Tag Archives: employment

LibLInk: Nick Clegg: This is the future – the unstoppable march of machines

Nick Clegg’s latest Standard column starts off by setting out a number of current problems. One is very different from the others:

There’s a lot to worry about these days: hard Brexit, Trump’s protectionism, Diego Costa’s future at Chelsea, Putin’s manoeuvres, conflict in the South China Sea, Boris Johnson’s next gaffe, climate change.

It’s another that he focuses on, though. What happens to people as their jobs are replaced by machines. He uses the self-driving truck as an example:

According to one recent report, truck driving and related jobs employ more people than any other job in 29 out of America’s 50 states. It is estimated that there are 8.7 million trucking-related jobs in the US. It is one of the few jobs that still attracts a fairly decent income — about $40,000 (£32,000) a year — without requiring higher academic qualifications. In other words, it’s a precious ingredient in the American Dream: a dependable job, accessible to everyone.

It is a question of when, not if, American highways will be crisscrossed by thousands of similar self-driving trucks. And what then for the millions of truck drivers, their families and their communities? An economic earthquake, that’s what, which could leave millions of people out of work.

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William Wallace writes…What should the Liberal Democrats be saying to the “left behind?”

What should the Liberal Democrats be saying to the ‘Left Behind’?  We’ve claimed a strong position as the voice of the 48%; but there are many among the 52% who are not illiberal at heart, and others who voted ‘Sod off!’ in the Referendum to London as much as to Brussels in their disillusion with politics and the distant elite.  People who live on partly-sold off Council estates, or in places built to house workers in factories that closed 30 to 40 years ago, where local services have been steadily cut back and jobs are hard to get to, low paid and insecure, have some justifiable reasons to feel resentful .

Theresa May has spoken about the ‘left behind’ at the Davos World Economic Forum, but said little about what an’ active state’ (yes, she has used that term) should do to help them. Donald Trump in his inauguration speech promised ‘the forgotten people’ from globalisation that they will now be remembered, but didn’t say what he would do to help them beyond putting up barriers to imports.  The right-wing media in Britain have portrayed their problems as mostly down to fecklessness and immigrants – taking their jobs and the social housing they want to claim, weighing down the NHS.  Labour is wavering over whether to give in to that narrative, or address more underlying problems.

But what do we want to say, consistent with our values, and without pandering to the ‘blame the East Europeans’ narrative?  Liberal Democrat peers have set up a working group to address this, to feed into party campaigning in ‘left behind’ areas.  The London-based media portrays the political choices for such voters as between Labour and UKIP (having forgotten the Lib Dem record in cities like Sheffield, Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull and elsewhere).  We know that Labour has already lost their trust, and that local campaigning has created new pockets of Liberal Democrat support, with encouraging local by-election results in recent months. Our group includes peers with local government experience in northern cities and neglected rural areas; and we are drawing on a number of reports on the social and economic conditions of England’s pockets of depression and deprivation.

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We need to focus on things which tangibly improve lives

Terraced housingAre we barking up the wrong tree?

I have wondered for a while if we are focussing on the wrong things, particularly where the EU is concerned. For the record, I want to remain in the EU. I see it as a flawed institution, run by the same cadre of neoliberal capitalists as those who run this country and most of the other countries in Europe. It has, however, two things going for it. The first is the possibility of deeper co-operation across national boundaries. The second is that it has woven into it a thick texture of human rights which the neoliberals, despite their best efforts, have been unable to unwind – it was after all woven in before they came along.

But when I look at this country’s biggest problems, the EU is neither the problem nor the solution. The media cacophony remains completely confusing as to why people voted to leave. The people who voted leave are equally confusing, and there are massive attempts to shut down debate by taking offence if suggestions are made that, for instance, cutting immigration will not solve any problems other than the fragility of some people’s sense of national identity. Taking back control does not take back control, but meely hands it to different members of the neoliberal elite. We still need to identify and solve the problems which have caused such disaffection with the political process.

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Of chocolate and jobs

Last month I visited York’s Chocolate Story, a visitor attraction in the centre of the city of York. A very lively tour guide told us about the Quakers who established the chocolate industry in York, and we saw how filled chocolates are made (and got to eat some) and made our own chocolate lollies (and got to eat them too). The other visitors included several grandparents, who seemed to be enjoying the experience at least as much as their grandchildren!

As the UK population gets older, the leisure industry has observed that we are becoming far more interested in acquiring ‘cultural capital’. Since 2009 household spending on recreation and culture has risen faster than total household consumption (VisitEngland, 2013). Older people, whilst more numerous, are getting ‘younger’ wanting to undertake new experiences and acquire new knowledge and skills – whether it’s baking, gardening or learning about history or art.

This creates new employment opportunities that we should be actively promoting.  Rather than working in yet another retail mall, young people can acquire knowledge that they can then share. Enriching an older person’s life is far more rewarding than stacking shelves or driving a delivery van. Of course there are concerns that these will be low paid jobs. However older people, whose incomes have been protected most in the years since the recession are likely to be able and willing to pay, and indeed this could be a good transfer of cash from the old to the younger generation.

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Jo Swinson highlights need for better management to increase productivity

It sounds obvious, but well-,managed employees who feel part of a team with a shared goal perform better. Sadly, not all employees work under good managers who are able to get the best out of their teams. This week, Jo Swinson highlighted the need for good management as WSB reports:

“The role of good management skills needs to be more prominent in the thinking about productivity,” Swinson said.

One of the biggest challenges we face in dealing with the productivity dilemma in this country is about improving the quality of management skills.

She said the lack of managerial training was an “ingrained

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Some thoughts on zero hours contracts – Liberal Democrat record in government is better than Labour’s

Zero hours contracts have taken up a lot of bandwidth and airwaves today.

There is a narrative that goes something like: “There might not be mass unemployment but the jobs created under this government are all zero hours contracts”. That is nonsense. The proportion of the workforce on zero hours contracts is actually very small. It’s only about 2% of all jobs.

If exploitation is going on, even if it’s only a handful of people being exploited, it needs to be stopped. There’s no doubt about that. And Liberal Democrats in Government have stopped the scandal of exclusivity, the practice of not guaranteeing your employee any hours or any pay, but not letting them work for anyone else either. We’re way ahead of Labour.

Jo Swinson said at her campaign launch on Monday that she was thinking about something like ensuring that people would automatically have  rights if they were working consistent hours over a certain period, so she and Labour are not a million miles apart. However, I think that we need to be sure that thee won’t be any unintended consequences from such a policy. Think about it. If you were an unscrupulous employer, would you be inclined to make sure that your employees didn’t build up that consistent work pattern? Labour’s policy might not be the simple solution that they are trying to make out.

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Paul Burstow MP writes… Mental health and employment support must be available to all who need it

For most people, work plays a defining role in their lives. It provides structure, the money to live and enjoy life, and for the lucky ones, it can provide a sense of achievement and purpose. Every one of these elements is a component in supporting good mental health, and helps to explain in part the vicious cycle of mental ill-health and unemployment, as well as the critical role that employment can play in mental health recovery.

But it’s sadly not true to assume that work is always good for you mental health. Surveys have found the mild to moderate mental health problems – including stress, anxiety or depression – are the most common reasons people are signed off work, and mental ill health costs UK employers £26billion every year: £8.5billion in sickness absence, £15.1billion in lost productivity and £2.4billion in staff turnover. That’s an average of more than £1000 for every employee, so it’s in everybody’s interests to make sure that employers do everything they can to improve employees mental health, and to encourage them to seek support and treatment as soon as mental health problems develop. While there are some fantastic employers who ‘get’ mental health and its debilitating impact on their employees as well as their business, a recent survey conducted by CentreForum found that two thirds of people said they had been treated unfairly in keeping a job, and 75% said they had stopped themselves applying for work due to fear of discrimination. This needs to end.

That’s why the Mental Health Commission I chaired made the workplace one of our priorities for action. As we recommended, there should be a concerted effort to make UK businesses and services mental health friendly employers, with all organisations with more than 500 employees signing up to a mental health kitemark and 90% of these organisations on board by 2020. I am proud to be able to say that we established the first government funding for the Time to Change campaign – which works to end mental health discrimination – during my tenure as Minister responsible for mental health. It is fantastic that under Norman Lamb, the government have committed to continue funding this crucial work.  To maximise our impact, we now need to ensure that all public sector bodies have taken up the mantle, and use public sector procurement to filter this commitment throughout the distribution chain. At the same time, Norman Lamb has called on all FTSE 100 companies to sign up to the Time to Change initiative – and this is a call we should all echo.

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