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Measuring African GDP
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Joe Downie, World Economics, June 2011
There is much speculation about the growth potential of African economies. But in the light of unreliable official statistics and the highly selective information often presented by investment companies with an incentive to highlight the positive, this article aims to provide some extra analysis to add to the recent widespread comments on high growth rates within the continent. Problems are noted with official economic data and the strengths of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) measures for GDP comparisons are noted. GDP figures for Africa and five other major economic areas are analysed for the three decades to 2010 in terms of GDP growth and GDP level by decade. These figures are then viewed in per capita terms, drawing attention to significant population growth within the continent, and therefore less impressive per capita figures. A closer look at the location and distribution of economic activity within the African continent highlights the high concentration of economic activity within a small number of countries. However, it is concluded that the future prospects for African growth are still generally positive. Despite the heavy reliance on oil exports in some countries, headline GDP figures also reflect incidences of broad-based growth which looks set to continue so long as Asian demand remains high and good economic policies are pursued.
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.
Poles Apart
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Paul Gregg, Kirstine Hansen & Jonathan Wadsworth, World Economics, June 2000
Analysis of labour market performance using individual level data can reach radically different conclusions to those provided by a household-based analysis, using the same source of information. In Britain and other OECD countries the number of households without access to earned income has grown despite rising employment rates. Built around a comparison of the actual jobless rate in households with that which would occur if work were randomly distributed, the authors show that work is becoming increasingly polarised in many countries. Changing household structure can only account for a minority of the rise in workless households, so that labour market failure is the dominant explanation. Polarisation of work will have important welfare and budgetary consequences for any country.

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