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So the UK’s live broadcast episode of “Deal or No Deal” is in full swing and I’m sure we all feel very proud of ourselves. The only good news is that Noel Edmonds hasn’t yet made an appearance, although we’re not exactly short of badly dressed men from a time long past wandering around. It’s so heartening to see that everyone’s obviously taken to heart the crucial lesson from last week’s, often moving, commemorations of the 1918 armistice: POLITICS IS NOT A GAME. Good times.
This week’s reads aim to provide some distraction from the darkness of refreshing twitter for updates on Michael Gove’s has he/hasn’t he resigned hokey cokey (plot spoiler: he never does), with tales of no sex and micro chips.
So put the news down and have a good weekend everyone.
Director, Resolution Foundation
No sex. So it turns out our recent Intergenerational Commission did not cover every big generational question… like why are the youth having much less sex than previous generations. To fill the gap this month’s Atlantic takes a deep dive into why that might be – phones get a lot of the blame along with molly coddling parents. Apparently there’s also been an increase in fear of physical intimacy – although fair enough, have you seen how hard it is to get divorced these days?
Too many men? There’s an algorithm for that. The Financial Times recently looked at the gender balance among the people it quotes in articles, and found that only 21 per cent of them were women. To their credit, they’re taking action: staff were recently told that a bot will soon be used to automatically scan the text that journalists write, and warn them when pronouns and first names indicate that they’re not featuring enough women as story sources. The real lesson? Less men, more bots. But before you get carried away by the wonders of tech note the sinister story about ‘several British legal and financial firms’ looking at microchip implants for their workers. This totally not weird idea managed to draw opposition from both the TUC and CBI, and I can confirm we have no plans to chip members of Resolution Foundation staff. It’s too expensive.
Save the regrets. Intuitively, you might expect many people of retirement age to regret not having saved more earlier in their lives. But how often does this actually happen? It turns out a lot. A new paper measures levels of ‘saving regret’ among 60-79 year olds in the USA, and finds that around two-thirds of them do say they regret not saving more. What are the implications? That despite good recent progress on both pensioner incomes and pension saving we have further to go: one-fifth of retirees on this side of the Atlantic have incomes that fall below the Minimum Income Standard. For a more optimistic take on the “less pension than you’d like” story try this month’s Harvard Business Review cover story, which asks what society would look like if no-one retired… speculating that for an increasingly large number of people working in later life will become an economic necessity. It strikes an upbeat tone, arguing that an increase in the number of older, highly experienced workers could present firms with new opportunities to boost productivity. Now I’m all for boosting productivity – but I’m not up for trading in retirement for it. Sorry.
Mind (how you measure) the gap. We obviously regularly warn of the dangers of Twitter and the spats it encourages. A quick reminder: Piers Morgan is out there. But just now and then one is worth engaging with, and a great recent example is a row (summary here) about how we measure and graphically represent regional inequality. The conclusion: yes Britain’s regional inequality is big (and probably increased recently) but it’s not totally out of whack with other (very regionally unequal) developed countries.
Rubbish cryptos: You can never have enough reminders of the nonsense that are today’s crypto-currencies – so enjoy this great blog from the Bank of England. Won’t go down well with Bitcoin investors cult members. Oh well – the truth hurts.
Chart of the week
Obviously it’s all Brexit blah blah blah Brexit this week (fair enough), but it means we’ve largely missed a big week for data assessing the shape of Britain today.
Retail sales are down while on extra homes there was mixed news. The good bit: net housing additions hit 224,000 last year, the biggest growth since 2007. The bad news – we’re still nowhere near the government’s 300,000 target, and don’t look like getting there any time soon. We also had the latest labour market update which encouragingly showed pay growth up to 3.2%, its fastest rate in a decade (but well below pre-crisis norms). As this week’s chart of the week shows it also confirmed the fastest fall in the number of EU migrant workers in employment here since records began 20 years ago. Now the overall numbers are still very high historically, but this is a big change for our labour market long before anything actually gets decided on Brexit. Turns out politicians aren’t the only people making decisions – humans do too.