Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Saving the EMA

There's arguments one could make for this but there are two that don't particularly appeal to me - both of which can he found here.

One is an argument from authority, which is even less convincing than usual because it is 'leading economists' whose authority is being invoked.

The other is an ad hominem argument about the background of the Coalition ministers responsible for this measure:
"We have a cabinet of privately educated politicians who do not understand how ordinary families in the 21st century need support to get on in life."
I assume we are being expected to believe the 'leading economists', in contrast, are horny handed sons of toil who went to comprehensives?

I doubt this but it is irrelevant. What matters is whether what is being said in favour of retaining the EMA makes any sense.

Some of it doesn't. Like all this stuff about increasing 'participation rates'. The increase doesn't strike me as being particularly impressive. According to the IFS it's 4% for 16 year olds, 7% for those aged 17. But the most important point is that 'participation' here just means they turn up, which isn't a good in itself. What matters is whether any learning is happening when they get there. Here the evidence doesn't overwhelm either:
"This (IFS) study was not able to examine the impact of the EMA on the likelihood of getting qualifications, but a subsequent report by IFS researchers found that in areas where EMA was available, students as a whole were around 2 percentage points more likely to reach the thresholds for Levels 2 and 3 of the National Qualifications Framework."
So why not make more straightforward, less bullshit arguments for EMA? Here's two:

1) While it might be difficult to identify much in the way of concrete gains, EMA is a more progressive and efficient way of maintaining 16-18 year olds in education than child benefit, which is paid to families regardless of their incomes.

2) In the grand scheme of things, in the War on the Deficit, savings of around £560 million mean slightly less than fuck all. I can't help wondering whether arguing the toss about this level of spending at all doesn't rather concede some of the territory that those who profess to be opposed to the cuts are claiming to occupy?

Blog Archive