Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Examining the labor market presence of US WISEs

an article by Kate Cooney (Yale University School of Management, Connecticut, USA) published in Social Enterprise Journal Volume 9 Issue 2 (2013)


Work integration social enterprises (WISEs) create jobs through business ventures that function as locations for training and employment of disadvantaged workers. A key challenge for US WISEs is that the businesses that are easiest to launch and best suited to absorb large numbers of unskilled workers may be located in the same low wage labour market sectors out of which these interventions are designed to catapult workers. This paper aims to present data on an understudied aspect of WISEs: the labour market niches where they are active, the occupations associated with these labour market positions, and the work conditions offered through their WISE businesses.

Data presented in this paper are from a national WISE database developed by the author that includes 254 businesses associated with 123 WISEs, and a pilot study of 15 WISEs testing an instrument for use in a national survey of US WISEs. Each business associated with the WISEs in the national database was coded for industry, occupation and wage data using categories developed by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Each WISE business was further coded as preparing its workers for either low or middle skill jobs. These data were analysed using frequency counts, chi square tests of association and a two-step cluster analysis. To explore employment conditions inside WISE businesses, the pilot study data were analysed using a multiple case study analysis approach. Through focused coding techniques, descriptions of the employment conditions associated with the WISE jobs are reviewed.

Analysis at the level of occupation category reveals that about 72 percent of the jobs that WISEs train clients to perform exist in low skill occupations. Chi-square tests of association between NTEE code (a proxy for target population) and job skill level are not significant suggesting that low skill training is utilised by organisations serving clients facing a range of disadvantage. Cluster analyses indicate that for WISEs targeting disabled populations and for newer organisations targeting the general unemployed populations, low skill job training pervades but for education organisation and for older employment organisations, middle skill job training is more prevalent. The pilot data analyses show that the WISEs offer minimum wage or higher wage positions but many without guaranteed hours or a clear pathway out of WISE employment.

Practical implications
These data suggest WISEs in the USA have grown well beyond their earlier, narrower niche working with the disabled to employ a much broader portfolio of client populations, many higher functioning. However, the findings that many WISEs are positioned in the low skill labour market and on some dimensions can mirror the low skill labour market employment conditions suggest that additional aspects of WISE workforce development strategy should be taken into account.

The paper focuses on the labour market niches where WISEs are active, the occupations associated with these labour market positions, and the work conditions offered.

Hazel’s comment:
I could not find a similar study on social enterprises in the UK. If there is one then please let us know in the comments.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The brains behind spirituality

We must enrich our idea of what it means to believe in order to fully understand the role of spirituality in society

an article by Jonathan Rowson (director of the RSA’s Social Brain Centre) published in RSA Journal (Summer 2013)

Immanuel Kant said that the impact of liberal enlightenment on our spiritual life was such that if somebody were to walk in on you while you were on your knees praying, you would be profoundly embarrassed. That imagined experience of embarrassment is still widely felt in much of the modern western world, not merely for religious believers, but for the silent majority who consider themselves in some sense ‘spiritual’ without quite knowing what that means. This sense of equivocation is felt when we hear the term ‘spiritual’ referred to apologetically in intellectual contexts. Consider, for instance, ‘the mental, emotional or even spiritual qualities of the work’, or ‘the experience was almost spiritual in its depth and intensity’.

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Decoupling the state and the third sector? The 'big Society' as a spontaneous order

an article by Rob Macmillan published in Voluntary Sector Review Volume 4 Number 2 (July 2013) and also as Third Sector Research Centre: Working Paper 101


Despite a largely indifferent and otherwise sceptical public reception, the 'Big Society' has remained a central feature of the Conservative-led coalition*rsquo;s project in the United Kingdom.

This article asks what the Big Society might mean for the 'third sector' of voluntary organisations, community groups and social enterprises. The previous Labour government’s approach has been characterised as the development of a closer 'partnership' between state and the third sector.

However, a partial decoupling may now be underway in the new political and economic context. Theoretically, this might signal a shift away from the idea of interdependence between the state and the third sector, and towards a model involving separate spheres: from partnership to an emergent 'trial separation'.

The article draws on Friedrich Hayek's theory of 'spontaneous order', suggesting that the Big Society involves some implicit Hayekian assumptions.

It concludes by considering the implications of regarding the third sector in such terms.

Full text of the Working Paper(PDF 21pp)

The Co-construction of Shame in the Context of Poverty: Beyond a Threat to the Social Bond

an article by Elaine Chase and Robert Walker (University of Oxford, UK( published in Sociology Volume 47 Number 4 (August 2013)


Scheff (2000, 2003) has argued that shame, while recognised as a social emotion, is frequently explored outside of the social matrix and with limited reference to its role in human behaviour.

Drawing on empirical qualitative research with adults living in poverty in the UK, this article illuminates
a) how the co-construction of shame (feeling shame and being shamed) is fundamental in framing how people living in poverty respond to the social demands on them; and
b) how shame as a phenomenon may also take on a dynamic of its own, ultimately used by those feeling shame to distance themselves from the socially constructed and denigrated ‘Other’ (Lister, 2004).

The article shifts the analysis beyond shame arising from a threat to the immediate ‘social bond’ (Lewis, 1971), instead presenting it as a social fact which not only undermines human dignity but risks the atomisation of modern society.

Friday, 23 August 2013

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

Gotham Noir: 1933
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Gotham Noir: 1933
March 15, 1933
“New York city views. Financial district from Hotel Bossert”
Large-format acetate negative by Gottscho-Schleisner
View original post

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
What’s the origin of “jazz”, or “shyster”, or “Big Apple”? The answers are in Rolla, Missouri, home of Gerald Leonard Cohen, master etymologist… more

A beautiful bacterium
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker

David Goodsell of the Scripps Research Institute made this lovely watercolor illustration of a cell of Mycoplasma mycoides. This bacterium is the cause of a deadly respiratory disease that affects cattle and other cud-chewing animals.
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One Third of Humanity May Host a Mind-Altering Parasite
via Big Think by Ross Pomeroy
This article originally appeared in the Newton blog at RealClearScience. You can read the original here.
In the opening scenes of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, two Starfleet officers find themselves in quite a perilous situation.
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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Ever the scientist, Richard Feynman ran experiments on how best to woo women. His finding: being aloof works better than being a gentleman… more

How did feathers evolve? - Carl Zimmer
via 3quarksdaily by S. Abbas Raza

Do Interruptions Zap Our Brain Power? Yes. A Lot of It.
via Big Think by Orion Jones
To test whether interruptions like email and text messages come at the expense of getting good work done, scientists at Carnegie Mellon designed an experiment.
Continue reading and be prepared to be surprised at the results

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Devoted to skinny dipping, faddish diets, and vigorous exercise, Samuel Johnson was hardly the awkward, depressive man of letters you think… more

Haunting Photos of Abandoned Planes in the Middle of Nowhere
via Flavorwire by Alison Nastasi
Wired introduced us to the work of Dietmar Eckell, who photographs abandoned airplanes in remote locations. The haunting images of the metal behemoths sinking into gorgeous, deserted landscapes are dramatic and surreal. The series Happy End started when the artist was researching the “visual disruption of nostalgic technology in endless landscapes”, and continued when he drew a connection between the ghostly planes and the shipwreck/marine paintings of the Romantic period. The aircraft Eckell documented are the relics of forced landings in faraway places (some abandoned now for 10 to 17 years), but thankfully everyone on board survived. The artist wants to share the stories he uncovered in a book he’s currently campaigning to fund.
Visit Eckell’s work in our gallery, and head to his Indiegogo page to learn more.
And of the pictures included on Flavorwire I chose this one as an example
Photo credit: Dietmar Eckell

Innovations for a New Old Age - Slow But Coming
via Big Think by Joseph F Coughlin
It is happening...but as the quote often associated with discussions of innovation suggests, “the future is here, it is just not evenly distributed....” For years, I’ve predicted, promoted and pleaded for radical change in the way we think about old age.
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The Limits of Technology: Social class, occupation and digital inclusion in the city of Sunderland, England

an article by John Clayton and Stephen J. Macdonald (University of Sunderland, UK) published in Information, Communication & Society Volume 16 Issue 6 (2013)


Drawing upon the concept of capital and its uneven distribution, as outlined by Bourdieu, the article highlights the importance of social class, occupational status and place in understanding how individuals and communities make use of and benefit from technology in their everyday lives.

Based upon quantitative and qualitative research conducted in the city of Sunderland, England, the article addresses the extent and manner to which those in ‘socially excluded’ areas of the city engage with technology, specifically personal computers and the internet and the impact of such engagement upon quality of life and social inclusion.

The research indicates that the manner in which technology is experienced by marginalised social groups in this place, does not fit neatly with a dominant discourse of digital inclusion which emphasises technology as a means for social inclusion, particularly in the realms of civic participation, educational achievement and employment.

Repeated job quits: stepping stones or learning about quality?

an article by Anne C Gielen (Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands and IZA) published in IZA Journal of European Labor Studies Volume 2 Number 7


Increasing labour mobility is high on the political agenda because of its supposedly positive effects on labour market functioning. However, little attention has been paid to information imperfections, and to what extent they limit potential efficiency gains of labour mobility. When the quality of a new job offer is known ex ante, job quits serve as a stepping stone to better jobs. Yet, if job quality is only observed ex post, job quits may lead to worse matches.

This paper argues that actual job quit behaviour is characterised by a mixture of both, and investigates the relative empirical content of both extremes in quit decisions. A variance decomposition shows that for nearly 70% of job quits job quality was observed ex-ante; the remaining 30% was learned ex post. Hence, stimulating job mobility mostly improves labour market outcomes, though governments may aim to further reduce information imperfections in order to maximise the efficacy of labour policies.

Full text (HTML) [High level statistics, or that’s what it looked like to me. I did O-level a long time ago.]

JEL classification: J28, J62

Escaping the pack

Civil society must start meeting its potential and contribute fully to the public good

an article by Kurt Hoffman published in RSA Journal (Summer 2013)

The UK charity sector is a major conduit for state help and public munificence. It seeks to tackle social problems that, if not adequately addressed, can have significant economic and social costs. Civil society is best placed to catalyse the inclusive, democratic and community-based approaches needed to solve the more intractable challenges that threaten the stability of mature economies like the UK.

Unfortunately, the UK’s civil society as currently configured cannot fill this role. Creating the right conditions so that it can is not simply a matter of getting more funding to those on the frontline of social change. Nor is it an issue of overcoming a lack of competence and good intentions, both assets that the charity sector enjoys in great abundance. Rather, the biggest obstacles lie in a set of financial, behavioural, regulatory and structural manacles that have caused the sector’s systemic underperformance over many years.

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Know yourself! – living with dyslexia

an article by Anne-Marie Montarnal published in LLinE: Lifelong Learning in Europe 2/2013

Introduction – the many faces of dyslexia

Many definitions for the learning difficulty dyslexia exist. Many people believe that they understand the nature of dyslexia immediately, however the complexity of this learning difficulty as well as the interventions needed are difficult to describe in a few words. This is the reason why it is useful to reflect on several definitions of dyslexia:

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.(Lyon & Shaywitz, 2003)

This definition is approved by the International Dyslexia Association and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health.

As a founder member of the French Dyslexia Parent Association and mother of a dyslexic son, I consider appropriate support and accommodation for the dyslexic person of utmost importance, as well as early recognition of “at risk children” and early intervention. This also means appropriate provision and training for teachers and special education teachers in the field of learning disability. The two following definitions emphasize these points.

Cook Moats insists on the fact that

Dyslexia is one kind of language-based learning problem that can fall anywhere on the spectrum of annoyance to severe limitation. It affects more than reading and is usually experienced for life. And, it responds to expert, informed instruction, the provision of which remains our greatest challenge. (2008)

Crombie’s definition also focuses on accommodations:

Dyslexia is a difficulty with literacy which results in a person requiring a set of accommodations to be made to enable them to demonstrate their abilities. Accommodations can be defined as a set of enabling arrangements that are put in place to ensure that the dyslexic person can demonstrate their strengths and abilities and show attainment.(in Clark, 2003)

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ONS announces additional estimate of zero-hours contracts

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has announced plans for an additional regular estimate of the number of ‘zero-hours’ employment contracts in the UK workforce.

From autumn 2013, one of ONS’s large-scale monthly business surveys will include some questions on zero-hours contracts so as to obtain robust data directly from employers. These will be asked on a quarterly basis with the first results expected to be published in early 2014.

To ensure that users’ needs are met, ONS will undertake a short consultation exercise in September 2013 to clarify the data requirements.

The current estimate is based on an ad hoc analysis of employee responses collected in the regular Labour Force Survey (LFS). While the LFS is the largest household survey of any kind conducted in the UK, this question depends on employees knowing and correctly reporting their terms of employment.

Glen Watson, Director General of the Office for National Statistics, said: “ONS’s role is to provide reliable statistics that inform debate and improve decision making. We have followed the debate on zero-hours contracts and there is a clear need for better statistics. The best way to gather the information needed is to ask employers rather than individual employees. They are best placed to provide accurate information about the employment terms of their workforce. We plan to add some new questions to one of our business surveys to shed new light on this important issue.”

Blast from the Past: Accession to Recession

The arguments over immigration and migrant workers have dominated headlines recently

via Centre for Cities blog by Paul Swinney

First the Home Office sent vans to six London areas encouraging illegal immigrants to return home. Then Labour MP Chris Bryant criticised the hiring practices of Tesco and Next.

Given the topical nature of migration, this week’s Blast from the Past revisits Accession to Recession, published in 2009.

The report looked at the role of migrant workers in the labour markets of Bristol and Hull. It found that in these two cities the arrival of migrants had not created a barrier to the long term unemployed finding a job. Instead three other factors were found to be key in restricting the employment opportunities of the long term out of work in both cities.

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Attracting and retaining student talent from around the world: The lived experience in university-industry collaboration

an article by Johanna Julia Vauterin, Karl-Erik Michelsen and Lassi Linnanen (Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland) published in Industry and Higher Education Volume 27 Number 3 (June 2013)


To be prepared for changing student talent pools in emerging geographical markets, and to remain attractive to the coming waves of student mobility, the European higher education sector must improve its ability to absorb international student talent in greater numbers.

This paper presents an analysis of the nature and value of university-industry partnering as a means of attracting and retaining global student talent. The authors argue that global student talent recruitment lies at the heart of “knowledge transfer through people”. With this in mind, an inclusive picture of the university-industry partnering phenomenon is provided; and the role of collaborative experiencing and learning is examined.

It was found that even university-industry collaborative practice dealing with global issues remains local in terms of engagement. The paper demonstrates that, by using interpretive and participatory methods, new insights can be gained into the university-industry practice of partnering to promote the attraction and retention of global student talent.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Supporting vulnerable people back into society requires time, patience and commitment, not punitive measures

via JRF (Joseph Rowntree Foundation)

Abigail Scott Paul reveals how benefits changes are affecting people on the front line of poverty in the North East.

In the introduction of his book Population 10 Billion Danny Dorling discusses the importance of story-telling:

Human beings progress by telling stories. One event can result in a variety of stories being told about it. Sometimes those stories differ greatly. Which stories are picked up and repeated and which are dropped and forgotten often determines how we progress… And how the future will turn out depends partly, possibly largely, on which stories we collectively choose to believe.

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Active citizenship and late-life learning in the community

an article by Carmel Borg and Marvin Formosa (University of Malta) published in LLinE: Lifelong Learning in Europe 2/2013

In an age where the official, adult-education component of lifelong learning is dominated by the discourse of employability and performativity, reclaiming the radical agenda of critical, adult, active citizenship is not only urgent but indispensable for morally sound and democratically viable societies.

The crisis in capitalism is showing us, adult educators, that unless adult education is employed to interrogate, challenge and resist the accesses of a system that privileges profit at all cost, rampant individualism and privatisation of social goods, it will reproduce asymmetrical and predatory, social economic relations.

This paper problematises dominant notions of active citizenship in later life and provides a framework for an alternative view of active citizenship. It also illustrates how adult educators can facilitate learning processes where late-life learners, reflect on the impact of the neoliberal value system and on the consequences of its hegemonic practices on personal and community life, before engaging in transformative action.

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Working hard with gender: Gendered labour for women in male dominated occupations of manual trades and information technology (IT)

an article by Louisa Smith (University of Sydney, Australia) Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal Volume 32 Issue 6 (2013)


Manual trades and information technology (IT) are male-dominated occupations and as such cultivate unique forms of hegemonic masculinity. Women entering these occupations represent a kind of crisis to this gender order in the workplace, making the experiences of these women a useful way of studying how gender regimes are maintained and may be challenged at work. The aim of this paper is to examine how women found doing gender in the male dominated workplaces became a kind of work in itself.

A life history framework was used for this research, in which 15 women from manual trades and 15 women from IT occupations were interviewed. The in-depth qualitative method allowed the participants the time and space to communicate the contradictions they experienced doing their gender and doing their gender at work.

The effort expended because the participants were women and because they were a minority was experienced both as an intense pressure and as significant to their success in their occupations. This indicates that gendered work outside of the formal duties of a job makes the work of those in a gender minority particularly strenuous. This understanding of gender at work as work is important to understanding how efforts to address gender equity in workplaces must work beyond quotas and policy and also address embodied gendered cultures.

While women working in male dominated cultures are often studied in terms of the challenges they face, from this research these challenges are framed as a kind of gendered work in itself. This work is often invisible, usually emotion work and mostly unrecognised. Highlighting the nature of this gendered labour and the pressures it places on women in male dominated work reframes what it means to work and the importance of these invisible forms of labour to maintaining successful production relations.

Vocational Education and Training System in the Netherlands

a Briefing Paper by Paul Casey (UK Commission for Employment and Skills) published by UKCES (August 2013)

This Briefing Paper takes a look at vocational education and training (VET) in the Netherlands. The Dutch VET system is of interest for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it enjoys considerable participation by young people, with the majority of all secondary students, from the age of 16, choosing to take a well-established, flexible and clearly structured VET route to complete their education.
Secondly, there are very high completion rates and good prospects for employment. One reason for this is that training in the workplace is mandatory. All students must spend time learning on the job.
Thirdly, in this system VET is driven by employer demand, via sectorally based institutions known as knowledge centres. This ensures that training and qualifications contain both work and theoretical components so that employers receive workers into the labour market with the requisite skills and experience they need.
Finally, the system is underpinned and operates on the basis of consensus with strong working relationships engendered between employers, employees, training providers and government.

These points and more are examined by identifying the key institutional actors involved, then describing the mechanics of the system – the different training levels applicable to school and work-based VET pathways and then illustrating how VET is designed, delivered and quality assured.
How VET is publicly funded is also explored.
Here, the economic recession has had a severe impact on the Dutch economy and its consequences will require a certain degree of re-design to accommodate new budget realities. The financial incentives, available to employers and individuals to engage in workforce training and development, are also identified.
Again, some of these incentives are subject to modification or even closure due to austerity measures and this paper identifies what is likely to change.

Full text (PDF 37pp)

Homelessness prevention and relief: England 2012 to 2013

a Department for Communities and Local Government publication relevant to England

This is an official statistics release on homelessness prevention and relief in England that took place outside the homelessness statutory framework in 2012 to 2013. This is the fifth year for which figures on homelessness prevention and relief have been published by the Department for Communities and Local Government under arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

The main points from the latest release are:
  • in 2012 to 2013, a total of 202,400 cases of homelessness prevention or relief are estimated to have taken place outside the statutory homelessness framework in England; of these cases, 181,500 (90%) were preventions and 21,000 (10%) were cases of relief
  • in 2012 to 2013, 53% of cases of homelessness prevention and relief involved the household being assisted to obtain alternative accommodation; the remaining 47% involved the cases being assisted to remain in their existing home; in 2011 to 2012 this was 57% and 43% respectively
  • the total number of cases of homelessness prevention or relief increased by 2% when compared to 2011 to 2012; this is due to prevention cases increasing by 4%, while cases of relief decreased by 13%
  • the most common action taken to prevent or relieve homelessness was the use of landlord incentive schemes to secure private rented sector accommodation; in 2012 to 2013, 26,200 cases (13%) were assisted in obtaining alternative accommodation this way, though this was a decrease of 5% compared to 2011 to 2012
Full text (PDF 24pp)

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Corporate social responsibility and employing the disabled - marketing, PR or untapped reserve?

an article by Tomáš Sokolovský (independent consultant and project coordinator, based in the Czech Republic) published in LLinE: Lifelong Learning in Europe 2/2013

The social pillar of corporate social responsibility (CSR) (hereafter SP CSR) is an integral part of the social responsibilities of companies. However, it has different characteristics. Typically the “social pillar” refers to the cultivation of a positive corporate atmosphere, employee benefits, promoting employee identification with the company, and other similar procedures.

As a rule, it is not about and cannot be a short-term investment, but the benefits of this kind of CSR for the company – and for its image and marketing – should be considered long-term investments.

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And just in case some of you do not decide to click through to the full article I thought I would share the image!!

Hospitals: human bodies?

Medical institutions must not let the drive for greater operational efficiency undermine the essential qualities necessary for organising care

an article by Dr Robert Farrands FRSA published in the RSA Journal (Summer 2013)

The Francis Report on the failure of the Mid Staffordshire hospital describes in detail a form of organisational hypertrophy: a state when some organs of the body are overnourished and grow at the expense of the whole. This condition prevails in organisations when a limited number of a rich complex of concerns and practices are singled out for special attention. As a result, the chosen aspects become vested with undue significance, while other equally important features are overlooked.

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Follow-up and assessment of self reports of work-related illness in the Labour Force Survey

Prepared by the Health and Safety Executive 2013 (J R Jones, J T Hodgson and S Webster (Statistics and Epidemiology Unit))

Executive summary

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is the Health and Safety Executive’s primary source of data on work-related illness, but it relies on respondents’ perceptions of medical matters and their own assessment of whether their illness was caused or made worse by work. There is also very little scope within the LFS to explore the perceived causes and the impact of these conditions on the daily lives of those affected.

In the Work-Related Illness Survey (WRIS), a sample of respondents reporting a work-related illness in the 2010 LFS were re-interviewed and asked to provide more details about their illness and its connection with work. With their permission, their doctor was also contacted and asked to complete a short questionnaire to provide further information on the reported illness and give their view of its link to work. Finally, a panel of experts reviewed all the information provided and assessed the link between work and the illness.

The survey findings, case review and the outcome of the doctors’ survey were together used to address two primary study objectives: to assess the nature and degree of work-relatedness of illnesses reported in the LFS and to measure the impact of these conditions on the daily lives of those affected.

In 77% of cases, it was accepted by the case review panel that the link with work was plausible, either as a main cause or a contributory cause of the illness. In a further 10% of cases, the review concluded that work did not contribute to the underlying disease process but may have exacerbated the disease symptoms. A medical opinion was only available for about a quarter of cases but where information was provided, in 57% of cases the doctor agreed that the work was definitely or probably a main or contributory cause of the illness, and in a further 27% of cases they reported that it was possibly a main or contributory cause. In only 3.6% of cases did the respondent’s doctor give the opinion that the illness was unlikely to be or definitely not work-related. The degree of consistency between the doctors and the case review panel was good, with the same decision made in 80% of the cases where both the doctors and the review panel felt they had sufficient information available to make an informed decision.

For 13% of cases, the case review panel judged that a link between work and the illness was unlikely. It was of interest to determine what leads to these cases being reported as work-related and whether there are any common factors which should be taken into account when assessing the true scale of work-related ill health. Statistical models were constructed to investigate which variables were most strongly associated with a judgement of an unlikely link between work and illness. The strongest association was with the individual’s occupation, with differing levels of plausibility across all of the occupational groups. In particular, the link with work was regarded as less plausible on the whole for individuals working in elementary occupations and more plausible on the whole for individuals working in skilled trades. The other important factor was the length of time which had passed since the end of their exposure to the work they believed had made them unwell. Where the exposure had ended a long time ago, there was significantly more chance that the review panel would judge the link between work and ill health to be unlikely. Although individuals’ psychological characteristics appeared to be an important factor when assessed in isolation, the effect disappeared in the full model and there is therefore little evidence that reports from individuals with a somatisation tendency were more likely to be judged as having an unlikely link to work.

With regard to the impact of work-related ill health on the daily lives of those affected, it was unsurprising to find that the general physical and mental health of those individuals tends not to be good, with almost four in five respondents saying they suffered from moderate or worse pain or discomfort and almost three in five that they suffered from moderate or worse anxiety or depression. Although causality is impossible to demonstrate, the majority of respondents believed that their general health would be considerably better were it not for the work-related illness. The impact of these work-related ill health conditions also appears to be strong with WRIS respondents holding negative views of the extent to which the illness affects their lives, in comparison with other study populations suffering from various illnesses.

Our conclusion from the results of this investigation are that self-reports of work-related ill health are broadly reliable. The level of possibly mistaken reports will be to some extent counter-balanced by opposite biases. In particular just as there are individuals who make an implausible ascription to work, there will be others who do not recognise a genuine connection with work activities. Given this and the fact there is no available measure without problems, we believe that it is better to continue to work with the estimate as it emerges from the LFS, rather than apply a series of adjustments. When sensibly interpreted, such surveys provide valid information not available from other sources.

Full text (PDF 66pp)

I found this to be a fascinating read.

How Europe has learnt how to deal with exclusions from patentability

an article by Trevor Cook (Bird & Bird LLP, London. UK) published in Journal of Intellectual Property Rights Volume 18 Number 4 (July 2013)


The issue of subject matter that is excluded from patentability as not being patentable subject matter is one of lively current interest in the USA.

European patent law, albeit under a different legislative framework, and one which unlike that in the USA specifically lists certain exclusions from patentability, has had to grapple with similar issues, but has over time largely resolved these so as to focus instead on the more familiar issues of novelty and inventive step.

This article discusses how this resolution has taken place in Europe and what conclusions can be drawn from this experience for other jurisdictions.

Full text (PDF 5pp)

Disability in the Labour Market: An Exploration of Concepts of the Ideal Worker and Organisational Fit that Disadvantage Employees with Impairments

an article by Deborah Foster and Victoria Wass (Cardiff University, UK) published in Sociology Volume 47 Number 4 (August 2013)


The adverse employment effects that attach to disability are empirically well established.

They are large and persistent.

This is a conceptual article that investigates the source of this deep and enduring employment disadvantage.

Debate begins by examining the origins of ideas that have shaped approaches to work study and have influenced concepts of what constitutes an ideal worker. Drawing on feminist critiques of organisational analysis that have highlighted the gendered character of processes, practices and values, it explores the relatively neglected position of disabled employees.

With reference to transcripts from four Employment Appeal Tribunals brought under the Disability Discrimination Act, it illustrates how standard jobs, designed around ideal (non-disabled) employees, create a mismatch between a formal job description and someone with an impairment.

We suggest this mismatch is central to the organisation’s resistance to implementing adjustments and also to any radical approaches to include impaired employees in the workplace.

“Sometimes I just wish I never hear of this term bilingual worker”: difficult clients, emotion work and interpreting with migrants

an article by Geraldine Lee-Treweek (Manchester Metropolitan University Cheshire, Crewe, UK) published in International Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion Volume 5 Number 3 (2013)


As transmigration to the UK has increased, so has the need for workers who can provide support to these new communities and carry out the interpretation of different languages.

This paper examines the emotional labour of the bilingual worker role, a relatively new occupational group, from the perspective of bilingual workers themselves. They carry out interpretation work within communities of migrants that speak the worker’s language but, unlike official translators, they usually only have lower level qualifications that only cover face-to-face interpretation skills. “Bilingual work” involves the worker deploying their (usually) home language skills within the workplace.

In the UK, such workers are employed within a host of public services and third sector organisations and are usually recent migrants themselves. This paper reports on an exploratory qualitative study of the emotional labour of 16 Polish bilingual workers, who are also recent migrants to the UK and work on the frontline within public service organisations.

It demonstrates that various strategies are deployed to handle aspects emotional labour and that the stress of such work comes from both organisational expectations and from the difficult clients they often have to interpret for.

The problems raised at work are shown to continue into the community environment, where means of coping appear to be grounded, where possible, in creating physical separation from one’s own community.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

1 item I found interesting (but with a lot of sub-items)

Applied Soft Computing Volume 13, Issue 5, May 2013

I don’t want you to think that I understand any of the articles in this journal but the graphical abstracts that accompany the articles are stunning! Here’s a few examples and the links to the rest of the articles that I found particularly fascinating from a visual viewpoint.

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A Job for Everyone: What should full employment mean in 21st century Britain?

a research paper by Tony Dolphin and Kayte Lawton (Institute for Public Policy research) published by IPPR July 2013

Executive summary

Full employment should be the central aim of economic and social policy. In an era of limited public budgets, striving for full employment will be vital for raising family living standards and generating the resources needed to fund a sustainable welfare state. For the last three decades, macroeconomic policy in the UK has focused on controlling the budget deficit (except during recessions), while using monetary policy to keep inflation low. It was believed this would deliver stable growth and consequently full employment. This report argues that full employment should not be a consequence of macroeconomic policy; rather that it should be its central focus.

But what is full employment?

One definition would be an unemployment rate that is as low as it could be without triggering increasing inflation. At present, this might mean an unemployment rate of around 5 per cent (or 1.5 million people). This is broadly what the last Labour government achieved from 2001 to 2006. But throughout this period, and despite strong improvements in employment among some groups traditionally described as ‘inactive’, such as lone parents, over 4 million people continued to claim out-of-work benefits. It is an odd definition of full employment where more than one in 10 of the working-age population claim such benefits.

Full employment should, therefore, be defined with respect to the employment rate, rather than the unemployment rate. From 2001 to 2006, this hovered around 73 per cent – the same level at which it peaked (much more briefly) in the two previous economic cycles. Cutting unemployment to 5 per cent would be consistent with getting back to an employment rate of 73 per cent; but this should only be a start. The employment rate should then be pushed to new highs, in line with the highest levels seen in the OECD – that is, much closer to 80 per cent. Achieving this level would, necessarily, mean progress in reducing many of the unequal outcomes in the current labour market, including regional differences in employment rates and differences between the employment rates of various groups.

In particular, policy will need to concentrate on increasing the employment rate of three groups of potential workers not just by making them more employable – as Labour sought to do in the 2000s – but also by increasing demand for their services:
  • women – in particular mothers, older women and women from certain ethnic backgrounds
  • ‘disadvantaged’ groups – people with work-limiting disabilities, young people, older people and those with few or no skills
  • victims of rapid technological change and globalisation – those previously employed in declining industries and found disproportionately in the north of England and the west Midlands.
The benefits of achieving full employment on this definition are clear. Studies show that employment is one of the biggest determinants of personal well-being. A higher employment rate also tends to create more inclusive labour markets and improve employment opportunities for those further away from the labour market. Once the employment rate moves above the tipping point of 73 per cent, employers will have to show a greater willingness to adapt to the particular needs of ‘disadvantaged’ groups – and policy measures will be needed to support them to do so, just as policy measures might be needed to encourage such potential workers to enter the labour market. Full employment also has the potential to help tackle poverty and support higher living standards at a time when the benefits system will have to take less of the strain. This will be particularly true if full employment can be achieved in part by tackling the UK’s high levels of household worklessness and increasing the number of dual-earner couples, especially among parents.

Full employment and a renewed focus on job creation would also bring more general benefits. The recent recession and its effect on tax revenues, together with demographic changes, have made it more difficult to sustain spending on welfare and public services: welfare spending has been cut in previously unimaginable ways, and more cuts are mooted. The underlying constraint on the postwar settlement – that full employment was a necessary condition for a high level of public service provision and welfare support – has reasserted itself. One way to limit the need for higher taxes or even deeper public spending cuts is to increase the employment rate.

The inflation risk from a higher employment rate would be very small. Over the last two decades there has been no observable trade-off between inflation and unemployment in the UK.

Achieving an employment rate well above 73 per cent cannot be achieved by macroeconomic policy alone. Increasing employment among those with no skills is best done by improving their skill levels, so education and vocational training has a vital role to play in increasing the overall employment rate. Mothers will only go back to work if it pays them to do so, so either childcare has to be made more affordable, or the real wages that they earn – often in part-time jobs – need to increase (or both). Mothers also need more flexibility, in particular over working hours, because they typically still bear the prime responsibility for caring, even if they are in work. A sustainable increase in employment rates in the north of England and the west Midlands to closer to the levels in the south of England can only be achieved by the creation of more private sector jobs, but there is a role for government to play in enabling this to happen. Sick and disabled people might not be able to work eight hours a day, five days a week, so the labour market needs to be made more flexible for them, not just for the firms that might employ them.

The policy action required ranges across many government departments, not just HM Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions. Increasing the employment rate to closer to 80 per cent requires the government make it the central aim of all its economic policies. It should present a vision of what full employment would look like – in terms of higher employment rates for certain groups, more sustainable public services and welfare provision, and a greater focus on job creation – and then it should make clear how its policies will help to fulfil this vision.

Full text (PDF 46pp)

Apprenticeships funding reform in England

an Open Consultation from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and Department for Education published 24 July 2013


Invites views on ways of delivering funding reforms for apprenticeships in England.

Consultation description

This consultation is published in response to Doug Richard’s independent Review of Apprenticeships, which looked at how apprenticeships in England can meet the needs of the changing economy. It addresses Doug Richard’s recommendations for reforming the way Apprenticeships are funded.

The government has already endorsed the review recommendations, which aim to give employers more control over apprenticeships, and ensure that all apprenticeships are rigorous and responsive to employers’ needs. We previously consulted on the Future of Apprenticeships in England to encourage feedback on the practical steps needed to turn this vision into reality. That consultation closed on 22 May 2013; we are currently considering the responses and will confirm our future approach and implementation plan in autumn 2013.

We intentionally did not address apprenticeship funding reform in the previous consultation. This consultation seeks your views on 3 ways of delivering funding reforms put forward by Doug Richard:
  • a new online system for apprenticeships with payments to employers made directly from the system
  • utilising the PAYE system
  • reforming the existing provider funding infrastructure
Full text (PDF 33pp)

Measuring the UK's digital economy with big data

a research report by Max Nathan and Anna Rosso with Tom Gatten, Prash Majmudar and Alex Mitchell for the National Institute of Economic and Social Research

Key Findings
  • The digital economy is poorly served by conventional definitions and datasets. Big data methods can provide richer, more informative and more up to date analysis.
  • Using Growth Intelligence data on a benchmarking sample, we find that the digital economy is substantially larger than conventional estimates suggest. On our preferred measure, it comprises almost 270,000 active companies in the UK (14.4% of all companies as of August 2012). This compares to 167,000 companies (10.0%) when the Government’s conventional SIC-based definitions are used.
  • SIC-based definitions of the digital economy miss out a large number of companies in business and domestic software, architectural activities, engineering, and engineering-related scientific and technical consulting, among other sectors.
  • Companies in the digital economy have a similar average age to those outside it. Shares of start-ups (companies up to three years old) are very similar. Given the popular image of the digital economy as start-up dominated, this may be surprising to some. As digital platforms and tools spread out into the wider economy, and become pervasive in a greater number of sectors, so the set of ‘digital’ companies widens.
  • Inflows of digital companies into the economy have always been relatively small, given its sectoral share. However, using our new definitions of the digital economy, inflow levels are substantially higher.
  • As far as we can tell, digital economy companies have lower average revenues than the rest of the economy, but the median digital company has higher revenues than the median company elsewhere in the economy. Revenue growth rates are also higher for digital companies. However, these results come from a sub-sample of older, likely stronger-performing companies, so there is some positive selection at work.
  • Switching from SIC-based to Growth Intelligence derived measures substantially increases the digital economy’s share of employment, from around 5% to 11% of jobs. Digital economy companies also show higher average employment than companies in the rest of the economy (this reverses when we use conventional SIC-based measures of the digital economy). Looking at median employees per firm, the digital/non-digital differences are always a lot smaller. Our employment results should also be treated with some care, as not all companies report their workforce information.
  • The digital economy is highly concentrated in a few locations around the UK: Growth Intelligence software provides a fresh look at these patterns. In terms of raw firm counts, London dominates the pictures, but Manchester, Birmingham, Brighton and locations in the Greater South East (such as Reading and Crawley) also feature in the top 10. Location quotients show the extent of local clustering, which for the UK’s digital economy is highest for areas in the Western arc around London, such as Basingstoke, Newbury and Milton Keynes. Areas like Aberdeen and Middlesbrough also show high concentrations of digital economy activity.
Full text (PDF 43pp)

When you just cannot get away

Exploring the use of information and communication technologies in facilitating negative work/home spillover

an article by Ronald W. Berkowsky (University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA) published in Information, Communication & Society Volume 16 Issue 4 (2013)


The continuing evolution of information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as Internet-connected computers and cellular phones, provides a means for increased work/home permeability and for current work/home boundaries to be redefined as workers can potentially be accessible by employers and family/friends at all times.

This transformation of work/home boundaries can open the individual to increased levels of negative spillover, wherein aspects of one role negatively impact or impede upon another. This investigation uses data from the Work-Life and Technology Use Survey to determine if ICT use plays a role in defining work/home boundaries and serves as a significant predictor of negative spillover in both the work-to-home and home-to-work directions.

Results show that frequency of engaging in ICT-related activities (e.g. checking email and using Facebook) is associated with negative spillover in both directions, suggesting that ICTs may play a significant role in facilitating negative work/home spillover.

Was the Government’s macroeconomic policy right after all?

This is a relatively old item [6 August] which I had obviously mislaid somewhere but the title intrigued me coming from the TUC!! Read on.

With the UK’s return to growth, many will now no doubt argue that the government’s macroeconomic policy has turned out to be a success.

So, are they right? Does the recent pick-up in UK growth prove that the Government were right all along? Have the critics of tight fiscal policy been confounded?

The short answer is very straight forward, “no”.

Continue reading

Monday, 19 August 2013

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

Even after I re-started the trivia posts I couldn't seem to keep up with three a week so here's just an odd one to keep going with. I seem to have amassed a lot of material that I've done nothing with and it is clogging up my drafts so I need to have a clear-out.

Untethered: 1942
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Untethered: 1942
May 1942
“Parris Island, South Carolina. Tactical formations of barrage balloons prevent dive bombing and the strafing of important ground installations. The Leathernecks are developing an excellent technique in this method of protecting important locations from enemy aircraft”
Photos by Alfred Palmer and Pat Terry for the Office of War Information.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Sex and economics. John Maynard Keynes – all moustache and bedroom eyes – had many lovers. Is there any connection between the people he slept with and the ideas he espoused?… more

The techie novels of Nevil Shute
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
Last month I had a conversation with Dale Grover (co-founder of Maker Works in Ann Arbor, Michigan – read his profile at Make) about the late author Nevil Shute. Shute is best known for the novel On the Beach (about a dying Earth after a global nuclear war) but we discussed a lesser-known novel of Shute’s called Trustee from the Toolroom, which I read five or six years ago and absolutely loved.
Continue reading
As an aside I own a copy of every book that Nevil Shute wrote, several of them are in poor condition and may need to be replaced at some point!

Watch Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita in Two Minutes via Flavorwire by Emily Temple
Whether you’ve read Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita or not, this gorgeous little animation will make you want to pick it up post-haste. [via Open Culture]

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Postmodern before postmodernism, existentialist before Sartre, ironic before irony was debased: Kierkegaard, rejected in his time, is a man for our time… more

How to: Figure out what color dinosaurs really were
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Colour is just a happy side effect of physics. So Canadian scientists are turning to The Canadian Light Source synchrotron, a particle accelerator in Saskatchewan, to help them figure out what colour extinct duck-billed dinosaurs actually were. By putting a 70-million-year-old skull into the accelerator, they’ll be able to figure out what molecules — from pigments to melanin-producing cells — are still present in the fossil.
Francie Diep explains how it works at Popular Science.

Universal Grit: A Sideways Look at Dust
via Encyclopaedia Britannica Blog by Gregory McNamee
Dust storm, Baca county, Colorado, c.1936. Credit: Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Dust storm, Baca county, Colorado, c.1936. 
Credit: Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Draw your finger across the top of a door, or a back corner of your refrigerator. Unless you’re an exceptionally thorough homemaker, the chances are good that you’ll find on your fingertip a chalky, sandy, grayish film – dust, that is.
There’s no shame in that discovery, although generations of cleaning-products manufacturers and their advertising agencies have lived and died by the hope that you’ll feel at least a little bit bad about that inescapable fact of life. And inescapable it is, no matter how much we may try to make it otherwise, for the world is a dusty place.
Continue reading

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Benoit Mandelbrot saw simplicity where others saw complexity. How? By relying on visual insight. “When I seek, I look, look, look”… more

The Red Rose of Saturn
via BoingBoing by Xeni Jardin

Continue reading [the high resolution images are stunning!]

Not your great-great-grandfather's consumption
via BoingBoing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Tuberculosis — aka, the reason everybody in 19th century literature is always coughing up blood, escaping to the countryside for “better air”, or dying tragically young — is back. And this time, it’s evolved a resistance to antibiotics. In fact, in a handful of cases, tuberculosis has been resistant to every single antibiotic available to treat it.
Tom Levenson explains what’s happening and why it matters at The New Yorker.

Whilst employment figures are improving, the youth unemployment situation worsens

via The Work Foundation by Lizzie Crowley

Figures out today (14th August) show that despite a surge in employment over the last quarter, unemployment remains stubbornly high and young people are still experiencing an increasingly tough labour market.

Continue reading [includes a number of useful links]

Labour Market Statistics and Regional Labour Market Statistics, August 2013

Labour Market Statistics

For April to June 2013:
  • The employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 71.5%, up 0.1 percentage points from January to March 2013 and up 0.4 from a year earlier. There were 29.78 million people in employment aged 16 and over, up 69,000 from January to March 2013 and up 301,000 from a year earlier.
  • The unemployment rate was 7.8% of the economically active population, unchanged from January to March 2013 but down 0.2 percentage points from a year earlier. There were 2.51 million unemployed people, down 4,000 from January to March 2013 and down 49,000 from a year earlier.
  • The inactivity rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 22.3%, virtually unchanged from January to March 2013 but down 0.3 percentage points from a year earlier. There were 8.99 million economically inactive people aged from 16 to 64, down 10,000 from January to March 2013 and down 105,000 from a year earlier.
  • Total pay rose by 2.1% compared with April to June 2012. Regular pay rose by 1.1% over the same period.
Full text (PDF 62pp)

Regional Labour market Statistics

Key points
  • Employment rate highest in the South East (75.8%) and lowest in the North East (66.5%).
  • Unemployment rate highest in the North East (10.3%) and lowest in the South East and the South West (6.0%).
  • Inactivity rate highest in the North East (25.7%) and lowest in the East of England (19.1%).
  • Claimant Count rate highest in the North East (6.9%) and lowest in the South East (2.6%).
Full text (PDF 14pp)

Managing the tensions between maintaining academic standards and the commercial imperative in a UK private sector higher education institution

an article by Graham Simons Pitcher (Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, UK) published in Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management Volume 35 Issue 4 (August 2013)


In a changing landscape of higher education, universities have been moving towards a market-led approach to strategic management. This paper examines the case of a UK private sector education provider that gained degree-awarding powers following changes made in 2004 by the UK Government to the accreditation criteria for recognised degree-awarding bodies.

The management team, driven by the need to be seen as a legitimate organisation within the sector, made changes to the academic infrastructure to align more closely with those of the existing players in the market.

This isomorphic pressure to become similar for reasons of legitimacy created tensions between maintaining academic standards and business objectives.

The management of these tensions resulted in a reconciliation of the dual objectives – not a rationalisation or satisficing, but a realisation in action that the academic and business aims were in fact compatible rather than competing.

Earnings and labour market volatility in Britain

a research paper No. 2013-10 by Lorenzo Cappellari (Università Cattolica, Milano, and IZA) and Stephen P. Jenkins (London School of Economics, University of Essex, and IZA) published by Institute for Social and Economic Research (July 2013)


We provide new evidence about earnings and labour market volatility in Britain over the period 1992–2008, and for women as well as men. (Most research about volatility refers to earnings volatility for US men.)

We show that earnings volatility declined slightly for both men and women over the period but the changes are not statistically significant. When we look at labour market volatility, i.e. including in the calculations individuals with zero earnings as well as employees with positive earnings, there is a marked and statistically significant decline for both women and men, with the fall greater for men.

Using variance decompositions, we show that the fall in labour market volatility is largely accounted for by changes in employment attachment rates. Labour market volatility trends in Britain, and what contributes to them, differ from their US counterparts in several respects.

Full text (PDF 58pp)

Comfort in sadness

an article by Onora O’Neill published in RSA Journal (Summer 2013)

We should end our preoccupation with pushing through ‘assisted dying’ legislation and be more concerned with ensuring everyone has a contented and dignified old age

Every year, more than half a million people die in the UK. This means that the quality of end-of-life care that is available when people need it matters for a huge number of people at any given time and, in the end, for all of us. Yet a great deal of public discussion of end-of-life care in recent years has focused on a much smaller group of people – 600 to 1,200 a year on various estimates – who might choose to end their lives by asking for assisted dying, if it were made lawful.

Full text (HTML)

Observing classroom instruction in schools implementing the International Baccalaureate Programme

an article by Beverly L. Alford (University of Mississippi) and Kayla Braziel Rollins, Jacqueline R. Stillisano and Hersh C. Waxman (Texas A&M University) published in Current Issues in Education Volume 16 Number 2 (August 2013)


The International Baccalaureate (IB) programme utilises an inquiry-based multi-disciplinary approach and focuses on the teaching of critical-thinking skills. The IB programme is growing at a rapid rate within the United States, with the overall number of IB schools having more than doubled in the last five years. The purpose of the present study was two-fold:
  1. to specifically focus on classroom instruction and students’ behaviour within Texas IB schools, and
  2. to highlight the importance of systematic classroom observation as an evaluative method; in particular, the simultaneous use of three observation instruments to illustrate the importance of examining instruction from multiple perspectives.
Systematic observations of 85 classrooms from eight Texas IB schools revealed that instruction in most of the schools was active, with teachers often engaging students, exploring new skills and key concepts, explaining, elaborating, and evaluating.

Overall, the general instructional practices and student behaviours/activities observed were favourable and were higher than those found in similar classrooms in Texas schools. The amount of time that students were observed as being on-task was dramatically higher than the amount of student on-task time measured in other observational studies.

Full text (PDF 17pp)

The concept of 'civil society': different understandings and their implications for third sector policies

an article by Adalbert Evers (affiliation(s) not provided but probably Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany) published in Voluntary Sector Review Volume 4 Number 2 (July 2013)


Civil society is often used as a point of reference in public and welfare policies.

However, there are various notions of civil society.

The most popular concept broadly equates it with the “third sector”. A second concept sees the key to a more civil society mainly in the public domain with its ability for intermediation. Finally, there is a third notion, arguing that a more civil society takes shape through a struggle to strengthen civility and civicness throughout society.

This article outlines these three approaches and their respective strengths and weaknesses.

With an eye on public policies and welfare reform, it is argued that the first approach tends to limit questions about civil society to issues of strengthening third sector-based service provision. Such a focus, however, marginalises the potential offered by the other two approaches for analysing gains and losses in civility and civicness across society at large.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Empirical Study of Cyber Harassment among Social Networks

an article by Joanne Kuzma (Worcester Business School, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK) published in International Journal of Technology and Human Interaction Volume 9 Issue 2 (2013)


The growth of Online Social Networking sites has brought new services and communication methods to consumers. However, along with benefits, serious problems such as online cyber harassment have recently come to the forefront of the electronic media. This behaviour can have significant negative effect on individuals, businesses and the social networks.

Some sites have begun to provide some levels of protection and create specific anti-harassment policies in their terms of service along with implementing protection technologies. However, these protective measures are not consistent among social media, leaving some consumers at greater risk.

This study analysed 60 worldwide social sites and determined the level of cyber-harassment protection. It reviewed statistical differences among geographical-based social networks. The results showed significant gaps among various social networks, but suggests methods for improving consumer safeguards to provide consistent levels of protection.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Ruling shows that deleting personal data can remove burdens brought by data subject access requests, says expert


A ruling by the High Court on the issue of dealing with data subject access requests highlights the positives that can be derived by businesses that decide to dispose of personal data records they no longer need, an expert has said.

Continue reading

Recent Statutory Instruments (which may be of interest)

via Inner Temple Library Current Awareness Service

The Apprenticeships (Alternative English Completion Conditions) (Amendment) Regulations 2013

The Further Education Teachers’ Qualifications (England) (Revocation) Regulations 2013

The National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2013

The School Staffing (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013

The School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Order 2013

The Apprenticeships (Alternative English Completion Conditions) (Amendment) Regulations 2013

The Further Education Teachers’ Qualifications (England) (Revocation) Regulations 2013


Six steps to tackle household debt: findings from The Netherlands

Schemes to address rising levels of household debt in the Netherlands are proving successful. What can the UK learn from their interventions, asks Clare Cummings in NewStart: the magazine for making better places

Just as in the UK and other European countries, household debt in the Netherlands has become a significant concern in recent years. It is estimated that 5% of households are in a situation of serious problematic debt and a further 10% are at risk of entering such a situation.

While the economic crisis is partly to blame, the financial behaviour of individuals is also at fault. In the Netherlands, the debt problem is increasingly being considered as a question of behaviour and a wide range of organisations are working to tackle individuals’ ‘unhealthy’ management of personal finances.

Continue reading

The original report from which this article is taken appears to have been only published in Dutch. I have however found some information about one of the authors, Nadja Jungmann, and the Centre for Social Innovation where she works.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Why did unemployment respond so differently to the global financial crisis across countries? Insights from Okun’s Law

an article by Sandrine Cazes and Sher Verick (International Labour Office (ILO) and IZA4, Genève, Switzerland) and Fares Al Hussami (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)) published in IZA Journal of Labor Policy Volume 2 Number 10 (2013)


The global financial crisis deeply impacted labour markets around the globe.

In the case of the United States, some commentators have argued that the subsequent rise in unemployment exceeded previous estimates of the elasticity of the unemployment rate with respect to output growth, a statistical relationship known as Okun’s law.

In contrast, others find a stable, long-term estimate of Okun’s coefficient implying that the deviation in unemployment during the crisis resulted from a larger output gap (not a structural shift in the trend). Ultimately, estimates of this relationship will depend on the methodology and data period utilised. Focusing more on short-term fluctuations, changes in unemployment are decomposed to identify the association with other channels of labour market adjustment (hours, productivity and labour force).

Results presented in this paper confirm the cross-country variation in the responsiveness of unemployment in the wake of the Great Recession. In the United States, Canada, Spain and other severely affected economies, estimates of Okun’s coefficient increased sharply, departing from pre-crisis levels.

In other countries, where unemployment has remained subdued, such as Germany and the Netherlands, the coefficient has fallen dramatically over the short-term.

While other factors can explain the heterogeneous impact of the global financial crisis on labour markets in OECD countries, this paper focuses on the contribution of labour market institutions (employment protection legislation) in explaining cross-country differences and shifts in the estimated Okun’s coefficient. In this regard, empirical evidence confirms that the responsiveness in the unemployment rate during the global downturn was lower in countries where workers are afforded greater employment protection such as Germany.

JEL classification: E24, J64, G01

Full text (PDF 18pp) with some very useful charts and graphs

Altruism in social networks: good guys do finish first

an article by S. Anand, R. Chandramouli, K. P. Subbalakshmi and M. Venkataraman (Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, USA) published in Social Network Analysis and Mining Volume 3 Issue 2 (June 2013)


Altruism in social networks was traditionally considered based on user relationships and requirements. The capability of a user to help has seldom been taken into account while studying altruism.

Also, to the best of our knowledge, no quantitative analysis has been made to determine the benefits of altruism.

Here we quantitatively study the amount of altruism of users based on the help extended by users to each other and the benefits they reap because of being altruistic. Results indicate that a network in which 90% users have capabilities that are above average contains 90% altruistic users, while a network containing 50% of users with above-average capabilities contains only 50% altruistic users.

Results also indicate that altruistic users (the good guys) reap more benefits than selfish users and free riders (i.e., finish first).

Graduates in media industries - degrees, institutions and grades

To use a cliché that would not I normally “does what it says on the tin”

Statistics and charts from HECSU

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Women Scientists and Engineers in European Companies: Putting Motherhood under the Microscope

an article by Clem Herman, Suzan Lewis and Anne Laure Humbert (Open University, Milton Keynes, UK) published in Gender, Work & Organization Volume 20 Issue 5 (September 2013)


Unlike the rise in women’s participation in other professional sectors, women still form a minority of professional scientists and engineers, especially in multinational companies. Moreover, embedded gendered cultures in the science, engineering and technology (SET) sectors continue to affect the career progression of professional women, with few women reaching senior management positions and many leaving and failing to return.

This article examines the experiences of women SET professionals in three European companies based in France, The Netherlands and Italy and illustrates how the careers of SET professionals in industry are shaped not only by corporate cultures and practices but also by the specific national contexts in which they live and work.

In particular, we look at how motherhood rather than gender alone is constructed as problematic and propose a model of strategies that women adopt in doing motherhood and SET, including assimilation, cul-de-sac, breaking the mould and lying low.

A commentary on resistance to the UK’s Work Experience programme: Capitalism, exploitation and wage work

an article by Chris Grover and Linda Piggott (Lancaster University, England) published in Critical Social Policy Volume 33 Number 3 (August 2013)


In this commentary we focus upon resistance to the UK’s Work Experience programme that aims to help the young unemployed secure paid employment. The programme hit the news headlines in February 2012 when the group, Right to Work, forced concessions from the UK’s Coalition government that removed sanctions for Work Experience conscripts who left their placement after a week.

The paper critically engages with the Right to Work’s demand for ‘real jobs’, paying at least the minimum wage, suggesting that such demands are in danger of buttressing capitalist exploitation, rather than providing an alternative to it.

The paper argues a more radical approach is required if the role of policies, such as Work Experience, in the societalisation of capitalist accumulation is to be avoided.

Lone Parent Obligations: an impact assessment

A report of research carried out by the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER), University of Essex, on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions

DWP Research Report No 845


This report presents findings from an impact assessment of Lone Parent Obligations (LPO). LPO was introduced in November 2008 and since then lone parents have lost eligibility to Income Support (IS), based on the age of their youngest child, solely on the grounds of being a lone parent. In May 2012, the age of the youngest child was reduced to five and over.

The impact assessment is part of a comprehensive evaluation of LPO that has explored whether and how lone parent employment interventions provide an effective incentive to look for paid employment, alongside an effective package of support for workless lone parents to enable them to find, enter and sustain paid employment. The impact assessment quantifies the impact of LPO by providing estimates of how many lone parents were moved off out of-work benefits and into work as a result of LPO. It examines the impact of LPO on lone parents in the earlier phases of LPO, who lost entitlement to IS between November 2008 and the end of June 2011, at a time when their youngest child was at least seven-years-old.

The impact assessment found that LPO has had a much greater impact on moving lone parents into work than other previous Departmental employment programmes and initiatives aimed at lone parents. Three months after the loss of IS entitlement, LPO is estimated to have reduced the share of lone parents receiving any out-of-work benefit by between 11 and 13 percentage points, and to have increased the share in work by around 7 percentage points. Nine months after, the share receiving any out-of-work benefit had fallen further, to between a 13 and 16 percentage point reduction, and the share in work had increased to between eight and ten percentage points.

The focus of the impact assessment is on movement off benefit and into work, among those claiming IS. It does not account for the impact on new or repeat lone parent claimants, which was beyond the scope of this analysis.

Full text (PDF 101pp)

Guidelines needed to help lawyers provide a better service to people with learning disabilities

via Current Awareness from the Inner Temple Library

A lack of experience in dealing with people with learning disabilities means lawyers often struggle to provide this vulnerable client group with the specialist support they need, according to new research published today.

Continue reading the press release from the Legal Services Board with links to further information

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Middle-Class Offenders as Employees—Assessing the Risk: A 35-Year Follow-Up

an article by Keith Soothill, Les Humphreys and Brian Francis (Lancaster University, UK) published in Journal of Offender Rehabilitation Volume 52 Issue 6 (August-September 2013)


A 35-year follow-up of a series of 317 middle-class offenders in England and Wales suggests that the dangers of employing offenders may be more limited than expected.

Although 40% were subsequently convicted, only 8% were subsequently convicted of offenses that directly and adversely affected an employer.

This work should challenge the “exaggerated fears” of employers. Interestingly, variables which normally predict subsequent criminal activity made no impact in trying to predict offences against an employer.

Managers as workplace learning facilitators

an article by Anoush Margaryan, Colin Milligan and Allison Littlejohn (Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland) published in International Journal of Human Resources Development and Management Volume 13 Number 2/3 (2013)


This exploratory, interview-based study (n = 29) elicits activities carried out by managers in support of employees’ learning and surfaces similarities and differences in the ways these activities are perceived by novice, experienced and mid-career workers.

Analysis suggests that managers provide a wide variety of types of learning support, ranging from hands-on support on operational issues, structuring individual development programmes and advice on learning opportunities, to coaching, career advice, counselling and being a role model. The perceptions of novice, experienced and mid-career professionals are compared and contrasted, tentative patterns identified and a typology of managers’ learning facilitation activities proposed.

The results suggest that to enable managers to facilitate workplace learning effectively, a broader range of competences and skills should be considered when training managers.

How can we make organizational interventions work? Employees and line managers as actively crafting interventions

an article by Karina Nielsen (University of East Anglia, UK) published in Human Relations Volume 66 Number 8 (August 2013)


In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the processes of organisational interventions when evaluating the outcomes on employee health and well-being. Nevertheless, process evaluation is still in its infancy and primarily consists of checklists inspired by the public health intervention literature.

In these frameworks, employees are seen as passive recipients whose reactions to pre-developed interventions should be evaluated. Current organisational intervention design rests on a participatory approach and recent process evaluations reveal that employees and line managers influence the implementation and the outcomes of organisational interventions.

Following the current foci of current frameworks we may miss out on important information on the influence of both the participatory process and the line managers on intervention outcomes.

I argue that current evaluation frameworks suffer from four limitations:
  1. they are not aligned with state-of-the-art research and practice;
  2. and therefore they fail to apply theory to explain how and why human agents influence intervention implementation and outcomes;
  3. they do not offer suggestions as to how such agency can be measured; and
  4. nor do they discuss how we may use knowledge obtained from process evaluation proactively when designing future organizational interventions.

Are communications about work outside regular working hours associated with work-to-family conflict, psychological distress and sleep problems?

an article by Scott Schieman (University of Toronto, Canada) and Marisa C. Young (McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada) published in Work & Stress: An International Journal of Work, Health & Organisations Volume 27 Issue 3 (July-September 2013)


The sending and receiving of work-related communications outside of regular work hours spans the boundary between work and non-work, and with the adoption of new communication devices it is increasing.

The aim of this study was to investigate whether such communication, which we call Work Contact for short, was associated with psychological distress and sleep problems.

Using data from the 2011 Canadian Work, Stress, and Health Study, a large national sample of working adults (N=5729), we found that Work Contact was associated with higher levels of work-to-family conflict, distress and sleep problems. In addition, with the Job Demands-Resources model as a guiding framework, we found support for the “resource hypothesis” – the positive association between Work Contact and either distress or sleep problems is weaker among workers with more job autonomy, schedule control and challenging work.

By contrast, and consistent with the “demand hypothesis”, the positive association between Work Contact and sleep problems was stronger among those with more job pressure. Elevated levels of work-to-family conflict contributed to these interaction effects. Collectively, our findings elaborate on the complex consequences of the growing phenomenon of Work Contact, and underscore the relevance of job resources, demands and the work-family interface in these processes.

Underemployment and the productivity paradox

via The Work Foundation by Ian Brinkley

The new blog from Danny Blanchflower is a timely reminder that the unemployment numbers do not tell the full story when it comes to measuring labour supply and demand.

Together with Jonathon Portes, Professor Blanchflower has estimated the number of hours that people would like to work and the number of hours that employers are willing to pay for. This shows that there is much more “slack” in the labour market than the unemployment rate indicates.

Continue reading includes links to lots of useful information

Monday, 5 August 2013

Universal Credit local support services framework

Framework setting out help for claimants who may require extra support to access Universal Credit

That really is all I need to say except to tell you that it’s a 28-page PDF document which you can access here.

Hazel’s comment: Try to hold on to your temper when reading this. Most low-income families do not manage on a monthly income nor do they do their banking online. I am reasonably well educated and use the internet easily. I still find that managing a low income is tough – and with ever-rising prices for staple foodstuffs it is becoming increasingly difficult to budget effectively.