Sugar Tax in the UK: Good or Bad?

 

The UK government has announced it will introduce a new tax on the sugary drinks industry. The idea is to tackle child obesity. Conservative governments don’t usually have much of a sweet tooth for raising taxes on anything, so they must have a pretty good reason for flirting with this sugar tax, right? That’s for you to decide, once you’ve got the facts inside you.

Why do the richest 62 own 50% of the world’s wealth?

 

“In 2015, 62 individuals had the same wealth as 3.6 billion people – the bottom half of humanity.” This is the latest from an Oxfam report. So 62 people have more wealth than 50% of the world’s population, and the richest 1% now control more wealth than the rest of the world put together.

The Housing Crisis and How You Can Escape It

 

Affordable housing is one of our biggest concerns. Prime Minister David Cameron promises to build 200,000 new starter homes for new buyers… wait, aren’t we “generation rent”?

 

OK, explain the housing crisis to me?

At the moment there is a lack of affordable housing across the UK. This lack of homes is pushing the price of houses up, up and up – meaning fewer people are able to buy their own home. There are a number of reasons why this is happening. The government builds way fewer houses than it used to in the 1960s and 1970s. The Conservative government in the 1980s led by Margaret Thatcher sold off council houses under the “right to buy” scheme. The scheme was a popular policy, but critics claim it created a shortage of housing. Another major reason is that planning permission for houses takes a long time to be granted. Not all permissions lead to houses being built.

Prime Minister David Cameron just promised to build 200,000 new homes which will be available for people to buy.

“Those old rules which said to developers: you can build on this site, but only if you build affordable homes for rent …we’re replacing them with new rules… you can build here, and those affordable homes can be available to buy.”

Whether this is achievable is uncertain… in 2007 the Labour government set a target of building 240,000 homes a year. Admirable idea… but they failed to meet this target. Even if the government hits this target it may not solve high rents. The Guardian reports that offering subsidies (benefits usually in the form of a cash payment or tax reduction) to builders creating more homes has actually made things worse.

 

I’d never be able to afford a home anyway?

Many call 16-25 year olds “generation rent” as rising house prices mean we are less likely to be able to afford to buy a house.

The housing crisis is also pushing up rents – even faster than the price of actually buying a house. The cost of renting a room in London has jumped more than 20% in the past five years. Landlords, rejoice.

Housing Crisis explained; https://www.thrillist.com/lifestyle/london/london-underground-rent-map London Underground Map showing average rents around the capital

Housing Crisis: Thrillist.com compiled this awesome graphic showing average rents around London.

The average price of renting in London is now £1,500 a month; outside the capital is £751. Don’t forget that when renting you’ll also usually need a month’s rent as a deposit. Affordable for some, but not for those searching for work, on lower paid jobs or zero-hours contracts.

It would seem new affordable houses are definitely needed. However, the i100 reports that housing charity Shelter is skeptical over whether David Cameron’s promised new homes are actually that affordable. They say on the minimum wage only 2% of homes would be affordable. Hmm.

 

How does this affect me?

One thing is for sure; rents are rising faster than our wages. Paying more for rent means you’re unable to save as much (if at all) for a deposit or mortgage, lowering your chances of getting your own place or saving for a pension. In many countries it’s the norm to rent all your life, but in the UK we seem to want to own our homes. The result? More and more graduates are moving back in with their parents to save. There’s been a 28% increase in 20-34 year olds living at home since 1997.

Cupboard advertised on gumtree at £40 per week to rent... a sign of the housing crisis?

£40 per week? BARGAIN!

Searches for shared rooms have risen dramatically in the last few years as others cut costs by sharing a room. It takes two to tango.

The problem is that as people become more desperate for a place to live they end up forking out extortionate amounts for cramped and often substandard accommodation.

Take the single room in Clapham advertised at £800. Or the £730 per month “fully contained” flat … basically a bed in a kitchen. This “loft conversion” (see; cupboard) was posted at the reasonable price of £40 per week. The catch – there is no standing roomYour affordable halls of residence seem like a distant daydream, don’t they?

 

Fine, so “housing crisis = bad times”. How do I beat the system?

Warning; thinking about the housing crisis for too long may lead to nausea/anger/fear/a cold numb feeling spreading through your whole body.

However we’re practical folks here at Scenes of Reason so we’ve compiled a some ways to escape the housing crisis and jump on that property ladder.

Graphic explaining how "Help to Buy" scheme works

How the “help to buy” scheme could help you escape the housing crisis and get your own place.

The government runs a “Help to Buy” scheme which allows you to buy a house with a smaller deposit.

Under the scheme first time buyers are able to buy a property up to £600,000, paying only 5% upfront as a deposit.

Usually you’d need around 10% for a deposit. Happy days!

Explore; government help for house buyers

The government is also offering a loan to cover 20% of the price of a new property. For the first five years you won’t be charged fees on this loan.

 

The BBC also has a calculator which tells you where in the country is cheaper to rent or buy. However, perhaps just buying or building houses may not solve the housing crisis.

According to the Empty Homes Charity there are over 200,000 homes left empty for over six months, and over 600,000 houses empty in total. So perhaps to solve the housing crisis we should start trying to fill these houses, rather than just building new ones?

 

Housing Crisis learnings; Houses. People. Can. Afford.

Will David Cameron deliver on his promise to build 200,000 new homes? Will these even be affordable? How can we end the housing crisis?

Take action: If you think more needs to be done, sign the Housing Federation’s Change.org petition “Solve Our Housing Crisis”

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This is how the United Nations is going to save the world

The international organisation the United Nations just set a load of aims to make the world a better place. Only thing is, the UN didn’t meet its previous targets. What are you going to do to help?

 

United what?

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: The United Nations flag

Cool flag, bro

Everyone has that friend who’s a bit of an overachiever. You know, balancing three careers simultaneously whilst also learning a new language?

In the international community the United Nations is that person.

The United Nations is an intergovernmental organisation promoting international cooperation. That’s a posh way of saying the world’s governments get together to solve problems faced by the planet. For example: war, poverty, climate change, that kind of stuff.

The United Nations formed in 1945, primarily to prevent another conflict like World War II. So far, so good.

 

 

So, what are the United Nations planning?

The UN just announced its new set of Sustainable Development Goals. Big words; simple aims. These are the UN goals make the world a better place.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: chatshow host Stephen Colbert gif about poor people

Sustainable Development Goal 1: End Poverty

The full list has 17 goals.

Each goal has numerous aims and targets to be met before 2030. Ambitious much?

The list kicks off with “end poverty in all its forms everywhere”. Starting with something easy then.

It then zips through stuff like “end hunger” and “ensure sanitation for all” (clean water and all that jazz) and “achieve gender equality” for good measure. No biggie.

 

A to-do list

Think of the Sustainable Development Goals as the worlds to-do list?

That’s not to mention promising “decent work for all” (fair pay and realistic working hours) making our energy and cities sustainable reducing inequality in the world.

All done yet?

The United Nations also believes we must “take urgent action to combat climate change”.

The key word here is sustainable. As in, we only have one world with limited resources, so let’s be smart about how we use them.

Oh, and the UN wants to ensure global society is inclusive and peaceful.

It’s like the to-do list of a higher power.

 

Did the UN achieve the previous set of sustainable development goals?

Errmmm… not exactly.

The Guardian reports that although the United Nations achieved significant progress with the previous set of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), many specific targets were missed. For example; Millennium Development Goal One tackled global poverty. The United Nations missed its target of halving the number of people suffering from hunger.

It’s not all doom and gloom; despite some missed targets, other aims were achieved ahead of schedule. It’s estimated that 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty. Not bad going.

 

Moving Forward

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: the UN general assembly building

In da house; the Sustainable Development Goals will be adopted at the UN general assembly

United Nations member states will meet at the UN summit 25-27th September 2015 to formally adopt the brand new Sustainable Development goals.

International organisations like the UN relies on aid from countries to fund development work.

In case you were wondering what we spend: the UK government is committed to spending 0.7% of our total income on foreign aid.

The United Nations created the Sustainable Development Fund to put organisations and businesses who want to help in touch with relevant UN and humanitarians agencies around the world.

Call it the world’s largest matchmaker.

However with goals like providing “sanitation for all” estimated to cost $290 billion a year people worry there will not be enough money.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 27JAN11 - Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations, New York looks on during the session 'Combating Chronic Disease' at the Annual Meeting 2011 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 27, 2011.

Top man; Ban Ki-Moon admits the previous goals weren’t all met

Is it realistic to set new goals when previous ones are unfinished? Or perhaps setting the bar high is a good thing as it encourages us to strive harder?

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general acknowledges that while remarkable gains were achieved “inequalities persist and that progress has been uneven.”

The United Nations is doing some great things in the world, though we wonder how it would go down if we tried a similar approach in our own lives.

Picture it: next time you’re given a task at work, brand it as part of something much more difficult and say “at least I tried”. Then set new targets and hope no-one notices.

 

United Nations decoded; sometimes setting seemingly impossible goals can help you achieve great things.

Sometimes it just means you don’t hit your targets.

 

One goal we can all achieve is to understand the news. Subscribe to our newsletter and let us do the explaining. Also Like and Follow for regular decoded news.

Why Child Labour needs to end and what you can do to help

Today millions of children across the world won’t be getting that Friday feeling; they’ll be forced to work.

 

168 million children worldwide in child labour - UNICEFWhat is World Day Against Child Labour?

It’s a day to raise awareness about children of all ages who are forced to work. Around the world there are around 168 million children having to work, according to charity Unicef.

Child labour is defined as the employment of children which is unfair, illegal or exploitative. Child labour is dangerous as it can mentally and physically damage the children working.

It’s estimated more than half of child workers are employed in farming and agriculture.

 

 

 

Why should I care about this?

World Day Against Child Labour - A child carries bricks on their head

That doesn’t look safe… or fair

Think back to when you were six or seven. Would you rather have been playing out in the garden or lifting bricks nearly as heavy as yourself?

Children around the world are sent out to work by their parents. For many families across the world it’s not that they would choose to send their children out to work. Extreme poverty means they just don’t have a choice.

Not going to school might seem like the dream. But if children are sent out to work instead they are denied an education and this has an impact on their future prospects. Reports by the International Labour Organisation have shown that children forced into child labour have a greater chance of working in low paid or unpaid positions in the future. Or in Monopoly terms: Do not pass go; do not collect £200.

 

So is this slavery?

World Day Against Child Labour - Scene from Game of Thrones with Emilia Clarke

Dragons aren’t slaves… neither are children, Khaleesi

Not in every case; but many children do work in conditions that aren’t that much better than slavery.

However, child slavery is also a big problem. According to the International Labour Organisation, 8.4 million children worldwide are working in slavery. This includes working as prostitutes, drug runners and as child soldiers in war zones. Not nice stuff.

 

Many children are trafficked far away from their homes and families to work. Children in these situations often have no contact with loved ones and no way to get home.

 

Is this a third world problem? Surely this doesn’t happen near me?

World Day Against Child Labour - Scene from Perfume with Ben Whishaw

Closer to home than you might think…

This isn’t just happening far away on the other side of the world. A report quoted by the Guardian states that 12 million children in child labour are working in developed countries.

As far as slavery is concerned; it’s now illegal in every country. Despite this, people are still working in slave conditions on every continent in the world, according to Anti-Slavery International.

This includes people given no choice but to work. They are often threatened. People are sold off and treated as goods, and some are kept in captivity. It’s been estimated there are around four thousand slaves in the UK. It’s unknown how many of these are children, but it’s a problem which needs addressing.

 

OK, I’m convinced. What can I do?

Raising awareness is the first step. The number of children in child labour has dropped since 2000 by 1/3rd but there is still a long way to go. There are many groups and organisations which provide information about Child Labour. Unicef and Anti-Slavery International, to name just two, are campaigning to end Child Labour. They are also a good source for tips on how to fundraise.

In 2015 the UK government passed the Modern Slavery BillThis increased the punishment for human trafficking from 14 years in prison to life imprisonment. It also created a defence so those forced to commit crimes will not be punished for them. From now on the criminals may have to do the dirty work themselves.

Online Action

People are using the #childlabour to show their support for this cause. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and do some good!

Twitter reaction to World Day Against Child Labour

#childlabour – what’s your view?

What we learned; child labour is definitely not OK – we can all do something to help, however small it may seem.

What is the best way to end Child Labour?

 

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