Are you part of the most stressed-out demographic in America?

Are you a young woman between the ages of 18 and 33 living in the US? Tell us how stress affects you and how you cope

If you happen to be a working woman and below the age of 33, congratulations – you belong to the most stressed-out demographic in America.

According to a new survey from the American Psychological Association, more than a third of US employees are seriously stressed thanks to “low salaries, lack of opportunity for advancement and heavy workloads”. But not everyone feels the effects of stress equally.

Women in the survey reported feeling less valued than their male co-workers, less satisfied with their salaries, less likely to agree that their “employer provides sufficient opportunities for internal career advancement”. They were also less likely to use time off and flexible schedule arrangements to help them balance work and personal responsibilities.

Another recent study from the APA confirmed women were feeling particularly anxious – but it also found that young adults (those between the ages of 18 and 33) are “the most stressed-out generation“.

More than half of young adults surveyed said they had lain awake at night in the past month due to stress, and that they were more likely to engage in “unhealthy behaviors like over-eating, drinking alcohol and smoking to manage stress”.

Sound familiar?

Are you a woman between the ages of 18 and 33? Do you struggle to cope with work-related stress? Tell us about how stress affects you, and the ways you try and cope. We’ll publish your responses (using first names only) in the Guardian:

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The case for capping payday loan rates is overwhelming | Stella Creasy

The ‘widespread irresponsible’ activity found by the OFT should prompt urgent reform of the market, but Cameron fails to act

The Office of Fair Trading has now confirmed what many of us feared. Legal loansharking is out of control in Britain. The myth there are simply a few rogue firms has been blown apart by their description of “widespread irresponsible” behaviour. The OFT’s devastating analysis reveals just how they benefit from getting people into debt, with 50% of profits being generated by consumers rolling over loans and racking up costs month on month. Crucially, the OFT outlines problems not simply to do with compliance with existing regulation. They are so fed up with the conduct of these companies they have announced their intention to refer the lot to the Competition Commission.

For any other government this would be a wake-up call that urgent reform of this market is needed. Nearly 5 million people are borrowing in this way and the cost of living crisis in Britain is going to get worse, not better, in the months ahead. Yet despite these practices they continue to resist capping what these companies charge.

The case for capping is overwhelming – countries with these measures have lower levels of illegal lending as well as lower levels of personal debt. Yet the government listens only to the industry that claims caps could stop them lending – just as turkeys claim Christmas is a bad idea. This stance now makes Britain one of the few places in the world where consumers can be charged extortionate rates of interest without any form of redress.

In a nation where wages are stagnating and prices are rising, many will find themselves with too much month at the end of their money. To restrict their access to credit would cause more financial distress. Yet, to only offer this toxic form of expensive credit is hardly better. Regulating costs, requiring all lenders to do proper credit checks and changing the way in which continuous payment authorities work would help reduce the pressures these loans are creating for millions of families.

Anyone annoyed by advertisements for these firms will welcome action to make them clearer, but the real damage is being done by charges these firms levy. Until we address these, Britain will be a soft touch. That’s why Labour has pledged to stand up to the industry lobby and committed to capping the charges companies can levy. As the PM ducks the issue, it’s clear only we can be trusted to put the needs of struggling families first and act to end legal loan sharking in Britain.

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If you live in a city, you don’t need a car | Joanna Moorhead

We live near a train station, bus stop and car club. After being forced to go car-free, I doubt we’ll ever own one again

Cars cost – and how. According to the RAC, we spend between 12% and 26% of our disposable income on buying and running a car – and, unsurprisingly, the poorest households spend the biggest proportion of their funds on them.

The RAC sees this as the strongest argument yet for a reduction in fuel duty in the upcoming budget. “These figures should shock the chancellor,” says ProfStephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation. “It lays bare the truth about the extent of transport poverty in the UK.”

But I think there’s another truth to bring into the mix here – a truth that’s hit me in the face over the last few months, but one most people seem unwilling or unable to acknowledge. It’s this: many of us who are running cars don’t need them. We think we need a car, but we don’t. And when we’re brave enough to give it a try, we realise we can manage perfectly well without one – while saving a fortune in the bargain.

I wasn’t brave, I admit that. I was nervous – desperately nervous – about becoming car-free. But eight months ago our elderly people carrier (I’ve got four kids, so we needed a large vehicle to transport everyone around) was hit by a passing vehicle while it was parked outside our house, and the damage was so bad it had to be written off. No problem, I thought: we’ll buy another. But the insurance payout didn’t even begin to cover the costs of buying a new car – I worked out that, with the loan we’d need plus petrol, insurance, parking permits and tax, we could easily be looking at around £600 a month.

And that’s when I had my eureka moment. Why not just give up having a car at all? The more I thought about it, the more sensible it seemed. I live in London. We have a railway station behind our house, a tube station 10 minutes’ walk away, and a bus stop at the end of the street. Added to which, a new car club had just opened in our area, and one of its shiny little red Peugeots was parked nearby. If any family in Britain could live without a car, I reasoned, then surely we were that family?

But my new car-free evangelism, sadly, wasn’t shared by my family. My teenage daughters were horrified. How would they get to and from university? (A coach, I suggested.) How would they get home from parties across town late at night? (Isn’t that what taxis are for? And yes, I do realise they’re more expensive than mum and dad driving, actually.) What would their friends think about our family being “too poor to afford a car”? (I wasn’t that bothered what they thought, and I suggested they could take the same approach.)

My friends, too, were astonished at our plan – even friends who live in London. Wasn’t a car essential, when you had children? What would happen if someone got seriously ill overnight and needed to go to hospital (erm … an ambulance?). How would the children get to and from their many events? (Well, there are always all those buses and trains.) People smiled indulgently, as though this was another of my mad ideas, before saying they were sure I’d soon realise that a car wasn’t a luxury, it was a necessity.

Eight months on, I wonder whether we’ll ever own a car again. The idea that you “have” to own a car, especially if you live in a city, is all in the mind. I live – and many other city-dwellers do too – in a community that has never been better served by public transport, and yet car ownership has never been higher. We wring our hands, as the RAC is doing today, over rising car costs, but we’d be better off asking something much more basic. Do I really need a car? The answer, for me, turned out to be no, and I’m a lot richer because I dared to ask the question.

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10 reasons why it sucks to be rich | Zoe Williams

The shame … the discrimination … the anguish over having to fire domestic help to keep one’s girlfriend happy. It’s a daily trial

1. The shame

According to Nigel Nicholson, a psychologist at the London Business School, you may feel overwhelmed with feelings of guilt that others don’t have as much as you, or paranoia that others envy you. This is known as “rich man’s burden” – it sometimes leads to panic reactions, like philanthropic urges, which business school psychologists (who knew?) can teach you how to overcome with relaxing exercises.

2. The discrimination

Privately educated people proliferate at elite universities and thence to hotly contested careers, which is as it should be, since their grades are so good – it is nevertheless tragic to note the bitterness with which some outsiders greet this state of affairs. The attitude of some proles to private schools has become a “hatred that dare not speak its name“, according to Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College. Some proles piped up: “But Anthony, we do dare! We do hate this outrageously raked playing field”, but luckily he couldn’t hear them, because they don’t enunciate.

3. Sometimes when people guesstimate your riches, they get it wrong

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was distraught to learn that Forbes put his wealth at £13bn when it was actually nearer £20bn. And this was after he showed them his books! It’s too vexing, you can sue them, they might apologise, but the hurt never goes.

4. If you want to be an actor, you will only be cast as a posho

It’s unfair for two reasons – first, you can do all the accents; you went to drama school like anybody else. Second, if you give up and audition for the posho, you have to fight Dominic West and Damian Lewis for it, and they both went to Eton where they learned to fight with a complicated stick.

5. The endless admin

People who just buy sandwiches and stuff tend not to understand that, when you buy something large like an island, it takes ages. Which is vexing, because once you’ve decided you want it, much like a sandwich, you tend to want it straight away.

6. When you are a banker, people blame you for the banking system

This is actually not fair. Your salary is a symptom of a totally rotten system, in which profits generated correspond to no concrete value in the real world, leastways not until some taxpaying schmuck has to make sure you’re good for it, and not the cause.

7. And just when you’d battened down the hatches and were minding your own business …

Someone wants to take your money away. “Tax”, they call it. When you never even use their shitty roads, and their pathetic, smelly, quite stained social fabric. These tiny people despise your creativity, so you despise them right back. Then you have to move countries, stateless, nomadic, with the anguished soul of the refugee.

8. Some people, especially people who aren’t rich, have no idea how small a £2m house can be

Mansion? YOU CALL THIS A MANSION? I wouldn’t make my enemy’s dog live in it, it’s not even near a park.

9. You can’t get the staff (part 1)

“Share or protect”, they told us in sociology 101. We can handle that; we are cool with nannies who double up as bodyguards. But did you know that when a Norland nanny gets trained in taekwondo, her hourly rate actually goes up? Talk about predatory pricing.

10. You can’t get the staff (part 2)

I had a cleaner once, and she was way more qualified than me, and probably more intelligent, as I’d have been able to tell, were I bilingual (as she was). She picked up my underpants for 13 years while never displaying any bitterness. But she didn’t get on with my girlfriend so I fired her. No, really. It’s annoying.

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10 reasons why it sucks to be rich | Zoe Williams

The shame … the discrimination … the anguish over having to fire domestic help to keep one’s girlfriend happy. It’s a daily trial

1. The shame

According to Nigel Nicholson, a psychologist at the London Business School, you may feel overwhelmed with feelings of guilt that others don’t have as much as you, or paranoia that others envy you. This is known as “rich man’s burden” – it sometimes leads to panic reactions, like philanthropic urges, which business school psychologists (who knew?) can teach you how to overcome with relaxing exercises.

2. The discrimination

Privately educated people proliferate at elite universities and thence to hotly contested careers, which is as it should be, since their grades are so good – it is nevertheless tragic to note the bitterness with which some outsiders greet this state of affairs. The attitude of some proles to private schools has become a “hatred that dare not speak its name“, according to Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College. Some proles piped up: “But Anthony, we do dare! We do hate this outrageously raked playing field”, but luckily he couldn’t hear them, because they don’t enunciate.

3. Sometimes when people guesstimate your riches, they get it wrong

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was distraught to learn that Forbes put his wealth at £13bn when it was actually nearer £20bn. And this was after he showed them his books! It’s too vexing, you can sue them, they might apologise, but the hurt never goes.

4. If you want to be an actor, you will only be cast as a posho

It’s unfair for two reasons – first, you can do all the accents; you went to drama school like anybody else. Second, if you give up and audition for the posho, you have to fight Dominic West and Damian Lewis for it, and they both went to Eton where they learned to fight with a complicated stick.

5. The endless admin

People who just buy sandwiches and stuff tend not to understand that, when you buy something large like an island, it takes ages. Which is vexing, because once you’ve decided you want it, much like a sandwich, you tend to want it straight away.

6. When you are a banker, people blame you for the banking system

This is actually not fair. Your salary is a symptom of a totally rotten system, in which profits generated correspond to no concrete value in the real world, leastways not until some taxpaying schmuck has to make sure you’re good for it, and not the cause.

7. And just when you’d battened down the hatches and were minding your own business …

Someone wants to take your money away. “Tax”, they call it. When you never even use their shitty roads, and their pathetic, smelly, quite stained social fabric. These tiny people despise your creativity, so you despise them right back. Then you have to move countries, stateless, nomadic, with the anguished soul of the refugee.

8. Some people, especially people who aren’t rich, have no idea how small a £2m house can be

Mansion? YOU CALL THIS A MANSION? I wouldn’t make my enemy’s dog live in it, it’s not even near a park.

9. You can’t get the staff (part 1)

“Share or protect”, they told us in sociology 101. We can handle that; we are cool with nannies who double up as bodyguards. But did you know that when a Norland nanny gets trained in taekwondo, her hourly rate actually goes up? Talk about predatory pricing.

10. You can’t get the staff (part 2)

I had a cleaner once, and she was way more qualified than me, and probably more intelligent, as I’d have been able to tell, were I bilingual (as she was). She picked up my underpants for 13 years while never displaying any bitterness. But she didn’t get on with my girlfriend so I fired her. No, really. It’s annoying.

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10 reasons why it sucks to be rich | Zoe Williams

The shame … the discrimination … the anguish over having to fire domestic help to keep one’s girlfriend happy. It’s a daily trial

1. The shame

According to Nigel Nicholson, a psychologist at the London Business School, you may feel overwhelmed with feelings of guilt that others don’t have as much as you, or paranoia that others envy you. This is known as “rich man’s burden” – it sometimes leads to panic reactions, like philanthropic urges, which business school psychologists (who knew?) can teach you how to overcome with relaxing exercises.

2. The discrimination

Privately educated people proliferate at elite universities and thence to hotly contested careers, which is as it should be, since their grades are so good – it is nevertheless tragic to note the bitterness with which some outsiders greet this state of affairs. The attitude of some proles to private schools has become a “hatred that dare not speak its name“, according to Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College. Some proles piped up: “But Anthony, we do dare! We do hate this outrageously raked playing field”, but luckily he couldn’t hear them, because they don’t enunciate.

3. Sometimes when people guesstimate your riches, they get it wrong

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was distraught to learn that Forbes put his wealth at £13bn when it was actually nearer £20bn. And this was after he showed them his books! It’s too vexing, you can sue them, they might apologise, but the hurt never goes.

4. If you want to be an actor, you will only be cast as a posho

It’s unfair for two reasons – first, you can do all the accents; you went to drama school like anybody else. Second, if you give up and audition for the posho, you have to fight Dominic West and Damian Lewis for it, and they both went to Eton where they learned to fight with a complicated stick.

5. The endless admin

People who just buy sandwiches and stuff tend not to understand that, when you buy something large like an island, it takes ages. Which is vexing, because once you’ve decided you want it, much like a sandwich, you tend to want it straight away.

6. When you are a banker, people blame you for the banking system

This is actually not fair. Your salary is a symptom of a totally rotten system, in which profits generated correspond to no concrete value in the real world, leastways not until some taxpaying schmuck has to make sure you’re good for it, and not the cause.

7. And just when you’d battened down the hatches and were minding your own business …

Someone wants to take your money away. “Tax”, they call it. When you never even use their shitty roads, and their pathetic, smelly, quite stained social fabric. These tiny people despise your creativity, so you despise them right back. Then you have to move countries, stateless, nomadic, with the anguished soul of the refugee.

8. Some people, especially people who aren’t rich, have no idea how small a £2m house can be

Mansion? YOU CALL THIS A MANSION? I wouldn’t make my enemy’s dog live in it, it’s not even near a park.

9. You can’t get the staff (part 1)

“Share or protect”, they told us in sociology 101. We can handle that; we are cool with nannies who double up as bodyguards. But did you know that when a Norland nanny gets trained in taekwondo, her hourly rate actually goes up? Talk about predatory pricing.

10. You can’t get the staff (part 2)

I had a cleaner once, and she was way more qualified than me, and probably more intelligent, as I’d have been able to tell, were I bilingual (as she was). She picked up my underpants for 13 years while never displaying any bitterness. But she didn’t get on with my girlfriend so I fired her. No, really. It’s annoying.

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10 reasons why it sucks to be rich | Zoe Williams

The shame … the discrimination … the anguish over having to fire domestic help to keep one’s girlfriend happy. It’s a daily trial

1. The shame

According to Nigel Nicholson, a psychologist at the London Business School, you may feel overwhelmed with feelings of guilt that others don’t have as much as you, or paranoia that others envy you. This is known as “rich man’s burden” – it sometimes leads to panic reactions, like philanthropic urges, which business school psychologists (who knew?) can teach you how to overcome with relaxing exercises.

2. The discrimination

Privately educated people proliferate at elite universities and thence to hotly contested careers, which is as it should be, since their grades are so good – it is nevertheless tragic to note the bitterness with which some outsiders greet this state of affairs. The attitude of some proles to private schools has become a “hatred that dare not speak its name“, according to Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College. Some proles piped up: “But Anthony, we do dare! We do hate this outrageously raked playing field”, but luckily he couldn’t hear them, because they don’t enunciate.

3. Sometimes when people guesstimate your riches, they get it wrong

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was distraught to learn that Forbes put his wealth at £13bn when it was actually nearer £20bn. And this was after he showed them his books! It’s too vexing, you can sue them, they might apologise, but the hurt never goes.

4. If you want to be an actor, you will only be cast as a posho

It’s unfair for two reasons – first, you can do all the accents; you went to drama school like anybody else. Second, if you give up and audition for the posho, you have to fight Dominic West and Damian Lewis for it, and they both went to Eton where they learned to fight with a complicated stick.

5. The endless admin

People who just buy sandwiches and stuff tend not to understand that, when you buy something large like an island, it takes ages. Which is vexing, because once you’ve decided you want it, much like a sandwich, you tend to want it straight away.

6. When you are a banker, people blame you for the banking system

This is actually not fair. Your salary is a symptom of a totally rotten system, in which profits generated correspond to no concrete value in the real world, leastways not until some taxpaying schmuck has to make sure you’re good for it, and not the cause.

7. And just when you’d battened down the hatches and were minding your own business …

Someone wants to take your money away. “Tax”, they call it. When you never even use their shitty roads, and their pathetic, smelly, quite stained social fabric. These tiny people despise your creativity, so you despise them right back. Then you have to move countries, stateless, nomadic, with the anguished soul of the refugee.

8. Some people, especially people who aren’t rich, have no idea how small a £2m house can be

Mansion? YOU CALL THIS A MANSION? I wouldn’t make my enemy’s dog live in it, it’s not even near a park.

9. You can’t get the staff (part 1)

“Share or protect”, they told us in sociology 101. We can handle that; we are cool with nannies who double up as bodyguards. But did you know that when a Norland nanny gets trained in taekwondo, her hourly rate actually goes up? Talk about predatory pricing.

10. You can’t get the staff (part 2)

I had a cleaner once, and she was way more qualified than me, and probably more intelligent, as I’d have been able to tell, were I bilingual (as she was). She picked up my underpants for 13 years while never displaying any bitterness. But she didn’t get on with my girlfriend so I fired her. No, really. It’s annoying.

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Switzerland has stood up against excessive executive pay – your turn | Brigitta Moser-Harder

Swiss outrage has translated into a vote against extravagant corporate behaviour in a clear sign for other countries

On Sunday 68% of Swiss voters and all of Switzerland’s 26 cantons approved the Popular Initiative Against Abusive Executive Compensation. The most important points of this initiative are a ban on members of the board of directors or the executive board receiving certain payments, such as “golden handshakes” or “golden parachutes” at the point of recruitment or severance. Furthermore, managers won’t receive any bonuses for buying or selling corporations. At annual shareholder meetings, shareholders in companies with headquarters in Switzerland will have a binding vote over the pay of directors and the executive board.

Of course these new regulations for listed companies have drawn a lot of opposition from the country’s business community, especially from the Swiss Business Federation. It was the most outspoken opponent of the initiative and invested 8m Swiss francs in the campaign to prevent voters approving the initiative. It warned that if the measure were to be passed, it would damage competitiveness in Switzerland and endanger jobs and that companies would leave the country. But these arguments did not sway the voters. What’s more, multinationals such as ABB, Nestlé, Roche, Schindler, Zurich insurance and others denied clearly in public that this would be a reason to leave Switzerland.

Excessive executive compensation is also being discussed in the European Union. Different proposals are taking shape. The EU agreed in principle last week to impose a strict limit on executive bonuses for banks. It would limit bonuses to the level of the employee’s base salary, or double that if shareholders agreed by a two-third majority. Those bonus rules would also be valid for branches of foreign companies within the EU.

The EU also wants to introduce a financial transaction tax for shares and bonds. In this way, the banks could pay back their share of the bailout costs incurred by states when the global financial and economic crisis started in 2008. One reason for this crisis was the fact that the higher the profit achieved, the higher the bonus. Of course this was not achieved without a lot of risk taking. Many of the countries affected are today laden with an astronomical amount of debt. Social and economic problems have become severe as unemployment reaches extremely high rates, especially for young people. Demonstrations by people in countries across the European Union are a clear sign that ordinary citizens are suffering the most. The approval of the initiative against abusive executive compensation by the Swiss people is a clear sign for other countries to take people’s outrage over these vast, unjustified payouts seriously.

The biggest Swiss bank, UBS, lost billions in the sub-prime crisis. The state had to bail out the bank. Nevertheless managers at the bank got away with millions in severance payments. That’s the reason for our outrage.

Now politicians have to take swift actions to implement the initiative. The Swiss government must create a provisional regulation by 3 March 2014, if parliament doesn’t implement it within a year.

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Lloyds and RBS: too big to fail – and too big to manage | Joris Luyendijk

At the heart of the argument over the results of the partially state-owned banks is sovereignty of the people

Hearing the CEOs of Britain’s “too big to fail” banks talk up their annual results in the past few days, it was difficult not to feel a mixture of pity, respect and fear. In particular, the heads of the partly state-owned Lloyds and RBS face demands that are logically impossible to meet, and to see them trying to be everything to everyone almost produces compassion. Their struggles also elicit respect, because they still manage to put on a pretty good show. But then you realise what they can’t tell us, and how their bank’s failure will be the financial equivalent of a nuclear meltdown, and you shudder.

Announcements of annual results – Lloyds and RBS last week, HSBC on Monday – come with conference calls for financial journalists in the morning and, sometimes, press conferences for lunch. It was interesting to note that the two banks dependent on the government made their top people available for informal chats in the margins of a press conference, while HSBC, which isn’t, made do with a conference call at which almost half the time was taken up by the heads reading out a prepared text.

The Lloyds and RBS press conferences were strikingly similar and, as they wore on it became hard not to think of them as dull, rather sophisticated but above all extremely effective rituals. On one side of the table were men (Lloyds had one woman, who said nothing) in suits projecting an image of control. Yes, they were presiding over banks with tens of thousands of employees engaged in very different and often wildly complex activities across the globe. Yes, they had been caught out by scandal after scandal somewhere in their vast empires and yes, in the past their books had given a wildly inaccurate picture of the risks they were running.

But all of this was now in the past and firmly under control, they implied, as they fired off endless numbers and percentages and ratios, and said things like “We remain very confident of our capital position,” or “Our strategy remains centred on taking into account the interests of all of our stakeholders”, or some other cardboard PR phrase CEOs learn to use when they want to deflect a question they know can’t be followed up.

Their vocabulary had been sanitised to a startling degree, with PPI and other schemes that cheated tens of thousands of trusting Britons out of their money becoming “legacy issues” requiring “customer redress”. (HSBC referred to its huge fines in the US for massive drug money-laundering as “regulatory and law enforcement matters”.)

This was one side of the table, and on the other side were the financial journalists, most of them looking distinctly less well dressed. What to ask when you’ve only just been given a telephone book of numbers and tables? Excluding three appendices, the RBS annual results came to 289 pages. HSBC produced 550 pages and Lloyds 165. Finding the hidden risks therein wasn’t a puzzle in which you look for an answer to a question. These annual reports, and the huge organisations they purport to cover, constitute a mystery, ie a situation where the question itself is unknown.

“What was that £250m for?” asked one journalist. How was the CEO’s pay structured? What did Lloyds think of the EU cap on bonuses? The CEOs would address most reporters by their first names, then give a meaningless answer. About a third of the questions focused on the terms and timetable of Lloyds’ and RBS’s return into private hands; will the taxpayers get their money back?

This was where it quickly became clear that Lloyds and RBS are asked to do the impossible. The holes in their books are caused mostly by toxic loans, but they are told to increase lending, that is to lend to parties they would otherwise prefer not to lend to. At the same time, they must increase their capital buffers, so hold on to the same capital they are told to lend. RBS and Lloyds must increase profits, but are crucified when they pay bonuses to the very bankers who bring in those profits. The banks must also be ethical, so stop the profitable practice of ripping off their clients. Also, Lloyds and RBS must focus on the UK, even though it is almost impossible for a bank to make profits in an economy that is flatlining (HSBC lost money in its UK and US operations, and was saved by its activities in emerging markets). To boot, the UK government intends to increase competition between banks on the high street – a move that ought to decrease margins.

In short, Lloyds and RBS are told to increase profits so they can be privatised as soon as possible, while at the same time being told to stop doing many of the things that traditionally brought in these very profits.

It almost felt as if the RBS and Lloyds CEOs’ job was to maintain the illusion that this could be done, while providing a lightning rod to all those who don’t want to look beyond bonuses and the question of whether the taxpayers get their money back.

What if bonuses and privatisation are diversions and the real issue is “too big to fail” in combination with too big to manage? If you believe that CEOs knew nothing about the scandals taking place under their watch, what reason is there to believe that this time they are on top of things?

Over the past 18 months I have interviewed more than 150 people working in finance in London, most of them in junior functions. Many of them believe that the top of their organisation has no idea what’s really going on. They are equally scathing about the regulators.

This is the debate Britain refuses to have. The timing and conditions of the privatisation of Lloyds and RBS are vital to the British government’s financial health, and it makes for powerful and simple-to-produce stories, especially if these banks continue to pay high salaries and bonuses. But Lloyds’ and RBS’s return to private ownership is ultimately a question of secondary importance when both banks continue to be too big to fail – and so effectively remain a public liability.

While this idea persists, Britain remains hostage to the health of banks over which it has only very limited influence. Knowing that your vital interests are affected by factors beyond your control is a recipe for stress. It’s not what democracies should be about. But it has become the new normal. The big issue today is not whether British taxpayers get their money back. It’s whether British citizens get their sovereignty back.

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End this school places inequality with impartial admissions procedures | Jonathan Clifton

Secondary schools should not be in charge of their own admissions – it is divisive and favours wealthy families

This weekend, thousands of families will face the end of an anxious waiting game – children find out whether they have got into the secondary school of their choice. Many parents will have spent considerable effort and expense to get their child into a good school – by moving house, paying for extra tuition, or attending church in order to qualify for a faith school.

The ability to choose a school is important for parents, who naturally want to do the best for their child. But with top schools increasing house prices by over £20,000 in their catchment area, it is the wealthy who are able to benefit most from this choice. They are the ones with the means to play the admissions game, and ensure their kids get into the best schools.

As a result Britain has some of the most socially segregated schools in the developed world. This leads to divided communities, as children grow up without the means to interact with people from different walks of life. It can also hamper efforts to improve schools, since disadvantaged schools struggle to recruit and retain the best teachers and lose out on the educational benefit of having a mixed intake.

This problem is compounded by the fact that schools have control of their own admissions process. While they have to abide by a national “code”, they are able to set the criteria and administer it themselves. But there is a strong incentive for schools to engage in subtle forms of selection, since attracting wealthier and brighter pupils is a quick way to rise up the league tables. This was highlighted recently by an investigation led by Christine Gilbert, the former head of Ofsted, which found some schools holding social events for prospective parents, or issuing lengthy application forms, in order to “cherrypick” particular families.

Policymakers had hoped that by increasing parental choice, and giving schools control over their own admissions, they would help disadvantaged children to move to better schools outside their immediate neighbourhood. But forthcoming research by IPPR shows that schools have actually become more segregated as a result of these policies.

While the right for parents to choose a school for their child is an important principle, it must be made to work in a way that is transparent and fair for all families, not just the wealthy. Schools have lots of autonomy – including over how they set budgets, reward staff, and teach children – which gives headteachers the tools they need to do their job. But they should not be given control over admissions, since they are not neutral in this process and stand to gain from subtle forms of selection. It would be better for admissions to be administered by an impartial body such as a local school commissioner. This would prevent accusations of unfair play, save headteachers from endless rounds of appeals, and free schools up to focus on the core business of teaching and learning.

A far bigger challenge is to break the link between house prices and the ability to choose a good school. The government has already pledged to expand the best schools in order to accommodate the demand for places, but many schools will remain oversubscribed and their admissions should not be restricted to a small number of expensive houses that are closest to the school gates.

One solution to this problem is for schools to expand their catchment areas and admit an equal number of pupils from across the whole ability range. This practice is already used by successful schools such as Mossbourne Academy in Hackney.

The government is right to give schools more responsibility to run their own affairs and create a distinct identity and ethos. It is also right that parents should be able to choose a school for their child – something that can have a huge impact on their lives. But in return for these freedoms, we need a fair admissions system that serves the needs of every child. The freedoms given to schools should not include the ability to select by stealth.

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