The thoughts that count - the best of global thought leadership (February 2023)

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

Public services & public policy

Performance Tracker 2022/23: Spring update – Institute for Government (UK)

This public services stocktake finds that the actions undertaken in the Autumn Statement are unlikely to restore public services to pre-pandemic performance levels. Across nine public services, the Performance Tracker finds that industrial action has exacerbated staffing issues and negatively impacted the quality of public services; winter pressures combined with long-standing issues in social care, hospitals and primary care led to the most severe NHS crisis in a generation; and backlogs in hospitals and courts have reached historic highs, with 7 million on elective treatment waiting lists as of December 2022.

BIG Ideas: Brief to the Incoming Government – McGuinness Institute (New Zealand)

This short report outlines what the McGuiness Institute thinks the incoming New Zealand Government should focus on moving forward. The report’s main recommendations are as follows: get climate ready; invest forward; lower the voting age to 16; establish ecological corridors; strengthen ocean policy; and ensure the nation is future-fit.

Crumbling foundations – Centre for Progressive Policy (UK)

CPP’s new paper explores the impact that socioeconomic disparities in employment, income, education and good housing can have on health and productivity, finding that people in England are losing 1.5 years of life and 2.6 years of good health on average thanks to these factors. The report makes the case for greater investment in public services to improve population health, productivity and fiscal sustainability.

The Inflation Reduction Act: A Race to the Top or Protectionism in High Gear? – CSIS (USA)

“The Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Biden late last year has many goals. Achieving them while working to ensure global decarbonization will require striking a balance between domestic political objectives and international cooperation.”

What do Keir Starmer’s five missions reveal about how Labour would govern? – Institute for Government (UK)

A team of IfG experts respond to Keir Starmer’s speech outlining Labour’s five ‘national missions’. They argue that achieving the highest growth rate in the G7 by 2029 is extremely ambitious; achieving zero-carbon electricity by 2030 is a ‘strong signal’ of Labour’s policy; Labour will need to flesh out its plans for achieving NHS reform within tight fiscal restraints; any reforms to increase convictions will need to involve the wider justice system; and Labour’s education policy still contains little detail other than investment in childcare.

Why we need 'missions' to drive the UK's economic renewal – IPPR (UK)

Published days before UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s speech outlining his five ‘national missions’, IPPR welcomes the use of ‘missions’ as an organising principle to respond to crises faced by the UK. Missions, this blog argues, are a concept popularised by UCL economist Professor Mariana Mazzucato, and should be designed to provide clear and measurable goals to achieve growth, move away from ‘sticking-plaster’ politics, and guide the actions of government.

Brexit & the Northern Ireland Protocol

Experts react: Will a new deal on Northern Ireland repair UK-EU relations? – Atlantic Council (USA)

In this article, a number of experts give their opinion on the new Windsor Framework, agreed by Rishi Sunak and Ursula con der Leyen. Specifically, experts answer the questions: What would the deal, which still must be approved by the UK Parliament, mean for regional trade and diplomacy? What does it say about Sunak’s approach to foreign policy?

Open for business? - The Inquiry – Resolution Foundation (UK)

Recent trade data seems to challenge the assumption that Brexit would make the UK less open, less competitive and shrink the economy: after experiencing the sharpest fall in trade openness in the G7 in 2021, the UK made a partial recovery in 2022, leaving Britain relatively more open and outperforming France and the United States. This was driven almost entirely by stronger exports, with imports remaining the weakest in the G7. Part of this is due to British services exports benefiting enormously from the global post-pandemic recovery and growth in demand in sectors where Britain has a comparative advantage, such as insurance, financial services, other business services and personal, cultural and recreational services.

Three Years On, Brexit Casts a Long Shadow Over the UK Economy – Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (UK)

The Institute for Global Change publishes six charts showing the impact of Brexit on the British economy to date. These effects include a significant hit to Britain’s trade, with UK imports from the EU dropping 25% more than imports from outside the EU; an eight-percentage-point drop in trade openness between 2019 and 2021, driven by a sharp fall in trade with the EU; a historical high in bureaucratic red tape faced by British businesses in the form of customs declarations; investment levels 31% below their pre-referendum trend; a worse economic performance than forecast before and after the referendum; and that the share of UK trade covered by free trade deals has fallen since 2019 and has made no difference so far.

The Northern Ireland Protocol – Policy Exchange (UK)

This report by Policy Exchange argues that the Northern Ireland Protocol has failed to protect the Good Friday Agreement, and that the Protocol ‘not only does not work operationally…but has failed politically’ as a result of the EU’s approach to negotiations.

CBI response to the Northern Ireland Protocol breakthrough – CBI (UK)

The CBI welcomes the new deal amending the Northern Ireland Protocol, calling it a ‘historic moment’ which ends the ‘standstill’ in social, political and economic life in the province since the UK left the EU. Businesses and politicians will now be able to turn towards economic growth in Northern Ireland and helping it thrive.

Civil service reform

Rishi Sunak's new departments must work together to succeed – Institute for Government (UK)

The IfG analyses UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to reshape government departments, contending that the creation of departments with narrower remits suggests Sunak’s preference for policy focus. Additionally, the Prime Minister’s creation of a Department for Science, Innovation and Technology confirms his view that the UK’s growth prospects lie in these areas. Finally, these new departments will need to work with the Treasury and involve Treasury officials in their plans from an earlier stage if they are to succeed.

Will Sunak’s reorganisation of government work and will it last? – UK in a Changing Europe (UK)

UKICE’s Jill Rutter analyses the Prime Minister’s decision to reorganise the UK Government, finding that the ‘hardest change to make work’ is the one Sunak likely regards as most important: the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.  She argues that Sunak will need to be clear very quickly what is covered by the new Department’s remit, lest there be protracted ‘wrangling’, and to put his weight behind the new Department to prove that it makes sense.

Levelling up

Levelling Down: How the Global Minimum Corporate Tax Undermines the UK – Adam Smith Institute (UK)

This report by the Adam Smith Institute argues that the UK’s pursuit of a global minimum corporate tax hurts the competitiveness of British industries, poses challenges to the insurance and reinsurance sectors, and fails to raise substantial revenues. As such, the paper argues, this could endanger the Government’s Levelling Up agenda.

Levelling Up Locally – Onward (UK)

Onward has published the final report in its Levelling Up in Practice series, compiling insights from five research visits across the UK to examine common challenges and issues faced by local communities and interventions to try and resolve these. These challenges include: tackling antisocial behaviour; revitalising town centres and high streets; supporting local culture, green space, culture and heritage; boosting local growth in the private sector; and providing community-based support to the most disadvantaged.

Why clusters matter for regional economic growth – CBI (UK)

The UK cannot maximise its growth potential without the contribution of all regions and nations. The CBI makes the case for clusters, built around specialist knowledge, expertise and skills in high-value sectors, to stimulate growth in all regions, such as the compound semiconductor cluster in South Wales, generating over £600m annually and employing over 2,000 people.

Economy & budgets

The fiscal backdrop to Spring Budget 2023 – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)

Ahead of next month’s Budget, the IFS finds that the short-term outlook for state finances has improved since November, with a much shallower recession than forecast. Borrowing in the current financial year is furthermore running £31 billion below forecast on a like-for-like basis – amounting to 1.2% of national income, this is a significant difference. However, the IFS warns that the medium-term outlook remains ‘highly challenging’, and the scope for permanent tax cuts or spending increases not offset elsewhere remains ‘very limited’.  

Civic Exchange’s response to the 2023-24 budget – Civic Exchange (Hong Kong)

This article from the Civic Exchange welcomes the Hong Kong Government’s measures to stabilise the economy during the current downturn, as well as the Government’s ambition to develop Hong Kong into an international green technology and green finance centre. Additionally, the article welcomes the government’s injection of funds to decarbonise the transport sector, although it notes that funding towards climate mitigation and adaptation are no prioritised, but should be.

Jeremy Hunt’s smooth(ing) Budget – Resolution Foundation (UK)

This Resolution Foundation analysis finds that although European wholesale gas prices are now falling from their peak, having declined 50% since the Autumn Statement, energy prices are still going up, as the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) is going up before falling wholesale market prices can feed through into lower prices for consumers. The authors posit that the Chancellor will delay the increase in the EPG to allow declining wholesale prices to feed through.

We agree with the IMF and Rishi Sunak – Australia Institute (Australia)

This article asserts that Labor have made a big error in adopting the Stage 3 income tax cuts, due in July 2024, on the budget in Australia. These tax cuts will cost AU$250bn over 10 years and are a particularly bad idea in the current inflationary climate, according to the Australia Institute. There are political costs too, in that each time a public spending measure is knocked back, it will be spoken about in light of the incoming tax cuts. The Australia Institute urges the Labor Government to reconsider the incoming tax cuts.

Reviewing Biden’s 2023 State of the Union Tax Priorities – American Enterprise Institute (USA)

The AEI post runs through some of the tax pledges made by US President Joe Biden in his State of the Union address, including introducing a minimum tax on billionaires, raising the excise tax on stock buybacks, and expanding the Child Tax Credit. It concludes that the Biden administration is likely to pursue many of the same tax policies of the past two years, but with little chance of success given Republican control of the House of Representatives.

IFS response to new public finance figures – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)

ONS government borrowing figures indicate Britain’s public sector ran a surplus of £5.4 billion in January, far lower than the £12.5 billion surplus in January 2022. The IFS sets out the reasons for lower government borrowing than expected.

Navigating Economic Change - The Inquiry – Resolution Foundation (UK)

“As the UK is buffeted by the economic shocks and challenges of the 2020s, the Resolution Foundation and LSE Economy 2030 Inquiry is publishing a series of essays examining how policy makers from a range of advanced economies, including the UK in the recent past, have managed periods of disruptive economic change. As we seek to reformulate the UK’s economic strategy for new times it is vital that we learn the lessons of these comparative and historic perspectives.”

Canadians bear weight of growing government debt burden – Fraser Institute (Canada)

This article notes that government debt has been increasing in Canada for more than a decade, from CA$1.1 trillion in 2007/08 to $2.1 trillion in 2022/23 (federal and provincial government debt on an inflation-adjusted basis). It is therefore up to both federal and provincial governments across the country to reverse this trend and return sustainability to finances over the long-term.

Debt limit default is default, even under a ‘prioritisation’ scheme – Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (USA)

This research asserts that prioritisation cannot avert financial chaos or soothe creditors, and instead lawmakers should repeal the debt limit, suspend it for a considerable period, or raise it to a level where the government does not risk defaulting on any of its obligations.

A proposal for an enhanced partially refundable Child Tax Credit – Brookings Institution (USA)

“Expanding the Child Tax Credit would meaningfully reduce child poverty and improve the long-term outcomes of children. At the same time, policymakers have posed concerns that these additional resources would be negatively offset: by reduced labor supply, because struggling parents will not spend the additional cash in ways that are beneficial to children, and due to the net fiscal cost. The authors analyze the tradeoffs of an enhanced CTC to address all three of these concerns. They propose a novel and efficient CTC design that increases the value of the CTC and provides benefits to families with no income to support millions of American children.”

Treasurer’s essay a call for new ideas – CEDA (Australia)

The Australian Treasurer, Jim Chalmer, recently wrote an essay on “values based” capitalism that has elicited strong responses from all sides of the economic debate. CEDA has a strong appetite for the “straight talk about our national challenges” highlighted in the essay, and will publish research on that theme moving forward.

Inflation, living standards & the cost of living

Tackling Europe's cost of living crisis – Institute of Economic Affairs (UK)

“While the loose European monetary policy and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are major drivers of inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, they are not its only causes. High consumer prices are often the result of government intervention in the economy such as burdensome regulations and over-taxation. This paper highlights how the governments of eight EU member states can alleviate the inflationary pressures faced by their citizens by liberalising domestic regulations and adopting various tax reforms.”

A decade of lost wages – McKell Institute (Australia)

This report notes that Australian wages have been in a period of low wage growth for more than a decade. It asserts that policymakers should ensure that workers are able to recover the decade of lost wages it has experienced, so as not to condemn a generation of Australians to declining living standards.

Moderate Fall In Inflation In January Masks A Serious Fall In Real Wages – NIESR (UK)

NIESR research shows that while headline consumer price inflation fell from 10.5% to 10.1% between December 2022 and January 2023, real wages are continuing to contract. Across the British economy, workers saw their pay contract by 3.2% in the year leading up to December 2022, with public sector workers seeing a decline of 4.8% on average while private sector workers experienced a decline of 2.3%. Moreover, food inflation remains extremely high, at 16.7% as of January 2023.

The cost of living crisis: a pre-Budget briefing – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)

“The recent surge in inflation, driven by spectacular increases in energy prices, has driven sharp falls in household living standards, huge government intervention to try to mitigate it, and serious policy headaches. As such it continues to be the backdrop behind many of the most pressing issues that will face Chancellor Hunt when he delivers his first Budget on 15 March. This short report analyses the latest outlook for inflation, how this varies across households and is impacted by the government’s interventions on consumer energy prices, and the resulting effects on real earnings and benefit levels.”

Wages rising slower than expected as profits continue to drive inflation – Australia Institute (Australia)

The latest Wage Price Index in Australia shows that the current levels of inflation are not driven by wages. This article asserts that the Reserve Bank should pause its run of rate rises as a result. Inflation is running at 7.8% but overall wages grew by just 3.3% (in 2021), which means real wages fell by 4.2%. Private sector wages are growing much faster than public sector wages.

As inflation slows, don’t credit the Fed – Roosevelt Institute (USA)

This research comments that today’s inflation has been a supply-side story, while the Fed’s recession-risking interest rate hikes are a demand-focused strategy. It asserts that ‘In the immediate future, sacrificing workers will not lead to price stability. To curb the kind of inflation we’re seeing today, government must address geopolitical volatilities and pandemic-related disruptions and implement rent and price controls and inflation relief funds to shield lower-income individuals from rising prices.’

How Can We Support Households with Energy Bills? – NIESR (UK)

Even with wholesale gas prices falling, UK energy bills are set to go up from April, with typical bills set to rise from £2,500 to £3,000. NIESR explores the ‘distributional impact of rising energy costs and alternative policy options’.

Profit-Price Spiral: The truth behind Australia’s inflation – Australia Institute (Australia)

This article looks at the contrast between the pain experienced by workers and the upsurge in business profitability as a result of this inflationary climate. It presents empirical evidence that business profits have had a role in driving higher prices in Australia, not wages, and suggests the focus on monetary policy on wage restraint is misplaced.

Employment, labour force & industrial policy

Post-pandemic participation – Resolution Foundation (UK)

The UK is seeing a rise in economic activity due to long-term sickness. This paper by the Resolution Foundation sets out some recommendations to tackle this, including focusing on groups such as older workers, women with children and those with long-term conditions or disabilities. Policies to encourage these groups back into work could include childcare reforms, or policies such as a ‘right to return’ requirement to allow those with such conditions or disabilities to more easily stay in or return to work.

The question everyone’s asking: how can we get people back into work?  – Demos (UK)

In a gentle admonishment of UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s assertion that life for over-50s ‘doesn’t just have to be going to the golf course’, Demos research finds that in fact an array of physical and mental health issues are preventing over-50s from staying in and returning to work. As such, Demos welcomes the announcement by the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary that Labour would open up services to people currently unable to access them, such as people with health conditions or economically inactive over-50s. This short analysis sets out some of the questions remaining around how policymaking can be used to encourage people back into work.

From the doom loop to an economy for work not wealth – TUC (UK)

The TUC argues the economy and wages in the UK are in a ‘doom loop of decline’, with current policymakers and the Bank of England urging pay restraint and austerity measures. These, the TUC contends, are a symptom of an economic model which has prioritised wealth over work. This report, the think tank says, outlines an alternative model which will reorient the balance away from wealth and towards work.

Uptake and Inequality of telework dashboard – Bruegel (Europe)

New research by Bruegel has helped build an interactive online dashboard that monitors the uptake and inequality of telework in the EU across countries, years, occupations and socio-demographic groups. 

Where does the Strikes Bill put the UK relative to other European countries? – UK in a Changing Europe (UK)

In support of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, then-Business Secretary Grant Shapps has argued the new legislation brings the UK in line with European neighbours. In contrast, this UKICE analysis suggests this is not necessarily the case, with the UK one of only five countries in Europe which does not protect the ‘right to strike’. Furthermore, while countries such as France, Spain and Italy have minimum service levels for ‘essential services’, the UK legislation does not require the services to be essential, but only to fall within one of a number of listed categories.

Science & technology

A New National Purpose: Innovation Can Power the Future of Britain – Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (UK)

With tech superpowers such as the US and China investing heavily in their scientific capabilities, the UK cannot allow itself to fall behind. This paper calls for Britain to harness the powers of the ‘strategic state’ to embrace the technological revolution and examine how innovations in data and tech can drive down the cost of public services while improving quality. The report also sets out some recommendations for reform to achieve a smaller but more effective British state.

At the Cutting Edge: How artificial intelligence will change our primary sector forever – Maxim Institute (New Zealand)

This discussion paper notes the slow adoption of AI in agriculture in New Zealand, but asserts that AI will strengthen the industry by helping with planning, planting, harvesting, irrigating, and managing soils. AI will also, the Maxim Institute posits, assist New Zealand in meeting its obligations to international agreements and accords. Two of the paper’s six recommendations are using AI to create demand and promote cooperative and farming trusts.

New Horizons: The UK's Global Science Strategy Beyond Horizon Europe – Onward (UK)

Published before the President of the European Commission confirmed the UK would shortly be admitted into Horizon Europe, this paper by Onward calls for the UK not to allow its science sector to stagnate, urging policymakers instead to encourage innovation, reshape regulation, sustain investment in science and R&D and recruit talent. This will allow the UK to take full advantage of its post-Brexit future and retain its status as a science superpower.

Digital platform regulation: Governing the ungovernable – Chatham House (UK)

Digital platform regulation is returning to the fore. Chatham House sets out a number of considerations which policymakers and the tech industry will need to take into account in this field, including striking the right balance between human rights, protection from harm etc.

AI in Education: Evolution or Devolution? – Maxim Institute (New Zealand)

Globally, educators fear a rise in cheating, increasing plagiarism, less critical thinking, increasing laziness, as a result of new AI software such as ChatGPT. Alongside concerns, there is still an evident desire to use AI in education. Crucially, competition and human connection must remain at the heart of education and this relies on lecturers and teachers taking a leading role in enriching the lives and learning of students.

Healthcare

One year on from the backlog recovery plan: what next for NHS waiting lists? – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)

One year on from NHS England’s publication of its plan to tackle health backlogs, the IFS finds that while the health service has made good progress on reducing the number of patients waiting a very long time for treatment, it is very unlikely to achieve its target of increasing treatment volumes to 30% above pre-pandemic levels by 2024/25. Waiting lists are therefore unlikely to begin falling in the near future – rather, the report projects they will flatline over the next year, only falling from mid-2024 onward.

Health Care Workforce Shortages: An Updated Look – American Enterprise Institute (USA)

This AEI blog post explores healthcare labour shortages in the US and recent trends in the health workforce – as of January 2023, healthcare employment is 767,000 below where it would be had it continued to grow at its pre-Covid rate. At 1.9 million in December 2022, job openings remain at record levels.

What caused the UK’s elective care backlog, and how can we tackle it? – The King's Fund (UK)

“The latest statistics on elective (non-emergency) care in England are making headlines for all the wrong reasons – the waiting list is over seven million, and over 400,000 have waited more than a year. Why is this? And what can be done about it?”

How States Can Build Bridges by Smoothing Medicaid-to-Marketplace Coverage Transitions – Center for American Progress (USA)

Health insurance churn, or transition between insurance types or in and out of insurance, occurs often in the US health system: in 2015, 25% of the US population gained, lost, or changed their source of health insurance coverage. To minimise the disruption of this churn, CAP calls on state policymakers to take steps to ease transition between Medicaid and marketplace coverage.

The UK’s National Health Service at 75: What Are the Root Causes of the Current Discontent? – American Enterprise Institute (USA)

This AEI report investigates the reasons for the sharp deterioration in the NHS’ performance in recent years, attributing some of this to the health service’s reliance on ‘political and bureaucratic processes for resources and organisational direction’. It suggests that UK leaders may wish to consider adopting a health system more closely resembling the public-private models seen in Europe.

On health, some Australians don’t get a fair go – Grattan Institute (Australia)

Much of the life-expectancy gap between the most and least disadvantaged Australians is explained by skewed rates of chronic disease. A strong, equity-focused CDC can help ensure that all Australians get a fair go, and help reduce gaps in current provision.

States must act to preserve Medicaid coverage as end of continuous coverage requirement nears – Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (USA)

This research notes how the Medicaid continuous coverage requirement is now delinked from the Covid-19 public health emergency. It asserts that large coverage losses aren’t inevitable, and that there are proven strategies that states can and should take to streamline the renewal process.

The A&E crisis: what’s really driving poor performance? – Reform (UK)

By NHS targets, 95% of patients should be admitted, discharged or sent home within four hours of arriving in an A&E department – in December 2022, less than half of A&E patients met that target. This paper seeks to explore what is happening to A&E in Britain, and use publicly available data to challenge assumptions about the A&E crisis.

Progression of parents in NHS medical and nursing careers – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)

This IFS analysis examines how the length of parental leave and rates of progression after having children can vary by specialty, gender and other characteristics among doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives in NHS England. It finds that, although the NHS performs well at retaining female staff after maternity leave, significant gender pay gaps persist in medicine, attributable in large part to a switch to part-time working and institutional training and pay structures. Additionally, medical specialties are often heavily gendered; while nursing and midwifery are heavily female-dominated, women remain under-represented in the profession’s most senior echelons and in higher-earning specialties such as surgery and cardiology.

The Australian Centre for Disease Control (ACDC): Highway to health – Grattan Institute (Australia)

This report asserts that Australia is sleepwalking into a sicker future that will condemn millions of Australians to living with avoidable disease and disability.

What has Brexit meant for the NHS? – UK in a Changing Europe (UK)

During the EU referendum, the Leave campaign famously claimed that they would divert the £350 million sent to Brussels every week to the NHS. UKICE reveals that the NHS budget in England has actually risen by more than £350m per week since 2016; this is, however, barely enough to keep up with Britain’s ageing and growing population. Leaving the EU has also adversely impacted recruitment for the health service’s workforce, with new nurses and new dental practitioners coming from EU and EFTA states having declined significantly since the end of free movement. This has resulted in a large increase in the number of non-EU medical practitioners in the UK, with an absolute majority of newly registered doctors in 2021 having qualified outside the UK and the EU.  

Social care

Adult social care in the four countries of the UK – The Nuffield Trust (UK)

The Nuffield Trust has published a series of explainers outlining how social care has diverged among the UK’s nations, including blog posts on what the social care workforce looks like in each nation, eligibility rules, and what steps are currently being taken to reform social care.

Addressing social care workforce challenges: what can England learn from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? – The Nuffield Trust (UK)

All parts of the UK are struggling with social care workforce pressures, with each nation facing similar challenges, such as high vacancies, burnout and turnover. But the Migration Advisory Committee has singled out England for the ‘unsustainable’ conditions in its social care sector. The Nuffield Trust explores whether England has anything to learn from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, whose social care sectors have diverged from England’s since devolution.

The State and Future of the National Social Sector Infrastructure – Urban Institute (USA)

“This report examines the state of the national social sector infrastructure—which we define as the support system that helps the social sector thrive—and discusses how to strengthen it. We explore the challenges and opportunities of growth in the social sector infrastructure, inequities and disparities in the social sector and its infrastructure, and the importance of well-being. Within these themes, we offer suggestions for the future. We hope our findings will help social sector infrastructure providers, funders, and users understand the current state of the national social sector infrastructure and gain insight into how they can help strengthen it.”

Childcare

Five ways the UK’s broken childcare system is preventing economic growth – CBI (UK)

The CBI calls on the UK Government to extend childcare provision, as it is adversely impacting the British economy. The CBI argues the lack of inadequate childcare: contributes to labour market shortages; exacerbates the cost-of-living crisis; dampens economic output; slows down social mobility; and contributes to gender inequality.  

Top 5 Actions Governors Can Take To Address the Child Care Shortage – Center for American Progress (USA)

With control of Congress now split in 2023, CAP outlines five measures that state governors can take to expand access to affordable, high-quality childcare in their states, including: setting childcare subsidy rates in accordance with true care costs; developing wage scales to create parity with K-12 compensation; creating new financing strategies in preparation for the expiration of federal Covid-19 relief funding; compensating providers based on enrolment rather than attendance; and offering incentives to expand childcare options in places where such services are scarce.

Defence & national security

The UK as a European Power – RUSI (UK)

RUSI explores how the war in Ukraine has cemented the UK’s status as Kyiv’s foremost European supporter and a major power in European security, and how close cooperation with Brussels on Ukraine and sanctions policy has altered EU perceptions of the UK, with positive implications for relations in other areas, such as the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Talk us through AUKUS – Australia Institute (Australia)

This report discusses the 2021 AUKUS announcement 18 months on, specifically whether the nuclear-powered submarines promised as part of the agreement will ever be delivered, or if Australia actually needs them. The submarines face building delays, that might extend delivery timeliness well into the 2060s, and the deal places Australia firmly into the USA-China contest, without any guarantee of US military assistance if needed.

State of the Union has lessons for transatlantic unity – Chatham House (UK)

Chatham House notes that ‘the strongest throughline between the Trump and Biden administrations has been their shared mindset on weaponised interdependence’. Under Biden, the US has abandoned trade liberalisation and embarked on its most ambitious industrial policy programme in decades, through passing legislation such as the CHIPS and Science Act, bipartisan infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as executive orders to bolster supply chain resilience and unprecedented export controls targeting China. Biden’s priority now is maintaining domestic political unity on China while ensuring European support for US policy towards Beijing.

Finland should prepare to join NATO on its own – Centre for European Reform (Europe)

Turkey’s resistance to Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO has meant a delay in the membership of the organisation for both Nordic countries. However, Turkey’s real opposition is to Sweden’s membership of the alliance, not Finland’s. This article argues how Finland should be prepared to keep pursuing NATO membership even if Turkey ultimately vetoes Sweden’s bid. With Finland part of the alliance, NATO could further bolster its defences along the Russian border and send a strong signal to Moscow.

Our Military Leaders Need a National Security "Fast Lane" to Compete with China – Hudson Institute (USA)

The Chinese spy balloon incident has revealed the extent of China’s military ambitions and strategy, and the US must now focus on finding new ways to counter Chinese aggression. This will mean agility and flexibility in the US Government’s national security strategy, such as, for instance, Congress authorising branches of the Department of Defence and of the military to shift funds to bypass partisan budget negotiations and outdated accounting rules.

Europe in the World in 2023: Learning the language of power? European Policy Centre (Europe)

The second edition of the EPC’s outlook paper presents a wide-ranging overview of the main developments on the global stage in 2023. The paper, a navigation guide as opposed to a forecast, analyses the main political developments, and seeks to highlight how they will impact the EU’s role, focusing on what the EU must do to continue speaking the language of power.

How Labour Can Reform, Rather Than Do Away With, the UK’s Indo-Pacific Tilt – RUSI (UK)

This comment piece by RUSI explores Labour’s defence policy, as laid out by Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey, in relation to the Indo-Pacific Tilt, a mainstay of the 2021 Integrated Review, and suggests Labour need not completely abandon the present Government’s defence policy towards the Indo-Pacific region. RUSI suggests a future Labour Government could maintain current commitments to the Indo-Pacific, but also develop an Indian Ocean strategy to build on Britain’s military bases and assets in the Gulf, East Africa and Singapore. Finally, given resource constraints, a Labour Government could continue to engage with Indo-Pacific and European powers by coordinating naval and air force deployment strategies.

A new momentum grows for UK-France defence cooperation – Chatham House (UK)

Ahead of the UK-France Summit on 10 March, there is considerable scope for Anglo-French bilateral cooperation on defence and security: French President Macron’s re-election and the UK’s re-engagement with the continent after years of tensions have created an atmosphere conducive to warmer ties and greater cooperation between London and Paris. Chatham House welcomes this rapprochement at a critical time for European security.

Plane and Simple: Canada to buy the F-35 Lightning after 15-years of debate – Centre for International and Defence Policy (Canada)

This article comments on the purchase of fighter jets to upgrade Canada’s fleet, particularly the delays to procurement and the economic cost to the nation due to prioritising political point scoring. The article notes that the deal shows Canada has trust in its defence alliances and displays a prioritisation of those serving in the armed forces and their safety.

The war in Ukraine

The War in Ukraine, One Year On - Interactive Commentary – RUSI (UK)

RUSI’s new interactive commentary outlines how the war in Ukraine has progressed, from the build-up of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border in late 2021 to today. It concludes with an assessment that Ukraine will face a window of vulnerability in 2023, with heavily stretched resources, and that launching an offensive on Russian forces, even with Western equipment, will be difficult. But if Russia can be made to waste manpower, and if Western efforts to continue equipping Ukraine are sustained, then Ukrainian prospects improve markedly.

Seven ways Russia’s war on Ukraine has changed the world – Chatham House (UK)

This piece by Chatham House explores the worldwide ramifications of the war in Ukraine. These include a realignment of alliances and the rise of powers such as Turkey as diplomatic brokers; the recalibration of European perceptions towards their continent’s security and towards NATO; the re-emergence of nuclear war as a real and present danger; the disruptions to food and energy supplies both to developed and developing countries, including an acceleration of the clean energy transition in Europe; and the isolation of Russia as a pariah state.

United West, divided from the rest: Global public opinion one year into Russia’s war on Ukraine – European Council on Foreign Relations (Europe)

This article builds on a recent poll that found that since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Western public opinion has become more homogenous, with European and American citizens holding similar views on major global issues and seeing Russia as the primary enemy. However, the poll also shows that a similar yet opposite trend can be observed in the public opinion of non-Western countries: people polled in India, China and Turkey would rather see a swifter end to the War, even if that means Ukraine having to make territorial concessions; they also see the emergence of a multipolar world order as more likely than a bipolar one split between the US and China.

Lessons from Ukraine – Brookings Institution (USA)

Much has changed in the year since Russia invaded Ukraine; the Ukrainian people have shown extraordinary courage in their struggle against a brutal invasion; the Western alliance has been reinvigorated, with the EU rising to take an unexpectedly muscular role; and a considerable number of non-Western countries have condemned Russia’s actions or even sent aid to Ukraine. However, 2023 could yet prove a decisive year for Ukraine, the West and the world order, for better or worse. Brookings scholars here go over the lessons learned over the past year and look ahead to the challenges yet to come.

After Russia’s War against Ukraine: What Kind of World Order? – Carnegie Europe (Europe)

The war in Ukraine further weakened the liberal world order and rules-based international system. However, as this article argues, the weakening of multilateral structures does not spell the end for the liberal order. Economic interdependence, transnational ties and the return of geopolitics will prevent a collapse into anarchy, the author maintains.

An alliance reinvigorated – Centre for International and Defence Policy (Canada)

This article discusses the reinvigoration of NATO in recent years around the cause of Ukraine since its invasion by Russia. For example, during the 2016 US federal election, Donald Trump openly questioned the value of US participation in NATO. However, since Russia’s invasion, NATO members have taken steps to bolster their security, and the alliance has strengthened.

Space

Mining on the moon is no longer a loony idea, and Canada can capitalise on it – MacDonald Laurier Institute (Canada)

This article makes the case that space mining is real, and it will favour first movers. Canada has an advantage in the market and so the country must treat the opportunity of space mining ambitiously.

Immigration

Is there an easy fix for our broken immigration system? – NZ Initiative (New Zealand)

Massive worker shortages have led to calls for more immigration, but what does a good long-term strategy on the issue actually look like? What can be learned from other countries? This article looks to answer these questions, on a topic often used as a political football kicked between parties.

Empty threats will not solve the asylum backlog – Institute for Government (UK)

The IfG agrees that reducing the asylum backlog is of great importance, but suggests this might better be achieved by expanding eligibility for fast-tracked decision-making to asylum seekers from countries such as Iran and Sudan, whose nationals’ asylum applications are accepted at a rate of over 80%. Arbitrary deadlines, the think tank furthermore argues, could be counterproductive to fixing the asylum case backlog.

How to improve the migration system – Grattan Institute (Australia)

A review of Australia’s migration system, commissioned by the Albanese government, is due to be delivered by the federal government. This piece asserts that the best permanent visa system is one that selects migrants most likely to contribute to the nation’s long-term success. The aim of the migration system should be to create clearer pathways to permanent residency in Australia.

Record asylum backlog shows need to stop the crossings, says CPS – Centre for Policy Studies (UK)

The CPS breaks down the latest data published by the UK Home Office, which shows that the backlog of asylum cases awaiting an initial decision in the final quarter of 2022 rose to the highest level since records began (136,522). The Home Office data shows that while productivity in the asylum system has improved, it is still 40% lower than before the pandemic and 75% lower than the peak efficiency levels seen in 2015/16.

Crime

Antisocial behaviour is back on the agenda – it’s time to take a smarter approach – Demos (UK)

This piece by Demos addresses the return of antisocial behaviour (ASB) to the UK’s political discourse, and Labour’s plans for bolstering neighbourhood policing and ‘Respect Orders’. Demos calls for a ‘smarter’, whole-of-society approach towards crime prevention, arguing that policing on its own has a limited ability to reduce ASB and crime. Instead, beefed-up social services, early intervention and local partnerships could go a long way to complement policing’s role in preventing ASB and other types of low-level crime and harm.

States Show How Criminal Justice Reform Can Help Millions of American Workers – Cato Institute (USA)

With over 30% of the adult US population having a criminal record of some kind, the Cato Institute calls for barriers to employment for those with criminal records to be eased, and examines efforts at the state level to expunge criminal records and what impact this has had on employment and the economy.

Energy, climate change & net zero

1.5°C – dead or alive? The risks to transformational change from reaching and breaching the Paris Agreement goal – IPPR (UK)

IPPR argues that ‘the historical failure to sufficiently tackle the climate and ecological crisis could create consequences that challenge the ability of societies to tackle the root causes of this crisis.’ With climate catastrophe’s effects deepening, IPPR calls for the green transition itself to be made more resilient, lest the world continues spiralling into ever-greater environmental shocks and counterproductive defensive measures.

Clean Energy Transition: How will it affect employment? – CEDA (Australia)

With the 2030 commitment to lower emissions by 43%, there is increasing interest in how the energy transition will affect employment. This article asserts that most forecasts predict only a small effect on total employment from the energy transition.

How Europe should answer the US Inflation Reduction Act – Bruegel (Europe)

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is a significant piece of legislation for climate policy and domestic subsidies. This article argues that the EU should be fully aware of the likely impact of the IRA on competitiveness in Europe; however, the bloc should avoid protectionism in response to the IRA and rather seek to pursue broader aims in alignment with the Act’s green transition measures.

Hong Kong’s fiscal policy ignoring climate change is no longer an option – Civic Exchange (Hong Kong)

This article asserts that Hong Kong must take more action, and a leading role in mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change. It recommends that the government provide more clarity on the HK$240bn budget allocation to climate change, and what this will be spent on, as well as increasing the participation of the financial services sector in energy transition.

Climate action, social justice, and democracy: Europe’s New Trilemma – Carnegie Europe (Europe)

This article makes the case that European politics are beset by a complex triad of climate action, social justice and democratic politics. This trilemma has been draining energy and resources from EU countries, yet this article contends that the best way to approach these powerful but interconnected forces is to focus on the significant overlap in potential policy design rather than the individual trade-offs.

Delay or Decarbonise – Australia Institute (Australia)

This report discusses how climate policy can incentivise genuine emissions reduction, or delay decarbonisation if it continues to expand the use of offsets. A change in policy focus, away from offsets and carbon credits, is needed to properly achieve climate targets.

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