Unit 2.3 Social and economic trends and constraints

Unit 2.3 Social and economic trends and constraints

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Social and economic trends and
Economic issues on a national scale: the workings of business, commerce and industry
It has been said, many years ago, that 'money makes the world go round' and that 'money is the
root of all evil'. Part of the reason why we seek to pass examinations and go on to higher education
is the hope that, if we get good qualifications, we are more likely to find employment that pays a
high salary or good wages. We need money not only to satisfy our basic needs for food, clothing
and shelter but to get a good lifestyle.
Just as individuals and families need money, so does the national and international economy. The
provision of financial services by various institutions is a major contributor to the success of the
British economy. The Treasury is the most important government department, not least because it
has to approve the spending plans of other departments. The Bank of England, established in 1694
as the government's banker and debt manager, has been responsible since 1997 for setting
interest rates, which are important in helping to determine rewards for saving and the cost of
Internationally, globalisation has raised the importance of the world economy and of financial
institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In terms of gross
domestic product (GDP) per capita, the richest countries are in Europe (Luxembourg, Norway and
Switzerland), although in terms of total GDP the USA would lead. Using GDP per capita, the
poorest countries, are all in subSaharan Africa (Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and
In terms of the economy, everybody is a consumer of goods and services, and many people are
likely to be producers of goods and services through their full or parttime employment. These
people may work for a business in the private sector that may be owned by individuals or by
shareholders who leave the actual running of the company to managers. Their key goal is to make
a profit, which can be used to:
meet costs such as wages, rent and the purchase of stock
invest in the development of the business to ensure that more branches can open
or the most modern production methods can be used

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Page 2

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Competition is central to the private sector, with each firm striving to be the most efficient and most
competitive in the market place. In the last 20 years, some firms have given a higher priority than
before to social responsibility (perhaps helping with community schemes) and environmental
The other key sector of the economy is the public sector, which is run wholly or mainly by the
government or local councils.…read more

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England. Foreign competition had
intensified by the 1920s and economic depression hit traditional industrial areas, with their scarred
landscapes, very badly in the 1930s, although there was some recovery after 1945.
As the UK became less dependent on secondary manufacturing industries and more dependent on
freely locating tertiary service industries, there was a greater polarisation between the north and
south.…read more

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Rising prices may affect people unevenly. (The average increase may be 3% but some people may
spend a higher proportion of their income on goods and services where prices are rising more
rapidly.) Those who rely on savings will see the value of their savings fail. The lower paid are likely
to see prices rising faster than wages. Anyone with a mortgage will feel the impact of rising interest
rates quickly.…read more

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There is less chance of being robbed.
They can help people to build up a good credit history, which is advantageous when
seeking to borrow money or secure a mortgage.
Some banks donate a percentage of each individual's spending to a charity.
They are widely accepted around the world, and are more secure than travellers' cheques.
They usually have some sort of protection against fraud.
Disadvantages of credit cards
Debts quickly accumulate.
Cardholders are likely to spend more.…read more

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Rutherford realised that in the presence of powerful
radioactive rays, nitrogen turns into hydrogen and oxygen.
Alpha particles produced by the radium embedded themselves within the nuclei of nitrogen atoms
while expelling single protons. What remained was an oxygen nucleus. The protons were nuclei of
hydrogen. What was needed was for the nuclei to build up the necessary number of electrons and
they would become atoms of the respective gases.…read more

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There is support for the construction of a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK -- not
least from British Energy, which may join up with its French equivalent, EDF (with companies like
E.…read more

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Early in 2008, after 4 years of argument, it was reported that the cabinet had backed plans to invest
in a new generation of 10 nuclear power plants. The aim is to reduce dependency on imported gas
and oil and to generate more than 20% of Britain's electricity from nuclear sites.…read more

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NIMBY syndrome
memories of the horrors of Chernobyl
fear of a terrorist strike
the availability of relatively plentiful alternative powergenerating sources such as
gas and electricity
the possibilities offered by renewable sources of energy generation
cost and the long time span involved in developing nuclear facilities
Viewpoints: The advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power
Nuclear power stations do not burn fossil fuels to produce electricity so they do not produce
smoke or carbon dioxide, therefore they do not contribute to global warming.…read more

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In France, nuclear power is widely used for the generation of electricity. In the UK, governments
have been more cautious. Using nuclear power is a complex process and not without its risks, but
it does not lead to the emission of harmful gases in the way that burning fossil fuels does.
The horrors of Chernobyl live on, but that was a oneoff.…read more


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