World Economics

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Demographic change
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Error in Demographic and Other Quantitative Data and Analyses
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Thomas Burch, World Economics, June 2018
Statistical data consumed, analysed and produced contain errors from more sources than is often recognised and the commercialisation of survey and other statistical research and ‘inventions’ such as ‘big data’ has led to naïve and faulty analysis and propaganda. Oskar Morgenstern has noted that, in contrast to physics, there is no estimate of statistical error within economics and the various sources of error that come into play in the social sciences suggest that the error in economic observations is substantial. It is important to recognise the phenomenon of the propagation of errors; errors in our results may be disproportionate to errors in our input data. Despite documented problems social scientists cannot give up on quantitative data since many of the most important questions in social science are matters of more or less, not either/or.
Demographic Change Across the Globe
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Marga Peeters & Loek Groot, World Economics, June 2012
This paper investigates the fiscal pressure, or the level of public expenditure on old and young economically inactive people, arising from demographic change in relation to the labour market space, or the proportion of the working age population not in full-time employment. The exercise is carried out for 50 countries that cover 75% of the world population. The pressure-to-space indicator ranks Poland, Turkey and Greece high, although, apart from Turkey and India, developing countries generally rank low due to low spending on the old (pensions, healthcare) and on the young (education, family costs). Peculiarly, economies with higher pressure have more space. The hypothesis that ageing economies have started using their labour market space in anticipation of higher demographic pressure is rejected. It is important to note that raising the retirement age in developed economies by five years alleviates fiscal pressure by almost 30% and creates 10% more labour market space.
Why is the Chinese Saving Rate so High?
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Guonan Ma & Wang Yi, World Economics, March 2011
China’s saving rate is high from many perspectives – historical experience, international standards and model predictions. Furthermore, the average saving rate has been rising over time, with much of the increase taking place in the 2000s. What sets China apart from the rest of the world is that its rising aggregate saving has reflected high savings rates in all three sectors: corporate, household and government. Our evidence casts doubt on the proposition that distortions and subsidies account for China’s high saving rate. Instead, we argue that tough corporate restructuring (including pension and home ownership reforms), a marked Lewismodel transformation process (where the average wage exceeds the marginal product of labour in the subsistence sector) and rapid ageing process have all played more important roles. Such structural factors suggest that the Chinese saving rate may peak over the coming years.
Wanted: Measures of Economic Change
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Ralph Turvey, World Economics, June 2001
Economic growth may involve change, but there can be change without economic growth insofar as outputs of some products or employment in some regions or industries grows while there are equal decreases elsewhere. National accounts data do not reveal such shifts, yet they may involve investment and disinvestment, require the acquisition of new skills and cause changes in the location of economic activities. Some simple examples are provided, demonstrating that the rate of growth and the pace of change are by no means perfectly correlated. Hence separate measures of change are required if we are to understand what is happening in the economy.

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