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Exclusion, Employment and Opportunity
A.B. Atkinson and John Hills
January 1998
Paper No' CASE 004:
Full Paper (pdf)

Tags: social exclusion; income mobility; employment; skills

The relationships between employment, education, opportunity, social exclusion and poverty are central to current policy debates. Atkinson argues that the concepts of poverty, unemployment and social exclusion are closely related, but are not the same. People may be poor without being socially excluded, and vice versa. Unemployment may cause poverty, but this can be prevented. Equally, marginal jobs do not ensure social inclusion. Britton argues that convential economic analysis misses a key part of the problem of unemployment: the role of work in providing self-esteem and non-material parts of human well-being. Hills examines whether new evidence on income mobility implies less worry about inequality and relative poverty. Some low income is transitory, but the 'poverty problem' discounting this remains 80-90 per cent of that shown by cross-section surveys. Machin finds that intergenerational mobility is limited in terms of earnings and education, and that childhood disadvantage has effects long into adult life and is an important factor in maintaining immobility of economic status across generations. Arulampalam and Booth suggest that there is a trade-off between expanding more marginal forms of employment and expanding the proportion of the workforce getting work-related training. Workers in temporary or short-term contracts, part-time, and non-unionised employment are less likely to receive work-related training. Green and colleagues compare 1986 and 1997 surveys to show that skill levels for British workers have been rising, not just in the qualifications needed to get jobs, but also in the skills actually used in them. There is no evidence of 'credentialism'.

A version of Ch.3 by Hills, with Karen Gardiner, was published as 'Policy implications of new data on income mobility', Economic Journal 109(453), 1999; A version of Ch.5 by Arulampalam and Booth was published as 'Training and Labour Market Flexibility: Is there a Trade-off?', The British Journal of Industrial Relations 36(4), 1998; Ch.6 by Green et al was published as 'Are British Workers Getting More Skilled?', in L. Borghans and A. de Grip (eds), The Over-Educated Worker? The Economics of Skill Utilisation, Edward Elgar, 2000