03 Oct 2016
It started as a seemingly innocuous matter of curiosity in the NLP office – a pub quiz question, almost:
What share of the global economic output is produced in the world’s 10 richest countries?
Has this increased or decreased in the last 50 years?
Some guesses were made so we looked at the data to check if anyone was right (no one was, although this was blamed on the data being patchy).For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.However, still thinking about interesting trends in the world’s 10 richest countries, while admittedly being influenced by the appointment of a new UK Prime Minister and one of the candidates in the upcoming US elections, another question came up in conversation:
How many of the world’s 10 richest countries have been governed by a female political leader?
Not many, we guessed. Then we thought that it would be nice, albeit depressing, to visualise just how many. Courtesy of our outstanding (and patient) Graphics team, the resulting infographic was used as NLP’s submission to the 2016 Information Is Beautiful Awards, where it was included in the longlist. You can see it below.
It’s an A1 poster: you may want to click here to see a larger version.
Some interesting findings on the left-hand side of the infographic, in no particular order:
The share of the world’s economy produced in the 10 richest countries has decreased over the years – from 87% in 1960 to 66% in 2015. We found this was still a substantial figure, but an encouraging one.
9 out of the 10 richest countries in 1960 are still in the top 10 in 2015 – Russia (then, the USSR) lost its spot, Brazil entered – but there has been plenty of movement with the likes of Mexico and Spain making an appearance in the chart over the years.
Comparing the share of the world’s GDP to the share of the world’s population in the group of the 10 richest countries leads to very inconsistent results. When China and India are in the group, the ratio seem fairly balanced (e.g. in 2015 the group accounts for 66% of the world’s GDP and 50% of the world’s population); when they aren’t, the concentration of global wealth in not-highly-populated countries appears stark (e.g. in 1990 73% of the world’s GDP was produced by 19% of the world’s population).
Some remarks on the right-hand side:
The world’s richest economies have a very poor record of appointing female leaders. Out of the 143 changes in leadership that happened in these countries between 1960 and 2015 (only when they were among the 10 richest in the world), just 8 involved a female leader.
Over the 550 years of analysis, female leaders have governed for fewer than 47 years. This is a remarkably bad ratio of 8 years of female leadership for every 92 of male leaders for a world population, despite women having consistently made up around or slightly less than 50% of the world’s population since 1960.
The number of changes in political leaders does not correlate with the number of female leaders – we were not expecting it would, but it was worth checking: whenever there is a change of leader, one would expect that the newly appointed one has the same chances of being male or female. However, the countries that change political leaders most often, Japan and Italy, have never had a female leader. Gender equality is down to many things, but chance is not one of them.
In conclusion, our analysis shows that the world is a relatively less unequal place in terms of wealth (although we appreciate we did not look into individuals’ wealth, but that of countries). And while there have been improvements in gender equality for a great number of metrics in recent years, we thought it was important to show that we still have a long way to go.
 We do attend rather geeky pub quizzes, but aren’t all pub quizzes that are worth attending geeky? Well spotted, galactic hitchhikers. By “change in leader”, it was considered the instance in which a President/Prime Minister replaces another. This does not always correspond to a change in Government. World Bank, Databank, Gender Statistics. For reference, the world’s population female-to-male ratio was 49.5:50.5 in 2015 and 50:50 in 1960.
22 Sep 2016
The following is an extract from a paper I presented at the 44th Joint Planning Law Conference held in Oxford over last weekend.The Housing and Planning Act 2016 is very much at the forefront of Government reform of the planning system. After a rather difficult passage through the two Houses of Parliament, a huge amount of the detail has been left to be legislated for later. This process of making secondary legislation has just started and it seems that it will continue with the ‘new’ Government.The mere existence of the Act reflects an escalation in importance of recognising the housing crisis within Government and Westminster – the vast majority of planning reform centres on addressing it, and has done for some time. Whilst the main political parties describe the problem in much the same way, the approaches to finding the solution are different - influenced as they are by different ideologies. Home ownership has for a long time been a central plank of Conservative party housing policy so the starter homes and the extension of the right to buy come as no surprise in that regard.Precisely what impact the Act will have is difficult to decipher at this juncture, such is the huge amount of detail left for regulations, policy and guidance later. Starter homes will no doubt be popular with those who will benefit from the initiative. One of the drivers of reform is to win the next election and if starter homes gain traction over the next three years, as it must currently be anticipated that they will, the Government will undoubtedly appeal more to the twenty and thirty year old age group than otherwise might be the case. With affordability arguably being at the root of the current crisis – particularly for first time buyers - a subsidy of this scale will undoubtedly be a major fillip to those who stand to benefit.
The underlying solution to the housing crisis must be to create a step-change in the delivery of housing so that future supply far more closely matches the needs that should be provided for as a nation. It is highly unlikely that starter homes will provide this step-change but they may have an impact at the margins.The Act, in isolation, will support some incremental and modest growth of year-on-year housing delivery, notwithstanding the possible challenges that might be presented should economic downturn or recession result from the decision to leavethe European Union, or for any other reason. However, the Act must be examined in the context of the wider reforms at play across a number of different fronts. For example, if the recommendations of the Local Plans Expert Group (LPEG) were implemented, local plans should have a greater and more significant impact on housing delivery by being far more resilient, flexible, and better able to respond to change. The Group’s recommendations would help ensure local plans are able to confidently tackle ‘the big decisions’ within reasonable timescales – those that really would make a difference to housing delivery, without the fear of being found unsound or Government intervention.With the Autumn Statement not too far away, we wait to hear what the Chancellor of the Exchequer meant when, on his visit to China in July, he referred to possible plans to ‘reset’ economic policy and we will then see whether this might have any implications for planning policy or decision-making. Within, or in parallel to, the timescale for the Autumn Statement (it is due on 23 November), amongst other things, we might expect to hear more about some of our long-awaited major infrastructure projects, an announcement about the work of the LPEG and further provisions relating to the Act coming into force.The Government knows where it wants to get to. It wants to be re-elected having provided for one million new homes, 20% of these being starter homes. It refers to the one million new homes in terms of an ‘ambition’ it is striving towards; the language used probably reflecting the doubts the Government itself has about achieving such a number. In my view the target won’t be met. It won’t be met because the imperative to be re-elected will continue to compromise the Government’s ability to put in place the necessary reform that has a realistic prospect of dealing with the underlying housing problem for the longer term, such that we can once again provide for the needs of future generations, in a way that we haven’t been able to for decades.
Image credit: @willupton (Twitter)