Why David Willetts isn’t using his two brains when blaming feminism


3:40 pm - April 1st 2011

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contribution by Caroline Crampton

‘Two brains’ Willetts should try using one of them. The universities minister claims that the rise of feminism has ‘held back working class men’. Why exactly does he imagine this is a bad thing?

“Feminism trumped egalitarianism,” David Willetts told journalists during a briefing on the government’s new social mobility strategy. He’s supposed to be a bright chap. How has he got this so wrong?

Apparently, when the strategy is published next week, it will reveal that movement between the classes in Britain is worse than ever. Willetts blames the rise of feminism for this, adding that he isn’t “against” feminism, but it’s “probably the single biggest factor” in our lack of social mobility.
Where to start on deconstructing this obviously fallacious argument? So much choice…

Firstly, we don’t have positive gender discrimination in this country. There are no circumstances under which a man and woman with similar qualifications will go for the same job and the employer will be forced to choose the woman purely because of her gender. If there are now more women in full-time employment (and there are – last month there were nearly a million men out of work compared with fewer than half the number of women) it’s because more qualified female candidates are applying for jobs.

And yes, feminism is responsible for that. Without the Suffragettes and the countless other women who have campaigned for equal rights, women wouldn’t have the access that they do to education and employment. But rather than restricting social mobility, this trend has enhanced it. Half the population was previously excluded from any involvement in the economy. Now they aren’t, and have the potential to just as socially mobile in their own right, rather than having to rely on the movement of their husbands or fathers to move over class boundaries.

Secondly, it’s entirely true that, as Willetts says, “women who would otherwise have been housewives had taken university places and well-paid jobs that could have gone to ambitious working-class men”. It’s entirely false to assume that these women were less deserving of these opportunities than any potential male applicants, and that their gender had any negative impact on social mobility.

Thirdly, feminism actually has very little to do with social mobility. It’s just one reason why a sector of society that previously weren’t able to better themselves now can – there are many other reasons why people do or don’t fulfil their potential in life.

If we’ve got a problem with too few people lacking skills, education and employment, then that’s something we need to address through the training and funding available to them, rather than by making counterproductive comments like this.

Girls and boys alike need a culture of positive reinforcement in schools, a wide range of academic and vocational opportunities available once they leave school, and support for when they come to apply for jobs or want to set up their own business.

Treating men and women equally is the first step to greater social mobility, not a barrier to it. The supposedly-brainy David Willetts has really got this one wrong.


Caroline Crampton is a staff writer at Total Politics. Cross-posted from here

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Reader comments


1. Chaise Guevara

If you define social mobility as a class thing, he may be technically correct: middle-class jobs that might once have gone to upwardly mobile working-class men are now going to middle-class women. Something like that.

The main point, however, is that you’re right to say this isn’t a bad thing. Sexual equality is at least as important (in my view more so) than social mobility, and it would be ridiculous to complain that the former is hindering the latter.

David Willetts would do well to broaden his education a bit, perhaps by reading George Orwell writing in 1936 for what was to become a study into poverty in the north of England, published by the Left Book Club: The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), chp.7:

“The time was when I used to lament over quite imaginary pictures of lads of fourteen dragged protesting from their lessons and set to work at dismal jobs. It seemed to me dreadful that the doom of a ‘job’ should descend upon anyone at fourteen. Of course I know now that there is not one working-class boy in a thousand who does not pine for the day when he will leave school. He wants to be doing real work, not wasting his time on ridiculous rubbish like history and geography. To the working class, the notion of staying at school till you are nearly grown-up seems merely contemptible and unmanly.”
http://www.george-orwell.org/The_Road_to_Wigan_Pier/6.html

As many know, there are still places where those sentiments still have definite resonance.

Part of the problem is a vision of working class lads to become a premier league professonal footballer being paid like this:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12376035

With money like that in prospect, who needs schooling? A hard pressed council estate within walking distance features a football academy for 6 y-os and upwards. The trouble is that only a minute minority will ever make it to playing in the premier league. Meanwhile:

“Though white children in general do better than most minorities at school, poor ones come bottom of the league (see chart). Even black Caribbean boys, the subject of any number of initiatives, do better at GCSEs”
http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14700670

Btw: “After a turbulent week in Westminster, it seems that British politicians from all parties are being drawn from an ever smaller social pool, says broadcaster Andrew Neil. It wasn’t always thus, so what’s changed?”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12282505

Most Conservative members of the present cabinet are millionaires. It wasn’t always thus. Dig a little to find accounts of how hard pressed Churchill was at times.

Does David Willets say this is a bad thing? As far as I understand he didn’t use the term ‘blame’ which is a judgemental term. That is how it was written up but does he say that? He is purely showing a link, not blame attached As far as I can see this blog is based on the write up by the Daily Mail and Telegraph rather than what he actually said. And we all know how accurate those organs are.

Even from the Telegraph you get these quotes: “entirely admirable transformation of opportunities for women ” and “it is not a bad thing that women had these opportunities”.

So he explictly says this is not a bad thing.

I think as to Caroline’s outrage: You got to want it.

4. Chaise Guevara

DevonChap appears to be right: if you ignore the Telegraph’s addition of words like “blame”, Willetts just seems to be saying that feminism was a large causative factor. Which is debatable but not controversial in any way I can think of. Source: ttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8420098/David-Willets-feminism-has-held-back-working-men.html#

Of course, we’ll have to wait till the report comes out to find out everything.

Broadly agreed with the rest, but I’d be interested in your source for this claim.

If there are now more women in full-time employment (and there are – last month there were nearly a million men out of work compared with fewer than half the number of women)

I find that really hard to believe. The Labour Force Survey – http://www.statistics.gov.uk/STATBASE/xsdownload.asp?vlnk=1379 – says that for Nov-Jan 2011, there were (3-month rolling average, seasonally adjusted) 13622 thousand men in full-time employment, and only 7621 thousand women in full-time employment. (a gap of around 6 million workers)

I think it’s fairly safe to assume that gap will not have changed significantly – if at all – in the last two months. Indeed, the trend over the last year is a widening gap, not a narrowing one.

Combining full time and part time (Cols S and T for men, AE and AF for women) gives 13525 thousand women and 15632 thousand men in some sort of employment.

There may be more men than women “out of work” – i.e. currently looking for jobs – but that doesn’t mean there are more women than men “in work”.

Try this bleak OECD assessment of social mobility in Britain:

UK has worse social mobility record than other developed countries

The chances of a child from a poor family enjoying higher wages and better education than their parents is lower in Britain than in other western countries, the OECD says
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/mar/10/oecd-uk-worst-social-mobility

This is the link to the OECD report and its chart:
http://www.oecd.org/document/51/0,3343,en_2649_34117_44566259_1_1_1_1,00.html

According to the Willetts’ thesis, that is presumably due to feminism being more rampant in Britain than in other OECD countries. That’s a claim I would have difficulty in believing although I grant from everyday observation that a larger percentage of women now wear trousers instead of skirts and dresses. In a place where I used to work oop north until the mid 1980s, for a woman to wear trousers to work was a disciplinary matter – I joke not.

7. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

Forruns and boomers not to blame anymore then?

We’re at war with feminazis, we’ve always been at war with feminazis.

There is feminism in all western countries yet it is mostly in Britain that social mobility has stalled and reversing.. I’d say it is more to do with an ingrained culture that Britain has with class and education. Something along the lines of we should all now our place.

Only a little more than a year back, the Mail was worrying us about this prospect:

More women will be working than men within four years after the number of males with jobs slumped to an all-time low, say researchers.

They believe the recession has created a ‘Full Monty generation’, who have lost traditional male jobs and moved on to benefits.

An analysis of official figures reveals that the number of men of working age with jobs has slumped from 92 per cent in 1971 to 75 per cent today.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1239783/More-women-men-work-4-years.html

10. Luis Enrique

I’m trying to understand how feminism could affect social mobility.

so, to simplify for ease of exposition … start in an all-male working culture, and imagine the there is a fixed amount of “top” jobs, which are filled with some mixture of people from poor and posh backgrounds. Now imagine that feminism happens, and we switch to a gender neutral working culture. The supply of posh workers doubles – each posh household now supplies two workers (male and female), rather than one (male). So, I guess the idea is that those recruiting for “top” jobs now how twice the number of posh workers to pick from, and choose fewer workers from poor backgrounds, hence the increase in female labour participation has decreased social mobility. Is that the idea?

If that is what Willetts has in mind, I don’t think that the OP address it. It has nothing to do with positive discrimination, women not “deserving” top jobs, or anything like that.

please note, I am just trying to understand the argument.

It smacks a little of the divide-and-rule tactics the right are so good at: “We’ll graciously grant right A to disadvantaged group B, as long as disadvantaged group X doesn’t get right Y.”

However, in this case, there’s no policy on the table: Willetts is just giving an opinion on something that’s already happened. Maybe he just can’t help framing it in the same terms he would use in a policy debate.

12. Chaise Guevara

@ 10 Luis

This appears to be based on a news story about a report rather than the report itself (as the report isn’t out yet). But as far as I can tell, you’ve got it right.

13. Mike Killingworth

I suppose “traditional male jobs” are those which required physical strength. Like steam railway locomotives – you could only drive one if you’d been a fireman first and that required muscle and stamina. But an electric train, well, a woman can drive that. And on the Underground to-day your train is as likely to have a woman driving it as a man.

Problem is, many men don’t want to do a job a woman can do. They don’t want to live in a world in which the possession of physical strength has only recreational advantages. Hence “real men” are nowadays confined pretty much to building sites (and more especially scaffolders).

Such men may be misguided but I don’t know who’s going to tell them they are. Ed Miliband? Germaine Greer? Laurie Penny? In the meantime, women are still the only ones who can have babies.

If Willetts means that men and women can’t be equal, that one gender or other has to be on top, I’m not sure that there isn’t a deal of feminist theory that says that too.

And while I’m here, can anyone answer me this conundrum. For the longest time, it was harder for a woman to get into Parliament than it was for a man. So you’d expect our women MPs to be of a higher calibre, generally, than the male ones. But they aren’t – or at least if they are it’s been kept a seriously dark secret. Maybe – just maybe – being a politician is a career option which doesn’t attract bright females…

14. Richard W

Social mobility is something that should concern us and is much more important than rants about meaningless income inequality. The problem is what is being measured with regard to social mobility? The Blanden 1958 report showing declining social mobility in Britain has been rubbished by everyone else who find only a blip. For example see this Resolution Foundation report.
http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/media/media/downloads/Social_Mobility_Final.pdf

Therefore, the whole premise of declining social mobility is wrong. I can’t see how females joining the workplace providing more competition for males implicates feminism as trumping egalitarianism.

15. Luis Enrique

Chaise,

oh right, there’s going to be a report out is there? well, whilst I wouldn’t rule out the idea I have outlined above playing a role, as Bob says, it doesn’t account for differences in social mobility across countries that have all benefited from feminism.

my top candidate for the UK’s poor social mobility is: inequality.

I’ll be interested to see what the report chooses to prioritize – I won’t be holding my breath for a focus on inequality.

16. Mr S. Pill

My oh my, that anti-feminism dog-whistle sure is mighty loud… could it be that feminist campaigners are gearing up for the battle when the cuts disproportionatly hit women harder than men, and could it be that Willetts is slyly using this report to get the first blow in..?

Once again a Lib Dem is being used as a human shield in the coalition’s war.

I love the implication that it wad unfair for working class MEN to be passed over for able women. Everybody knows men automatically deserve jobs because they are men!

Honestly, you couldnt make up this sort of self-impaling stupidity, it’s like something from Brass Eye.

18. Mr S. Pill

And errrrrrrm isn’t Willetts missing the very fucking large point that women can be (and overwhelmingly are) working class too?? What an utter tool.

I’m trying to understand how feminism could affect social mobility.

There is an argument that, since women still tend to shoulder the bulk of responsibility for caring for dependants (children, elderly relatives, etc), they’re more susceptible to pressure from employers to settle for less money or worse conditions. This is, of course, an argument for more feminism, not less.

Hilarious to hear Tories pretending to care about working class people of either gender.

21. Luis Enrique

Dunc,

but wouldn’t that just change the income distribution (more workers on lower wages)? – I think “social mobility” in the sense Willetts will be using it refers to the extent to which your parents’ position in the income distribution predicts your position in it – how many people born in the bottom quartile stay in the bottom quartile etc. So it’s a separate thing from, say, the idea feminism has depressed wages.

Paul – “self impaling stupidity” – if Willetts is thinking what I have in mind @10, then it’s classic “two brain” stuff – the stupidity of clever people, not realizing how that argument is going to sound, what the reaction will inevitably be. Reminds me of this guy

Hang on…

But rather than restricting social mobility, this trend has enhanced it. Half the population was previously excluded from any involvement in the economy. Now they aren’t, and have the potential to just as socially mobile in their own right

Yet…

Thirdly, feminism actually has very little to do with social mobility.

It’s difficult to see how the middle-class women who were excluded from middle-class jobs because of sexism were ‘socially mobile’ as opposed to ‘more independent’. And if feminism is just ‘one reason why a sector of society that previously weren’t able to better themselves now can’, whatever happened to social class for women, let alone men?

As it is, Willetts – like Dominic Raab – has to find something to blame that isn’t to do with Coalition economic policy. I’d rather side with feminism.

23. Shatterface

Social mobility can take more than one generation and may lag slightly behind feminism. The chances a child has for social mobility are greatly enhanced if both parents are working and contribute financially, as well as emotionally, to their upkeep. That’s where feminism comes in: to secure equality necessary to make this possible. Everyone benefits from high employment across the sexes, each generation more than the last. This was the point some of us were making months back when others on this site were arguing mothers of school age children shouldn’t be expected to look for work.

24. Mr S. Pill

It makes you wonder about all these initiatives in Africa etc where NGOs etc are trying to combat cultural prejudice to female independence – knowing correctly that the way out of poverty is the emancipation of women – I guess Willetts is opposed to those too.

25. sevillista

Willetts was explicit that it is a great thing for society that women are now able to reach the higher echelons of the labour market.

He was making the rather obvious and completely uncontroversial point that competition in the labour market from (more talented) women has not been great for some men who in previous generations would have got the jobs that these women do.

Childish groundless griping like this just makes opposition to the Coalition seem silly (and this goes for Yvette Cooper as well who made a similar point to the author of the article)

26. Mr S. Pill

@25

If that’s the only obvious point he’s making then why make it? I question the motives here. A lot. Why publish a report to tell us 2 + 2 = 4?

27. Mr S. Pill

@25 again

I mean one could make the obvious point that intelligent black people are now (thankfully) more likely to get jobs than their less intelligent white peers, as opposed to in the 50s or 60s or 70s, and thus equality of the races has been bad for social mobility that way. Why hasn’t Willetts made that argument, I wonder?

You could argue that the education has been ‘feminised’ – more continuous assessment, more female teachers etc – and that this has disadvantaged boys in school and even university….Certainly, boys’ under-achievement in school should be a cause for concern.

I have a high-achieving daughter, btw.

29. sevillista

@Mr S Pill

I think Willetts is looking for the reasons why working-class boys born in 1970 did not do as well for themselves as working-class boys born in 1958 (which I guess is what the report will say).

An obvious reason for this – aside from the disadvantages those born in 1970 had from entering the labour market at a time of high unemployment (thanks Tories) was the increase in the labour market participation of women.

Willetts is not suggesting that the trend towards greater female labour market participation and equality of opportunity is bad – he explicitly states this has been a fantastic thing. You see conspiracy where there is none.

For a Tory in this Government, Willetts is very thoughtful (and quite academic in approach) and open to looking at facts before rushing to judgement based on his prejudices. One of the good(ish) guys of the Coalition in my view.

Wasn’t his argument about couples, not feminists stealing men’s jobs? That there are more high earning women now and they almost always marry high earning men. Which has increased the gap between the richest and poorest families.

31. Chaise Guevara

@ 24 S the Pilll

” I guess Willetts is opposed to those too.”

Why? He clearly states that improved sexual equality is a good thing. As far as I can tell, he’s in no way complaining that feminism has he
ld working class men down – it’s just that the Telegraph has played it that way to make the article more exciting.

32. Chaise Guevara

@ 28 paul

“You could argue that the education has been ‘feminised’ – more continuous assessment, more female teachers etc – and that this has disadvantaged boys in school and even university….Certainly, boys’ under-achievement in school should be a cause for concern.”

What’s your basis for this – specifically, are there figures showing that boys have done progressively worse than girls in school since they started offering education on an equal basis?

It’s entirely possible, but as I understand it the reason boys tend to do worse than girls is, once you strip out all the euphemism, they’re less likely to listen and more likely to mess around. I suppose the current system could be resdesigned to suit both sexes roughly equally, but I’m not convinced that education has been improved for girls at boys’ expense.

33. Chaise Guevara

* Paul

I should clarify that when I say boys do worse because they mess around, I don’t mean to imply that they therefore deserve to do worse in school necessarily. What I meant is that messing around in class has probably always affected your grades, so I’m not sure why this would have surfaced as a problem recently.

34. Mr S. Pill

@29/31

OK, but why point out the staggeringly obvious fact that when barriers of prejudice are removed, people who previously benefited from that prejudice will no longer do so? And what about working class women? It’s like saying “clean air is good for you, companies that pollute the atmosphere won’t do as well with clean air legislation”. What’s the point of making such an observation?

Again, I question the motives here. Maybe I have an instinctive mistrust of Conservatives (I mistakenly referred to Willetts as a Lib Dem earlier,oops) but something about the very basis or necessity of this report smells very fishy.

35. Mr S. Pill

@Chaise

Also, it’s all very well blaming the Torygraph for spinning the story this way but there’s a reason Tory ministers brief their right-wing pals in the press – it’s to make an otherwise unremarkable report newsworthy. No surprise they went with this angle, and the Tories will be very pleased that much attention has been focussed on it. It’s excellent ammunition for anti-feminists to pretend they have the interests of the working class at heart.

The increase in the service and retail industries has played no mean part in promoting the rise in female (working-class) numbers compared to males. Short-term, part-time contracts and low-pay (minimum wage) means that either employees are part of a working family and/or they have children and can apply for tax credits.
This tends to preclude young single males (unless they are part of a working family) but imo, employers tend to discriminate against that sex and age group for whatever reason.
13
Surprisingly. in my part of the world (South Yorkshire), many ex-miners are doing jobs which were traditionally thought of as women’s work, so I suppose that might be regarded as positive, although taking those jobs means there are less available for women. Swings and roundabouts I suppose.

37. Chaise Guevara

@ 34 S The Pill

“OK, but why point out the staggeringly obvious fact that when barriers of prejudice are removed, people who previously benefited from that prejudice will no longer do so?”

Obviously there’s no need to point out that women will do better without anti-female prejudice. It may, however, be necessary to point out that removing anti-female prejudice could slow down class mobility if the two things happened at about the same time. I have to admit that it hadn’t occurred to me before I read this article.

“And what about working class women?”

Given the way the Telegraph and this article have decided to play this story, I’d really like to wait until the report comes out to make a full judgment here. But I think what we’re looking at here is two possible progressive events – jobs taken by middle-class men now taken by middle-class women, or jobs taken by middle-class men now taken by working-class men. The third option – the jobs being taken by working-class women – would be a lot less likely to happen in the short-term because you have two barriers of prejudice to overcome.

Imagine a business owner who’s only ever employed middle-class men because he believes that they’re superior, but now has no choice but to broaden his employment base due to a lack of available workers. A middle-class woman, a working-class man and a working-class woman turn up for the job. Which of those will he NOT pick?

“Again, I question the motives here. Maybe I have an instinctive mistrust of Conservatives (I mistakenly referred to Willetts as a Lib Dem earlier,oops) but something about the very basis or necessity of this report smells very fishy.”

That’s the thing – I DEFINITELY have a mistrust of the Tories, but this story isn’t setting off any alarm bells for me.

38. Chaise Guevara

@ 35

“Also, it’s all very well blaming the Torygraph for spinning the story this way but there’s a reason Tory ministers brief their right-wing pals in the press – it’s to make an otherwise unremarkable report newsworthy. ”

Interesting point – given that I think Willetts is being factually misrepresented in the article, it seems odd that it’s in the Telegraph rather than the Indy or the Mirror.

39. Chaise Guevara

*

Oh, and note that I’m defending Willetts, not the Tories.

40. Sevillista

@Mr S Pill

I thought the social mobility strategy was a Lib Dem enterprise and Clegg’s baby, but something that exercises Mr Willetts too (both personally and in his role of lobbying Osborne for cash for post-16 education)

I do share your scepticism that it will have little new in it (The Guardian have been reporting about a new ‘report card’ with 7 not-targets for improving social
mobility. But Alan Milburn will, I’m sure, be more than happy to criticise them in his role as social mobility tsar if they’re all talk.

41. Mr S. Pill

@Chaise & Sevillista

Good points, both of you – I think I’m going to hold my fire until reading the actual report for now… still have my reservations though.

Interesting post and I agree with much of what S Pill says. Middle class married women a few decades ago may have had all the advantages of a middle class lifestyle but in some cases might have felt unable to leave a marriage because to do so would lead to a decline in their social and economic status (and perhaps still does)

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=470530&in_page_id=2

The nature of the (unpaid) work performed by such women and their possible lack of control over issues such as how money should be spent are also significant – superficially of course both husband and wife in a traditional marriage are of the same social class but perhaps there is a bit more to it than that. (Men in traditional marriages may have their own problems – but Willetts made me focus on the other side of the question!)

Biggest single factor sounds very dubious- how about the massive inequality in wages as a reason for declining social mobility?

But he’s right about feminism being a factor, and he doesn’t blame it.

@14: “Therefore, the whole premise of declining social mobility is wrong.”

Is it? Try the conclusion of this critique of the LSE research which depicted a condition of virtually stagnant social mobility in Britain:

“Overall, our analysis shows that while the chances of making a significant move up or down the earnings ladder remained low in the 1990s and 2000s for those in their thirties and early forties,there was nonetheless a substantial improvement in the 2000s over the previous decade. We estimate that there was a 22 percent increase in the probability of moving significantly up the earnings distribution in the 2000s compared to the 1990s. However, this improvement in mobility was not evenly distributed, being concentrated in the middle and among men rather than women. The highest earners in the 2000s continued to be largely sheltered from downward mobility and those at the bottom were less far likely to move up a substantial distance than those in the middle. This continued lack of mobility at the extremes helps to explain why inequality persists, even while those in the middle were more likely to move up.”
http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/blog/2011/Mar/11/moving/

I’m not sure that those at the bottom and women will gain much comfort from that conclusion while those at the top will be greatly reassured.

45. Chaise Guevara

@ 44 Bob B

Hang on. Message absolutely received about the gender inbalance, but the rest of the quote doesn’t make sense. If there’s lots of upward mobility but not much downward mobility at the top, doesn’t that just mean that people overall are doing better?

@45: “If there’s lots of upward mobility but not much downward mobility at the top, doesn’t that just mean that people overall are doing better?”

I posted a direct quote – so don’t blame me. As I understand it, the claim is that those at the bottom of income heap stay there – as do those at the top. But there is significant upward movement within the middle as reflected in correlations between sibling and parental incomes at various points in time. The LSE research was claiming – to simplify – that correlations between sibling and parental incomes is higher for Britain than for a range of other affluent OECD countries thereby indicating stagnant social mobility.

As for whether people overall are better off with middle mobility, that depends on the perspective – those at the bottom stay there and there is presumably some glass ceiling over those in the middle which entrenches the position of those at the top.

A recurring policy issue with many UK market sectors is about entrenched concentrations of market power which stifle competitive rivalry – banking is only one example of this. It makes good sense to worry about this as it one the factors limiting social mobility.

47. namae nanka

“but I’m not convinced that education has been improved for girls at boys’ expense.”

http://www.angryharry.com/esStopHelpingBoys.htm

“but I’m not convinced that education has been improved for girls at boys’ expense.”

In mixed-sex classes in co-educational schools and when almost all the most outstanding average results at A-levels are attained in single-sex schools? And when girls as undergraduates are getting better average degree results than male undergrads?

It’s just rubbish to claim that girls in all those widely different contexts have improved at the expense of boys. It’s far more likely to be a question of differences in gender motivation and of dedication to study and of sharper focus. Girls don’t share the same diverting interests as boys in football and beer drinking, for starters. Good for them.

“Secondly, it’s entirely true that, as Willetts says, “women who would otherwise have been housewives had taken university places and well-paid jobs that could have gone to ambitious working-class men”. It’s entirely false to assume that these women were less deserving of these opportunities than any potential male applicants, and that their gender had any negative impact on social mobility.”

Perhaps that’s why he didn’t say women were less deserving of those opportunities. He merely stated the fact which, as you concede, is entirely true.

Willetts has stated some facts which may be uncomfortable, but he hasn’t gone on to call feminism A Bad Thing. Probably best, then, not to infer that he has.

I second the idea that Willetts has been unfairly castigated based on Telegraph shit-stirring. Firstly, he seems to be focussing on income inequality. Secondly, most what he has said seems to be relatively uncontroversial.

1. That middle and working class women have benefitted from the expansion of higher education more than working class men.

2. That university educated women are more likely to marry university educated men.

3. That a liberated university educated woman is more likely to work.

4. That a family with two employed graduates will have more money than a family with no graduates.

Additionally, he appears to have ignored the fact that this movement occurred simultaneously with a decline in the number and pay of jobs which didn’t require a degree.

Does anyone here dispute these points?

In which case is it not better to engage with what he actually said rather than what people have made up? Do you actually think that a) Willetts hates feminists? b) he’d be stupid enough to say so to the media? OR is it more likely that the Telegraph, which hates the coalition, has stitched up Willetts by distorting his argument?

I doubt that we fully appreciate the significance of this social trend:

“40 per cent of the graduate women were childless at age 35. . . researchers forecast that by the time they reach the likely end of their child-bearing years at 45, about 30 per cent will still be childless.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1549297/Third-of-graduate-women-will-be-childless.html

CG @ 32/33

The evidence has been around for 10 years or so. See this 2002 BBC report:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/2208547.stm

Yes, boys mess around more in class, but the point is why? And I was pointing to the feminisation of the school environment….

As many parents know, boys and girls require different types of discipline – girls are more cooperative, boys are more aggressive.

Female teachers (who are in the majority, in primary schools, anyway) may be less able to control and discipline boys than male teachers.

Boys as risk-takers do better in long ‘one-off’ examinations; girls, usually more diligent, do better with continuous assessment.

More boys than girls are at the top and bottom of the ability range; and teachers seem to find both very bright and very dim pupils harder work, so inevitably they focus on the average pupils (where small improvements give the best results in the league tables) and these pupils tend to be disproportionately girls.

Other factors could be… the obsession with health and safety in schools which often prevents boys in particular experiencing the significant physical challenges that seem to boost their self-esteem…the distaste for competitive and contact sports in some schools might also make schools places that boys find it hard to identify with…the fear of sexual stereotyping that leads to boys having to study domestic science and girls having to do metalwork (when they could be offered the same opportunities but be left to choose) might affect boys differently to girls…

Treating people with different needs “equally” leads to unfairness; and boys and girls have different needs in education.

53. Chaise Guevara

47. namae nanka

Namae, that site written entirely in green ink. Observe: http://www.angryharry.com/nobenefitsoffeminism.htm

54. Chaise Guevara

@52 Paul

Interesting considerations. I’d still like to see evidence that this is a growing problem, though,

Not sure this is the best argument against his position. He has identified a mechanism that may well be happening in which new ‘good’ jobs stay within a certain social strata (though I don’t know if he actually has the data for this and whether the worst social immobility really happened at the time of greater female success in the workforce), and so perhaps middle class women have done better than working class men.

However, this is a *symptom* of poor social mobility – the aim of gender equality should be taken as a given, and the failure of both working class men and women to get ‘good’ jobs is clearly a result not of greater gender equality but of poor social mobility across all genders.

Symptom, not cause. That’s what we should be saying.

Two Brains – he has one brain in his head and other one up his arse.

I theng yew!

52
Female primary school teachers have always outweighed males, from the beginning, teaching small children was always considered to belong to the ‘female gender’ as was nursing.
The ‘feminization of the school environment’ also needs explaination, are you referring to the increase in female teachers, which has not happened at primary level. Or do you mean that schools are now reflecting subject skills which was once considered to belong to the ‘female gender’ eg IT and keyboarding.
The play environment has also changed considerably for boys with most past-times devoted to digital technology rather than kicking around a ball in a playground or, if you were lucky, a quiet cul-de-sac. And I did domestic science at school (in the 60s)
The traditional male working-class environment has long gone and it’s taking a time for the culture to change in many areas which supported heavy industries. It’s not helped by the mass unemployment caused by the demise of those industries either.
As for working-class women, there is now a need to work in said areas rather than for ‘a bit of pin money’, have they progressed or regressed, depends on your values, being forced to work for survival or working as a life choice instead of having the ability to choose to become a full-time mother.

58. Richard W

The reality is the great expansion of further and higher education over the last forty years has been a middle class subsidy and working class males have been asked through their taxes to contribute to the system that does benefit them. There is no argument against females of every class having the same opportunities as males. However, working class males should not be asked to pay for an education system that offers them so little in return. For many millions of working class males the eleven years of school are the worst years of their entire life. They could never return to school after about aged twelve and for many they would be no worse off than they are at sixteen. So the education system for millions is a spectacular waste of money. Is that boys, working class male culture, a changed economy where they are struggling to adapt or the education system to blame?

Who could stand against this tidal wave?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCtGkCg7trY

@58: “However, working class males should not be asked to pay for an education system that offers them so little in return.”

C’mon. What exactly is preventing white working class males from striving to get uni entry grades at GCSE and A-Level? Football, beer drinking and peer-group pressures?

“Government figures show only 15% of white working class boys in England got five good GCSEs including maths and English last year. . . Poorer pupils from Indian and Chinese backgrounds fared much better – with 36% and 52% making that grade respectively.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7220683.stm

“Though white children in general do better than most minorities at school, poor ones come bottom of the league (see chart). Even black Caribbean boys, the subject of any number of initiatives, do better at GCSEs”
http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14700670

60. Richard W

There is nothing preventing them getting the grades and attending other than one sixth of the population do not have the mental capacity to understand a moderately complicated government form. However, they are still being asked to pay for others to attend. All your figures prove is my point that millions would be no worse off if they left school at twelve.

CG @ 54: Does it have to be a “growing” problem, or just a problem before we act? I believe it’s a problem: whether growing I cannot immediately say. Having raised the attainment of girls, we surely cannot allow boys – or even a significant social segment of boys – to slip (too far) behind. As a nation, we need all the talent we can get to compete in the 21stC, so we must maximise the educational achievement of both sexes. The only question in my mind is: how?

steveb @ 57: Teaching is increasingly a female profession. Yes, primary was always dominated by women; but it is now, I believe, some 98% female – which was not the case in my primary schools.

And, yes, when I refer to the feminisation of schools, I mean the predominance of women teachers, the subsequent female (often caring but risk-averse) ethos, the introduction into the curriculum of female-friendly subjects and female-friendly methods of assessment…But, please, don’t think I’m anti-woman or against women in education…these matters are ones of balance and often very fine judgement!

I think it is a mistake to treat both boys and girls the same at school, as they are different (though neither neither male nor female is overall inferior/superior, but both sexes tend to excel in certain areas…). So I disagree with the OP, who says:
“Treating men and women equally is the first step to greater social mobility, not a barrier to it.”

******************
“The supposedly-brainy David Willetts has really got this one wrong.”…Btw, I loathe this idea that only people who agree with ‘my’ opinion are intelligent and that everyone who disagrees with ‘me’ is thick! It’s so tiresome and so utterly stupid! Of course, Willetts is intelligent; but, being human, he has his blindspots. Don’t we all? David Cameron and Ed Milliband both say stupid things occasionally; but neither is stupid! Tim Worstall and Chris Dillow are both wrong occasionally; but both are highly intelligent…

@60

C’mon. But why aren’t working class girls and poor kids from ethnic backgrounds (ie those who qualify for free school meals) held back from getting better exam grades to the same extent as white working class boys?

All those groups come from similar neighbourhood environments. It’s cultural factors holding white working class youth – the same neighbourhood values that Orwell portrayed in: The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) – see the quote and link @2 above.

As many can report, sentiments and neighbourhood values such as those portrayed by Orwell still prevail in many localities. And recall the words of that old popular Sunday-school hymn: All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small . .

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
He made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.
http://www.lyricstime.com/hymn-all-things-bright-and-beautiful-lyrics.html

As for why white working class males should continue to pay their taxes, well I pay taxes to enable British governments to maintain the fourth largest military budget in the world and to finance the Libya circus.

Single sex schools and treating the diversity of gender with sensitivity is the key. Counter intuitive but boys taught by men grow up to be men.

Kevin/63: Actually, the opposite. The research that there is suggests that after controlling for other factors girls do academically better in single-sex schools, but boys do academically better in mixed schools. (There are indeed some extremely high performing single-sex boys’ schools … they’re also extremely exclusive and expensive private schools, so you’re not comparing like with like)

Chaise/54: For what it’s worth, girls (and indeed women at degree level) have been improving faster than boys (and men) in academic results pretty consistently over the last four decades. (Though this is an average, and there is massive variance by subject, especially at degree level)

Whether this is a “problem” depends on your point of view – this supposed “feminisation” of primary and secondary education has also improved boys’ results, so it’s hard to argue that it’s actually harmed them.

I suspect the answers to the underperformance of white working class boys are not necessarily to be found within the education system, but in wider cultural shifts. And they’re to a large extent outside of government – or indeed straightforward – control.

I’m pretty sure the imbalance toward female teachers in primary schools has more to do with pedophile hysteria than anything else.

Also, if we’re going off of wealth as a measure of class surely the massive fuck-off huge dearth of well paying jobs might have a tiny thing to do with it. Seriously, it’s not like our nation is really crying out for more engineers and physicists now is it? In more sensible nations perhaps, but not here. We do have a right wing that wants more educated in those disciplies, but of course without the jobs waiting for them it is largely good money and a smart graduate down the drain, well, sommerfield et al anyway…
Nepotism will see to ensure that those few decent paying jobs don’t end up in the hands of well-performing-at-school oiks anyway. Without fuckwitted children of the upper classes being able to end up at McDonalds you won’t be able to see overly-bright children from council estates reaching their full potential either.

Caveat: except for the odd few who will of course be held up as vindicating the entire system.

“Counter intuitive but boys taught by men grow up to be men.”

Yeah – but when I read the news, I’m unconvinced as to why I should esteem those “manly” virtues – I’ve never played football in my life and was only once ever persuaded to pay good money to watch a (totally boring) professional football match. My youthful game was rugby – which btw is one of the most dangerous of the field team sports. By comparison, everything else seems a bit tame.

Besides, no one has explained just why it is that white working class boys are so psychologically and socially hampered by having women teachers while the poor kids from ethnic backgrounds aren’t.

It’s not that I think women teachers are especially good or bad at teaching – it’s labour market pressures which push women into teaching. Besides, my experience of male teachers in an all-boys selective school is that some were serious nut cases in ways that seem to differentially afflict men more than women.

67. Richard W

” C’mon. But why aren’t working class girls and poor kids from ethnic backgrounds (ie those who qualify for free school meals) held back from getting better exam grades to the same extent as white working class boys? ”

Hmm, difficult one. Maybe because they are smarter. You do know everyone is not born with the same IQ?

” As for why white working class males should continue to pay their taxes, well I pay taxes to enable British governments to maintain the fourth largest military budget in the world and to finance the Libya circus. ”

Paying taxes to the state for things like defence that benefits everyone is different from paying taxes for things that benefit the recipient. There is no Libya budget as the UN reimburses the cost. I am sure working class males are reassured that the police officer who arrested them, the prosecutor who prosecuted them, the judge who judged them is a graduate. Just think how much worse their lives would be if the bank who writes to tell them they are overdrawn or the council who tells them they are make too noise were not full of graduates. Working class males should just pay up and be grateful that their lives are so enhanced.

@66: “Working class males should just pay up and be grateful that their lives are so enhanced.”

The problem of low-achieving male youth is typically associated with white working class youth, not with youth from other ethnic backgrounds, as the research reported in the links @59 show. That connects with Orwell’s portrayal of neighbourhood values back in the mid 1930s when any representatives of ethnic minorities in working class localities up north were extremely rare.

I don’t think it’s widely appreciated that there was some working class support for the old 11+ selection and for retaining grammar schools from folk who knew that was the only escape route for their kids from the damaging influence of neighbourhood peer-group pressures. Sadly, only 164 grammar schools now remain. Why have they retained the academic lycées in France and gymnasiums in the prosperous south German länder?

It was a highly instructive personal experience going on an exchange visit to an all-boys lycée in France in the early 1950s: no school uniform, no school assemblies for “an act of worship”, some women teachers – all with agrégé diplomas, naturally, no RE classes, no corporal punishment, no organised school sports – Wednesday afternoons were left free of classes in case any students wanted to go off and do sport. All that ran and runs completely counter to what is still upheld as the essential features of a “good” school here. We really do need to look over the barricade from time to time to compare how they do things in other west European countries.

When I last looked, the Netherlands in western Europe had the highest percentage of graduates in the adult population – it also has one of the highest rates of labour productivity in industry.

68
Although there is support for the old grammar system (by all classes), the first point you make with regard to neighbourhood culture is the strongest argument.
Like many of my friends from a northern council estate, I passed the 11+ and like many of those boys I decided to work as a miner, although I did do day release and qualify as a fitter.
The problem is. culture plus unemployment equals no motivation.

Kevin @ 63: “Single sex schools and treating the diversity of gender with sensitivity is the key. Counter intuitive but boys taught by men grow up to be men.”
Perhaps; but, perhaps, only teaching certain subjects in single-sex classes?

cim@64: “this supposed “feminisation” of primary and secondary education has also improved boys’ results”.

Hmmmm…not convinced, once we allow for grade inflation. Girls are streaking ahead at all levels, when I would expect broadly similar levels of attainment between the sexes, even allowing for their differnet subject preferences. OK, not feminisation of the education, perhaps; but then, why???….

“I suspect the answers to the underperformance of white working class boys are not necessarily to be found within the education system, but in wider cultural shifts. And they’re to a large extent outside of government…”

Agreed, many things are out of the control of government! But one can at least begin to identify the reasons why white working class boys under-achieve in school:

1. The white working class lost its appetite for self-improvement (through both formal and informal education) during the 20thC. (Why???) It clung on in mining communities, while they existed. Meanwhile, the WEA wained; and the market for cheap editions of the classics for the working class largely disappeared – by which time they were no longer interested.

2. Family breakdown: all the evidence shows that children from stable partnerships/marriages do much better in education and in life than children brought up in unstable families (the underclass) . (How can this be rectified in a liberal society???) Meanwhile, much evidence suggests that boys often suffer more from family breakdown, which leads us to…

3. The feminisation of education: Which means that most boys from a disadvantaged and broken homes may not even see a male role-model until they are at least 11 — and often much later, by which time it is perhaps too late….So they are inadequately ‘socialised’…and the results are… low achievement, vandalism, crime, drugs…??

I have no ready answers; and if you do, I will be sceptical. But debate is good…

71. Richard W

@ 68. Bob B

Does not look like the German, French or Netherlands economy is as productive as the British economy to me. Where the Netherlands productivity does well is capturing income from productivity for workers. Good on them. The labourer is worthy of his hire and all that.

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/6/3/40605524.pdf

The OECD report only goes up to 2006. Therefore, it will obviously be out of date. With currently a large output gap in the economy we will need a few years before knowing accurately the state of the supply side of the economy. However, the education system is our problem not private sector productivity.

It is easy to blame the victims of the system. I would prefer to say you know what, it is maybe the education system that is failing working class boys rather than them failing the system. The British education system goes from producing excellence to failing millions and working class boys are the main sufferers of those failings. I would think it sensible for the system to adapt to them rather than asking them to conform to the system when they are quite clearly unable to do so. As I said previously, many of them could leave as soon as they learned to read, write and count and be no worse off.

72. Matt Munro

“The universities minister claims that the rise of feminism has ‘held back working class men’. Why exactly does he imagine this is a bad thing?”

Well it isn’t if you are a middle class woman who wants to fill the 15 years between finishing education and finding Mr Right with “a career”. The problem is that most of these “career” are what used to be called admin jobs and don’t really need a degree, hence a lot of public money is being used educating people who don’t add anything to GDP. At the same time the working and lower middle class who used to do these jobs are being blocked by all the girle fast streamers playing at being career girls with their worthless degrees. So the middle classes get subisdised jobs, working class men do menial jobs or are uneployed. Pretty much the opposite of social mobility by any definition.

73. Matt Munro

“If there are now more women in full-time employment (and there are – last month there were nearly a million men out of work compared with fewer than half the number of women)”

You cannot deduce gender unemployment directly from the numbers of people “in employment”, especially when a quarter of women neither work nor claim benefits, hence are 100% dependent on men for money.
In general the changes in female working patterns are not as dramatic as you and many feminsts like to pretend. In the 1970s, 60% of women worked, now it’s 70%. Working class women have always worked, feminism only ever benefited middle class women who wanted “choices”

@70: “1. The white working class lost its appetite for self-improvement (through both formal and informal education) during the 20thC. (Why???) It clung on in mining communities, while they existed. Meanwhile, the WEA wained; and the market for cheap editions of the classics for the working class largely disappeared – by which time they were no longer interested.”

That’s true about mining communities – hence the outstanding colliery bands, for example. It’s also true about the trend decline in the appetite for self-improvement as instanced by the decline in enrollments for adult evening classes in general, not just WEA classes. LEA adult education has mostly mutated to basic courses in adult literacy, foreign languages, DIY computer use and hobbies. And the participation fees have shot up.

I suspect there are many and varied contributing causes: in several international comparisons, Brits spend more time watching TV than elsewhere in W Europe; the money pumped into professional football in Britain by satellite TV is a powerful distracting influence; the internet is a wonderful educational resource for those who know how to make use of it; applications for the Open University are booming.

The decision by the Major government to instantly transform all polythechnics into supposedly fully-fledged universities was a mistake IMO.The tradition of polies was to maintain (valuable) part-time courses in science and technical subjects and that got scrapped in the pursuit of all sorts of dubious full-time arts and humanities degree courses to support fragile visions of true university status. Men who had skipped out on schooling and formal high education as a result certainly lost out.

In the run up to the 1997, Gordon Brown was ferociously touting around the vision of an online University for Industry (UfI) to fill recognised gaps in the technical skills industry needed but Blunkett, as education minister 1997-2001, fumbled around and nothing came of that:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4311791.stm

As best I can gather from afar, many universities in America offer part-time masters courses but little comparable is available here.

75. the a&e charge nurse

“Girls and boys alike need a culture of positive reinforcement in schools, a wide range of academic and vocational opportunities available once they leave school, and support for when they come to apply for jobs or want to set up their own business” – dream on – such sentiments sound lovely but sadly bear almost no semblance of reality.

Nowadays men and women drive themselves near mad competing in an employment market that statistically is made up of unrewarding and modestly paid jobs – a fact unlikely to change any time soon?
Perhaps it’s one the reasons why the care of more and more very young children (3 and under) are being outsourced to souless day care facilities?

As for those who aspire to a Uni education it is worth keeping in mind that debts associated with higher education are edging toward £80k once interest repayments are factored into the equation.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8049300/Lord-Browne-review-student-debt-could-soar-to-80000.html

Bob B@ 74:

” Brits spend more time watching TV than elsewhere in W Europe; the money pumped into professional football in Britain by satellite TV is a powerful distracting influence;”

Yes……..But what is symptom and what is cause?

Does TV/football make people stupid? Or do stupid people watch TV/football?

And , if the latter, what ‘made’ them stupid in the first place?

Poor genes? Broken homes? Inadequate education?….

Answers on a postcard, please; because I don’t know.

77. Matt Munro

1. The white working class lost its appetite for self-improvement (through both formal and informal education) during the 20thC. (Why???)

Because the social and economic forces that drove that self-improvement disappeared and got replaced with a welfare culture that de-valued low paid work, de-stigmatised unemployment and replaced it with an entitlement culture, so the biggest motivator for self improvement disppeared. Throw in de-industrialisation and the sustained attack on white working class culture and it’s not hard to see why many just threw in the towel. They deduced, quite correctly, that middle class liberals were laughing at them, and said f**k you in response

@71: “Does not look like the German, French or Netherlands economy is as productive as the British economy to me. Where the Netherlands productivity does well is capturing income from productivity for workers. Good on them. The labourer is worthy of his hire and all that.”

I’m admittedly behind in the productivity comparisons literature – partly because much of the latest professional literature has pay barriers which are not affordable by mere pensioners like me.

It matters greatly whether the comparisons are made over national populations, or per person employed, or per hour worked. Hence:

The Netherlands ranked third in the most recent global productivity ranking by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, behind Luxembourg and Norway and just ahead of the United States. [July 2010]
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/e-zines/trade-by-numbers/the-dutch-are-better-at-productivity-than-soccer/article1649502/

Dutch productivity per hour is among the highest in the world, but due to the low number of working hours, Dutch productivity per work year is less impressive.
http://www.justlanded.com/english/Netherlands/Articles/Jobs/Labor-Productivity

In OECD comparisons using pre-crisis GDP per head, Britain was doing well because our relatively large financial services sector was in a boom – to the extent of challenging the supremacy of New York as the leading global financial centre. But now, after the crisis, we are supposedly trying to “rebalance” the economy by reducing the importance of financial services and increasing the weight of manufacturing industry. Hence, industrial productivity matters for competitiveness while (knowledge) skills and capital investment are the main influences on productivity.

“The British education system goes from producing excellence to failing millions and working class boys are the main sufferers of those failings.”

But it’s not failing the girls or the boys from ethnic minorities to anything like the same extent, which make me wonder about the baleful influence of those perennial white working class macho values: booze and football. Heaven help us if we have to elevate our national esteem for booze and football. The booze has already dramatically pushed up mortality rates from alcohol-related causes and we are not
even good at football to judge from international tournaments.

There has also been a considerable change in the jobs market over the past two decades, where once occupations, professions and trades remained basically the same there was far more certainity in making choices at eg the age of sixtieen.
I also tend to agree that we didn’t need so many people with degrees, however, I’m a great believer in education for its’ own sake (yes I know we can’t afford such luxury)
At the other side of the argument about working-class boys, there once was a culture of education and the acquiring of knowledge for its’ own sake. Many of the unions. which represented the heavy industries, would subsidize education, up to degree standard, for a number of its’ members.

80. Richard W

@ 78. Bob B

Bob did you actually read the OECD or did you just Google to see what the media said and came up with a Canadian newspaper? Asking the media to explain productivity is like asking them to explain nuclear physics. They latch onto a headline without realising what they are speaking about. Norway has a huge energy sector. Luxembourg has a massive proportion of the workforce who do not live in the country, they travel over the border from other countries to work in Luxembourg. The Netherlands has a huge gas sector and are Europe’s transport hub. The rankings do not mean what you or the Globe think they mean.

If you read the report you will see that every sector of the British economy is more productive than Germany, The Netherlands and France, not just financial services. British manufacturing is more productive than German manufacturing. The only German and French manufacturers who are slightly more productive are large employers vis-a-vis British large employers. Your preconceived ideas are woefully out of date. Without a doubt we could do better and no one would deny that obvious truism. However, the point I am trying to get across is we do well for some people and produce excellence, but leave many behind. Indulging in whataboutery is in reality blaming the victims. There are plenty of opportunities for young working class males if they leave the education system with the right technical training. However, the education system is failing them and the fact that it does not fail others is neither here nor there.

@80: “The rankings do not mean what you or the Globe think they mean.”

Really?

The first time I came upon information about the relatively high industrial productivity in the Netherlands per hour worked was in a paper by Prof Mary O’Mahoney, one of the rated experts on productivity data. That initially surprised me, which is why I remembered it. Unfortunately, the paper is no longer accessible online.

However, I found this from the (?authoritative) OECD database which for 2009 puts GDP per hour worked in the Netherlands as virtually on par with the USA:
http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DatasetCode=LEVEL

By contrast, according to this same source, the UK only rated at 80 per cent of American GDP per hour worked.

I readily concede Luxembourg, which is something of a tax haven, is an aberration.

You will need to try harder next time.

” I readily concede Luxembourg, which is something of a tax haven, is an aberration.

You will need to try harder next time.

You will need to try harder next time. ”

LOL, priceless. You really do not have a clue what you are speaking about and data mining is just proving it. Luxembourg does not have a high GDP per capita because it is a tax haven. Luxembourg figures are distorted because so many of the workforce travel over the border from surrounding countries. That means their work in Luxembourg is counted in the GDP of Luxembourg. However, they are not counted as part of the Luxembourg population giving a highly distorted figure.

” GDP per hour worked in the Netherlands as virtually on par with the USA: ”

Here is a clue, Bob. It is energy, namely gas. It is not multi-factor productivity as can be seen in the OECD report. Qatar has nearly twice the GDP per capita than the US. I bet they have have GDP per hour worked.

@82: “Here is a clue, Bob. It is energy, namely gas. It is not multi-factor productivity as can be seen in the OECD report. Qatar has nearly twice the GDP per capita than the US. I bet they have have GDP per hour worked.”

I’m relying on assessments of labour productivity in the Netherlands, relative to that of the US, by Prof O’Mahoney and from the OECD productivity database.

The UK has North Sea Oil and financial services but the OECD database only rates UK productivity per hour worked at 80 pc of the US.

Notice that according to the OECD database, Belgium also rates well by the US standard but then Belgium has the EU Commission and NATO HQ.

UK productivity compared with other G7 countries comes out pretty miserably from comparisons by the UK’s own Office of National Statistics – despite the UK’s financial services boom and North Sea Oil:
http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=160

But the G7 doesn’t include the Netherlands, which isn’t included there.

These are the official EU figures for labour productivity per person employed (NB not per hour worked) – again the Netherlands comes out better than the UK:
http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&plugin=1&language=en&pcode=tsieb030

We have this wiki entry for productivity per hour worked which again ranks the Netherlands near the top:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_hour_worked

For all that, I feel very confident that you will continue to want to have it your way.

84. Richard W

Bob you are confirmation that absolutely no one changes their preconceived ideas nowadays no matter what the evidence.

Great, so you choose 2009 when the UK was in the deepest recession since the 1930s for your data point. Have you any idea how dense that is? Did you not have a look at the notes below?

” The International Comparisons of Productivity Statistical Bulletin also documents productivity growth since 1991 for the G7 countries. In terms of GDP per worker, UK productivity increased by 40 percentage points between 1991 and 2007, the fastest of all G7 countries. However, UK GDP per worker fell by 6 percentage points between 2007 and 2009. Similar falls in GDP per worker occurred in Germany, Italy and Japan. The US was the only country of the G7 to experience an increase in GDP per worker over the past two years.
GDP per hour worked: growth since 1991

In terms of GDP per hour worked, UK productivity grew by 44 percentage points between 1991 and 2009, the fastest of all G7 countries. However, growth patterns in recent years have changed: in 2009, the UK experienced the largest fall in GDP per hour worked of the G7 countries. ”

I gave you the comprehensive OECD report that measures every part of multi-factor productivity. You choose to ignore 90% of the report and focus in on GDP per worker. Are you incapable of understanding how large energy sectors distort that measure? Your eurostat data is just adding GDP and dividing by workers. Does it not strike you as strange when the likes of Luxembourg come out with a figure in the 170s? I’ve already told you why. Look, if you had an island somewhere with one worker picking coconuts with X productivity. He discovers a gold mine and starts picking gold nuggets. His productivity goes through the roof. The same dynamic occurs with nations with large energy sectors. That is what happens when you just crudely divide GDP by workers without looking at the whole picture.

85. Chaise Guevara

@ 61 Paul

“Does it have to be a “growing” problem, or just a problem before we act?”

The latter. The only reason I’m banging on about whether or not it’s a growing problem is people tend to make knee-jerk assumptions along the lines of “things aren’t as good as they were in the old days”. If you’re not doing that then I agree that it’s not particularly important whether or not this is a new problem.

“I believe it’s a problem: whether growing I cannot immediately say. Having raised the attainment of girls, we surely cannot allow boys – or even a significant social segment of boys – to slip (too far) behind. As a nation, we need all the talent we can get to compete in the 21stC, so we must maximise the educational achievement of both sexes. The only question in my mind is: how?”

To me, the most important thing is fairness. If we have a bad system that is biased against boys, we need to fix that. If we have a good system and boys just tend to be less good pupils on average, it seems unfair to change the system to “punish” girls for doing too well (and helping boys would harm girls even if the lessons stayed as effective for girls, because GCSE grades are based on overall results).

I don’t think the fact that girls do better than boys at school automatically means we have a bad school system. It does, however, mean that the system should be looked at.

“Bob you are confirmation that absolutely no one changes their preconceived ideas nowadays no matter what the evidence.”

Dear Richard – I’ve posted link after link to mostly official sources showing that the Netherlands is pretty close to the top of the international league in labour productivty per hour – which has been my position all along and which you have repeated dismissed. The official sources posted and the evidence support me, not you.

The Netherlands – with its population of c.15m – is a great deal more than just North Sea gas reserves and a transport hub. There’s the Netherland’s part of internationally renown companies such as Shell, Unilever and also Philips, to which we owe the CD optical disc as an outcome of a collaborative venture with Sony going back to 1979:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_Disc


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