Episode 103 – This week Tiernan (@tiernandouieb) talks to Conor D’Arcy (@conortdarcy) at the Resolution Foundation (@resfoundation) about solutions to bridge inequality between young and old people. Plus Brexit Fallout returns and should we pay more taxes to save the NHS?
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Episode 103 – This week Tiernan (@tiernandouieb) talks to Conor D’Arcy (@conortdarcy) at the Resolution Foundation (@resfoundation) about solutions to bridge inequality between young and old people. Plus Brexit Fallout returns and should we pay more taxes to save the NHS?
Links and sources of info from Conor’s interview:
All the usual ParPolBro stuff:
Hello and welcome to the Partly Political Broadcast, a podcast that has politics in one hand and comedy in the other and bangs those hands together in the hope to kill both at once. This is episode 103, I’m Tiernan Douieb and as Ireland voted for repealing the 8th amendment in a landslide referendum victory, I say, Ireland you are unstoppable! Now have a referendum on making your trains less shit, exiling Bono and Flatley and sort out the weather. I BELIEVE IN YOU! YOU CAN DO THIS!
66.4% of Ireland voted to legalise abortion proving that actually, God, she bloody loves a choice. With this and the gay marriage referendum, I wouldn’t be surprised if the mega deity herself is also a big fan of shrimp after all. Despite concerted efforts from No campaigners who reportedly used violent tactics because they’re only pro-life until you’re old enough for them to kill you, the Irish Catholic Church who can’t be taken seriously with any ‘save the children’ stance as that’s like Harold Shipman having campaigned for help the aged, the Orange order because nothing says women’s rights like 400 withered HomePride men working at the Christmas Sale, and evangelical Americans who travelled thousands of miles just to find out that actually, after all, thoughts and prayers really don’t mean shit. Despite all that, the Yes sides campaign touched many and Ireland decided that no, they won’t be bidding for season 3 of the Handmaid’s Tale to be filmed on their land. Only Donegal had more No’s than Yes’s but it is known as the forgotten county, no doubt because it seems time has moved on and not realised it left them all behind somewhere in the 1950s.
Now of course all eyes are on Northern Ireland, which still has a strict ban on abortion, and is increasingly looking like Europe’s own large scale Spanish Inquisition re-enactment. DUP Leader, Inquisitor General and Hugh Bonneville’s shitty aunt Arlene Foster, said that the Irish referendum has no impact on the law in Northern Ireland. Sure, apart from the fact that women can now just nip over the border to get the treatment they want which will probably put even more opposition on the idea of a whacking great post Brexit border being there. Though to be fair, even scaling that as though it’s part of a giant obstacle course would be easier and more comfortable than a RyanAir flight. Foster made it clear that any decision on abortion legislation in Northern Ireland is a devolved matter, which no one could disagree with as it seemed hugely devolved, and that it’s for the Northern Irish Assembly to debate and decide on. Great! Except there’s not been one of those since March of last year because it seems everyone is so anti-choice they’d rather no one lead the country than agree on a decision about it.
Prime Minister and what if the Joker was much less interesting and made worse speeches Theresa May is refusing to back a Westminster vote on liberalising Northern Ireland’s abortion laws, as she says it would be dangerous for British politicians to tell Northern Irish ones how to vote, unless of course it involves them being paid a lot of money to do so. Meanwhile the DUP have suddenly dropped their opposition to boundary changes meaning the Conservatives are looking to cut MPs in the Commons from 600 to 650, which will largely affect Labour. Oh I see, so it’s fine to reform other people’s boundaries is it?
Several Brexiteers have commented on how Remainers are happy to support Ireland’s referendum but not the Brexit one, which is nuts because you can’t compare changing history with crawling back through and embracing the past in a bear hug that causes it to have breathing issues. The only thing that links the two is that now Irish women will be able to have the medical care they need in their own country it’s likely they’ll give less of a shit about travelling over Britain where so many of our doctors and nurses from the EU have left, the waiting times would probably mean they had the baby before being seen anyway. Oh I see now. No wonder the DUP back Brexit.
Speaking of nonsensical comments about Brexit, Foreign Secretary and lovechild of a Golden Retriever and a lipoma Boris Johnson, has again pressured the Prime Minister about customs union decisions by saying the UK must come fully out of the EU. I would’ve thought coming fully out would just mean we make a bigger, even more visible mess. Tee hee. BoJo is just back from Latin America where he took pictures with, among others, a sloth, causing the sloth to marvel that it had met the planet’s slowest most useless hairy mammal, and also with a manatee, who no doubt asked security to remove the sea cow it was being harassed by. Thing is the UK Customs Chief have said the Brexiteers preferred customs maximum facilitation plan will cost the country £20bn a year in necessary technology alone, or roughly £380bn a week. So it’s even more unlikely the NHS will get that money despite needing support to deal with an entire country in trauma. Boris has also stated that he probably needs a private plane for his travels, something passengers he’s had to sit near on commercial flights would no doubt agree with. Nothing shows you’re in touch with the people like demanding a plane just as they’re informed they’ll lose more money. Still imagine all the bullshit he could write on the side of an RAF Voyager?
Meanwhile Environment Secretary and less friendly piranha Michael Gove has announced plans for more National Parks in England, which I guess is so there’s more space for fracking, driving pointless expensive train lines through or for him to bury his victims. Minister of State For Prisons and failed clone of Mick Jagger Rory Stewart has said that fewer offenders should be locked up for sentences of 12 months or less and instead they could be used to fill labour shortages left by Brexit. Great! I think no one would make a better nanny than someone who’s day trips with your children will probably involve showing them how to scale drainpipes and use their tiny hands to open windows from the outside. Labour leader and Hide Your Pain Harold Jeremy Corbyn has announced his party would scrap the Lords and replace with a democratically elected chamber which is the first time the party under his leadership have backed removing privileges from the elderly and telling them they are no longer fit for work.
Lastly a man from Mali has been granted instant French citizenship by President and European Steve Carrell Emmanuel Macron, because he scaled the outside of a building to save a toddler. This has no doubt confused the Front National who will now have to tentatively start a campaign to keep French children in danger.
Everyone said ‘oh when you’re a parent you cry at everything’ which isn’t true because how can you get invested in any sort of emotional narrative when your little daughter keeps farting or crying at choice moments and deflating any investment you had? But previous to parenting, and still now, I find myself being stone cold ok with sad things and death stuff in films, and yet then on the verge of tears because I witness someone doing something mildly nice like aid someone across the road or not be a dick constantly. Is this what modern day society has done to me? Made me so expectant of worldly horrors and human ambivalence that I’m now a mess when something nice happens? Or am I just a psychopath? I’m not a psychopath, I score very low points on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, but that is also what I’d tell you if I was a manipulative, pathological liar with superficial charm, like a psychopath. Hmm.
Thank you for listening to this already weird show, and big thanks to the three of you who left lovely reviews on iTunes after the last week although Apple seems to have deleted some and keeps making the most recent one disappear and reappear at regular intervals like lazy yet evil magicians. So thank you Michael, LongskateDeath and OutlawTron, and I would love it if more of you wanted to review the show even though iTunes may decide your review isn’t worth it. Or maybe they fear this show becoming too popular and ultimately taking down Apple with some snarky gags about how they can avoid tax but not the fact that Tim Cook looks like your Nan’s friend Jane, the one who’s always complaining about people smiling too loudly. Sorry, just if you can review the show on iTunes or Stitcher who don’t delete anything, or podbean or Yelp that would be amazings. Also if you can afford to donate to the show, please spare even $1 per month to the Patreon, which translates this week still to 75p, the same price as a trowel in Wilkinsons. Which is a very reasonable price for a trowel, true, but you don’t need a need trowel every month do you? How many bodies are you burying? Thinking about it, trying to persuade you I’m not a psychopath then knowing the price of trowels probably isn’t a good look. Anyway please donate to the Patreon at www.patreon.com/parpolbro or do a one-off donation at ko-fi.com/parpolbro and all of them links are on the website too for clicking ease because you know, clicking is so hard otherwise. NOT THE CLICKING OF YOUR VICTIMS BONES THOUGH. I swear I got so low on the test. So so low. If you don’t have enough words left to review, I dunno you might of used them all up by accident, or you can’t afford to donate then please just spread the word about this show to get more people on board. One lovely tweeter last week told me they had played the podcast to a pal and that person had subscribed as a result. That is amazing and I prefer that to reviewing or donating, no wait, just reviewing because I’m shallow. Then once I have enough of you listening I can stick in lots of subliminal messages and you can be my evil trowel army where we hunt down victims while saying awful gardening catchphrases like ‘You dig?’ Don’t forget to check the website in general at partlypoliticalbroadcast.co.uk, as I am slowly building up transcripts and everything else on there and thanks again to my other half @proresting on Twitter, this week’s episode will be fully transcribed and up online hopefully by the time this reaches your ears.
On this week’s show I am interviewing Conor D’Arcy from the Resolution Foundation on their Intergenerational Commission and Low Pay Britain reports, plus Brexit fallout returns because I can’t do something nice for you or I’d start welling up. There’s not much more than that because it’s half term and large amounts of you won’t have time to listen to this as you’ll be too busy working out what to do with children and how best to keep them away from weird men with trowels. But of course, before all those things, here is these thingings:
‘Nothing in this world can be certain except death and taxes’. So said Benjamin Franklin, or possibly Christopher Bullock, or maybe Edward Ward. I mean, who knows? They aren’t death or taxes so we’ll probably never find out. Currently in the UK, it seems certain that the only way to avoid the death of the NHS, and consequently many of it’s patients, is by raising taxes. No don’t be silly, clamping down on the privatisation of the NHS by companies who never pay any tax at all definitely won’t help. Why would you say such a silly thing? Of course it wouldn’t because er things. Nor would increasing the spend on the NHS in comparison to GDP which was happening until 2010 when it went into decline. No of course that wouldn’t help silly billy. Who are you? Someone who understands basic numbers or something? Weirdo. No the only way, as the Institute of Fiscal Studies recommends, is if tax rises gave the NHS an extra 4% per year, aka £2000 per household. That’s does sounds a lot but it’s £2000 per household by 2033 under the assumption that households will be richer then, and not that Theresa May will still be gripping onto power like an angry withered tick as everything stagnates to the point of giving most areas in Britain the classification of paved swamp.
But Treasury still thinks its too much and is angling for 2% and Health Secretary and animated pastry brush Jeremy Hunt wants 3% as he says the public would back this proposal as long as they don’t think the money is wasted. Except with Hunt, a man who back in January tweeted an Ipswich hospital staff chart commending their use of technology, completely overlooking all the huge chunks of red that showed times where staffing was an issue. It does make me worried that we’d pay this extra tax and find out in a years time that Jeremy used the money to buy more flats he’d forgotten about because he visited a ward and thought everyone was so happy they were playing lo-fi electronica, completely unaware those are heart monitors.
The biggest issue is that as part of a new funding plan announced by Theresa May in March, the government are currently arguing about what how much the NHS needs and what it can afford as the institution approaches its 70th birthday, meaning several of them still probably think it should be working by itself without support for at another year. These arguments include looking at scrapping some of former Health Secretary and Droopy The Dog Andrew Lansley’s 2012 reforms that cost a lot of money, caused a lot of hassle and basically no one liked but they did them anyway, thus providing us with a glimpse at what the next 6 years would be like. But scrapping those reforms may not be enough for a decent funding and who knows if better ones would be put in place. And if the tax rise idea comes into play, then £2000 per household in the NHS really isn’t that much anyway, covering 16 A&E visits or 8 Ambulance journeys, hopefully not all for the same person. Back in 2002 then Chancellor and man who when he speaks his face looks like stirred porridge Gordon Brown, introduced a 1p in the pound National Insurance hike specifically for NHS funding, but the Conservatives vowed to scrap it when they came in in 2010 because they’re nice like that. Then last year Chancellor and escaped shadow Phillip Hammond had to u-turn on a proposed rise to national insurance due to public anger.
But several polls say two thirds of the public are happy with tax rises if it means keeping the NHS in good health, so who knows. All we know is death and taxes and knowing the government they’ll definitely give up one for the other, though which way round is yet to be seen. Personally I’m hoping for the death of Jeremy Hunt’s career, meaning any rise in taxes doesn’t go to some weird scheme involving him forgetting to push for more bed buying and staff pay increases and instead doing something like giving homeopathy to pets for free or insisting all junior doctors are actually children.
INTERVIEW WITH CONOR / RESOLUTION FOUNDATION
If you’re young chances are your main source of hope for the future is that meteor hits the Earth or an alien invasion happens and that way while you’re fighting for survival, you won’t really have to worry about rent, employment or paying your student debt back. Though knowing the student loans company, they’d still manage to get a letter to you right while you were in the midst of being fired at by lasers, just to let you know that you’ve missed a few payments. The effects of current politics on young people have been the focus of this podcast quite a number of times. That’s partly to do with my inability to realise that I’m no longer a young person even though I am a millennial albeit only by a handful of days. I mean, really days. I am so not young. I can’t be woke when I am so so tired all of the time. But mostly it’s because young people in the UK are having a hard time with financial issues, no hopes of ever owning a home and a gig economy. A survey by the Prince’s Trust found that today’s young people are the unhappiest they’ve been in a decade and that’s not just because 10 years ago, being a goth stopped being as popular.
You may have seen a headline a few weeks ago that said 25 year olds should all get £10k and you may have thought, ‘well considering how that is the age group that appears to be hit the hardest by austerity that makes sense’ or ‘REALLY? HOW EXPENSIVE IS IT TO CONTOUR AN AVOCADO OR SMASH A SNAPCHAT?’ or like me probably just ‘oh but I’m well older than that and I really need £10k’. Well firstly, if you thought the middle thing, you’re an idiot, and secondly, it was an idea that was one small part of an Intergenerational Commission Report by the Resolution Foundation that focused on how to bridge the gap between generations in the UK and address the concerns of not only the young but older people too. Which is good as I feel less left out now. The Resolution Foundation isn’t, as you may incorrectly think, a group that focuses on how pixels should be on your computer screen, nor what you should pretend you might do after new years. They are though, a non partisan think tank that looks at living standards and this week I spoke to Conor D’Arcy, a senior research and policy analyst at Resolution Foundation, all about the Intergenerational Commission Report, what it is, what it means, will the government ever do anything about it and exactly how much money can I get because I’m really skint? We had a lovely long chat so hope you enjoy.
Tiernan Douieb: The first thing I want to ask is probably quite an obvious question but what does the Resolution Foundation do? And what are you? You’re a think tank, right?
Conor D’Arcy: Yes, so we are a think tank but, you know, legally we’re a charity, so our charitable purpose as legally defined is to do stuff to promote the interests of or research into people on low to middle incomes, and that essentially boils down to-, you know, we’re not a poverty charity, there are a lot of charities who focus on those groups and they obviously deserve a lot of attention and support. We’re focusing on the step above that, so what Theresa May has called the ‘just about managing’. There have been various names for them over the years, but it’s people who are on low to middle-ish incomes, in work, not in poverty but not doing fantastically well either. So, we cover a whole range of issues that might affect them, things that go on in employment or wages but also things like benefits and how much they got from the state, and longer term stuff as well like how state spending is going in the longer term? What does the future look like in terms of their pensions? So, a really broad range of stuff, and we’re very data based. Some charities or think tanks tend to do more actually talking to real people, we tend to do a layer away from that where we use datasets from the Office for National Statistics. We try and find out what’s going on and then come up with policy ideas that basically tries to make things a bit better for that group.
TD: Sure, and that’s all presented to the government, presumably?
CD: Well, yes. We’re totally independent and we try and get any party and no party interested in our stuff. So, a lot of what we do is, kind of, focused at the media, so we’re keen to get any report that we publish out there, and if anyone wants to take on our ideas, that’s great. Obviously we talk to politicians of all stripes to try and get them to implement our ideas.
TD: That’s something I’ve always quite enjoyed over the years when I’ve read Resolution Foundation, I’ve noticed that you’ve had politicians from various different parties backing or on your various panels and things looking into things, which is always, I find, very reassuring as a member of the public, that it works across politics and is more just good advice. I wanted to talk to you about the recent Intergenerational Commission report, which came out of, by the time listeners will hear this, a couple of weeks ago. The first question I want to ask is what on earth an intergenerational contract is? That’s what the report starts off with. What is that? What does that mean?
CD: So, it’s basically the idea that different generations provide support to each other to other different generations at different stages of their lives. I mean, the family metaphor is probably the easiest way to understand it, kids get support with their education, their needs when they’re developing and growing. Younger people, you know, when they’re having kids, their grandparents or their parents care about them, they want to try and support in them. And in old age, we support our grandparents if they’re in need of social care or other kinds of assistances as they get older. It’s basically the idea that everyone pitches in and, at various stages of your life you’ll need support at various stages of your life you’ll be helping others. It’s something that hasn’t gone away, families still want to help each other, families are every day helping each other out, whether it’s caring for each other or chipping in a bit of money if someone’s trying to buy a house or just needs some money to help them get by or pay a deposit on a flat. It’s not like the intergenerational contract between families and individuals has gone away, but I think the reason we started this, and we started this commission about 2 years ago now, there were lots of signs that, for older generations, there were elements of that bargain, that kind of contract, that weren’t being held up. So, for instance, we’d seen younger people, their wage growth has been really poor, and the quality of jobs that they’d been getting into, obviously zero hours contracts are barely out of the news. Those kinds of issues around whether the promise of good quality work is there to the same extent that it was for younger people 20, 30, 40 years ago was a really important question. Then the next stage was, you know, people who are trying to buy their own homes, the housing crisis doesn’t need to be restated, everyone, I think, knows about it. It’s not just a London issues, which sometimes gets claimed, it’s much wider spread than that. It’s really tough and your typical 30-year-old millennial is about half as likely to own their own home as someone from the baby boomer generation and those who were born in the 20 or so years after the Second World War. So, you know, we’re just seeing a lot of the assumptions that people had about each generation doing better than the last starting to look a bit shaky and, in some cases, look like things have gone into reverse really. But that also includes people who are older, there are always worries around whether the NHS is being funded very well, whether it’s providing the level of care and service that is needed and that people expect. It’s most used by older people and, as the baby boomer generation now are moving into retirement, making sure that they can get the NHS that they deserve and expect and need, and the social care system, which is even more chronically dogged by problems, making sure that that’s doing the job it is to make sure that people can expect to be looked after and have dignity at all stages of their life. I think those are the issues that we’re all worried about in this.
TD: It feels like age has become another division in politics at the moment alongside all the Brexit ones or class or location or previous ones that we’ve seen. Age now feels to be a major factor, mainly because, as you state, what young people need is quite drastically different to what they’ve needed before, you know, in terms of access to housing and education and stuff. Do you feel that that’s become more prevalent in recent years?
CD: Yes, definitely. I think it’s really come to light, especially around the last election and how that seemed to be more split along age and party line than perhaps in the past with more young people shifting more towards Labour and older people more towards the Tories. I think if we raise this an issue, if we’d done this commission, say, 10 or 15 years ago, it just would’ve been less relevant, we were still pre-crisis, at least, we were in a period where wages were doing pretty well, employment rates were high, everybody seemed to be doing okay, the benefits system was paying out, house prices were really increasing but so were wages and we hadn’t really seen that sharp decline in people being able to get on the housing ladder. So, I think it’s definitely risen up the agenda for politicians but just for individuals as well because, I think, some of the issues that I’ve mentioned are becoming more and more serious and more and more obvious that it’s hard to avoid this age divide.
TD: Something that always seems to strike me is that a lot of the policies that have been put forward in the past are very limited in time scope, they’re not very future-proof, they don’t seem to see this as a long-term problem, they’re always cutting stamp duty a little bit but they’re not tackling situations as a whole. Do you think that the awareness of how much this is an issue is there amongst politicians?
CD: Yes, I think it’s definitely increased. Definitely since the 2017 election I think it’s definitely gone up the agenda. I mean, I’ve got some sympathy for them because these are massive issues and these aren’t problems that have cropped up overnight, some of the problems that we flagged, they started well before 2007, 2008, when the financial crisis started. The foundations of them have been put in place a long time ago and it’s hard to just come along and do one policy that’s going to fix everything, it’s going to take years and years, just to take housing as an example, of building a high number of homes to really start to put a dent in things. Housing supply isn’t the only thing, just building a lot more homes won’t fix things, they need to be in the right place, you need to have transport links that go to them, so there’s a whole raft of issues. So, that’s why we have the luxury as not the government, and having got together a group-, I should say the Intergenerational Commission is hosted by the Resolution Foundation, that’s how we sometimes describe it, but there’s a whole mix of people from unions, from business, from academia, from journalism, so a whole range of people. We had the luxury to be able to step back and say, ‘Okay, here are some longer term programmes, you might have missed them if you’re involved in the day-to-day of politics, but we’ve seem them bubbling up and if you don’t do something about them now, and something, in some cases, quite drastic, then these are issues are only going to worsen overtime and you’re storing up even more problems for the future.’ So, I think, you know, it’s a good argument as well for politicians to be able to make when you have this framing of, ‘Here is a big issue, here are the problems that are facing different generations, and here’s how we can act in a coherent way to try and improve things for them, now’s the right time to be doing that.’
TD: The one that made the headlines from this report, one of the key recommendations, because there were 10 key recommendations, all of which I read through and thought, ‘All of these seem incredibly sensible,’ but the one that grabbed a lot of headlines was the idea that every 25-year-old should be given £10,000. I should add that that’s obviously not to just do willy-nilly with it, it was for very specific areas of housing and things. There’s been a lot of criticism as to whether or not that would be feasible. My question is, is £10,000 enough? If we look at how expensive even affordable housing is or rent prices on the increase, where did you get the figure of £10,000? How does that work?
CD: So, it’s definitely sparked a lot more debate than some of the slightly less eye-catching policies. The citizen’s inheritance, as we call it, isn’t a brand new idea, we’ve got people like Thomas Payne back in the 19th century coming up with these sorts of ideas of giving people a foothold in life to build up something. Some people just recommended letting people use it however they want, that’s definitely how it got reported by some people. I listened to a long conversation about people saying, ‘Don’t spend it all on drugs.’ We’ve got suggestions for how you’d stop that. The suggestion that we had was you could spend it towards a housing deposit or towards your pension or towards education, so if you wanted to pay off some of your student debt or if you wanted to go and do a masters or if you’re not on the university route and you just wanted to go and do a different course, you could absolutely do that, or if you wanted to start your own business. I think the £10,000 was a little bit of a finger in the air of what seems reasonable, what wouldn’t absolutely break the bank from the government’s point of view but would actually be meaningful? I think if you give people a small amount of money, the temptation to fritter it away or not take it too seriously, even with all those protections in place, I think it’s a little bit higher. Some of the push back we’ve got is that it’s too high and it’s just a huge amount of money, and we reckon it would add up to around £7 billion annually by the time it’s fully rolled out. I’ve heard other people say it’s not enough, and I think that’s mainly been people in London who have the idea of buying their own home. That’s fair, and we’re not saying this is going to solve all of young people’s problems or instantly convert everyone into a homeowner, not by any means is that true. When we look across the wealth, the financial cash that people have, how much property wealth they have, when you look at people in their late 20s, this would more than double their wealth for more than half of them, so it’s a really big deal. In lots of the country, this is a very big chunk of a housing deposit, it could cover a lot of masters out there or their training courses that could kick start people’s careers because that’s one of the things that we’re worried about, that young people aren’t climbing the career ladder and the pay ladder in the way that we would’ve expected. Or, if you just stick it away and put it towards your pension, some estimates, depending, obviously, on how things grow, it could end up being around £40,000 or £50,000 by the time you’re retiring. So, I think it could make a really big different. It’s not going to solve things, by any means, but when we look at the difficult situation that a lot of people who came of age during the financial crisis have felt they’ve just not been able to get into decent quality work, not being able to save or get on, it seems like a meaningful but not absolutely revolutionary change that would give people an extra leg up in life and help them build up an asset.
TD: Personally I found it a very sensible recommendation. There was part of me going, ‘Damn, why not for 30-year-olds? We really need it as well.’
CD: One thing we had is that it would be slowly rolled out, so the first people that would get it in 2020 would be people aged 34 to 35. In some ways, this is meant to be, kind of, like compensation for having come into the world of work around the time of the financial crisis, so if you were in you early to mid 30s in 2020, that means you were probably leaving school, college or uni around 2008 when things were pretty tough. There’s really good evidence to show that people who start off in work at a time when there’s high unemployment or the economy’s not doing very well, that leaves a real scarring effect in people’s careers, they never really tend to fully recover or it takes a very, very long time. So, we were trying not to exclude anyone but build in the policy slowly over time. So, depending on how old you are, you might be able to get some if this policy came in.
TD: I think, sadly, judging by what you said, I might just miss it. There’s been a lot of conversations across politics about the universal basic income idea and how, while it would cost quite a lot at first to supply people with money, it would, in time, save money because you wouldn’t have people relying on other services quite so much that they would rely on if they were in poverty. That felt to me like £10,000-, what was the thing on Twitter the other day? That by 35 you should have half your wage in savings, which is impossible. As a self-employed person, that does make sense because my salary is zero so half of that, that makes sense.
CD: I saw another tweet today taking the mick out of that saying that, by age 30, you should have one save on every Zelda game, which sounds more achievable.
TD: I think I’ve managed that one, that’s definitely possible. Some of the other key recommendations that I found very interesting were looking at property-based contributions towards social care costs, and a progressive property tax based on more of an update because council tax doesn’t really work anymore and property values haven’t been done, I think, since, is it the early 90s?
TD: I know that the housing crisis, obviously, is in need of some really drastic changes, especially to help younger people, but how on earth do you persuade homeowners to get on board with that when they’ve already got a home and they probably like it being valued quite highly?
CD: Yes, this is always the challenge. One of the points that we’ve made is, I think some of the push back we’ve got from this, we’ve received a few emails and calls from older people, is that they feel like we’re arguing in some way that they don’t deserve to have their own home or they don’t deserve to have the wealth that they’ve built up. That’s absolutely not what we’re saying, people across every generation have worked hard to get what they want or what they needed and they’ve bought their own homes and saved and worked hard for it, so we’re not trying to take away from that whatsoever. But I think one of the things that we have found is that what we saw and what no one could’ve predicted in the 90s and 00s is this incredible increase in property wealth, nothing we’d really seen before. And for most homeowners, the increase in the value of their home, that wasn’t because they brilliantly decided, ‘Actually, I can foresee that this house is going to rise in value multiple times over the next few years,’ or, ‘I’m going to totally revamp the house and do it up and it’s going to be worth more.’ Most people just benefited from that overall increase in house prices. So, a huge chunk of their property wealth is basically luck. What we’ve argued is to bunch things together, so what we’re saying is you could reshape, so the £10,000, for instance, is redesigning inheritance tax, so it’s recognising that some of these property values have increased massively, it’s not always people’s own genius that has lead to that. So, reforming the way that the property in all forms of wealth would be inherited, shifting it from the person who’s dying and passing things on to being paid by the person who’s receiving it just seems not fair. Lots of people would be exempt, lower income properties or lower value properties wouldn’t necessarily come under it but, for some of them, the top most expensive properties, some of that then would be taxed and we’d put that towards the £10,000. I think, similarly, on council tax, as you said, it’s hugely out of date, no party would ever stand up and defend it, and I think one of the main challenges is that if you’re renting you end up paying council tax anyway and it’s definitely on you. There are different versions of wealth taxes in different countries but I think what we’re kind of envisaging that this adds is more of a tax on people’s actual properties, the owners themselves rather than the renters who don’t really benefit from the value of the house changing or anything. So, shifting the balance of that and just making it a lot fairer, as you said, redoing the property values, which are so far out of date. So, you know, those things aren’t massively popular, and I think some people would be better off from revaluations, and we’re really keen that the lowest income, lowest value homes, aren’t facing a big increase. Again, I think it’s tying it back into the overall intergenerational contract, it’s the idea that you can see why this is happening, that you’re taking some of this money that’s coming in from a reformed version of council tax and putting it into making housing more affordable for younger people, I think that’s the way to sell it. By no means will that be easy, it’s not the only solution to a lot of these issues, but I think some of the encouraging stuff we’ve seen, I think the attitudes data on this is really interesting. What we’ve seen is that you looked roughly 10 years ago, I think even less than 10 years ago, asking people, ‘How do you feel about more housing being built in your local area, and most people were opposed. As you said, if a load of new houses get built in your new area, the value of your house might drop, and even if you don’t plan to sell your home, it’s still nice to know that your house is worth a lot and you could cash in some ways if you wanted to. But what we’ve seen recently, and I think it’s again the intergenerational stuff is what’s underlying it, is that we’ve seen now actually the majority of people say, ‘Yes, I would support more homes being built in my area,’ because people have kids, people have grandkids, they see them trying to save, working hard and not being able to buy their own home, not being able to get a decent career going, and are supportive of some kind of action. Does that mean it will be a really easy policy to change? Absolutely not. As I said, lots of parties have supported particularly reforming council tax over the years and have just never really done it because some people will lose out and be very upset, it’s not a big political winner. Given the scale of these problems, and again, as you were saying, having that longer-term vision that politics and designer politics often preclude sometimes I think is really key because these problems, they’re not going to go away.
TD: That’s what I was going to ask as well. Obviously we’ve got, kind of, issues with economy and things now, and obviously political issues with Brexit and whatever that may bring, but there are also issues like automation and the fact that the jobs market is changing. The jobs that people are doing are changing because of technology, we’ve seen that cause the gig economy and zero hours. So, in a way, is this report future-proofing that as well, giving people a base to get through those changes? We’re at the transitional phase now, surely in 50 years people will know how that works, but until then, we’re kind of seeing the labour market, as it were, change.
CD: So, the labour market definitely has changed. If you look compared to 10 years ago, we’ve got much more zero hours contracts, we’ve got much more self-employed people in particular, other forms like agency working, lots of these kind of atypical insecure forms of work have definitely increased. For the automated stuff, it’s really tough to say what happens. I think our kind of default position is that history tends to be the best guide on these things and you can say that we’re in a genuinely new world where the pace of AI and things is moving so quickly that it will just totally revolutionise the labour market. I think, from our perspective, we tend to think that robots are a good thing, that, in general, they delivered better living standards for people, things can be done more easily, products can be made more cheaply, people tend to benefit overall as long as you’re thinking about how do you create better jobs for people and how do you make sure that no one’s falling through the gaps. I think we’re inclined to thinking, my personal opinion is that, worrying too much about that sort of stuff when it doesn’t seem-, obviously, we should keep a close eye on it, but I think, given how obvious some of the problems that we’ve raised in this report are, which in some ways they’re around the labour market, young people who’ve had a tough time, particularly since the financial crisis, how do they get on and how do they get better jobs? How do they get more secure positions and more normal contracts? That matters, but I think, in some ways, it slightly feels errant to try and predict, ‘We need to do this policy because in 10 or 15 years time we think the labour market is going to be like this, or X% of people in this industry are not going to have a job any more.’ I think change tends to be a bit more gradual, people tend to adapt. Obviously, in the past, there have been some areas, like the history of industrialisation and ex-mining towns still haven’t recovered, that should be a real warning to future policy makers, that you can’t just hope that this all goes okay. But I think on the labour market, that’s one area where actually young people have in some ways done better, unemployment rates have been so much lower than we would’ve expected, we’re at record high employment at the moment. So, I think, in some ways, that’s where they’re better off, it’s more just getting that, kind of, wage and career progression going for them that I think is the big concern in the short term as well as, you know, keeping an eye on the longer term, making sure that the issues around automation don’t just spring up and surprise us but the policy changes that are needed today are more concrete on what we see.
END OF INTERVIEW PART ONE
And we’ll be back with Conor in a minute but first, that’s right it’s back, it’s…
Yet again, everything about nothing is happening, while nothing is actually happening, despite everything going on. Yes, the path to Brexit is politics’s Henry’s Cat. There is still no decision on what sort of customs partnership the UK should have with Europe after we leave, though rather than have two options that definitely won’t work, we now only have one after Jon Thompson, the chief exec of HM Revenue and Customs has said the max fac plan will cost the UK £20bn a year. The Max Fac plan, despite sounding like a kids show about a character who’s hella excited about Feminists against censorship, it is actually all about using technology that no one has to do a job no one knows how to do. Where’s this figure come from? Well Max Fac would mean every individual business would need to fill in a customs declaration, which are £35 a consignment and may include bloody loads of them which would cost bloody loads. Yeah check my maths talk. And that’s it. That would be £20bn a year with time spent, form costs, delivery costs and that’s not taking into account any delays or other issues businesses may have, such as hiring me to do their maths and me just assuming everything will be ‘bloody loads’. This £20bn figure has been disputed by other economists but even then, the figures they’ve come to have still been, and I’ll use the technical term again, bloody loads. Now I say this non-option is now even less of an option but Brexiteers are still preferring it because they’d much rather that money goes on containers instead of the NHS. That makes sense. If someone has an injury and you put them in the NHS they have to be seen to, but if you put them in a container, chances are, no one will see them again. Cost saved! But really if Theresa May even thinks about putting Max Fac forward, all non-hardcore Brexiteers will just say ‘we should stay in the customs union then.’ So that means she’s likely to go for her plan which no one likes where the UK collects tariffs on behalf of the EU even though no one really knows how that is done either and the EU says is rubbish. Hooray!
Meanwhile, all the name calling and jibing has come back in place of any actual useful negotiating as Brexit Secretary and man composed entirely of fluff you find on your genitals after wearing new pants David Davis has accused the EU of point scoring. Which if that is true, then its clear that this game makes less sense than NumberWang. Brussels have threatened to shut British firms out of the £8.8bn Galileo sat nav system, making us even more directionless and disorientated than before and ruled out the UK’s part in the European Arrest Warrant extradition system. Davis said Britain came to Brussels with an unconditional offer on security because it believes in putting public safety first. Really? Then why are we letting a man who looks like he’d get lost in a corridor negotiate the biggest change in UK politics? Doesn’t feel very safe to me, but more a national decision to set fire to our own homes. Phillip Hammond said the UK will make their own sat nav system which is worrying that the Chancellor says there isn’t enough money for most public services but somehow we’ve now got a spare £10bn so everyone can see exactly what traffic they’re about to drive into due to all the cuts to infrastructure and shitty roads. Judging by how things are going they’ll probably just be sticking an old sky dish to a firework and hoping for the best. On the other side of things, EU negotiator has said the UK has to stop playing hide and seek and needs to clarify its demands. With the whole Galileo scheme argument happening that feels like a particularly mean dig. I mean how are gonna hide if they’ve got that bastard thing seeking?
But he’s not wrong, the UK really need to speed things up but instead of that happening it’s looking like Theresa May is going to have to ask for an extension to the transition deal so it lasts until 2023 and I can’t help but wonder if this will be the case every few years, leaving us in a state of EU limbo, no one ever quite coming or going. 2026 ‘oh sorry, we’ve not got round to sorting it out yet, can we stay a few more years please?’ 2035 ‘Oh sorry it all got lost under a pile of things, we’ll do it when back from bank holidays, give us a few more years yeah?’ 2238 ‘Sorry our team got stuck in Mars because Boris insisted on flying, we should be back in a decade. Couple more yeah?’ On the plus side, if it happens long enough, everyone currently involved in Brexit will eventually die and forget what it was all about in the first place and then if we never mention it again maybe it’ll just go away? Another bonus to this never ending nothing happening is that it’s now pretty impossible for us to have a no deal scenario because no one’s prepared anything incase we do. Amazing huh? Our government’s total incompetency now means we’ll have to, by default, end up with some sort of deal. They remind me of an old flatmate who’d you ask to clean up so often but he never managed it and eventually everyone else had to do it for him, just to prevent us from living in grimsville. Maybe that is the big plan and after a while the EU will just hand us a booklet telling us what to do, and the government will boast about how their inefficiency saved Britain before running at the next election with the promise they’ll really not try to do anything for anyone and then still get in due to the apathy of voters.
As for other parties, Scottish First Minister and quokka in a suit Nicola Sturgeon has been meeting Brussels, probably just because it’s nice to have a chat with others about how the people you have to meet with are fucking idiots. Labour, and grassroots organisation Momentum are both putting pressure on their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to let members have a say on Brexit at the annual conference. That could be tricky for Labour as 75% of members back a second referendum and nine out of ten want to stay in the single market, whereas the Labour leadership haven’t ever made it clear what they want to do about anything and I’m starting to wonder if they can get in on this whole ‘will someone else just do it for us?’ trick. Yes how can they exactly know what to oppose when the government don’t have any plans for anything but also, if the opposition just said ‘hey, this is exactly what we want and we stand by it’ then a lot of the public would think ‘thank fuck someone seems to know what they’re doing!’ As it is, all we do know thanks to Corbyn’s visit to Belfast, is that Labour would take a neutral position in any border poll as long as the Good Friday agreement is kept to the letter.
Can you imagine ever going for dinner with any of these people?
‘What do you want to eat Jeremy?
‘Oh well that dish looks good but I won’t pick it as I want to remain neutral on my choices even though whatever we do it must be something that is listed but I won’t say either way.’
‘Right ok what about you Theresa?’
‘Can I have 5 more minutes? And then 5 more after that? And then another 5?’
AAARRGGGGGHHHH. While I get angry at idiots who say ‘the government should just get on with it, because it makes me mostly want to send them a contract where in the small print it says to give me lots of money, I do have to say, I now wish someone would get on with something. Just anything really. Even if after two long meetings they said ‘well we haven’t come up with any answers but we did make a Lego version of The Hague’ at least that’s something actually constructive.
And now back to Conor:
INTERVIEW WITH CONOR PART 2
TD: That’s something you just mentioned there because it’s interesting to hear that the unemployment is not as high as you would’ve expected. I know that the report has just come out saying unemployment overall has fallen by, I think, 46,000. So, what’s caused those changes? I know the wages have finally risen. Are we seeing ourselves come out of a period of difficulty or have certain things come into play that are changing things?
CD: It’s a weird time in the labour market although it’s an interesting time for me to be doing my job. Usually what we’d expect is that as employment rises, as more and more people get into work and the number of people who are unemployed or ‘inactive’, as they get called, but that basically means not working and doing something else, so they might be students or they might be stay at home mums or dads, basically you’d expect wages to rise because there are more and more people in work. If you’re an employer, you’re going to have a harder time holding onto your staff if they can go somewhere else, if every employer is desperate for people but they can’t find the people so they’re having to put up wages, that’s the normal expectation. So, when employment rates are quite high, you expect wages to be quite high as well. What we’ve seen for the last 2 years, which is weird, employment rates have been really high but wages haven’t really responded. So, they’re middling basically, wage rises are in and around or just a little bit under 3% at the moment, which is okay, but compared to make in the mid-2000s when, again, we had high employment rates, actually not even as high as now, we were talking of pay rises of 4% or 4.5%, that’s a very big world apart. At the same time, we’re seeing employers today saying they can’t fill their vacancies, they can’t get people to do the jobs. That’s some skill sectors, so that’s where they need people with specific qualifications, but the vacancy rates in a lot of industries, like retail or hospitality where maybe you’re not looking for someone with a specific skill or degree or anything advanced, there are still issues there. So, people are having a hard time finding people but we’re still not seeing that real response in wages increasing. There’s not really an easy explanation for why that is, people have said that productivity hasn’t risen very much in that firms have decided to hire more people rather than, say, invest in new technology, that’s one of the trade-offs. When the cost of labour and the cost of hiring someone is low, that puts you off longer-tern thinking again, thinking, ‘Oh well, I’ll buy this new machine or I’ll invest in this new software. We’ll just get someone else to do it the long way because it’s cheap enough to hire them.’ So, there are a lot of changes going on. It’s hard to say how much of this is the new normal in that we just end up in this position where people are maybe less confident after the recession because there is still the fear of zero hours contracts, that people worry if they fall out with their employer by asking for a pay rise then that will endanger their earnings and their incomes and what they bring home. But it could just be something else around productivity and we might see and uptick in that even though the new productivity stats have been really bad, which is, kind of, offsetting. So, basically, it’s a mixed up time, it’s hard to say what exactly is going to happen next, it’s really good that employment rates are high, it’s meant that a lot of families are better off than we were expecting, as we have seen in previous recessions, but the wage growth has just been really, really disappointing and there’s no sign of that coming to an end any time soon. We had the inflation spike post referendum, which has meant that people were paying more for their everyday shop, especially things coming from overseas. We’re starting to see pay rise again but average weekly wages are still about £14 below where they were before the crisis, in real terms. There’s a long way to go, basically, before we get back to where we were. There has been a huge amount of damage done over the last 10 years to individual’s prospects but just to the labour market in general, it always takes a bit of time to recover. So, some of the ideas that we’ve got kind of inadvertently addressed that, by trying to get some of that upward pressure moving again and trying to get people improving their skills but also shifting a bit more power towards workers to try and kick start wages.
TD: That’s really interesting. I can’t believe you’re putting nuance into this, into politics, what’s going on? There’s none of that allowed, not on Twitter or anything! One of the things that I again read, I won’t give any sources, was that unemployment has fallen but actually that’s sort of considering self-employment as employment, even if people might not be earning, it’s people that are registering themselves, and people that are down as zero hours contracts. So, does that now count as employment if people have uncertain work?
CD: Yes. I mean, it always has really in terms of the headline stats that we look at. They’re not produced by the government of the day, they’re produced by the Office for National Statistics. These aren’t fiddled numbers but you can definitely see how people would highlight them as issues. There’s always the question of whether we’re really capturing it. There’s, kind of, your lived experience, what you see and experience every day and how that matches up with what the data is telling you. I think if you’re living in a city and you’re seeing a lot of Priuses with little Uber stickers flying past you every day, it feels like a huge number of people are working the gig economy. Actually, when you look at the stats, it hasn’t really changed very much. When you look at the increase in who’s become self-employed, there’s definitely been an increase in taxi drivers, so we can kind of identify that, but there’s not been a huge surge in people who’d be in what we call ‘precarious self-employment’ where you’d be thinking, ‘Is this a real job or is it make work or bogus self-employment?’ where an employer has told them, ‘I’ll only hire you if you go on an self-employed basis.’ I think, you know, actually a lot of the increase has been in higher paid advertising, lawyers, education, marketing, a few industries like that. So, I think a lot of people are in insecure work, it’s definitely higher than it was before the recession, we’re talking 900,000 on zero hours contracts, we’re talking nearly 5 million people in self-employment, around 800,000 agency workers, so these are big chunks of the population. I think, for a lot of them, they’re not doing terribly, it’s not like absolutely everyone on a zero hours contract hates it. There are always doubts about these surveys but people tend to say they’re quite happy. I think the problems always come when you have a falling out with your employer or, you know, your hours get cut and then you don’t know what to do. So, what we recommended is that people who are on zero hours contracts, once you’ve been on them for about 3 months and you’ve had regular hours, you should just get a contract that guarantees you that. There’s some sympathy for employers, you don’t know, say, if you’re a pub, it’s a sunny day, you’re going to need 5 extra staff to work in your beer garden, if it’s absolutely pouring down with rain, you probably won’t need anyone. It’s one of the ways as well that we probably think that employment rates stayed a little bit higher post crisis, that because employers didn’t have to say, ‘I’m definitely going to hire you for 40 hours this week,’ they can say, ‘Well, actually, I can only really promise you a few hours every week.’ It’s one of the things that’s probably helped. But, given where we are now with, as we said, employment rates much higher, things looking a bit better, I think it’s time to shift some of the risk back onto the employers. That’s probably one of the themes of the intergenerational work, that so much risk has been shifted onto young people in a way that it wasn’t onto older generations, whether that’s work in terms of the kinds of contracts that they’re getting, whether it’s around housing, you’re more reliant now on landlords who can just decide basically, at a whim, to evict you if they want to or have ridiculous rent increases, or even longer-term where it’s pensions and you’ve got more people now paying into a pension through auto-enrolment, these workplace pensions, which is a really good thing, but because, without going too technical, these are defined contribution pensions, which are basically you save in, you invest them somewhere and you get out whatever you’ve put in essentially plus whatever interest you’ve earned. A lot of the risk is on you, basically if the things you invest in or if something goes wrong then you’re going to pay the price and your pension will be smaller than you might have expected. Whereas what was much more common back in day was defined benefit pensions where you knew exactly what you were going to get out. So some people ended up with what are called ‘final salary pensions’ where actually you just keep getting every year the salary that you were on, some people got less generous versions but they knew exactly what they were going to get out so there was less risk on them in retirement. In some ways the same applies to the NHS or social care where social care seems, I think to some people, more of a lottery these days of whether you get good quality social care or whether you’ll have to go and rely on private provision or something like that. In a lot of issues there has been that shift of risk, and a lot of the things that we’re suggesting, you know, getting rid of zero hours contracts for people who’ve been on them for more than 3 months, extra rights for self-employed people who might look more like the traditional employees of yesterday but giving them a little bit more support would be a big bonus. People in the rented sector, people still want to buy their own homes, we want to encourage that, but there will still be more people in the private rented sector, so introducing what are called ‘indeterminate tenancies’ so with no fixed cut-off point, where you can stay and a housing tribunal so, if you do have a problem with a landlord, that can be weighed up and evaluated by someone, limits on what rent increases can be, trying to keep them in pace with inflation. And, as I said, improving the NHS and social care. So, trying to shift some of that risk away from individuals and back a little bit more to governments and employers to try and future-proof but also, in the here and now, to protect people is what we going for.
TD: I think that would make so many people’s lives easier and I think it would reduce anxiety. You know, I think there would be a lot of not just financial benefits but, kind of, almost mental health benefits to it as well if people knew they weren’t going up against that much risk with their own money. So, we’ve covered quite a lot of the recommendations that are in the Intergenerational Commission report, but you have a report that by the time this is released will be out, I haven’t seen it yet so I don’t know what’s in it, but your Low Paying Britain report, can you tell me a bit about it and maybe any key recommendations that are contained within that?
CD: Yes so, obviously, wages are a big issue and we’ve seen one of the policies that’s actually really helped younger people in recent years is the government’s National Living Wage, which is, kind of, the re-badged minimum wage for people aged 25 and over. So, we did this annual report looking at people who are low paid, seeing who’s low paid, where they are, how the risk of being low paid has changed. The National Living Wage has put a proper dent in this, basically 1 in 5 people have been low paid, that’s not really changed for, like, 20 or 25 years. Until we got the National Living Wage, which came in in 2016, we’ve started to see a fall, it’s not revolutionary by any means, we’re down from 22% a few years ago to around 18% now, we’re expecting that to get down to 16% or 15% by 2020, so we’re definitely making progress, but that still means we’re going to end up with 4 million people in low pay, which isn’t great, and still puts the UK at the wrong end of the international league table. I think sometimes, in government, again it goes back to what’s the easiest thing to do, in some ways it’s very easy for a government to say, ‘We exist in government to say, ‘We’ve brought in this policy, this is doing a lot for low paid people,’ or even for Labour to say, ‘Actually, we need a much higher minimum wage and that’s going to solve a lot of the problems. ‘ What we’ve argued is that a lot of what low paid people find difficult or what causes them problems isn’t just to do with the hourly rate, there are other things going on, so that goes back to some of the issues around zero hours contracts and the terms and conditions and treatment they get. The point you were making around stress and how people feel about their job is really important, it’s something that we don’t capture very well because there aren’t very good stats on it. There are things on well-being but we don’t really get good detailed breakdowns of how people in certain jobs who are on certain wages do in terms of stress. There are three specific things that we’ve really pulled out and, again, it really overlaps with the intergenerational stuff. So, progression, we’ve looked at only around 1 in 6 low paid people escape low pay over a 10-year period, so there’s just not much movement with pay. We’ve looked specifically at sales assistants, which are one of the biggest low paying occupations, there’s something like 2 million people, and roughly half of them are still in the same job, are still in the same occupation, 5 years later, and only roughly around 4% are moving into what you think of as progression with retail, so into jobs like sales supervisor or a manager or director in retail. So, that retail, the shop floor to top floor idea isn’t really holding up for lots of people. It’s especially true for women, so that’s the second point, any way you cut low pay, women tend to do worse, they’re less likely to escape low pay, they’re less likely to move into better paying jobs, female sales assistants are more likely to move into other low paying jobs or actually worse paying jobs like cleaners or kitchen assistants. Whereas men who are sales assistants are more likely to move into those kinds of managerial positions. A lot of that comes down to what employers do and how they offer progression. If you’re an employer, often you’ll just think, ‘I’ll take on this person who’s working full-time and promote them to a manager,’ instead of thinking, ‘Actually, could we offer this on a flexible basis? Am I making good use of all the staff that I have?’ The third thing that we’ve touched on, which I think is really interesting but doesn’t get as much attention, especially with the recent merger talks for Asda and Sainsbury’s, is just the power that a few of the big employers have within the labour market. So, roughly 28% of all low paid people work for firms who have 5,000 employees or more and about 16% of all low paid people work for just 20 firms, so that’s absolutely massive power that a very small handful of firms have. Now, you can say in some ways that’s really good because if those firms improve pay or improve conditions, that has a massive impact and can really benefit people’s lives but, on the other hand, if you’re in a town and there are only 2 big employers who are going to offer a job that you’re qualified for, it makes things really tough because, you know, going back to if you’re going to ask for a pay rise, if you’re going to ask to be put on a better quality contract, that really means that if you fall out with one of them, you’re in trouble essentially if you can’t get on with the other one if there aren’t a lot of options available. So, when we talk about things like the energy market or water or communications, you’ve got Ofcom, Ofgem and all these different bodies who look into all these different markets and say, ‘Are things working well for the consumers?’ but there’s not really anything on the other hand to say, in the labour market where you’ve got really what we call ‘concentrated labour markets’ where there are a lot of workers employed by just a handful of employers, ‘Is the market working well for them?’ There has been some interesting stuff around this in Silicon Valley where, I don’t know if you remember, Google and Apple, I think, had a no-poaching agreement. Basically, Apple couldn’t just go and hire someone from Google and Google wouldn’t do it to Apple, and it ended up basically keeping wages down because if you were threatening to quit unless you got a pay rise, the options of where else you could go really get narrowed down. We haven’t got evidence that that’s happening, especially in low paying sectors where the National Living Wage is doing a huge amount of work, but when you think about what does a healthy labour market look like, how do you get a bit more power back into the hands of typical people, it’s probably not the ideal situation so it’s something that we’re really interested in and planning to do more on. It’s interesting.
TD: Yes, it’s really fascinating. I’m certain quite a lot of people won’t be aware of that at all. I definitely had no clue, especially, again, as you say, I think I’d be more aware of it in the US or expect it more than over here. That’s really fascinating, I look forward to reading that. By the time this is out, it will have been released. Last question that I just want to ask you is what I ask every single guest, obviously apart from yourself and the Resolution Foundation, are there any other campaigns or writers or anyone else that you’d recommend that listeners follow for solutions or interesting discussions on generational divides within current society, within the low paying work sectors, anything? Who do you look to for your information?
CD: Just because I’ve just had a meeting with them, the Living Wage Foundation do really fascinating stuff. They do the Living Wage, which most people will have heard of, but it’s the voluntary Living Wage, which is intended to not just give you an absolutely scraping by standard of living, it’s meant to give you a minimal acceptable standard of living so that you can afford the basics and participate in society. So, they do that but they also do a lot of really interesting stuff with employers, thinking, ‘How can Living Wage employers even go further and just be better and offer more things?’ They look at progression, they look at what are the chances for training, how do you dole hours out so that you don’t just have everyone on zero hours contracts but you actually match what employees want to what employers can offer and try and match up hours, so I think they’re really interesting. There is a really interesting charity called Timewise who, again, on this progression issue, how do women in low pay get on, they try and encourage employers to think about how that works and how you offer better quality employment or how you offer more higher paying jobs on a part-time or flexible basis, so they’re doing some really interesting trials at the moment with some big employers. That’s both in the low paying space. I guess around housing there are lots of really interesting people. I think one of our intergenerational commissioners was Sarah O’Connor, who is a journalist at the Financial Times, and she writes some really fascinating stuff. So, she’ll do a lot on the future of work and how automation is changing things, she’s done some really fascinating stuff with tracking devices, which I’d recommend looking up. She’s also done some really gripping pieces on-, she does a really good job of combining data with what happens to peoples’ lives, so she did a really excellent piece on Blackpool, which is combining stats on employment and unhappiness and other things like early deaths in Blackpool, which is going interviewing people, talking to people who are trying to make things better in Blackpool and charities that are there, as well as people who are on the sharp end of all this and now doing very well. It brings together the colder data stuff that we do with a more human touch, so that’s a few.
END OF INTERVIEW
Thank you to Conor for that very interesting chat. Conor is on Twitter at @conortdarcy and the Resolution Foundation can be found at resolutionfoundation.org or on Twitter @resfoundation, where you can find links to both reports that we discussed. I found both of them hugely interesting and while it is very likely you’ll think they go too far or don’t go far enough, I found it a relief to read thoroughly thought through ideas about what could be and should be to some extent, done next, rather than you know, politicians making their entire policy ‘well the other party didn’t have a good policy so ours will be better’ without ever saying what it is. And of course as mentioned by Conor, I interviewed Emily Kenway from the Living Wage Foundation waaay back in episode 11 if you fancy a listen to that even though it was ages ago and Emily doesn’t even work there anymore. Time eh? What a shit. Also thank you to Fern for putting me in contact with Conor. Much appreciated.
I’ve got a fair few guests lined up at the moment but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested to hear your recommendations for who I should interview and what subjects to interview people about. So if you have suggestions do drop me a line at email@example.com, or the Facebook group or the Twitter @parpolbro or via the contact form on the website which basically goes to the same email I just mentioned but you have to type even less things so it depends how lazy your fingers are. Or you could deliver it direct to me by an Antique Horse Drawn Mail Carriage but horses are shit at drawing so I’ll probably just point out the window and laugh at you sitting amongst weird hoof squiggles instead. As always it’s probably best to just email.
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This will be back next week when I’ll be looking at why Phillip Hammond catapulted himself into space with a goldfish bowl on his head and is insisting on tweeting photos of Britain’s roads from orbit with a ‘fuck galileo’ hashtag.
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