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?
In the second episode of our new programme, Peter Urwin is joined by Professor Lisa Webley, Chair in Legal Education and Research at the University of Birmingham's Law School, to explore the increasing lack of diversity as one progresses up the ladder of the legal career. Lisa describes the situation in various branches of the profession and sets out the findings from her research, which provide insight into why many women and BAME lawyers do not make it to the top. What actions can government, employers and professional bodies take to improve the situation?