Disadvantaged youth

The Media may like to portray youth as out of control, ‘feral’ yobs – the recent riots certainly pandered to that image – and while there may be some truth in the fact that young people do tend to be more criminal than older we also need to remember just now disadvantaged present school leavers are compared to their parents. There appears to be a worrying age divide emerging in the UK –

For starters, there are very few jobs out there for younger people – youth unemployment currently stands at 22% for 16-24 year olds – and as of July this year there were nearly one million 16-24 olds unemployed and the future looks to be one characterised by a ‘jobless core’

The rate has actually been growing for some years now – and 2/5ths of all unemployed people are now 16-24

The knock on effect of this is that younger people are less able to buy into the ‘British’ dream – home ownership appears to be out of the question for many until they are 30 – generation rent

Instead of this –

Some people are critical of all of this – lets not forget how the age of criminal responsibility has been adjusted and is comparatively very low indeed.


My Moneyless (more or less) March Manifesto

My Moneyless (more or less) March Manifesto

So far this year I’ve spent far too much time putting my money where my mouth is, via shitty food, beer and way too many take-out-coffees, so my aim in March is leave my money in the bank and go moneyless, more or less.

There are three/ four reasons I’m doing this:

  1. To save money to try and keep my goal of being able to semi-retire by 48 on track.

  2. To practice the kind of money-restricted lifestyle I’ll need to transition to in later life if I am going to retire early (anything after 53 for full-on retirement I would regard as a total failure, unless I cave in and decide to go part-time at work before I turn 48).

  3. I need to get back to some serious self-discipline after a fairly slack winter.

  4. It feels right – spring is coming, it’s lighter, and this coming half term is only five weeks long – and I’ve got 3/5 Friday’s off teaching, so only 2 full weeks – NICE!

I say more or less because I’m going to make the following exceptions:

  • Any outgoings I’ve already got going out – Which in somewhat contradictory-fairness is a lot of money. So a more honest title for this post might be a ‘disposable-income-left-after-outgoings-less experiment – but it doesn’t alliterate so nicely. My justification is that my ERE strategy is presently best facilitated by my remaining locked-in to the money system for a few more years because of my reasonably high salary and ludicrous rate of equity gain on my mortgaged-flat. Hence it only makes sense to experiment with the money I’ve got left over after mortgage repayments and the utilities I need to pay by virtue of living a non-off-grid salary man lifestyle.

  • I’m going to buy simple, cheap, food – but I’m only going to allow myself to buy the following: Fruit – apples and pears, peppers, tomatoes, olives (I do so love olives!); Veg – celery, carrots, spring greens, onions; milk, cheese, butter and eggs, beans and tinned tomatoes/ paste, tea bags, grain staples – cereals, rice, pasta, couscous, spreads – honey and Mar-mite, walnuts, maybe some pumpkin seeds, and sultanas and dates and flour – to bake bread. I feel the need to bake bread. I mean I could spend two hours a week skip diving, but when I only need to spend £20 a week on food and I can earn than in an hour, it’s completely irrational to skip dive!>! I’ll do one shop, once a week on a Saturday.

  • I’ve got an INSET day in London in mid-March so I’ll need to spend £30 on train fair. Technically this isn’t coming out of my own pocket as I’ll be reimbursed, but it’s London, so I imagine I’ll do coffee on the way up and maybe a beer or two after. Call it a £10 exception to the rule. What can I say? I’m weak.

  • If I need anything for emergencies I’m damn well forking out. This is highly unlikely, but if, for example, a brake cable snaps on my bike, or a drill bit breaks when I’m building something (‘cos I’m a proper builder, me) I’ll replace them. Or if I get a little touch of man-flu I’ll buy myself some paracetamol. What can I say? I don’t like pain.

Wish me luck, and if you see me this March, please feel free (‘cos I certainly will be) to take me out and buy me a pint, or two or four, or a coffee and almond croissant.

I’m not fussy, at least if you’re buying, but I do prefer ale rather than shitty lager, and I might even return the favour, in April.

Cheers! Here’s to a money-free March 2016, more or less.

Four Options for Quitting Work in my 40s

I’m getting a bit sick of my job – It’s a lot to do with the job, but also probably to do with being 42, and with it being January (at the time of writing this).

Also, I’ve now given 15 years full time to ‘the man’. Enough is enough for Christ’s sake. That’s almost a 5th of my entire life.

My original early-retirement plans (in 2015) were to ‘hold-out’ in full-time employment for 7 years – by which time I could travel or transition easily, but the way things are going I might crack earlier, so I need a crack-up plan. NB I’m claiming this as a new concept – a back-up plan is something you have in case a new venture goes wrong (which implies risk taking). In my original early-retirement plan there is no real risk of it going wrong – I just stay in teaching for another 7 (now 6) years and save-hard. However the risk is that I go fucking nuts before the next 6 years are up, hence the need for a crack-up plan. If I feel my mental health deteriorating any more I’ll transition early. This is a post about my options.

It’s interesting to note that this is an indication of how truly awful the UK education system is – I work in a nice college, with nice kids and nice staff, and teach an interesting subject. In short, outside of the immoral private sector teaching doesn’t really get much easier than my job, but my job still makes me feel anxious and miserable and generally shit. This is the effect of the system constantly focussing on the negatives and always demanding more. This is the sub-optimal logic of performativity caused by the neoliberalisation of education. Life is not worth living as a teacher in a marketised education system. The only thing currently keeping me in it is the fact that I earn enough and am frugal enough to save down and get the hell out relatively early, which is something I advise anyone insane enough to go into teaching to do.

How much money I’ve currently got to play with

Current liquid -ish assets


Equity (-£5K sales shaft)


Total capital to play with


Other (approx)

£16K – Ring fenced for spending when I’m 58/9 (Hoping this will grow and extend into my early 50s)

The headline news is that I can already afford to buy a house outright in a cheap part of the UK, which means I could quit my job now, work part-time for the rest of my life and still probably fully retire in my mid-late 50s.

If I wait until 2018, things are a lot more comfortable, if I wait until 2021, that’s near enough sufficient for me to fully retire.

What I perceive to me my total array of practical options to escape work:

  1. Downsize to a small homestead/ croft somewhere else in the UK, or maybe Ireland, quit work and figure out another way to earn money/ live without money, more or less.*

  2. Downsize to a cheaper house in the UK, rent it out to earn a small base income and travel/ do voluntary work abroad.

  3. Downsize to a cheaper house in he UK, rent it out to earn a base income, buy some land in Portugal and ‘do Permaculture’ and figure out another way to earn money/ live without money, more or less.

  4. Downsize to a cheaper house in the UK and buy a houseboat, and figure out another way to earn money/ live without money, more or less.

  5. *I could do this, and then just stay at work and rent in the local area as a sort of ‘transition year’.

NB – It’s unlikely that any of the above will kick in for me until 2018, given the enormous housing bubble currently inflating in my local area, which I think it’s safe to ride it for a couple more years. 

NB – When I say live without money more or less, I spent a lot of time reading about freeganism this holiday – check out the previous post. 

Approximate Costings


Initial Transition and capital costs

Additional Capital Required

Anticipated monthly expenditure

Buy a small homestead/ Croft UK

£150K House



Downsize and travel


£150K property and £10K to kick-start travel fund


£200.00 – £1000

Downsize and buy land in Portugal


£150K House in UK

£50K Land and transition to Portugal



Downsize and buy



£150K House

£30K Boat



Option 1: Buy a small homestead (nearly) outright and earn money working part-time from home

One advantage of owning a two bedroom purpose-built flat in Surrey is that the flat’s worth a ludicrous amount of money, currently around £245K. With £130K left on the mortgage, and after the £5K cost of being shafted by the sales-system (which I could lower if I self-sold it), this would leave me with £110K in the bank. Plus the £20K I’ve currently got kicking around that leaves me with £130K.

With £130K I could actually buy outright a two-bed semi-detached house in Lincoln. I’ve never actually been to Lincoln, but it does seem to be the cheapest place in the UK that’s not a shit-hole where you can buy cheap property. Given that I grew up in a town that was a shit-hole and that I presently live in a town that’s not that dissimilar, Lincoln would probably be a step-up for me. There are probably other towns where you can buy relatively cheap, some may be better, and if you know of any candidates then do let me know!

Amazingly enough £130K would also be enough to outright-purchase a small bungalow in the highlands of Scotland on just under an acre of land. Add on £20K for updating the property and this would leave me with a mortgage of around £20K.

I figure that it doesn’t really matter where I live in the UK, but I do kind of fancy the Scottish Highlands. When all you want to do is grow vegetables, meditate, read Sociology books, and make your money online-tutoring who cares where you live? I figure the cheapest non shit-hole town/ rural location is best.

A £20K mortgage paid off over ten years would mean repayments of around £200/ month, add on my anticipated monthly costs of living @£700/ month = £900/ month income required to survive, which means I could live off a part-time income.

For every year extra I work, I’ll should have another £15K to play with, so if I do this in 2018 I can add £30K on and maybe even buy a nicer house. Also, I could buy for something a lot cheaper in Ireland, which is something I maybe need to explore more.

Option 2: Downsize and travel

This basically involves downsizing as outlined above, with all the attendant costs plus £10K to kick-start my travel fund.

The rental for a £150K ish property would be around £550/ month gross, which would come down to around £400 month net. Obviously whether I can live off this depends on what I can put up with ‘on the road’.

There are numerous people out there ‘budget travelling’ who demonstrate a range of possibilities viz how little money you can get by on. One of the most inspiring is Dan Suelo – The Moneyless Man – who has managed to survive without money for the last 16 years of his life, but I’d personally be more inclined to become the moneyless, more or less, man. Not as cool, I know, but I know myself. And I’m not cool, so that’s OK by me.

This option also opens up the possibility of buying a van (A converted VW Transporter or Mercedes Vito or something similar) and being more mobile (and obviously not money-free), which would ad about £10K to my overall transition costs.

Of course I could combine travelling with a variety of voluntary work and even paid work – time to dig out the TEFL qualification maybe?

Option 3: Buy a house in the UK outright and buy some land in Portugal; rent out the house and move to Portugal and ‘do Permaculture’.

This strategy involves buying some kind of cheap-ish property as in the other options above, but also buying land with a wreck in Central Portugal and then ‘doing Permaculture’ and self-building a small eco-house. I calculate that I’d need about £50K to very comfortably establish myself in Portugal – £30K for the land + a further £20K to transition over there. When I say ‘very comfortably’ – this includes one year’s worth of living costs while I get established + the cost of a van, and yurt.

The advantage of this would mean that I could rent out property in the UK one while I live in Portugal. The rental for a £150K ish property would be around £550/ month gross, which would come down to around £400 month net. This means that if I escaped immediately I’d have to find an additional £300/ month to pay for said property, but if I can hold out until 2018 then it should pay for itself, and after than it becomes an income-paying asset. So, somewhat unsurprisingly, the longer I can stick out my job, the easier my life is later.

I’ve looked at a fair few blogs by people who have done this, and as long as you’re careful to do everything right, it is possible to pick up some cheapish property in a couple of acres of land to renovate, actually for less than £30K. Central Portugal seems like the best bet.

The massive downside of this plan is that I’ve never been to Portugal, I’ve hardly spoken a word of Portuguese, and my earnings potential would be massively limited. I’ll take a holiday there at some point in the future, I’m sure I’ll like it.

On the ‘doing Permaculture’ front – I’m sure renting out property one is against the ethics of the movement, but I’m also sure, given the prevalence of middle class 50/60 somethings in the movement, that this is extremely common practice, just not something which people advertise freely.

As of February 2016 this is my preferred option for escaping work, hence why I’ve gone into the detail.

Total cost of buying a reasonable property outright in the UK


Total costs of buying land in Portugal and fully transitioning


Total Net Wealth Ready to Invest


Additional Capital Required to fully transition

2016 – £70K

2017 – £60K

2018 – £40K

2019 – £30K

2020 – £10K

Estimated monthly income required after property costs


Add or Minus money I’d need to pay of outstanding mortgage/ rental income I’d receive

2016 – £300

2017 – £200

2018 – £000

2019 +£100 (need to earn £600/ month)

2020 +£300 (need to earn £400/ month)

Option 5 – Downsize and Buy a House Boat.

As above with downsizing, and then you can pick up a nice houseboat for £30K – I’ve added on £200/ month to cost of living to reflect costs such as licence fees, and mooring fees. This might actually be more. I’m not likely to do this in 2018, but living on a canal boat is just something I need to do for a period in my life at some point, thus I’m including it. Preferably I’ll be able to keep moving for much of the year to avoid the mooring fees!

In conclusion 

It is financially viable for me to quit my job this year and still retire early but it’s optimal in ERE terms to wait until 2021. A reasonable compromise in my noggin is to hold out until 2018.

Early Retirement Progress Update 2016

January 2016 And I’m now one year in to my 7-10 year plan to (semi-) retire by the time I’m 51, and ambitiously by 48. This is the second of my intended 6 monthly updates, this allows enough time to show clear progress (hopefully rather than regress) and also these things to take quite a lot of time to review.

Executive Summary

  • Total Net Wealth gain of £27000 in 2015

  • Net wealth gain excluding equity – £9000

  • Average total monthly expenditure not including mortgage – £930

  • Average monthly savings of – £536

  • Average savings to expenditure ratio – 62% (if I include mortgage payments)

  • Overall I give myself 8/10 – For once I’m actually going to focus on the fact that I’m doing most things right, rather than the few things I could improve on.

Reminder of Original Long Term Financial Goals – Updates in Italics, YEARS COUNTED FROM JAN 2015. 

  • Be mortgage free in 7-10 years (£133K outstanding)

  • Pay over £1000 a month towards the mortgage (15 year term) with a mind to either using savings or ‘trading down’ to pay off early.

I’m easily on track to do this in 10 years if I stay put in my flat in Surrey. However, the £140 I pay (in reality it’s probably more) towards service charge every month is becoming increasingly insulting, and so I’m looking at ‘downsizing’ to a house in a poorer area and commuting to work, POSSIBLY BY 2018.

  • Save £200 a month towards a ‘land fund’ – eventually to be used to purchase a van and land on which to establish a forest garden.

  • Save an absolute minimum of £250/ month in additional funds (=£30K after 10 years, without accumulations). Ideally this figure will be significantly higher.

In analytical terms I now treat these the same. I’ve done quite well here – my average overall savings each month is £537 – I made the decision in November to shove £140/ month into teacher’s AVCs, I’ve now decided to reverse that – I can’t access them until I’m 55 – what was I thinking?

NB The reason I keep banging on about land is because land squatting is a key part of my ERE strategy.

  • Find additional income streams to boost the above figure. Target = £20K in five years.

I’ve finally made some progress here – early days, more on this later as it develops.

  • Continue paying into the Teacher Pension Scheme.

It’s not quite a no-brainer to keep paying into this, but it still makes sense. The amount I pay in has increased, and because of recent changes to the scheme I’m now stuck with a pension at 60 of around £7K/ year – everything I pay in from now on is not worth claiming until I’m 65 – If I claim my future contributions at 60, I lose 25% of the value of current and future contributions (what I’ve already got is protected, but then again I’m sure this could change under the nasties.)

Now onto the more detailed updates…

January 2016 Update One – Spending days compared to non-spending days

Spend Non Spend 2015

It was going so much better up until December – but still – I won by 11 days!

Jan-June 2015 Update Two – Expenditure and Savings Summary

  • Ratio of expenditure to income excluding mortgage –62% (down from 64% 6 month ave).

  • Ratio of expenditure to income including mortgage – 21% (down from 23% 6 month ave).

ave monthly savings and expenditure

  • Frivolities = beer/ coffee/ subscriptions/ transport, (because I only really use transport for entertainment rather than work).

  • Necessities = council tax, services, food, ‘stuff’.

  • Property = mortgage repayments + service charge.

NB For calculating the above savings to expenditure ratio I always count service charge (an outrageous £140/month) as ‘expenditure’ but for the first calculation I count mortgage payments as savings because in the future my flat will act as an investment which will bring in an income (while I squat in a field).

Technically I should count the interest part of this as expenditure and the repayment as investment, but honestly I can’t be bothered to work this out and recalculate it every month as the repayments change, so stuff that! Just reduce the figure by a few percentage points if you’re uncomfortable with it.

January- June 2015 Update Three – Total average monthly expenditure excluding mortgage more detailed breakdown

This is really the headline figure – and it comes out at £930/ month, or £11K/ year – This is an honest account of how much I will need in retirement to live extremely comfortably. The service charge is something which is going to disappear hopefully very soon, but I figure the future cost of running a van which I currently don’t have will come out around the same amount of £140 a month, maybe more, so I’ll stick with £900 a month to live off. I’ve factored in £700 a month for my monthly retirement budget – this covers all of my necessities and allows £50 for ‘frivolities’ – so the idea is that Ill either need to suffer or do some kind of work to pay for me beers in retirement. Then again, that probably won’t be necessary as I’ll be enlightened by that point, and just naturally high on the joy of life.

average monthly expenditure 2015

Of course if I can pull off a land-squat my services costs will fall drastically, as will my food costs, so all of this could come down to nearer £5-600 in future. Whether that’s sustainable or not remains to be seen!

NB – The obvious immediate area for improvement besides service charge (PAIN!) is beer, I intend to hammer this down from September.

January Update 4 – Total Net Wealth

Well I’ve gained £27K TNW in the last year, but most of that’s equity, only £9K gained not including equity – still, that’s enough accumulated in one year to live for approx 1 year and 1 month. 

I’ve basically got £32k to either go towards an early retirement fund or blow on some land to set up a land squat. Not bad for the end of year one!

It’s kind of comforting to know that that’s enough to buy some kind of Quinta in Portugal – I’ve even taken off £4K from the figure to factor in a contribution to selling up and moving on in case it comes to that! It also doesn’t include a small emergency fund I’ve got stashed away.

So all in all, I’m on track to achieve my ERE goals, I could do better, but I think this not so extreme route to retirement (land squatting aside) is sustainable!

If you like this sort of thing – then why not my book – 

Early Retirement Strategies for the Average Income Earner, or A Critique of Curiously Ordinary Life of the Everyday Worker-Consumer

Available on iTunes, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble – Only £0.63 ($0.99)

extreme early retirement

Also available on Amazon, but for £1.99 because I’d get a much lower cut if I charged less!

Consuming Life, Zygmunt Bauman: A Summary of Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Collateral Casualties of Consumerism

The concepts of collateral damage and collateral casualties have become a central part of political discourse.

The concept of collateral damage is that when harm occurs as an unintended consequence of an action, then the person doing that action cannot be held legally or morally responsible. The divorcing of the two is fundamentally about encouraging a kind of moral blindness towards the victims.

One tool which the politicians have in their box to justify collateral damage is the difficulty of measuring the likely amount of it for any given conflict – It is as if by not calculating the likely ‘collateral damage’ (or at least not publicly sharing the calculations) then this is what enables the claim of unintentionality to be justified.

Bauman now argues that collateral damage occurs not only in the realm of military involvement but also in the extension of the market into more and more spheres of social life – and the ultimate form collateral damage here is the commoditisation of daily life…

In the words of J. Livingstone, ‘the commodity form penetrates and reshapes dimensions of social life hitherto exempt from its logic to the point where subjectivity itself becomes a commodity to be bought and sold in the market as beauty, cleanliness, sincerity and autonomy.’

Arlie Russell Hochschild argues that the consumerist invasion into personal life has lead to the ‘materialization of love’:

Exposed to a continual bombardment of advertisements through a daily average of three hours of television (half of all their leisure time), workers are persuaded to ‘need’ more things.

To buy what they now need, they need money. To earn money, they work longer hours. Being away from home so many hours, they make up for their absence at home with gifts that cost money. They materialize love. And so the cycle continues.

For the top tier of knowledge workers, who spend long hours at work, employers go out of their way to make work environments homely, and one may experience a sense of home in workplace (albiet with your love relationship in your actual home kept going by commodities) – Whereas for the lower tier of workers, they are subjected to the very worst of Capitalism — Long working hours and insecure contracts, and not enough time to maintain meaningful relationships at home – and so for them, neither work nor home provides emotional anchors for these people.

The search for individual pleasures articulated by the commodities currently offered, a search guided and constantly redirected and refocused by successive advertising campaigns, provides the sole acceptable substitute for both the uplifting solidarity of workmates and the glowing  warmth of caring for and being cared for by nearest and dearest inside the family home and its immediate neighbourhood.

Politicians who wish to reinstate family values should think hard about the fact of the consequences of living in a consumer society – where people are trained to afford other people no more respect than the consumer goods they consume (who exist solely for our pleasure and which need replacing every two years).

The Underclass is the collective victim of the progress of consumer society.

The Term Working Class implies a people who have a useful function in society, the term lower class implies a society on the move – the lowest class being at the bottom of a ladder which it might climb. The term underclass belongs to a different image of society, one which is not hospitable to all, and one in which belonging is achieved by denying and excluding rights to certain others – and this group of others in consumer society is the underclass.

The underclass is seen as wholly cut off from the class system, a no-class, which threatens to undermine the class based order of society. This is just how the Nazis described the Jews.

According to H. Ganns, the underclass describes a wide variety of people – the workless poor, illegal immigrants, single mothers and drug addicts.

What all of these have in common is nothing, except that they are flawed consumers, they have no market-value – they cannot take place in the game of consumerism. They are conceived as an overall drain on society, like weeds who only drain from the beautiful garden, and thus the rest of us would be better off if they did not exist. They are largely conceived of (constructed?) in terms of the dangers they pose to the rest of us.

However, there is one useful function the collectivity of the underclass performs – As a source of moral panics – as a place to which we can attach the cause of our our fears – even though in reality these fears (or anxieties) are endemic to the rootlessness of consumer society itself.

The poor of society (and not necessarily just the unemployed) are useless because they cannot perform their principle duty – they cannot consume! They are thus outcasts, but they do not find solidarity as this, they experience this as loners and do not expect to be helped or find a collective way out.

So where is the place of the poor in the consumer society? In short, it is out of sight – either indoors, in ghettos, or in prisons, and mentally we are made ethically blind to them through the rewriting of their stories – from deprivation to depravity – it is their fault that they are poor.

The problem here is that once you remove a section of the population from moral consideration, they become collateral in solving society’s problems – Violence can thus be justified as a means of exterminating them, as happened with the Jews in Nazi Germany.

Nazi violence was committed not for the liking of it, but out of duty, not out of sadism but out of virtue, not through pleasure but through a method, not by an unleashing of savage impulses and an abandonment of scruples, but in the name of superior values, with professional competence and with the task to be performed constantly in view.

I think Bauman’s point is that we are doing to the poor in this country what the Nazis did to the Jews in Germany in the 1930s – writing a discourse which removes them from ethical consideration and then makes their eradication a procedural duty.

A society unsure of its own reproduction is besieged by demons of its own making – For the order building societies of the past those demons were the revolutionaries who wished to build different orders, for the consumer society of today, its demons are those who cannot consume. The problem with this is that the more the consumer society progresses, the bigger the gap grows between those who are able to consume and those who want to consume and cannot. This is simply the logic of the market.

In consumer society the ultimate goal seems to be being happy through consumerism, which means always to be doing something, always to be consuming something (in other words the goal is the avoidance of boredom) – A busy life full of consumption is a measure of success and happiness – and thus people are compelled to do so. The problem is is that there seem to be no limits to the number of things you can consume, no limits to the number of things you can do – the goal posts keep moving, there is no end!

For the poor this a real problem because they are able to listen to messages about things you could be doing (from the evil advertisers) but are unable to participate, this can breed frustration and all sorts of other negative consequences.

The disarming, disempowering and suppressing of hapless and/ or failed players is also an indispensable supplement to integration through seduction in a market-led society of consumers.

Prison is the primary means by which this is done – the means through which society now exorcises its inner demons – and these demons are cast as ending up there because of their own fault, not because of society. And the harsher the punishments can be, the more effectively those demons are exorcised.

Bauman now traces the common usage of the term ‘The Underclass’ differentiating between Gundar Myrdal’s usage of the term in 1963 – when he used it to mean the coming threat of structural unemployment in the context of increasing productive efficiency – here being a member of the underclass was something over which individuals had little control – it was a failure of the organisation of society to provide sufficient jobs for people.

He contrasts this to the usage of the term by Ken Auletta – who argued that being a member of the underlcass in the early 1980s in America was not a matter of poverty, but of actively opting out of normative values – it was a choice to be feckless – However, his study was based on a highly unrepresentative sample of people from one training centre, in which you had to be an ex convict to gain a place – And here Bauman questions the lumping together of of all the various categories of people into one class.

The Corporate Takeover of Education? Pearson’s Rapidly Expanding Control of UK Qualifications

Amidst the other aspects of the privatisation of education (Marketisation, Academies, Free Schools, Apprenticeships, Tuition Fees etc.) you may have missed this aspect!

Pearson PLC is a FTSE 100 company worth nearly £10 billion with sales of £4.9 billion and a £720 million profit in 2014, whose best-known subsidiary is Britain’s largest exam board, Edexcel, which generates a a profit of £60 million a year.

Over the last five years Pearson PLC has aggressively expanded its control of Britain’s qualifications and assessment market.

Between 2008/09 and 2012/13 its share of the GCSE market increased from 21% to 30%

Pearsons GCSE


Its share of ‘other qualifications’ has increased from 5% to 28%

Pearsons other table

Pearsons other

However, Pearson’s share of the smaller A level market decreased slightly from 25% to 23%.

Pearsons A level

Despite the shrinking in the A level market, taken together this means that Pearson PLC now sets the examination standards for almost 30% of qualifications undertaken in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (1).

NB – There is more expansion planned! In its 2014 annual report Pearson PLC clearly states a desire to further expand its role in the UK education further, by getting more involved in such areas as the development of blended and virtual schools (e.g. Connections Education); and schools improvement programmes (e.g. through the Pearson’s School Model), and the use of ICT is central to all of this (2), although to date progress in these other areas seems to have not been as rapid as with its takeover of the qualifications market.



The Gender Pay Gap – A Brief Analysis

This chart shows what most of us would regard as a generally positive trend – the decline in the gender pay gap – which is down to 9% for full-time workers, and even lower for part-time workers.

Gender Pay Gap 1 2014

However, there’s a lot more going on than this….

For starters, there is considerable variation by age – with women in their 20s and 30s actually earning more than men in the same age categories, with  a significant pay gap then emerging between older workers.

Gender Pay Gap by Age

The ONS notes that the gender pay gap between workers 40+ is probably down to women taking time off to become primary child carers, which to my mind is pretty bleak – Given the ‘negative’ gender pay gap between younger workers, this suggests women are getting into jobs which will give them the same (or better) wages than men (reflecting their higher educational achievement) but that this is then abruptly reversed when childcare responsibilities fall on the mother rather than the father.

It also seems that women in higher paid jobs lose out more compared to men in lower paid jobs – with the gender pay gap for the highest 10% of earners being near 20%, while it’s nearer 5% for the lowest 10% of earners (so rich women are less equal to rich men than poor women are to poor men, at least if we look purely at income). Of course this will also reflects the gendered age differences in the chart above.

Employment - gender pay gap

However to complicate matters there’s not a straightforward correlation between occupational class and the gender pay gap – it’s actually the traditionally masculine jobs which have the highest gender pay gap, not the highest income ‘professional and managerial’ jobs.

 gender pay gap occupation

There’s various explanations for this larger gender pay gap in traditionally male occupations – It could simply be the later entry of women into such occupations compared to women going into the professions – thus there are fewer older women than older men, so women on average earn less compared to men because older workers earn more than younger. An alternative explanation would be that women who go into these professions are less likely to return them after taking time out to raise children, in which case the question of whether this lack of return is due to gender-barriers, or genuine free-choice would arise. Of course, it’s probably a mixture of all three of these reasons.

Finally, it might be worth exploring what’s going in in Northern Ireland that’s led to such a significant reduction in the gender pay gap….. Whether this is down to social policy or just societal changes I don’t know, drop me a line if you do!

Employment - gender pay gap 1997 to 2014


A hyperreflexive blog focussing on critical sociology, infographics, Buddhism and extreme early retirement

Skip to toolbar