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?
Peter Urwin is joined by economist Vicky Pryce to talk about her latest book, discussing gender equality. Vicky argues we cannot rely on the free market to bring about gender equality. In theory we might expect discrimination to be short-lived in competitive markets, as it is an inefficient use of resources; this is clearly not happening, however, and Vicky makes a strong case for more forceful intervention to rectify the market failures that perpetuate gender inequality. An inherent short-termism in the capitalist system, a continuing level of support for motherhood that is insufficient, and various conscious/unconscious forms of bias all contribute to this failure of markets. The proposed solutions are radical, but without significant public intervention we will continue to waste vast amounts of female potential.
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?
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?