Analysing the effects of appreciating your colleagues vs. stabbing them in the back

Top of the Charts

Afternoon all,

It’s good that at last some attention is getting paid to the Covid Inquiry. There are important lessons to be learnt and truths to be told, even if it’s understandable that most of us (and therefore the media) would rather pretend those lockdown years never happened. But it’s a shame that attention has turned to the Inquiry’s work this week, when there’s been least to learn. The whole country is already painfully aware Boris Johnson wasn’t a fit and proper person to be our Prime Minister, and that Dominic Cummings thinks every organisation he’s worked in is rubbish, but hasn’t followed that thought to its obvious conclusion (correlation isn’t always causation, but quite often it is).

Anyway, I hope everyone’s successfully sheltered from Storm Ciarán. COTW reminds us that the impact of storm damage isn’t evenly felt, while we’ve got reads covering French profit sharing, NIMBY councillors and appreciative women.

Have a good – and hopefully calmer – weekend.


PS – you’ll have probably noticed the run-in to the Autumn Statement is getting more attention. It’s our turn to run the runes on Monday with new research. Come join us.

Not news. We can keep this one short. Do councillors who have more homeowners as constituents more actively oppose housing developments? Hell yes, finds a recent paper examining the case of Toronto during the 2010s. It’s almost like giving those who already have their home sorted a veto over new housebuilding that others desperately need is a bad idea… Making the opposing case is a Telegraph column today that I am not kidding is headed “England is not short of homes – they are just unavailable, or unaffordable”. Performance art level bonkers.

Grateful gender. We got the latest detailed UK earnings data this week, which reminded us we’ve got a gender pay gap of 8 per cent. On the positive side that’s way down from 36 per cent in 1971, but it hasn’t budged recently. So women don’t get as many £s, but they do give more of something at work: appreciation. A Swedish paper tests the thesis that women expend more energy at work expressing appreciation for their colleagues. People in workplaces with a larger share of women are much more likely to say that they receive appreciation for their work (we’re talking three times as many people saying they receive appreciation every day in workplaces with more than 90 per cent women vs those with fewer than 10 per cent). Firms also become more appreciative over time when they hire more women, and different workplaces of the same firm also have an appreciation gradient based on their gender mix. This matters: they authors show that greater appreciation increases job satisfaction and wellbeing, for both men and women.

Victorious vaccines. The pandemic was about more than the Westminster backblob-stabbing. The less depressing bit – the global vaccination campaign – saw over two billion people jabbed over the first eight months. A new study reminds us how profound the impact was. It focuses on all-cause mortality (avoiding the problem of inevitably incorrect recording of ‘Covid deaths’), with the authors finding that from January to August 2021, approximately 2.36 million excess deaths were avoided. Then (being economists) they estimated this is worth $6.5 trillion… The paper isn’t just a celebration though, showing that had there been an equitable distribution of vaccines across the 141 countries in the study, the number of averted excess deaths would have been just over 3 million – with huge increases in deaths averted in some parts of Africa and Asia. It’s a timely reminder of the wonder of science. And our unequal world.

Realistic renewables. To continue the optimism/science is great vibe, read Hannah Ritchie’s latest blog. A lot has changed since 2008 (we actually used to have wage rises). Hannah adds to that list the feasibility for renewables to eventually deliver the vast majority of our energy needs. Summarising recent research, she returns to influential 2008 analysis by the late David MacKay, which argued that it wasn’t practical for renewables to power Britain. But we’re now in a different world in which wind (and a bit of solar) generation could outstrip our demand. Three big changes explain the shift: energy demand is now expected to be lower, renewables have got way cheaper, and the public has learnt to love a wind turbine. This doesn’t mean renewables should be our only power source (given we haven’t cracked the ‘storing it cheaply’ problem yet) but that they feasibly could is massive progress.

Firm fraternité. France is different. Not just cheese, but labour/corporate law wise. For over 50 years French firms with 100+ employees have had to share around a tenth of any excess profits with workers. In the early 90s this was broadened to firms with 50+ employees – providing the basis for a new evaluation of the scheme. The goal was to boost productivity by aligning worker/shareholder incentives, but it doesn’t do much of that (there’s no impact on productivity or investment). The paper also shows firms try hard to avoid being covered (lots stay just small enough not to be covered). And it turns out selfish capitalists are right to be wary, because the scheme reduces the profit share and increases the wage share by 1.4 and 1.8 per cent respectively. This happens in an interesting way: for higher earners firms are able to reduce base pay to reflect the profit sharing leaving little change, but lower earners get the profit share without their normal pay being suppressed (the minimum wage may prevent their wages being affected). So the scheme redistributes from owners to lower earners. Fine by me.

Chart of the week.

We Brits always talk about the weather, but fair enough this week given the scenes across the South coast, Wales and Northern Ireland. And while the worst of Storm Ciarán is behind us, the impact on those affected certainly isn’t. Chart of the Week highlights the very uneven level of protection against the likes of storm damage that rich and poor households have: six-in-ten of the poorest households have no contents insurance (eight times the share of high income households). Being flooded is bad enough, being flooded and uninsured is a nightmare. Cost is unsurprisingly an issue – one-in-three of the poorest households say they would like to have contents insurance but can’t afford it, and last year the FCA warned the rising cost-of-living was making this problem worse. With the frequency and severity of flooding in the UK increasing, policy makers are going to find it harder to ignore these real divides. Coping with climate change is a lot easier for some than others.