Since the late 1960s, UK productivity growth has been weak and poor management is seen as one of the main causes. In recent years Economists have waded into this debate, and in this episode Peter Urwin asks Prof. Richard Saundy what he thinks of recent findings.
The discussion begins with a reminder of the fractious history of UK industrial relations. They then consider recent evidence on what makes a good manager and ask why there seems to be so little sharing of good managerial practice both between, and even within, organisations. Concluding with a discussion of what the ‘cure’ might look like, they consider work of the PrOPEL Hub and ESRC funded studies that aim to improve management through new approaches to training.
Many aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been unprecedented – including the extent to which it has forced the UK population to engage with statistics. This has been a challenge for Government, and it has not always gone well. However, with 190 policies enacted in the first six months of the pandemic - costing around £210 bn - it was never going to be easy. We talk to Vicky Pryce, Chief Economic Adviser and board member at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), on lessons that can be learnt from the last 9 months. This matters enormously, as a recent global survey identifies a clear relationship between individuals’ trust in information from government and the likelihood of engaging with vaccination programmes.
The pandemic has necessitated a partnership approach across UK government, business and unions. This has drawn unions into the process of policy formulation, shining a new spotlight on their activities.
Peter Urwin is joined by Professor of HRM and Employment Relations at Sheffield University Management School, Richard Saundry, who draws on a wealth of experience (including his first job in 1988 at NUM headquarters in Sheffield, and a career working with government, unions and employers) to discuss the role of unions in the past, present and future.
Peter and Richard discuss how unions have done so far, and question whether any benefits to the union movement will persist beyond the pandemic – or whether it will simply return to an “us and them” scenario. Can unions build on this apparent volte-face, to reverse a decline in influence on the employment relationship?
In the first episode of this new series looking at how Coronavirus has affected the working landscape, Peter Urwin is joined by Len Shackleton, Professor of Economics at the University of Buckingham.
Experience of previous pandemics suggests current restrictions may last until summer 2021. The UK government's policy response has limited the hardship of lockdown and lessened initial negative impacts on employment. However, there is now a question of how we revive the economy and recover previous levels of employment. In this interview, Prof. Len Shackleton argues that spending on job retention and other schemes have been useful “sticking plasters”, but the key to sustained recovery is the creation of new jobs by the market. They consider specific areas of the economy where Prof Shackleton argues that deregulation is needed to free enterprise and drive jobs growth; comparing this to the use of job subsidy programmes for the unemployed, and other government funding aimed at incentivising companies to take on staff.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Good Work Index provides a snapshot of UK working lives, including opportunities for homeworking and job flexibility as we went into lockdown. In this interview, Peter Urwin speaks to Jonny Gifford, Senior Advisor for Organisational Behaviour at the CIPD. He describes how UK job quality indicators compare to those of other countries; arguing that any encouraging headline figures hide concerns over UK job quality inequality. They consider the role of government and employers in tackling such inequality, and flag worrying trends in UK work-life balance. For instance, recent years have seen a decline in reported wellbeing from the UK Working Lives survey – and the latest instalment of the survey allows us to ask how this, and other trends, has been impacted by the pandemic.
The last four decades have been a roller-coaster ride for economic liberalism. Riding high from the early 1990s, falling trade barriers boosted international trade, integrated countries such as China into the global economy and significantly reduced the number of people in absolute poverty. Developments in technology ‘supercharged’ these impacts, radically altering our lives as workers and consumers. In this interview, Peter Urwin speaks to economist Vicky Pryce about where it all went wrong – is the rise of populism simply a reaction to the 2007-08 financial crisis, or is it a wider backlash against liberalism? Not everybody welcomes the changes brought about by globalisation, and change always implies disruption – is there a case for government compensation, targeted at those who bear the brunt of disruption and are less able to take advantage of the gains from liberalisation?
Highlights from four of this year’s interviews consider the theme of 'discrimination and disadvantage’. We have some 'Christmas Cheer’, as the interviews show how far we have come to improve the situation of women, people from ethnic minority groups, LGBT communities and young people from poorer backgrounds. However, the first interview with Dr Jo Blanden, shows how hard it is to make further improvements to the early years experiences of young people. In the second interview with Prof. Emma Parry, we see how research investigating generational differences risks stereotyping different age groups. Prof. Lisa Webley sets out the various waves of policy that have attempted to improve the situation of women and other groups facing discrimination, and continuing challenges faced by the Law profession, where improvements have been glacial in recent years. Finally, in the interview with Vicky Pryce, we see where this debate can lead - if things are not getting better with current approaches, Vicky argues that for women we need to consider the 'nuclear option' of quotas. These are the challenges for our New Year!
The New Labour government introduced a national minimum wage (NMW) in 1999. At first this was opposed by the Conservative party, but they have since joined a growing political consensus. The Low Pay Commission (LPC) are tasked with recommending NMW rates that 'help as many low-paid workers as possible without any significant adverse impact on employment or the economy’. The LPC’s apparent success in achieving this, may be one reason for growing political census, so it is perhaps worrying that a National Living Wage (NLW) is being set without these considerations. Len Shackleton, Professor of Economics at the University of Buckingham and Editorial and Research Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs, sets out these issues and more in a recent IEA paper on Restructuring Minimum Wages. Prof. Shackleton argues that the system has become overly complex and recommendations made by the Taylor Review will only add to this complexity. In this interview we consider his proposals and what the future may hold for UK minimum wages.
Since the late 1990s, there has been a push to improve the educational outcomes of disadvantaged children - with governments viewing free early education as key to the achievement of this aim. Dr Jo Blanden, Reader in Economics and Research Director of the School of Economics at the University of Surrey, joins Peter Urwin to talk of her work investigating whether free nursery care impacts children’s educational performance. Overall the suggestion is that these policies have been associated with a large amount of "dead weight" - using taxpayers' money to support people in doing things that they would have done anyway. They consider whether the findings present a challenge to the suggestion that early years interventions provide best returns; or is it the specifics of this policy that need rethinking?
In this interview, Peter Urwin considers the ‘collective failures’ suffered by the polling industry in recent years; from their inability to predict the 2015 British general election outcome, to Brexit, to Trump. Joining him is Professor Patrick Sturgis, who discusses findings from his chairing of the British Polling Council/Market Research Society Inquiry into the 2015 General Election Polls; and in his role as Specialist Advisor to the House of Lords Select Committee on Political Polling and Digital Media. They explore whether the same mistakes are being made by Pollsters across these different ‘failures', and whether it is getting harder to predict outcomes. Plus, they ask whether analysis of social media presents an opportunity to help capture voter sentiment – or is the media industry part of the problem?