Unemployment rate could be twice as high as figures claim

Reblogged from http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2014/11/12/unemployment-rate-could-be-twice-as-high-as-figures-claim/

12 Wednesday Nov 2014

Posted by Mike Sivier

The Office for National Statistics has put out new figures on the number of people in work – and it’s more than last month. Hooray!

But, as ever, the devil’s in the detail and – as usual – the small print is annoyingly devoid of the detail we need. Boo!

We are told that figures for September showed employment continued to rise (by 112,000 since the April-June period) and unemployment continued to fall (by 115,000 people). There appear to be 3,000 people for whom these figures don’t account. Interesting…

(Perhaps they’re now on Universal Credit – as those figures aren’t counted in these figures, meaning the current way of calculating these statistics is misleading from the start.)

Pay rates – excluding bonuses – was 1.3 per cent higher than at this time last year. This was being trumpeted as a huge success, as pay has risen about the Consumer Price Index (CPI) calculation of inflation, which stood at 1.2 per cent in September. What a shame the more accurate (which is why the government doesn’t use it) Retail Price Index (RPI) calculation of inflation stood at 2.3 per cent, well above in increase in pay rates.

Let’s all take a moment to remind ourselves of where those wages are going, too. Tom Pride, over at Pride’s Purge, has a little graphic for it, which is stolen and reproduced below:

141112average-uk-pay-risesTomPride

So all those bankers, directors and MPs are taking all the cash, leaving the rest of us with – what? This article suggests that, when you take out all the variations – like bonuses, wages for people who do real jobs (unlike bankers, directors and MPs) increased by just 0.6 per cent in the past year. That’s from the Bank of England.

If employment has increased – and there’s no reason to say it hasn’t – we can also conclude that the reason employers are more willing to take people on is that they can pay peanuts for them and rely on the government to top them up with in-work benefits. It seems likely that the work was always there but employers weren’t going to take anybody on if it meant increasing the wages bill and reducing the amount of profit available to them. Now that zero-hours contracts are available, along with part-time schemes that deny people pensions and holiday pay, it’s a different matter.

Of course the trade unions are in no position to stand up for workers’ rights – they have been stripped of any influence over the past 35 years of neoliberal, free-market rule.

The number of people who were self-employed increased by a staggering 186,000, to reach 3.25 million, while people working as self-employed part-time increased by 93,000 to reach 1.27 million. That’s 4.52 million – almost one-sixth of the total number of people in work. If you think that’s great, you haven’t been paying attention. Remember this article, warning that the increase was due to older people staying in work? And what about the catastrophic collapse in self-employed earnings we discovered at the same time?

How many of these are people who have been persuaded to claim tax credits as self-employed people, rather than jump through the increasingly-difficult hoops set out for them if they claimed Jobseekers’ Allowance – and do they know they’ll have to pay all the money back when their deception is discovered?

The number of people in part-time employment has also increased, by 28,000 to reach 6.82 million. Are we to take it that this means under-employment has increased again?

Public sector employment has fallen again. If you want to know why the government keeps messing you around, there’s your answer. There aren’t enough people to do the job. This month’s statistics show 11,000 fewer public sector employees than in March, and 282,000 fewer than this time last year.

Unemployment is said to have dropped – but remember, this is not counting people who have been sanctioned. A recent study by Professor David Stuckler of Oxford University suggests as many as half a million people could have been sanctioned off-benefit in order to massage the figures, meaning that the total listed – 931,700 – is probably wrong. Remember also that Universal Credit claimants aren’t counted, nor are those on government work schemes – another 123,000 people.

This means the actual unemployment rate is likely to be double the number provided by the official statistics.

And what about people on ESA/DLA/PIP?

It’s said that the numbers don’t lie.

What a shame that can’t be said about the people manipulating them.

The idea that there is a welfare-dependent underclass is wrong

A new book by John Hills explores key issues in the current debate about ‘welfare’ and the welfare state. The debate contrasts a stagnant group of people benefiting from it all with the rest who pay in and get nothing back – ‘skivers’ against ‘strivers’. John explains how, because people’s lives and circumstances change, most of us get back something at least close to what we pay in over our lives towards the welfare state.

Twenty-five years ago Granada television and my colleague in LSE’s social policy department, Julian Le Grand, came up with a novel way of presenting the effects of social policy. Instead of graphs, tables and talk, they used a TV game show between two families – the Ackroyds, from Salford in Greater Manchester, and the Osbornes, from Alderley Edge in Cheshire – to illustrate who got what out of the welfare state of the time. Which of these stereotypical working-class and middle-class families were the true ‘Spongers’ of the show’s title, most ‘dependent on government’ in current formulations, if one could look over their whole lives?

As it happens, the longer-living, university-educated, opera-loving middle-class Osbornes turned out to be the winners, getting more than the working-class Ackroyds. A follow-up programme which I helped with, Beat the Taxman, two years later looked at which family had done best as a share of income out of the tax reforms of the Thatcher years. Perhaps less surprisingly, the Osbornes won that one too.

What was special about these families was that, in the words of the game show host Nicholas Parsons, “we’ve invented them”. A quarter of a century later I’ve gone back to those families and their (newly invented) children and grandchildren to explore key issues in the current debate about ‘welfare’ and the welfare state.

Good times bad times [FC]In my new book, Good Times, Bad Times: The welfare myth of them and us, I present the results of research over the last decade or more in LSE’s Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) and elsewhere using large datasets, our own surveys, government statistics, and the results of computer simulations.

But the continuing lives of the Osbornes and the Ackroyds may bring home some of its key points. There are Gary and Denise Ackroyd, whose incomes vary widely from month to month as his hours as a van driver change and her work in a school only brings in pay only in term-time, contrasting with the stable and predictable incomes of people like young civil servant Charlotte Osborne (and of many academics).

Over the 2000s, the circumstances of the Osborne parents, Stephen and Henrietta changed a lot, particularly after Stephen’s heart attacks and decision to down-shift his accountancy work, but they still remained in the top 2 per cent of the income distribution. By contrast, the changes in the size of their family and the effects of Jim Ackroyd losing his job in 2006 meant that he and his wife Tracy bounced around the income distribution – close to being in the poorest tenth in two years, but just above the middle by the time they were empty nesters in 2010.

The book also looks at the life chances of the newest grandchildren, George Ackroyd and Edward Osborne, born at the same time in July last year. If we knew nothing about them apart from where they were born, we would already expect Edward to live nearly four years longer. And although some of the educational gaps have closed in the last decade, the chances are that Edward will be doing better at school from the very start, leave with better qualifications, go to a better university, earn much more and build up a far higher level of wealth. There’s nothing predetermined about that, and George Ackroyd might buck the trend – it’s just that he starts with the odds against him.

And looking at the recent past, the poorest of the families, lone mother Michelle Ackroyd, working 16 hours a week on a low wage, turns out to have lost 6 per cent of her income from tax credit and benefit cuts and austerity tax rises since May 2010. By contrast the most affluent of the families – Stephen Osborne with £97,000 per year earnings and his wife with £9,000 from her part-time teaching, plus significant investment income – have lost slightly less in weekly cash than Michelle, and only 0.7 per cent of their income.

Twenty-five years on, more than ever, the debate around ‘welfare’ contrasts a stagnant group of people benefiting from it all, while the rest pay in and get nothing back – ‘skivers’ against ‘strivers’; dishonest scroungers against honest taxpayers; families where three generations have never worked against hard-working families; people with their curtains still drawn mid-morning against alarm-clock Britain; ‘Benefits Street’ against the rest of the country; undeserving and deserving; them against us. We are always in work, pay our taxes and get nothing from the state. They are a welfare-dependent underclass, pay nothing to the taxman, and get everything from the state.

But we don’t need made-up examples to know that arid picture of unchanging lives is wrong. We know from our own experiences, those of our families – and from TV soap operas and nearly every novel – that people’s lives and circumstances change, and what we get out and put in changes over our lives.

It remains true that people starting advantaged remain much more likely than others to end up advantaged, and those who start poorer are more likely to end up poorer. But there is considerable variation and uncertainty around such average differences in life trajectories. This does not just include the long-term changes over the life cycle that we all go through, but also other variations and changes, from at one end the rapid variations many people experience in circumstances and need for support from week to week to, at the other end, the factors that affect the life chances of our children and our grandchildren.

As a result of all this variation in circumstances over our lives, most of us get back something at least close to what we pay in towards the welfare state. When we pay in more than we get out, we are helping our parents, our children, ourselves at another time – and ourselves as we might have been if life had not turned out quite so well for us. In that sense, we are all – or nearly all – in it together.

Good Times, Bad Times: The welfare myth of them and us is published by Policy Press. For further information, follow this link: Good times, bad times

About the Author

John HillsJohn Hills is Professor of Social Policy and Director of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) at the London School of Economics.

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/the-welfare-states-surprising-winners/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BritishPoliticsAndPolicyAtLse+%28British+politics+and+policy+at+LSE%29

This is how the ‘annual tax statement’ SHOULD have appeared!

05 Wednesday Nov 2014

Posted by Mike Sivier http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2014/11/05/this-is-how-the-annual-tax-statement-should-have-appeared/

We all owe a debt of thanks to Richard Murphy, over at Tax Research UK. He has broken down the information in George Osborne’s misleading ‘annual tax statement’ into its component parts and then put a new version together, under categories that more accurately describe the spending concerned.

Then he turned the information into a handy pie chart – similar to Osborne’s but with one major change:

This version is accurate.

Here it is:

141105richardmurphy1

Let’s just compare it with Osborne’s…

141105osbornetaxsummary

Big difference!

The most interesting to Vox Political is the perception gap between Mr Murphy’s calculation of the total proportion of tax spent on unemployment benefits – 0.67 per cent – and Osborne’s ‘Welfare’ heading, which constitutes 24 per cent of spending.

Talk to most people about ‘Welfare’ and they’ll think you mean unemployment benefits – so the Osborne chart will make them think that government spending on the unemployed is no less than 16 times as much as is in fact the case.

When a government minister exaggerates the facts by that much, he might as well come out and admit that he’s lying to the people.

Mr Murphy wrote: “This is the statement George Osborne would not want you to see because it makes clear that subsidies, allowances and reliefs extend right across the UK economy. And they do not, by any means, appear to go to those who necessarily need them most. The view he has presented on this issue has been partial, to say the least, and frankly deeply misleading at best.”

He wrote: “Add together the cost of subsidies to banks, the subsidy to pensions and the subsidy to savings (call them together the subsidy to the City of London) and they cost £103.4bn a year – more than the cost of education in the UK.

“It’s also no wonder house prices are so distorted when the implicit tax subsidy for home ownership is £12.6 billion a year.”

He also pointed out that unemployment benefits cost only half the amount used to subsidise personal savings and investments.

For full details of Mr Murphy’s calculations, visit his article on the Tax Research UK site.

Mr Murphy tweeted yesterday: “Almost every commentator now agrees that Osborne is going to spend a fortune sending out tax statements that are wrong. Why not cancel now?”

He won’t unless he’s forced to; he has a political agenda to follow.

That is why Vox Political launched a petition to achieve just that.

If you haven’t already, please visit the petition on the Change.org website, sign it, and share it with your friends.

ztaxleaflets

While you’re at it, feel free to share the infographic, created to support the petition:

ztaxleaflets

Please also read yesterday’s Vox Political article on Osborne’s ‘annual tax summaries’, if you haven’t already.