The UK Lorry Trade as a parable for the economy.

My friend shared this story today. For anyone that has 3 mins spare, I thoroughly recommend fully reading the first half and skimming the rest.

Key observations:

  1. In a free market, increasing demand and/or decreasing supply causes price increase. The rate of increase tells us how “elastic” the goods or services are. There is no scope for negative elasticity. Thus, ever reducing wages suggests that HGV driving is not a free market. There is little to set Lorry driving apart from ALL other work. Proposal: the labour market in the UK is not a free market
  2. Agencies mostly operate on the model that desperate people will pay whether is asked for something they need. This is not a moral standpoint.
  3. There is no mandate in governmentto understand the country’s labour needs and invest to meet those needs as they arise (training, career progression schemes, offering sabbaticals to specialist staff). A FTSE 100 company lacking this type of strategy… would not remain FTSE100 for long.
  4. I really don’t want to live in the UK any more.

“Income security is the overlooked piece of the labour market puzzle”

Circa 14% of England and Wales’ working population is in insecure work, according to Citizens’ Advice (summarised HERE).

This means four and a half million people (so a likely minimum of two million households) who cannot:

– get a mortgage easily

– sign up for lock-in contracts eg for utilities to benefit from cost savings, without risking the need for a payday loan or similar

– for many, but not all: commit to attend regular events or sessions for learning, care of family or friends, community activities, etc., unconditionally, as if work is offered, they’ll be in a position of being forced to accept it (for economic reasons)

I don’t dispute the valuable place that flexible labour plays in the UK’s economy. But nobody can deny that the legal framework for such work does not keep the employee safe from bankruptcy.

Reading Business Without Getting Played

So, you have an extra-curricular interest in Business. Congrats, and welcome to the club.

Like so many hobbies, you want to learn more and find ways to get involved WITHOUT getting ripped off by the big players with a marketing machine behind them. To me, individual investment in shares is like a die-cutting/embossing machine for papercraft nerds. Yes, it’s valuable, and yes, if you choose the right one you can enjoy it AND make a return on your money (making & selling cards/scrapbooking supplies/whatever vs dividends & selling at a profit). But it’s a big step to take, very daunting to a newcomer and potentially a real waste of money if you interest in the hobby wanes. But the magazines, they want you to buy that die cut – or rather, their sponsors do. So they write articles, “Top 10 embossers under $100″, ” Top 10 activities with a die-cutter”, etc., so that reading the accepted paraphernalia of your hobby makes you really start to get that machine.

(Disclaimer: I’ve been talking myself into one of these machines for about three years. I may yet get one…)

So, why am I labouring this point? Well, a lot of business magazines and newspapers will focus on what you, an individual, should be investing in right now. And on the one hand, it makes sense, because they assume you have a financial reasons to be reading its content, rather than an amateur one. But on the other hand, it makes sense because these publications have built up around the industry of “business-ing”, and that can only continue in the same format in which it currently exists if lots of people put their Christmas bonus into shares and buy magazines or subscribe to online news sources to find out which ones to choose.

So, how to get around this? Well, by stopping to ask yourself “am I just going along with a norm that I only learnt about via the media, here?” (A useful question when forming any opinion in any sphere of life!) But also by picking your media. Not everyone assumes your interest is self-interest.

A few suggestions:
– CIMA’s FM Magazine – a business-focussed magazine whose target audience is management accountants. It is generally not too technical. Also, free! It tends to take a broader perspective, which I appreciate. I learn a little about whole industries by reading an article ostensibly about one aspect of one company, or whatever.
– ACCA’s AB Magazine – again aimed at accountants, with more technical content (by which I mean tax, mostly!), but plenty of highly interesting, educational “single interest” articles to teach you something new and relevant in the space of a short commute. Just as global as FM. Again, free.
The Economist (not free, but many 3 month free trials offered across the web). Certainly full of its own biases, but I can’t imagine reading this newsmagazine would hoodwink you into wanting to “take advantage of the next hot ticket”.

Thanks for reading!