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Posts Tagged ‘frictional unemployment’

Job losses and labour mobility

Lloyds Banking Group has announced that it plans to reduce its labour force by 9000. Some of this reduction may be achieved by not replacing staff that leave, but some may have to be achieved through redundancies.

The reasons given for the reduction in jobs are technological change and changes in customer practice. More banking services are available online and customers are making more use of these services and less use of branch banking. Also, the increasingly widespread availability of cash machines (ATMs) means that fewer people withdraw cash from branches.

And it’s not just outside branches that technological change is impacting on bank jobs. Much of the work previously done by humans is now done by software programs.

One result is that many bank branches have closed. Lloyds says that the latest planned changes will see 150 fewer branches – 6.7% of its network of 2250.

What’s happening in banking is happening much more widely across modern economies. Online shopping is reducing the need for physical shops. Computers in offices are reducing the need, in many cases, for office staff. More sophisticated machines, often controlled by increasingly sophisticated computers, are replacing jobs in manufacturing.

So is this bad news for employees? It is if you are in one of those industries cutting employment. But new jobs are being created as the economy expands. So if you have a good set of skills and are willing to retrain and possibly move home, it might be relatively easy to find a new, albeit different, job.

As far as total unemployment is concerned, more rapid changes in technology create a rise in frictional and structural unemployment. This can be minimised, however, or even reduced, if there is greater labour mobility. This can be achieved by better training, education and the development of transferable skills in a more adaptive labour force, where people see changing jobs as a ‘normal’ part of a career.

Webcasts
Lloyds Bank cuts 9,000 jobs – but what of the tech future? Channel 4 News, Symeon Brown (28/10/14)
Lloyds Bank confirms 9,000 job losses and branch closures BBC News, Kamal Ahmed (28/10/14)

Article
Lloyds job cuts show the technology axe still swings for white collar workers The Guardian, Phillip Inman (28/10/14)

Reports
Unleashing Aspiration: The Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions Cabinet Office (July 2009)
Fair access to professional careers: a progress report Cabinet Office (30/5/12)

Questions

  1. Is a reduction in banking jobs inevitable? Explain.
  2. What could banks do to reduce the hardship to employees from a reduction in employment?
  3. What other industries are likely to see significant job losses resulting from technological progress?
  4. Distinguish between demand-deficient, real-wage, structural and frictional unemployment. Which of these are an example, or examples, of equilibrium unemployment?
  5. What policies could the government pursue to reduce (a) frictional unemployment; (b) structural unemployment?
  6. What types of industry are likely to see an increase in employment and in what areas of these industries?
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A way out of the poverty trap?

On November 11, the government published a White Paper on welfare reform. Central to the proposals is the replacing of the range of out-of-work benefits, housing benefit and tax credits with a single universal benefit. The system will be introduced for new claimants in 2013 and for those currently on benefits sometime after 2015.

When the unemployed find work, the benefit will be withdrawn at a rate of 65p of each £1 earned. At present, because of the complexity of the system, some claimants on multiple benefits can find that the withdrawal rate is almost 100%. When income tax is added in, the tax-plus-lost-benefit rate does sometimes exceed 100%. Thus some people find themselves in a poverty trap, whereby it’s not worth getting a job. It’s financially benefical to stay on benefits.

The other crucial element of the proposal is to deny people benefits who turn down a legitimate job.

a. Failure to meet a requirement to prepare for work (applicable to jobseekers and those in the Employment and Support Allowance Work-Related Activity Group) will lead to 100 per cent of payments ceasing until the recipient re-complies with requirements and for a fixed period after re-compliance (fixed period sanctions start at one week, rising to two, then four weeks with each subsequent failure to comply).

b. Failure to actively seek employment or be available for work will lead to payment ceasing for four weeks for a first failure and up to three months for a second.

c. The most serious failures that apply only to jobseekers will lead to Jobseeker’s Allowance payment ceasing for a fixed period of at least three months (longer for repeat offences). Actions that could trigger this level of penalty include failure to accept a reasonable job offer, failure to apply for a job or failure to attend Mandatory Work Activity.

The following podcasts and articles look at the details of the proposals and discuss their merits and drawbacks,

Podcasts and webcasts
Not going to work if you can is ‘not an option’ ITV, part of speech by Iain Duncan Smith (11/11/10)
IDS: Staying on benefits ‘irrational choice’ BBC Today Programme, Chris Buckler, Iain Duncan Smith Smith (11/11/10)
Iain Duncan Smith unveils new benefits system BBC News (11/11/10)
Welfare reform success ‘far from certain’ BBC Today Programme, Norman Smith (11/11/10)

Articles
Benefits system overhaul ‘to make work pay’ BBC News (11/11/10)
At-a-glance: Benefits overhaul BBC News (11/11/10)
Benefits explained: A basic guide to entitlements BBC News (11/11/10)
Is welfare reform doomed to fail? BBC News, Norman Smith (11/11/10)
A bold and principled approach to benefits Telegraph (11/11/10)
Reshaping the benefits system The Economist, Blighty blog (11/11/10)
Unemployment benefits shake-up ‘a fair deal’ Independent (11/11/10)
Tougher welfare sanctions spark ‘destitution’ warnings Independent (11/11/10)
Iain Duncan Smith: it’s a sin that people fail to take up work Guardian, Patrick Wintour, Randeep Ramesh and Hélène Mulholland (11/11/10)
Preacher Duncan Smith aims for holy grail of welfare policy Guardian, Randeep Ramesh (11/11/10)

Documents, official information and data
Universal Credit: welfare that works Department for Work and Pensions, Links to White Paper (11/11/10)
Benefits and financial support Directgov
Economic and Labour Market Review (see tables in Chapters 2 and 6), National Statistics

Questions
  1. Explain what is meant by the ‘poverty trap’ (or ‘welfare trap’).
  2. Summarise the reforms to benefits proposed in the White Paper.
  3. Examine whether the Coalition government’s proposal for a universal benefit will lead to greater fairness.
  4. Will a withdrawal rate of 65% provide a strong incentive for people out of work to take a job?
  5. Why may some be paying a combined tax-plus-lost-benefit rate of 76%?
  6. Why is there an inherent trade-off between making work pay (and thus eliminating the poverty trap) and keeping the cost of welfare benefits down? Would reducing the level of benefit be an appropriate answer to this trade-off?
  7. One aim of the benefits reform is to reduce unemployment. What type of unemployment is likely to be affected?
  8. Find out the current level of unemployment and the level of job vacancies and, in the light of this, comment on the likely effectiveness of the policy in reducing unemployment (a) shortly after the new system is introduced; (b) over the longer term.
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