Online Education Trends

Increasing numbers of people are making use of online learning platforms to educate themselves, but getting representative data on online learning is a challenge!

Online education has expanded rapidly with the rise of the internet and in 2022 there are a huge variety of websites and learning platforms that people are making use of to learn about a huge range of topics.

Online learning ranges from the very formal to the very informal, and it is much easier to collect valid statistics on the extent of formal online learning compared to informal online learning, because the former have hard data on the number of student enrolments and degree of engagement for example, data which might not exist for the more informal learning that takes place online.

Examples of formal online learning include universities putting their courses online, workplaces running online training courses and courses run through online learning platforms such as Coursera.

Informal learning is much more difficult to measure at it involves people hacking together an education using whatever free sources they can fund – by using YouTube videos to learn new skills for example.

Gathering data on the extent of online learning is complicated by the fact that there isn’t a clear boundary between using the internet for education and using it for entertainment, not to say, of course, that education can’t in itself be entertaining.

In this post I gather together some data which gives us an insight into the nature and extent of both formal and informal online learning in the world today, taking a global focus.

My reason for doing this is to demonstrate how significant online learning is in relation to formal education in schools, colleges and universities. I don’t believe a sociology of education should ignore these trends in online learning simply because online learning plays an increasingly significant role in many people’s lives, especially in people’s adult lives.

I also focus on the problems of collecting valid data on the extent of online learning in 2022.

Formal and informal online learning

Ranging from the formal to the informal, four basic types of online learning include….

  • The rise of virtual schools offering formally recognised national curriculums.
  • The rise of online digital learning platforms such as Udemy
  • The increase in independent people offering education and training on YouTube and other channels
  • The increase in ordinary people sharing their stories, experiences and life-experiments, and the increased interest in people consuming these.

An Overview of Global Online Learning

According to Global Market Insights (1) the value of the global e-learning market was over $315 billion in 2021.

70% of demand for online learning comes from the U.S.A and Europe (3)

Coursera’s statistics (6) show us that America has the most online learners, followed by India, and we can see that online learning is truly a global phenomenon!

80% of employers use online learning platforms…

Virtual Schools

America leads the way in virtual schools and in 2019-20, 40 there were 477 full-time virtual schools that enrolled 332,379 students, and 306 blended schools that enrolled 152,530 students (2).

NB as I understand it these are schools offering an officially recognised curriculum leading to formal exams, so this is a very formal type of online education.

Online learning platforms

Elearning Industry (8) lists 893 online learning platforms as of December 2022, unfortunately there is no data on how many courses are offered across these platforms or how many people are making use of them.

If you do a Google Search for ‘how many learning platforms are there’ Google returns search results for blogs outlining the ‘best’ platforms, not necessarily those with the most users, for example Thinkific (9) provides 10 of the best which include LinkdIn learning, Coursera and Udemy.

So if you want to find out how many people are making use of online learning platforms, you need to look at the stats from the individual platforms (and there may be overlap, some people enrolled on a Coursera course are also going to be doing a Udemy Courses!).

I don’t have time to trawl through almost 900 online learning platforms to collect the data but to look two of the biggest:

In 2021 Coursera had 92 million registered learners and 189 million enrolments (4)

In 2022 Udemy had 52 million learners and 213 000 courses (5)

So two of the largest platforms have 150 million people currently enrolled on their courses, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that across all learning platforms it’s likely that there are several hundred million people globally doing some kind of formally structured course on such platforms.

Learning Management Systems

Learner Management Systems are back end solutions for managing learners’ data while Online Learning Platforms are front-end packages.

I’m not analysing use of online Learner Management Systems (LMSs) here because pretty much every school, college and university will make use of an LMS to manage their learners’ data.

Educational blogs and vlogs

Many blogs and vlogs are educational, it is very difficult to get statistics on how many exist because many accounts include content which is both educational and purely for entertainment.

There must be well over a million ‘high quality’ educational videos on YouTube alone, produced by institutions such as the BBC and TED, the latest data i could find from 2015 put the figure at 700 000 videos on YouTubeEdu (10), so today there must be many more.

Educational content can range from the academic to videos designed to help people figure out ‘how to present themselves online’ as in the picture below…

TBH I’m not sure how I’d even go about designing a methodology to quantify the number of educational blogs and vlogs online, let alone the number of people consuming them.

Suffice to say, there are A LOT!

One thing I have learned from researching this is that online learning via blogs and vlogs is something of a fragmented and overwhelming experience!

Ted talks

TED (Technology Education and Design) is worth a special mention as many of the talks are relevant to sociology. The TED channel hosts thousands of videos, its YouTube channel has over 22 million subscribers and the most popular talk by Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity has 22 million views.

The problem with global statistics on elearning!

Even formal online learning is difficult to measure as there is no body monitoring the total number of online learners (as far as I am aware), and manually trawling through almost 1000 online learning platforms would take a long time.

Most of the available global statistics come from private companies who themselves offer online learning services. The first problem with this is that there can be a barrier in the form of a significant pay wall (7), another possible problem is with the validity of the data because these companies may use methods of data collection which deliberately exaggerate the extent of online learning: doing so makes it seem like institutions should invest more in online learning to keep up with an inevitable trend.

As to informal learning it is very difficult to measure how many educational blogs and vlogs there are simply because there is so much educational content out there!

Hence what we know about the nature and extent of online learning in 2023 is based on samples of those companies that do publish data, and there is no way this is representative of all online learning!

Sources

(1) Global Market Insights – E-learning market trends.

(2) National Education Policy Centre – Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2021.

(3) Upskillwise – Online Learning Statistics

(4) Coursera 2021 report.

(5) Udemy – About Udemy.

To do

(6) World Economic Forum – charts on global e-learning

(7) For example the Gartner Report apparently contains some data on online learning but I can’t access it because it is so expensive!

(8) Elearning Industry

(9) Thinkific – Top 10 online learning platforms.

(10) Wikipedia entry on YouTube and education.

Signposting

This material is meant as an update to the sociology of education.

To return to the homepage – revisesociology.com

The increasing cost of Christmas

25% of people say they can’t afford the Christmas they want in 2022, double the number from 2021.

The cost of Christmas is up by around 20% in 2022, and almost 40% say the cost of Christmas makes the event too stressful, but despite these woes, 70% say that ‘cancelling Christmas is not an option’.

These are some findings from a recent YouGov survey and in this post I consider how all of this might be relevant to sociology!

How much does the average person spend on Christmas…?

The average person in Britain plans to spend £642 on Christmas in 2022, which is down only slightly on 2021 when the average person spent £670. (These are Mean, not median averages).

However given inflation, people will be getting a lot less for their money this year even though the reduction in raw expenditure isn’t that significant!. According to The Guardian the cost of our various Christmas expenditures – mainly presents, food and, for some, travel have risen by more than 20% this year compared to 2021….

This basically means everyone’s going to be having one less slice of turkey, maybe a couple of less potatoes, and, worst of all, fewer pigs in blankets (yes, things really are THAT bad!)

25% of people can’t afford the Christmas they want

Given that the cost of Christmas has risen sharply it’s not surprising that the number of people saying they cannot afford the Christmas they want has doubled to 25%.

This proportion sounds about right based on the poverty stats: about 20% of the UK population are in relative poverty and I imagine most of the people responding positively to that question are going to come from this 20%.

Of course not all of them will, several people on low incomes budget for Christmas by saving all year round, and some of those responses will be more middle-income families having to cut down on their usual more affluent Christmas.

I do find it interesting that 75% are happy enough with their finances to be able to afford the Christmas they want, suggesting that people aren’t that sucked into the consumerist hype – the average figure of £650 seems to be adequate.

Maybe that’s a fail for the Christmas hype-machine, further suggesting that people aren’t as passive as you might think?!?

40% say Christmas is too Stressful

This is depressing – a significant minority of the population find the event too stressful because of the money…

This means that maybe that the veneer of Christmas is something of a lie, while underneath at the micro-level there’s a lot of suffering going on.

Value Consensus around Christmas?

Besides the increasing cost of Christmas and the increasing numbers of people feeling stressed about it and going into debt to fund it, nearly 70% of Britons say that ‘cancelling Christmas is not an option’

And it’s very rare these days that you get that many people to agree on anything, and so celebrating Christmas is maybe one of the few points of value consensus that we have.

Or is this value consensus at the level of society? Christmas is one of the few periods of the year where we all get to retreat from the world of work and society and spend some time with our families, so maybe here Britain is saying ‘we value being able to retreat to our private households’, so one could interpret this as being anti-social.

Signposting

This is really just a bit of annual Christmas fun with statistics!

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Should we end tax breaks for private schools?

private schools are possibly the only charitable institutions that do actual social harm.

The Labour Party leader Keir Starmer recently attacked the Tories for their policy of allowing Private Schools to pay no V.A.T. on their fees.

Using Winchester College as an example, where the Prime Minister himself was privately educated, Starmer pointed out that with fees per pupil of £45 000 a year, allowing them to no pay 15% VAT amounted to £6 million in lost tax revenue, which could be used to better fund state schools.

Starmer directly asked whether that £6 million would be better spent on the rifle ranges of Winchester rather than providing additional support for the 40% of students in Southampton, Rishi Sunak’s home town, who failed either their English or Maths GCES last year.

This post is specifically about the issue of whether independent schools should have charitable status, but you might also like this more general post on the arguments for and mainly against private schools.

Should Westminster School have Charitable Status when it costs more than £30K a year per pupil…?

Arguments for making independent schools pay tax

The charitable status of Independent Schools allows them to pay no V.A.T on school fees. The Labour Party argue that ending this charitable status of independent schools and thus making them pay VAT on school fees, would lead result in these schools paying an additional £1.7 billion a year in taxes, money which could then be spent to better fund the state education sector.

NB the reason why independent schools have charitable status is because they supposedly partner with state schools, and thus confer some of their educational excellence on to them, but there is little evidence that the state sector gets back £1.7 billion worth of input.

Independent schools are basically businesses, not charities, and every other business providing a service in the UK pays VAT on the services it provides, so ending charitable status for independent schools would be fair and equal compared to all other businesses out there.

The existence of independent schools also reduces the life chances of those from the state sector – only 7% of students attend independent schools but privately educated students take up 30-40% of oxbridge university places, and higher percentages of the most elite jobs such as Doctors and Barristers, and they get these jobs not only because of their exam results but also because of the social and cultural capital that comes with being privately educated.

It would thus make sense to make parents who pay to have their children privately educated pay MORE because of the damage this does to bright children from poor backgrounds and to society as a whole because there is no way the best candidates are being selected for the best jobs because of this distortion.

Arguments against making Independent schools pay tax

The biased Independent Schools Council (ISC) – represents over 1300 private schools and argues that if we forced schools (and thus parents) to pay VAT on fees, there would be an immediate effect of overpricing as parents who are currently struggling to pay the fees would send their children to state schools.

They argue that 90 000 students would switch back to the state sector and that this would mean an additional cost to the treasury of £400 million a year, so assuming Starmer hadn’t factored this in, the net tax gain to the state from charging VAT would only be £1.4 billion per annum. However this 90 000 figure has been questioned and even if it did occur it wouldn’t happen overnight.

The ISC also argues that this would end partnership working, as independent schools axe this aspect of their agendas as it can’t afford it any more, but then again there’s little evidence of state schools benefitting from current partnerships already anyway.

They also argue ending the charitable tax status of private schools would increase polarisation because it would be the higher middle income parents who are only just earning six figure salaries between them and struggling to pay their fees who stop sending their kids to such schools, the super rich wouldn’t be harmed at all.

The Charitable Status of Private Schools: Conclusions

It’s obvious that the existence of private schools benefits the very wealthy at the expense of everyone else, and that there is zero net gain to be had by allowing them to carry on existing.

The fact that the state helps keep this system in place by effectively subsidising this sector of business is more a reflection of bias and power in politics than any sense of what’s best for individuals and society.

After all, the independently schooled are massively over-represented in government and so most of the Tory party (and many in the Labour party) benefitted themselves from independent schooling, and so they’ll probably carry on scratching the backs of the same schools they themselves attended a few decades earlier.

There is a very strong case for abolishing not only their charitable status but also independent schools themselves, in the interests of levelling the playing field and giving bright state school students the opportunity to compete on an equal footing with their currently hot-housed independently schools peers.

Signposting

This material is mainly relevant to the education topic, usually taught as part of A-level sociology, AQA specification.

Herber J. Gans: The Plurality of Taste Cultures

Herbert Gans criticised mass culture theorists by suggesting there was a plurality of cultures in America, each of equal value.

Writing in the 1970s Herbert J. Gans noted that America was developing a plurality of taste cultures which existed side by side with each other. He identified several different types of culture including:

  • High culture
  • upper-middle culture
  • lower-middle culture
  • low-culture
  • quasi-folk low culture
  • cultures based on age and ethnicity
  • total cultures
  • partial cultures.

Gans believed that each of these cultures were of equal worth and that all peoples had a right to engage with the culture they preferred. He was against cultural theorists who viewed high culture as superior and mass or popular culture as worthless.

Herbert J. Gans types of culture: a summary

Gans defined high culture as works of art, music and ‘serious’ literature which looked critically at social and psychological issues, emphasising these over story line and entertainment.

High culture paid more attention to abstract social and philosophical questions and subjecting societal assumptions to critique – it was more about ‘high philosophy’ rather than ‘politics on the ground’.

Upper-middle culture was the culture of well-educated middle class professionals who enjoyed reading works of fiction with more plot than was found in high culture. They enjoyed works such as those written by Norman Mailer.

Upper-middle culture rejected anything that was too experimental or abstract and also anything that was too vulgar and populist.

Lower-middle class culture was the dominant taste culture in America, exemplified by Cosmopolitan magazine and enjoyed by mainly lower middle class professionals such as teachers.

Low culture was the culture of the old working classes who liked stories about individuals and families with problems and action films. This is the culture of country music and tabloid newspapers

Quasi folk culture is a blend of pre WWII culture and commercialism enjoyed by Blue collar workers and the rural poor and includes comics, old westerns and soap operas.

Total Cultures

For Gans total cultures were cultures which existed completely outside of mainstream society and were critical of mainstream society. Total cultures were not followed by many people but they attracted a disproportionate amount of media concern and worry from other people.

There were five types of total culture:

  • communal cultures – which involved people living in communes
  • political cultures – for example groups wishing to overthrow the American government
  • religious cultures – for example people living in world rejecting sects.
  • neo-dadist cultures – experimental artists and musicians
  • drug and music cultures.

Partial Cultures

Partial cultures were part-time versions of total cultures. Partial cultures were also critical of aspects of mainstream society but hey were closer to mainstream society than total cultures and more likely to have been commercially exploited than total cultures.

According to Gans ‘ethnic cultures’ were a form of partial culture – each group of immigrants bought their own culture with them to America but this culture was less important to the successive generations of children born in America.

The hierarchy of tastes

Gans noted that was a hierarchy of tastes with High culture at the top, followed by upper-middle class culture, but this hierarchy was only because of the social class hierarchy in America at the time.

The cultures at the top had more status because the people who created and consumed them had more money to pile into creating cultural products and maintaining their status, but there was no intrinsic way in which high culture was superior to low culture.

in other words high culture wasn’t ‘superior’ to low middle class culture because it was better on merit, it was simply ‘superior’ because those involved with it were higher up the social class hierarchy.

Gans also believed there were no hard and fast barriers between different types of taste cultures – people were free to pick and mix from aspects of different cultural types.

Evaluations of Gans

Gans perspective is useful for criticising the critics of mass culture. For Gans, mass or popular culture had value in that it provided entertainment for people rather than being worthless.

However he did still come across as seeming to respect high culture more than other forms of culture!

Gans’ description of culture in America is far more accurate than mass cultural theorists as he recognises that there is much greater plurality in ‘popular culture’, and he recognises the differences across class and ethnic lines too.

However, in reality cultural divisions in America were probably a lot more clear cut than even Gans suggested!

Signposting and relevance to A-level sociology

This material is primarily relevant to students studying towards to culture and identity option as part of the AQA’s specification.

To return to the homepage – revisesociology.com

Why do Poor students underachieve at A-level?

16-19 year old students who are eligible for free school meals underachieve by 3 A-level grades compared to their wealthier peers.

This is primarily because of lower prior attainment at GCSE, but also because poorer students take fewer and different qualifications (BTECs more likely than A-levels).

This is according to some recent quantitative research published in 2021 by Tuckett al: Measuring the Attainment Gap in 16-19 Education (1).

The rest of this post summarises and evaluates this research.

Methodology

Sampling

The sample of students was about as close to a ‘total sample’ as you can get. It included all students at the end of their 16-19 study at a state-maintained school or college other than those on apprenticeship programmes.

Measuring Disadvantage

To measure (or ‘operationalise’) disadvantage the researchers used students’ free school meal status during their last six years of school (prior to key stage 4) as the indicator.

They also conducted some analysis using a measure of persistent disadvantage which was defined as any students who had been eligible for Free School Meals for 80% of the previous 6 years.

Measuring Educational Attainment

To measure educational attainment the researchers used the best three qualifications achieved by the end of 16-19 education.

Interestingly, they used two different weighting systems to take account of the different types of qualification students achieved results in: the main difference being between A-levels and BTEC subjects.  

  • For on measure of attainment they treated all level 3 qualifications as being equal, giving the same weight to all level three courses with the same guided teaching hours – so all A-level subjects had the same ‘achievement’ rating as all level 3 BTEC courses. (This is the standard way of measuring Attainment used by UCAS).
  • They also used a second measure of attainment by adjusting the above for the economic value associated with the different qualifications. Thus science based A-levels would receive a higher score than BTEC business studies, because the kind of jobs students who achieve A-levels in physics, chemistry and biology go on to do are higher paid.

Analysis of results

This is a bit technical for A-level students, but they use Regression analysis. More specifically they used ordinary least regression squares holding attainment as the dependent variable with students clustered into institutions. 

They also used Oaxaca Blinder decomposition to find out how much of the difference in achievement between disadvantaged students and non-disadvantaged students were down to a specific variable. 

The rest of this post outlines the findings of this study.

How many 16-19 year old students are disadvantaged

in 2019 there were 119, 497 16-19 year old students who were classified as disadvantaged, meaning they had been eligible for free school meals for at least one of the previous six years.

119, 497 students is equivalent to almost 25% of of the total number of 16-19 students in 2019 which was 497, 541.

YearDisadvantagedNon-disadvantagedTotal students
2017119. 980385. 178505, 158
2018120, 049378, 839498, 888
2019119, 497378, 044497, 541

How big is the attainment gap between ‘poor’ students and the rest?

By age 19 poor (disadvantaged) students are almost 3 A-level grades behind non disadvantaged students, if we give all A-levels and BTECs equal waiting.

It we weight different qualifications according to their economic value then poor (disadvantaged) students are more than 4 grades behind non disadvantaged students.

The disadvantage gap narrowed slightly between 2017 and 2019, but not significantly and more recent evidence suggests that the Pandemic increased this gap again.

interestingly in terms of ‘average’s it makes quite a difference whether you use the Mean score which they use here or the Median – there are significant numbers of 16-19s who don’t achieve, so by including those you drag the results of the ‘disadvantaged’ down because the extreme majority of those who get no results are disadvantaged!  

Why do poor students get worse results?

 Regression analysis shows that:

  • Prior attainment explains 39 per cent of the total gap,
  • the type of qualifications entered explains 33 per cent.
  • the average prior attainment of students’ peers explains 12 per cent

The researchers also noted that fourteen per cent of the disadvantage attainment gap cannot be explained by student or institution characteristics, equivalent to almost half an A level grade. This could be the continued effect of disadvantage itself, and/or it could be due to differences in unobserved characteristics such as health or motivation

Disadvantaged students take different qualifications

Disadvantaged students are more likely to take vocational and technical qualifications. They also tend to enter fewer, and lower level, qualifications.

Taken altogether these differences explain 33% of the attainment gap, mainly because fewer and lower level qualifications mean lower point scores at age 19!

The disadvantage gap and ethnicity

There are significant variations in the disadvantage gap by ethnicity.

Poor white students underachieve by around 4.5 A level grades compared to their richer peers, equivalent to almost an entire A level.

The disadvantage gap is smaller for all other ethnicity groups.

Policy suggestions

One specific policy suggestion is to extend the pupil premium to 16-19 year old students. This means that colleges should receive extra funding for each student they enrol who is eligible for free school meals and have to spend that money supporting disadvantaged students with extra lessons for example,

Strengths and Limitations of this study

This study is very useful because it fills a research gap focussing specifically on the post-16 education sector.

It shows that the disadvantage gap at GCSE level continues into post-16 education and that poor prior attainment explains most of the achievement gap in post-16 education. It also shows that qualification type explains a significant amount of the gap with poor students having to ddo fewer and lower level qualifications.

Sampling is very strong with a near total sample used.

This is also an example of a study which uses some innovate research methods – through the use of multiple measures. I especially like the measure which weights qualifications for future economic value because anyone who has worked in a sixth form environment knows that not all A-levels and BTECs are worth the same, even though UCAS insists on giving them equal weight.

In terms of weakness I don’t like the fact they do most of their analysis using the mean, I’d rather the median – I think it’s fairer to compare students who actually do qualifications!

One final limitation is the time-scale – published in 2021 but it’s only showing data up to 2019, and with the Pandemic, we are now in a different era so this is already in need of an update!

Signposting and relevance to A-level Sociology

This material should be of interest to anyone studying the sociology of education.

To return to the homepage – revisesociology.com

Sources

(1) Tuckett et al (2021) Measuring the Attainment Gap in 16-19 Education

Sociological Perspectives on the December Strikes…

1.3 million workers are making just demands for better pay and conditions, but the neoliberal government is against them

Over one million workers across numerous sectors are going on Strike from December 2022 and into 2023.

Their main demands of the strikers are for better working conditions to make public services better and safer for everyone who uses them, and also for fairer pay to enable them to afford their basic human needs.

Who is going on strike?

There are workers going on strike from several unions in December 2022- January 2023

  • The Teacher’s union
  • The nurses union
  • ambulance workers
  • The RMT
  • buses
  • highway workers
  • Postal Workers
  • Boarder Force/ Driving InstructorS
  • University staff.

Is this a general strike?

No. A general strike is when industrial action is co-ordinated across several unions in solidarity. At the moment, while many individual unions are striking they are no co-ordinating these strikes.

Why are workers going on strike…?

The main reason for striking is that ordinary hard working public sector workers want to receive fair pay for the services they provide, and by ‘fair’ we mean a wage that is at least sufficient to pay for housing, food, utilities, transport and other basic needs rather than nurses having to go into debt and/ or rely on food banks to survive.

Real term pay has decreased by 20% since 2010 because of a decade of below inflation public sector pay rises as part of the Tory’s ongoing austerity policies.

But these strikes aren’t just about wages for the workers, they are also about working conditions and the wages being sufficient to attract enough workers to fill vacancies so that current workers aren’t overstretched. For example there are currently 47 000 unfilled nursing roles in the NHS – the pay isn’t enough to attract people into those roles, but current workers have to do overtime to cover those roles or just ‘work harder’.

The RCN says thousands of “burned out, underpaid nursing staff” have left the profession in the past 12 months.

And the fact that organisations like the NHS are understaffed means working conditions aren’t safe, THAT’s a pretty decent to strike for better conditions – these people actually care about the quality of work they provide and they can’t provide quality if they are stretched beyond capacity due to the wages being so low one in six vacancies are empty!

The longer term context of these strikes is twelve years of austerity politics from the Tories – most public sector workers have suffered a real terms pay cut (when factoring in inflation) of 20% since 2010, meaning they are a lot poorer now than they were twelve years ago. So basically, blame the Tories.

Public sector pay hans’t kept pace with private sector pay, so fairness is also about helping public sector workers catch up

Think about the kind of of people who are striking here too – nurses and teachers – these people go into a vocation, many of them dedicate their lives to it and they genuinely want to make YOUR LIFE and your children’s lives better – just pay them!

Then of course there is the Pandemic – it wasn’t so long ago that especially nurses, but also teachers were in the front-line of keeping the country going during Lockdowns, with nurses exposing themselves to Covid-19, some literally dying or seeing colleagues die as a result and now we can’t even give them a pay-rise in line with inflation.

How many people support the strikes?

It depends on who is striking.

60% of the public would support nurses striking, and a majority supports fire fighters, supermarket workers and doctors, with 50% supporting teachers.

However, people are very much against barristers, civil servants, university staff and train drivers going on strike!

People also support the nurses strike

Arguments against striking

The government says it can’t afford to pay workers because it’s broke but it found enough money recently to pay pensioners 10% more – and that’s ALL pensioners, even the rich ones.

But NB – the Tories may say they now don’t have enough money, but consider the fact that Liz Trus’ mini-budget wiped £30 billion off the economy – there’s your pay-deal for all public sector workers right there!

So there may not be enough money but that’s because a combination of sheer incompetence and choosing to fund pensions over workers.

Media bias against strike action

If you can be bothered to wait for the advertising-slowed sluggish right-wing biased fest that is the Daily Mail online to load up you will immediately see the usual anti-social justice vitriol against the strikes.

Besides referring to Mick Lynch as ‘Grinch Lynch’ the other dead giveaway is immediately focussing on how the strikes will inconvenience you – clearly to the Daily Mail it’s more important that wealthy people get their Christmas cards delivered on time rather than the ordinary hardworking mail workers who deliver them receive decent pay and conditions for their service.

Applying Sociology to the strikes

This strike action is a fantastic example of how four decades of neoliberal economic policy have failed ordinary hard working people. If policy had been more about reinvesting back into public services, part of which would have meant pay rises in line with inflation, these socially just strikes would not be necessary.

The government’s reaction in not agreeing to the 1.3 million strikers’ totally reasonable requests also reminds us of the continued relevance of Marxism – with a political elite who recently tanked the economy with their fickle min-budget now refusing to enact a social policy which benefits ordinary hard working people.

Sources

The Daily Mirror (November 2022): Why are Nurses Striking?

BBC: Rishi Sunak working on ‘tough new strike laws‘.

The Guardian – Strike Statistics

Culture, Class and Distinction

Recent sociological research criticises Bourdieu’s theory that social classes are divided by taste

Recent sociological analysis by Bennet et al (2009) analysed the extent to which cultural tastes vary by factors such as social class, age, gender and ethnicity.

They found that while social class explained 48% of the variation in tastes, gender and age were also important, but not so much ethnicity.

There was also evidence of a lot of cultural omnivores who had tastes that spread across the main class, gender and age ‘divisions’ and also a number of taste subcultures.

Overall they concluded that Bourdieu’s theory of the habitus in which tastes vary mainly by social class does not apply to society as whole, but there is a signifiant division between elite cultural tastes (and cultural capital) and everyone else.

Multivariate Analysis on social divisions by taste…

The National Centre for Social Research conducted survey research in 2004/5 to find out more about cultural divisions in the United Kingdom and test Bourdieu’s theories about social class and cultural capital.

The research consisted of questionnaires sent to a random sample of 1564 respondents, with the questions having been designed with the help of focus groups. An additional 224 respondents from ethnic minority backgrounds were also sampled. 44 respondents were then selected for interviews to collect more in-depth data.

They collected data on which activities people participated in and the frequency of their participation and then analysed that data using multiple correspondence analysis to see which tastes and cultural practices were correlated with each other.

The results were analysed and findings published in Tony Bennet et al (2009)

Variations in Culture by social class, gender and age

Bennet et al wanted to examine whether there really were distinctive class cultures as Bourdieu had suggested.

Their theoretical starting point (their hypothesis if you like) was that other factors such as gender and ethnicity would have more of an impact on cultural divisions and that divisions would not be as clear cut because of the impact of globalisation. Globalisation, they thought, has led to a transnational culture which undermines national conceptions of social class.

Bennet et al also examined whether the tastes of individuals were connected across different cultural fields such as art, music, media and sport.

Bennet et al found that there were four quantifiably distinct axis of taste – people ranked along the same axis for art and literature tended to have the the same tastes in other areas such as television. Altogether these four axis accounted for 82% of the variation in tastes.

Variations in cultural tastes by Social Class

Axis one distinguished groups in terms of levels of participation in ‘high culture’, which accounted for 48% of the distinctions between taste groups.

On one side of this axis were those who who went to the opera and museums frequently, preferred eating at French restaurants and disliked fish and chip restaurants, had lots of books at home appreciated impressionist art

Those on the other side of axis one liked fish and chip restaurants, Western films and snooker, had no books at home and never went to museums or the opera.

Does liking fish and chips mean you’re working class?

The taste-divisions above were highly correlated with social class, especially with levels of education, and on the basis of the above Bennet et al actually found there were three classes depending on the frequency with which they engaged with activities such as those listed above:

  • the working class
  • the intermediate class
  • the professional-executive class.

Variations in taste by age

Axis 2 revealed that there were taste differences by age.

Young people expressed a preference for more commercial forms of culture: they were were more likely to enjoy horror, science fiction and fantasy films, and preferred going to nightclubs.

Older people showed a preference for more traditional forms of culture: they preferred westerns, costume dramas, musicals, cartoons and documentaries and were more likely to visit stately homes and art galleries.

Variations in taste by Gender

Axis three found that there were variations in taste by gender:

Females expressed a preference for self-help books, soap operas, romantic fiction and television dramas while male preferences included sport and westerns.

Cultural Omnivores

The final axis focused on the extent to which people engaged in a wide range of cultural activities compared to a narrow range.

Here Bennet et al found that more highly educated and younger people were more likely to be cultural omnivores – picking and choosing from a range of ‘high’ and ‘popular’ cultural products.

They found that higher education lecturers and people who worked in the media were especially omnivorous.

Support for Bourdieu’s cultural capital theory

Bennet et al’s findings found that there was some support for the existence of a small cultural elite culture which valued high cultural practices such as the opera, classical art and going to the theatre and that knowledge of such tastes did confer social capital.

There are certain tastes which professionals look down on – such as watching lots of T.V, especially reality T.V. shows and reading tabloid newspapers, and they don’t like country and western music.

These cultural distinctions may form the basis of a class divide along social class lines, but it is nowhere near as significant at a societal level as Bourdieu suggested.

Criticisms of Bourdieu’s cultural capital theory

Bennet el al’s findings demonstrated that cultural tastes were not as influenced by social background as Bourdieu had theorised. There was a lot more variety in tastes across social class lines. There were enough people from working class backgrounds enjoyed museums and enough people from professional backgrounds liked football (for example) to show that cultural tastes were not ‘determined by social class background’ .

However social class did still have an influence on cultural tastes, but it acted more like a forcefield which steered people towards particular tastes, but within limits and not in a deterministic way.

There was little that was distinctive to working class culture. And one of the things the middle class valued was an openness to experiment with new cultural pursuits meaning the middle classes were increasingly adopting aspects of traditionally working class cultural pursuits. Football is a great example of this.

All of the above means that cultural divisions along class lines are not significant enough for there to be a distinctive habitus.

Bennet et al also found that there were significant variations in cultural practices along the lines of age and gender, but not by ethnicity.

Taste subcultures

Bennet et al argued that ‘taste subcultures’ were more important than social class

Familiarity with national cultures – belonging to a national culture is more important than social class for generating a sense of belonging (kids TV shows) and lack of familiarity with a national culture can prove a barrier

Subcultures are important for small groups but only small groups – draws on Thornton – but rave culture only gives status during the weekend.

emotional cultural capital is an additional form of cultrual capital – the ability to empathsis with others based on shared cultural experience.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

The material above is most relevant to the culture and identity topic, usually taught as part of the first year of A-level sociology.

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Sources

This post was adapted from Haralambos and Holborn(2013) Sociology Themes and Perspectives 8th Edition.

The 2022 World Cup and LGBTQ rights

The 2022 football world cup in Qatar has caused controversy because Qatar does not recognise same sex marriage or civil partnerships whereas European nation states tend to do so.

To my mind this year’s world cup has been overshadowed by politics and it’s shone a light on how little global consensus there is over the issue of LGBTQ rights.

LGBT rights in Qatar

(Or lack of them!)

  • Sexual acts between men can be punished with prison sentences of between one and three years, and flogging.
  • Muslims can be sentenced to death for having sex with another man, but this is because extra-marital sex is sanctionable by death and the state doesn’t recognise same sex marriage.
  • Trans women can be imprisoned for ‘impersonating a woman’ and forcibly de-transitioned while in jail.
  • Campaigning for LGBTQ rights is also legal in Qatar

The 2022 World Cup and the LGBTQ debate

Initially the Qatari authorities said they would allow the display of LGBTQ imagery at world cup games, but just before the tournament began they said they would be forcibly removing any spectators displaying such symbols, such as the Rainbow Flat.

This is line with announcements from the authorities that gay and trans football fans should respect the norms of Qatari culture while in public, and should hide their sexuality when in public by showing no signs of public affection.

FIFA also announced that any players displaying support for LGBTQ rights, such as by wearing rainbow armbands, would be fined.

There have been reports of some hotels refusing to allow same sex couples to stay as well as eye witness accounts of police brutality against gay people.

No global consensus on LGBTQ rights

Qatar’s failure to recognise the basic human rights of LGBT people to freedom of expression is clearly against the The United Nations Position on Human Rights, in violation of International Human Rights Law.

However, there is NOT universal agreement at the level of nation states on LGBTQ rights. In fact we are nowhere near achieving a global consensus around this issue.

According to the Human Rights Campaign same sex marriage is only legal in 32 countries, meaning that Qatar is actually in the global majority, while the various activists from the various European Nations who have been championing LGBTQ rights during the World Cup are from countries in the global minority over this issue.

Most European countries have full equal recognition of same-sex marriage but the majority of countries do not recognise this and many, like Qatar, enforce harsh punishments for adults who same-sex consensual sex.

‘Enlightened’ European states have long ignored human rights abuses abroad

The difficult question is how should European nations deal with the majority of countries who don’t respect the sexual preferences of LGBTQ people?

At the moment the policy is to basically ignore what we would define as human rights abuses and carry on trading with countries such as Qatar. To be blunt, economic relations trump universal human rights around sexuality and sexual identity.

To my mind FIFA giving the 2022 World Cup to Qatar isn’t particularly unusual, it’s merely a more overt recognition of the way most Nation States (who are represented by FIFA) deal with countries who abuse human rights – we welcome them as part of the international community and ignore their abuses.

I mean the World Cup was in Russia in 2018 after all, and Russia doesn’t recognise equal rights for LGBTQ people either and most European countries actively trade with China and other well known human rights abusers.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

Personally I do think Western European nations are more enlightened than countries who are intolerant of LGBTQ rights, primarily because I believe in freedom of expression and don’t recognise religious authority of any kind.

But is this just me being a modernist dinosaur and out of sync with our relativistic postmodern times?

And so for me the global situation on LGBTQ rights which the World Cup has shone a light on is throughly depressing as it shows we are nowhere near progressing towards a global consensus on this issue – there is no global culture in this regard, in fact the issue is very divisive.

It’s also a reminder of the extent to which nation states put economic relations above individual human rights, and reminds us of the immense power of nation states in this regard, they seem to be at total liberty to ignore UN conventions on human rights with absolutely no consequence!

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Education Policy since 2020

education policy since 2020 has been dominated by school closures and catch-up initiatives.

Education policy since 2020 has been dominated by the government’s response to the Coronavirus Pandemic – which consisted of shutting schools for several months which had significant negative impacts on students’ mental health and educational attainment (far worse for poorer students).

Following the easing of lockdowns the government then put in place various catch-up policies but these simply aren’t enough to make up for the harm done by the choice to shut schools in the first place.

In fairness to the government they have recently announced an increase in funding for education to 2025 which takes cash-terms spending on education back up to the previous peak of funding in 2010 (although not necessarily in real-terms once inflation is taken into account).

This post summarises the following aspects of education policy since 2020:

  • the lockdown measures
  • the impact of shutting down schools on students’ mental health and educational attainment
  • Cancelling GCSEs and A-levels for two years.
  • The government’s catch-up education policies
  • The planned increase in funding for schools to 2025.

Schools and Lockdown

On 20th of March 2020 the then Secretary of Education, Sir Gavin Williamson timeline of school lockdowns produced by the Institute for Government.

Cancellation of GCSE and A-Level Exams

The government cancelled all GCSE and A-level exams for two years in the spring-summer of 2020 and 2021, with teachers given their own assessed grades rather than students having to sit exams.

Maybe unsurprisingly the GCSE results were significantly higher in the two years when teachers awarded grades rather than students sitting exams, and in 2022 the results dipped slightly but were still better than in 2019, the last time GCSE exams were held.

This suggests that students who didn’t sit their exams during the lockdown years had something of an unfair advantage compared to students who had sat exams in 2019 and previous years, and those sitting exams in 2022 with the pre-release of papers which gave them some additional assistance.

The teacher-predicted grade increase for A-levels was VERY significant during the two non-exam years. In 2019 25% of A-levels sat were awarded an A grade and above, but by 2021 teachers awarded 45% of A-levels an A grade or above, with this sinking back to 35% in 2022.

The Impact of Lockdown on pupils

A report by the National Foundation for Educational Research suggests that there is a covid-gap at all key stages following the two lockdowns.

More students performed below expectations following Lockdowns one and two compared to previous key stage test data in September 2019 prior to the lockdowns.

The Covid-gap in reading

The Covid-gap in maths

The report also notes that there is evidence showing that disadvantaged students have fallen behind relative to wealthier students, meaning there is now also a covid-disadvantage gap in educational attainment.

The Covid-Disadvantage Gap

There were significant differences in the experiences of learning during lockdown by social class. For example:

  • Students from the least deprived schools were doing 2.9 hours more schoolwork per week than students from the most deprived schools.
  • 71% of students from the least deprived schools reported having 3 or more online lessons per week compared to only 53% of students from the most deprived schools.
  • Only 6% of pupils from higher managerial backgrounds reported only having a mobile device (rather than a computer) to access learning compared to 14% of pupils from routine/ manual/ non-working backgrounds.  

Unsurprisingly there is also further evidence that this correlates with a covid-disadvantage gap – students from lower socio-economic backgrounds have fallen further behind relative to those from more affluent backgrounds.

This is certainly born out by what students tells us. According to The Sutton Trust’s October 2022 briefing on Education Recovery and Catch Up students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are much less confident than students from higher socio-economic backgrounds that they have caught up with lost learning caused by the Tory government’s chosen policy of locking down schools during the pandemic.

The fact that the government is giving extra funding to schools to help disadvantaged students catch up also demonstrates that the government itself recognises the existence of such a covid-disadvantaged attainment gap (see below!)

The Impact of Lockdowns on pupil mental health

Some secondary analysis of 72 high quality studies from 20 countries on the impact of lockdowns on pupil mental health found, unsurprisingly, that 53.3% of girls and 44% of boys reported above pre-covid baseline levels of anxiety during the lockdown period.

The long term effects of this harm to mental health remain to be researched!

Source: gov.uk: Impacts of school closures on physical and mental health of children and young people: a systematic review.

The Catch up Premium

In 2021 the government announced an additional £1 billion in funding for schools to help support students catch up with lessons they had missed due to the government’s imposed lockdowns of schools during the previous year.

The catch up premium primarily consisted of:

  • £650 million being payed directly to schools – equivalent to £80 per pupil.
  • A £350 million National Tutoring Programme to target those most in need of help and consisted of (1) a schools programme for 5-16 year olds, (2) additional funding for 16-19s and (3) language support for reception aged children.

A typical primary school of 200 pupils would receive £16000 in additional catch-up funding while a typical secondary school of 1000 pupils would receive £80 000 in additional funding in two payments during 2021.

Schools were required to publish details of how they were using their funding to help students catch up and OFSTED were also supposed to be monitoring this, but given that the support was only in place for a year only a tiny proportion of schools would have been inspected on this criteria.

The main funding for the Catch Up Premium has now ended, but the government is continuing the National Tutoring Programme into the 2022 to 2023 year.

The National Tutoring Programme

For the 2022 to 2023 year the National Tutoring Programme (NEP) awards schools an additional £163 per student eligible for the pupil premium. The money is paid directly to schools and they are required to spend the money on ‘targeted academic support’ for pupils delivered by trained and experienced teachers.

The government’s aim is to embed tutoring as a regular feature within schools going forwards and the guidance states that:

Specially there are three ways schools can provide this support:

  • academic mentors – people employed specifically to give students extra tuition.
  • tuition partners – private tutors who work with students from the school
  • regular school personnel – teachers or support staff already employed who give extra tuition on top of their regular teaching commitments.
  • The extra tutoring should focus on pupils eligible for the Pupil Premium, so those on Free School Meals or the poorest 15% of pupils.
  • Maximum class sizes of six, recommended 1-3.
  • Tuition course length of 12-15 hours
  • Core subjects only – english, maths and science in primary school, plus humanities and modern foreign languages in secondary schools.

The total budget for the 2022 to 2023 year is £350 million, it is for year 1 to 11 only and schools can only claim up to 60% of the tutoring costs, they have to find the other 40% of funding themselves.

Funding Increases for Education to 2025

The 2021 spending review suggested that funding for schools should increase by £4. an increase in cash-terms spending for schools of £4.4 billion per annum between 2021-2 and 2024-25.

The 2021 spending review suggested that school funding should increase by just over 7% per pupil between 2021–22 and 2024–25.

This means that by 2024-25 the government should be spending an extra £4.4 billion on schools in real-cash terms compared to what it spent in 2021-22. 

So in cash-terms, the government is committed to increasing spending on education by approximately an additional £1 billion a year over the next four years until 2024-25. 

These increases in funding will reverse the real-terms funding cuts to education which took place under the Tories between 2009-10 and 2010-29 and education is projected to be 1% higher by 2024-25 compared to what it was at its peak in 2009-10 at the end of New Labour’s last term in office. 

However because of government commitments to increase teacher wages by 3% a year over the next five years combined with the current rate of inflation which is causing a cost of living crisis, this cash-terms funding increase may not be sufficient for schools to be able to meet the increasing costs of running the schools.

Schools are going to be paying more on wages, energy, food, stationary, maintenance over the next few years than ever before! 

So in real terms prices (which take into account the rising cost of living) this ‘significant’ increase in funding may not actually be an increase at all, it may end up being just about enough for schools to tread water!

(Source: The Institute for Fiscal Studies, accessed November 2022.)

Education policy since 2020: Conclusions

Education policy has been dominated by the response to Pandemic. The decision to shut down schools is maybe understandable given the considerable uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 throughout 2020 and 2021 but the drastic measures to shut schools did enormous harm to pupils.

Teacher awarded grades seem to have ‘saved’ the two years of students who missed exams in the lockdown years, and the 2022 results seem to be OK as well, with students being assisted by pre-release papers.

But there are still several years of students lower down the school years who have missed out on learning and it seems that the funds the government has earmarked for especially the more deprived students to catch up are no sufficient to close to lock down induced attainment gap!

Having said that at least the government has found money for education going forwards to 2025, but in the context of rapid inflation that is merely going to mean maintaining funding in real terms!

Finally, it is also worth keeping in mind the effects on other policies that lockdown had – before Covid the government had wanted all schools to become academies by 2022, but that got axed so schools could focus on reopening safely and to allow them to focus more on the catch-up agenda.

Signposting and Related Posts

This material will hopefully be a useful update for anyone studying the education module as part of A-level sociology.

How did Coronavirus affect education?

Covid Catch Up Policies: Are they Sufficient?

The cost of living crisis – was it always inevitable? 

is the cost of living crisis caused by a growing global middle class pushing up the price of scarce resources?

It’s possible that the current cost of living crisis in the UK is due to a long term trend of a growing middle class increasing demand for scarce natural resources, which pushes their prices up, further compounded by an increase in wages and thus cost of production as developing countries have become richer since the 1960s.

While this is clearly positive development, we in the UK have not invested sufficiently in the kind of technologies which could have helped us live more efficiently and thus protected us against the current short term shocks which have led to spikes in the cost of energy, raw materials and food.

The cost of living crises: a long term trend?

The UK government’s line on the cost of living crisis is that it’s driven by the post-pandemic squeeze on supply chains, and the war in Ukraine restricting the supply of raw materials, food and energy. 

And the government can’t admit this but there’s a lot of objective data that suggests the current crisis has been made slightly worse by BREXIT making it more difficult for British Business to trade with Europe. 

However I think there’s something more fundamental going on – in that even without the above three mega-events – we’d still be seeing an increase in the cost of living in the UK – all these events have done is rapidly accelerate a trend that was always inevitable given the trajectory of our high-consumption global development over the last several decades. (Moreover at least two of the above events are symptoms of that same economic trajectory).

The prices of energy, food, and the raw materials we need to keep our industries going, build our houses with and make the stuff we all want, are determined in a global economic system of demand and supply. 

This is just basic economics – the more demand there is for goods, the more the prices of those goods increase, and the less supply there is of those goods, again, the more the prices increase. 

A Growing Global Middle Class

Over the past several decades developing countries have become wealthier – in population terms the main drivers for this are China, India and also countries in South America – and we’ve seen a massive increase in the middle classes in those countries. 

Research by PEW (1) has found that in 1975 the global middle class numbered 1 billion, by 2006 it numbered 2 billion and by 2015 there were 3 billion people in the global middle classes. 25% of these live in advanced economies and 40% live in the BRIC nations: Brazil, Russia, India and China, with the rest living in other countries. 

Brookings (2) put the size of the global middle class at 3.8 BN in 2018, the point at which there were equal middle class and rich consumers relative to those classified as poor and vulnerable. 

This is a huge success story for global development – with literally billions of people being lifted out of poverty and into relative affluence but this has also meant a huge increase in demand on the limited global resource base – on energy, food, and various raw materials. 

We now have billions of more consumers demanding those resources that only a few decades ago a scant billion living mainly in affluent Europe and America could afford.  

Just one indicator of this is the increase in demand for beef since the 1960s (3) – a very inefficient use of land per calories –  but nonetheless something that consumers clearly want to eat more of as their incomes increase…

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, in the post-colonial era, it used to be the case that the raw materials we used to import, and increasingly the finished products (clothes, cars, and increasingly tech gadgets) we imported were cheap because of ‘our’ relative wealth and ‘their’ relative poverty – we benefited not only from being the only ones able to afford cars and consumer durables (low demand on raw materials = cheap resources) but also their cheap labour due to the relative differences in wealth between developed and less developed countries. 

But now that many of those once poor countries aren’t so poor, we’ve got the double-whammy of more demand on those limited global resources and having to pay higher wages to the people in China (mainly China) who want to earn enough to buy the very same products they are making. 

So I think what we are seeing now is basically just a more crowded marketplace, more demand for limited resources, more demand for higher wages, and thus higher prices for basic products. 

Of course it’s not just the free market that determines these prices (there is no such thing as a purely free market) – the power of Nation States also comes into play – as they try to use policy-led coercion or brute force to secure cheap resources for their populations – according to David Harvey this is what the illegal U.S. War in Iraq was about – all about oil – and it’s probably what Putin’s war in Ukraine is about – Ukraine has lots of natural resources and it’s a bread-basket – as Putin sees it (probably) that is massive region full of natural resources that he wants to secure for Russia rather than those resources being sold (on the ‘free’ market to European countries. 

And this also explains why ‘enlightened’ states in Europe and America are prepared to put up with human rights abuses in Qatar and Saudi-Arabia – they have huge oil reserves to put it bluntly and death sentences for gay people isn’t going to over ride the perceived importance of maintaining access to that of so precious resource – and oil of course isn’t only necessary to keep our cars on the road it’s also necessary to keep our military machines operating – so these unsavoury relationships are about maintaining both economic and military power. 

Extraction of Profit from the U.K. over Investment?

Now to my mind we could, as a nation, have secured ourselves against this inevitable cost of living crisis driven ultimately by resource scarcity in the context of an increasingly wealthy global population, but we didn’t. 

Instead we as consumers have squandered a decent portion of our wealth on consumer frivolities (holidays, throw away clothes, meals out etc. etc.), take on more debt than we needed to in order fund high-consumption lifestyles, and just generally been very wasteful.

Moreover, the global companies who have worked to bring us these products have extracted huge amounts of profit out of the country which is now sitting in tax havens, and, as a form of capital, is used by mainly the top 10% of global population, especially the top 1% to maintain their power and comfortable lifestyles, rather than being invested back into sustainable solutions for a sensible-consumption global future (more of that later). 

A good example of how profit and capital has been used by the wealthy to benefit themselves rather than societies is the property boom in London – with billions of pounds being spent on investment properties to secure a nice lifestyle in a vibrant global city which has pushed the cost of housing up astronomically so that now even young professionals have to spend half their income just to rent a room in a shared house. And London isn’t the only city this has been happening in either. 

Granted some of our wealth has gone to fund education, health and pensions, but these are creaking, and these could have been much better funded. (The average person in the UK is much better off in this regard than the average person in the U.S.) 

So after several decades of (granted successful) development we’ve now got a super rich global elite who are sitting on piles of money, which is perversely contributing to rising prices itself (in the form of property price increases) and four decades of underinvestment in those technologies which could have if not averted the current cost of living crisis certainly helped to lessen its impact. 

The Cost of Living Crises could Have been Avoided!

Just think what all of those trillions of extracted wealth could have done if invested in ultra-energy efficient infrastructure, local energy production (yes, sorry, solar and wind if combined with efficiency can go a LONG way to securing our energy needs!) and local sustainable food production – we’d be much more resilient to the kind of global market shocks we’ve seen since the Pandemic!  

Final thoughts/ Disclaimers

NB this is just a working theory, but TLDR – we were always going to have a cost of living crisis in the U.K at some point! 

P.S. also keep this in mind – the top 10% of people in the UK are in a much better position to weather this current cost of living crisis, the top 1% won’t even feel it at all! 

P.P.S when thinking about policy solutions to the Cost of Living Crisis – remember this – the Tory party (especially Rishi Sunak whose wife is the daughter of the CEO of one of India’s largest tech companies) have a global perspective – gleaming extreme teeth-whitened smile aside, good old Rish is probably  NOT thinking primarily about the well-being of the average British-bound person in the U.K. – he is more likely to be thinking about what’s good for him and his extensive network of global elite colleagues (the top 0.01% in his case).

From the perspective of the global elite, an increasing cost of living in the UK is not necessarily bad for them because they are globally mobile – they can base themselves in different countries to avoid the worst excesses of economic crises as they move around the globe, while the average UK citizen is ‘doomed to be local’ and suffer at the hands of Rishi’s piecemeal policies, which IMO are just about enough to give him a chance of being voted back into power in a few years, good old Rish!  

Signposting and sources

This is an overdue personal rant relevant to the Global Development option, part of the A-level in Sociology specification

Sources

  1. PEW: How a growing global middle class could help save the world’s economy
  2. Brookings: A global tipping point
  3. Our World in Data
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