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The first phase of work, launched in June 2017 will examine the government’s support for ‘ordinary working families’. ‘Out of the Ordinary’ shows that despite having a higher income than the national average, an estimated six million ‘struggling households’ still felt it was difficult to balance their weekly household budget.

In the case of Nottingham, this is caused in part by the large portion of residents employed in low-paid caring roles, 11.5% compared to a national average of 9%.

Through the summer, the RSA’s ongoing work with NCE will bring a further focus on economic insecurity. We think addressing economic security is a neglected policy goal, which will help bring in to focus the following:

  • The breakdown of traditional class markers. University education has expanded for the recent generation, occupational roles in the workplace are undergoing accelerating change, and home ownership is declining among adults in their 30s establishing families. The financial security previously afforded by a university degree and a white-collar job is eroding, and partly as a consequence owner-occupation is less easily accessible as a form of insurance to protect against unstable or falling incomes.
  • The importance of households as a unit of analysis. Most labour market statistics, for example, look at workers as individuals although most workers live in households and financial decisions are made in that context. Families and their homes transmit wealth through the economy at a scale which dwarfs the government’s own system of tax-funded pensions. Differences in the experience of insecurity between generations remain relatively under-explored.
  • The importance of looking across the life-course rather than using snapshot data pictures. Looking at longitudinal data across Europe, the lower middle class has the highest rates of transitory poverty; moving in and out of poverty defines their economic status.
  • The economic, fiscal, social and health impacts of subjective (‘felt’) insecurity are just as, if not more potent than, the effects of objective insecurity and material deprivation. This doesn’t mean that addressing material deprivation and poverty should be neglected as policy goals. But it does mean recognising that progressing in the modern workplace brings anxieties and volatility, not necessarily the secure affluence that many crave.
  • Longer-term, a defining characteristic of our era is declining confidence that the future will be better than the past. Most people now think that their children will be worse off than they are.

The RSA will continue to look at these issues and support this important and exciting venture. If you are interested in hearing more, or are a Fellow from Nottinghamshire or the East Midlands then we’d love to hear more from you. Please email jack.robson@rsa.org.uk