On Thursday, the government published its needlessly controversial report that reviews the impact of migration on the UK labour market.
In a post yesterday, I argued that the alleged worry about publishing the new document derives from how Home Secretary Theresa May used a January 2012 report from the independent Migration Advisory Committee. The MAC report was replete with caveats and qualifications, a necessary feature of empirical analysis about migration.
Thursday’s report supports the MAC findings – not the use of the findings but the findings themselves. Read more
Newsnight brings more support for this telling chart about immigration:
Britons want immigration reduced, though they are not as universally or as rabidly concerned about it as conservative tabloid newspapers would have us believe. At the same time, Britons do not trust the government to meet the Tories’ target for reducing net migration. Little wonder. The whole debate is marred by exaggerations and broken commitments that engender more cynicism. This makes politicians keener to appear tough … and to jump on anything that smells like supporting evidence.
Raising the personal allowance further won’t help the poorest, never mind “just the very poorest”. With 4.6m workers (17 per cent) already not paying income tax, including an additional 2m due to the coalition’s policies, more of the gains will go to those on middle incomes. That might be a perfectly good thing to do but it is not helping the poorest.
the IFS calculates that 69 per cent of the £12.2bn cost of raising the Personal Allowance to £12,500 would go to working families in the top half of the income distribution, 16 per cent to pensioners, and a mere 15 per cent for working families in the bottom half of the population. Of course, any big tax cut like this one would mean public spending cuts elsewhere, which would likely fall harder on the bottom half.
The politics of the personal allowance rise is obvious but so too is its flaws. If you would like to help the low paid, there are better ideas.
The policy document on Ukraine carried by an official and photographed on Downing Street states that “the UK should not support for now trade sanctions or close London’s financial centre to Russians”. It has been cited as evidence that the UK government is putting the interests of the City above that of Crimea. But it does say “for now”, and it suggests that the government is considering travel bans and visa restrictions along with other EU countries. On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary William Hague told the House of Commons that economic options remained open. Read more
The rise in demand for food banks is partly related to changes to the benefits system. One of these changes is the toughening of sanctions faced by people who fail to meet one of the conditions for receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance (a benefit for the unemployed) or Employment and Support Allowance (a benefit for the inactive). Sanctions are a necessary part of any welfare-to-work system but as currently designed they are leading to unnecessary suffering in return for no obvious benefit.
In the year from September 2012 – October 2013, 874,850 sanctions were applied to JSA claimants, a 16 per cent increase from the previous year, and more than double from five years previously. This could have reflected rising numbers of JSA claimants after the recession. But on Monday, a report released by Policy Exchange, a centre-right think tank not renowned for its love of cushy welfare, suggests that a growing share of sanctions are also issued in error.
“Welcome to the future of work, where your colleagues will be old enough to be your great-grandparents and your competitors will be algorithms.” That is the brilliant lede by Brian Groom in his article on The Future of Work, a paper published today by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, a government-funded research body.
The report predicts the rise of a “4G workforce”, where new entrants work alongside people old enough to be their great-grandfathers. In the UK, about one-tenth of over-65s are currently working. Improvements in health, rising retirement ages and smaller pension pots mean that this share is likely to rise in the future.
“We must at least take consolation in the thought that we did not begin the war, that we are only defending our country, our native land.”
- Leo Tolstoy, Sevastopol Stories, 1855
Young Leo was writing rare nonsense but he is nonetheless instructive.
Over the weekend, in response to events in Crimea, there was an outpouring of analysis about Russia and how “the west” should respond. It was as if the focus of the foreign policy establishment hurriedly and belatedly shifted back to Russia; during the past few days one can almost hear the sound of dust being blown off cold war books. (Remember when we laughed at Mitt Romney for his comments about Russia?) The facts on the ground are what matter most but for anyone wanting perceptive comment and analysis, I have tried to link to or excerpt some of the best below. Read more
This is what can happen when a politician sets a target without thinking about whether it has the power to meet it, never mind whether it is a good idea:
Like many people from Edinburgh, I once worked at Standard Life. It was the summer of 2001 and I spent an enjoyable few weeks opening, sorting and delivering mail alongside a pony-tailed Australian with a fondness for somnolent afternoons. Working for the big fund manager full-time was a popular idea among my peers; it was a running joke at my school that the careers advice office should be renamed the Standard Life recruitment department. My neighbour with the nice car worked for the company.
The point of these hokey anecdotes: Standard Life is a big employer in a city where one in ten people work in financial services. I suspect most people will know someone – or know of someone – who works there. The charts below from Edinburgh City Council show the capital’s top companies by pre-tax profits (2011) and employment (2012). The latter also includes public sector organisations; Standard Life was the sixth biggest employer and the third biggest private sector employer in Edinburgh as of 2012.
The chart below marks a moment in the history of English housing: