cues influence employee awareness of information security policies and ultimately differentiates him or her from in-house employees in terms of information security policy awareness.

Based on data acquired from an online sample of 435 full-time employees across numerous industries and structural equation modeling analysis, the findings suggest that, compared to their in-house counterparts, remote employees experience lower levels of vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and situational support, thereby resulting in diminished levels of information security policy awareness.

These findings have strong implications for managers of remote employees and for organizations seeking to reduce the risk associated with an ever-increasing remote workforce. The findings also advance social cognitive theory by incorporating information security policy awareness as an important outcome formed from perceptions of social learning cues external to the individual, but present within the organization.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

World of Work Report 2013: Repairing the economic and social fabric

Published by the International Institute for Labour Studies


The World of Work Report 2013 provides a comprehensive analysis of the current state of labour markets and social conditions around the world. It also projects employment trends and assesses the risk of social unrest.

The report points to an uneven employment picture, with emerging and developing economies performing better than the majority of advanced economies. Income inequalities continue to widen in advanced economies and although they have stabilised somewhat in large emerging and developing countries, they remain acute and progress in this area is still fragile.

The report analyses these trends and discusses the conditions necessary for putting job creation at the heart of policy making. It addresses the following questions:
  • What are the challenges associated with an uneven job recovery from the global financial crisis? How have income inequalities evolved and what impact has this had on the middle class?
  • Can minimum wages promote social justice and stimulate aggregate demand without dampening employment in developing countries? What is the scope in these countries for counteracting a double dip in growth and employment in advanced economies?
  • How can productive investment be stimulated in order to create more and better jobs? And what are the financial reforms and corporate governance changes that would help to reinvigorate private sector investment?
  • What are the trends in executive pay, and how do these compare with the evolution of the average worker’s earnings?
  • How to achieve a shift to job-friendly policies and what is the role of the ILO in this endeavour?
This report draws attention to the need to restore the economic and social fabric, thereby laying a foundation for a sustainable recovery from the global crisis.

Full text (PDF 133pp)

Performance, gender and sexualised work: Beyond management control, beyond legislation? A case study of work in a recruitment company

an article by Valerie Caven, Scott Lawley and Jocelyn Baker (Nottingham Trent University, UK) published in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal Volume 32 Issue 5 (2013)


Organisations seek to manage and control the dress, appearance and behaviour of their employees for strategic corporate advantage but what are the far-reaching implications of this for employers and employees? This paper aims to identify the explicit and implicit codes for appearance and behaviour imposed by management and co-workers.

Adopting a case study approach using ethnographic methods, this research, conducted in a recruitment agency specialising in placing construction industry personnel, draws on data obtained from four in-depth, semi-structured interviews with senior managers, a focus group with female employees and participant observation methods, and provides an intriguing insight into the grooming and packaging of female employees.

Findings show this aesthetic and behavioural “packaging” of the female employees comes with consequences for client, employer and employee. The females cannot escape the aesthetic and sexualised image imposed upon them as management strategy and often have no choice but to “perform” for clients to manipulate situations for their own advantage.

Research limitations/implications
Because of the research approach adopted and the relatively small sample size, generalisability is limited. It would be helpful to replicate the study in other settings.

The paper highlights the existence of official and unofficial controls over dress, appearance and behaviour and the pressure exerted on women in the workplace.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The value of psychological flexibility: Examining psychological mechanisms underpinning a cognitive behavioural therapy intervention for burnout

Joda Lloyd and Frank W. Bond (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK) and Paul E. Flaxman (City University, London, UK) published in Work & Stress: An International Journal of Work, Health & Organisations Volume 27 Issue 2 (2013)


Little is known of the mechanisms by which interventions for burnout work.

Employees of a UK government department were randomly assigned to either a worksite group-based CBT intervention called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT; n=43), which aimed to increase participants’ psychological flexibility, or a waiting list control group (n=57).

The ACT group received three half-day sessions of training spread over two and a half months. Data were collected at baseline (T1), at the beginning of the second (T2) and third (T3) workshops, and at six months’ follow up (T4).

Consistent with ACT theory, analyses revealed that, in comparison to the control group, a significant increase in psychological flexibility from T2 to T3 in the ACT group mediated the subsequent T2 to T4 decrease in emotional exhaustion in that group.

Consistent with a theory of emotional burnout development, this significant decrease in emotional exhaustion from T2 to T4 in the ACT group appeared to prevent the significant T3 to T4 increase in depersonalization seen in the control group. Strain also decreased from T2 to T3 in the ACT group only, but no mediator of that improvement was identified.

Implications for theory and practice in the fields of ACT and emotional burnout are discussed.

Benefits of vocational education and training in Europe for people, organisation

A cedefop publication in the information series number 4121


This publication summarises Cedefop’s work on benefits of vocational education and training (VET) contrasting, whenever possible, VET outcomes with those from general education.

The research spans how education and training generate their perceived benefits and looks at a wide range of outcomes some related to labour market success (employability and wages) others affecting quality of life and well-being (health, quality of participation in public life and satisfaction with life and leisure).

The analysis is extended to investigate VET’s impact in organisations. It observes that organisations are communities with their own cultures. Consequently, VET’s benefits in developing skills and influencing positively well-being and behaviour in the workplace can interact, directly and indirectly, to improve productivity, notable through greater cooperation. However, certain circumstances need to be in place to create this effect and maximise VET’s benefits.

Interaction between VET’s different benefits should also change the way investment in it is understood, if VET is to be a strategic tool for excellence and competitive advantage.

Full text (PDF 72pp)

The paradox of Scotland: limited credit transfer in a credit-based lifelong learning system

an article by Cathy Howieson and David Raffe (University of Edinburgh, UK) published in Oxford Review of Education Volume 39 Issue 3 (June 2013)


On paper, Scotland has a highly permeable, unified system of lifelong learning underpinned by the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework. Recent reports suggest that the reality is less positive.

This paper examines credit transfer in Scotland across three interfaces:
  • between general and pre-vocational learning and vocational education and training (VET);
  • within VET; and 
  • between VET and university degrees.
It finds that credit transfer across the first two interfaces is limited; credit transfer at the third interface is more frequent but often problematic. One explanation is that the system is designed around credit accumulation rather than credit transfer; this, together with other features of the Scottish system, means that a degree of permeability is built in without the need for formal credit transfer.

But a second explanation highlights the epistemological, institutional and political barriers to a unified system. The paper illustrates the importance of distinguishing among different types of credit system and the limitations of credit and qualifications frameworks as agents of change in the face of the institutional logics of national education and training systems.

The capacity of cross-national credit systems to support mobility between national systems should not be exaggerated.

The Shadow Economy

a research paper by Friedrich Schneider (Johannes Kepler University of Linz, Austria) and Colin Williams (University of Sheffield) published by the Institute of Economic Affairs (June 2013)

  • Measurement of the shadow economy is notoriously difficult as it requires estimation of economic activity that is deliberately hidden from official transactions. Surveys typically understate the size of the shadow economy but econometric techniques can now be used to obtain a much better understanding of its size.
  • The shadow economy constitutes approximately 10 per cent of GDP in the UK; about 14 per cent in Nordic countries and about 20–30 per cent in many southern European countries.
  • The main drivers of the shadow economy are (in order): tax and social security burdens, tax morale, the quality of state institutions and labour market regulation. A reduction in the tax burden is therefore likely to lead to a reduction in the size of the shadow economy. Indeed, a virtuous circle can 
be created of lower tax rates, less shadow work, higher tax morale, a higher tax take and the opportunity for lower rates. Of course, a vicious circle in the other direction can also be created.
  • Given this relationship, the high level of non-wage costs (averaging 39 per cent of total labour costs) and the penalty on individuals who move from earning one third to two thirds of the median wage (averaging 58 per cent of the increase in earnings for a one-earner couple) in the European Union should be a matter of real concern. The latter figure
is 79 per cent in the UK and thus low-paid UK workers have a huge incentive to supplement their incomes in the shadow economy.
  • The number of participants in the shadow economy is very large. Although up-to-date figures are not available, at the end of the twentieth century up to 30 million people performed shadow work in the EU and up to 48 million in the OECD. Reliable detailed studies are not available for many countries. In Denmark, however, the latest studies suggest that about half the population purchases shadow work. In some
 sectors – such as construction – about half the workforce 
is working in the shadow economy, often in addition to formal employment. Only a very small proportion of shadow economy workers can be accounted for by illegal immigrants in most countries.
  • In western Europe, shadow work is relatively prevalent among the unemployed and the formally employed. Other non-employed (for example, the retired, homemakers
and students) do relatively less shadow work. This has implications for policy in terms of the importance of social security systems that reduce the opportunities for shadow work among the unemployed and the importance of tax systems that do not discourage the declaring of extra income.
  • Policies focused on deterrence are not likely to be especially successful when tackling the shadow economy. The shadow economy is pervasive and made up of a huge number of small and highly dispersed transactions. We should also be wary about trying to stamp out the shadow economy as we may stamp out the entrepreneurship and business formation that goes with it.
  • There are, however, huge potential benefits from allowing 
the self-employed and small businesses to formalise their arrangements. Businesses cannot flourish if they remain in the shadow economy. They might be reluctant to formalise, however, if it involves admitting to past indiscretions. Worthwhile policies include: reducing business compliance regulation; amnesties; providing limited tax shelters 
for small-scale informal activity such as the provision of interest-bearing loans to relatives and friends; and allowing businesses to formalise using simple ‘off the shelf’ models. Such policies have been successful in other countries – and to a limited extent in the UK – with high benefit-to-cost ratios.
  • Given that the shadow economy constitutes a high proportion of national income, and varies between less than 8 per cent of national income and over 30 per cent of national income in OECD countries, official national income statistics can often be misleading. Comparisons are made even more difficult because some countries adjust figures for the shadow economy (for example, Italy) and others do not.
  • In less developed countries, the informal sector constitutes typically between 25 and 40 per cent of national income and represents up to 70 per cent of non-agricultural employment. In such countries, informal activity often arises because of the inadequacies of legal systems when it comes to formalising business registration.
Full text (PDF 96pp (A5)

Two thirds of children in poverty living in working families

A press release from the Child Poverty Action Group says:

The newly-released annual statistics for 2011/12 showed no change to relative poverty, but 300,000 more children in absolute poverty. The relative poverty statistics also showed that two-thirds of the children below the relative poverty line are now from families in work. Read more on the statistics

See also Alison Garnham’s blog: We are leaving our children utterly exposed

Work capability: the missing link

via Disability Now by Andy Rickell

Whether or not someone is capable of work is not simply a matter for assessment argues Andy Rickell. The government needs to recognise and address the barriers to employment many disabled people face and provide the right support.

In a number of meetings with Ministers over the years, I have made the rather odd statement that the problem for disabled people has been that government has traditionally regarded us as “owned” by the Department for Health, and we need instead to at least be “owned” by the Department for Work and Pensions, if not ideally by the whole of government.

It was a shorthand way of saying that disabled people have been wrongly seen as an unproductive liability burdening the public purse (medical model thinking). But instead, we should be regarded as a productive asset worthy of public investment, like non-disabled people (social model thinking). In a sense, government thinking had been in spite of the evidence, because the government’s own statistics show that all but nine per cent of disabled people of working age have worked at some point, but only 46 per cent of us are currently in work – we are indeed an under-used asset rather than a liability.

Continue reading

Monday, 24 June 2013

When do adults learn? A cohort analysis of adult education in Europe

CEPS Working Document No 383 (May 2013) by Miroslav Beblavý, Anna-Elisabeth Thum and Galina Potjagailo (Christian-Albrechts-Universitaet zu Kiel)


Adult learning is seen as a key factor for enhancing employment, innovation and growth, and it should concern all age cohorts. The aim of this paper is to understand the points in the life cycle at which adult learning takes place and whether it leads to reaching a medium or high level of educational attainment.

To this end we perform a synthetic panel analysis of adult learning for cohorts aged 25 to 64 in 27 European countries using the European Labour Force Survey.

We find, as previous results suggest, that a rise in educational attainment as well as participation in education and training happens mostly at the age range of 25-29. However, investment across the life cycle by cohorts older than 25 still occurs: in most countries in our sample, participation in education and training as well as educational attainment increases observably across all cohorts. We also find that the decline with age slows down or is even reversed for older cohorts, for both participation in education and educational attainment.

Finally, we can identify a Nordic model in which adult learning is achieved through participation in education and training, a Central European model in which adult learning occurs in the form of increasing educational attainment and a liberal model in which both approaches to adult learning are observable.

Full text (PDF 30pp)

Burnout and impaired cognitive functioning: The role of executive control in the performance of cognitive tasks

an article by Stefan Diestel and Klaus-Helmut Schmidt (Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors at the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany) and Marlen Cosmar (Institute for Work and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance, Dresden, Germany) published in Work & Stress: An International Journal of Work, Health & Organisations Volume 27 Issue 2 (2013)


Burnout patients often report deficits in cognitive control, and there is a need to understand the processes involved.

Drawing on recent findings, we hypothesised that emotional exhaustion and task-related demands on executive control would interact in predicting performance in tasks requiring the updating and monitoring of working memory as well as the inhibition of prepotent (dominant or automatic) responses. In accordance with recent conceptualisations of burnout, we focused on emotional exhaustion as the core symptom of burnout.

The sample comprised 81 employees recruited from nursing homes for elderly care in Germany, who participated in a laboratory study involving cognitive tasks. Based on a median split, participants were divided into two groups: those with high burnout and those with low burnout.

In line with our hypotheses, the high exhaustion participants performed less well than those with low exhaustion only when tasks put high demands on their executive control. As predicted, high levels of emotional exhaustion were associated with more errors and longer reaction times when demands on executive control were high, whereas no performance differences were found when both tasks put low demands on executive control.

The implications for practice are discussed.

Labour market outcomes of vocational education in Europe: Evidence from the European Union labour force survey

cedefop research paper number 32

This report focuses on the outcomes of vocational education and, in particular, on the transition from education to work in the current employment situation for young adults in the European Union.

Using anonymised microdata from the EU labour force survey 2009 ad hoc module, this is one of the first studies to undertake a large cross-country comparison of the labour market outcomes of different education orientations and levels. The report underlines that vocational education graduates experience initially positive labour-market outcomes relative to graduates of medium-level general education.

Vocational graduates enjoy a faster transition to work, are more likely to have a permanent first job, and are less likely to find a first job with a qualification mismatch. Additional country level analysis is complemented by an investigation of national institutional features as a possible explanation for cross-country differences in VET labour market outcomes.

Full text (PDF 84pp)

Homelessness and identity: a critical review of the literature and theory

an article by Lindsey McCarthy (Sheffield Hallam University, UK) published in People, Place and Policy Volume 7 Number 1


Within the news media and literature, alike, people experiencing homelessness are often categorised into various stereotypes revolving around their lack of abode. In such a practice a ‘homeless identity’ becomes the defining feature of a person’s character. Very few theoretical studies have critically addressed this discursive construction and its implications.

This paper contributes to the few existing debates around the 'homeless identity' by arguing that such constructions are binding and misguided. The paper takes insight from the many and varied theories of ‘identity’ – how different approaches have theorised it and what might be borrowed from them to (re)conceptualise the ‘homeless identity’.

After outlining several approaches to identity, the paper asks how someone experiencing homelessness might resist or challenge prescriptive identities and how the literature and research around homelessness might progress.

It concludes that an intersectional approach will enrich a literature which tends to focus on a singular 'homeless identity'. Such an approach will address the intersection of lines of difference and recognise that the identity of any individual is multiple and fluid.

Full text (PDF 13pp)

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Inter-Life project: researching the potential of art, design and virtual worlds as a vehicle for assisting young people with key life changes and transitions

an article by Victor Lally (University of Glasgow, UK) and Madeleine Sclater (Glasgow School of Art, UK) published in British Journal of Guidance & Counselling Volume 41 Issue 3 (2013)


Careers work in the twenty-first century faces a key challenge in terms of digital technologies: to evaluate their potential for careers work in challenging settings.

Given the rapidity of developments, technologies require evaluation in research innovations and naturalistic settings. Virtual worlds offer potential for careers and guidance work, and the therapeutic domain. To illustrate this, we present examples in which young people explore their feelings and ideas, plans and difficulties, while preparing for film-making. During this they develop important life transition skills.

We argue that the power of virtual worlds – to support emotional and cognitive engagement – could be utilised in practice settings.

We conclude that they are serious candidates as digital tools in the careers and guidance domain.

Full text (PDF 22pp)

Understanding the place based social value created by new-start social enterprises: evidence from ten rural UK communities

an article by Chris Dayson (Sheffield Hallam University) published in People, Place & Policy Online Volume 7 Issue 1 (2013)


Social enterprise, characterised by organisations enacting a hybrid mix of non-profit and for-profit characteristics, is increasingly regarded as an important component in the regeneration of areas affected by social and economic deprivation. In parallel there has been growing academic, practitioner and policy interest in “social value” and “social impact” within the broader “social economy”.

This paper engages with these debates through analysis of resident perceptions of the social value created by National Lottery funded new-start social enterprise projects in ten rural UK communities.

In particular it considers what can be learnt about the relationship between different approaches to social enterprise activity in rural contexts and the social value created for local people and communities.

Full text (PDF 16pp)

The role of education in economic growth: theory, history and current returns

an article by Theodore R. Breton (Universidad EAFIT, Medellin, Colombia) published in Educational Research Volume 55 Issue 2 (June 2013)


This paper was prepared to address the issue of whether current levels of public expenditures on education are cost-effective in countries with widely differing average levels of education.

The paper examines the role of education in economic growth from a theoretical and historical perspective, addresses why education has been the limiting factor determining growth, discusses why certain countries have provided education to the masses and others have not, provides estimates of the quantitative importance of the direct and the indirect effects of education on the economy, calculates the marginal national return on investment for 60 countries, and examines the implications of these results for government policy.

The paper presents the results from other studies and estimates the marginal product of human capital and of physical capital and the relative importance of post-secondary education in 2005 using cross-country estimates of national income and the stocks of human capital and physical capital. The estimates of the stocks of human capital were developed from historic rates of public and private investment in schooling, the cost of capital during schooling, and students’ foregone earnings.

The paper presents evidence that education has direct and indirect effects on national output. Educated workers raise national income directly because schooling raises their marginal productivity. They raise national income indirectly by increasing the marginal productivity of physical capital and of other workers. In highly educated countries the spillover effect on other workers is minimal, but in less-educated countries the spillover effect appears to be much larger. In all countries, the positive effect of rising human capital on the productivity of physical capital is required to offset the diminishing returns to investment in physical capital and make rising investment in physical capital financially viable in the growth process. The empirical results indicate that investment in schooling is subject to diminishing returns but that the marginal return at the national level is still considerable in highly educated countries, over 10% in 2005. In the least educated countries, the marginal return is much larger, in excess of 50%, but since most of this effect is indirect, its magnitude is not generally appreciated. Achievement of these returns requires public investment in education because the direct return to the educated individual is insufficient to overcome the high cost of private financing. The results also indicate that investment in post-secondary education does not provide any additional effect on national income beyond the effect of investment in education generally. The implication is that governments may allocate their limited funds to primary and secondary schooling of the poor without suffering a loss in GDP growth.

These very high macro-marginal returns to education make it possible for poor countries to grow very rapidly if they make a major public commitment to raising the average level of schooling of the masses.

Workplace bullying and psychological health at work: The mediating role of satisfaction of needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness

an article by Sarah-Geneviève Trépanier (Université du Québec à Montréal, Quebec, Canada) and Claude Fernet and Stéphanie Austin (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Canada) published in Work & Stress: An International Journal of Work, Health & Organisations Volume 27 Issue 2 (2013)


The aim of this study was to investigate how exposure to workplace bullying undermines psychological health at work.

Drawing on self-determination theory, this study proposes and tests a model in which the experience of workplace bullying predicts poor psychological health at work (higher burnout and lower work engagement) through lack of satisfaction of basic psychological needs (autonomy, competence and relatedness).

The results of this study, conducted among 1,179 nurses in Quebec, Canada, provide support for the model.

Workplace bullying negatively predicted work engagement through employees’ unsatisfied needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness.

Workplace bullying also positively predicted burnout, via lack of satisfaction of employees’ need for autonomy. Invariance analysis also confirmed the robustness of the model across gender and job status. Implications for workplace bullying research and managerial practices are discussed.

What are we to do with our ‘nice students’? The learning experience within the scholastic apartheid system of the research-led university

an article by Mike Marinetto (Cardiff University, UK) published in Organization Volume 20 Number 4 (July 2013)


The Humboldtian educational ideal of the modern university based around an intellectual-based learning experience cannot be ignored. Indeed, this has been brought into sharp relief by the marketisation of higher education: there is a growing awareness in the university sector, particularly in research-intensive universities, that fee-paying students are entitled to a worthwhile learning experience.

This awareness has been further reinforced with the growth of consumer scrutiny in the higher education sector, principally through the introduction of the National Student Survey in 2005.

The concern of this article is to explore how research-focused institutions have used their supposed research excellence to pursue teaching excellence and whether this really has enhanced the student learning experience in practice.

The Three Paradoxes Of Generation Y

via the Future of Work by Linda Gratton

Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a considerable amount of attention focused on Generation Y from both the media and business world. The May 20 issue of Time Magazine led with a cover story labelling them the ‘Me, Me, Me’ generation: narcissistic, fame-obsessed, and self interested; Meanwhile PwC reported findings from a comprehensive Next Gen [PDF 16pp] study of its Gen Y employees – a cohort that will make up around 80% of its workforce within the next three years.

This recent focus on Gen Y reflects a building sense of nervousness around how this generation, the biggest since the Baby Boomers, will reshape work. It’s a nervousness I’ve felt from the HR leaders in my executive programme at LBS who often despair that this generation just aren’t accepting ‘the way things are done around here,' and are instead challenging long-standing processes and practices.

But is this anxiety justified? Are Gen Y really so different from their predecessors? And, if they are, do organisations need to change to accommodate them?

Continue reading

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Payday loan stories from our clients

an item from the Citizens Advice blog by Claire Bradnam, Case Study Officer

It would be impossible to miss the media coverage our report on payday lenders [I failed to find the report, sorry] generated in the last few weeks. High interest loans are hitting people hard.

There was a fantastic response to the survey which formed the backbone to our report, bringing together evidence from across the whole country.

Yet when facing headline figures individual stories can often be lost. The power of our clients’ stories is what make Citizens Advice stand out as a credible and powerful spokesperson.

Continue reading

The End of Majority Home-ownership: The logic of continuing decline in a post-crash economy

an article by Nigel Sprigings (University of Glasgow, UK) published in People, Place & Policy Online Volume 7 Number 1 (2013)


There is a long tradition in the UK of using area based initiatives (ABIs) to attack problems of urban deprivation.

In 1998 the government launched an especially ambitious ABI: New Deal for Communities.

In 39 areas local Partnerships are driving forward ten-year programmes to narrow the gaps between these neighbourhoods and the rest of the country in relation to crime, education, jobs and so on.

Change data indicates that there has been continuing progress in NDC areas. But change has been more evident in relation to place based indicators, such as fear of crime, rather than people based outcomes such as fewer jobs, better health and do on.

The Programme confirms that regenerating deprived areas is a complex process not least because of continuing demographic 'churn' in these neighbourhoods.

Full text (PDF 15pp)

Work organisation and innovation

Involving employees at the workplace pays off in higher levels of work performance

Research shows that employee involvement can support employers’ objectives to raise levels of work performance and can also enhance the quality of employees’ lives at work.

However, new data from the fifth European Working Conditions Survey shows only about a quarter of employees in Europe (27%) are working in high involvement organisations, casting doubts over the ambitious Europe 2020 strategy aimed at attaining ‘smart’ growth through the development of higher-quality jobs in higher value-added industries and ‘inclusive’ growth in which all citizens have access to high-quality employment opportunities. In the EU27 overall, most of the workforce is in organisations that provide very limited opportunities for employees to participate in decision-making, either in their immediate job or in relation to wider organisational issues affecting their work.

At present, relatively little is known about the prevalence of employee involvement across the EU and the factors that encourage it. The extent to which employee involvement leads to mutual benefits for the employee and employer is also controversial. The report Work organisation and employee involvement in Europe [PDF 83pp] draws on data from Eurofound’s fifth European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) of 2010 to investigate these issues and to strengthen the evidence available. It finds:
  • While 38% of employees were in low involvement organisations in 2010, just 27% were working in high involvement organisations, with 35% in organisations that offer intermediate levels of involvement. The broad pattern was very similar for both men and women.
  • The Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland and Sweden) had the highest levels of involvement, while the Southern countries (Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain) and the East-South countries (Bulgaria and Romania) had particularly low levels of involvement.
  • There was also a strong association between the level of employee involvement and the opportunities for informal and formal learning at work. Nearly 60% of employees in high involvement organisations had received training in the previous 12 months compared to just over 42% of those in low involvement organisations. Greater involvement was associated with stronger employee motivation in terms of commitment to the work task and to the wider organisation.
  • More opportunities for involvement in decision-making were associated with higher levels of psychological well-being and fewer physical symptoms of stress.
  • Those reporting that the organisation motivated them to give their best performance rose from 47% in low involvement to 76% in high involvement organisations.
Given the importance of a highly skilled workforce for economic growth, the need to develop systems of work organisation to foster employee motivation and well-being is likely to become increasingly important to the policy agenda. It has been argued that organisations with high levels of employee involvement will be particularly successful in this respect. Eurofound’s previous work on work organisation and innovation drew on empirical evidence from case studies in 13 Member States of the European Union to highlight the positive outcomes that can be achieved through innovations in work organisation.

The report Work organisation and innovation [PDF 86pp] makes the following recommendations:
  • Continue to increase understanding of the nature and impact of HPWPs among policymakers at national and European levels
  • Raise awareness of the role and potential of workplace innovation via EU-level, cross-sectoral and sectoral social dialogue committees, as well as business associations
  • Incorporate measures and benchmarks for the diffusion of HPWPs through the European Employment Strategy to monitor progress on the adoption of practices across EU Member States
  • Enhance support for innovations through building funding eligibility into existing policy programmes and funding aimed at SMEs
  • Take action to support and promote a network of organisations to exchange good practice and undertake cross-country research in the EU
  • Improve consistency of measures designed to enhance working conditions and labour standards across sectors
  • Develop synergies between European policies on working conditions and public health policies on individual wellbeing outside the workplace
  • Incorporate knowledge of innovative HR practices in qualifications which have pan-European accreditation, e.g. undergraduate management degrees and MBAs.

The impact of career websites: what's the evidence?

an article by Cathy Howieson and Sheila Semple (University of Edinburgh, UK) published in British Journal of Guidance & Counselling Volume 41 Issue 3 (June 2013)


Careers provision for young people in the UK is being re-formulated on the basis of a central role for career websites but this policy is based on unproven assumptions about their value.

In this article we consider the use and impact of the two main career websites in Scotland on pupils’ career management skills.

We found that pupils at risk of not achieving positive post-school destinations were less likely to use the websites, as were minority ethnic pupils. Although similar in functions, the two websites differed in their effect: one had no impact while the other impacted on only one aspect of pupils’ career management skills.

Careers policy needs to be informed by more extensive research on career websites.

Evidence-based policy: What sort of evidence do governments need?

an article by Ann Nevile (Australian National University, Australia) published in The Economic and Labour Relations Review Volume 24 Number 2 (June 2013)


Very few would dispute the proposition that evidence about the effects of different policy options should inform policy decisions.

However, there is less agreement on the nature of the evidence needed.

In addition, there may be problems in evaluating that evidence.

This is particularly the case when experts offer conflicting advice.

This article presents the position held by Professor Nevile that in giving policy advice to the government, it is almost always desirable to draw on a range of different policy instruments. While theoretical input is usually important, it is even more important that theory does not lose contact with the real world. Factual descriptions of the real world and the use of a theoretical toolkit containing more than one theory are essential in achieving this goal.

These principles are illustrated by a discussion of a particular category of policy advice – the evaluation of government programmes.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Modernisation, marketisation and housing reform: The use of evidence based policy as a rationality discourse

an article by Keith Jacobs and Tony Manzi (University of Tasmania, Australia) published in People, Place and Policy Volume 6 Number 3 (2013)


Evidence based policy (EBP) has served as a persuasive rationale for government intervention; providing a framework for evaluation through techniques of comprehensive and systematic review, closely associated in the UK with the welfare reforms undertaken by the Blair and Brown led Labour governments.

In this article, we show how EBP serves as a convenient device for governments to present policy-making to a wider public, gaining legitimacy through an appeal to technical rationality and thereby shielding from scrutiny the underlying ideologies and politics that constitute housing practice. Following a brief discussion of the emergence of an ‘instrumental’ turn in housing policy, we consider the deployment of evidence based rationalities using the examples of public housing stock transfer, the housing market renewal programme and the 2011 Localism Act as evidence to support our arguments.

Our key claim is that whilst housing policy makers continue to promote EBP to justify decision making, the choices they pursue are best explained by factors largely unrelated to ‘evidence’; for example the relative power and influence of interest groupings both within government and beyond. We conclude with the suggestion that housing policy research requires a significant reorientation if it is to provide insights into aspects of policy making that remain under-examined.

Full text (PDF 13pp)

Latest news from LSIS

The Learning and Skills Employment Service will cease to exist on 31 July 2013.

Those people who have used the service of this body will know about the closure and those you have not probably don’t care so why am I “wasting” a blog post on this even.

Well, I was struck by one thing, and one thing only.

Rob Wye’s signature has not improved since I worked with him in the Training Access Point Unit in Sheffield more than 20 years ago. I assume, therefore, that the handwriting is as bad as it ever was (and as unreadable).

Does Affirmative Action Work? Evidence from the Operation of Fair Employment Legislation in Northern Ireland

an article by Raya Muttarak (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria), Heather Hamill and Anthony Heath (University of Oxford, UK) and Christopher McCrudden (Queen’s University Belfast, UK) published in Sociology Volume 47 Number 3 (June 2013)


An affirmative action programme, established by the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989, has been an important attempt to ensure ‘fair participation’ in employment for both Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland since 1990.

The programme includes detailed monitoring of the community background of employees and requires employers to undertake remedial action where fair participation is not evident. Agreements were concluded between the regulatory agency and many employers specifying what affirmative action measures were required. Based on the annual monitoring returns submitted between 1990 and 2005, this article evaluates the effectiveness of the affirmative action programme in promoting fair employment participation using fixed effects models.

The analysis shows that there has been a general shift towards workforce integration in Northern Ireland but the increase of under-represented groups in agreement concerns is greater than in concerns with no agreement. The success of agreements, however, is limited to certain industrial sectors and medium-sized enterprises.

Disability, Oppression and Violence: Towards a Sociological Explanation

an article by Andrea Hollomotz (University of Leeds, UK) published in Sociology Volume 47 Number 3 (June 2013)


Disabled people are exposed to a higher incidence of violence compared to the population average. Consequently, they are often described as ‘vulnerable’.

This article argues that this concept focuses explanations for violence on the person at risk. It therefore redirects attention towards the social forces that make violence more likely to occur.

With reference to case studies, a micro-analysis outlines how subtle forms of oppression, including imbalanced personal relationships, social exclusion, restricted autonomy and a higher tolerance for maltreatment within segregated settings, affect the daily experiences of disabled people. This is followed by a macro-analysis, which exposes further structural inequalities and a societal ratification of hostility towards disabled people.

These processes are described as forming a continuum, which highlights that boundaries between mundane experiences and contact violence are at times blurred and shifting.

Competencies for the Contemporary Career: Development and Preliminary Validation of the Career Competencies Questionnaire

an article by Jos Akkermans, Veerle Brenninkmeijer and Marthe Huibers (Utrecht University, The Netherlands) and Roland W. B. Blonk (Utrecht University, The Netherlands and TNO, Hoofddorp, The Netherlands) published in Journal of Career Development Volume 40 Number 3 (June 2013)


A new and promising area of research has recently emerged in the field of career development: career competencies.

The present article provides a framework of career competencies that integrates several perspectives from the literature. The framework distinguishes between reflective, communicative, and behavioral career competencies.

Six career competencies are discerned:
  • reflection on motivation,
  • reflection on qualities,
  • networking,
  • self-profiling,
  • work exploration, and
  • career control.
Based on this framework, we developed the Career Competencies Questionnaire (CCQ) and preliminarily validated it in two samples of young employees between 16 and 30 years of age. The results provided initial support for the content, factorial, discriminant, and incremental validity of the CCQ.

We hope to stimulate further discussion, research, and development of interventions in the area of career development. Implications for theory and practice are also discussed.

The well-being outcomes of career guidance

an article by Peter J. Robertson (Edinburgh Napier University, UK) published in British Journal of Guidance & Counselling Volume 41 Issue 3 (June 2013)


The potential for career guidance to impact on well-being has received insufficient attention in the UK. There are both conceptual and empirical reasons to expect that the impacts may be positive, but a lack of evidence directly testing this proposition.

Career guidance has commonalities with therapeutic counselling suggesting analogous effects, and it promotes positive engagement in work and learning, which may be associated with health benefits. There are implications for services in reconciling health and employment objectives.

However, the promotion of well-being need not imply quasi-clinical ways of working. A call is made for more research and debate in the career guidance community as to the extent and implications of the potentially important relationship between career guidance and well-being.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Participation In Higher Education: Aspirations, Attainment And Social Background

an article by Paul Croll (University of Reading, UK) and Gaynor Attwood (University of the West of England, Bristol, UK) published in British Journal of Educational Studies Volume 61 Issue 2 (June 2013)


The recent report of the Milburn Review into Social Mobility* highlights the under-representation of young people from lower socio-economic groups in higher education and encourages universities and others to act to remedy this situation as a contribution to greater social mobility.

The paper uses data from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England to examine the relationship between social background, attainment and university participation. The results show that differences in school-level attainment associated with social background are by far the most important explanation for social background differences in university attendance.

However, there remains a small proportion of the participation gap that is not accounted for by attainment. It is also the case that early intentions for higher education participation are highly predictive of actual participation.

The results suggest that although there may be some scope for universities to act to improve participation by people from less advantaged backgrounds, a much more important focus of action is on improving the school-level achievement of these students.

University Challenge: How Higher Education Can Advance Social Mobility (October 2012)

Urban Youth, Worklessness and Sport: A Comparison of Sports-based Employability Programmes in Rotterdam and Stoke-on-Trent

an article by Ramón Spaaij (La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia), Jonathan Magee (University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK) and Ruth Jeanes (Monash University, Peninsula Campus, Melbourne, Australia) published in Urban Studies Volume 50 Number 8 (June 2013)


The potential value of sport as a vehicle through which urban regeneration and social renewal policy can be delivered has been extensively examined. However, there are an increasing number of initiatives aiming to use sports-based programmes as a way to address worklessness and social exclusion amongst young people which have received less attention.

This paper provides a critical comparative analysis of two such programmes, one based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and the other in Stoke-on-Trent in the UK.

Using qualitative data collected from participants, staff and other stakeholders, the paper details the nature and perceived merits of the programmes before considering the limitations and constraints of employability initiatives using sport.

The paper concludes by suggesting that a fundamental shift in policy discourse is required for such programmes to be able to achieve sustainable positive outcomes for workless young people with complex problems and needs.

Researching poverty: Methods, results and impact

an article by Peter Saunders (The University of New South Wales, Australia) published in The Economic and Labour Relations Review Volume 24 Number 2 (June 2013)


This article draws on evidence generated in recent deprivation studies conducted by the author and colleagues at the Social Policy Research Centre.

After outlining some of the main limitations of poverty line studies, the paper explains how the deprivation approach addresses these weaknesses and illustrates the insights that deprivation studies can provide into the nature of poverty in contemporary Australia.

It then compares the results produced by a deprivation approach with those produced using a poverty line – both in terms of what they imply about the extent of the problem and who they suggest is most affected by it. The comparisons demonstrate that the reservations that many hold about poverty research can be overcome and that when this is done, the results become more compelling and thus have the potential to have a greater impact on anti-poverty policy.

Background, Personal, and Environmental Influences on the Career Planning of Adolescent Girls

an article by Alexandra Novakovic (DePaul University, Chicago, USA) and Nadya A. Fouad (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Milwaukee, USA) published in Journal of Career Development Volume 40 Number 3 (June 2013)


This study investigated the influence of background variables (age, race/ethnicity, mother’s work status outside of the home, and socioeconomic status), personal variables (anticipatory role conflict and academic self-efficacy), and environmental variables (parental attachment and parental support) on aspects of adolescent girls’ career planning.

Four hierarchical regression analyses were performed with a sample of 217 adolescent females in an urban high school. The dependent variables representing aspects of future career planning were
  1. plans for the integration of work and family;
  2. gender-traditionality of career choice;
  3. career commitment; and
  4. aspired education level.
Personal variables made the greatest contribution to adolescent girls’ plans for the integration of work and family and career commitment.

Background variables contributed most to gender-traditionality of career choice and aspired education level. Environmental variables did not make significant contributions to any of the dependent variables.

Results and implications for counsellors and educators are discussed.

4 Job Hunting Tips From The Grandfather Of Career Advice

This story appears in the 24 June 2013 issue of Forbes

When Dick Bolles first published What Color Is Your Parachute? in 1970, he had no idea the outsize impact his career guide would have. “I never dreamed the job hunting problem was so widely faced. The book would have sold ten copies if you got the help you needed at school.”

Instead, the job-seekers’ bible has gone through 42 annual editions, sold 10 million copies in 20 different languages and, in 1994, was named one of the 25 books that “have shaped readers’ lives” by the Library of Congress.

Bolles himself remains firmly on the job at 86, spending roughly four hours a day doing research and answering each and every one of the 6,000 e-mails and letters he receives each year. He regularly dispenses four pieces of advice.

Continue reading

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Career guidance in England today: reform, accidental injury or attempted murder?

an article by Ken Roberts University of Liverpool, UK published in British Journal of Guidance & Counselling Volume 41 Issue 3 (June 2013)


In 2011 England's career guidance profession lost its ‘own’ public service organisation and its former dedicated stream of public funding.

The immediate causes lay in decisions by the government of the day, but this article revisits the profession's history to seek explanations for its later vulnerability.

It is argued that decisions taken early in the profession's history, specifically its complete separation from adult employment services and basing claims to professional expertise almost wholly on occupational psychology, though maybe right at the time, were to have fateful consequences.

The article proceeds to argue that career guidance will certainly survive its recent trauma, but the most likely outcome of the current ‘reforms’ – a market in career guidance services – will not create the kind of comprehensive education-to-work bridging service that was once intended and which is still needed.

Full text (PDF 15pp)

EFA's Peter Lauener: the impact of new funding for 16-19 year olds

FE News chats with Peter Lauener, chief executive of the Education Funding Agency (EFA), about changes to 16-19 year old funding programmes.

Peter explains that, following on from the Wolf review, the funding of 16-19 year olds is changing from a focus on qualifications to students. This is now being rolled out by the EFA, and the allocations have also been issued for the coming academic year (2013/14) to schools, colleges and providers.

Click on the video below to hear what Peter has to say:

Addressing Educational Disadvantage in Deprived Communities: Evidence from the New Deal for Communities Programme in England

an article by Elaine Batty (Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University, UK) published in Urban Studies Volume 50 Number 8 (June 2013)


The New Deal for Communities (NDC) Programme is one of the most intensive area-based initiatives (ABIs) launched in England.

Between 1998 and 2010, 39 NDC Partnerships were charged with improving conditions in relation to six outcomes within deprived neighbourhoods, each accommodating around 9800 people. This paper outlines the approaches taken by NDCs to improve educational outcomes. Change is explored within three themes: change within NDC areas; change relative to other benchmarks; and modelling change.

Education saw the least change of all six outcomes adopted by the NDC Programme. Unique to this outcome, spending more on education was associated with less change. Spend may have been better directed at supporting younger children and their parents combined with targeted out of school programmes of support for specific NDC cohorts.

Time for Libraries to Take a Fresh Look at Wikipedia

an article in the Idaho Librarian by Alex Kyrios


Baga, Hoover, and Wolverton recently assembled a “webliography” of free online resources for catalogers (Baga, Hoover, & Wolverton, 2013). The webliography is itself a very helpful resource, especially for institutions short on personnel, money, or both. But the authors neglected to mention a prominent source for cataloging tasks such as classification and authority control, as well as help for other library professionals, from reference librarians to resource selectors. Like those listed by Braga et al., this source is free online.

That resource is Wikipedia.

Wikipedia has been a fixture of the internet for years now. The site was formally launched on January 15, 2001. It came to prominence some years later and is, as of April 19, 2013, the sixth most popular website on the internet according to (While Wikipedia is a multilingual project, with 286 languages represented as of April 19, 2013, this study will only examine the English Wikipedia, the largest and oldest version.) Perhaps the best known aspect of Wikipedia is its openness. Generally speaking, anyone may contribute to its encyclopedic articles by adding or removing anything. This fact colors most people’s judgments of the site. If you believe in the virtues of “crowdsourcing,” you’re likely to see Wikipedia as one of humanity’s most impressive knowledge-organizing ventures. But if you’re skeptical of crowd wisdom, you’re more likely to see the project as an impressive sandcastle on a beach, just waiting for a malicious child or the tides to destroy it. It would be wrong to discount the dangers Wikipedia’s open model represents. In most cases, there’s nothing stopping a person from adding false information (or deleting legitimate information) from an article, so taking anything on Wikipedia at face value is ill-advised. But it would equally be wrong to discount the legitimacy and utility of Wikipedia on such grounds.

It’s no wonder librarians can be skeptical of Wikipedia. At first glance, its mission seems incompatible with ours. Even as librarians make active efforts to engage users, such as through demand-driven acquisitions, the library remains a largely top-down model. Bibliographic experts select the best resources to make available to their users. No one would assert that every library resource is of unimpeachable reliability, but ideally, at least, every library book has an invisible seal of approval, an indication that the book is useful and good in some sense. (This can range from obvious quality educational materials, such as Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, to popular leisure reading like the latest John Grisham novel, to primary source documents whose educational value is quite removed from its actual message, such as Mein Kampf.) But Wikipedia appears to have no such filters. In a system without the sort of filters that have served libraries so well, the reliability of information seems compromised. One popular writer has dismissed Wikipedia by summing up its philosophy as “Experts are scum” (Sjöberg, 2006). But this reflects a fundamental understanding of how Wikipedia works, even if it is one that many librarians may share. Used properly, Wikipedia can be a powerful tool for librarians of all types. And a librarian who knows how to make the most of Wikipedia can be a great resource for users of any library.

Continue reading

How fair is access to more prestigious UK universities?

an article by Vikki Boliver (School of Applied Social Sciences, Durham University, UK) published in The British Journal of Sociology Volume 64 Issue 2 (June 2013)


Now that most UK universities have increased their tuition fees to £9,000 a year and are implementing new Access Agreements as required by the Office for Fair Access, it has never been more important to examine the extent of fair access to UK higher education and to more prestigious UK universities in particular.

This paper uses Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) data for the period 1996 to 2006 to explore the extent of fair access to prestigious Russell Group universities, where ‘fair’ is taken to mean equal rates of making applications to and receiving offers of admission from these universities on the part of those who are equally qualified to enter them.

The empirical findings show that access to Russell Group universities is far from fair in this sense and that little changed following the introduction of tuition fees in 1998 and their initial increase to £3,000 a year in 2006. Throughout this period, UCAS applicants from lower class backgrounds and from state schools remained much less likely to apply to Russell Group universities than their comparably qualified counterparts from higher class backgrounds and private schools, while Russell Group applicants from state schools and from Black and Asian ethnic backgrounds remained much less likely to receive offers of admission from Russell Group universities in comparison with their equivalently qualified peers from private schools and the White ethnic group.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Telling Tales at Work: An Evolutionary Explanation

an article by Chulguen (Charlie) Yang (Southern Connecticut State University, USA) published in Business Communication Quarterly Volume 76 Number 2 (June 2013)


This article explores the adaptive functions of storytelling in the workplace from an evolutionary perspective.

Based on the analysis of ethnographic studies on hunter-gatherer and modern work organisations, this article claims that storytelling, as an adapted cognitive device, was selectively retained by natural and sexual selection, because of its survival and reproductive payoff.

The narrative production through storytelling is a natural coping mechanism and has been functional in both old and new ways of working life under different ecological conditions. This article also highlights underlying adapted psychological mechanisms of storytelling and discusses some evolutionarily informed practical implications and pedagogical applications.

Masculinised jobs, feminised jobs and men’s ‘gender capital’ experiences: Understanding occupational segregation in Australia

an article by Kate Huppatz (University of Western Sydney, Australia) and Susan Goodwin (University of Sydney, Australia) published in Journal of Sociology Volume 49 Number 2-3 (June-September 2013)


Australia features a highly segregated workforce where certain occupational spaces appear to privilege particular gendered dispositions. While research on gender and work highlights the association between occupational segregation and gender inequality, conventional explanations of why men and women continue to be concentrated in different occupations, and in different roles within occupations, can be considered problematic.

This article argues that we may be able to achieve a deeper understanding of gendered occupational segregation than previous explanations have offered by appropriating Bourdieu’s concept, ‘capital’.

Drawing on qualitative research with Australian workers we explore men’s ‘gender capital experiences’ within masculinised and feminised occupations.

The article discusses how male, masculine and feminine embodiments can operate as capitals which may be accumulated and transacted, perpetuating horizontal gender segregation in the workforce but also vertical segregation within occupations.

In doing so, we expand the work of feminist Bourdieusian scholars who have reworked Bourdieu’s approach so that gender, as well as class, may be understood as a central form of stratification in the social order.

Female Labour Supply, Human Capital and Welfare Reform

COWLES FOUNDATION DISCUSSION PAPER NO. 1892 by Richard Blundell (University College London and Institute for Fiscal Studies), Monica Costa Dias (Institute for Fiscal Studies and CEF-UP at the University of Porto), Costas Meghir (Yale University, Institute for Fiscal Studies and NBER) and Jonathan Shaw (Institute for Fiscal Studies and University College London)


We consider the impact of Tax Credits and income support programmes on female education choice, employment, hours and human capital accumulation over the life-cycle. We thus analyse both the short run incentive e ffects and the longer run implications of such programmes.

By allowing for risk aversion and savings we are also able to quantify the insurance value of alternative programmes. We find important incentive e ffects on education choice, and labor supply, with single mothers having the most elastic labour supply. Returns to labour market experience are found to be substantial but only for full-time employment, and especially for women with more than basic formal education.

For those with lower education the welfare programmes are shown to have substantial insurance value. Based on the model marginal increases to tax credits are preferred to equally costly increases in income support and to tax cuts, except by those in the highest education group.

Full text (PDF 54pp)

The changing UK careers landscape: tidal waves, turbulence and transformation

an article by Deirdre Hughes (Warwick Institute for Employment Research, Coventry, UK) published in British Journal of Guidance & Counselling Volume 41 Issue 3 (2013)


This article explores how the UK careers landscape in each of the four home nations is changing in response to neo-liberal policies.

In this context, careers services are increasingly under pressure to demonstrate their added value, impact and returns on investment. As fiscal arrangements tighten and governments state their preferences and priorities for national careers services, differing strategic responses are beginning to emerge.

A quasi-market, experimental approach is now the dominant discourse in England, in contrast to differing and complementary arrangements in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The article suggests that insofar as these developments are transforming national careers services, they are also creating significant challenges which require new forms of policy imagery and imagination for high-impact, all-age careers services.

Full text (PDF 15pp)

Continuing Professional Development: Accountability, Autonomy, Efficiency and Equity in Five Professions

an article by Hywel Thomas and Tian Qiu (Centre for Research in Medical and Dental Education, University of Birmingham, UK) published in British Journal of Educational Studies Volume 61 Issue 2 (June 2013)


We examine the influence of neo-liberalism in re-shaping the accountability of five professional groups (accountants, solicitors, social workers, nurses and doctors) and its consequence for their CPD policies. Documentary analysis and Quarterly Labour Force Survey data (n=31,260) from the 1990s to the present are integrated in a comparative method which examines whether changes are specific to a profession or represent more general patterns.

Using complementary theories from neo-liberal economics and the sociology of professionalism, we show how regulatory oversight has altered accountabilities. Its consequences for the autonomy of professions and individuals in determining CPD requirements differ amongst the five groups, mediated by status, public concern, regulator activism and, possibly, alignment with the financial sector.

Efficiency and equity are analysed using theories of professional learning and human capital.

Wider economic conditions influence the incidence of CPD with recent years showing declining participation; we also show changes in ‘what counts’ as CPD and its greater integration with performance management. Findings on selected equity criteria are also reported.

Some regulators are becoming more specific about the content of CPD, while others are defining what constitutes good practice and requiring its use in planning CPD. Greater attention is being given to issues of ethics and probity.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

New benefit “better reflects today’s understanding of disability” says McVey

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) extends across the country from today [10 June 2013] and will better reflect today’s understanding of disability.

Continue reading

Hazel’s comment:
It certainly doesn’t reflect my understanding of disability.

The moral economy of contemporary working-class adolescence: managing symbolic capital in a French public ‘Adolescent Centre’

an article by Isabelle Coutant (Iris, CNRS) and Jean-Sébastien Eideliman (CeRIES, Lille 3 University) published in The British Journal of Sociology Volume 64 Issue 2 (June 2013)


Working-class adolescents of French urban peripheries are key figures in a new social debate that reactivates the nineteenth century spectre of ‘dangerous’ classes to be controlled. Since the 1990s, French social counselling has privileged two modalities of response: taking account of suffering and government by listening and speech.

We hypothesise that the contemporary moral economy allows for social interactions that go beyond social control and institutional domination. This is partly because professionals engaged in this moral undertaking may keep a critical distance, and partly because the concerned populations aren’t necessarily devoid of resources to advance their interests or incapable of resistance. The concept of moral economy, coupled with the ethnographic method, is heuristic for fully comprehending the complexity of these issues and their stakes.

Our fieldwork was centred on a French Adolescent Centre in an impoverished commune in Paris’s periphery, from January 2010 through March 2011. These institutions were established in the early 2000s to respond to adolescent ‘suffering’ by crossing social work and psychiatry. Adolescents, parents, and other institutions (especially schools) solicit the professionally diverse staff for assistance, which in turn may take on cases and/or make referrals to other support institutions.

By paying attention to all the scenes upon which the story of a counselled adolescent evolves, and bearing more general social evolutions in mind by applying the concept of moral economy, we can consider the multiplicity of seemingly contradictory processes as a whole.

We see the destabilisation of parents and their loss of symbolic capital, partly due to the norms of contemporary parenthood and partly due to the stigmatisation of working-class adolescence. But we also discern possibilities for expressing sentiments of injustice and humiliation, for increasing symbolic capital, and in some cases a reappropriation of the system, particularly in trajectories marked by a will for social ascension.

Negotiating Time and Space for Study: Student-parents and Familial Relationships

an article by Rachel Brooks (University of Surrey, UK) published in Sociology Volume 47 Number 3 (June 2013)


Historically, university cultures have been described as masculine in orientation, and the ‘ideal learner’ as male, white, middle-class and unencumbered by domestic responsibility.

Nevertheless, more recent work has highlighted certain spaces within the higher education sector which, it is argued, are more welcoming of female students and those with family commitments. While there may now be more institutional spaces open to student-parents and others with caring responsibilities, we know little about whether similar change has been wrought in the domestic sphere.

Drawing on interviews with 68 student-parents, this article explores the various strategies UK students with dependent children used to find time and space, within the home, to pursue their studies.

By comparing these to the strategies used by student-parents at Danish universities, the article considers the extent to which differences in gender norms and state policy with respect to both higher education and childcare affect day-to-day familial practices.

Public no more universities: subsidy to self-reliance

an article by Gary C. Fethke (University of Iowa, Iowa City, USA) and Andrew J. Policano, (University of California, Irvine, USA) published in Journal of Management Development Volume 32 Issue 5 (2013)


Tightened government budgets are forcing public universities to confront a new economic reality as the traditional low tuition-high subsidy model of public higher education becomes increasingly unsustainable. The shift toward reliance on tuition relative to taxpayer support reflects adjustments in consumer preferences, increased mobility, enhanced competition from non-traditional providers, and reallocated government budgets. The outcome is clear: taxpayer support for higher education is decreasing, and is decreasing sharply and permanently when measured on a per student basis. The purpose of this paper is to develop a framework for university leaders that can provide the foundation for the transformation that needs to take place as universities face a permanent decline in public support. The primary goal is to point out differences between private business enterprises and public universities and then to suggest that many of the characteristics that define private sector excellence are applicable, often with modest modifications, to higher education.

The paper discusses and contrasts methodologies from the business and academic environments and suggest a hybrid framework for universities that captures appropriate business principles and provides beneficial outcomes while supporting and promoting academic excellence. It examines public university business schools as an example that provides initiatives that can be applied in many other areas of the university.

It is argued that many traditional practices in public higher education are incompatible with a changing environment that features permanent reductions in taxpayer support and greater reliance on tuition revenue from students who face attractive alternatives. There is also a changing demographic profile of applicants, many of whom require expensive remedial programs. The main result of the analysis is that a hybrid model of business and academic practices can provide a meaningful path for public universities to sustain excellence in a period of declining subsidy.

Social implications
The framework developed in this paper includes the adoption of a distinctive, focused mission with a transparent budgetary system combined with the setting of differential tuition across areas based on willingness to pay and cost factors. Implementation of this framework can lead to an increase in social welfare by increasing efficiency, lowering costs, and effectively allocating resources across the university.

This paper’s intent is to reach out to administrators and leaders in public higher education with an appeal to recognise that the new funding environment requires new ways of thinking about developing and implementing strategy. There is much to gain by becoming externally focused and accountable to those who are willing to pay for teaching and research, and also to recognise that vast differences in costs requires more attention by asking the fundamental questions: What products and services define our excellence and what should we not provide?

Educational attainment across the UK nations: performance, inequality and evidence

an article by Stephen Machin (University College London, UK and London School of Economics, UK), Sandra McNally (London School of Economics, UK and University of Surrey, Guildford, UK) and Gill Wyness (London School of Economics, UK) published in Educational Research Volume 55 Issue 2 (2013)


Political devolution occurred in the UK in 1998–99, following many years in which some degree of policy administration had been devolved to the four nations. Since devolution, all four countries of the UK have pursued increasingly divergent education policies. This is true in England in particular, where diversity, choice and competition have become a key focus of education policy. This political divergence between the four nations gives us the opportunity to appraise differences and similarities in educational policies and outcomes in the four UK nations.

This article is a comparative review of the education reforms of the constituent countries of the UK, with particular focus on value for money. The main aims of the article are to:
  1. outline the key differences in the educational systems in terms of school type, choice and competition, educational resources and pedagogy;
  2. describe how the countries compare in terms of educational attainment during compulsory schooling years;
  3. examine inequalities in educational attainment, such as by gender and socio-economic status, and how the different countries compare on these measures; and
  4. examine existing evidence on the effectiveness and value for money of different education policies and programmes in the different countries.
Sources of evidence
We use a variety of sources of evidence to achieve these aims. We undertake a literature review of the existing evidence on the effectiveness and value for money of different programmes and policies that have taken place across the UK. We also collate and undertake an analysis of data on educational outcomes from published statistics sourced from the national statistics offices of each country. It is easier to be confident about comparisons based on international data sets because in this case all students will have taken exactly the same test, so we also compile and analyse survey data from international surveys of educational attainment such as PISA, PIRLS and TIMSS.

Main argument
We argue that while the systems of the four countries of the UK are becoming increasingly divergent, there are still many similarities. This is borne out in the evidence on educational outcomes, which show many similarities between the four countries. Because of these similarities, the positive impacts of many of the policies and programmes adopted in England may have relevance for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We find evidence that increasing school resources improves results, and also that more targeted spending benefits able pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. We also find positive results of several programmes. Evaluating the education policies of the four nations in terms of value for money – and therefore whether they have scope to be adopted – represents a bigger challenge. Whilst the value for money of certain policies – such as the literacy hour – can be reasonably well measured, for many other policies, value for money is hard to pin down accurately. However, this forms an important direction for future research.

New Careers Advice Site for Young People

via Skills Funding Agency Communication Update Issue 1 (June 2013)

Young people aged 13–18 can now get help with decisions about school, college, university, training and work in a new dedicated section on the National Careers Service website.

We’re offering this in addition to the help from advisers that young people can already access by telephone, email, text, webchat, chat room and textphone.

Young people’s section There are career guides for young people on topics such as finding a part-time job, improving interview skills and choosing a job they’ll enjoy.

Career guides
Advisers have also put together questions and answers on the topics most frequently requested by young people.

Frequently asked questions

We’ll be adding more content in the coming weeks and months, with plans for quizzes, case studies and videos to enhance the offer.

Monday, 10 June 2013

LMI for All

The UK Commission has released the first pilot version of LMI for All, an online data portal which brings together existing labour market information. It aims to support individuals and businesses to make better and more informed decisions about careers and learning options.

Continue reading

The Role of Faith-Based Organizations in Social Welfare Systems: A comparison of France, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom

Ipek Göçmen (Boğaziçi University, Social Policy Forum, Istanbul, Turkey) published in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly Volume 42 Number 3 (June 2013)


In recent decades, the changing roles of voluntary organizations in the European welfare states have been a focus of interest. In some countries a specific group of organizations put under the policy spotlight is faith-based organizations. This article undertakes a historical-institutionalist analysis of faith-based organizations in France, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The article explores the contemporary social welfare roles of faith-based organizations in these countries through studying the institutionalization of religion and the voluntary sector in the sphere of social welfare since the time of national revolutions. The comparative analysis shows that neither the extent of change in the position of faith-based organizations in social welfare, nor the main mechanisms triggering change, is the same for the different welfare states.

Self-directed career attitude and retirement intentions

an article by Ans De Vos (Antwerp Management School, Belgium) and Jesse Segers (University of Antwerp/Antwerp Management School, Belgium) published in Career Development International Volume 18 Issue 2 (2013)


Career self-directedness is a concept that has gained widespread attention in the literature on new careers and managerial thinking about contemporary career development. In a related sense, the topic of employee retirement has become popular in both the academic and managerial literature. However, to date, career self-directedness has not been studied in relationship with older workers' retirement intentions. The purpose of this study is to test a model of the relationship between career self-directedness and retirement intentions, mediated by career self-management behaviors and engagement.

A survey was completed by 271 employees older than 45 working in five organizations. The average age was 53, and 59 percent were female. Participants had been with their current employer for an average of 16 years, and 58 percent of them worked full-time. The survey included measures of self-directed career attitude, career self-management behaviors, engagement and retirement intention.

Results indicate that engagement and career self-management behaviors fully mediated the relationship between self-directed career attitude and retirement intention.

This is the first study to address career self-directedness in relationship with retirement intentions, thereby considering the mediating role of career self-management behaviors and engagement. As a result, this study contributes to insights in the validity of career self-directedness as a predictor of career development using a sample of employees different from the main body of studies using samples of employees in their early career stages. Moreover, it sheds further light on the retirement process by including an individual career attitude and intermediating variables viewed as important to understand contemporary organizational behavior.

Discourses of ambition, gender and part-time work

an article by Yvonne Benschop, Marieke van den Brink, Hans Doorewaard and Joke Leenders (Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands) published in Human Relations Volume 66 Number 5 (May 2013)


The aim of this article is to unravel the gendered practices in ambition and challenge the hegemonic masculinity within it.

Our findings are based on a qualitative study using focus groups in which Dutch men and women, full-timers and part-timers, constructed different meanings of ambition. The men and women in our study used three manifest discourses of ambition in the workplace, regarding individual development, mastery of the task, and upward career mobility.

A critical analysis of these three discourses indicates how cultural and organisational norms on gender and working hours affect these constructions of ambition. We argue that a fourth discourse, ‘ambition as a resource’, is a major driving force of inequality.

‘Ambition as a resource’ is the dominant hegemonic discourse in organisations, and its power effects mitigate the impact of other discourses on ambition, revealing the potential for change when different discourses of ambition are valued.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Acts of translation: UK advice agencies and the creation of matters-of-public-concern

an article by Morag Mcdermont (University of Bristol, UK) published in Critical Social Policy Volume 33 Number 2 (May 2013)


Voluntary sector advice agencies have performed an important function in providing free, accessible advice in the UK for many decades.

As legal aid is slashed, and ‘austerity’ leaves everyday life for many ever more precarious, their role has never been more essential. Advice agencies provide a dynamic and increasingly significant transition point where the rights, responsibilities and grievances of the individual are brought into dialogue with formal legal structures.

Drawing on ideas from the ‘sociology of translation’, this paper sets out to consider the multiple, complex roles these organisations play. They are involved not simply in the delivery of advice to individuals, but in a collective concern that translates personal grievances into matters-of-public-concern.

The paper concludes by considering the implications for an emerging research agenda that considers advice organisations as legal actors in a fragmenting world.