Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Inequality – ‘wicked problems’, labour market outcomes and the search for silver bullets

an article by Ewart Keep and Ken Mayhew (University of Oxford, UK) published in Oxford Review of Education Volume 40 Number 6 (November 2014)


In recent years concerns about inequality have been growing in prominence within UK policy debates. The many causes of inequality of earnings and income are complex in their interactions and their tendency to reinforce one another. This makes inequality an intractable or ‘wicked’ policy problem, particularly within a contemporary context in which many of the established policy responses from previous eras are at best discussed in muted terms and more normally deemed to be unavailable.

This reflects the eclipse of ‘equality of outcome’ models and the concomitant rise of ‘equality of opportunity’ as the new policy mantra from Thatcher onwards. As traditional policy responses have withered, the role of education and training as a ‘silver bullet’ that can address a host of economic and social challenges has come to the fore. This article outlines policy makers’ beliefs that improving the educational attainment of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds can enable them to compete more effectively for elite jobs, and also that increasing the supply of educated employees can transform the level of demand for skills from employers.

These beliefs are then critiqued, with reference to occupational congestion, over-qualification and the evidence that skills supply does not always create its own demand. 

Yes, I know that this is old but still worth reading. Hazel

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