12/09/2012 Newsnight Scotland


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take it out of their hands. Thank On Newsnight Scotland tonight,


unemployment's up a bit, but not much.


The real mystery - why are there so many more private sector jobs when


we're supposed to be in a recession?


And would you believe we've went and got a Dutch princess what'll


tell us how to talk proper! Good evening. The number out of


work here rose by 4,000 in the three months to July. It's not a


large increase, but it does check a recent run where unemployment was


falling. It's also the first time Scottish unemployment has been


higher than the UK average since the beginning of the year, although


the rate is still lower than in many areas of England, including


London and the Midlands. The proportion of people in work in


Scotland is still higher than the UK average, but it's 71.4%. It's


only fractionally higher. But it does point to something very


curious going on in the world of work, and if you've recently lost


your job or can't find one, then apologies for even asking this


question - but why are so many people still employed? After all,


we are in the throes of a double- dip recession. Public sector


employment has been falling and is likely to fall further because of


cuts in public spending, but private sector employment has been


increasing at a rate that has economists bemused. The Bank of


England calls it "particularly puzzling." That's Central Banker


speak for "What on earth is going on?" Everyone hopes there is a


simple explanation. The economy isn't in nearly as bad a state as


the growth figures imply. I think it's in the nature of the change of


work. I think companies are more reluctant than they used to be


around taking on permanent, full- time staff, and they now are


seeking to have tasks done and will bring in staff on short-term


contracts in order to fulfil these tasks. There is one contentious


implication in all of this - in effect, we're now employing more


people to make less stuff, to provide fewer services. Now, if all


of those people can simply produce more once the economy picks up,


there's not much of a problem, but if there is little compare capacity,


to use the jargon, that won't happen. Maybe a whole swathe of the


economy just disappeared during the financial crash and won't come back


- in which case, even if the employment figures are better than


expected, we could be in trouble. I'm joined now by Ailsa McKay,


who's professor of economics at Glasgow Caledonian University, and


by John McLaren of the Centre for Public Policy for Regions. Now, you


have produced a list of reasons as long as your arm for why this odd


thing might be the case that we're in a recession, but private sector


employment is going up quite strongly. The interesting thing,


isn't it, that none of them really account for it. None of them


account for it - things like a move to part-time work because of the


productivity in terms of pay-out work is declining as well. I think


there are a few that are more persuasive than others - for


example, output in the North Sea has gone down a lot. There's hardly


anybody employed there now. Output in financial services has gone down


a lot. They're quite well paid, so those would both bring productivity


down. As well on the self-employed - there is a big rise there, and we


don't really know how much these people are earning, so they may be


sort of like jobs, but certainly not very well-paid jobs, not like


self-employed jobs in the past. However, even if those and a few


other things help explain it, it's still very difficult to come to a


position where the economy - GDP - is flat lining and employment is


actually going up. That is particularly strange. It is, isn't


it? Have you got any thoughts on this? Again, we should say that net


employment is going up even though right across the UK there's a


rather large fall in public sector employment because of the cuts -


despite that, employment is going up. I would agree with the comments


made by David Bell in the video about the nature of jobs being


created, and our labour market is significantly different from five,


six years ago. Those types of jobs are less secure, more volatile,


things like zero air contracts. Sorry. What's... Zero air contracts


- people who are employed but they get paid if they work an hour.


They're contracted to work an hour. They're officially employed, things


like my own industry, lekturing. People can be on zero air contracts.


They're used more and more. That's directly hitting women. Women who


are in the public sector have seen their terms of conditions


deteriorating significantly. Those who can retain their jobs are


finding their conditions curtailed, so it's not sustainable. One of the


paradoxes of this is I'm sure what you're saying is part of the


explanation, but in fact you quote figures showing that actually the


number of hours worked is going up, so it can't just be there's a lot


more people doing very little. There's... Maybe part of it.


There's a whole series of things - there hasn't been much new


investment, so the mash threens are getting older, less productive.


There may have been innovation because small companies are


struggling to find the finance and spending all of their time just


trying to stay alive rather than innovate, so all of these things


can - when normally that would feed in, but still... There is wire here


as well, isn't there? Just on that point, one possible explanation is


banks forebearing on basically pulling the plug on businesses


because they still, despite everything, feel some sort of


obligation not to do that but doesn't there tend to be a thing


where when the economy starts to grow again, the banks pull the plug,


so we could actually see a spike in unemployment? We could do, but I


think it's also an issue about how we measure productivity, and what


do we mean by that and how do we - as economists, we traditionally


measure increases in output by how much stuff, as you say, we produce,


and the market value of that stuff. We're moving, as I said, our labour


market is shifting quite significantly, and we're moving


more towards a more service- orientated sector, which is


extremely important to sustain local communities. How do we


measure the productivity of caring for an elderly relative or the


productivity of childcare, the numbers of children who go through


the system? It's not an adequate or accurate measure of the amount of


activity and hours people spend on that activity. Yeah, but again,


that's true, but we're still left with this slight mystery, aren't


we? I think that helps explain part of the mystery because productivity


is particularly poorly measured in the public sector, so it always has


lower - often zero productivity growth. Now, if that's been


maintained, and the private sector has shrunk, that'll reduce


productivity. It doesn't work so much in the last year when it's the


private sector jobs that have been coming back, in but they could


again be poorly paid private sector jobs, so that is part, I think,


of... The quite contentious issue in this, isn't it, is whether - if


you take the view that there's lots of spare capacity in the economy.


It's just there isn't enough demand. Companies are keeping workers on.


When things pick up, they they'll start producing more and


productivity will rise again. It's kind of OK, isn't it? It's this


other view that seems to be around that part of the economy has just


gone. There isn't much spare capacity, and actually, there is


very little scope for increases in productivity when the economy


recovers. I think that the big issue behind all of this still is,


is there really growth there? And if not, then how do you get the


growth to return? Again, if you looked at the borrowing figures,


they kind of back up the GDP figures because borrowing has


increased again largely due to low taxation, which means low profits


from companies, I think, so I think that - I think that the tendency is


more to the look - the labour market figures - the figures are


overly optimistic, I think, at the minute, and the GDP... Do you think


that is case? Yeah, I think sustainable economic growth is what


we're talking about when the economy maybe comes back to a point


when you're saying that we can make more stuff, and do we have enough


people and enough productivity to make that stuff? I think we can't


rely on the private sector to do that for, and as we continue to cut


the public sector, and as we continue to cut jobs for women in


the public sector, then we're not going to stimulate the economy in a


way that the economists tell us that that particular investment


will do. There's too much volatility and uncertainty in


global financial markets for us to rely on private sector investment.


I am curious as to whether it's your sense - look, only a few


months ago everyone was saying it's very curious - it looks like the


economy is doing very badly, but anecdotal evidence is things are


getting better, and all of these things like purchasing managers -


indices were showing actually the economy wasn't doing as bad. That


seems to have stalled. People were saying, as John was saying,


actually, things are looking as bad as the GDP figures are saying. I am


curious what your sense is of that. I have just come from the woman's


summit on employment today where the First Minister addressed the


conference about women concerned about their role in the Scottish


economy. We do have a problem with regard to women's employment and


with regard to sustainable economic growth. So my sense, in terms of


your question, is the situation is getting bleaker for women and women


in local communities in Scotland, women as workers. I heard stories


today from women who are trying to retain their jobs, women who are


trying to get back into the labour market, is it's access and


retention, but also from employers who are finding the cost


associated... The figures today show that actually employment for


That's one particular quarter and one particular statistic. It could


be a blip. The long-term trend since the recovery period is that


women are loseing their jobs at a faster rate than men. And male


employment is on the increase. almost, the biggest increase by far


was for women employment in the last year has been for part-time,


self-employed work which is hardly likely to be profitable. We come


full circle. Scots, Gallic, Doric, the lists of languages and dialects


is extensive. Very often we're judged on the way we speak and


write. The nation has a problem with literacy. This International


Literacy Day David Allison reports on the tension between diversity of


culture and the increasing need for global communication.


In days gone by in the era of manual labour you could argue


literacy was less important than in today's globalised world where you


need to be able to read and write to participate. The gap between the


literate and illiterate is widening. It's something the Scottish


Government is committed to tackling with the aim of seeing a real


difference in literacy and numeracy standards by 2020. Whereas maybe in


a very simple society, for want of a better way of putting it, one


could muddle by, I think, now it is much more difficult. You need, you


know, greater levels of sophistication to get into a job.


Projects like this, adult literacy programme, as well as education in


prisons, can help, but the problem is huge. One in four Scots


experience problems with reading. What about culture? Language varies


in terms of dialect, accent, grammar, vocabulary and that's just


in Scotland. What's the danger of standardising it? And what's the


danger if you don't? The issue of course is not just a Scottish one.


It's European wide. Today a Dutch Princess, who's passionate about


literacy was in Edinburgh calling for a target of 100% able to read


and write. The UNESCO Special Envoy and chair of the literacy group


says cultural diversity should be no excuse for literacy. Language is


a moving target. It's constantly developing, always has over the


venchries and centuries. We need to treasure that. We need to encourage


that development. That is all fine for you and I to have an SMS


conversation and that we have our abbreviations, which becomes a


language in itself, but you cannot do, write an application letter to


find a job in your SMS language. Similarly, in dialects or in own


languages, if you want to apply for a job where they don't speak that


dialect, you need another language. So for me, it's always been the end


-- and, and approach not the either-or approach. People almost


need to be multilingual even in their own language. Absolutely.


someone hears "I have went" and that's their normal, how much


should you challenge things like that in terms of creating an idea


of common literacy? And how much should you accept something like


that? Again, the crucial thing is understanding that we teach young


people to understand what's appropriate when and know and


recognise the difference and then be able to move between those two


different approaches. I don't think it helps at all to stigmatise


perfectly respectable good dialects. Indeed we all enjoy a good dialect


done well, why would we want to stigmatise that and make people


feel ashamed of having it? Advocates of literacy point out


illiteracy isn't just a problem for the person concerned. It's bad for


the economy. It can be expensive picking up the pieces and it's


socially devicive. But that doesn't mean finding a solution is any


easier. I'm joined now by Sue Ellis of


Strathclyde University who's a specialist on how children learn to


be literate. First of all, I mean, part of me -- apart from the


obvious, reading and writing, what do we mean by literacy? There are


different definitions. One is a basic definition that you can


decode print. That's what England's education policy seems to be


working to Atkins -- at the moment. There's another one that said you


can decode and understand it and use to to think critically about


the world and to help you. I know, look, your specialism is with the


younger, we hear all these stories about university lecturers,


employers saying that people they take on and students they have


don't have basic standards of literacy. It's that second sense


that people are missing. Now, the current jobs that you need, you


need to be very much more literate than in the past. So, that's a big


part of being literate. But, so I don't know that actually true that


people are less literate than they used to be. Is it just that what,


for example... The expectations are higher. 30, 40 years ago, I don't


know, maybe 7% of people would have gone to university, now what almost


50% go into higher education. Is it a product of that? Or is there a


change in literacy levels? I think literacy levels are getting better.


They're not getting worse. I think that the real issue is about how we


engage children in literacy. The biggest problem facing Scotland is


that socio-economic status predicts how quickly a child will learn to


read and write. Isn't that true everywhere? Yeah, but it doesn't


necessarily need to be so. would you tackle that? One of the


things that the PISA report shows is that if you can engage children


in literacy and improvement engagement you can mitigate, 30% of


the effect of socio-economic status and 70% of the effect of gender.


What you mean when you say engage them in literacy, I mean is it


about for example getting children to read books and get in the habit


of reading books rather than just know how to... It's about people


who want to read, who have the books they want to read available


to them, the time to read and the place to read. Schools can do a


huge amount to teach for that. It needs teachers who are


knowledgeable about the books that out there and the books that are


recently publish ready out there. It needs teachers who understand


about who can make literacy part of the social fabric of the classroom.


So you say to children, not just I want you to read this book, but


getting children to recommend books to each other. If you think of the


last few books you read, you probably were recommended to read


them by your friends. So having friends who recommend books for you


is a very important thing to do. We know that if you can improve


literacy engagement - I can just imagine a primary school teacher


watching this, making a face and saying "Oh, yeah right, in your


dreams." Absolutely not. Primary teachers do it all the time. It's a


major part of primary teaching getting kids to read and love


reading. It's a major part of what we train teachers to do. Has there


been a problem Where we have perhaps a generation, which you


might be trying to correct who maybe don't do that? In society


there are different views about what reading is for. Some say


reading is about relaxation and pleasure and enjoyment. Others will


say reading is important, but it's important to get a job and it's


about work. When children bring those different attitudes to the


learning situation, then they are going to take very different things


from it. Schools have to think hard about how they're going to


encourage children to actually see reading as pleasurable and relaxing.


There's a lot more in modern society competing for children's


time. Probably when you were young, you got a bedtime story read to you


regularly. We know that parents now will read to their children when


they're at nursery. When the children begin in primary one, they


will do the reading home work, but they don't actually read to them,


they'll dot home work. And the other drop-off point is when the


child is about seven or eight and they can read independently and


then parents think they don't need to read to their children any more.


That is a terrible, terrible punishment for learning to read to


not have anyone read to you. When you're seven? Yeah. Seven, is that


an important age? If you don't get it by that point, do you have


problems? No, children tend to be independent readers by seven, eight.


That's the point where parents will drop off and stop reading to the


child. That's really important because reading, if you take even


the average book written for a seven-year-old or eight-year-old


child it will contain more rare words and multisyllable words than


the conversational speech of a university professor. The only


thing that beats a novel written for an eight-year-old in terms of


complicated vocabulary is expert testimony of a witness in court. L


Conversational speech of a university professor. Thanks very


university professor. Thanks very much indeed. Quick look at the


front pages: The Sun, there it is, all the front pages about


Hillsborough, the disaster and the inquiry. 23 years after


Hillsborough, the real truth, cops smeared. The Sun is profoundly


sorry for false reports. The scotsman, today the truth, tomorrow


justice. Hillsborough families call for prosecutions as police cover up


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