Experimental feature

Listen to this article

Experimental feature

This article is from today’s FT Opinion email. Sign up to receive a daily digest of the big issues straight to your inbox.

Britain is right to be rethinking its enthusiasm for a highly flexible labour market, writes Sarah O'Connor, who has been reporting for nearly a decade on the impact of zero hours contracts and the gig economy. She argues that the armies of couriers and drivers who work for Deliveroo and Uber are not all that different from 18th-century workers who were paid by the piece.

Reforms should not aim to return us to a world of steady but stodgy 9-to-5 jobs, Sarah argues. Many workers crave more flexibility. Employers need it too. But the goal should be a labour market where give and take on both sides is the norm. The good news is that the best possible time for reforms is when unemployment is low and worker bargaining power is naturally on the rise, as it is right now. 

Merryn Somerset Webb takes issue with all of the central bankers and policymakers who now claim that they did the right thing after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers. Their frantic efforts to avoid an immediate depression have led to long-term pain for many people, particularly savers who lived responsibly before the crisis, Merryn writes.

Miranda Green writes about former UK political aide Carrie Symonds, who was cast in the role of femme fatale in Boris Johnson's decision to seek a divorce. Miranda argues that Symonds' treatment by the press shows why people hesitate to enter politics.

Jonathan Derbyshire explores the businesses who make their homes in the UK's railway arches, in light of Network Rail's decision to sell thousands of the locations to Blackstone. The fear is that the blooming ecosystem of start-ups and established small businesses that has developed alongside the railway over the past decade is under threat now that private equity is moving in.

Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump's latest nominee to the US Supreme Court is a Republican stalwart who has expressed an expansive view of presidential immunity from prosecution and a much narrower view of the powers of regulatory agencies, writes Kadhim Shubber in a profile. Allies say he is a family man with a commitment to diversity, while critics argue he will cement a high court majority that consistently rules for corporations.

Best of the week

Moonves’ inflated pay should have been a red flag to investors— Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson

China can put an end to currency manipulation— Robin Harding

Cynthia Nixon’s bagel-gate is the political drama we need— Courtney Weaver

Turmoil in emerging markets makes the case for a stronger IMF— Gillian Tett

The British Airways data breach shows that regulation works— Brooke Masters

Britain should be welcoming international students— Roula Khalaf

Four reasons why this is not the time for a new UK centre party— Robert Shrimsley

A crisis that opened the gates for China— Philip Stephens

America, China and the route to all-out trade war— Gideon Rachman

Why the US Federal Reserve should care about finance— Rana Foorohar

What you've been saying

Letter from Dr Michael Pravica in response to Pharma chief defends 400% drug price rise as a ‘moral requirement’

Maximising profit to “reward . . . shareholders” may be a primary aim of corporate executives but it has nothing to do with morality. Morality as espoused by the Hippocratic oath would ensure that every patient who could benefit from a drug would receive it. Sadly, only those patients who can afford these costly drugs (or who have insurance willing to pay for them) will receive them. This is not moral. This is wrong.

Comment by Harry Lime in response to: A weaker British pound makes no economic sense

“Depreciation shifts part of the cost of domestic failings on to foreign trading partners. Maintaining the currency's value would imply that UK citizens shoulder the full cost of our failures — hardly a vote winning proposition.”

Letter from Trineesh Biswas in response to Amazon’s pricing tactic is a trap for buyers and sellers alike

A year ago I had a foretaste of “ dynamic pricing” when, surprised by how expensive an ebook was on Amazon’s Kindle store, I asked a friend to look it up. The price quoted to his account was one-third lower…..The experience felt familiar. When I visit my parents in India, my very rusty Hindi automatically results in a non-trivial price premium with all informal retailers. The notion that customers should pay identical prices for goods is after all recent: only with the advent of department stores in Europe and the US about 150 years ago did clearly advertised prices start to replace haggling. Pricing à la tête du client is back. With a difference: the vegetable vendor in Delhi has nothing better than my bad accent to go on when guessing the price at which I would take my search for aubergines elsewhere. Amazon’s data and size equip it to capture much more of my consumer surplus. No wonder investors are so confident about its future profits.

Today's opinion

‘We were just tourists with broadswords’
Knights named as Thomas a Becket’s killers deny connection to the Canterbury death

Adrian Swire, chairman of John Swire & Sons, 1932-2018
A steady hand who guided a global family business through times of uncertainty

Workers have right to gig economy that delivers for 21st century
Flexible working is touted as the future but too often resembles an exploitative past

Private equity sets up shop underneath the arches in London
A blooming ecosystem of small businesses along the railway fear they are under threat

Person in the News: Brett Kavanaugh, Republican stalwart set to join the Supreme Court
Ex-White House aide has voted to curb regulation and defended presidential privilege

A post-crisis cure that has stored up economic pain
It has become clear to many people that their future has been re-priced

FT Alphaville: The digital Chicago plan

FT Alphaville: Guest Post: Crisis firefighters still uninterested in fire prevention

Free Lunch: Hard Brexit or hard on the causes of Brexit?
Losing factory supply chains will worsen divisions in the UK economy

Ingram Pinn’s illustration of the week: ‘We’re right behind you’
Tory Eurosceptics back down from leadership challenge

Undercover Economist: How to burst your political filter bubble
Civil debate between ideological enemies is really helped by real-life friendship

A suitable job for a woman
Carrie Symonds’s treatment by the press shows why people hesitate to enter politics

FT Alphaville: Calling all suburban Bond villains

City Insider: The mystery of the Lehman Brothers 10th anniversary bash
Hundreds of former staff have received invitations to a shindig at a smart City venue

FT Alphaville: How the Waffle House does it

FT View

The FT View: Trump administration extends its assault on multilateralism
Attack on the ICC marks an escalation of Washington’s unilateralism

The FT View: Britain’s economy needs a smooth Brexit deal
UK growth is reasonable, but a rupture with the EU27 would derail it

The Big Read

The Big Read: ‘Teacher’ Jack Ma’s new course for Alibaba
The chairman is stepping from the ecommerce group, but he is still likely to pull the strings

Get alerts on Newsletter when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article