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The Local Government Association (which represents local councils in the UK) have joined the debate about term time holidays for pupils this week. They argue that current rules banning term time holidays or imposing fines on those families who take such breaks do not recognise the complexities of modern families and also prevent poorer families from affording vacations that are invariably dearer during the holiday period.
It struck me whilst reading one of the reports that the suggested policy is to allow head teachers that most quantifiable of options, 'common sense', to make decisions on a case-by-case basis would be the sort of argument that would make me scream if a student wrote it in an assessment answer. Economics students, unlike Local Government officials, need to take a much more analytic approach to this question!read more...»
The growth vrs the environment debate is great for opening a thoughtful discussion about the net benefits of economic growth. Some participants take what might be described as a Kuznets Curve approach to the issue. That might be simply summarised as things get worse to begin with, but after a while they start to improve (OK, I’m simplifying a bit here). In environmental terms, you might illustrate this with the Peak Stuff idea. For several years now, the UK economy’s total consumption of physical resources has been falling. In the past, growth made our economy more and more damaging to the environment. But future growth might have far less of an impact, and even contribute to significant environmental improvements.
What about tropical forests, which observers in the last decades of the 20th century noted were under severe threat? The Economist newspaper seems to take an optimistic view. Future growth may have far less worrying consequences for tropical forests.read more...»
You’ll often hear it said that Britain, or the world, is ‘overpopulated’, but that’s a very hard concept to pin down. Hostility to migrants into the UK is high, yet economists often argue we need more immigrants.
One Labour MP, Stella Creasy, has stirred controversy by saying “talk to Nigel Farage not just about the immigrants who come here and create jobs, but the immigrants who come here and create skills and create opportunities for people and create new ideas for people. There are now more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 16 in Britain. So unless women like me have a lot of children very quickly our ability to sustain our economy (and) to sustain our public services will come under threat”.
So do extra people add to the economy or subtract from it? I’ve put together a few links and ideas.read more...»
This video from the Economist looks at some of the views on the economic and social impact of the ageing population in the world economy.read more...»
Economics coverage of Africa can be a bit bleak (though perhaps it shouldn't be, with incomes rising rapidly in parts of Africa). There are often bad news stories, particularly in terms of human development indicators. News of economic progress often centres on the exploitation of primary commodities, with all the risks and issues that presents.
If you hope Africa will experience development, you’re likely to want to see sustained and robust economic growth. That, in turn, will require industrialization.read more...»
You all know about exploding rates of urbanisation and the growth of mega cities. There’s much to celebrate in this trend, and economists are keen to advise countries how to urbanise successfully.
After all, for most subsistence farmers, life can be so grim that even life in a slum or shanty town can be a marked improvement. I’ve reluctantly admitted this fact to myself, and come to see slums as a stepping stone on the process of development.
A new study, reported in the Economist, suggests I might be wrong, and that we shouldn’t be ready to tolerate slums, and should be more determined to see their eradication – they might even be a barrier to development.read more...»
It's the time of year when many commentators are going back to basics and asking if our dominant economic model - free market capitalism - is a force for good in the world.read more...»
This resource from The Guardian could offer students an excellent way of considering the negative social consequences of civil war and internal conflict.read more...»
UK immigrants who arrived since 2000 are less likely to receive benefits and less likely to live in social housing than UK natives. What’s more, over the decade from 2001 to 2011, they made a considerable positive net contribution to the UK’s fiscal system, and thus helped to relieve the fiscal burden on UK-born workers.
The positive contribution is particularly evident for UK immigrants from the European Economic Area (EEA – the European Union plus three small neighbours): they contributed about 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits over the period 2001-11.
These are the central findings of a comprehensive analysis of the fiscal consequences of immigration to the UK, published today by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London.read more...»
With a deep recession and persistently high rates of unemployment among younger people. fears are growing about a brain drain in Portugal as highly qualified university graduates leave the country in search of a better life. Peter Wise, Financial Times Lisbon correspondent, reports on what the trend means for the troubled Portuguese economy. Losing "the best of a generation" poses important long-term threats to the competitiveness of the Portuguese economy. Some are moving to Angola and Brazil, the UK has also attracted skilled workers in health care, banking and IT.read more...»
We link here to a recent 45 minute illustrated lecture given by Professor James Sproule on the impact of demographic change on competitiveness and growth prospects for the UK and other economies.
Economic growth depends on productivity gains and changes to the workforce. With service sector productivity gains diminishing and baby boomers across Europe approaching retirement, businesses face crucial questions on how they will fare. What can be done to maintain levels of prosperity in the UK?
Fantastic interactive website here lets you check out migration flows both inward and outward from any country you care to look at.
The annual NORFACE migration conference at University College London this week has generated plenty of new research papers on the economics of international migration, a topic that of growing significance for students of globalisation, competitiveness, innovation and growth. Some of the key findings are summarised below together with external links to relevant articles and news reportsread more...»
A recent World Bank report asked ‘Where is the Wealth of Nations?’ Calculations presented at the Economic History Society’s 2013 annual conference show that for Britain, the answer is undoubtedly in its people.
Dr Jan Kunnas and his colleagues calculate that Britain’s ‘human capital’ has grown by a multiple of 123 over the past 250 years. The main drivers of this phenomenal growth have been the growth in the workforce and the growth in wages.
The researchers define human capital as the knowledge and skills embodied in individuals – and they measure it by the discounted earnings the population is expected to earn during their time in the labour force.We have an extended revision note on human capital and economic growth - read it here
The Changing Wealth of Nations - World Bank reports can be accessed here
I attended a fantastic lecture by Michael Clemens from the Centre for Global Development (CGD), Washington DC at the University of Manchester last week...
the IFS outlined some aspects of The Rapidly Changing State and showed that predicted public spending in 2017-18 will take a similar proportion of national income as it did in 2003–04. But where and how its spent are quite different. This was alluded to by Penny Brooks earlier today.
Oxfam senior researcher and former co-author of the UN's annual Human Development Report Kate Raworth visits the RSA to explain 'doughnut economics' - the bold new theory that is sweeping the development world
Here are the two assignments that my students are writing about this week - I will post some of their answers on the blog at the weekend. I have also added in some research links to each question
Identify and explain four factors that have contributed to Indian
economic growth in recent years
Demographic change can have a direct bearing over time on the growth and development potential of individual countries.
Dambisa Moyo was on great form when she spoke to the Economics Teacher National Conference in London last week. Her new book Winner Take All investigates the causes and consquences of rising global demand for commodities. In particular Dambisa Moyo predicts increasing geo-political tensions and conflicts as countries scramble to secure ownership and supplies of land, water, energy and minerals. In this blog I have linked to some of Dambisa’s recent media appearances as Winner Take All was launched in the USA and here in the UK.read more...»
The African Human Development Report 2012 is a key reference point for students and teachers who are passionate about their development economics. The issue of focus in the report this year is food security.
“Sub-Saharan Africa cannot sustain its present economic resurgence unless it eliminates the hunger that affects nearly a quarter of its people, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) argues. More than one in four Africans - close to 218 million people - is undernourished, African governments spend between 5-10% of their budgets on agriculture, well below the 20% average that Asian governments devoted to the sector during the green revolution there.”
The Plant Stat African Human Development Map is superb for students to use - it includes the facility to export your own charts for inclusion in assignments and classnotes - click here to access itread more...»
Today, TUC figures showed that the number of men working part time who are looking for full time work has doubled in the last four years from 293,000 to nearly 600,000. Is this a sign of the recession or is it an inevitable result of a move towards more flexible working?read more...»
I have found Knoema incredibly useful for collecting data and imagine it would be an excellent site for teaching colleagues and researchers, particularly with its focus on Economics. The Guardian’s data team have a good article on it today.read more...»
The supply of health care in the UK is an important economic, social and political issue. Demand for health care treatments grows year by year as the population expands, ages and as incomes rise. For millions of people private health care is regarded as a necessity even though the NHS provides a vast range of services free at the point of use. Treatments such as cosmetic surgery, hand surgery, laser eye treatment, physiotherapy, weight loss services and hip and knee replacements are offered by a range of private sector providers in addition to state health care facilities.read more...»
Migration from one country to another has become an increasingly important feature of our globalizing world and it raises many important economic, social and political issues. About 200-million people — about 3% of the world’s population — now live in countries in which they were not born. In the United Kingdom in 2010, the number of international migrants as a percentage of the population rose above 10% for the first time after several years of high rates of net inward migrationread more...»
What happened in the UK in 1851, the United States in 1920 and in the World in 2008? These three years mark the estimated year when the size of a given urban population overtook the size of the rural population. And now China has reached this significant landmark.
The Chinese Bureau for National Statistics reported recently that in 2011, the proportion of urban population reached 51.27 percent (1.3% higher than in 2010) with the urban population standing at 690.79 million persons, an increase of 21 million persons in a year. China’s rural population stood at 656.56 million persons and for the first time her urban population was 34.23 million persons more than the rural population.
Click below for some study / teaching resources:read more...»
Fergus Walsh from the BBC provides this really clear video info graphic on the expanding global population estimated to have exceeded seven billion during 2011 and forecast to rise to eight billion by 2025.
In this special report from BBC reporter Fergus Walsh, the rapid population growth in the African country of Zambia is examined. Population growth in the country is so quick that it could perpetuate deep poverty in the country despite relatively fast growth in recent years. In Zambia, the UN predicts that the population could triple by 2050, reaching 100 million by the end of the century.
This blog brings together some recent videos on progress made towards meeting some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The Millennium Development Goals include ambitious targets to
- Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
- Achieve universal primary education
- Promote gender equality and empower women
- Reduce child mortality and improve maternal health
- Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
- Ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development
Here is a short 12 minute video on prospects for the India economy produced by economists at the International Monetary Fund. It covers some of the key current issues including high inflation in a supply-constrained economy, partial progress in reducing poverty and the impact that poor infrastructure has as a constraint on further growth and development. Click on the video link belowread more...»
Regional unemployment is seen as a significant economic problem, but employers may be reluctant to relocate if the educational quality of the workforce is below par. The term NEET refers to young people Not in Education, Training and Employment, and it appears that there are significant pockets of NEETs across the mainland of Great Britain.read more...»
Life expectancy in the United Kingdom continues to improve. But one important aspect of the deep and structural divide in incomes, economic activity and status and health across different groups in Britain is the marked variation in average life expectancy for men and women. The UK Statistics Commission has just published new data on this covering the period 2004-2010 and finds that:read more...»
A new IMF Finance and Development video on some of the statistics behind global aging is now available. Just click on the link below. The world’s population is getting older. Countries need to think about how fewer young people can continue to support the elderly.
A brain drain is a term that describes the movement of highly skilled or professional people from their own country to another country where they can earn more money. It has been used to describe net outward migration of people from several European Union countries in recent times (notably Ireland, Greece and Spain) - another phrase for this is human capital flight.
A sizeable brain drain can bring economic costs and benefits for the sending nation. One disadvantage is that countries lose out on the benefits that might have accrued from the resources used in educating people who leave. Add to this the loss of tax revenue from those who choose to live and work overseas. A sizeable loss of skilled workers (many of whom may be younger and therefore more geographically mobile) could lead to labour shortages in the sender country, putting upward pressure on wages and labour costs.
Some of this income earned overseas returns to the sender country in the form of remittances (adding to GNP) and many skilled migrants often leave only for a year or two - the percentage of permanent migration inside the EU is relatively small.
There has been much coverage in the last few days of the latest data on China’s population trends and in particular strong evidence about the ageing of her population. The demographic dividend of the fast population growth during the Mao era is well and truly over.
The annual growth of the Chinese population is falling away - the average annual growth was 0.57% over the last decade, down from 1.07% in 1990-2000. And when the age structure of the population is analysed, we find that the number of people over the age of 60 rose by about 48m, reaching 13.3 per cent of the population. China’s total population is now 1.339bn – up 5.84 per cent from the last decade. The number of old people in China has grown by more than the population of Spain over the last ten years and there is growing pressure for a reversal of the controversial one-child policy.read more...»
Lawrence Smith from UCLA spoke at the RSA tonight about his new book - The New North… in particular a cluster of eight countries he groups together as the NORCS - including Canada, Greeland, the USA, Sweden and Norway - nations he feels may be well placed to benefit from sizeable population shifts in the years ahead. The blurb from his publishers says this:
“In 2050, Northern countries – notably Canada, Russia and Scandinavia – will rise at the expense of southern ones. Patterns of human migration will be dramatically altered – and where we are born will be crucial. But, argues UCLA Professor Laurence Smith, humans are adaptable: and there will be gains as a new world takes shape. In this talk, Laurence Smith explores the four forces that are changing the world – climate change, rising population, globalisation and resource depletion – and attempts to predict how they will shape the world between now and 2050.”
Here are some notes from his talk, I will embed a link to the video from the RSA when it is published in a few days timeread more...»
This second Wildcard Wednesday extension activity post draws inspiration from a fascinating exhibition on isotype that I went to at the V&A in London over half term .
Happiness or Prosperity. How can we tell if a country is happy? Does it matter?read more...»
Good graphics on population and Consumption in January 2011’s National Geographic magazine.
Opportunity for cross-curricular understanding.
The rapid growth of the world population is back at the front of the international news agenda with food prices spiking back above their 2008 levels. Roger Harrabin writes here about approaches to adaptation in a world of possible population overload that flow from the ideas of senior engineers. Over the next six decades the world’s population is expected to soar from 6.9 billion to peak at 9.5 billion in 2075 according to this new report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Mega-cities’ of more than 10 million people will rise to 29 by 2025 and the urban population will increase from 3.3billion (2007) to 6.4 billion (2050).
A seasonal hat tip to Henry Wingfield for spotting this superb four minute presentation from Hans Rosling (Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institute and Director of the Gapminder Foundation) on two hundred years of progress in lifting life expectancy across the world and some of the huge differences between and within nations. A superb presentation - hugely visual and memorable. More details here on The Joy of Stats - the new BBC series due to air next week.
My better half and I recently popped along to the cinema to see ‘Made in Dagenham’.
The film is set in the late 1960s and depicts the true story of the 200 female machinists and their fight for fair pay at the Ford plant in Dagenham, Essex in the late 1960s. The film is an archetypal feel-good piece of social history, and packed with interesting Economics. Teaching to the syllabus alas does not always afford us the luxury of discussing relatively recent Economic history – this is a real shame. An appreciation of these events I feel can really help to bring several topics alive. Encourage your students to go and see the film – it’s all there:
1/ Monopsony – In the late 1960s Ford employed 55,000 people in Dagenham – 54,800 of them were men
2/ Trade Unions and the Supply Side – wage negotiation and industrial action
3/ Legislation – The dispute was a catalyst for what became the 1970 Equal Pay Act: something that still provokes controversy; today – 40 years later – pay disparity still remains an issue (always extra fun to discuss this in an all boys’ school!)
Cinemas are also of course excellent places in and of themselves as regards turning the restless mind to Economics issues. This particular establishment provides sofas for customers to lounge upon, and one is able to order items from the menu via a handy waiter/waitress service. This of course has several ramifications re the business model the firm operates. I marvelled at the application of cross price elasticity as I took in the outrageous prices on the menu! My thoughts turned to price discrimination as I pondered the ticket price! I glanced round approvingly at the civilised audience, gathered together in part via the power of the price mechanism!
I can’t finish without mentioning the fact that the soundtrack during an advert for a well known brand of Corn Flakes was provided by one of my favourite bands … Primal Scream, a Scottish alternative rock group. I almost choked on my Sauvignon Blanc as I vacillated between thoughts of ‘sell out!’ and the use of multiple revenue streams to maximise the value of a well-known product. I have to tell you – the irrationality of the fan won the day …. Oh Bobby, how could you?
The oldest contestant in the new (6th) series of The Apprentice is thirty one! But why should apprentices be concentrated only among those in the early stages of their careers?
The number of people aged fifty and over who are applying for and winning places on apprenticeship schemes has more than doubled in the last few years as this BBC news video explains. Apprenticeship programmes for older workers challenges our common preconceptions about their place in the labour market - and this is a good thing as the debate continues about how best to support and encourage people to stay in work during these challenging economic times. Lifelong learning is not merely a vaccuous slogan - it has a real meaning and is hugely important for the British economy in the years ahead.
This video reinforces the importance of human capital, the need for flexible skills to avoid structural unemployment. And it raises questions about who should and who can fund apprenticeship schemes and their longer-term economic and social benefits.
Shubham Puri a visiting student from Mayo College India gave a super presentation on the Indian economy to one of my Year 12 economics classes this morning. It inspired me to call up a range of charts on the state of health of the Indian economy - one of the new key drivers of world demand and a vital component in the BRIC hypothesis!
It was interesting to hear from Shubham how much weight he attached to corruption as a factor holding back the underlying growth rate of the Indian economy. There are widespread doubts for example about the economic and social legacy of India’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi later on this year.
Chronic unemployment in urban areas and much disguised unemployment across the country remain deep-rooted features of the Indian labour market despite impressive rates of growth and rising per capita incomes. Shubham confirmed that weak infrastructure is one of the aspects that contrasts India’s current situation with that of China.
Earlier on this week I heard Nouriel Roubini say in a lecture at the LSE that infrastructure in China is way ahead of where China has any right to be! Over ninety per cent of growth in China last year came from a massive surge in capital spending (capex). Too much investment in China will leave the economy with a glut of unused capacity and a major deflation problem once the short-term overheating is resolved.
Here is a brief presentation highlighting some of the key macro trends for the Indian economy.
And here is a wonderful short video My India that Shubham included at the end of his presentation
A hat tip to Romesh Vaitilingam for sending through details of a new series of research reports from the Centre for Economic Performance at the LSE.read more...»
Business Insider’s chart of the day has some revealing population projections that suggest that the USA’s labour force is set to continue to expand in the years ahead whereas China’s labour force will shrink by 10%, Europe’s will shrink 25%, and that of Korea and Japan’s will also contract by a significant amount.
The BBC news website carries a related article on labour mobility within the Chinese economy. Millions of internal migrants moved away from the manufacturing heartlands during the recent economic crisis. How many of them will return especially with the financial incentives on offer from a Chinese government that is seeking to create a million more entrepreneurs. Read: Why migrant workers are shunning China’s factories
Hamish McRae has a thoughtful piece in the Independent today on some of the lessons from the rising level of foreign direct investment by Chinese companies in Western businesses.
Is the younger generation picking up the economic tab for the foolishness and extravagence of the baby-boom generation born in the 1940s and 1950s (and early 1960s!)? Justin Rowlatt from Newsnight has this fascinating report, one that raises important questions about inter-generational equity / fairness.
Agflation refers to a sustained increase in the general price of foodstuffs and in recent years we have become accustomed to seeing the prices of many basic staple products rising. The era of cheap food looks to be over for now on the back of significant demand-side factors, not least rising population levels, higher per capita incomes and speculative demand for foods as prices have become more volatile. Supply-side factors are also important in explaining strong inflation in food prices. Both sides of the market are discussed by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in his column in the Telegraph today “Food will never be so cheap again” - plenty of applied microeconomics here in addition to the huge number of macroeconomic issues that the trend rise in food prices has caused. One of the big changes in a switch in the terms of trade away from food importers towards food exporters. But do higher food prices necessarily cause agricultural supply to expand?
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has a provocative piece in the Telegraph today on the demographic timebomb ticking underneath many Asian economies. The Japanese government has borrowed enormous sums in a bid to sustain aggregate demand and keep the economy afloat and avoid yet another deflationary slump. But the ratio of government debt to GDP is now - according to the author - perilously high.
“Japan is about to go bankrupt. It is on the cusp of a fiscal crisis that will change perceptions of Asia dramatically. The IMF says gross public debt will reach 218pc of GDP this year. This is compounding very fast. It will be 246pc in 2014…But I am absolutely certain that pundits consigning the dollar to its death have missed an even more dramatic currency and debt story in Japan.”