Monthly Archives: September 2012

Kate Allen

The Office for National Statistics has expressed concern over the quality and timeliness of some official housing market data.

In the second stage of the ONS’s review of housing market statistics, which has just been published, it calls for greater accessibility of housing-related stats, more availability and greater punctuality of local-level figures, and the introduction of a private rental price index. 

Valentina Romei

Tension between China and Japan over the East China Sea is threatening to disrupt the strong trade relationship between the two countries.

In July Japan exported a higher value of goods to China than to Europe or to north America. It also imported a higher value of goods from China than from north America and Europe combined, and about the same amount as from the rest of Asia combined. 

No one should be under any doubt. Jill Matheson, the national statistician, is consulting on changing the mathematical formula underpinning the venerable retail price index because the Office for National Statistics wants it changed. Consultations are not launched when experts think the status quo is fine.

At the heart of the issue is the realisation that the RPI formula is deficient and out-of-date. Continuing with the current method is the equivalent of Britain still thinking a 1970s Austin Allegro is cool, while the rest of the world is driving the latest Mini.

Chris Cook

After rooting around in a Leicester car park, a group of academics have found a scoliosis-racked body with battle wounds. They think it might be Richard III: DNA tests await. If it is him, what do you do with him? On the one hand, he was a king. A long time ago, yes. But a king’s a king, right? And he has something of a following.

On the other hand, he is rather implicated in child-murder – and he was killed by his successor. If we think the suspected murder victims were legitimate kings and his successor, Henry VII, was as well, how do we treat Richard III? These are not straightforward problems. Perhaps we should ask the family. 

Valentina Romei

The employment rate in the UK rose to 71.5 per cent in the three months to July 2012, the highest since the end of 2009. Labour market conditions have been fairly positive in recent months despite the economic slow-down, portraying a much milder picture of the current economic crisis than GDP figures do.

The difference between the promising employment data and the bearish economic figures could be partially explained by the fact that the headline employment data  do not capture elements of the labour market such as inactivity rates and forms of non-full labour utilisation, including part-time workers that were not able to find a full-time job (‘involuntary part-time workers’).

According to OECD data, the UK has had a particularly fast upsurge of involuntary part-time workers, rising from 1.5 per cent of all employed people in 2004 – well below the average share for Europe or the OECD – to nearly 4 per cent last year, above both regions. The UK still has a lower proportion of involuntary part-time workers than peripheral European countries including Italy, and lower than Japan, but it is above most continental European countries including France and Germany and it is higher than that of the US.

 

The rate at which Britons are living into very old age is rising much more slowly than had been forecast only two years ago, a blow for those hoping for a very long life but good news for pension providers and the Treasury which spend hefty sums on the oldest old.

The numbers of those aged 85 to 89 are about 2 per cent lower than had been forecast in 2010 while the number of those over the age of 90 is some 15 per cent lower than expected, according to analysis of 2011 census data published in July.

The findings suggest that projections in recent years for increased life-expectancy among Britons may have been overdone – with potentially big implications for public policy and the long-term fiscal outlook.

“This means that life expectancy at age 65 should be slightly lower,” said Richard Willets, head of longevity at Friends Life, the life assurance provider, who spotted the discrepancy between 2011 census data and previous demographic projections.