Bringing Together Data to provide insights into Earnings & Employment

Posted on

The Wage and Employment Dynamics (WED) project aims to bring together data to provide insights into the dynamics of earnings and employment. The aim is to do this by integrating data across individuals across years, jobs, income sources and employers. This is a large project, with significant potential to improve our understanding of wage and employment issues from labour market entry, through job mobility and career progression to retirement decisions.

A team of researchers from UWE, University of London (CUL), UCL, and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) will create a wage and employment spine to do just this. We will train users on the spine and generate research findings of direct interest to policy makers. 

This will entail analysis of:

  • Employment: focusing on the drivers of hourly wages, part- and full-time employment, self-employment, underemployment, and retirement decisions
  • Households: focusing on the structure of households and household resources and the way they affect participation in the labour market, including child care, retirement decisions, and the impact of Universal Credit (UC)
  • Employer perspectives: focusing on how workers achieve wage growth both within and across firms, and how employers react to changing labour market conditions, such as shifts in skills, demand, technology and minimum wages.

At the heart of the project is the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) and New Earnings Survey (NES). These survey datasets derive from a 1% sample of all employees in employment and will be developed to provide a truly longitudinal research resource. An ASHE/NES dataset which has longitudinal integrity across workers and jobs, with consistent referencing across data sets and time, will constitute a valuable research asset in its own right.

In addition, we aim to undertake six major linkage projects, in which we will create robust, documented linkages between the employee records contained in ASHE and data on:

  • enterprises and establishments – contained in the Interdepartmental Business Register, (IDBR);
  • personal and household characteristics – contained in the 2011 Census;
  • educational attainment – contained in HESA (Higher Education Student data);
  • benefit history – contained in DWP benefit records;
  • pay records – contained in HMRC PAYE data;
  • self-employment income – contained in HMRC Self Assessment (SA) records.

Through these various linking projects, we aim to create a core data set which allows integrated analysis of all forms of income across working lives, with the capacity to address a wide range of future analytical requirements. The end goal of the project is to turn this fully-linked dataset into a sustainable ‘wage and employment spine’ (WES), so that researchers no longer need to create new linkages each time. The linked data will be used for research purposes within the project itself, but the spine will form an ongoing resource for researchers. The intention is for the WES to form the basis for linked-data projects beyond 2022, both for academics and government agencies.

To find out more visit the WED website or sign up to their newsletter.

Online Event: Rules vs. Principles-based Regulation: What can we learn from different professions?

Posted on

Bristol Centre for Economics and Finance is hosting an online event on 28th May 2020: Rules vs. Principles-based Regulation: What can we learn from different professions?

There is an active debate in many disciplines about the most appropriate approach to regulation and enforcement. The workshop intends to bring together participants from different disciplines to provide an overview of the predominant approaches, along with the respective debates, experiences, and challenges. Common experiences and core issues can be identified.

The workshop aims to spark debate about regulation and whether we, across disciplines, could respond differently to the challenges we face and find novel ways to more efficient regulation.

Obtaining insight into other disciplines’ experiences shall enable us to rethink the predominant approaches. By learning from each other we can ask: Can we do better, both in our own disciplines and the common regulatory landscape? Might there be a better way?

The event is of interest to both public and private sector participants: Policy-makers, government enforcement agencies, academics, and industry professionals in the area of, and affected by, regulation, in various disciplines.

Sign up for this free event here

Workshop programme

13:00 – 13:05 Welcome Professor Felix Ritchie
  Cluster 1 Presentations: Data regulation in the public and private sector
13:05 – 13:15 Data in the public/private sector Design of incentive systems/evidence base Professor Felix Ritchie/Elizabeth Green
13:15 – 13:25 Data in the public sector Organisational trust Andrew Engeli – Office for National Statistics
13:25 – 13:35 Data in the private sector (I) Data Protection & Privacy Martin Hickley – Director Martin Hickley Data Solutions Limited
13:35 – 13:45 Data in the private sector (II) Data Analytics & Privacy Luk Arbuckle – Chief Methodologist Privacy Analytics
13:45 – 14:15 Cluster 1 Discussion
14:15 – 14:25 Break
  Cluster 2 Presentations: Financial markets and accounting
14:25 – 14:35 Rules vs principles in financial markets Financial Regulation & Compliance Expert witness Paul Keenan – Visiting Practitioner Professor in Financial Regulation in the Business and Law Faculty of the University of the West of England (UWE)
14:35 – 14:45 Rules vs principles in accounting (I) Practical accounting & Regulator Perspective Bryan Foss – Digital Non-Executive Director, Risk & Audit Chair, Visiting Professor and Board Readiness Coach
14:45 – 14:55 Rules vs principles in accounting (II) Auditing & Corporate Governance Ismail Adelopo/Florian Meier
14:55 – 15:25 Cluster 2 Discussion
15:25 – 15:35 Break
  Cluster 3 Presentations: Legal perspective and non-financial regulation
15:35 – 15:45 Legal perspective Financial crime Nicholas Ryder – Professor in Financial Crime
15:45 – 15:55 Non-financial regulation Modern slavery and other required reporting Jaya Chakrabarti – CEO Semantrica Ltd (tiscreport)
15:55 – 16:25 Cluster 3 Discussion
16:25 – 16:55 Summary and Closing remarks Nicholas Ryder Professor in Financial Crime

Bribery, Motivations for Bribery and Life Satisfaction in Transitional Countries

Posted on

Timothy Hinks paper has just been accepted for publication

The focus on bribery and corruption and its impact on life satisfaction is relatively new in the economics and development studies literature. This paper contributes to this emerging field by asking whether reasons for making informal payments are correlated with life satisfaction. We find that paying bribes negatively correlates with life satisfaction and that those who were extorted by public officials or made an informal payment since they thought it was expected of them reported lower life satisfaction levels. We also find that those who made an informal payment to speed things up or who thought of the payment as a gift reported higher life satisfaction. Reasons for bribery differ in their associated significance with life satisfaction by public service that is used and by income group. For example people who instigated informal payments to public officials in the civil courts report higher life satisfaction bringing into question the integrity of judicial systems in transitional countries.

The paper is paper is published in World Development Perspectives and available online at here.

Business Models for Sustainability The Barriers and Solutions: Workshop

Posted on

Tuesday 28th January saw The Future Economy Network take a wintery trip up to University West of England’s Frenchay Campus. The business breakfast workshop was attended by a diverse range of businesses keen to look at their business models through a sustainability lens. The workshop was kindly hosted by the Economics team at UWE. The network supplied sustainable pastries from their own eco-café, Future Leap.

Katherine Piper, Director of The Future Economy Network welcomed attendees, highlighting the benefits of joining the Network and also sharing exciting updates about The Future Economy Network’s Carbon Neutral Hub in Bristol, Future Leap. Katherine also briefly ran through the plans for The Festival of Sustainable Business (check out the video here). We set the groundwork for the workshop by starting with two introductory talks by Ruth Smith, Founder of Sustainable Results Lab, and Peter, Economics professor at UWE.

Ruth set the scene with her history & skills in sustainable business model development, having grown from working as an editor. From her experience, she learned of the continuous battle between a company’s values and the pressure to make profit. Ruth emphasised the importance of values within business planning. She used inspiring quotes from Gary Hanel, Michael Porter and America’s Business Roundtable to explain the triple bottom line theory and modern business’ shift from shareholder to stakeholder value. She mentioned the importance of the new accreditation B-Corp. Learn more about B-Corp at our upcoming event. Many businesses have a 30-40 year timeframe therefore are finally starting to implement the environment as an essential stakeholder. Ruth also mentioned the importance of emerging clean tech. Learn more about Clean Tech at our upcoming event. With her expertise in marketing, Ruth touched on the brilliant tools in the digital and marketing sphere. She did caution however, the need to be aware of the greenhouse gas emissions from digital technologies, which account for 4% of greenhouse gases.

Peter then introduced his workshop by defining the concept of sustainable development by design and introducing the associated toolkit. He discussed the concepts behind sustainable development, business models, and value, emphasising the importance of context and perception changing value. He then discussed the torchlight model in his paper with Glenn Parry and Nicholas O’Regan about developing sustainable business models, and gave an example of the model in practice.

After a quick coffee break, attendees split into 4 groups and worked through their company business models using the torchlight model. After an hour, the teams fed back to the rest of the group on their work.

The event concluded with some 60 second pitches from Garrett Creative, Solar Roofing Specialists & Halcyan Water, and some valuable networking. A huge thank you to the Economics team at UWE for hosting the event and providing refreshments. Without such support we would not be able to do these wonderful inspiring events.

Business Models for Sustainability – A Workshop Collaboration

Posted on

The Future Economy Network (FEN) is a Bristol-based organisation born out of a need for sustainable business and better future thinking in response to the climate emergency. And in one of the most creative and environmentally conscious cities in the UK, what better place to meet the growing demand? All over the South West, FEN are seeing more and more active individuals and engaged businesses joining the network to learn about sustainability, meet like-minded others, and increase their sustainable business strength.

In response to the clear need for sustainable business growth, FEN are teaming up with UWE to create an engaging workshop titled “Business Models for Sustainability: The Barriers & Solutions”. There has been a significant growth in purpose before profit; businesses are increasingly seeing their customers demand social responsibility as an integrated part of the offer, not an afterthought or addition. With fantastic initiatives like B-Corp or Science Based Targets, businesses recognise that profit is no longer king, but the future of their growth (and survival) relies on the triple bottom line.

On 28th January, FEN and UWE will co-host a three-hour interactive workshop to better understand your business model. The session will start with two informative, introductory talks and then lead into personalised break out workshops.

What To Expect:

– Tools to develop business models for better understanding;

– Sustainable development and business models;

– Current and future business models.

One of the keynote speakers includes Peter Bradley, a leader in sustainable development at UWE. He is the principal investigator of the ‘Understanding and assessing business models for sustainability’ project, which researches the environmental and economic viability of business models that are intended for sustainable development. Alongside Peter, Ruth Smith from Sustainable Results Lab will be speaking on how Purpose beyond profit is the biggest movement in business right now. Ruth founded the Sustainable Results Lab to bring world class digital marketing to the environmental sector. Both speakers are members of FEN’s sustainability network.

The event will also include the usual elements of FEN’s weekly sustainable events programme that many have come to know and love, such as valuable networking, a friendly and motivational team, exciting 60 second pitches, and professional event delivery.

Grab your ticket here or pop into FEN’s new sustainability hub, Future Leap, to find out more about the diverse range of services available to those wishing to grow on their sustainability journey.

Update from Annie Tubadji, Senior Lecturer in Economics

Posted on

Senior Lecturer in Economics, Annie Tubadji is currently a Specially Appointed Lecturer at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan.

As part of her visiting scholar activities, Annie will deliver an undergraduate and postgraduate course on the “Economics of Happiness” at Center for Regional Economic and Business Networks (REBN) Summer School Institute.

As part of my Visiting Scholar activities, I will deliver here two courses (undergraduate and graduate ones) on economics of happiness at their Center for Regional Economic and Business Networks (REBN) Summer School Institute.

As part of her visit, Annie will also be delivering two specially invited lectures.

More on the Summer School Institute can be found here

Pro-environmental employee and consumer behaviour conference 2019

Posted on

The Bristol Centre for Economics and Finance’s first conference on Pro-environmental employee and consumer behaviour was held on the 29th of April 2019.

The day was a major success with around 80 registered participants and 14 presenters with many attending organisations and academics.   The event was highly energised, with many thought provoking questions for speakers and an atmosphere full of interest. 

Bristol Green Capital introduced the day,  the afternoon session was opened by the Future Economy Group and the closing of the conference was led by Dr Peter Bradley. We would like to thank again everyone who participated.  The event will run again next year.  The slides from the day, for those who are further interested in the conference and would like to find out more, can be found here.

Measuring non-compliance with minimum wages

Posted on

By Professor Felix Ritchie

When a minimum wage is set, ensuring that employees do get at least that minimum is a basic requirement of regulators. Compliance with the minimum wage can vary wildly: amongst richer countries, around 1%-3% of wages appear to fall below the minimum but in developing countries non-compliance rates can be well over 50%.

As might be expected, much non-compliance exists in the ‘informal’ economy: family businesses using relatives on an ad hoc basis, cash-only payments for casual work, agricultural labouring, or simply the use of illegal workers. However, there is also non-compliance in the formal economy. This is analysed by regulators using large surveys of employers and employees which collect detailed information on hours and earnings. This analysis allows them to identify broad characteristics and the overall scale of non-compliance in the economy.

In the UK, enforcement of the minimum wage is carried out by HM Revenue and Customs, supported by the Low Pay Commission. With 30 million jobs in the UK, and 99% of them paying at or above the minimum wage, effective enforcement means knowing where to look for infringements (for example, retail and hospitality businesses tend to pay low, but compliant, wages; personal services are more likely to pay low wages below the minimum; small firms are more likely to be non-compliant than large ones, and so on). Ironically, the high rate of compliance in the UK can bring problems, as measurement becomes sensitive to the way it is calculated.

A new paper by researchers at UWE and the University of Southampton looks at how non-compliance with minimum wages can be accurately measured, particularly in high-income countries. It shows how the quantitative measurement of non-compliance can be affected by definitions, data quality, data collection methods, processing and the choice of non-compliance measure.

The paper shows that small variations in these can have disproportionate effects on estimates of the amount of non-compliance. As a case study, it analyses the earnings of UK apprentices to show, for example, that even something as simple as the number of decimal places allowed on a survey form can have a significant effect on the non-compliance rates.

The study also throws light on the wider topic of data quality. Much research is focused on marginal analyses: looking at the relative relationships between different factors. These don’t tend to be obviously sensitive to very small variations in data quality, but that is partly because it is can be harder to identify sensitive values.

In contrast, non-compliance with the minimum wage is a binary outcome: a wage is either compliant or it is not. This makes tiny variations (just above or just below the line) easier to spot, compared to marginal analysis. Whilst this study focuses on compliance with the minimum wage, it highlights how an understanding of all aspects of the data collection process, including operational factors such as limiting the number of significant digits, can help to improve confidence in results.

Ritchie F., Veliziotis M., Drew H., and Whittard D. (2018) “Measuring compliance with minimum wages”. Journal of Economic and Social Measurement, vol. 42, no. 3-4, pp. 249-270. https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-economic-and-social-measurement/jem448

“A Remarkable National Effort”: The Dismal Arithmetic of Austerity

Posted on

Dr Rob Calvert Jump and Dr Jo Michell assess public debt accounting in this article.

In a recent tweet, George Osborne celebrated the fact that the UK now has a surplus on the government’s current budget. Osborne cited an FT article noting that “… deficit reduction has come at the cost of an unprecedented squeeze in public spending. That squeeze is now showing up in higher waiting times in hospitals for emergency treatment, worse performance measures in prisons, severe cuts in many local authorities and lower satisfaction ratings for GP services.”

It is a measure of how far the debate has departed from reality that widespread degradation of essential public services can be regarded as cause for celebration.

The official objective of fiscal austerity was to put the public finances back on a sustainable path. According to this narrative, government borrowing was out of control as a result of the profligacy of the Labour government. Without a rapid change of policy, the UK faced a fiscal crisis caused by bond investors taking fright and interest rates rising to unsustainable levels.

Is this plausible? To answer, we present alternative scenarios in which actual and projected austerity is significantly reduced and examine the resulting outcomes for national debt.

Public sector net debt (the headline government debt figure) in any year is equal to the debt at the end of the previous year plus the deficit plus adjustments,

where PSND  is the public sector net debt at the end of financial year, PSNB is total public sector borrowing (the deficit) over the same year, and ADJ is any non-borrowing adjustment. This adjustment can be inferred from the OBR’s figures for both actual data and projections. In our simulations, we simply take the OBR adjustment figures as constants. Given an assumption about the nominal size of the deficit in each future year, we can then calculate the implied size of the debt over the projection period.

What matters is not the size of the debt in money terms, but as a share of GDP. We therefore also need to know nominal GDP for each future year in our simulations. This is less straightforward because nominal GDP is affected by government spending and taxation. Estimates of the magnitude of this effect – known as the fiscal multiplier – vary significantly. The OBR, for instance, assumes a value of 1.1 for the effect of current government spending.  In order to avoid debate on the correct size of the nominal multiplier, we assume it is equal to zero.[1] This is a very conservative estimate and, like the OBR, we believe the correct value is greater than one. The advantage of this approach is that we can use OBR projections for nominal GDP in our simulations without adjustment.

We simulate three alternative scenarios in which the pace of actual and predicted deficit reduction is slowed by a third, a half and two thirds respectively.[2] The evolution of the public debt-to-GDP ratio in each scenario is shown below, alongside actual figures and current OBR projections based on government plans.

 

Fig [1]

Fig [2] 

Despite the fact that the deficit is substantially higher in our alternative scenarios, there is little substantive variation in the implied time paths for debt-to-GDP ratios.  In our scenarios, the point at which the debt-to-GDP ratio reaches a peak is delayed by around two years. If the speed of deficit reduction is halved, public debt peaks at around 97% of GDP in 2019-20, compared to the OBR’s projected peak of 86% in the current fiscal year. Given the assumption of zero nominal multipliers, these projections are almost certainly too high: relaxing austerity would have led to higher growth and lower debt-to-GDP ratios.

Now consider the difference in spending.

Halving the speed of deficit reduction would have meant around £10 billion in extra spending in 2011-12, £8 billion in 2012-13, £19 billion in 2013-14, £21 billion in 2014-15, £29 billion extra in 2015-16, and £37 billion extra in 2016-17.  To put these figures into context, £37 billion is around 30% of total health expenditure in 2016-17.  The bedroom tax, on the other hand, was initially estimated to save less than £500 million per year.  These are large sums of money which would have made a material difference to public expenditure.

Would this extra spending have led to a fiscal crisis, as supporters of austerity argue? It is hard to see how a plausible argument can be made that a crisis is substantially more likely with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 97% than of 86%. Several comparable countries maintain higher debt ratios without any hint of funding problems: in 2017, the US figure was around 108%, the Belgian figure around 104%, and the French figure around 97%.

It is now beyond reasonable doubt that austerity led to increases in mortality rates – government cuts caused otherwise avoidable deaths. These could have been avoided without any substantial effect on the debt-to-GDP ratio. The argument that cuts were needed to avoid a fiscal crisis cannot be sustained.

[1] There is surprisingly little research on the size of nominal multipliers – most work focuses on real (i.e. inflation adjusted) multipliers.

[2] We calculate the actual (past years) or projected (future years) percentage change in the nominal deficit from the OBR figures and reduce this by a third, a half and two thirds respectively. The table below provides details of the middle projection where the pace of nominal deficit reduction is reduced by half.

Training Researchers to Work with Confidential Data: A New Approach

Posted on

Prof Felix Ritchie of UWE’s Business School has recently spent time with the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency and makes the following analysis.

I’ve just spent two days at the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), working with them to develop training for researchers who need access to the confidential data held by NISRA for research. This training is jointly being developed by the statistical agencies of the UK (NISRA, the General Register Office for Scotland, and the Office for National Statistics in England and Wales), as well as HMRC, the UK Data Archive and academic partners. The project is being led by ONS as part of its role to accredit researchers under the new Digital Economy Act, with UWE providing key input; other statistical agencies, such as INSEE
in France and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, are being consulted and are trialling
some of the material.

Training researchers in the use of confidential data is common across statistical agencies around the world, particularly when those researchers need access to the most sensitive data only available through Controlled Access Facilities (CAFs). The growth in CAFs in recent years has mostly come from virtual desktops which allow researchers to run unlimited analyses while still operating in an environment controlled by the data holder. There are now six of these in the UK, and many countries in continental Europe, North America and Oceania operate at least one. The existence of CAFs has led to an explosion in social science research as many things that were not previously allowed because it was too risky to send out data (such as use of non-public business data, or detailed personal data) have now become feasible and cost-effective.

All agencies running CAFs provide some training for researchers; around half of these use ‘passive’ training such as handouts or web pages, but the other half require face-to-face training. Much of this training has evolved from a programme developed at ONS in the UK in the 2000s and this training was recommended as an example of ‘best practice’ for face-to-face training by a Eurostat expert group.

However, this style of training is showing its age. Such training typically has two components: firstly how to behave in the CAFs and secondly how to prevent confidential data from mistakenly showing up in research outputs (‘statistical disclosure control’, or SDC). Both are typically taught mechanistically, in the form of dos and don’ts, explanations of laws and penalties and lots of SDC exercises. Overall the aim of the courses is to impart information to the researcher.

The new training is radically different from the old training. It starts from the premise that researchers are both the biggest risk and the biggest advantage to any CAF: the biggest risk because a poorly-trained or malcontented researcher can negate any security mechanism put in place; the biggest advantage because highly-motivated researchers means cheaper system design, better and more robust security and the chance for the data holder to exploit the goodwill of researchers in methodological research, for example.

In this world the main aim of the training is to encourage the researcher to see himself or herself as part of the data community. If this can be established then the rest of the training follows as a consequence. For example, knowledge of the legal environment or SDC is shared not because it keeps you out of jail but because everyone needs to understand this so the community as a whole works. This gives the course quite a different feel to more traditional courses: much of the day is spent in open-ended facilitated discussions exploring concepts of data access.

The training was designed from the ground up in order to take advantage of recent developments in thinking about data access and SDC. This was also done to avoid being restricted by having to ‘fit’ preconceived ideas about what worked or not; material was included on its own merits, not whether “this was what we used to do…”. For example, the previous SDC component had a large number of numerical examples, developed over many years, leading to attendees remarking on afternoons spent “doing Sudoku”. We reviewed every example to identify the minimum set of principles needing to be explored and then wrote a small number of new examples based on this minimum set. On the other hand, the previous training had relatively little to say about the context for checking outputs for confidentiality breaches; this has now been expanded as it fits with the ethos of understanding why things are done.

Of course, this was not all plain sailing. The original structure, trialled in June 2017, had just one presentation before being comprehensively abandoned. Modules have dropped in and out and been moved around. The initial test for the course has been completely rewritten (a topic for a later blog). Various sections have been inserted as ‘options’ to take account of regional variations in operating practices. Throughout this, multiple organisations have been able to feed into the process so that the final product itself has a sense of community ownership.

We are now at the stage of training-the-trainers to enable independent delivery around the UK. This is already generating much feedback for the future development of the course: for example, a need has arisen for ‘crib sheets’ to help in the facilitation of certain exercises. Overall, however, we are confident that we have a well-structured, informative, course that meets the needs of 21st century data training.

Further reading: for more information on the evidential and conceptual basis for the course, see Ritchie F., Green E., Newman J. and Parker T. (2017) “Lessons Learned in Training ‘Safe Users’ of Confidential Data“. UNECE work session on Statistical Data Confidentiality 2017. Eurostat.