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.


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A Theory that Proves the UK Immigration Debate is Rigged

The UK government promised to lower immigration levels to the tens of thousands. They are nowhere near meeting this target; do they really want immigration to drop?

By Bobbie Mills

All I hear is Immigration

Immigration is up there with the NHS and the economy as the issue which most worries Britain’s electorate. When politicians start on their immigration spiel, what we hear are numbers, numbers, numbers.

The Labour Party are all for tea and immigration controls

The Labour Party are all for tea and immigration controls

One number in particular keeps coming up: Net migration figures. This is the total number of people coming in to the country minus the total number of people going out.

If 100 people come in and 99 go out, net migration is 1.

If 1 person comes in and 0 go out, net migration is 1.

This figure includes people coming or going for more than a year for reasons of: work, study, joining family and seeking asylum. This means we are counting a very mixed bag of people –including students, children who arrive as dependents, senior managers transferring to their company’s London branch, and asylum seekers who cannot work while they await a decision on their refugee status.

The most recent statistics show net migration in the UK to be at 330,000.

This figure is enormously greater than Cameron’s pledged reduction of net migration to the tens of thousands. The Conservative government have since renewed their commitment to reducing net migration to these levels, but literally no one believes this is possible. Fail!

Why is the government failing so monumentally at meeting this target? Why do we want so badly to reduce immigration in the first place? Is it really such a good idea?

There is one simple answer to these questions: Not everyone wants to reduce immigration – INCLUDING THE GOVERNMENT.

Yes. We’ll say it again – the UK Conservative government, and pretty much any rich democratic state, does NOT want to reduce immigration by anywhere near the amount it says it does.

Cameron’s government could not be clearer in what it says about immigration: the current rate is too much and must be reduced. We know, however, that there is often a difference between what politicians say and what they mean.

Behind the scenes, the government is being pulled in two different directions on the subject of immigration.

tug of war, falling over, immigration debate

Which way will the government fall when it comes to immigration?

This is because there is a great demand for immigration (both high-skilled and low-skilled) from the business sector. Rich economies like the UK rely on immigration to function properly. This not only goes for the National Health Service but also for processing plants, hotel cleaning, public transport and food processing, the list goes on.

The government has great interest both in keeping the economy moving and keeping the business sector happy. Therefore, it has great interest in allowing immigration at a reasonable level.

It’s business time

Business wants immigration. Lord Business from the Lego MovieWhy does the business sector favour higher levels of immigration? Business leaders tend to favour the free movement of highly-skilled workers because this allows them to take their pick from a wider pool of talented people. No surprises there.

Business leaders also tend to favour the freer movement of low-skilled workers because these people are more likely to take the jobs that British nationals simply do not want to do.

There are certain jobs that most Brits will not do because the education and aspirations that come with living in a rich economy mean they tend to want well-paid and fulfilling jobs which are seen as better than manual jobs. Even if we don’t want jobs from the top of the pile, we still have an idea of acceptable working hours, acceptable pay, and an idea of our rights.

Migrants, like everyone else, also have education and aspirations for decent jobs and a decent life – and this is why they decide to leave their country where they see few opportunities to come to work in a rich economy. Those who come to Britain, rather than another country, do so because they speak English (which all politicians agree they should do) or because they already have friends or family living there.

Not only are migrants more likely to take jobs that Brits do not want;  migrants are also much more easily exploited than British nationals. This is because their visas are conditional on them remaining with a particular employer. If they quit their job because, say, their wages are being withheld, they automatically become illegal immigrants. Therefore, even if there were plenty of British nationals who wanted to do the hard and poorly-paid work typically done by migrants – like picking vegetables and cleaning toilets – employers would still prefer to employ migrants because they are cannot quit. They are a captive and exploited workforce, unlikely to complain.

This is the harsh reality of why the business sector prefers higher levels of immigration. Because the government needs to keep the economy growing and to keep business happy, it has great interest in allowing immigration at a reasonable level. This is why the government does not want to reduce immigration as much as it says it does, and why in many ways it does not want to meet its net migration target.

The UK government cannot meet its target

On top of this, there are reasons why the UK government cannot meet its target. All liberal democratic governments (who are committed to freedom, equality and human rights) are under a number of obligations under international law to guarantee human rights.

The UK is bound by the UN Convention on Refugees which requires it to provide shelter to people fleeing war and persecution.

The UK has passed the Human Rights Act, which brings its law into line with the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 8 of which guarantees the right to a family life.

This means that the government cannot really control the number of people who settle in Britain as refugees or through family reunification. Neither can it control the number of people arriving, settling or leaving from within the European Union, owing to the terms of its membership of the EU.

Let’s combine the business stuff with the human rights stuff. There are big reasons why the government cannot meet its target on reducing net migration – because this would be going against a whole bunch of human rights conventions. Then there are equally important reasons why the government does not want to meet its target. Not only would this displease powerful business leaders, it would also be a very bad move for the British economy, which relies on migrants workers both highly- and low- skilled.

How come the government appears to be slavishly trying to reduce immigration, then?

Again, there is a simple answer to this: the government wants your vote, and it thinks that what you want are fewer immigrants in the country. So long as the government believes that the electorate is opposed to immigration, it will do all it can to at least appear to be reducing immigration by any means possible, regardless of how many it actually wants to let in.

This is where the targets come in – nothing sends a strong message of a government’s intentions like a solid target for reducing immigration.

Everything this article has explained so far is what fancy-pants people call the ‘liberal constraint theory’. Governments tend to have good reason to want to keep immigration at a good level, but because public opinion tends to be anti-immigration, they have to keep up a tough-on-immigration rhetoric to win votes. Any government who wants to win votes, keep the business sector happy, and uphold international obligations finds itself in this tricky situation. So that goes for basically any liberal democratic government ever, it’s not just a UK thing, it’s not even a left- or right-wing thing.

Is Britain as anti-immigration as we think?

There’s a loose end to this theory. Does public opinion always tend to be anti-immigration?

It’s not even that clear what the British public actually think about immigration – and we seem to be obsessed with talking about it!

The British Social Attitudes Survey  found in 2011 that 77% of the public wish to see immigration reduced, whilst research from think tank British Future found in 2014 that the majority of the public have much more pragmatic and nuanced views, and do not necessarily wish to see it reduced. Is our government pandering to an anti-immigrant public opinion that doesn’t exist?

To be fair – the arguments surrounding the immigration debate are pretty hard to stay on top of. Every argument has a counter-argument, and it’s hard to get our thoughts straight.

Scenes of Reason have put together a graphic that shows why the immigration debate cannot be won.

Your immigration debate

EXPLORE: the UK Immigration debate which cannot be won

Why is Immigration an issue?

Politicians know that immigration is ultimately what our economy needs to keep ticking over.

Conversely, every politician feels the need to take seriously people’s legitimate worries about how their towns are changing and how their local services are faring. That makes a lot of sense: people do have genuine worries and problems. Whether these problems are genuinely caused by immigration is an important and complex part of the debate.

What should politicians make of the fact that a lot of people see immigration as a problem not so much for their local area but for Britain as a whole? This trend was found by an Ipsos Mori study:


Public Attitudes toward Immigration in the UK

What should we make of the fact that a lot of the anti-immigration feeling in Britain comes from places which have next to no immigrants living in them? This is the case in Clacton-on-Sea where UKIP member Douglas Carswell won his seat. According to the last census, less than 1 in 20 residents of Clacton were born abroad.

What makes people anti-immigrant?

What can be done?

Local level tactics. It has been proposed that rather than shouting at the government for or against the crisis, members of the public need to contact their local MP and work up rather than down. How immigration affects your town should be more of a concern than how immigration affects the entire of the UK. Whatever you think about these issues, you can contact your MP using the WriteToThem service. Now you’re decoded, there might not be an excuse.

Immigration in the UK explained: The UK government does not want to reduce immigration as much as it says it does because it knows how important immigration is for the UK economy. However, all political parties maintain tough rhetoric on reducing immigration because this is what they believe the UK electorate want to hear. Is this what you want to hear?

How do we form our views on migration? Do we care how immigration impacts the economy? Is it more about how it affects our local area? How can we know what kind of impact immigration is really having? If we have no direct experience with UK immigration, where do our views come from? Are these fears about immigration coming from the press?

Bobbie has just finished an MSc in Migration Studies at the University of Oxford. She writes on politics, the media and migration and lives in North London @MsBobbieMills

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In light of Amazon: 9 to 5 work is dead now anyway


An article about Amazon’s working conditions makes us analyse the modern working world as we know it. 


What’s the story?

Amazon's head office front door. New York Times Amazon Report: 9 to 5 is dead now anyway

9 to 5 is dead: Amazon’s working conditions have been criticised

Everyone is talking about a New York Times article: “Inside Amazon: Wrestling big ideas in a bruising workplace”. It describes what it’s like working at the retail giant. Apparently the bosses at Amazon are conducting an “experiment” into how far they can push their workers. Employees describe working 80 hour weeks. They are pressured into working nights and weekends. There is a total lack of work/life balance. Amazon boss Jeff Bezos says the Amazon described is “not the Amazon I know”. Right or wrong, the report has got people thinking whether the “9 to 5” working day is a thing of the past.


Working 9 to 5? At Amazon it’s more like 24/7

Large amounts of the NYT article detail the long hours Amazon employees are expected to work. Workers sometimes receive emails in the middle of the night, and are then pestered to answer by text. This seems to sound familiar though? 

Bankers, lawyers, doctors and service industry workers are just some examples of employees expected to work late, or start early. Banking website Wall Street Oasis reports that employees at banks like Rothschild, Barclays and Citigroup work over 70 hours a week on average. The Telegraph reported last year that junior doctors were working 100 hour weeks. These are all professions which have been around a long, long time.

Amazon warehouse. Vox news say things are a lot worse for Blue collar workers. New York Times Amazon Report: 9 to 5 is dead now anyway

Amazon’s warehouse workers definitely don’t work 9 to 5. Why didn’t the New York Times write about this?

So, maybe the viewpoint that “9 to 5 is dead” isn’t so new after all.

Vox News argued that the NYT article focuses on “white collar” workers. Think: office working professionals. Vox claims workers in Amazon warehouses have it a lot worse.  They face tough working conditions, low pay and a constant threat of dismissal. They have less chance of finding employment elsewhere than the “white collar” professionals. However, once the warehouse workers clock off, it’s unlikely their bosses will email them asking them to finish a piece of work. So, at least that’s something.

The NYT report compares how Amazon, Google and Facebook manage their workers. Google and Facebook motivate their staff with rewards (gym passes, meals, sleep pods). Amazon “offers no pretence that catering to employees is a priority”. Who is to say which is better? Amazon is currently worth around $175 billion.  

Journalist Sara Robinson notes that research in the 1980s found that working  60 or 70 hour weeks resulted in short-term gains. However, “increasing a team’s hours in the office by 50 percent (from 40 to 60 hours) does not result in 50 percent more output.” So, regularly getting employees to work longer once they’ve done their 40 hours is “a stupid and abusive way to burn up profits.” Back to the drawing board then. Perhaps we should just see the Amazon article as an insight to a successful (if divisive) company. We are talking about THE leading tech company in the world, right?


Work hard, play hard, work harder seems to just be the norm now

While Amazon is being criticised for its working practices, working harder and longer seems to be the norm for many companies. Other tech companies especially seem to be joining Amazon in demanding more from their workers. Innovation is key, and falling behind is not an option.

An office cubicle wall with post it notes for productivity. New York Times Amazon Report:9 to 5 is dead now anyway

Amazon may have it wrong. Working more than 9 to 5 may not make you more productive

Just how much of our lives do we spend working? According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) the UK average working week is 39.2 hours per week. France introduced a 35 hour working week in 2000. However in 2011, it was reported that French workers were putting in 39.5 hours on average. Mon Dieu!

At 46.7 hours per week on average it would seem the USA works more hours than most European countries. Yet Asian countries work more hours than America. Is it productive? There are many ways to measure how productive a country is. One way is to divide a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by the number of hours worked. GDP is the monetary value of all goods and services produced in the country. With us so far?

The ONS say Britain isn’t doing too well in this area. British productivity is 17% less than the average of other developed G7 countries. The G7 contains Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and USA. This “productivity gap” is the widest it’s been in 20 years. Ouch.

The latest statistics say the average Brit works 1,669 hours a year. This is more than France at 1,489 hours and Germany at 1,363 hours. So, we are working longer hours, but producing less. Germany works fewer hours on average, yet they are producing more than us. In fact the UK produces 30% less per hour than Germany and France. Very poor form chaps.

One of the main problems with working out productivity is there is so, so much data to look at. Even when you find what you’re looking for, it will soon be out of date. When researching this article we found that many sources containing average working hours and productivity figure seemed to contradict one another.

The bottom line: a country’s efficiency isn’t just to do with how many hours they work. But it seems the UK has something to prove when it comes to productivity. Increasing working hours may not be the answer.


If 9 to 5 is dead, what’s the new trend?

Millennials are those born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s. They are the new workforce, and research says that compared to previous generations, they have a different approach to work.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013 To kick off our prep work for the Global Youth Summit, the ITU hosted special one-day MILLENNIALS JAM WORKSHOP at its ICT Discover Center, with an exclusive and select group of 40 entrepreneurial young people. The objective of this unique one-day event is to crowd-source a more detailed framework for the Summit where approximately 25,000 young people will input their ideas for the post-2015 global development agenda. ITU/Rowan Farrell New York Times Amazon Report: 9 to 5 is dead now anyway

Be your own boss: Millennials are ditching 9 to 5 to start their own businesses

The Intelligence Group is a research company focusing on young people. Forbes reports on The Intelligence Group who found that Millennials want to feel their work matters. They want flexibility in their work schedule. They want “to invest in a place where they can make a difference, preferably a place that itself makes a difference.”

Job website Timewise says that 14.1 million Brits want flexibility in their work schedule. But when looking at 3.5 million job adverts they saw that only 6% offered flexibility and a good salary. London was the worst. Does this mean the UK is following the Amazon style of work: long hours and little flexibility? If so, the Millennials don’t seem too fussed. Self-employment and freelancing is on the rise.

Millennials were either studying or entering work at the time of the financial crisis. Perhaps this means they see a job differently to previous generations: not for life, but an opportunity to learn new skill sets and build a network of contacts.

According to research by the Kauffman Foundation over half of 18 to 34s want to start their own business. They are adept at working remotely – from home, in coffee shops or “hot desking”. They also want to work in collaborative environments. This is potentially why so many companies are replacing offices and cubicles in the workplace for an open plan design. Advertising agency Grey even created a “Millennials only” section to their office.

Millennials want flexibility and to work remotely. Don’t make the mistake of calling them lazy though. A separate study found that 89% of Millennials admit to checking work emails “out of hours”. Though, with 9 to 5 seemingly out the window, is there such thing as out of hours anymore?

By 2020, around 40% of the US workforce will be made up of Millennials. Eventually bosses will need to adapt to the needs of this generation. Let’s start by busting the myth working longer makes you more productive.


Learnings: 9 to 5 is dead

It’s time to start embracing change, and with that in mind let’s be specific about what we are crucifying Amazon for. Feeling like you’re working too hard? Sharing this post will definitely make you feel better.


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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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Workers Rights: What You Need To Know

9 to 5, JSA, National Minimum Wage and zero hour contracts, are a whole lot of acronyms and Phases thrown about in the Leaders Debates 2015 and I still don’t know what’s what. What I know goes like this; study, apply, sign, work. This is the Scenes of Reason, Employment 101.