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Hope & hops: the science of society

The 2017 ESRC Festival of Social Science took place in Southampton on Wednesday 8th and Thursday 9th November. Over two engaging nights, research scientists at the University of Southampton and the Office for National Statistics shared their research and expertise into two challenging issues of our time: migration and ageing.

This free, informal event was organised by the Administrative Data Research Centre for England in collaboration with the other two ESRC-funded Centres at the University of Southampton, the Centre for Population Change (CPC) and the National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM), together with the University of Southampton Public Engagement with Research unit (PERu).  

The Festival took place at the One-o-Four Kitchen & Lounge (formerly Ebb & Flow) in the heart of Southampton. 75 people attended the event across 2 nights of science talks, discussions and entertainment. Members of the public actively asked questions at the end of each talk and during the final discussion. Each night we gave away four prizes by creating a raffle for people who asked questions across the night: an ADRC-E goodies bag, a NCRM goodies bag, a CPC goodies bad and a bottle of prosecco, kindly offered by the One-o-Four. Silvia, ADRC-E Communications, Public Engagement and Events Manager, hosted the first night on Wednesday, while Dr Becky Alexis-Martin, from Geography and Environment, hosted the second night on ageing.

Find below a gallery of images from the two nights. 

Hope & hops: the science of society

ADRC-E also gathered a Twitter Moment in order to collect all live reactions across the two nights in Southampton.

Wednesday 8 November: Is migration really changing the UK as we know it?

Why is it so hard to get detailed counts of UK migration?

Professor David Martin

The present UK government has set an objective to "reduce net migration to the tens of thousands", which might at first glance seem a fairly vague target. There are ongoing debates, for example, about whether such targets are achievable or even desirable and what should actually be counted in the first place, for example whether overseas students should be included or not. Why is it so hard to agree on the answers to such apparently basic questions about how many migrants there are in the UK? The reality is that we have neither a population registration system nor a systematic way of counting migrants in or out of the country. In this talk, we will explore some of the principles and puzzles of UK migration figures - hoping at least to recognise more clearly what we can and cannot measure!

The Futures of UK Migration

Dr Jason Hilton

A great number of decisions depend on predictions about the future populations sizes. For instance, ensuring the money is available to fund state pension requires estimates of the number of pensioners there will be, as well as the number of workers paying taxes to fund them. However, we cannot know exactly what how many people there will be in either group. Migration is the contributor to future population change in the UK about which we know the least. On top of this general uncertatinty, migration policies in the UK will likely be revised once an eventual settlement is reached on Brexit. When planning for the future, we need to know not only how many people we think there will be, but also how confident we can be in saying so. Drawing on Centre for Population Change research, this talk will visualise the range of possible effects of different migration regimes on the future structure of the UK population, and the potential consequences.

How does migration impact the UK in the context of an ageing population?

Dr Julie Vullnetari

Population in the UK, like in many other affluent countries, is ageing rapidly. What role does migration play in addressing one of the biggest challenges facing our society today? Research has shown that migration has contributed positively in this situation in at least two ways. First, it is well established that migrants are usually younger than the general population, most often of working age, thus less likely than the average population to draw on healthcare services and older age social care. Yet, through their work and taxes, they contribute to the country’s coffers, which in turn finances both services. Moreover, a significant proportion of migrants work themselves as nurses and carers in institutions such as care homes, and more informally in individuals’ homes, providing hands on, and often intimate care, for numbers of ageing British men and women across the country. In this talk we will provide an overview of the situation in the UK, and go behind the numbers and figures to reveal the human stories that so powerfully illustrate real life everyday encounters, relationships, and the human face of migration.

Special guest

Masud Milas (stand-up comedian)

You might remember him from the Latitude Festival or the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2016, or simply from Bright Club Southampton #8 last May! Masud is a concentrate of energy and comedy: "With his 70’s flair and kick ass jacket, Masud’s intelligent addictive humour has earned him a rapidly growing fan base" - Phyl McIntyre Entertainment. We were thrilled to see Masud coming back to Southampton to perform at 'Hope & Hops: the science of society'. Masud gave his personal twist on the night's theme.

Thursday 9 November: Will welfare and pensions really ensure we have a happy and healthy retirement?

Ageing: what do we actually know?

Johannes Hechler, Office for National Statistics

Is the population really getting older? If so, why? How long do people stay healthy? Are there ever more pensioners and fewer payers? Or do people just work longer? Every day you get as many answers as there are newspapers. Claims and counter-claims swirl around, based on anecdotes, rushed research and personal bias, all disguised by skilful rhetoric. Luckily there is the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The Office for National Statistics produces the hard evidence. You may know the ONS from the Census in 2011 or the monthly economic figures, but the ONS also estimates the number of old people in the UK and survey their behaviour. Our research is part of an international statistics system so we can compare the UK to other countries. The talk will show what type of data actually exist, what we can say about the questions above – and what we cannot.

Are you better off living with your parents and are your parents better off living with you?

Natalia Permyakova

With an increasingly ageing population and lack of affordable housing across Europe, many families experience multiple changes in their living arrangements. Common scenarios include: coming back to the parental home after divorce or financial issues; parents moving in to receive informal care from adult children or provide help with grandchildren. All of these and many other reasons for intergenerational co-residence are present in the UK context. The UK picture is similar to Western Europe but is in contrast to Eastern European countries, which have a high share of intergenerational households. What are the implications of intergenerational households for the well-being of both older parents and adult children? On the one hand, living in a small living space, providing financially and taking care of those in need can be burdensome. On the other hand, when sharing a living space, generations are more likely to support each other physically and emotionally, which can boost self-esteem and well-being. This talk will introduce the importance of ageing and informal caregiving for both younger and older generations, taking into account the effects of different socio-economic contexts across Europe.

Who cares?

Maja Emilie Fuglsang Palmer

Providing informal care for a loved one is becoming an increasingly shared experience for individuals. Informal carers are important players in ensuring that individuals in need of support continue to experience a good quality of life. Providing care for others can be rewarding, with carers often reporting increased closeness to the person cared for and giving new meaning and purpose to life. However, providing informal care often occur alongside employment, family and social life, and can therefore also be a stressful experience with potential adverse effect on the health and financial situation of the individual carer. Understanding what motivates others to provide informal care and how we best support carers, is a central part of ensuring future care provision.

Special guest

Dr Yuanyuan Yin (artist, Winchester School of Art)

Yuanyuan is Lecturer in Design Management within the Winchester School of Art at the University of Southampton. She is currently investigating the elderly's shopping experience in major supermarkets in the UK and in China. She works with large corporations such as Tesco and Sainsbury to determine the problem areas for the elderly shopper, and works on improving the design of the shopping environment. As part this project, she developed an ageing simulation suit, which includes glasses, gloves and more to help people feeling the effect of ageing on their daily life.

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Page last updated: 31/07/2018