Think Tanks

Work & Pensions

16 May 2013 16:13:20

Andy Mayer: A longer working life means a healthier life – policymakers should take note

AMBy Andy Mayer of the Age Endeavour Fellowship

There is compelling evidence in a new report, Work Longer, Live Healthier: The relationship between economic activity, health and government policy, from the Institute of Economic Affairs and Age Endeavour Fellowship, that Sir Alex Ferguson may have more than one reason to regret his decision to stand down from Manchester United at a youthful 71 years of age.

Although he will feel good for a few months, in the long-term the impact on his health from not spending each Saturday shouting referees into favourable decisions will be negative. The same will be true for most of us – particularly if we choose early retirement.

For example, the research finds that the employment rate for men aged between 55-59 fell from over 90% to under 70% between 1968 and the late 1990s. From 80% to 50% for those between 60-64, and 30% to 15% for those between 65-69. This whilst both life expectancy and healthy life expectancy were rising.

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21 May 2012 15:30:28

The Centre for Social Justice attacks Coalition's record on family and voluntary sector, but praises progress on welfare and schools

By Tim Montgomerie
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One year ago the Centre for Social Justice graded the Coalition on what it regards as the key pathways out of poverty and towards prosperous, independent living (ConHome emphasises just three - family, school and work).

Screen Shot 2012-05-21 at 15.06.09

The CSJ has updated the scorecard now that the Coalition is celebrating two years in office. The grades are below (with last year's ratings in brackets):

  • Reforming welfare 8 out of 10 (8)
  • Education 7 out of 10 (6)
  • Drug addiction 7 out of 10 (7)
  • Tacklling debt 6 out of 10 (6)
  • Family policy 4 out of 10 (2)
  • Voluntary sector 2 out of 10 (no rating last year)

The CSJ blames Coalition tensions for the lack of progress on family policy. It says there has been no progress on introducing a married tax break or eliminating the couple penalty in the benefits system. It worries that in focusing on childcare and parental leave it has the same precoccupations as Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. Despite last week's announcement on parent classes it worries that there is a big gap between the Government's words and its wallet:

"The department for education (DFE) has committed to help encourage the take-up of relationship support by providing extra funds for innovative services. overall, however, funding to prevent relationship splits remains below a scant £4 million per year, despite family breakdown carrying an annual price tag of £44 billion."

The Coalition gets the lowest rating for progress on the charitable and voluntary sector. It describes the cap on charitable giving relief as "disastrous". Again the CSJ sees a funding problem; worrying at the impact of spending cuts on the voluntary sector:

"During this past year the Government has set out a vision of social action which is at the heart of mending the UK’s broken society [yet] the charities we need to deliver this agenda have faced unprecedented funding cuts at a local level. More should have been done to protect them in the short-term whilst helping to build their independence over the long-term.The £100 million Transition Fund set up by the Cabinet office is an example of a measure which recognised the sum of the problem and yet was insufficient to meet anywhere near the scale of the need (compare this to the estimated £553 million spent on security for the olympic Games)."

The full report card is here (PDF).

2 Feb 2012 14:13:51

Ed Holmes of Policy Exchange: Are Labour ministers being consistent on regional pay and benefits?

Ed Holmes is a senior research fellow at Policy Exchange.

Ed Milliband’s leadership has arrived at an interesting juncture this week. Liam Byrne – who apart from being Ed’s welfare spokesman moonlights as Labour’s policy review chief – has set tongues wagging in Westminster with his opposition to the Government’s £26,000 benefits cap:  “Let's be honest, a one-size-fits-all national cap simply would not work in practice.’ He even goes on to argue ‘a regional cap would clearly not be right. We need a local cap right for each area.”

What he does not spell out is why. Presumably the argument is that the cost of living is very different in different parts of the country.

That’s a fair point but it raises a tricky question of consistency. A separate debate is underway on national pay bargaining: a system its MPs and affiliated trade unions are strongly opposed to reforming. The Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls did not even mention it after the regional pay review was announced; only after some seven weeks did he set out Labour's position that: “‘we will oppose any moves to undermine the pay review bodies by shifting wholesale to regional and local bargaining in the public sector.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter that the cost of living is very different in different parts of the country.

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12 Dec 2011 06:57:48

The Institute of Economic Affairs warns that stimulus measures could push us into recession

By Joseph Willits 
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Iea-logoThe Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has issued a warning to the Government, suggesting they maintain current plans to reduce the deficit, and resist any temptation to follow a 'Plan B'. Research published by the IEA draws on evidence from other Western governments' stimulus packages which have failed to resolve their sovereign debt crises. The report, a transcript of Professor Robert Barro's Annual Hayek Memorial Lecture at the IEA, has five key findings:

  • Economic output may be increased in the short term by fiscal stimulus packages, but in the longer term the effect would be negative - the third year of measures would mean substantial inflation rises, which would inevitably have to be paid off through tax increases.
  • Fiscal stimulus packages should be based upon tax cuts. This would stimulate work, investment and enterprise.
  • An increase in spending is both wasteful, and potentially damaging. The IEA cites the US as an example, where long-term unemployment has increased between 1% and 2% due to more unemployment entitlements.
  • The IEA warns of a wider economic crisis of government debt, stretching beyond the €urozone - the US is equally at risk as EU member states.
  • The debt crisis involves both explicit borrowing, and implicit liabilities, meaning that public spending reform, together with tax cuts are required.

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20 Aug 2011 07:27:18

Matt Oakley: Breaking the link between welfare and crime

Matt Oakley is Head of Enterprise, Growth and Social Policy at Policy Exchange. He contributes this latest entry in our series examining how to lift young people off the conveyor belt to crime. To read all entries - so far covering early intervention, parenting, policing and gang culture, click on this link and scroll down the page.

This week’s labour market statistics has been used by some to argue that consistently high youth or long-term unemployment, or a lack of ‘decent’ job opportunities contributed to the scenes we saw across the UK last week. In some senses, this is right, but rather than being a cause of the problems, it seems more likely that youth and persistent unemployment is a reflection of the same underlying root problem.

Research from the Department for Work and Pensions has found that roughly 10% of benefit claimants feel that whether to be on benefits or in work should be a choice for them to make. Another 20% felt that life on benefits had advantages that made them less keen to go back to work. Other research shows that people claiming unemployment benefits spend as little as eight minutes a day looking for work.

In essence, a belief in a right a right to benefits has replaced the notions of self reliance and of responsibility to families and the community. Policy Exchange have consistently argued that although current reforms to the welfare state are positive, they will not be enough to re-build a system with responsibility and a sense of morality at its core. We outlined in a Report earlier this year that to do this would require that:

  • The contributory principle in welfare in re-established. This would mean building a strong link between what people put in to the state in taxes and National Insurance and what they are entitled to if they become unemployed;
  • Jobseekers should be expected to be engaged in activities related to jobsearch for the equivalent time of a full-time job; and
  • Sanctions should be linked to total benefit – but protect dependents by working through a system of benefit cards that limit the types of things those who are sanctioned can buy.

As well as this, the state also has a responsibility to ensure that those with legitimate barriers to work receive the support they need to help them to find sustainable and rewarding jobs. Policy Exchange will publish a report in early September showing that to do this the benefits system needs to assess the needs that claimants have and target support much more heavily on those with the greatest needs. This will require significant reform of how Jobcentre Plus works and of the links between Jobcentres and private providers in the new Work Programme. But no-one able to of work would have the excuse that they are not receiving the right support.

Polling in an earlier Policy Exchange report showed that the public believe in a welfare state where: those who contribute get more in return; benefit claimants have a moral obligation to do all they can to get back to work; and Government is tough on those who do not. In short, they want the state to work for the majority – those on benefits because they are caring for others or because they are unable to work; those on benefits and doing all they can to find work; and those in work struggling to provide for their families to get by – not the minority. They want their contributions to be recognised. A system like this would go some way to re-instating the responsibility and morality that were very much missing last week.

6 Jul 2011 07:22:00

Gavin Poole: Generating jobs for people with limited experience, education or skills

Gavin Poole is Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice.

Poole Gavin The Centre for Social Justice’s (CSJ) new report, Creating Opportunity, Rewarding Ambition, promotes the value of entry level employment and celebrates its contribution to our economy, society and day-to-day lives. It also highlights the centrality of entry level employment in achieving economic growth in the UK.

Building on earlier work by the CSJ in Breakthrough Britain and Dynamic Benefits that focused on welfare reform and the supply side of the unemployment crisis, this report focuses on the demand for labour. The recommendations we made in these earlier reports have been largely accepted by the Government and drive a large part of its current agenda on welfare reform.  But now our immediate challenge is to generate sufficient sustainable long term opportunities for those with limited experience, education or skills.

The report reviewed recent trends in entry level employment and the structural challenges in the economy, and it presents practical ways to improve the outlook for those detached from the workforce.  We believe that employers, job seekers, intermediaries and government all have a role to play in building a society that creates opportunity and rewards ambition.  

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20 May 2011 08:08:26

Policy Exchange has plans to get tough on benefit claimants

by Paul Goodman

According to research from the Department for Work and Pensions:

  • The average jobseeker currently spends just one hour a day looking for work.
  • Over a third of benefit claimants felt that there was nothing wrong with choosing to stay on benefits rather than looking for work and that claiming benefits should be an option over having to work.

Policy Exchange believes that all this must change.  And its proposals are set out in a new report called No rights without responsibility: rebalancing the welfare state.

  • Its key idea is that work search requirements should be expanded to make sure that claimants can stay in - or get into - the habits of a normal working lifestyle.
  • Its main recommendation is to start reintroducing the contributory principle into the benefit system.
  • This would mean those who have paid in National Insurance Contributions for longer would get treated more generously than those who have not.
  • At present, all claimants are able to turn down any job they do not want to do for at least the first three months of making a claim. As a first step towards making national insurance contributions count again, the report suggests that only those who have paid into the system should enjoy this right.
  • To back these measures up, the report says there should be harsher sanctions – including the loss of cash benefits – for those who decide they would rather take benefits than take available work.

Matt Oakley, head of economics and social policy at Policy Exchange, said:

“The welfare state was set up to help those in genuine need. Over the past 65 years that founding principle has been diminished and welfare dependency has grown.

“We now find ourselves in a situation where large numbers of those claiming benefit are doing so not out of necessity but because they believe it’s a fundamental right to take from the state. Spending just seven hours a week looking for work - less time than the average person spends at work each day - is not enough. There are limits on Government’s ability to coax people into work with higher tax credits or welfare payments. With nearly 5.5 million adults now living in households where no-one is in work, the government needs to put in place much stricter conditions so that life on benefits is not an option.”

10 May 2011 08:29:14

Gavin Poole: Courage, not concessions, will build a social recovery

Gavin Poole is Director of the Centre for Social Justice. He writes for ConservativeHome about his new report which ranks the Coalition's progress in helping people to follow what the CSJ calls "the five pathways out of poverty".


The Coalition will survive this first real test.  Cabinet fall outs and public spats aside, its leaders need each other and they know it.  Members of the Government understand better than anyone that they require a record to defend on general election day.  For the only thing worse than answering accusations of betrayal, is doing so with nothing to show for it.

Both sides have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build that record.  Balance the books yes, but there is a chance to do something more extraordinary for Britain, especially for those trapped in poverty.  For years successive governments have failed to define poverty or confront its root causes.  Instead, politicians have become obsessed with an arbitrary line that measures income inequality, set typically at 60 per cent national median income.  This has driven almost every poverty initiative.  Vast swathes of public money have been thrown at specific groups who live below this line in an attempt to lift them above it.  Accordingly, through tweaks to our perverse welfare system, this so-called poverty measure has meant that households living in poverty one day can wake free from it the next.  But ultimately this strategy has failed those who most need help.  A few extra pounds in the pocket are insufficient to break poverty’s suffocating culture of damage and despair.

Last May it appeared we finally had a Government that ‘got it’.  In particular we commended the Prime Minister for realising that if you look closer at poverty, it has five common causes and consequences.  The CSJ calls these the pathways to poverty, and we’ve found them time and again in Britain’s deprived communities.  They are family breakdown, educational failure, economic dependency and worklessness, serious personal debt, and addiction to drugs and alcohol.  Crucially, the pathways are interconnected and intergenerational.  Our research shows that a child who experiences family breakdown is more likely to fail at school.  Someone who fails at school is less likely to find work and more likely to rely on benefits.  Someone living on benefits is more likely to fall into debt.  And so the cycle continues.  They demand life-changing interventions, not just income adjustments.

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26 Apr 2011 07:56:26

What is fairness? What is poverty? Policy Exchange asks the voters...

By Tim Montgomerie

Policy Exchange Over at ToryDiary I look at the PX Poll's implications for the Conservative Party but pasted below are some key findings:


  • Economic responsibility: 59%
  • Fairness: 50%
  • Family values: 32%
  • Traditional values: 29%
  • Equality: 21%
  • Liberty: 20%
  • Patriotism: 17%
  • Environmentalism: 11%


  • 63% of people say that “fairness is about getting what you deserve”, while just 26% say that “fairness is about equality”.
  • By a margin of 73%-18% people agree that society can be fair even if it is unequal – as long as there is equality of opportunity.


  • Reducing unemployment: 45%
  • Cutting tax on low earners: 45%
  • Reducing the cost of living: 38%
  • Improve state education: 29%
  • Increase minimum wage: 29%
  • Reduce crime in poor areas: 23%
  • Increase state pensions: 18%
  • Reducing tuition fees: 11%
  • Banning private education: 4%
  • Increasing welfare benefits: 3%


  • By 48% to 24% people say that people end up poor because of forces outside their control – not their own poor decisions;
  • BUT by 71%-16% they agree with the statement that “Some people who are poor are much more deserving than other people who are poor"


  • By 80% to 13% there is agreement that “people who have been out of work for 12 months or more, who are physically and mentally capable of undertaking a job, should be required to do community work in return for their state benefits.”
  • 49% of respondents back the idea that claimants who break their jobseekers agreement should lose half or more of their benefits.  21% backed the idea that they should lose all their benefits “regardless of the hardship it would cause”.
  • By 50% to 16% people think benefits are too high rather than too low.
  • By a margin of 55% to 36% people disagree with the idea that “People with children should be given higher benefits to compensate for the costs of bringing them up."
  • “The government should try to encourage marriage through the benefits system” is narrowly rejected (45% to 40%) but there is support (59% over 31%) for idea that “The government should try to discourage people from becoming lone parents”.


See the full results here.

24 Nov 2010 08:42:03

The challenge of caring for Britain's ageing population

Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2010-11-24 at 08.34.30 Published yesterday was an extraordinarily detailed report from the Centre for Social Justice, examining Britain's ageing society and the extent to which family breakdown was leaving older people isolated and lonely.

Here are some of the key facts from the report:

  • Life expectancy: One in four boys and one in three girls born today will now live to 100.
  • Dependency boom: By the year 2024 one in five people will be of pensionable age; a 32% increase.
  • Concentrated poverty: One in five pensioners in the UK lives below the poverty line and just under a third of care home residents are estimated to be malnourished.
  • Loneliness: Almost one in ten people aged 65 and over report regularly or always feeling lonely.
  • In need of Care: The number of older people in the UK in need of care and support is expected to soar by 1.7 million over the next 20 years and that the number with dementia could double in 30 years.

The report - The Forgotten Age - does not include many policy prescriptions. It has the feel of the 2006 CSJ report, Breakdown Britain, which documented the nature of poverty in the UK. It was followed by Breakthrough Britain, which set out solutions.

Gavin Poole, CSJ Director, commented:

“The ‘pathways to poverty’ we identified in Breakthrough Britain all extend into older age. The scars of a drug or alcohol addiction will be worn throughout older age in terms of finances and health; the breakdown of a family creates a fragmentation of a potential care and support system for its oldest members; a lifetime of economic dependency translates to a lack of stability and security.”

A glaring example of this devastating social breakdown is family breakdown – now impacting the old. High rates of divorce and the collapse of long-standing cohabiting relationships are weakening the bonds between pensioners and their children, meaning that fewer are able or willing to care for their ageing parents as they encounter the physical and emotional strains of their later years."

> The full CSJ press release.