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Degrowth, deep adaptation, and skills shortages – Part 4

One of the ‘problems’ besetting the world at present, if the commentary in the mainstream press is anything to go by, is the existence of chronic skill shortages. Survey studies of the shifting demographics in Japan, for example, have produced ‘alarming’ results from a mainstream perspective. See for example, this OECD Report from 2021 – Changing skill needs in the Japanese labour market. I was at a meeting recently in Kyoto and it is clear that many firms in Japan are having trouble finding workers and many have even offered wage increases to lure workers to their companies. Further, many small and medium-size businesses are owned by persons who are over 70 years of age and that proportion is rising fast. The skill shortage scenario is tied in with the ageing society debate, where advanced nations are facing so-called demographic ‘time bombs’, with fewer people of working age left to produce for an increasing number of people who no longer work. The mainstream narrative paints these trends as major problems that have to be confronted by governments, and, typically, because of faulty understandings of the fiscal capacities of governments, propose deeply flawed solutions. I see these challenges in a very different light. Rather than construct the difficulties that firms might be facing attracting sufficient labour (the ‘skills shortages’ narrative), I prefer to see the situation as providing an indicator of the limits of economic activity or the space that nations have to implement a fairly immediate degrowth strategy. In the following two blog posts I will explain how this inversion of logic can become a crucial plank in the degrowth debate.

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The Weekend Quiz – October 29-30, 2022 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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Australian inflation data – not as scary as most think

Yesterday (October 26, 2022), the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the September-quarter – Consumer Price Index, Australia – which revealed that the quarterly CPI rose by 1.8 per cent (relatively large increase) and rose over the 12 months by 7.3 per cent, the highest annual inflation rate since 1990. The most significant contributors over the year were owner-occupied housing (bushfires wiping out materials), food (floods destroying crops), and gas supplies (cartel profit gouging). So some of the factors driving the inflation are short-term and the others will be resolved by factors outside our control. But with wage pressures absent and the most reliable indicator of medium- to long-term inflation now falling, it is hard to make a case that the rising inflation is now entrenched. The correct policy response should be to provide fiscal support for lower-income households to help them cope with the cost of living rises at present.

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Australia’s latest fiscal statement from the government – a gutless document really

I don’t really want to write this post today given the hysteria that has appeared in the media over the last week. But it is an important event so I better. Working in Kyoto for the last month has given me a sort of sense of dislocation from the day to day macroeconomic debate in Australia. I still read all the information and study the data but being somewhat distant from it – and not watching any current affairs or listening to the radio – provides for calm. Anyway, last night (October 25, 2022), the new Federal Treasurer released the annual ‘fiscal statement’ (aka ‘The Budget’), after telling the nation since he was elected that the sky was about to fall in because the previous government had left a ‘trillion dollars worth of debt’. The new Labor government is so intent on looking ‘responsible’ and the exemplars of ‘sound finance’ that the population has been subjected to a daily briefing from the Treasurer and the Finance Minister that amounts to little more than nauseating lies. And last night’s fiscal statement? A joke really. It neither does what the Treasurer claims nor does it deal with the numerous policy challenges that face the nation in any significant way. The fiscal statement essentially fails to meet the challenges that are before us and will worsen over the next few years. A gutless document really.

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A circular system of nonsense – conventional media reporting on the monetary system

There were two headlines on Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC’s news site this morning that tell us that there has been little progress made in helping people better understand the way the monetary system operates and the capacities of the currency-issuing government within it. Both articles merely rehearsed the standard mainstream fictions, which makes them dangerous, in that they perpetuate the system that has held the world back from addressing its major challenges. By creating false ‘challenges’ and false ‘probabilities of crisis’, these stories delay action that is necessary to deal with the real problems of climate change, inequality, degradation of public infrastructure and services, the health crisis, etc
The other problem is that these ‘analysis’ columns pretend to be balanced with is a ruse to bestow legitimacy or authority on themselves. ‘Experts’, who are wheeled out to ratify the fiction, are just part of the Groupthink. It is a circular system of nonsense. Very disappointing.

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The Weekend Quiz – October 22-23, 2022 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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Australian labour market – slowing to a halt

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released of the latest labour force data today (October 20, 2022) – Labour Force, Australia – for September 2022. The labour market slowed markedly in September 2022 with employment hardly increasing (0.01 per cent) and unemployment pushing up a little due to the labour force growing more than employment. With the participation rate constant, this signals a deteriorating situation. The underlying (‘What-if’) unemployment rate is closer to 6.1 per cent rather than the official rate of 3.5 per cent. There are still 1346.8 thousand Australian workers without work in one way or another (officially unemployed or underemployed). The only reason the unemployment rate is so low is because the underlying population growth remains low after the border closures over the last two years. But that is changing as immigration increases. Overall, the situation deteriorated a bit over September.

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