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Tuesday 21 January 2020

Britain's booming 'austerity' economy

Two charts that bear close study form the base of today's post. The RSA's Fabian Wallace-Stephens (who with a name like that should probably be standing for Kier Starmer's Deputy in the Labour leadership hustings) has looked at the fastest growing and shrinking occupations from the Labour Force Survey - here are the charts (clicky) and my comments below.

The first thing to note is the degree of substitution - occupations having the same skill sets and that enable workers to migrate from one category to another. This includes for example workers who move from sales and retail assistants jobs to call-centre jobs. Secondly are the changes in the structure of the labour market away from permanent employment by a single employer to a melange of self-employment and short term and temporary gig work; the full-time waiter is being replaced by a new breed of actress/waitress/whatever who may supplement their instagram enabler role with a few evening sessions carrying plates at the local pizza parlour. Without the counterpart to these charts - the charts that map the rise and fall of business and commercial activities - some changes are misleading.

However, a few trends are noteworthy. Supporting the Prime Minister's undertakings and undermining the NHS Cassandras, we have seen about 70,000 more nurses between 2011 and 2019 and an equivalent additional number of nursing auxiliaries and assistants. We have seen almost 80,000 additional care workers and 65,000 nursery nurses and assistants. Just those four categories have gained some 285,000 additional workers, demonstrating the growth in demand. What we must do now is work out how to pay for it.

The internet impact on retail is clear, with significant losses in shop and retail jobs offset by the growth of some 100,000 delivery driver jobs, and I suggest many more amongst the huge 4159 admin class gain* (nec = not elsewhere classified) are part of the internet shopping logistics tail. I'd suggest the one anomaly in class 7111 - massive female losses in retail sales but a modest increase in males - may be due to the blokeyness of mobile phone shop staffing.

The clear gainer though is what we used to call IT. As one would expect as we transition into the next wave of an AI economy. And the most visible impact is on central and local government - both clear losers, and not as the unions would have you believe from 'austerity' but from, well, change.

And one overall change that is inescapable - and confirmed by an unemployment figure that has dropped substantially during this period - is that employment growth overall greatly exceeds shrinkage; obvious in the images even given the exaggerated job-shrinkage scale in the graphics. And that really is good news.
Evening Standard, 21/01/2020 - * another increase for SOC 4159


Stephen J said...

With the coming of AI, the fastest shrinking areas are going to overtake the fastest growing jobs. Couple that with the ever increasing population, the suspense of reality by vast swathes of the population, and the nature of (as you say) having many really badly paid jobs that everyone scrabbles around in the dust for, and there is a recipe for trubbell.

I see a major problem being that people are still not competitive, their combined Labour and government licence fee are prohibitive to prospective employers.

Something will have to give, and I suspect that our ruling classes might just have expose themselves a bit, now that they have accumulated the whole of what they imagine to be the planet’s riches, they might understand that those riches are for using, rather than storing up.

Or perhaps the truth is that they really do intend and expect to reduce the population by billions?

You never know, they might accept the need to tax their land use? Just a bit.

The reality currently is they tax OUR land use, and ALL of our physical effort, and expect the future to remain the same…. There is absolutely no doubt, the future is not heading in anything like the Thunberg direction, but the poor and ignorant may die, because of constant re-attempts at floating authoritarianism/socialism/globalism/communitarianism etc..

The problem is that this mindset is a bit like the one described in the pome by the Wiesenthal chap, regarding ostrich behaviour.

At some point, people are really going to have to learn the meaning of sharing.

Raedwald said...

R-w - sage point in regard to crossover.

The Germans did fine when they just sold tools to China, but condemned their own economy when they started selling tools that made tools. So with all those IT jobs - once they have finished developing IT applications that develop other IT applications they are history.

DiscoveredJoys said...

Very interesting Raedwald, I shall study the numbers in more detail later.

I'm commenting on a blog elsewhere about the Myers-Briggs personality test. I went on a course, many years ago, deliberately structured around Myers-Briggs with the intention of showing us people from the IT division how we mostly Ixxx Myers-Briggs types could understand and communicate better with the rest of the business' operations divisions senior managers, mostly Exxx (I've oversimplified).

Did it do any good? I expect not. Whatever the personality types involved it was the external business conditions that drove interactions. Similarly I expect the employment numbers you and I quote won't 'register' with certain other people who are driven by 'narrative'. They would much rather draw their conclusions about the economy by an emotional anecdote about the local corner shop going out of business than step back and look at the economy overall - it's in their nature.

But still, the end of the beginning of Brexit is upon us and the sky hasn't yet fallen.

JPM said...

I suppose that if you believe that the whole and only point to life for an ordinary person is to be a Unit Of Employment of whatever kind, then the stats aren't all bad news.

So how many people like that do you know?

Mark said...

Well your beloved EU is doing a damned good job of ensuring its "citzens" don't become "units of employment" if their jobless rates are anything to go by.

DeeDee99 said...

Commenting as a female educated in an earlier age (when employment equality with males was dreamed of but nothing like the reality) the tables indicate that in the not-too-distant-future large numbers of older and/or less well-educated women are going to find themselves unemployed and virtually unemployable as their traditional jobs in retail; banking or low-level public sector admin jobs disappear.

As far as older women are concerned (ie me) this is the same group who were told later in life that they must work to age 66 before they can claim their State pension, which is going to be very difficult to do if the jobs simply aren't there. I predict that whoever Labour choose as Leader will soon start highlighting the disproportionate effect changes in the labour market are having on women. Boris had better have an answer.

I accept that the age women got their State pension had to be equalised with men but the Government should not ignore the impact on women educated in the 60s and 70s whose traditional areas of employment are rapidly disappearing.

@ DiscoveredJoys ..... I too went on a Myers-Briggs course and am an Ixxx This type is far more common in males; females are far more likely to be on the Exxx side of the spectrum. It partially explains why, throughout my life, I've tended to work in what were traditionally male-dominated sectors.

Raedwald said...

Dee Dee - a very important point and one I shall keep on the topics list

Doonhamer said...

It would be interesting to see the percentage changes, or either the start or end
point absolute figures.
A small numerical change in marketing managers or HR officers might actually be very significant.

JPM said...

Mark, like the UK, the other countries of the European Union have been in it for a couple of decades, and at this moment the UK still is.

Employment rates vary between the countries because they each have different histories, and wide scope for varying national policies which affect them.

So those facts would appear to prove that membership is not the main determinant of employment rates.

And why do you apparently assume that if the UK had chosen to remain then it would have been another Greece and not another Germany? How come you have so little confidence in this country?

Mark said...

How you can construe that I have a lack of confidence or belief in this country or any of the thing you assert from my comment: well you are a troll I suppose.

We're not in the Euro - Greece.

The main reason to leave is that we specifically don't want to become another Germany. Who do you think will get the bill (and blame) for the Euro collapse?

German attempts at Empire - of which this is the latest - never end well. Why should this one?

JPM said...

Dee Dee, so what is to be done with these people and with their lines?

Long term, Dominic Cummings says that he is "interested" in eugenics. Certainly, there are growing numbers of people who cannot afford to have families.

Mark said...

Hells teeth man , give it a rest!

Stephen J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Raedwald said...


HR managers is a good example - SOC1135 shows a growth of about 65,000. The closest detailed breakdown I can find from 2017 shows about 134,000 employed so the increase in % terms from 2011 is about 100%!

Top 10 employment SICs for HR managers / directors

78.109 Act emplymt placmnt agncies nec 15245
84.11 General public admin activities 10559
70.229 Mng conslt act (oth thn fin mng) 9674
88.99 Other soc work actv wo accom nec 4646
85.59 Other education n.e.c. 4559
47.11 Ret sle non-spec strs foodbevtob 4506
85.421 First-degree level higher eductn 3959
84.12 Reg act of providng social serv 3185
84.22 Defence activities 3050
84.23 Justice and judicial activities 3039

So apart from employment agencies mostly universities / public sector as you'd expect

When did the girls at Reed start describing themselves as HR managers? ;)

Stephen J said...

If you don't mind me saying Cheesy, and I hold no special brief for Cummings, but you are on very dodgy ground when you mention eugenics in the same breath as an attack on members of a political party that is not derived from fabianism.

Te Labour party has form on this, going back a very long way!

DeeDee99 said...

@ JPM "so what is to be done with these people and with their lines?"

Probably a mistake, but I'm going to treat this as a genuine enquiry.

As far as women educated in the 60's/70's is concerned, the problem should resolve itself as they become eligible for their State pension. It is the next 10 years which needs to be managed. That will require some State support: Government-funded skills training; possibly prioritising them for the jobs which are available by providing a subsidy for employers prepared to take them on.

Younger women (45 and under) had educational parity with men.

I simply highlight that Labour has already raised the issue of the WASPI women and as women are disproportionately affected by changes in the job market, they are likely to focus on it. Women are already more likely to vote Labour, so the Conservatives had better have a plan.

Peter MacFarlane said...

It's odd that barbers etc are declining - a classical service industry that cannot be automated, I would have expected it to be increasing.

But it's great news that goverment admin is the one in biggest decline, perhaps all those people can now go and do something productive.

And BTW Radders, "...developing IT applications that develop other IT applications..." - I think we have heard that so many times that you'll maybe forgive me if I cry b***sh**.

JPM said...

Look, absolute employment levels, without more, tell us little about the quality of life in a country.

Nazi Germany and the USSR had about a hundred percent, didn't they?

In the UK, we have some of the worst consequences in Europe for falling out of work and becoming disconnected from its world, so many people are basically terrorised into any position, however demeaning. It is one reason for our high crime rate amongst young males who will not accept this.

In the US, where employment is more precarious still, the crime rates are yet higher.

Mark said...

Now you really are getting desperate!

Stephen J said...

@Peter MacFarlane:

I was not making the point that Raedwald suggested, mine was very different.

I am suggesting that the price of a mans labour and his additional government burden, the 50%+ that he gives directly to the tax man, is still too much for the employer to not justify his urge to find AI solutions and/or export a given role to a cheaper manufacturing area (more productive). That urge is his stimulus… the waste that is going to the government, and the simultaneous lowering of output in relation to cost.

The above started with heavy industry and the lame ducks, who were never lame, they might have been old fashioned socialists and communists at the political/union end, but at the sharp end they were highly skilled craftsmen, who were being priced out of the market by the very people that wanted to buy the goods they made, like battleships or jetplanes.

The government wanted a quiet life, so they gave in to the commies and went off and bought their battleships (heavy industry) elsewhere. That model persisted, until they were not only exporting the jobs/skills, they were now importing the bovine staff that they required. Blair's sudden ratcheting was not only an attack on conservatism, it was an attack on people, and utterly perverted.

The point being that since a mans labour has to relate to his ability to survive, and if any work is to remain, the government will have to either support us as a communitarian system (disgusting and inhumane), or back off and find the finance that they desire/need from another source.

At which point I might be minded to suggest Land Value Tax, which taxes the use of the land, rather than a mans toil.

Which is what I meant by sharing… recognising that whether you are a bovine or a mover and shaker, (or somewhere in between) your cosy arrangements of the last 2000 years are steadily going to become fairer, and it will be because of conservatism rather than socialism which is merely destructive.

Which is why, when it comes down to it, the nation state is the perfect replacement for the tribe, and inside that nation it does not matter what colour, creed, or intelligence level you have, you just all rub along together, life goes on.

The idea that we MUST compete at all costs, seems to me to be counter productive…

But nothing is more counterproductive than top down socialism or any of its variations, and post war limited liability and its tons of company law is all there to protect the company from its customer when things go wrong.

The government will HAVE to become less pervading and much cheaper if it is going to save itself from eventual revolt, as the only alternative, full blown communitarianism, spells the end of our species.

JPM said...

r-w, could you expand a little please, on how sociality could "spell the end for our species", given that like dogs, sheep, parrots, lions, and chimpanzees, humans are by nature social animals?

I'm just curious.

Stephen J said...

There is a significant difference between "man, a social animal" and man "a socialist".

Communitarianism/socialism requires an authority, and then a gestapo.

Social animals need neither.

JPM said...

Hmm. The most authoritarian countries throughout history tend not to be socialist though, don't they? They are usually fascist tyrannies, theocracies, monarchies and so on.

And the most anti-authoritarian law of my life, Freedom Of Information, was passed by a Labour-dominated Parliament.

I'm sorry, r-w, I've a lot of sympathy for many of the observations that you make, but that one seems like an exclusive caricature.

Smoking Scot said...

@ Peter Mac

About Barbers etc.

The cost of maintaining a premises with rent and business rates makes it very difficult to earn a living except in large towns.

The very high minimum wage works against taking on juniors and the business can't be sold with a decent goodwill, which used to be their pension pot.

One men's barber I frequent rents chairs for £35 to anyone with some skills, so the first five customers pay for the chair, then anyone else is 7 quid in their pocket. Worst days are Tue because OAP get cuts for a fiver.

Best days are Fri and Sat and are popular with women who are ace with kids and who just want to work when it suits them.

I also know of a female hairdresser who makes a reasonable amount doing styling for ladies in care homes. There's a male barber who does the old guys; not just cutting but also an old fashioned shave and makeover. At 15 quid for the full monty and captive regulars the barber does quite well out of it.

I doubt any of them are included in the stats, nor are they likely to declare their income to the tax man. It is all cash.

Mark said...

So for centuries this country was sovereign. Then, in 1973 it joind the EEC, which became the EU in 1992 (or whenever).

Now we are leaving we are going to turn into nazi hell!?

Says a lot for those European values we've imbibed doesn't it?

JS said...

I suspect that barbers have lost a lot of male customers over the last few years as so many now shave their heads themselves.
Once upon a time Yul Brynner was an almost unique example of a man who had some hair but shaved it all. Now it's getting rare to see even a middle-aged man with anything other than a full head of hair or none. All those who would once have had thinning hair or bald spots shave the lot, and not at a barbers.

Stephen J said...

@Cheery: "The most authoritarian countries throughout history tend not to be socialist though, don't they?"

.... and unfortunately the dangerous ones are ALL a variation of socialism, be it communism on the left or fascism on the right of the left spectrum (as it were).

The right concurs with ideas from conservatism through to libertarianism and nothing to do with breaking the windows of the banxters, or marching around getting upset by somebody's skin colour or something.

I believe that we have developed the democratic nation state because it suits the human condition, it can and will be improved, in that more people can have more power, but it has to be an evolution rather than a revolution...

Which is where I slightly diverge from Farage in that he wants a written constitution, and I want it to be as original as it always has been, totally dynamic, even though it is actually written too. So the remainers have almost broken the constitution, and the voters have patched it. Now the executive must take steps to undo some of Blair/Bercow/Cameron/May's more egregious lapses, however weak their solution.

DiscoveredJoys said...


The European values (as used by the EU) include protectionist trade and Roman (Napoleonic) Law. We brought free trade and Common Law to the table and were sidelined in the push for 'ever greater union'.

Meanwhile, in other news, "The IMF has predicted that the UK economy will outpace the Eurozone in its new forecasts released yesterday. The forecasts, stretching two years in the future, show the UK’s growth will accelerate in both 2020 and 2021." While wealth may or may not be enobling, poverty certainly is not.

Mark said...

Actually it's one aspect that I will be watching with more than a passing interest: we will see to what degree this country was a brake on the normal continental tendency to gravitate towards authoritarianism and tyranny.

A substantial one I suspect. There will be an almighty mess to clear up before too long. Hopefully it won't cost us hundreds of thousands of lives this time.