What will the public services we use look like in the future? The Serco Institute’s monthly digest – The Thoughts That Count – pulls together some of the best thinking on public services policy from across the world.
Polling for the Serco Institute conducted days before the April 24 run-off vote in the French presidential election finds that 76% of French voters feel public services should be a greater priority for policymakers in future. The poll furthermore indicates that over two-thirds (68%) of voters are in favour of the Government working with private sector organisations to deliver cost reductions and improvements to the quality of public services.
Social Issue Scorecard: The 2022 Elections – American Enterprise Institute (US)
This blog post by the AEI identifies some issues that may be of importance to voters in the 2022 midterm elections, and where Americans stand on these issues. These include abortion; marijuana legalisation; trans rights; immigration and Title 42; student loans; parents’ concerns over school curricula (e.g. critical race theory); and mask mandates.
Public service delivery and free riding: experimental evidence in India – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)
This working paper examines the trade-off between public service delivery and free riding in middle- to low-income countries, following a field experiment conducted in slum areas of two major Indian cities. Despite its use of case studies in India, the paper has broader implications for public service delivery, as it finds that top-down incentives for better service provision improve delivery and reduce non-payment of fees, but excludes a portion of service users, forcing them into free riding.
Budget 2022 fails to get federal finances back on track – Fraser Institute (Canada)
This analysis of the 2022 Canadian federal budget criticises Ottawa’s decision to spend much of the extra money generated from higher-than-expected federal revenues. The Fraser Institute argues that by sticking to spending plans announced in the April 2021 budget, the Trudeau Government could have reduced the projected 2022/23 deficit by 42% - by failing to do so, the Institute argues the Federal Government has failed to demonstrate ‘fiscal prudence’ and ‘restraint’ to move towards a more balanced budget.
A vision for tax reform in the 2020s – Bright Blue (UK)
This report makes recommendations for a new tax agenda in the 2020s which will tackle the key environmental, social and economic challenges of the coming decade.
As Energy Prices Skyrocket, Congress Must Return the Oil and Gas Industry’s Windfall Profits to the American People – Center for American Progress (US)
The CAP calls for Congress to enact a temporary windfall tax on oil and gas companies making record profits during the energy crisis, which several Democrat lawmakers have already attempted to introduce and which has the backing of 80% of Americans. It is estimated that if prices continue at their current elevated level for the rest of the year, such a windfall tax would generate $15-25 billion in revenue from just 10 of the largest oil companies.
Data brief: Economic records don’t match the election rhetoric – The McKell Institute (Australia)
As Australia gears up for a federal election in May, the McKell Institute examines claims made by the Australian Government about wage growth and tax, using historical data and forecasts used in the 2022/23 budget. It finds that despite Coalition Ministers’ claims that taxes, spending and debt are always higher under Labor, the present Coalition Government is the second-highest taxing Government of the past fifty years, and that the budget papers forecast that, if re-elected, it will become Australia’s highest-spending and most heavily indebted Government.
Three things to know about National Insurance contributions and the upcoming changes – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)
This explainer by the IFS sets out the 1.25-percentage-point rise in National Insurance contributions and the increase to the threshold at which National Insurance is paid. These changes, which came into effect on April 6, 2022, mean that those earning less than £35,000 will pay less in National Insurance in the 2022/23 fiscal year, while those earning above £35,000 will pay more.
Research Note: The rising cost of living for Kiwis – The New Zealand Institute (New Zealand)
This note finds that New Zealanders are already paying NZD 3,000 more on essentials than one year ago, and that inflation in New Zealand has already reached a 30-year high. With the New Zealand Government set to release a budget with an additional NZD 6 billion of new spending, the Initiative argues that this would only add ‘more fuel to the fire’ and lead to inflation becoming entrenched, and as such call upon Wellington to reconsider its spending commitments.
Stressed out – Resolution Foundation (UK)
The Resolution Foundation estimates that even with the Chancellor’s mitigating measures, five million households in England will be pushed into fuel stress (defined by spending 10% of income on energy bills). In view of this, the Foundation calls for the Chancellor to introduce deeper and more targeted measures in the short term than those set out in the Spring Statement, while drawing up longer-term plans to reduce energy waste and bring down energy bills.
The levelling outlook #5 – Centre for Progressive Policy (UK)
This edition of CPP’s regular levelling up outlook focuses on the cost of living crisis across the UK, and presents the results of a new index measuring vulnerability to the rising cost of living to highlight those parts of the country which will be hit hard by the crisis without further state intervention. This index takes into account a place’s relative risk of more people being pulled into poverty as well as the relative risk of those already struggling to make ends meet being pushed into destitution. It finds that the North of England, particularly areas such as Kingston upon Hull and Blackpool, will be especially hard hit by the rising cost of living, while the prevalence of low pay and economic inactivity in rural and coastal communities in England’s South and East mean areas such as Hastings, Thanet and Dover are also vulnerable. Furthermore, measures such as February’s council tax rebate disproportionately benefit wealthier areas at the expense of vulnerable ones, and as such CPP calls for greater immediate government support, such as increasing spending on Universal Credit.
Stepping up: public attitudes to addressing the cost of living crisis – Bright Blue (UK)
Polling by Bright Blue, conducted a week after the UK Chancellor chose not to uprate benefits in his Spring Statement, finds that public support for using the benefits system to maintain living standards is very high, but that the public is split on whether current financial support for benefit claimants is sufficient.
Social Security Lifts More People Above the Poverty Line Than Any Other Program – Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (US)
This report finds that Social Security benefits do more to lift people above the poverty line than any other welfare programme in the United States. With Social Security, just 9% of Americans aged 65+ have incomes below the official poverty line, compared to 37.8% without these benefits. Furthermore, 6.5 million under-18s (9% of all children in the US) lived in families receiving support from Social Security in 2020.
No-one left behind: Supporting people with complex needs on universal credit – Institute for Public Policy Research (UK)
As the conditions which Universal Credit claimants must be tailored to individual circumstances, work coaches are required to exercise discretion. This research paper examines the role of discretion as exercised by work coaches at Jobcentre Pluses in the experience of people claiming Universal Credit who are not in work.
The impacts of the 2021 expanded child tax credit on family employment, nutrition, and financial well-being – Brookings Institution (US)
The 2021 temporary expansion of the child tax credit helped lift 3.7 million children in the United States out of poverty as of December 2021. The Brookings Institution conducted surveys of a nationally representative group of US households eligible for the benefit and a comparator group of households not eligible for the credit, finding that eligible families used the funding for routine expenses without reducing employment. Eligible households experienced better nutrition, decreased reliance on credit cards, and made long-term educational investments for parents and children. These effects were especially notable among minorities and low- to middle-income households.
Child Tax Credit has a Critical Role in Helping Families Maintain Economic Stability – Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (US)
This blog post examines the impact of the child tax credit for low-income households receiving economic assistance. Among its key findings: income instability is felt disproportionately by African Americans, workers with fewer educational credentials, and households headed by unmarried workers; funding delivered through economic assistance programmes such as the child tax credit is usually used to complement rather than substitute earned income from wages; and strengthening the child tax credit and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families would help plug harmful gaps in welfare.
As the jobs recovery nears completion, it’s time to talk about job quality – Brookings Institution (US)
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has shown that the American economy added 431,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate fell to a historic low of 3.6%. However, despite this strong recovery from the Covid-19 recession, the Brookings Institution argues that persistent racial gaps, job gains in mostly lower-paying industries, and rising prices necessitates greater government intervention to ensure workers have decent jobs and pay.
Barriers to Labour Force Participation among Older Workers in Canada – Fraser Institute (Canada)
This paper assesses some of the barriers faced by older Canadians preventing them from participating in the workforce. These include, among many others: the tolerance of age discrimination relative to other forms of discrimination; a reduction in income from retirement pensions if receiving seniors also work in the labour market; and the retirement age not having been raised from 65 despite significant increases in life expectancy.
Labour Market Outlook Q1 2022 – Resolution Foundation (UK)
Unemployment fell to 3.9% in the first quarter of 2022: however, the Resolution Foundation cautions that the UK economy is not without its problems, as labour force participation has not returned to pre-pandemic levels and a recent rise in inactivity from people who are long-term sick. However, nominal pay growth remains strong (though not enough to offset inflation), and this thought piece explores how much of this wage growth is due to the recently ended furlough scheme.
March jobs report shows near return to pre-pandemic levels – except for workers on the sidelines of the economy – American Enterprise Institute (US)
The jobs report released by the US Department of Labor in late March shows the number of full-time employed Americans (132.7 million) was almost two million greater than in February 2020 (130.8 million). However, the employment-population ratio (60.1%) was still below what it had been in February 2020 (61.2%). Furthermore, elevated retirement meant the number of Americans on the sidelines of the US economy remained boosted relative to the pre-pandemic period.
Making flexible working the default – Trades Union Congress (UK)
This TUC report calls for flexible working to be made the default in all but the most exceptional circumstances. Such a move could help ensure women, disabled people and older people are more able to access work and stay in the workforce while fulfilling out-of-work obligations and managing long-term health and mobility issues. Having flexible working as the default principle would also help reduce barriers faced by working women, who are often forced into lower-paid part-time work owing to the lack of flexibility in workplaces.
Youth unemployment and the pandemic – The Australia Institute (Australia)
Young Australians, despite comprising only 14% of the workforce, made up 55% of job losses during the lockdowns of 2021. This report calls for long-term policies to protect and shore up the security of young people in the Australian labour market.
Job opportunities after the pandemic – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)
This briefing note reflects upon the current condition of the British labour market and whether the nature of the jobs demanded may change workers’ careers. It finds that vacancies have been 20% above pre-pandemic levels since autumn 2021 and the mix of vacancies is remarkably similar to what it was in 2019. However, there is evidence of a shift towards lower-paid and lower-skilled occupations. Job market opportunities have improved the most for low-educated workers.
What If the American Rescue Plan Act Premium Tax Credits Expire? – Urban Institute (US)
The American Rescue Plan Act increased premium tax credits (PTCs) for Marketplace coverage and greatly expanded eligibility for these credits. However, these provisions are due to expire after 2022. This report finds that, if the enhanced PTCs expire, 3.1 million more Americans will become uninsured, but that enhancing PTCs will increase the federal deficit by $305 billion over the next decade.
NHS Performance Summary: February-March 2022 – Nuffield Trust (UK)
In this monthly roundup of NHS performance data, the Nuffield Trust finds that: A&E waiting times have become the worst on record, with 28% of patients in March 2022 waiting four hours between arrival and admission, transfer or discharge; trolley waits reached record levels, with the number of patients waiting over 12 hours on a trolley increasing 12-fold between March 2021 and March 2022; the mean ambulance response time stood, at one hour one minute, three times longer than the 18-minute target; and that the number of patients waiting over a year for planned hospital treatment was 185 times higher in February 2022 than it had been in February 2020.
Health Care Access among California’s Farmworkers – Public Policy Institute of California (US)
This paper evaluates whether recent policies to extend health insurance to low-income adults and undocumented immigrants has improved insurance coverage among California’s farmworkers. Among its takeaways: cost of care or lack of insurance are the most salient barriers for farmworkers; many documented farmworkers have enrolled in California’s Medi-Cal programme since the Affordable Care Act expansion; but undocumented farmworkers have not benefited in the same way.
Comparing Canada’s health-care system with other countries, Part I: Availability of resources – Fraser Institute (Canada)
This first instalment in a blog series comparing Canada’s healthcare system with those of other countries compares the availability of medical resources in Canada to countries such as Germany and Switzerland. It finds that Canadians suffer from a lack of key medical resources: for instance, with regard to acute care beds, Canada ranked 25th out of 26 countries where data was available. With just two acute care beds per 1,000, Canada only had about a third as many beds as Germany (5.5), while Switzerland and France had 3 or more beds per 1,000. This comes despite Canada being ranked second out of 28 comparator countries in terms of healthcare spending as a proportion of GDP.
Five relationships that are essential to successfully managing the elective backlog – The King's Fund (UK)
Following on from a roundtable held by the King’s Fund before the UK Government published its national plan to tackle the NHS backlog, this blog post identifies five relationships which will be key to clearing the backlog. These are the relationships between: local areas and their neighbours; primary and secondary care; leaders and their workforce; NHS and patients; and local systems and their data.
Americans Will See Health Premiums Rise Sharply Unless Congress Acts Soon – Center for American Progress (US)
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) built on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to expand health coverage: as a result, 14.5 million people, a record high, were insured through the marketplaces by the end of 2021. This was done, in part, by increasing the generosity of and expanding eligibility for premium tax credits for health insurance marketplace coverage: ARPA subsidies lowered marketplace enrolees’ premiums by $59 per month, or $700 yearly. However, unless Congress takes action to prevent ARPA subsidies from expiring after 2022 as they are currently scheduled to, the CAP estimates 3 million people will lose their insurance.
This report makes a number of recommendations to address the severe impacts of the Covid pandemic on the mental health of young people in the UK. These include, amongst others, NHS England updating access and treatment targets; the Departments for Education and for Health & Social Care working together to roll out a standardised survey to assess wellbeing and mental health among young people at school; and PSHE being made a universal, timetabled lesson taught using a curriculum teaching social and emotional skills.
North Carolina Medicaid’s Transition to Risk-Based Managed Care – Urban Institute (US)
North Carolina’s Medicaid agency transitioned its 1.6 million beneficiaries to a risk-based managed care system in July 2021. The Urban Institute is examining this transition and how it may have affected equitable health outcomes for residents of North Carolina.
The care crisis won’t be solved with tax cuts – New Economics Foundation (UK)
NEF makes the argument once again for a national care service – as most of the revenue generated from the hypothecated health & social care levy is due to go to the NHS, only 6% of the funding needed by Britain’s social care sector will be provided by the levy. Instead, NEF calls for more progressive taxation to raise the money for social care, such as by deeper reform of National Insurance contributions (e.g. removing exemptions for investment income and pensions), or taxing wealth on a similar basis to earnings from work. Furthermore, investing in universal social care could result in over a million jobs.
Adult social care: why it has even lower public satisfaction than the NHS – Nuffield Trust (UK)
This briefing discusses some of the results pertaining to social care from the 2021 British Social Attitudes survey, which found that just 15% of respondents in 2021 said they were satisfied with social care, while 50% said they were dissatisfied. The two joint top reasons for dissatisfaction were the fear that patients would not receive all the care they needed and the pay and working conditions in the social care sector: both of these were cited by 59% of dissatisfied respondents as the reason for their discontent.
Micromobility: The future of urban transport? – Serco Institute
This report by the Serco Institute highlights how UK policymakers need to directly fund micromobility schemes and work more closely with the companies providing them if they are going to maximise their environmental, social and health benefits. Using polling and case studies, alongside insights from industry experts, this report illustrates that the most successful schemes are characterised by close collaboration between the transport body commissioning the service and the provider of the service, in what is known as a managed service model.
Will Infrastructure Investment Mean Better Jobs for Californians? – Public Policy Institute of California (US)
This blog post examines the likely impact of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), signed into law by the President in November, will have on California. Three-quarters of the $45 billion in federal funding will go to highways and public transport infrastructure, with the rest going towards broadband, water infrastructure etc. This will likely create a new boom of infrastructure jobs in California.
Navies Need, You Know, Ships – American Enterprise Institute (US)
The AEI criticises President Biden’s decision to gradually shrink the size of the US Navy, estimating that despite bipartisan support in Congress for a 355-ship Navy to counter that of China (currently 360 ships and growing), the US Navy will shrink to 280 ships by fiscal year 2027. Such a move, the AEI argues, is inconsistent with maintaining US naval supremacy, and as such the AEI urges Congress to urgently expand the US fleet as a matter of urgency.
Can the EU’s Strategic Compass Guide EU Security Policy? – Centre for European Reform (Europe)
The newly approved Strategic Compass sets out how the EU will face the ‘multifaceted and often interconnected’ threats to its security, by facilitating joint military investment and procurement; fostering resilience at home; and strengthening partners. Among the more promising of these proposals are those for military capability development: the Compass stresses that EU countries will need to spend more of their GDP on defence, and more cooperatively, to achieve economies of scale.
Ukraine War Shows America Could Be Outgunned Without Investing in Energetics – Hudson Institute (US)
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed the game and served as a reminder that energetics, or the chemicals that help determine range, size and explosive power of missiles and rockets, remain key to a country’s ability to establish supremacy on the battlefield. The Hudson Institute warns that the US is falling behind adversaries such as Russia and China in deploying advanced energetics. It therefore calls upon Congress and the White House to work with the Pentagon to recognise the strategic importance of energetics, rebuild energetics production in the US and allied nations, and boost R&D funding for energetics.
Will the Strategic Compass be a game-changer for EU security and defence? – European Policy Centre (Europe)
EU leaders endorsed the Strategic Compass, the new blueprint for EU security and defence ambitions in the next five to ten years, on 24 March 2022. In this blog, EPC analysts give assessments of the Strategic Compass’ strengths – including that it is an ambitious upgrade on previous strategy documents, draws up concrete action points and includes maritime security ambitions – and some of its weaknesses – including that it is not properly a strategy and is unclear on the EU’s military aspirations.
As Biden administration’s defence budget and National Defence Strategy emerge, concerns abound – Brookings Institution (US)
The Biden administration recently released the largest proposed Department of Defence (DoD) budget in US history, at $773 billion. However, many defence policy experts argue it is not sufficient to meet the needs of the National Defence Strategy (NDS) which is being rolled out. Among their concerns: inflation will wipe out much of the real-terms spending increases to the DoD; the proposed budget fails to adequately address the Russo-Ukrainian war, as well as subsequent knock-on effects such as Finland and Sweden’s prospective accession to NATO; and the DoD’s smaller inventory of equipment, though up to the task of constant deployment, may be insufficiently large to meet the requirements of the NDS.
Bit by Bit: Impacts of New Technologies on Terrorist Financing Risks – Royal United Services Institute (UK)
This paper examines the potential impact that new technologies may have on terrorist financing, and whether terrorist financiers may find the process of funding attacks and organisational activities easier and more frictionless as a result. It finds that while new technologies have become part of terrorist financing activities in Europe, it is to a lesser extent than is feared by European policymakers.
Air Forces Need, You Know, Airplanes – American Enterprise Institute (US)
The defence budget for 2023 is set to shrink the size of the US Air Force still further while doing nothing to replace ageing aircraft. Pentagon leaders have, the AEI contends, prioritised R&D over military procurement, leading the ratio of purchases to research in decline since the 1990s. This blog post warns that the US Air Force is at risk of becoming unable to meet requirements and facing readiness shortfalls.
Disrupting Deterrence – RAND Corporation (US)
This report examines the potential effects of emerging technologies on US national security policy and on effectiveness and stability, crucial pillars in deterrence policy. Its two overarching findings are that collections of emerging technologies hold dramatic implications for the effectiveness and stability of deterrence, and that an emerging transition to new forms of warfare, enabled by these emerging technologies, poses more risks to US deterrent policy than any single technology or set of technologies.
Delegitimising Counter-Terrorism – Policy Exchange (UK)
In this report, Policy Exchange outlines the opposition to the UK Government’s counter-terrorism programme, Prevent, from ‘Britain’s raucous Islamist scene’ and ‘sections of the far-left’, groups which the paper’s authors contend also tend to oppose most aspects of the Government’s counter-terrorism policy. The report calls for the establishment of a Centre for the Study of Extremism to allow ministers to more easily rebut the criticisms of Prevent opponents.
Being an Immigrant with Disabilities – Urban Institute (US)
This brief by the Urban Institute outlines some of the key characteristics of immigrants with disabilities in the US. Overall, 5.6% of non-elderly immigrants have a disability, a figure which rises to 10.2% among Black Latinx immigrants. Furthermore, roughly one in three immigrants with a disability has limited English proficiency; 30.7% of immigrants with disabilities come from Mexico; 41.4% are employed; and 30.3% of non-citizens are uninsured, dropping to 9.5% among naturalised US citizens.
Bold European Union action is needed to support Ukrainian refugees – Bruegel (Europe)
Millions of Ukrainians have fled the Russian invasion of their country, 90% into EU countries. The fiscal cost of this influx for the year 2022 may rise as high as €40 billion. This blog post calls for EU policymakers to consider establishing a new fund to help support the refugees from Ukraine, rather than repurposing some funds from the 2022 EU budget.
The government’s Rwanda asylum seeker plan won’t work – Institute for Government (UK)
This comment piece argues that the UK Government’s proposal to relocate some migrants to Rwanda will not work. The author points out that it was only when Australia, on whose migration policy the Rwanda deal is based, began turning migrant boats back that attempted crossings began to fall; that the relocations could breach the UK’s international obligations; and that the Home Office has failed to learn the lessons of Wendy Williams’ post-Windrush scandal review, which stressed the need for a compassionate and humane approach to handling migrant casework.
More States Adopting Inclusive Policies for Immigrants – Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (US)
This blog post runs through some of the inclusive policies enacted by US states to expand immigrants’ rights. These include: Arizona extending eligibility for in-state tuition fees to undocumented students (pending approval by voters); Virginia taking steps to provide ID without immigration status requirements; Colorado and Pennsylvania passing safety standards and expanding protections for immigrant workers; and Connecticut extending Medicaid coverage to undocumented pregnant women and children from low-income households.
Migration reform priorities for Australia – Grattan Institute (Australia)
This presentation by the Grattan Institute lays out current statistics on migration to Australia, including identifying the different ‘streams’ which permanent and temporary migrants in Australia are on and outlining how ‘big’ migration is: one in four people in Australia aged in their 20s and 30s are recent migrants. The presentation furthermore makes recommendations for how the Australian migration system can be reformed, such as re-evaluating the points test, expanding permanent employer sponsorship and abolishing skills lists aimed at attracting highly skilled migrants.
Ending the Title 42 Expulsion Policy is the Right Thing to Do – Center for American Progress (US)
This article argues in favour of the Biden administration’s decision to end, from May 23, the Trump-era Title 42 policy preventing would-be refugees from seeking asylum in the US. This, the CAP argues, will allow the United States to rebuild its asylum system and fulfil its international obligations to welcome those fleeing persecution. Furthermore, the article contends there is no basis in public health rationale for expelling migrants under Title 42.
The thin(ning) blue line – Social Market Foundation (UK)
The recently released Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales, despite producing a slew of recommendations which would improve the policing status quo, says little about the overall number of police officers, says this report. The SMF argues that increasing police numbers can bring down crime rates, and for policymakers to more seriously consider this to combat and reduce crime in the UK as it grows more complex.
Low energy – Resolution Foundation (UK)
In this reaction to the UK Government’s British Energy Security Strategy, the Resolution Foundation notes that the strategy constitutes a major step towards the UK’s 2050 target of reaching net zero: by 2030, 95% of Britain’s electricity needs will be met by low-carbon sources. However, it contains very little in the way of helping families struggling to pay energy bills in the immediate term, this analysis finds.
The European Energy Collapse: A Chain of Contingencies or a Recurring Nightmare? – King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KSA)
This report warns of the ‘significant difficulties’ for energy systems which move towards exclusively using renewable energy sources while abandoning hydrocarbons. Some of the challenges addressed include the lack of energy storage to ensure a secure supply, as well as the lack of technologies available to use renewable energies in certain sectors, such as maritime and aviation.
Shocking Statistics: Energy Security in a Net Zero World – Adam Smith Institute (UK)
This discussion paper sets out some of the challenges of achieving energy security as the UK moves towards net zero emissions by 2050. Among its findings: net zero will require the UK’s energy supply to come almost exclusively from electricity, but there is a lack of clarity on estimated future energy requirements and the suitable electricity mix; hydrogen is unlikely to be used as a main fuel for heating or transport; net zero may require seven times the present electricity generation; and under current plans for the share of UK electricity to be generated by renewables by 2050, the battery storage investment required may not be feasible.
The Ukraine war and threats to food and energy security – Chatham House (UK)
Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of energy, food and fertilisers, and the outbreak of war between the two countries has severely disrupted supply chains and caused commodity prices to skyrocket. This report calls upon governments to build resilient societies and economies and to help mitigate against the worst harms of the war in the immediate term, but always with longer-term threats such as climate change in mind, or risk embedding fragility in economic systems in the long term.
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