The rise of zero hours contracts shown graphically

Zero Hours Contracts Graph

Zero hours contracts have been in the news a lot over the past few months, and the government have been claiming economic success with more people in employment. But is this telling the whole story?

I grabbed the data from the ONS website and knocked up a quick graph. In 2013 there was a big jump of over 300,000 additional people on zero hours contracts. So these people may be off the unemployment register, but they are not in decent, secure full-time employment. Hardly the job creation miracle that some are claiming.

As ever if you want to check my work you can download the spreadsheet here.

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Feynman on Knowing versus Understanding

The title of this blog is a nod to something the great physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman once said. Here is a great clip one of his lectures where he talks about the difference between knowing and understanding. It gives a good insight into how a theoretical physicist can hold several different theories in their head to explain a phenomenon, but  not know which is the correct explanation.

He also gives a great example of ancient Mayan astronomers who were able to predict astronomical phenomena very accurately but had no underlying theory for what the physical reality that produced these phenomena, e.g. they did not know what the moon was but they could accurately predict its phases.

Please excuse his assumption that physicists are men – he was very much a product of a different time.

Sunday Gospel Corner: Bill Withers – Grandma’s Hands (live)

Bill Withers wrote the song Grandma’s Hands about his grandma (who had been born into slavery). Wikipedia says as a boy Withers would attend church with his grandmother, Lula, where she would sing and clap along with the hymns. He later said: “It was spontaneous singing, there was nothing programmed. People got up and sang and everybody would join in. It was my favourite kind of singing.”

So this track qualifies for Sunday Gospel Corner. The link above gives a live version of the song, which ends after about 2 minutes 20 seconds. But don’t stop the video there! There’s a great rendition of Use Me that follows, and it’s well worth a listen.

Weekly movement of the “Poll of Polls” updated to 18-02-15

Poll of Polls weekly movement - 180215

I’ve just updated my Poll of Polls for polls up to 18-02-15 and it can be found in the here. Above is the updated graph showing the weekly movement in the Poll of Polls.

If you want to download the spreadsheet that did this analysis go here. If you want to understand the methodology behind the “Poll of Polls” click here and scroll down to the bit that gives the description.

Poll of Polls now updated to 18-02-15 – no real change from last week

Poll of Polls - 180215

I’ve updated my “Poll of Polls” to include 12 more polls that were carried out since I did my last graph. The graphs now include the Greens as I now have data for them too.

This week we had two outliers polls that got a lot of people excited. One was from ICM for the Guardian that gave the Tories a 6 point lead. The other was from TNS BMRB who had a 7 point lead for Labour. Cue people being very naughty and cherry picking the polls that suited their narrative, and ignoring the other polls. But, given the other 10 polls that week were all very similar and showed little movement, the most likely explanation was that these two polls were outliers at the edge of the margin of error. Overall this Poll of Polls shows no real change from last week.

If you want to download the spreadsheet that did this analysis go here. If you want to understand the methodology behind the “Poll of Polls” click here and scroll down to the bit that gives the description.

How does UK tax revenue compare with other countries?

Tax in dollars per capitaWith all the controversy about tax avoidance and evasion I thought it would be interesting to see how the UK’s tax revenue compared with other countries. So I took a trip over to the OECD website, had a furtle about, found some data, downloaded it, and then did a couple of graphs. All figures are for 2013.

The graph above shows the tax revenue in dollars per capita. The UK is highlighted in blue. It shows that relative to other countries the per capita tax revenue is low.

The graph below shows tax revenue as a percentage of GDP. The UK is highlighted in blue. Again it shows that relative to other countries the tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is low.

Of course both of these grpahs would be significantly altered if the economies of the countries grow or contract significantly.  But they still give a good picture of the relative differences between countries.

Whether or not the relative low levels of tax revenue is due to a failure to tackle tax evasion is not clear. But what is clear, is that relatively speaking on these two measures, the UK is not a high tax country.

Tax as percentage of GDP