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WEALTH: HAVING IT ALL AND WANTING MORE

Oxfam report on global wealth distribution, accumulation and inequality.   Full report below: Having it all and wanting more  

Robots replacing human factory workers at faster pace

article reprinted from the LA Times – http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-robots-jobs-20150211-story.html Cheaper, better robots will replace human workers in the world’s factories at a faster pace over the next decade, pushing manufacturing labor costs down 16 percent, a report Tuesday said. The Boston Consulting Group predicts that investment in industrial robots will grow 10 percent a year in

The better is yet to come

A Social Vision and an Economic Strategy for Ireland in the 21st Century By Dr Tom Healy of http://www.nerinstitute.net/ NERI Vision In recent years, both parts of Ireland underwent a deep economic crisis that impacted on employment, incomes and social infrastructure. Although levels of prosperity exceed those of earlier generations, inequality in the ownership of

SHADOW BANKING AROUND THE GLOBE: HOW LARGE, AND HOW RISKY?

This Chapter 2 of an IMF economic report. IMF Shadow Banking The chapter describes the growth and risks of and regulatory responses to shadow banking—financial intermediaries or activities involved in credit intermediation outside the regular banking system, and therefore lacking a formal safety net. The largest shadow banking systems are found in advanced economies, where

Do the Young Unemployed Need the Incentive of Reduced Social Welfare?

Budget 2014 introduced significant cuts to Jobseeker’s Allowance (which is means tested) for young workers. The payment to new entrants aged 22-24 is reduced from €144 to €100 per week, and for those aged 25 the payment is reduced from €188 to €144 per week. The stated aim is to “ensure that young people are

WEALTH: HAVING IT ALL AND WANTING MORE

Oxfam report on global wealth distribution, accumulation and inequality.

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Full report below:

Having it all and wanting more

 

Robots replacing human factory workers at faster pace

article reprinted from the LA Times –

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-robots-jobs-20150211-story.html

Cheaper, better robots will replace human workers in the world’s factories at a faster pace over the next decade, pushing manufacturing labor costs down 16 percent, a report Tuesday said.

The Boston Consulting Group predicts that investment in industrial robots will grow 10 percent a year in the world’s 25-biggest export nations through 2025, up from 2 percent to 3 percent a year now. The investment will pay off in lower costs and increased efficiency.Robots will cut labor costs by 33 percent in South Korea, 25 percent in Japan, 24 percent in Canada and 22 percent in the United States and Taiwan. Only 10 percent of jobs that can be automated have already been taken by robots. By 2025, the machines will have more than 23 percent, Boston Consulting forecasts.

Robots are getting cheaper. The cost of owning and operating a robotic spot welder, for instance, has tumbled from $182,000 in 2005 to $133,000 last year, and will drop to $103,000 by 2025, Boston Consulting says.

And the new machines can do more things. Old robots could only operate in predictable environments. The newer ones use improved sensors to react to the unexpected.In a separate report, RBC Global Asset Management notes that robots can be reprogrammed far faster and more efficiently than humans can be retrained when products are updated or replaced — a crucial advantage at a time when smartphones and other products quickly fade into obsolescence.

“As labor costs rise around the world, it is becoming increasingly critical that manufacturers rapidly take steps to improve their output per worker to stay competitive,” said Harold Sirkin, a senior partner at Boston Consulting and co-author of the report. “Companies are finding that advances in robotics and other manufacturing technologies offer some of the best opportunities to sharply improve productivity.”

Boston Consulting studied 21 industries in 25 countries last year, interviewing experts and clients and consulting government and industry reports.

The rise of robots won’t be limited to developed countries with their aging, high-cost workforces. Even low-wage China will use robots to slash labor costs by 18 percent, Boston consulting predicts.Increasing automation is likely to change the way companies evaluate where to open and expand factories. Boston Consulting expects that manufacturers will “no longer simply chase cheap labor.” Factories will employ fewer people, and those that remain are more likely to be highly skilled. That could lure more manufacturers back to the United States from lower-wage emerging market countries.

The better is yet to come

A Social Vision and an Economic Strategy for Ireland in the 21st Century

By Dr Tom Healy of http://www.nerinstitute.net/

NERI Vision

In recent years, both parts of Ireland underwent a deep economic crisis that impacted on employment, incomes and social infrastructure. Although levels of prosperity exceed those of earlier generations, inequality in the ownership of wealth and in the distribution of income is likely to have increased – at least before taxes and social transfers are taken into account. Future trends in economic well-being are uncertain as Ireland adjusts to a rapidly changing world.  Continuing shocks in areas such as banking, property prices, unemployment and energy supply and cost – to mention only some – are likely to constitute sources of stress for social cohesion, democracy and sustainable economies.

This paper reviews the key economic and associated social challenges in the coming three decades and suggests an overarching framework to better understand:

  • Why the cycle of bust and boom has not been abolished;
  • What options and choices are open to communities in each part of the island; and
  • How synergies on an all-island (Ireland) and cross-island (Ireland and Great Britain) basis be harnessed.

The paper is intended as a contribution to a debate on our economic future and how we can achieve very different outcomes to those experienced up to now. Underlying a vision for the 2040’s is an emphasis on:

  • Human rights – economic and social; and
  • Security and sustainability of economic well-being which transcend conventional measures of economic prosperity.

This paper is not intended as a blueprint or a set model to be applied or rolled out. Rather, it suggests a different way of approaching public policy based on different norms and values – in practice – to those incorporated into public decision-making in the recent decades.

Although constituting two separate jurisdictions with very different characteristics and policy institutions, the Paper seeks to identify a unified perspective for the whole island and its relationship to the neighbouring island. This is without prejudice to the existing or future constitutional arrangements and preferences of any country or part thereof.

Author

Dr Tom Healy

 

SHADOW BANKING AROUND THE GLOBE: HOW LARGE, AND HOW RISKY?

This Chapter 2 of an IMF economic report.

IMF Shadow Banking

The chapter describes the growth and risks of and regulatory responses to shadow banking—financial intermediaries or activities involved in credit intermediation outside the regular banking system, and therefore lacking a formal safety net.

The largest shadow banking systems are found in advanced economies, where more narrowly defined shadow banking measures indicate stagnation, while broader measures (which include investment funds) generally show continued growth since the global financial crisis. In emerging market economies, the growth of shadow banking has been strong, outpacing that of the traditional banking system.

 

Do the Young Unemployed Need the Incentive of Reduced Social Welfare?

Budget 2014 introduced significant cuts to Jobseeker’s Allowance (which is means tested) for young workers. The payment to new entrants aged 22-24 is reduced from €144 to €100 per week, and for those aged 25 the payment is reduced from €188 to €144 per week. The stated aim is to “ensure that young people are better off in education, employment or training than claiming”, and the Government hopes to save €32 million from the measure.

Full report by NERI Neri research

Economic Overview from State statistics

Below is just a number of highlight figures from the State’s end of year figures. Always keep in mind these are highly political accounts and do not necessarily reflect the economic reality for working people.

The live register for end of year was 10.6% standardised unemployment rate, the average for last year was 11.3 (this does not take account of those fallen off the register, never signed on or who are underemployed)

81,900 people emigrated between April 2013 and April 2014

By the end of Q3 the deficit was 4% GDP and the gross government debt was 114.8% GDP

Exports were down 4% from the same time in 2013 largely as a result in a decrease in Pharma exports

Imports increased by 2% from the same time in 2013

€7.4 billion was spent on debt servicing

52% of Government bonds are now held by non-residents

 

 

 

State and finance in financialised capitalism

Definitely worth reading this analysis of contemporary capitalism, class and the State by Costas Lapavitsas.

State and finance in financialised capitalism

Costas Lapavitsas is a leading Professor of Economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and also sits on the National Advisory Panel of Class.

The structural problems within the UK and other mature economies were brought to the surface during and after the crisis of 2007-9. This paper argues that these problems are inherent to contemporary mature capitalism and have to do, primarily, with financialisation. The exceptional rise of finance in terms of size and penetration across society, the economy and the policy process, is apparent to all. The rise of finance is a sign of a fundamental transformation of mature capitalism within commercial and industrial enterprises, but also banks and perhaps most strikingly, within households.

The period of financialisation, lasting from the 1970s to the present day, has also wrought profound changes to the social structure of contemporary capitalism. It has been a period of extraordinary income inequality, wiping out all of the gains that came in the period following the Second World War. This paper notes that the ability of the rich to extract enormous incomes has been associated with the financial system. Inequality is a characteristic feature of financialisation.

Financialisation has been marked by the ideology of neoliberalism, promoted by universities, think-tanks and a variety of other institutions. Neoliberal ideology ostensibly treats state intervention in the economy with extreme suspicion, but the reality has been very different. The financialisation of mature economies would have been inconceivable without the facilitating and enabling role of the state.

Intervention by the state has taken several forms, including handing a dominant role to central banks to offer vital support to the financial system by providing liquidity and through their ability to influence interest rates. The state has also offered guarantees to bank deposits, boosted the capital of banks out of tax income and implicitly guaranteed bank survival through the ‘too big to fail doctrine’. Finally, the state has fostered financialisation by altering the regulatory framework of finance. The critically important role of the state was demonstrated at the point of the 2007-9 crisis as the state rescued banks and prevented the collapse of the financial system.

 

Benchmarking Working Europe 2014

The ETUI have released their 2014 report on working conditions in Europe. Well worth a read.

BENCHMARKING Working Europe 2014 A4 Web version

The year 2010 saw the launch of the Europe 2020 strategy. The new EU strategy had been devised for the purpose of promoting smart, sustainable and inclusive growth that would help Europe recover from the crisis and re-emerge stronger and more prosperous on the other side. In June of the same year, the European Semester was put in place to ensure the implementation and progress of macro-economic policy developments and structural reforms contained in the Europe 2020 strategy.

Now, in 2014, nearly five years into the strategy, the mid-term review of Europe 2020 is scheduled to take place in order to assess the effectiveness and relevance of the strategy and the mode of its governance and implementation. At a superficial glance, this mid-term review might appear to be taking place at a point in time when claims are issuing from various quarters that Europe is edging itself out of crisis, that the current policy direction is taking effect, and that it is indeed giving Europe the requisite boost to move from economic downturn to recovery. A more careful assessment will reveal, however, that Europe is still experiencing a devastatingly high level of unemployment; that growth is at best fragile; and that, rather than a narrowing of the gap separating us from the targets set for Europe 2020, we are seeing widening divergence, signifying that the current approach is definitely not achieving what it was set up to do. The assessment of the extent to which the European Semester, and in particular Europe 2020, has – or has not – helped Europe get out of the crisis will, accordingly, be instrumental in determining how European-level policies and strategies are to be redirected in the future.

 

Debt: A Weapon Against the People

DWAP

This pamphlet follows two recent economic analyses of the crisis and its aftermath published by the Communist Party of Ireland: An Economy for the Common Good (2009) and Repudiate the Debt (2011). In this pamphlet we develop further our analysis of the crisis of capitalism, the role debt plays in the economic system, and, most importantly, the response of the establishment and its attempt to further extend its power and wealth, with devastating consequences for working people’s lives.

When you lend a friend €20, whatever way you put it you are down €20 until they pay you back. Even if they make a commitment to pay you back €30, you are still down €20, and no shop will take your friend’s commitment to pay you back €30 as real money.

However, when a bank lent someone €300,000 for a mortgage, not only did it not deduct €300,000 from its accounts but it actually added the full amount that would be paid back over the lifetime of the mortgage—close to €1½ million—to its assets. It “created” €1.2 million, that doesn’t exist, through the loan.

It is this type of growth—unearned and future—that gave credence to the monetarist belief that there could be unlimited growth and expansion. The lines between asset and liability disappeared on the balance sheets of capitalism. Debt—credit—would make the world go round. Crisis could be overcome.

Or so they told us.

Marx recognised that credit and debt have always played a role in production and consumption within capitalism. But what is different today is the dependence of the system on it, where the rate of profit steadily falls, and the fundamental role it plays in the creation of profit, both as a fund and an avenue for investment. Without debt, capitalism would cease to grow; yet with its systemic reliance on debt capitalism is even more anarchic and volatile, with production and supply even further divorced from demand and consumption. To quote John Maynard Keynes, “when the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done.”[3]

This pamphlet outlines the principal points of development in the economic system during the second half of the twentieth century and then looks at the nature and extent of the debt crisis in Europe, particularly here in Ireland, which is exposing the contradictions and vulnerability of European economies and ultimately of monopoly capitalism. The crisis, like any crisis, is an opportunity for some, and the European Union and the Irish establishment have seized on this opportunity to further strengthen their power.

It is a naïve mistake to say, as some do, that austerity is not working. This misunderstands the root causes of the crisis, and the system’s response. “Austerity” is not designed to create jobs. It is not designed to ease the burden being placed on workers’ shoulders. It is not designed to reduce the bankruptcy of states. The purpose of the austerity programmes being imposed throughout Europe, particularly in the periphery but more recently also in core countries, is to free up capital and transfer it to finance houses and institutions so as to shore up the primary source of growth in the system: finance capital.

Get your copy of the pamphlet from Connolly Bookshop, Temple Bar.

The political economy of water charges – an EU dimension

The origin of the planned water charges lies in the EU’s Water Framework Directive (2000), which provided for full cost recovery for water use and whose Article 9 states; ‘Member States shall take account of the principle of recovery of the costs of water services …’ It also required Member States to have in place water-pricing policies by 2010. The Directive was transposed into Irish Law in 2003. The Water Framework Directive, which seeks to commodify water provision through the establishment of the principle of recovery of the costs of water services. The EU took advantage of the ‘bailout’ to make it a condition of the ‘loans’.  This will open the way for the sale of Irish Water either in whole or in part, ostensibly to complete the single market or to promote competition ‘in the interests of the consumer’. This is just one reason why there is such government resistance to a constitutional referendum to permanently retain Irish Water in public  ownership – the other is TTIP.

Both sides in the TTIP negotiations have made clear their intention to use TTIP to get access to what is described as “public monopolies;” that is, public utilities including water. These services would then be vulnerable to greater outsourcing and private tendering for service delivery and eventually, to privatisation. TTIP would open up public procurement contracts to the private sector, meaning that social, environmental or “public good” goals in public procurement would be removed. A private monopoly can fix its price at an unaffordable level, as Bechtel did in Bolivia, leading to a popular uprising; the termination of the contract and replacement of the government.

It would also make the nationalisation (or renationalisation) of services or resources virtually impossible, as incredibly, corporations would be able to sue for loss of future and expected profits. This is facilitated by the inclusion of an (ISDS) Investor – State Dispute Settlement clause in TTIP. TTIP would increase the pressure for the privatisation of ‘services of general interest’, such as water services. Foreign suppliers of services of general interest should not be entitled to claim “forgone profits” through ISDS. This provision, in effect would further legalise neo-liberalism as the economic and social framework in Ireland and the EU.

But even if ISDS is removed from TTIP, the main goal remains; to remove regulatory ‘barriers’ which restrict the potential profits to be made by transnational corporations on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet these ‘barriers’ are in reality some of our most prized social standards and environmental regulations, such as labour rights, food safety rules, regulations on the use of toxic chemicals and digital privacy laws. Public water provision is only one of the services under threat from TTIP. Both water charges and TTIP must be defeated!

Frank Keoghan

http://www.tuleftforum.com/water-charges-eu-ttip/