The Atlantic ran a piece recently titled The Most Important Economic Stories of 2013 – in 44 graphs. I thought it might be interesting to recreate the graphs using Australian data, where possible. I’ve taken the US graphs, selected by a range of economists and economics writers in the US, and tried to recreate them the best I can using the Australian data I have to hand. The first instalment is below – I’ll try and post the rest soon.
After reaching an all-time high of 65.8% in November 2010, the proportion of people aged 15+ who are either in work or actively looking for work has declined sharply, hitting 64.8% in October this year. An important question for policy makers is this: is the participation rate declining because people are being discouraged from looking for work, or is it declining as a natural consequence of the ageing of the population?
There are two alternative proposals to increase the tax on superannuation contributions.
Which of these proposals would you describe as ‘class war’?
A story in Saturday’s Financial Review ($) was relevant to my interests in more ways than one. The story included this quote from Professor Mark Wooden:
Melbourne Institute professorial research fellow Mark Wooden said mandatory penalty rates inhibited employment by artificially keeping costs high. “I just came back from Europe and you don’t think of Europe as being a cheap place for eating out but it is cheaper than Australia,” he said.
I decided to try and figure out if he was right: are European restaurants cheaper than Australia? If so, do they just seem cheap because of our elevated exchange rate?
Three types of blog posts I’m sick of writing, and I’m sure you’re sick of reading, are generic defences of the Fair Work Act, angry screeds against predictable partisanship from The Australian, and basic summaries of labour force data. Yet every time I swear to myself that I’m going to take a break from each of these genres, someone writes something that gets me sufficiently riled up that I feel compelled to respond. John Black’s piece in yesterday’s Oz, titled ‘Workers at the mercy of a jittery economy‘, ticked all the boxes. He uses a highly selective and skewed bundle of labour force data to try to make the case that the Fair Work Act is the cause of rising unemployment. Here’s my response.
One of the key economic policy battles in the first term of any government is to shape the public’s understanding of the previous government. Howard and Costello successfully associated the Keating and Hawke governments not with a massive program of economic liberalisation, but with “Beazley’s black hole,” a supposedly hidden fiscal deficit that was used to justify sharp spending cuts. The first Rudd government could and should have made more of Howard’s failure to make the most of the mining boom, squandering much of the benefit in unsustainable tax cuts, but they failed to ram this message home.