December 5, 2013
December 1, 2013
Edited by Ken Jones www.radicaledbks.com
Across Europe, governments have cut educational spending and remodelled education systems. Some of this has been done in the name of austerity. Much of the rest is an attempt to ‘economise’ education, introducing private sector interests, market competition and business-inspired management regimes.
Governments in these ways try to replace one educational order – which allowed a space for critical education and a measure of egalitarianism – with another. It is a project that has in many countries been obstructed or explicitly resisted. This book is about the conflicts that have arisen in the process. Its chapters cover Italy, Spain, France and Greece – countries where high levels of youth unemployment and precarity exacerbate the tensions that have grown up around education’s restructuring. An introductory chapter sets English education in this wider European context, and a final chapter relates education to the segmented and sharply polarised labour markets of Europe.
Contributors – Rosa Cañadell, Guy Dreux, Nico Hirtt, Rosalind Innes, Ken Jones, Anna Traianou.
November 26, 2013
Martin Allen and Patrick Ainley
Last week the Office for National Statistics published extensive data about graduates in the labour market (www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lmac/graduates-in-the-labour-market/2013/index.html). It showed that the number of recent graduates working in ‘non-graduate’ jobs had risen from 37% in 2001 to 47%.
Of course, there’s been a huge increase in graduate numbers with the percentage of the population classed as graduates rising steadily from 17% in 1992 to 22% by 2001 and to 38% in 2013 – the education attainment levels of the population has increased as a whole with 61% reporting to ONS that they were educated to at least level 3 (A-level) standard and 81% to level 2 (GCSE). But with levels of education increasing at a much faster rate than the technical requirements of the workplace, graduate underemployment will become arguably more significant than graduate unemployment. Most young people leaving university will get jobs. The ONS figures showing unemployment for ‘recent graduates’ at 9% compared with 14% for 21-30 year olds without degrees. Graduates were also twice as likely to be in work compared to those with no qualifications.
As a result, if only because they ‘bump-down’ others into even less paid jobs, graduates continue to earn more. The ONS data also showed that graduates’ annual income increased at a fast pace as they became older; before levelling out around the age of 38 at an average of £35,000. In contrast, gross annual earnings for those educated to A- level standard increased until the age of 34 when it levelled out at around £22,000, while incomes for those with GCSE level qualifications levelled out at around the age of 32 at an average of £19,000.
But if average salaries are high, there are also clear differences between what those from Russell universities may earn (£18.60 per hour) compared to others (£14.97). You also need to move south, to look for the higher earnings; with 60% of people living in inner London having degrees compared to 29% in the North East. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, 25% of employed graduates were living in London three years after graduating (www.hesa.ac.uk/content/view/2936/393/)
But London, with the highest salaries, also had the highest graduate unemployment rate with new graduates also facing by far the highest rents, both in total but also as a proportion of income. The Financial Times (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/17f56184-5145-11e3-b499-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2lg3hZbXF) described a situation of ‘hutching’ as graduates cram into over-crowded flats.
The same week, the ONS published another Statistical Bulletin on the more than a million 16-24 year olds (nearly 15% of the total and 17.6% of all 18-24 year olds) Not in Education Employment or Training, ie ‘NEET’ (www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_337420.pdf).
Nearly half of this total have given up looking for work and are classed as ‘economically inactive’ – many more women than men and more in the North and regions plus rural areas than in London and the South East, although many minority ethnic youth are disproportionately NEET in all areas.
Rob MacDonald, Professor at Teesside University, told a Conference on youth and poverty at Kingston University last Friday that his research in Middlesbrough and in Glasgow showed there is not a so-called ‘underclass’ of permanently unemployed generations living in a ‘culture of worklessness’ at the bottom of society (http://wbg.org.uk/pdfs/worklessness-families-employment-full.pdf). Unlike the picture commonly presented in the media, there is a constant ‘churning’ of people – young and old – into and out of often part-time, low-paid, insecure jobs.
Even if NEET numbers are marginally down, this new unrespectable ‘rough’ of particularly precarious workers are presented by all the main political parties to the ‘hard working people’ in the supposedly respectable and secure middle of society as by implication not hard working. They are thus seen both as ‘undeserving poor’ but also a ‘trap’ into those in the middle might fall, causing them to scramble ever more desperately up the down-escalator of inflating qualifications.
This only adds to the general hysteria about education and training, which the government presents as the only means to restart upward social mobility and economic recovery. This is not going to happen however in a moribund economy with a class structure going ‘pear-shaped’ (http://radicaled.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/the-hour-glass-economy/) where the only absolute social mobility is downwards.
At a well attended launch of Education Beyond the Coalition and Education in Europe on 19th November at Goldsmiths, Ken Jones and Martin Allen outlined how the books related to current issues and struggles and Christine Blower, NUT General Secretary, described how the current teachers industrial action was also about the future direction of state education.
November 21, 2013
A recent report from Resolution Foundation (www.resolutionfoundation.org/publications/polarising-crisis/) confirms a number of trends seen to be taking place in the labour market. Particularly that the number of low-skill jobs created post recession exceeds the number of those considered high-skill and that the downturn has accentuated the decline of ‘routine’ and ‘middle-skill jobs’ – more likely to disappear as a result of increased automation and the use of information technology.
The report provides further data on changes in employment across different industries. A huge increase since 2008 in employment in ‘Hotels and restaurants’ (218,000 new jobs) for example, with ‘health and social work’ also expanding rapidly (314,000). Meanwhile, a further 262,000 jobs have been shed in manufacturing. A loss of 271,000 Public Administration and Defence jobs also reflects current government cuts in these areas.
Overall employment in the lowest skilled (and lowest paid) third of the UK economy increased by 190,000 compared with a 169,000 fall in the ‘middle’. The increase of 139,000 in the highest third is largely the result of 461,000 new jobs in ‘Business activities’ but this occupational area, ranking well in terms of mean average salary, also includes a huge variety of different jobs with enormous differences in pay. In other words, arguments about the growth of an ‘hour glass’ economy or Resolution’s ‘egg timer’ (www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03h6px3/Today_14_11_2013/?t=2h46m39s) need to be approached with caution.
Evidence from the TUC, for example ( http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/ July 12/13), shows that only about 1 in 5 new jobs have been created in highly paid computer programming and consultancy industries with an average wage of £18.40, compared to the 75% of new jobs created in industries with an average wage of under £7.95. Rather than an hour glass, this points to an increasingly ‘pear shaped’ occupational structure. Rather than being pulled up, on the contrary, more are being pushed down, with tax returns showing only about 1 in 7 wage earners in the 40% income tax band. While HMRC statistics show clear shifts in the proportion of income going to those in the top 10% , the shift is far less significant for the top 25% and 50% (http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/statistics/tax-statistics/table2-4.pdf).
As low-paid industries like ‘Hotels and restaurants’ are also the areas with lowest productivity, compared with manufacturing where productivity increases are more likely to remain high, then Coalition arguments that as the economy ‘recovers’, productivity increases will lead to higher pay cannot be convincing.
Surprisingly, one of the biggest increases in employment has been in education – with 301,000 new jobs since 2008. But according to DfE statistics, the number of teachers has fallen since 2008, while the number of teaching assistants has trebled from 2000 and grown by 20% since 2008 (www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-workforce-in-england-november-2011). This reflects the ‘proletarianisation’ of many professions – rather than their expansion, with deskilling and ‘bite sizing’ of their increasingly ‘flexible’ labour.
November 14, 2013
Government representatives have made much of the fact that the monthly ONS figures show 30 million Britons are now in some form of employment. Though this is an all-time high, it’s still lower in percentage terms than before the downturn –as a result of a rising population.
Nevertheless, unemployment fell by 48,000 to 2.47 million, the lowest since the spring of 2011, while the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance was cut for the 12th month in a row in October, down by 41,700 to 1.31 million, the lowest for almost five years. The number of people classed as economically inactive, also fell – down by 69,000 to 8.92 million.
People continue to earn less however with average earnings increased by 0.7 per cent in the year to September, down by 0.1 per cent from the previous month. Part-time working continues to be increasingly significant. 1.46 million reporting they worked part-time because they could not find full-time work, an increase of 24,000 over the quarter.
There were 950,000 unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds, around a third of whom were in full-time education, giving a youth jobless rate of 21 per cent. Despite a 9000 fall this figure is still higher in percentage terms than at the same time last year. For those not in full-time education, 16% remain unemployed and a further 14% economically inactive. In otherwords almost one in three of this category are not in the labour market.
The Princes Trust also recently 115 000 18-24 year olds have been unemployed for more than 24 months, an increase of 342% in the past decade (www.princes-trust.org.uk).
November 6, 2013
Michael Gove’s determination to hold education entirely responsible for the UK’s failing international competitiveness is mirrored elsewhere. The week before Gove announced his latest GCSE proposals, David Cameron also called for a ‘new era’ of apprenticeships (www.express.co.uk/news/uk/439595/Firms-sign-up-to-apprentice-schemes) with more academic assessment, particularly in maths and English.
Cameron’s announcement was also a response to recommendations in the Richards Report commissioned by the Coalition, (http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/further-education-skills/docs/r/12-915-richard-review-apprenticeships-background-evidence.pdf) which outlined many of the current shortcomings of current schemes. Though the number is growing, 70 % of employers still do not offer apprenticeships (Guardian 08/10/13).
According to Department for Business, Innovation and Skills own research for example, 7% of apprenticeships last for less than six months, just under half last less than a year and only 22% longer than two years (www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/further-education-skills/docs/e/12-812-evaluation-of-apprenticeships-learners) . Evidence that accompanied the Richards review also shows that 70% of apprentices previously worked for their employer –in otherwords an apprenticeship merely involved a change in job title rather than a recruitment from outside. (www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/further-education-skills/docs/r/12-915-richard-review-apprenticeships-background-evidence.pdf.)
Nevertheless, almost 370 000 young people still submitted online applications through the National Apprenticeship Service between February and April 2013. This represented an increase of 32%, but increases in vacancies only totalled 15% (Independent 31/05/2013). The vast majority of adverts are at Intermediate (GCSE) level. Out of 15432 vacancies (NAS website 05/11/13) there were only 1894 Advanced and only 210 Higher level apprenticeships available, so it’s hardly surprising that young people still apply to university in their droves and that there remains over a million NEETS.
Business and Administration was the most popular area for applications. For example, the NAS website ( http://www.apprenticeships.org.uk/be-an-apprentice.aspx) displayed 5849 Business vacancies. This compares with 1456 vacancies in Engineering and Manufacturing (there won’t be many in the shipbuilding industry, that’s for sure).
Even if 60 of the Uk’s leading businesses have responded to Cameron’s latest call. without other major changes to economic policy, it’s most unlikely that employers will be able to sustain the number of apprentices, or more particularly, the types of apprenticeships that Cameron encourages them to establish. The Richards evidence shows, for example, that by over a quarter of employers took on an apprentice only because they were approached by a training provider, with only 12% referring to the need for qualified staff .