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Insights from Q-Step Researchers

The following titles highlight research carried out by Q-Step team members.

You can also learn about the Q-Step team on our Meet the team at Queen's page.

Dr Eoin Flaherty: Was there ever a time when so few people controlled so much wealth?

"Oxfam’s latest report claims that income inequality has reached a new global extreme, exceeding even its predictions from the previous year. The figures behind this claim are striking – just 62 individuals now hold the same wealth as the bottom half of humanity, compared with 80 in 2014 and 388 in 2010. It appears that not only have the global elite weathered the financial crisis, but their fortunes have collectively improved." 

Professor Mike Tomlinson (Professor of Social Policy) on innovative ways to measure poverty and social exclusion

It is now common practice to measure poverty by considering both low income and deprivation. In Europe low income is generally defined as a household income less than 60% of the median household income. But when it comes to deprivation, there is less agreement.

In the Poverty and Social Exclusion project, deprivation is defined by asking a representative sample of the population which items people should not have to do without. In other words deprivation is defined by popular consensus. The survey used for this is available for anyone to fill in online. At the end of the survey, your responses are compared to what everyone else thinks are the key deprivation items.

See how you compare by exploring the Heatmap of attitudes to necessities by groups, UK, 2012

Dr Chris Raymond (Lecturer in Politics) explores the continued decline of the UK’s Two-Party System

According to what is commonly referred to as Duverger’s Law, the number of parties in first-past-the-post electoral systems is not expected to exceed two.  While the party system in Northern Ireland in Westminster elections has not conformed to two-party expectations for quite some time due to a number of important reasons related to the province’s past, the party system in Great Britain may be experiencing similar unravelling.  Whereas the Conservatives and Labour once dominated elections with more than 90 per cent of both the vote and seat shares, today they dominate only in terms of their seat shares.  While the two largest Westminster parties won a combined 564 seats out of a total of 650 seats (which in percentage terms is just under 87 per cent), their vote shares totalled to just over 65 per cent. 

The Continued Decline of the UK’s Two-Party System by Dr Chris Raymond

Dr Eoin Flaherty (Lecturer in Sociology) investigates the trade-off between economic competitiveness, welfare, and inequality

‌The solution to the financial crisis of 2008 was to promote economic competitiveness, and to reduce public spending. Often these choices are depicted as two incompatible poles: we cannot have strong social protection and high levels of public spending without compromising economic competitiveness. This line of thinking is particularly true in small open economies such as the Republic of Ireland, where remaining economically competitive often implies a trade-off in protections for workers such as generous welfare, union membership, and labour laws.

Is this an inevitable compromise? One thing we can do as sociologists is compare countries of similar geographical and economic profile. The Republic of Ireland, along with the United Kingdom, and United States is often held as an example of a ‘liberal’ economy, with means-tested welfare, low levels of regulation in the labour market, and less intensive social protection. Denmark is another example of a small open economy, geographically similar to Ireland. Unlike Ireland, Denmark is often classified as a ‘social democracy’, with higher levels of social spending, universal access to a range of state-funded social services, and greater protections for workers. 

The trade-off between economic competitiveness, welfare and inequality by Dr Eoin Flaherty

Dr Emma Calvert (Lecturer in Sociology) discusses work-life conflict

Concerns about the appropriate balance between work and family life have intensified as growth in female labour market participation has been accompanied by falling fertility and the prospect of an ageing population. The importance of this area for policy has led to a growing body of research. The concept of work-life conflict addresses the tensions and trade-offs that may be associated with combining paid work with other interests, primarily ‘family’.

‌There are substantial differences between countries in ‘family-friendly’ policies such as the availability of parental leave, the right to flexible working arrangements, and the costs and coverage of childcare provision. Drawing on the European Social Survey, Dr Emma Calvert and Dr Fran McGinnity (ESRI, Dublin) investigated the relationship between work-life conflict and social inequality in Western Europe.

The research draws on the debates concerning time-use, which suggest that there is an inverse relationship between a lack of time and income poverty. Is being too busy the positive and privileged position of high status professionals? The analysis explores whether this is also true of work-life conflict and how countries differ. A short ESRI research bulletin is available here.

Explore the article Work-Life Conflict and Social Inequality in Western Europe