Category Archives: Wealth and Income Inequality

Sociological Perspectives on Modern Apprenticeships in the UK

The material below is relavant to the Vocationalism topic within the Sociology of Education should help you to answer essay questions such as ”Evaluate Sociological Perspectives on the role of Vocational Education’

What are Modern Apprenticeships?

An apprenticeship is a job with training which would allows an individual to earn while they learn, whilst gaining a nationally recognised qualification. Apprentices aged 19 and over are entitled to the National Minimum Wage at the same level as regular employees, but 16-18 year olds can be paid less – £3.30 an hour (from October 2015) compared to £3.87 an hour for regular employees. Of course an apprentice aged 19 or over would probably be paid less than a qualified person the same age, given that they are less experiened.

Apprenticeships are available for anyone aged 16 or over, but the most common ages for people starting them is 16-24. Apprenticeships must last for a minimum of one year, but can take up to five years to complete.

There are three main levels of Apprenticeship:

– Intermediate apprenticeship (level 2)

– Advanced apprenticeship (level 3)

– Higher and degree apprenticeships (level 4 or above).

Apprenticeships are tied into more traditional vocational qualifications – anyone undertaking a level two apprenticeship will work towards a related city or guilds or BTEC qualification, while anyone doing a higher level apprenticeship will work towards a degree.

Apprenticeships are available in over 170 industries the most popular apprenticeships in 2014 by sector being:

  • Health and social care

  • Business administration

  • Management

 

  • Hospitality and catering
  • Customer service
  • Children’s care learning and development
  • Retail
  • Construction skills
  • Engineering
  • Hairdressing

So in short apprenticeships are basically on the job training leading to a qualification, besides this, it’s impossible to give a representative account of what a ‘typical’ apprenticeship looks like because of the huge variation.

How many people are doing apprenticeships?

  • Since 2010 there have been over 2 million apprenticeship starts (so more than 2 million people in the country (unless they’ve emigrated since) have either done them or are doing them).

  • In 2013-14 there were 500 000 apprenticeship starts

  • In 2013-14 850 000 people were earning and learning while doing an apprenticeship

  • There are typically over 25000 apprenticeships being advertised online at any one time.

Why have apprenticeships grown so quickly?

I put it down to three things -

  • Underlying historical demand for vocational training courses as oppossed to academic learning – The UK has had a large NEET population (16-24 year olds not in employment, education or training) for over a decade now, which suggests there has been a signficant demand for alternative pathways to employment other than courses offered in colleges.

  • The recent government ‘pincer movement’ on young people – 18 year olds are now (since 2015) required to be in some kind of employment, and combined with the government clamp down on benefits for young people, this means they have fewer options.

  • Government support for employers – The government invested £1.5 billion in apprenticeships in 2014-15 and from 2016 will exempt employers from paying National Insurance Contributions for under 25 year olds. Basically government support makes it cheaper to hier apprentices.

What are the benefits of apprenticeships?

Firstly, looked at statistically, they seem to offer economic benefits to most apprentices, employers and the economy more generally – Mainly taken from the ONS web site….

  • 90% of apprentices stay in employment after the apprenticeship has finished.

  • 70% stay on with the same employer.

  • 19% of level three apprentices advance on to Higher Education.

  • Businesses report an increase in productivity of £214/ week when they hire apprentices (which effectively means they cost the average company nothing given the low wages!).

  • Small businesses get a £1500 grant towards the start up costs of New Apprenticeships if they employ 16-24 year olds. (Any training costs for 16-19 year olds are, possibly obviously, covered by the government.)

  • For every pound of government investment in apprenticeships, the economy gets £18 – £28 back (estimates vary).

  • Apprenticeships were estimated to contribute £34 billion to the UK economy in 2014

Secondly, they diversify the education system – offering a much greater choice of training opportunities by a much wider range of providers than Further and Higher education providers could ever hope to provide.

Thirdly (and I need to look into this further to verfiy it) they seem to be offering a very real alternative for young people who would otherwise be NEET (16-24 year olds Not in Education, Employment or Training) because there is a distinct correlation between the increase in apprenticeships (mostly taken up by 16-24 year olds) and the recent decrease in the number of NEETs. (Of course correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, but in this case I think it’s pretty safe to conlude that it does!)

What are the downsides of Apprenticeships?

You wouldn’t think there were any judging by the ONS site, but if you dif around there are those who voice some legitimate criticisms of Modern Apprenticeships

Firstly: Apprenticeships might really about firms getting cheap labour:

Kathy Glover from The New Left Project points out that it’s cheaper for an employer to hire an apprentice than someone qualified – Glover cites one case study of an estate agent who sacked most of their staff in order to replace them with cheaper apprentices. Not only is this bad for the experienced, sacked staff, it’s difficult to see how a cohort of apprentices can learn anything without any more experienced people to.

There is also some evidence that the Engineering sector in the UK is preferring cheaper apprentices over already qualified people.

Also, the number of in-work training programmes have reduced by about 250 000 in recent years, which suggests that work places are simply shifting their training onto apprenticeships – meaning the government pays for it rather than them paying for it, in which case apprenticeships aren’t about more training, there just about the tax payer paying for it, not the employer.

Secondly: Apprenticeships don’t necessarily lead on to real jobs:

Firms are not oblliged to take apprentices on full time after their training period and it’s cheaper for an employer to hire a string of apprentices for one-two years at a time rather than to take someone on.

The rapid expansion of more apprenticeships might even harm the wider job market in certain sectors – Glover cites UK manufacturing, which despite declining employment in recent years, has greatly increased the number of apprenticeshps – BAE systems, for example, has expanded its apprenticeships programme by 25%. This must mean decreased demand for already qualified people.

Thirdly: Apprenticeships are really about saving the government money

Kathy Glover points out that Apprenticeships allow the government to cut costs because it is much cheaper for them to pay a couple of thousand pounds or so to an employer for a year rather than to have a young person on unemployment benefit.

The problem with this is that it might mean that some people on apprenticeships are worse off than when they were on benefits. She uses the case study of Michael, 16, from Liverpool, employed at a large charity shop through the retail apprenticeship scheme to illustrate this:

“I work 37.5 hours a week for £100 a week with around 20 other staff, most of who are on some sort of work placement or volunteers. My auntie, who I live with, has lost around £70 a week in benefits due to me going on this apprenticeship because I’m now classed as being in full-time employment. The council has done things like deduct £3 per week from her housing benefit which I’ve been told I must now pay. I don’t get any separate travel expenses so I’ve also got to pay for the two hours travel per day out of my wages. By me going on this apprenticeship we’re worse off than when I was in college so I’m considering leaving the scheme and going back into education.”

Fourthly, Modern Apprenticeships remain heavily gender stereotyped

For example, females take up 94% of positions in early years childcare but only 1 and 2% respectively in construction and plumbing. All other sectors also conform to gener stereotypes.

Average wages for apprenticeships also vary between males and females – for males the average is £186 compared to females who earn on average £147 per week (2007 figures). This is because the sectors where females dominate are the lowest paid (such as early years childcare), and have little scope for career progression, so are mainly level 2 and 3 apprenticeships. The sectorts where men dominate tend to offer apprenticeships which are higher paid and offer greater career progession, onto level 4 apprenticeships for example – in sectors such as engineering and IT.

Fifthly, in some sectors the training you receive may be of a very low standard

Only 22% of apprenticeships in customer service and 13% in hospitality and catering are offered at level 3, and a retail or customer service needs to only complete a minimum of two hours training a week.

Tess Lanning of the IPPR suggests that this is because Government targets to increase the number of apprenticeships, combined with a lack of interest from many employers, have led to a watering down of what constitutes an apprenticeship. Labour widened apprenticeships to include level 2 qualifications, which evidence suggests have little to no value in the labour market, and opened them up to adults, meaning they have lost their purpose as a tool to prepare young people for entry into the labour market.

Apprenticeships: Should you do one?

I guess this depends on what sector you’re loooking at – If you’re interested in Engineering then it’s probably worth spending a bit more time researching your options than if you were interested in going into retail or hospitality…

The Apprenticeships Self-Development Pack for young people is designed by the government for you to work through to see if an Apprenticeship is for you – Warning – This links pretty much exlcusively to the government’s own propaganda videos about how great apprenticeships are and oozes ‘careers advisory document’ out of every pore, and yes there is the dreaded skills assessment excercise at one point too.

I wouldn’t say don’t work through the above, but I guess the real question isn’t so much should you do an apprenticeship (assuming you don’t want to go to university), the question should be ‘do you have any other choice’ – given that you’d be nuts as employer to not set up an apprenticeship.

Further Reading/ Sources used

Apprenticeships: Fact Sheet for Parents (the best introductory summary sheet I’ve found on the topic but warning – complete lack of critical content!)

Facts, Figures and Statistics about Apprenticeships – Does what is says – The main source I’ve used for any statistical information above.

The Youtube Apprenticeship Channel – featuring apprentices and employers talking about the advantages of apprentiships (warning – complete lack of critical content!)#

Further Education and Skills: Learner Participation and Outcomes

Also see links in the document above.

Some ‘nice’ infographics on inequality in the UK…

Wealth Distribution

It’s a bit dated already, but I guess these things take a bit of time to put together – A video outlining wealth distribution in 2008/10. One of the stand-out statistics is that to be that in the bottom 10% of households, the HH had to have wealth of less than £13000, whereas to be in the top 10%, the HH needed wealth greater than £967 000. Or…

Top 10% of households –       Minimum Wealth = £967, 000

Bottom 10% of households – Maximum Wealth = £13, 000.

So the poorest household in the richest 10% is at least 74 times richer than the richest household in the bottom 10%.

(Quick aside – From an extreme early retirement perspective, £967,000 is about three times what you need to retire on, so not one of those households needs to be working, although some will be because of unnecessary consumption addiction syndrome).

 

Inequality has actually increased since this video – In 2010 the wealthiest 20% of the UK were 92 times wealthier than the poorest 20%, in 2012 they were 105 times wealthier.

WEALTH3

 

Life Expectancy

Richmond upon Thames had the highest healthy life expectancy (HLE) for both males (70.3 years) and females (72.1 years). The lowest HLE was in Manchester for males at 55.0 years and Tower Hamlets for females at 54.1 year

health2

 

Education

There’s no pretty picture for this one, but there is a nice interactive infographic here (courtesy of learning plus)

The short story is that, nationally, while there has been an overall improvement in the GCSE 5 A*-C pass rate, there has been an increase in both the FSM (Free school meal) gap and the CLA (children looked after) gap between 2012-13, so those from disadvantaged backgrounds have fallen further behind those from more advantaged backgrounds.

The site notes… ‘Nationally we see an increase in the percentage of pupils eligible for pupil premium achieving 5+ A*-C GCSEs including English and mathematics between 2011 and 2013. At the same time the gap in the achievement of this threshold measure has widened between 2012 and 2013, reflecting a greater increase in the achievement of other pupils. The percentage of CLA pupils achieving 5+ A*-C GCSEs including English and mathematics increased by just 0.3% between 2012 and 2013 while among all other pupils this rose by 1.8%, widening the performance gap to 45.9%. Among FSM eligible pupils there was an increase of 1.8% achieving this threshold measure in 2013 than in 2012; similarly there was an increase of 2% for all other pupils, increasing the gap to 26.7%’

On the plus side, there is evidence that London is successfully closing this education gap.

In summary – CLASS INEQUALITY IS STILL RIFE IN MODERN BRITAIN!

Increasing income inequality in the UK

I thought this infographic showing income inequality was worth sharing (From the Equality Trust) –

income-inequality-uk-2

Unfortunately (if you think income inequality is bad!) things have got even worse since 2012!

Britain’s top executives are now paid around 130 times their average employee, according to analysis released today by the High Pay Centre think-tank. 

Income inequality has got a LOT WORSE in recent decades. In 1998, the average FTSE 100 CEO was paid 47 times their average employee, which means that while average incomes have stagnated in relation to the cost of living, the incomes of the very richest have almost trebled in 15 years.

The video below illustrates this in stark terms by comparing the typical wage of a nurse with that of a typical CEO, the headline figures being as follows:

  • A CEO earns as much in 3 days as a nurse does in a year.

  • A CEO earns more in a year than a nurse will earn in her entire life.

  • If we redistributed the income of the top 1%, then on average each household in the UK would be better off by £3K a year.

 Related questions you might like to think about include….

1. Why does such income inequality exist?

2. Is this fair? (are CEOs worth 130 times more than their average employee?)

3. Is income inequality good or bad for society?

4. If you’ve answered ‘no’, and ‘bad’ to questions 2 and 3, can anything be done about increasing income inequality?

Work in Low Pay, No Pay Britain

In this latest Thinking Allowed podcast on ‘Low pay, no pay’ Britain Laurie Taylor talks to the sociologist, Tracy Shildrick, about her prize winning study of individuals and families who are living in or near poverty. The research was conducted in Teesside, North East England, and focuses on the men and women who’ve fallen out of old working class communities and must now cope with drastically reduced opportunities for standard employment. To my mind, this is a good in-dept illustration of what life is really like for a section of the Precariat (although Shildrick would be more cautious).

article-2303333-190F447B000005DC-765_964x621

The research is based on the book (published in 2012) – Poverty and insecurity Life in low-pay, no-pay Britain by Tracy Shildrick

This book explores how men and women get by in times and places where opportunities for standard employment have drastically reduced and where people exist without predictability or security in their lives, the book shows how poverty and insecurity have now become the defining features of working life for many.

Work may be ‘the best route out of poverty’ sometimes but for many people getting a job can be just a turn in the cycle of recurrent poverty – and of long-term churning between low-skilled ‘poor work’ and unemployment.

Based on unique qualitative, life-history research with a ‘hard-to-reach group’ of younger and older people, men and women this research challenges long-standing and dominant myths about ‘the workless’ and ‘the poor’, by exploring close-up the lived realities of life in low-pay, no-pay Britain.

Below is a summary of the main points of the podcast

  • The low-pay no-pay cycle is much more common than long-term unemployment. Most people intreviewed were committed to work, even though the jobs they did were not ‘comfortable’ jobs. This was one of their most consistent findings…. which in part explains why these people go back time and time again. This of course is the opposite to what we here in the media about people ‘languishing on benefits’.
  • It is not a guarantee that taking up employment will mean an individual is going to better off than on benefits. Most people were ashamed at having to claim benefits.
  • Jobs typically did not last long enough to take workers away from poverty.
  • In work-poverty is – 66% of poverty live in households were at least one person is in-work.
  • The types of work include factory jobs, bars, customer service, often run through agencies.
  • For the people interviewed these type of jobs are not stepping stones to something better – they get one foot on the rung of the ladder, get knocked off, and have to climb back on again.
  • Shildrick is not convinced that the term ‘Precariat’ is accurate enough to describe adequately the experience of all people who are sometimes put into this category. She argues that the experiences of the people she interviewed are different to those of a graduate working for a few years in similar jobs (although the people she interviewed do seem to fit into the definition of the Precariat used by the GBCS below)
  • In response to the idea that better training is the solution to helping people in these jobs, Shildrick suggests we need to look at the bigger picture – society needs these jobs – we need to think ahout how to reward them more appropriately.

Shildrick suggests that it is ultimately employers who have the power to help people out of this cycle. Unfortunately, the trend seems to be of employers being increasingly inflexible while demanding that employees be more flexible.

Links -

1. This seems to be a good in-dept illustration of what life is really like for a section of the Precariat

2. Also a nice illustration of the effects of living in liquid-modernity – The reality is actually bleaker for them than the above research might suggest – As Zygmunt Bauman reminds us (in Liquid Modernity)- ‘The bottom category are the easeist to replace, and  now they are disposabe and so that there is no point in entering into long term commitments with their work colleagues…..  this is a natural response to a flexibilised labour market. This leads to a decline in moral, as those who are left after one round of downsizing wait for the next blow of the axe.

Winner of the British Academy Peter Townsend Prize for 2013 How do men and women get by in times and places where opportunities for standard employment have drastically reduced? Are we witnessing the growth of a new class, the ‘Precariat’, where people exist without predictability or security in their lives? What effects do flexible and insecure forms of work have on material and psychological well-being? This book is the first of its kind to examine the relationship between social exclusion, poverty and the labour market. It challenges long-standing and dominant myths about ‘the workless’ and ‘the poor’, by exploring close-up the lived realities of life in low-pay, no-pay Britain. Work may be ‘the best route out of poverty’ sometimes but for many people getting a job can be just a turn in the cycle of recurrent poverty – and of long-term churning between low-skilled ‘poor work’ and unemployment. Based on unique qualitative, life-history research with a ‘hard-to-reach group’ of younger and older people, men and women, the book shows how poverty and insecurity have now become the defining features of working life for many. – See more at: http://www.policypress.co.uk/display.asp?K=9781847429100#sthash.8EnqVw5J.dpuf
Winner of the British Academy Peter Townsend Prize for 2013 How do men and women get by in times and places where opportunities for standard employment have drastically reduced? Are we witnessing the growth of a new class, the ‘Precariat’, where people exist without predictability or security in their lives? What effects do flexible and insecure forms of work have on material and psychological well-being? This book is the first of its kind to examine the relationship between social exclusion, poverty and the labour market. It challenges long-standing and dominant myths about ‘the workless’ and ‘the poor’, by exploring close-up the lived realities of life in low-pay, no-pay Britain. Work may be ‘the best route out of poverty’ sometimes but for many people getting a job can be just a turn in the cycle of recurrent poverty – and of long-term churning between low-skilled ‘poor work’ and unemployment. Based on unique qualitative, life-history research with a ‘hard-to-reach group’ of younger and older people, men and women, the book shows how poverty and insecurity have now become the defining features of working life for many. – See more at: http://www.policypress.co.uk/display.asp?K=9781847429100#sthash.8EnqVw5J.dpuf
Winner of the British Academy Peter Townsend Prize for 2013 How do men and women get by in times and places where opportunities for standard employment have drastically reduced? Are we witnessing the growth of a new class, the ‘Precariat’, where people exist without predictability or security in their lives? What effects do flexible and insecure forms of work have on material and psychological well-being? This book is the first of its kind to examine the relationship between social exclusion, poverty and the labour market. It challenges long-standing and dominant myths about ‘the workless’ and ‘the poor’, by exploring close-up the lived realities of life in low-pay, no-pay Britain. Work may be ‘the best route out of poverty’ sometimes but for many people getting a job can be just a turn in the cycle of recurrent poverty – and of long-term churning between low-skilled ‘poor work’ and unemployment. Based on unique qualitative, life-history research with a ‘hard-to-reach group’ of younger and older people, men and women, the book shows how poverty and insecurity have now become the defining features of working life for many. – See more at: http://www.policypress.co.uk/display.asp?K=9781847429100#sthash.8EnqVw5J.dpuf

The World Wealth Report 2013

 

The World Wealth Report reports on trends in the wealth of HNWIs – Or High Net Wealth Individuals. These are individuals with $1million or more in investable assets. You have to sign up to be able to download the report, but its free. (Thankyee for the crust kind sirs, doffs cap…) 

Between 2011-12, the richest 12 million people in the world gained an extra 4.2 trillion dollars of wealth between them – Their total wealth is now $46.2 billion, up from $42 billion in 2011. Thats a tidy $350 000 each extra on average, and according to the predictions below that trend is set to continue…

wealth1

Of course it gets bleaker… the averages above disguise the fact that the richest Ultra High Net Wealth Individuals increased their overal wealth more than the mere ‘millionnaires next door’… the proportional increases may well be the same, but of course a 10% gain on $50 million means you gain more than if you’d gained 10% on a mere $1 million.

wealth4

 

And bleaker… The richest 12 million may have got 10% richer on average, but this is on the back of a mere 2.2% GDP growth rate, so their wealth is growing nearly five times the rate of real global wealth (although somehow I’m sure that’s not a fair comparison?!)

wealth5

 

And even bleaker… according to the World Bank’s GNI data (not the same as wealth I know) –  GNI only increased from around 70 to 71.4 trillion dollars, which is less than 1%, so most of this wealth increse doesn’t seem to be rooted in the production of tangible goods and services.

No doubt there are different ways of interpreting what this data actually means, comments welcome!

 

In case you prefer a word-based summary – the 2013 report notes the following…

  • Between 2011 to 2012 The world’s HNWI population increased by 9.2% to reach 12.0 million, after remaining flat in 2011.
  • In the same period, The aggregate investable wealth increased 10.0% to US$46.2 trillion, after declining slightly in 2011.
  • ƒHNWI wealth in 2012 represented a new level of strength, going well past the historical high of US$42.7 trillion set in 2010.
  • Relatively stronger growth rates in higher wealth bands4 (US$5 million or more) led the growth of overall investable wealth globally.
  • All of this is despite a decline in the rate of world GDP growth to 2.2% last year.

 

 

Social Class Inequality Visualisations

I had my classes exploring one of my ‘favourite’ topics today – The extent of and explanations for inequalities in life chances by social class, gender and ethnicity – Here a few visual updates and links which highlight the extent of class inequality in the UK today…

1. In Education… 3 year olds from the richest fifth of households are twice as likely to be ‘school ready’ than 3 year olds from the poorest fifth of households

education

2, by health – This is a nice, if dated article which reminds us that Based on 2007-2009 mortality rates, a man aged 65 could expect to live another 17.6 years and a woman aged 65 another 20.2 years. This graphic demonstrates that men and women from routine manual backgrounds are twice as likely to die before the age of 64 than those from professional backgrounds(my title is clearer than that in the picture!)

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3. The chances of being a victim of violent crime (available from the ONS and the Home Office Annual crime stats reports)

bh

4. Births outside of wedlock (not that I think the decline in marriage is a bad thing!, unlike the author of the post where I got the info!

The chart below shows the proportion of kids who are born outside marriage by social class in Britain. Its quite a short period of time, but you get the general idea. At the top, things haven’t changed much. At the bottom, having children inside marriage is not the norm, and increasingly rare.

121109-coming-apart

 

More Sources to follow…

 

Inequality updates – UK Focus

While the recent recession and ‘recovery’ have meant economic hardship and uncertainty for the majority, the VERY rich have got relatively richer.

Before looking at things sociologically (looking at the bigger picture) I’d just llike to say THANKS AGAIN TO THE BBC* for another excellent example of narrow-reporting which fosters false consciousness – This item reminds us that the levels of income inequality have fallen – if we compare the top fifth with the bottom fith of households over the last year.

HOWEVER…. If we look at how the incomes of the top one percent and top ten percent compare to other slices of the population further down the social-class spectrum, a picture of INCREASING INCOME INEQUALITY IN THE UK EMERGES

This article from The Guardian summarises the situation –

The super-rich – the top 1% of earners – now pocket 10p in every pound of income paid in Britain, while the poorest half of the population take home only 18p of every pound between them, according to a report published this week by the Resolution Foundation thinktank, which reveals the widening gap between those at the very top and the rest of society.

Inequality has grown sharply over the past 15 years, according to Resolution’s analysis: the top 1% of earners have seen their slice of the pie increase from 7% in the mid-1990s to 10% today, while the bottom half have seen their share drop from 19% to 18%.

This post from the Guerilla Policy Network offers a nice summary of the lates UN Human Development Report which highlights the following facts -

  • The UK’s poorest 40% share in just 14.6% of the national wealth – the only country performing worse was Russia (96)
  • The richest 20% have incomes more than ten times as high as the bottom 20%, this is the same as Nigeria, and worse than Ghana and the Ivory Coast, and twice as bad as Sri Lanka and Ethiopia (96)
  • As inequality in the UK has risen, intergenerational mobility (children ‘doing better’ than their parents) has also declined (2013 p36)
  • The majority of working people have had little or no wage increases in recent decades, while the top earners have seen substantial increases (2013 p22)

For those of you who prefer Infographics to illustrate inequality, here is one from the equality trust (love their work – ‘gis a job!)

income-inequality-uk-2

*(Seriously, thankyou, without you, BBC, teaching concepts such as ideological control, agenda setting, and false consciousness is just so easy.)

Putting DRC Poverty in Context

DRC – Resource Rich but ‘dirt poor’

The GDP of The Democratic Republic of Congo is $15 billion. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the total value of goods and services produced within a country in one year, and so is roughly equivalent to the amount of money that will be spent in total on everything by everyone in one year in that country.**

You might find it difficult to put this amount of money in context, so to give you an idea of how little this it’s useful to think about how we spend similar amounts of money in the UK….

The GDP of the DRC is equivalent to less than half the amount of money the UK Government spends on Housing Benefit per year – (average per year prediction for next four years – $38.1bn (£23.75).

UK government housing benefit expenditure is about 2.5 times greater than the DRC’s GDP

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The entire population of the DRC have about half as much money to spend as BP.’s profits for 2011 ($25.7 Billion) – (BP. Is the UK’s most profitable company).

BP.’s 2011 profits were nearly twice the GDP of the DRC

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The UK population spend $9 billion more on their pets than the entire population of the DRC spend on themselves – Total UK pet expenditure per year stands at £14.9 Billion or $23.9bn

People in the UK spend $9 billion more on their pets every year than DRC’s GDP

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Britain’s second most profitable company, Royal Dutch Shell, made $5 billion more in profit than the total GDP of the DRC – Shell’s 2011 profits were $20 billion.

Shell’s profits in 2011 amounted to $5 billion more than DRC’s GDP

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Finally, and depressingly, the closest equivalent I could find is that DRC GDP is roughly equivalent the amount that UK adults spend on Christmas presents this year – An amount which stands at $13.6bn or £8.5bn.

‘Please sir, I want some more’

 

Merry Christmas!

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**Yes I know there’s probably quite a lot of additional money floating about because of the massive corruption in DRC, but I have to go with official figures because at least they exist!

 

 

Do schools make a difference?

An excellent podcast from BBC Radio 4’s Analysis on the above topic should be compulsory listening/ reading for anyone studying the Sociology of Education – you can get both the audio version and the transcript here

The programme centres on Harvey Goldstein’s statistical research – who points out that once you take into account children’s social and economic backgrounds (their home backgrounds if you like) schools only account for 10% of the difference in a child’s educational achievement.

Although she didn’t say it when Labour was in power, on reflection, New Labour’s Education Secretary in the late 1990s, Estelle Morris, now consents that although ‘schools are all we’ve got’ they ‘can never make up for the social disadvantage that children from poor backgrounds and from disinterested families’ – late on in the programme we are reminded that only 1% of children going to Oxbridge are Free School Meal students.

So why is it that government ministers put so much faith in the potential of schools to transform students’ lives?

The programme traces this back to one study conducted in 1979 by Peter Mortimore, one of the principle researches on the “15,000 hours” study – in which the researchers did observations of good and bad schools and identified all of the features that good schools had (good being defined as those which got students good results) – These features were –

  • Good teacher support
  • A clean environment
  • Good behaviour
  • Pupils felt like they were valued

This in turn lead into a new field of study centring around the question of ‘what works’ in education – which lead to researchers being dispatched to discover what successful schools were doing – and later this lead onto the question of how we could design these success features of ‘good schools’ into all schools. The programme draws on Pam Sammons Professor at Oxford University who seems to favour this approach.

Going back to Goldstein, he criticises the work of Sammons and the like by pointing out that the features found in good schools may just be coincidental to success – the schools may have good behaviour, the environment may be clean and money might be available for teacher support precisely because these schools have pupils who are from middle class backgrounds, and this may not be repeatable in all schools around the country.

This, however, is not the view Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief inspector of schools (Head of OFSTED), famed for his headship of Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, one of the most deprived areas of London – this was Labour’s flagship academy which replaced the old failing Hackney Downs schools. Wilshaw claims that, through a combination of strict discipline, very long teacher and student hours and a ‘no excuses culture’ you can improve results in any school – he certainly did in Mossbourne – last year 8 students made it to Oxbridge, way above the national average.

What he forgets to mention of course is that he also had the help of a cool £25 million cash injection for a new building, and then there’s the little matter of his new Academy having almost half the population of FSM children attending as were at Hackney Downs.

As a final note – the programme does an excellent job of flagging up how successive governments selectively ignore research that doesn’t fit in with their own political agendas. The stats suggest social class and ethnic background matters and than schools only make 10% difference, and this is ignored, you then find some statistically dubious research from 1979 and one case study from recent history and use this to show that schools can make a difference…..

 

 

 

$40 000/ year – what Apple’s ipod city labourers could be earning

Apple recently reported $13.06 billion in profits on $46.3 billion in sales - and these are just the figures for the last three months alone!
 
This is, of course, thanks to the iphone and ipad – (Apple has sold 183 million iphones since its launch 5 years ago) which together now make up about 70% of the companies revenue.
 
There is mounting evidence that the chinese workers who manufacture apple products aren’t exactly benefitting from that £13 billion profit – in fact, it’s becoming apparent that many of them suffer human rights abuses – To list just a selection of the mounting evidence – (much of which is take from this New York Times Report and this summary from digital journey)
  • 17 Foxconn employees have killed themselves in the past 7 decades
  • Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms
  • Some workers say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk.
  • Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products
  • Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iphone screens.
  • Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions.
  • Finally – A message displayed on a banner above one ‘ipod factory’ reads “Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.”  

The scary thing about all of the above is that we probably only know about these abuses because the iphone is so high profile – the actual company that manufactures the ipad concerned, its actually a Taiwanese company called Foxconn  

Foxconn's Chengdu plant

Foxconn happens to manufacture a whole load of other well- known brands – including the Kindle, the Xbox, and Playstation 3, and its customers also include other big name phone manufacturers – such as Motorola, Nokia, and Samsung

Foxconn has an annual revenue around $60 billion dollars, employs about 1 million people and has factories in China, India, the Czech Republic, Mexico and Brazil, but the bulk of its manufacturing is based in China where it has 11 factories – the biggest of which is estimated to have between 250 – 400 000 workers in residence. 

Now if we know that Foxconn and Chinese government collude to allow worker-abuse in the manufacture of apple products, my suspicion is that it probably goes on with other products too…!

I started off this post wanting to calculate how much surplus value is being extracted by Apple from its workers, but I quickly realised this is impossible – In order to calculate this accurately we’d have to know precisely what proportion of workers in those Foxconn factories are working exlusively on apple products – rather than making products for all the other companies that Foxconn supplies. This, along with the actual numbers of workers in these factories, are not available.

What I can do, however, is calculate how much apple could afford to give to each worker if we assume that every Foxconn worker works on apple products – and that figure stands at about $13 000 – for the last quarter! – based on

  • $13 000 000 000 – Apple’s profits for one quarter – divided by
  • 1 000 000- the global total of Foxconn employees

If you quadruple that – and reduce it slightly to reflect the fact that last quarter was ‘Christmas quarter’ – you end up with the $40 000 figure at the top of this post. Obviously these stats underemphasise what each worker could be paid out of that profit pool – if you factor in the profits from Foxconn itself and all the other electronics ‘branding companies’ the figure would increase!

To finish, just a final postscript on surpluss value. If you didn’t already hate Apple enough –  if you just look at Apple employees – Apple extracted more than $400 000 from each employee last year…