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The UK Coalition government has introduced a controversial welfare cap - imposing a maximum on the total social security spending per year for each family. The welfare cap limits households to £26,000 a year. Couples and single parents receive no more than £500 a week in benefits, while the limit for single people is £350, although there are some exemptions.
The cap is designed to ensure that benefits payments do not exceed the income of the average working household and is designed both to cut total welfare spending and as part of a strategy of improving incentives for people to actively look for and take paid work.
Critics argue that a welfare gap does little or nothing to address deeper underlying problems such as the soaring cost of renting property and the lack of affordable child care.
Social spending varies greatly across different countries. The Economist live chart below looks at some of these differences.read more...»
CK Prahalad once wrote of the "fortune at the bottom of the pyramid" - reflecting the commercial opportunities for businesses that can successfully connect and bring products to markets inhabited by low income consumers whose living standards are on the rise. China's fast-growing economy provides an enormous opportunity, but how can companies win sales in the Chinese interior, hundreds of miles away from the coastal centres of commerce?
As wealth and consumerism reach China's most remote cities, foreign brands are venturing far from Shanghai and Beijing hoping to win over millions of new consumers. The FT's Patti Waldmeir visits two lower tier cities in central China and looks at how Adidas is expanding in the far outposts of the Middle Kingdom.
Currently, barriers of law and custom stop many women from getting
financing for business. Removing those barriers can help overcame the
gender gap, and unleash economic growth. This World Bank video looks at some of the evidence. Our Development Economics blog covers many articles relevant to students tackling this for Unit 4 - click here for the Development Economics Blog
Hundreds of millions of people around the world are escaping poverty and becoming middle class. The explosion of new consumers in China, India and other economic powerhouses is changing the global balance of power. The BBC website has a new series on exploring the effects of this shift in global economic power and influence - click here for further research and watch the video below
Here's a teaching resource suggested by one of our colleagues who attended the Wow Economics CPD event in Birmingham last week. We were discussing a resource called the Average Wage game (available as an individual download from this website) which asks students to categorise occupations into those jobs with pay above the national average and those below the national average (as per the latest available statistics from the Office of National Statistics, November 2012).
One delegate suggested that they had used a similar resource which starts by asking students to rank occupations in an order which reflects their relative value to society (ignoring, initially, any notion of wages or pay). Having ranked the occupations from the 'most' to the 'least' valuable, the teacher then shows the students the average wage paid to people working in those occupations and leads a discussion on how many of the most 'valued' occupations pay among the least wages.
This is a fantastic starter activity to initiate conversations about wage determination and equality of pay. You may also find this as a good discussion point over the coming weeks when introducing some A2 concepts to AS students.
Click on this link to download the Tutor2u version of this resource developed directly from our delegate's suggestion.
The Wow Economics event has its last airing this Wednesday in London. An all-new version of the resource-packed day will be advertised soon in time for the new academic year.
FOOD banks are a rapidly growing phenomenon in the UK. A few years ago, they barely existed, but an estimated half a million people now make use of them every week. On the face of it, it seems that poverty has sadly become endemic since the financial crisis, with many families unable even to feed themselves. Real incomes have declined since 2007, putting pressure on household budgets. But the pace of increasing demand is surprising.
In fact, the food bank is a market. It is, however, complex – with particular features which mean that it is likely to grow rapidly, exactly as we have seen. The key point is that food is not the only commodity traded.
Students looking for a good example of a supply-side policy for improving the economic performance of the UK may be interested in this news article about how increasing the labour participation rates of women in the UK could lead to an increase in GDP by up to a staggering 10%. This growth could be achieved by encouraging the number of women wishing to provide their labour (or increase the provision of their labour) to the same level as men.
The common view now is that legislation is no longer good enough in itself to provide this encouragement. The Equality Act of 2010 combined the various equal opportunity laws together to penalise businesses that operate unequally. What appears to be needed is an improvement in the accessibility, availability, cost and quality of childcare facilities to allow more mothers to work (or work longer).
A further article (follow this link) explores how this principle is equally true of the Japanese economy. This article has a fantastic graph comparing the female participation rates for many of the major economies which might be a fantastic data example for teachers to use as a compare and contrast exercise.
As for the costs on society of such a policy....... That's a different question!
Here's the return of not one, but two Tutor2u favourites in one blog! Many of you will have heard of the 'Better Life Index' (follow this link to go to the website) - which is an OECD compiled statistical index of the quality of living in 36 of the most economically advanced countries in the world using a varied number of categories above and beyond just economic information. Indicators include life expectancy and work-life balance alongside unemployment and average earnings.
The latest version of the index is now available and Australia has been measured as being the 'happiest' for the third year on the trot (the UK ranks as 10th in the world - you didn't realise how happy you were!). The website homepage actually allows you to create your own index - a nice exercise to give to your students if you wanted to stimulate debate on the relative importance of the different indicators (for example, is the 'environment' more important to some students than others when measuring the quality of life?).
I've taken the raw data from the index and created some 'Top Trumps'-style cards to act as a fun and engaging activity for students. The resource allows students to play a game where they attempt to 'win' their opponents cards from them by challenging them on the statistical outcomes for each country. So, for example, if I hold the card for the UK and challenge my opponent to consider the citizen's average earnings and this is higher than their card (for example, if they were holding the card for Greece) then I would win both cards. The rules are all in the file!
An interesting activity to challenge the minds of those AS students returning from exams soon.
I've created three versions on the links below - please forward the link for this blog to your sociology and politics collegues - they might find the data and activity equally useful.
I'm always sightly dubious about statistics and information represented by campaign organisations - I'm left with the reservation that information can presented in any way that you want to prove whatever point that you are trying to make (wasn't it an economist who came up with the phrase 'lies, damned lies and statistics'?). So this fascinating report from an organisation called 'Vision of Humanity' needs to be looked at with an open mind.
However, if you take it at face value, it offers some really interesting information.read more...»
A newly constructed Social Progress Index has been unveiled for the first time with the hope that over time, it might become as widely quoted and recognised as the Global Competitiveness Index as a benchmark of progress made by individual countries in achieving sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth and development. In the 2013 rankings, Sweden comes first and the United Kingdom is second.read more...»
New figures from the OECD find that overseas development aid fell by 4% in real terms in 2012, following a 2% fall in 2011. Aid payments have dropped in large party because many governments of developed countries are embroiled in fiscal austerity and choosing to cut aid as a result. The OECD data shows too that there is also a shift in aid allocations away from the poorest countries and towards middle-income countries.
Oxfam senior researcher and former co-author of the UN's annual Human Development Report Kate Raworth visits the RSA in London to explain 'doughnut economics' -- the bold new theory that is sweeping the development world. A really clear seventeen minute video covering some of the key environment challenges that threaten sustainable growth and a call to make central to the debate the protection of natural capital and social capital.
Schools and College up and down the country are preparing for all sorts of different activities for the Comic Relief Red Nose Day this Friday (15th March). Are you doing anything with your class?
Here is a ready-made Powerpoint game to run for approximately 20 to 25 minutes in your class this Friday. Whilst being a fun, team-based challenge, the multi-choice questions are all about facts and figures related to the causes that Comic Relief are attempting to support. As such, the information contained within the game should prove a useful stimulus for discussion within your class about the causes of poverty in Africa, as well as alcohol-abuse and other social issues within the UK. It could also prove a useful tool with discussing why these problems exist and what government solutions could be implemented (as well as asking why they haven't already been put in place!).
Click on this link to go to the Powerpoint file that contains the game.read more...»
The economist argues that the era of fast-rising world population is over - this video looks at the momentum shift brought about by a trend fall in the fertility rateread more...»
The Middle-Income Trap has become a popular and much quoted concept in development economics. Much discussion on the policies and strategies to lower the risks of growth slowdowns before a country has achieved high income status. But how relevant is the middle income trap? The absence of a clear definition of the idea makes it difficult to measure, this article from the Economist has a go and is highly relevant for students taking courses in development economics, especially EdExcel Unit 4.
Peter Mandelson famously said that he was ‘intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich’. As was the case with many aspects of New Labour, he was working firmly in the Leninist intellectual tradition. Some 20 years earlier, the then leader of the Chinese Communist Party, Deng Xiaoping, stated that ‘to get rich is glorious’.
The Chinese have certainly put the philosophy into practice. An intriguing article in the Wall Street Journal at the end of last year by James Areddy and James Grimaldi, described the deep intermingling of China’s richest men with the Communist Party. For example, Liang Wengen, who owns a major construction equipment making firm and whose personal wealth is estimated at $7.3 billion – billion! – is a member of the key political body, the Communist Party Congress. Overall, the elite political institutions in China have no fewer than 160 individual billionaires as members.read more...»
It has suddenly become fashionable to be concerned about China’s growth rate slowing down. This is not a matter of a short-run cyclical downturn, with normal service being resumed shortly as the economy roars ahead once more. It is a worry that there will be a permanent slowdown by the end of this decade. Instead of annual growth rates around 10 per cent and even more, the Chinese economy will settle down to the much more sedate rates seen in the West in the 1950s and 1960s in the range 3 to 5 per cent.
Like many teachers, I'm firmly of the belief that money is not the root of happiness. I have to think like that - otherwise how do I argue with my old university friends who went to join the big banks that there’s more to life than big cars and foreign holiday homes ("Come and join us, Jon," they used to say to me, "you can set your own Libor rate and everything" ). It's important that we remind the 'those-who-can't-do' brigade that teaching is a life-style. It's a vocation. A calling.
Well, according to research by US academics Daniel Sacks, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, the evidence suggests that wealth is a determining factor in happiness after all. Apparently, the data shows that there are no upper limits to happiness with regards to money – yes, the increase in happiness slows down but still rises.
Quick, somebody tell Victoria Beckham before David gives away all of his cash to the Paris children.read more...»
Mark Austen writes on this essay title: Evaluate the impact that the micro-finance and Fair
Trade movements can have in supporting development in some of the world’s
Robert Nutter explains that, over recent years, the fear that the minimum wage would cause increased unemployment has not materialised, although since the start of the current economic crisis employers have expressed some concerns that employment may be affected in low paid jobs. Another concern has been the belief that a national minimum wage is inappropriate for an economy where costs and labour market conditions vary significantly between regions. The national minimum wage may perhaps provide a living wage in North-East England but certainly not in London.read more...»
Does aid help or hinder economic growth and development? This is the subject of a fierce debate in the development economics literature
Gross domestic product (GDP) is the total value of output in an economy and is used to measure change in economic activity
GDP for different countries is usually measured in a common currency – normally we use the US dollar. But there are two problems in using exchange rates to measure GDPread more...»
An updated glossary of key terms for AS macroread more...»
Liz Veal (Editor of econoMAX) writes: Here in the UK we take for granted our education – my daughters have the same educational opportunities as my son; my sisters and I had the same chances as my brother. Education for all, irrespective of gender, is highly valued in our society and we are well-aware of the private and external benefits of education. In economics, we teach that the market would fail to provide enough education as it would be under-consumed because of the extra benefits to society that private individuals do not appreciate. This information failure is overcome with public sector provision of education, compulsory by law until aged 16.read more...»
My AS macroeconomics students this week are researching the topical issue of a living wage and the possible macroeconomic effects. The title of the assignment is:
"The introduction of a living wage in Britain to supplement a minimum wage will improve the long term performance of the UK economy" Discuss. (20 marks)
I have put together some news articles and videos on this topic using a Pinterest Board. You can find it by clicking here
BBC Newsnight Report on Living Wages - July 2012 - click here
Here are some links connected to the news that the United Kingdom is drawing to a close financial aid to India by the year 2015. The focus will shift from aid to trade. Bilateral trade between the countries in 2010 was worth £10 bn. The countries have set a target of £20 bn by 2015. We also link to a new Inside Story programme from Al Jaxzeerah on the continuing debate over the effectiveness of and future of overseas aid in the world economy.read more...»
You may have been too busy to notice but today has been National Stress Awareness Day. This comes just a few days after Ed Milliband's speech about the taboo of Mental Health and how it impacts upon people's lives. If you haven't done so recently, do check out the World Health Organisation 's website which has lots of data on the prevalence of mental health issues around the world with the most startling facts being that 1 in 4 people around the world suffer from mental health issues at some point in their lifetime affecting as many as 450 million people.
And yet, when was the last time you used this as an example of labour market failure or poor economic performance?read more...»
Here is a streamed revision presentation on aspects of micro finance and fair trade as part of a course on development economics.read more...»
Jonny Clark has beaten me to it with his blog about today's news about the Living Wage - there is a rich seam of resources here for issues for study around poverty and inequality. The concept has high level support - hailed by Boris Johnson as it is "....not only morally right, but (it)makes good business sense too." and endorsed by Ed Miliband as " A really important idea". I would like to add a trio of items from the BBC website which could add evidence to student analysis - particularly as Nov 4th-10th is designated Living Wage Week , so this could make a timely topic on the return from half term!
You might see a raft of stories out today regarding the latest report from KPMG on the number of people within the UK who would appear to be earning below the identified 'Living Wage' in the UK. The rate of this living wage is higher than the statutory minimum wage (£7.30 per hour for those outside of London compared to standard £6.19 per hour n.m.w.) and attempts to set a rate at which people can earn enough to pay for the basic cost of living. The report states that approximately 1 in 5 people in the UK earn below the Living Wage (with the situation varying around the UK) and this is an increase on the number who were below the threshold during the last audit. The Independent includes the image above and gives a brief (if slightly politicised) summary. The Living Wage and National Minimum wage are good indicators for students giving responses on relative poverty. A good exercise might be to ask students why there is a difference between the two standards or use the information and graphics here to determine why there are wage differentials for the jobs outlined above. If you want to give your students some extended work you might like to get them to read the document below which attempts to explain and give rationales with regards to the calculation of the Living Wage or get them to have a look at the Living Wage website which shows what the campaign is trying to achieve.
Today I went to a fascinating and very thought-provoking lecture from Kate Raworth, a Senior Researcher for Oxfam GB. She introduced the audience to the idea of doughnut economics, and certainly convinced me about the usefulness of this very elegant and accessible development economics theory. I can't wait to share it with my classes when we're discussing sustainable development next year!
I have uploaded onto slide share a revised short classroom presentation on the economics of overseas aid as part of our study of economic development.
When teaching economic growth and inequality as part of our A2 macro course, I used these news clips to support the lesson and discussion.read more...»
This article in the BBC about the 21st anniversary of the launch of the Big Issue newspaper acts as a timely reminder that we can find our very own examples of absolute as well as relative poverty in the UK.read more...»
Explain and discuss four indicators of progress made by India in achieving her main development goals.
Yesterday I took some Oundelians to attend the Public Policy lecture at the LSE, entitled Policy Challenges for Growth in Africa and South Asia. It was sponsored by the IGC – the International Growth Centre: http://www.theigc.org/ - as part of the LSE Growth Week http://www.theigc.org/events/growth-week-2012 .read more...»
An autumnal hat tip to Mo Tanweer for providing this really useful selection of economic development related links
Globalisation has brought about a sustained rise in the value of global production, trade and wealth and has helped to lift hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty. But one of the paradoxes of globalisation is that, despite bringing about a degree of convergence in incomes between countries, the scale of relative poverty in income and wealth within nations has increased in many cases.
Video: Joseph Stiglitz on rising income inequality in the United States (December 2012)read more...»
The link between GDP and living standards is one that is increasingly questioned. A raft of books, from Richard Layard’s “Happiness” to Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s “The Spirit Level” and beyond, argue that there is more to life than the pursuit of economic growth. Indeed there are many other measures of welfare that have been compiled, all of which offer alternative indicators of well-being.
In an important new report, Save the Children has highlighted the rising scale and intensity of poverty facing millions of children living in Britain's poorest families. Rising food prices,sharp increases in property rent, fewer employment opportunities and steep hikes in energy bills are just three of the factors that have affected hundreds of thousands of Britain's most vulnerable households. In the United States food stamps are required by millions. In Britain we are seeing a rapid expansion of and demand for food banks provided by charities to offer assistance to families who live hand-to-mouth for weeks and months on end.
Earlier this summer, I was fortunate to attend Political economy and the outlook for capitalism, the annual conference of the Association for Heterodox Economics at the University of Paris, La Sorbonne. The main theme was to review how we best measure quality of life and living standards, with a discussion as to whether economists should rely upon mathematical models and equations to come to judgements about this. In the conference introduction, Professor Tony Lawson from the University of Cambridge advocated a move away from Neo-Classical economic models into further use of behavioural economics to support such research.read more...»
As of 1 July 2012, the World Bank income classifications by GNI per capita are as follows:
• Low income: $1,025 or less
• Lower middle income: $1,026 to $4,035
• Upper middle income: $4,036 to $12,475
• High income: $12,476 or more
Of the 192 member states of the United Nations, only 52 are currently classified as high-income countries. In other words, 140 countries (73 per cent) are still considered developing economies.read more...»
This blog provides an updated Storify on videos featuring development economist Esther Duflo, co-author of the best-selling book Poor Economics. Poor Economics maps out a third way between those experts who believe aid does more harm than good, such as William Easterly and Dambisa Moyo, and those who believe the reverse, like Jeffrey Sachs.
Banerjee and Duflo say the three main reasons aid is ineffective are “ideology, ignorance and inertia”. “Precisely because [the poor] have so little,” they write, “we often find them putting much careful thought into their choices: They have to be sophisticated economists just to survive.”
The two authors are part of a group of economists known as the “randomistas”. They have used randomised control trials across five continents to test the impact of policies aimed at beating poverty, from the provision of free anti-malaria bed-nets to education subsidies.read more...»
The Brazilian government has invested heavily in anti-poverty programmes over the last ten to fifteen years and has lauded as an example of a country where a well designed combination of policies can have a significant effect. The percentage of the Brazilian population in extreme poverty has fallen from 23% in 1993 to 8.3% in 2009, and Brazil has achieved its own Millennium Development Goal to cut back extreme poverty in 2015 to ¼ of the level experienced in 1990 – this target was achieved in 2007.
Much remains to be done for despite sustained economic growth, Brazil remains a highly unequal country and sixteen million people continue to experience extreme poverty living below the $1.25 per day UN benchmark. That said Brazil has seen their Gini coefficient fall by 9% between 2011 and 2009.read more...»
M-PESA is a mobile payment solution launched in March 2007 and credited with having a significant impact on economic development in Kenya. This blog will carry updated resources on M-PESA and it’s economic and social impact. Click below for resources
* Launched in March 2007
* Named after the Swahili for money (pesa)
* Operated by Safaricom (40% owned by UK mobile phone business Vodafone)
* Originally a micro-finance project
* Less than 10% of Kenyans have access to financial services - huge un tapped / repressed demand for basic banking
* Nine out of ten adults have access to a mobile phone in Kenya
* By 2009 M-PESA had 6.5 million customers, more recent figure suggests 15.1 million on the system
* Around 20% of Kenyan GDP washes through the M-PESA system
* Safaricom is not allowed to make a profit on the interest and neither is the customer
* Interest earnings go into a charitable M-PESA foundation
* M-PESA has been very successful in Tanzania but has had less impact in Afghanistan and India
* Airtel is the main domestic rival, formerly called Zain and now owned by India’s Bharti Airtel,
M-PESA used in myriad different ways - Kenyans pay school fees, collect their salaries, shop for groceries, buy everything from drinks in beer shacks to airline tickets thanks to mobile money, sending transfers at the push of a few buttons on a mobile telephone. As per capita incomes rise, people will make savings using the system or might be able to take out loans.read more...»
Wages are rising fast in China – many economists believe that China has hit a stage in its development at which demand for labour starts to grow faster than supply, creating labour shortages and pushing up salaries. This is known as a Lewis Turning Point.read more...»
There is growing interest among policy makers about the importance of protecting and enhancing natural capital to support sustainable growth and development. I have put together a selection of recent news video resources on natural capital that might be useful for students and teachers who are new to the idea and who might want to look at it as part of their study of environmental and development economics.read more...»
The World Bank has this short 3 minute video on measuring povertyread more...»
To mark the 2012 Rio Summit, the United Nations has started to publish an Inclusive Wealth Index which builds into an evaluation of a country’s wealth the impact of economic growth and development on the stock of a country’s natural capital. This chart from the Economist would be an excellent starting point for discussion of changes in natural wealth for a range of countries.read more...»
This 101 East programme from Al Jazeerah shown in June 2012 looks at attempts within China to fast track investment and progress in product innovation as part of the drive to sustain growth and make the leap from middle to higher income living standards. The programme is 25 minutes long. China faces allegations of unfair trade practices and intellectual piracy by some of its major trading partners in the US and Europeread more...»