UK Data Service Data Impact Fellows 2023: Daniel Muir

Daniel Muir We are delighted to announce Daniel Muir as one of our Data Impact Fellows for 2023. In this post Daniel shares a bit about his background, his current work and research and what he hopes to get out of the Fellows scheme.

About me and my background

I am a Research Economist (Fellow) at the Institute for Employment Studies, an independent, apolitical, international centre of research and consultancy in public employment policy and HR management. I joined the institute in September 2021 after studying Economics at Durham University and the University of Bristol. For my masters at the latter, I chose to specialise in public policy evaluation, taking courses on experimental and quasi-experimental design methods. I also elected to study modules on labour economics and the economics of education, as these are the fields I find most interesting and where I believe well designed and evidenced policies can offer the most benefit to people in need in our society.

My research

In my professional career, I have worked across a wide range of research projects that look directly at poverty, deprivation and the cost of living/ working crisis, several of which used/ use data from the UK Data Service collection.

One of these analysed the potential impact of quality part-time work on poverty, which used the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and Family Resources Survey (FRS). One of, if not the, key labour market challenge the UK has been facing since the pandemic is the inactivity crisis – economic inactivity is significantly higher than before the pandemic began (particularly due to long-term ill health – 325,000 higher than pre-pandemic). Combined with high levels of vacancies, this labour market tightness has contributed to the cost-of-living crisis through a classic wage-price spiral, low economic growth as production and productivity are being constrained by labour shortages, and a rise in worklessness – a key cause of poverty.

There is thus a need to support those that have remained outside of the labour market since the start of the pandemic that want to return to economic activity do so. Policy changes are one part of the puzzle; but employers must also appreciate that flexible working arrangements, including part-time employment, are a necessary requirement for some individuals to be able to manage their life circumstances alongside re-entering the labour market.

Additionally, the cost-of-living crisis, particularly the rising cost of travel, means that flexibility needs to be accompanied by sufficient pay to cover the additional costs associated with working. ‘Quality’ part-time jobs could offer both the flexibility and incentives necessary to improve labour market participation and combat the crises we are facing.

The analysis conducted focussed on three population groups that can arguably benefit most from flexible working arrangements such as part-time employment – parents, disabled individuals and older workers. We estimated the demand for quality part-time work (defined as paying £11.17 per hour using the minimum income standards reports and the LFS), supply of individuals with sufficient qualifications (NQF Level 2) to expect to earn above this pay threshold (estimating potential unsatisfied demand equal to 521,000), and the effect of entering quality part-time employment on poverty rates based on the HBAI threshold (poverty amongst workless single parent households falls from 70% to 10%). For more information, see this blog I wrote summarising our analysis.

Other projects I have worked on look into the root causes of these issues, including poor quality employment and education opportunities, particularly amongst disadvantaged groups.

To support the launch of the Commission on the Future of Employment Support, I performed analysis of the LFS looking at the duration of worklessness, which is of more importance when considering poverty and deprivation. I found that economic inactivity is rising most among those who are long-term workless, suggesting that falling participation in the labour force is being driven by fewer people entering work – and so moving into longer-term worklessness – more than it is by people leaving work.

Additionally, growth in those out of work for the longest is being driven by long-term ill health – suggesting that those with long-term health conditions are not coming back into work to the same extent that they were before the pandemic.

I also analysed how the UK performs in terms of employment gaps for disadvantaged groups, particularly older people and disabled people, compared to our international peers. My analysis showed that if we could close just half of the gap to the best in Europe on these employment gaps, there would be 600 thousand more disabled people and 340 thousand more older people in work.

Other analyses I have performed looking at poverty, deprivation and the cost of living/ working crisis (either directly or their root causes) include:

  • how minimal wage increases combined with the cost-of-living crisis is affecting the nursing profession;
  • how the radius of search activity for job seekers has been affected by the cost of working crisis;
  • the financial position of students and how the cost-of-living crises has affected this.
  • the impact of summer programmes on at-risk and disadvantaged young people;
  • an intervention seeking to close the literacy gap in early years pupils;
  • a widening participation programme’s impact on access to higher education amongst disadvantaged groups;
  • whether remote/ home-working opportunities could help reduce regional inequalities
  • how the minimum wage affects the demand for labour in more automatable (lower paying and lower skilled) occupations.

My future plans

I am looking forward to increasing the knowledge and awareness of the work that my colleagues and I are performing, through the UKDS Data Impact Fellow scheme, looking into poverty, deprivation and the cost of living/ working crisis which has clear relevance and implications for policy, which is the ultimate motivation for me in my career – to affect policy change.

A potential future research project that I hope to be able to work on would link the CVs of job seekers and their accompanying job search data in order to perform various novel and highly policy-relevant work, including looking at how job search activity varies across workers in terms of skill level, employment history, location and other characteristics over time, stretching back to before the pandemic.

This work will also likely have a focus on the cost of working crisis and how this is affecting the catchment area job seekers look at vacancies within. To perform this analysis, I plan to attend courses on econometrics to develop knowledge of the methods required to perform said research.

Follow Daniel on Twitter: @daniel_muir_36

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