Pearson - Always learning

All your resources for Economics

RSS icon Subscribe | Text size

Posts Tagged ‘technology’

The UK productivity puzzle

UK productivity growth remains well below levels recorded before the financial crisis, as Chart 1 illustrates. In fact, output per hour worked in 2016 Q3 was virtually the same as in 2007 Q4. What is more, as can be seen from Chart 2, UK productivity lags well behind its major competitors (except for Japan).

But why does UK productivity lag behind other countries and why has it grown so slowly since the financial crisis? In its July 2015 analysis, the ONS addressed this ‘productivity puzzle’.

Among the many reasons suggested are low levels of investment, the impact of the financial crisis on bank’s willingness to lend to new businesses, higher numbers of people working beyond normal retirement age as a result of population and pensions changes, and firms’ ability to retain staff because of low pay growth. While these and other factors may be relevant, they do not provide a complete explanation for the weakness in productivity.

The lack of investment in technology and lack of infrastructure investment have been key reasons for the sluggish growth in productivity. Many companies are prepared to continue using relatively labour-intensive techniques because wage growth has been so low and this reduces the incentive to invest in labour-saving technology.

Another factor has been long hours and, for many office workers, being constantly connected to their work, checking and responding to emails and messages away from the office. The Telegraph article below reports Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, as saying:

“This is having a deleterious effect on the health of managers, which has a direct impact on productivity. UK workers already have the longest hours in Europe and yet we’re less productive.”

Another problem has been ultra low interest rates, which have reduced the burden of debt for poor performing companies and has allowed them to survive. It may also have prevented finance from being reallocated to more dynamic companies which would like to develop new products and processes.

Another feature of UK productivity is the large differences between regions. This is illustrated in Chart 3. Productivity in London in 2015 (the latest full year for data) was 31.5% above the UK average, while that in Wales was 19.4% below.

This again reflects investment patterns and also the concentration of industries in particular locations. Thus London’s financial sector, a major part of London’s economy, has experienced relatively large increases in productivity and this has helped to push productivity growth in the capital well above other parts of the country.

Another factor, which again has a regional dimension, is the poor productivity performance of family-owned businesses, where ownership and management is passed down the generations within the family without bringing in external managerial expertise.

The government is very aware of the UK’s weak productivity performance. Its recently launched industrial policy is designed to address the problem. We look at that in a separate post.

Articles
UK productivity edges up but growth still flounders below pre-crisis levels The Telegraph, Julia Bradshaw (6/1/17)
Weak UK productivity spurs warnings of living standards squeeze The Guardian, Katie Allen (6/1/17)
Productivity gap yawns across the UK BBC News, Jonty Bloom (6/1/17)
The UK productivity puzzle Fund Strategy. John Redwood (26/1/17)
Productivity puzzle remains for economists despite UK growth in third quarter of 2016 City A.M., Jasper Jolly (6/1/17)

Portal site
Solve the Productivity Puzzle Unipart

Report
Productivity: no puzzle about it TUC (Feb 2015)

Data
Labour Productivity: Tables 1 to 10 and R1 ONS (6/1/17)
International comparisons of UK productivity (ICP) ONS (6/10/16)
Gross capital formation (% of GDP) The World Bank

Questions

  1. In measuring productivity, the ONS uses three indicators: output per worker, output per hour and output per job. Compare the relative usefulness of these three measures of productivity.
  2. How would you explain the marked difference in productivity between regions and cities within the UK?
  3. How do flexible labour markets impact on productivity?
  4. Why is investment as a percentage of GDP so low in the UK compared to that in most other developed countries (see)?
  5. Give some examples of industrial policy measures that could be adopted to increase productivity growth.
  6. Examine the extent to which very low interest rates and quantitative easing encourage productivity-enhancing investment.
Share in top social networks!

Evolving capitalism: technology and the rise of the sharing economy

The articles below examine the rise of the sharing economy and how technology might allow it to develop. A sharing economy is where owners of property, equipment, vehicles, tools, etc. rent them out for periods of time, perhaps very short periods. The point about such a system is that the renter deals directly with the property owner – although sometimes initially through an agency. Airbnb and Uber are two examples.

So far the sharing economy has not developed very far. But the development of smart technology will soon make a whole range of short-term renting contracts possible. It will allow the contracts to be enforced without the need for administrators, lawyers, accountants, bankers or the police. Payments will be made electronically and automatically, and penalties, too, could be applied automatically for not abiding by the contract.

One development that will aid this process is a secure electronic way of keeping records and processing payments without the need for a central authority, such as a government, a bank or a company. It involves the use of ‘blockchains‘ (see also). The technology, used in Bitcoin, involves storing data widely across networks, which allows the data to be shared. The data are secure and access is via individuals having a ‘private key’ to parts of the database relevant to them. The database builds in blocks, where each block records a set of transactions. The blocks build over time and are linked to each other in a logical order (i.e. in ‘chains’) to allow tracking back to previous blocks.

Blockchain technology could help the sharing economy to grow substantially. It could significantly cut down the cost of sharing information about possible rental opportunities and demands, and allow minimal-cost secure transactions between owner and renter. As the IBM developerWorks article states:

Rather than use Uber, Airbnb or eBay to connect with other people, blockchain services allow individuals to connect, share, and transact directly, ushering in the real sharing economy. Blockchain is the platform that enables real peer-to-peer transactions and a true ‘sharing economy’.

Article
New technology may soon resurrect the sharing economy in a very radical form The Guardian, Ben Tarnoff (17/10/16)
Blockchain and the sharing economy 2.0 IBM developerWorks, Lawrence Lundy (12/5/16)
2016 is set to become the most interesting year yet in the life story of the sharing economy Nesta, Helen Goulden (Dec 2015)
Blockchain Explained Business Insider, Tina Wadhwa and Dan Bobkoff (16/10/16)
A parliament without a parliamentarian Interfluidity, Steve Randy Waldman (19/6/16)
Blockchain and open innovation: What does the future hold Tech City News, Jamie QIU (17/10/16)
Banks will not adopt blockchain fast Financial Times, Oliver Bussmann (14/10/16)
Blockchain-based IoT project does drone deliveries using Ethereum International Business Times, Ian Allison (14/10/16)

Questions

  1. What do you understand by the ‘sharing economy’?
  2. Give some current examples of the sharing economy? What other goods or services might be suitable for sharing if the technology allowed?
  3. How could blockchain technology be used to cut out the co-ordinating role carried out by companies such as Uber, eBay and Airbnb and make their respective services a pure sharing economy?
  4. Where could blockchain technology be used other than in the sharing economy?
  5. How can blockchain technology not only record property rights but also enforce them?
  6. What are the implications of blockchain technology for employment and unemployment? Explain.
  7. How might attitudes towards using the sharing economy develop over time and why?
  8. Referring to the first article above, what do you think of Toyota’s use of blockchain to punish people who fall behind on their car payments? Explain your thinking.
  9. Would the use of blockchain technology in the sharing economy make markets more competitive? Could it make them perfectly competitive? Explain.
Share in top social networks!

The rise of the machines

What will production look like in 20 years time? Will familiar jobs in both manufacturing and the services be taken over by robots? And if so, which ones? What will be the effect on wages and on unemployment? Will most people be better off, or will just a few gain while others get by with minimum-wage jobs or no jobs at all?

The BBC has been running a series looking at new uses for robots and whether they will take people’s jobs? This complements three reports: one by Boston Consulting one by Deloitte and an earlier one by Deloitte and Michael Osborne and Carl Frey from Oxford University’s Martin School. As Jane Wakefield, the BBC’s technology reporter states:

Boston Consulting Group predicts that by 2025, up to a quarter of jobs will be replaced by either smart software or robots, while a study from Oxford University has suggested that 35% of existing UK jobs are at risk of automation in the next 20 years.

Jobs at threat from machines include factory work, office work, work in the leisure sector, work in medicine, law, education and other professions, train drivers and even taxi and lorry drivers. At present, in many of these jobs machines work alongside humans. For example, robots on production lines are common, and robots help doctors perform surgery and provide other back-up services in medicine.

A robot may not yet have a good bedside manner but it is pretty good at wading through huge reams of data to find possible treatments for diseases.

Even if robots don’t take over all jobs in these fields, they are likely to replace an increasing proportion of many of these jobs, leaving humans to concentrate on the areas that require judgement, creativity, human empathy and finesse.

These developments raise a number of questions. If robots have a higher marginal revenue product/marginal cost ratio than humans, will employers choose to replace humans by robots, wholly or in part? How are investment costs factored into the decision? And what about industrial relations? Will employers risk disputes with employees? Will they simply be concerned with maximising profit or will they take wider social concerns into account?

Then there is the question of what new jobs would be created for those who lose their jobs to machines. According to the earlier Deloitte study, which focused on London, over 80% of companies in London say that over the next 10 years they will be most likely to take on people with skills in ‘digital know-how’, ‘management’ and ‘creativity’.

But even if new jobs are created through the extra spending power generated by the extra production – and this has been the pattern since the start of the industrial revolution some 250 years ago – will these new jobs be open largely to those with high levels of transferable skills? Will the result be an ever widening of the income gap between rich and poor? Or will there be plenty of new jobs throughout the economy in a wide variety of areas where humans are valued for the special qualities they bring? As the authors of the later Deloitte paper state:

The dominant trend is of contracting employment in agriculture and manufacturing being more than offset by rapid growth in the caring, creative, technology and business services sectors.

The issues of job replacement and job creation, and of the effects on income distribution and the balance between work and leisure, are considered in the following videos and articles, and in the three reports.

Videos
What is artificial intelligence? BBC News, Valery Eremenko (13/9/15)
What jobs will robots take over? BBC News, David Botti (15/8/14)
Could a robot do your job? BBC News, Rory Cellan-Jones (14/9/15)
Intelligent machines: The robots that work alongside humans BBC News, Rory Cellan-Jones (14/9/15)
Intelligent machines: Will you be replaced by a robot? BBC News, John Maguire (14/9/15)
Will our emotions change the way adverts work? BBC News, Dan Simmons (24/7/15)
Could A Robot Do My Job? BBC Panorama, Rohan Silva (14/9/15)

Articles
Technology has created more jobs in the last 144 years than it has destroyed, Deloitte study finds Independent, Doug Bolton (18/8/15)
Technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed, says 140 years of data The Guardian, Katie Allen (18/8/15)
Will a robot take your job? BBC News (11/9/15)
Intelligent Machines: The jobs robots will steal first BBC News, Jane Wakefield (14/9/15)
Robots Could Take 35 Per Cent Of UK Jobs In The Next 20 Years Says New Study Huffington Post, Thomas Tamblyn (14/9/15)
The new white-collar fear: will robots take your job? The Telegraph, Rohan Silva (12/9/15)
Does technology destroy jobs? Data from 140 years says no Catch news, Sourjya Bhowmick (11/9/15)

Reports
Takeoff in Robotics Will Power the Next Productivity Surge in Manufacturing Boston Consulting Group (10/2/15)
Agiletown: the relentless march of technology and London’s response Deloitte (November 2014)
Technology and people: The great job-creating machine Deloitte, Ian Stewart, Debapratim De and Alex Cole (August 2015)

Questions

  1. Which are the fastest growing and fastest declining occupations? To what extent can these changes be explained by changes in technology?
  2. What type of unemployment is caused by rapid technological change?
  3. Why, if automation replaces jobs, have jobs increased over the past 250 years?
  4. In what occupations is artificial intelligence (AI) most likely to replace humans?
  5. To what extent are robots and humans complementary rather than substitute inputs into production?
  6. “Our analysis of more recent employment data also reveals a clear pattern to the way in which technology has affected work.” What is this pattern? Explain.
  7. Why might AI make work more interesting for workers?
  8. Using a diagram, show how an increase in workers’ marginal productivity from working alongside robots can result in an increase in employment. Is this necessarily the case? Explain.
Share in top social networks!

Your basket: ins and outs

The rate of inflation in the UK is measured using the Consumer Prices Index (CPI). This is made up of a basket of goods and the ONS updates this ‘basket’ each year to ensure it is representative of what the average UK household buys. The basket contains 703 items, with 110,000 individual prices collected each month.

In past years, items such as lip gloss have been added to the basket of goods, together with tablet computers and teenage fiction. In the recent update by the ONS, e-cigarettes have been added, together with specialist ‘craft’ beers and music streaming. On the other hand, other items have been removed, as the world changes. For example, during the recession, champagne was removed as an item that the representative household was no longer buying. In other cases, items are removed as they become outdated or obsolete with technology changing. This is the case with satellite navigation systems. As people turn to using their smartphones to navigate their way from A to B, satellite navigation systems are no longer seen as an item bought by the representative household.

The UK inflation rate is at an all-time low of 0.3% and there have been concerns that it may become negative, meaning we enter the world of deflation. However, if this does occur, many suggest that it is not bad deflation, as it is being driven by the extremely low oil prices. No matter what the inflation rate, the ONS will always continue to update the basket of goods that calculates inflation. It is therefore essential that these changes are made each year, as consumer buying habits do fluctuate considerably, as income changes, technology changes and general tastes change. The following articles consider what’s in and what’s out.

From craft beer to e-cigarettes, inflation basket reflects Britain’s changing shopping habits The Guardian, Katie Allen (17/3/15)
Inflation-measuring basket of goods adds protein powder, e-cigarettes The Grocer, Andrew Don (17/3/15)
E-cigareets and craft beers in updated inflation basket BBC News (17/3/15)
E-cigs added to inflation basket Mail Online (17/3/15)
Craft beer, e-cigarettes and protein shakes dded to price basket used to calculate inflation Independent, Hazel Sheffield (17/3/15)
U.K. hipsters and gym junkies win approval in new price basket Bloomberg, Tom Beardsworth (17/3/15)
Spotify in and sat navs out: take a look at the new inflation basket The Telegraph, Szu Ping Chan (17/3/15)
E-cigarettes, craft beer and Spotify enter UK inflation basket Reuters, Toby Melville (17/3/15)
Craft beer and e-cigarettes added to CPI basket Financial Times (17/3/15)

Questions

  1. What is the difference between the CPI and RPI? Which is usually higher? Explain your answer.
  2. Explain why champagne was removed from the basket of goods during the recession. What is sensible?
  3. How is the CPI calculated and hence how is inflation measured?
  4. Why has there been a movement towards chilled pizzas and away from frozen pizzas? Is the change likely to affect their relative price? Use a diagram to support your answer.
  5. What impact has technological progress had on the basket of goods that the representative household purchases? Do you think that technological progress make it more or less important for the basket of goods to be reviewed annually?
  6. Do you think products such as the iPad and e-cigarettes should be included in the CPI? Are they truly representative?
  7. In the BBC News article, you can access a list of the products that are ‘in and out’. Is there anything on there that you think should be in or that should be out? Be sure to justify your answer!
Share in top social networks!

BBC Radio 4: The future is not what it used to be

On my commute to work on the 6th May, I happened to listen to a programme on BBC radio 4, which provided some fascinating discussion on a variety of economic issues. Technological change is constant and unstoppable and the consequences of it are likely to be both good and bad.

In this programme some top economists, including Joseph Stiglitz offer their analysis of the impact of technology and how the future might look, by considering a range of factors, such as youth unemployment, the productivity of labour, education, pensions and inequality. The benefits of new technology can be seen as endless, but the impact on inequality and how the benefits of technology are being distributed is a concern for many people. The best introduction to the programme and its content is simply to reproduce the description provided by BBC radio 4.

The baby boom generation came of age when it was accepted knowledge that innovation and productivity would always lead to higher standards of living. The generations which followed assumed this truth would continue into the future indefinitely. With the crash of 2008 the upward mobility the middle classes assumed was their right evaporated, and it is unlikely to return.

Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator of the Financial Times, asks how the work force of the future will be changed by the advancements of technologies. How should governments respond to a jobs market which is hollowing out opportunities for traditional educated professions and how will rewards for innovation and income for labour be distributed without creating a society plagued by endemic inequality?

We will speak with optimists and pessimists on both sides of the argument to find out how the repercussions of these changes will affect the way we all live now and well into the future.

It is well worth listening to and provides some interesting insights as to what the future might look like, as the inevitable technological change continues. The link for the programme is below.

The future is not what it used to be BBC Radio 4 (6/5/14)

Questions

  1. What are the expected costs and benefits of technological change?
  2. Which factors are discussed as being the main obstacles to upwards mobility? Why have these become more prevalent in recent decades?
  3. Using a diagram, explain how technology can improve economic growth. To what extent is the multiplier effect important here?
  4. How is technology expected to affect the labour market? Use a diagram to help your explanation and make sure you consider both sides of the argument.
  5. What is meant by the idea that the benefits of new technology are likely to be felt in the long run?
  6. How important is education in creating equal opportunities?
  7. What is meant by secular stagnation? Is it seen as being a problem?
Share in top social networks!

The decline of the newspaper

Technology and the Internet have both good and bad sides, whether it’s for businesses or consumers. Many opportunities have been created, such as access to global markets, cheaper and easier transport and communication and better sources of supply. But with this opportunity comes threats, especially for businesses. We’ve seen the emergence of new online-based companies and in some cases these have contributed to the demise of other firms. In this News Item we look at the impact on the newspaper industry.

Media is one industry that has been significantly affected by technological developments. Newspaper readership has been in decline for many years and this is even the case for the most widely read UK paper – The Daily Telegraph. However, according to Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, it’s not the end of the industry:

It is an industry in crisis, but I don’t accept it is an industry in terminal decline.

More and more information has become freely available online and just as we would expect in any other sector, the newspaper industry has had to respond. To keep their readers, newspapers across the world provide thousands of articles on all topics on their websites. But if news can be accessed freely, why bother purchasing a newspaper? This is the problem facing the Daily Telegraph, the Independent, the Daily Mail etc – the number of newspapers sold has declined and thus so have revenues and profits.

One option is to charge consumers for reading the news by introducing a subscription to the online articles. The Financial Times already charges a fee to view articles online beyond a certain number and The Telegraph is soon to follow suit. Back in 2010, The Times and Sunday Times launched their new websites, which charged readers for viewing articles. The model being adopted by The Telegraph is a little different, as a certain number of articles can be viewed for free before a price must be paid. International readers are already charged to view online material, but these new charges will apply to UK readers. With so much competition facing newspapers, the number of readers for The Telegraph will undoubtedly decline, but with newspaper readership falling, revenues must come from somewhere. Tony Gallagher has said:

We want to develop a closer rapport with our digital audience in the UK, and we intend to unveil a number of compelling digital products for our loyal subscribers in the months ahead.

Differentiating the product is going to be essential for any newspaper that begins charging, as with so much information available online for free, they have to ensure they keep their readers. Establishing loyalty will be crucial. The following articles consider this change.

Telegraph extends paywall to UK readers BBC News (26/3/13)
The Telegraph: subscribe to Britain’s finest journalism The Telegraph (26/3/13)
Telegraph to put up metered paywall Guardian, Roy Greenslade (26/3/13)
The sun joins Telegraph in charging website users The Guardian, Lisa O’Carroll and Roy Greenslade (26/3/13)
Oh how Times are charging Sloman News Site March 2010
Telegraph introduces UK paywall Marketing Week, Lara O’Reilly (26/3/13)
Washington Post announces porous paywall Journalism.co.uk, Sarah Marshall (19/3/13)
Washington Post latest newspaper to put faith in paywalls The Guardian, Dominic Rushe (19/3/13)
Ireland’s newspapers suffer hard times Financial Times, Jamie Smythe (24/3/13)
Washington Post to start charging for website Wall Street Journal, Keach Hagey (18/3/13)

Questions

  1. Where would you put newspapers on the product life cycle? Explain your answer.
  2. How would you assess the effect of the development of technology and the internet for newspapers?
  3. Have readers of newspapers benefited from the internet?
  4. How might estimates of elasticity have been used to make the decision to charge to view online articles?
  5. Which consumers will be affected most by this new strategy?
  6. How might companies that don’t charge for online access benefit from this new strategy?
  7. Would you continue to read articles from The Times, the Financial Times, The Telegraph, etc. linked from this site if you had to pay to access them? If so, why? If not, why not?
  8. How much would you be prepared to pay to access online articles? How are the concepts of utility and consumer surplus relevant here?
  9. What effect will the paywall have on The Telegraph’s revenues and profits? Use a diagram to illustrate your answer.
Share in top social networks!

A good or bad call?

The high street has changed significantly over the past 50 years and is likely to continue to do so over the next 50 years. Much of these changes have occurred as a result of technological developments. However, one thing that has remained largely unchanged is the telephone box. Although there are fewer of them, with the majority of people owning a mobile phone, city centre high streets still have their fair share of phone boxes.

With tastes constantly changing, products and services come in and out of fashion. But with technology constantly developing, products and services that were once needed have become obsolete, replaced by their more advanced substitutes. We’ve seen e-commerce develop, such that long-standing high street retailers have faced closure and the development of mobile phones and other communication devices have meant that the once essential phone box is now rather redundant. At least, in its traditional function. The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg said:

New York is the most dynamic city in the world, and while technology has changed all around us, the city’s payphones have remained mostly the same for decades.

If we were to place the phone box on the product life cycle, it has certainly reached maturity and in many developed countries, even decline. But can extension strategies be used to create a new function for the phone box?

This is certainly happening in New York, where a reinvent challenge has been launched to help phone boxes adapt to technological innovation. Suggestions include using them as information sources, phone chargers, weather monitors and advertising boards. In the UK, phone boxes have even been fitted with defibrillators and are the first port of call for saving lives. But would this be enough to reinvent the phone box, whose numbers have fallen in New York from 35,000 to only 11,000?

Some say that the phone box is no longer relevant and while the idea of a ‘community hub’ remains appealing, the cost of maintaining them can be rather high. For others, the phone box is still essential, especially for those on lower incomes, who perhaps cannot afford what some people see as a necessity: a mobile phone. Are phone boxes, therefore, a means of ensuring access to communication for all socioeconomic groups? Also, perhaps for all age groups? As technology and tastes continue to change over the coming decades, the phone box will go in one of two directions: a revival or obsolescence. The following articles consider this.

New York phone boxes get new lease of life BBC News, Michael Millar (22/3/13)
Phone box in Ashwell is fitted with defibrillator to help save lives Rutland and Stamford Mercury (23/3/13)
Red Rutland phone box becomes 2000th life-saving hub ITV News, Pete Bearn (20/3/13)
The trashing of the iconic red phone box is one bad call Telegraph, Cristina Odone (11/3/13)

Questions

  1. Draw out the product life cycle. What examples of products and services can you find that fit in each stage?
  2. What are extension strategies? How do they help products that are in decline?
  3. When deciding whether or not to keep a phone box, what factors will be considered?
  4. How can phone boxes help to tackle inequality, especially of access?
  5. Are there any other products or services that fit into the decline stage? Which ones have had extension strategies applied and which have not?
  6. Do all products and services eventually enter the decline stage of the product life cycle? Can you think of any that haven’t? What has enabled them to survive?
Share in top social networks!

Anyone want to take a bite out of Apple?

The technology sector is highly complex and is led by Apple. However, as the tablet market is continuing to grow, it is becoming increasingly competitive with other firms such as Samsung gaining market share. Although both firms sell many products, it is the growing tablet market which is one of the keys to their continued growth.

Tablet PCs have seen a growth in the final quarter of 2012 to a high of 52.5 million units, according to IDC. Although Apple, leading the market, has seen a growth in its sales, its market share has declined to 43.6%. Over the same period, Samsung has increased its market share from 7.3% to 15.1%. While it is still a huge margin behind Apple in the tablet PC market, Samsung’s increase in sales from 2.2 million to 7.9 million is impressive and if such a trend were to continue, it would certainly cause Apple to take note.

It’s not just these two firms trying to take advantage of this growing industry. Microsoft has recently launched a new tablet PC and although its reception was less than spectacular, it is expected that Microsoft will become a key competitor in the long run. There are many factors driving the growth in this market and the war over market share is surely only just beginning. The chart shows the 75.3% growth in sales in just one year. (Click here for a PowerPoint of the chart.)

A Research Director at IDC said:

We expected a very strong fourth quarter, and the market didn’t disappoint…New product launches from the category’s top vendors, as well as new entrant Microsoft, led to a surge in consumer interest and very robust shipments totals during the holiday season’

Apple has been so dominant in this sector that other companies until recently have had little success in gaining market share. However, with companies such as Samsung and ASUS now making in-roads, competition is likely to become fierce. There are already concerns that Apple’s best days are behind it and its share price reflects this. People are now less willing to pay a premium price for an Apple product, as the innovations of its competitors have now caught up with those of the leading brand name. The following articles consider this growing market.

Samsung gain tablet market share as Apple lead narrows BBC News (1/2/13)
Apple snatches US lead from Samsung Financial Times, Tim Bradshaw (1/2/13)
Apple revenues miss expectations despite high sales figures BBC News (24/1/13)
Samsung eats into Apple sales in the tablet market Mirror, Ruki Sayid (1/2/13)
MacWorld’s Apple celebration opens amid fears of tech giant’s decline Guardian, Rory Carroll (31/1/13)
Samsung’s tablet sales soar as Apple’s grip on market loosens Daily News and Analysis, Richard Blagden (2/2/13)
Samsung takes a nibble out of Apple’s tablet lead InfoWorld, Ted Samson(31/1/13)
Tablet Sales up 75% as Samsung and Asus Gain on Apple Interational Business Times, Edward Smith (31/1/13)

Questions

  1. Which factors are behind this exceptional growth in the tablet PC market?
  2. Using the Boston matrix, where do you think tablet PCs fit in terms of market size and market growth?
  3. Where would you place this market in terms of the product life cycle?
  4. What does the product life cycle say about the degree of competition, the impact on pricing on profits etc. in the phase that you placed the tablet PC market in your answer to question 3?
  5. Why have Apple’s shares fallen recently? Do you think this will be the new trend?
  6. Microsoft’s new tablet didn’t attract huge sales. What explanation was given for this? Use a diagram to help answer this question.
  7. Tablet PCs are relatively expensive, yet sales of them have increased significantly over the past few years. What explanation is there for this, given that we have been (and still are) in tough financial times?
Share in top social networks!

Market traders get a technology boost

Market trading has existed for centuries and in many respects it hasn’t changed very much. One thing that has developed is the means of exchange. Goods used to be traded for other goods – for example 1 pig for 4 chickens! But then money was developed as a means of exchange and then came cheques and plastic.

However, for many market traders, accepting credit and debit cards is relatively costly. It involves paying a monthly contract, which for many traders is simply not worthwhile, based on the quantity and value of the transactions. But, for many customers using debit or credit cards is the preferred method of payment and the fact that some traders only accept cash can be a deterrent to them making purchases and this therefore reduces the sales of the market traders.

But, with advances in technology a new way of paying has emerged. Small card readers can now be plugged into iphones, ipads, other tablets and smartphones. By putting a customer’s card into this device customers can then pay by card and either sign for their purchase or use the phone to enter their security details. There are plan for these companies to offer chip and pin technology to further ease payment by card on market stalls. The traders pay a small commission per transaction, but aside from that, the initial start-up cost is minimal and it is likely to encourage more customers to use markets. Jim Stewart, the Director of a firm that has begun using this technology said:

I think it’s definitely going to take off, the world is going that way … The money has always appeared in my bank account, no transactions have been declined, my accountant is happy, it’s all been good.

Some customers have raised concerns about the security of these transactions, as they have to put their cards into someone else’s ipad. However, traders have said that there are no risks and that customers can be sent a receipt for their purchase. The following few articles look at this latest (and other) technological developments.

Smartphone card payment system seeks small firms BBC News, Rob Howard (19/1/13)
POS Trends: What’s new for 2013 Resource News (17/1/13)
Payments by text message service to launch in UK in Spring 2014 BBC News (15/1/13)

Questions

  1. What are fixed cost and why does having a traditional card payment machine represent a fixed cost for a firm?
  2. How might this new technology affect a firm’s sales and profits?
  3. Will there be an increase in the firm’s variable costs from adopting this technology?
  4. Using a cost and revenue diagram, put your answers to questions 1 – 3 into practice and show how it will shift them and thus how the equilibrium may change for a market trader.
  5. What are the properties of money that allow it to be a good medium of exchange?
  6. How will this increased use of debit and credit cards affect the demand for money? Use a diagram to illustrate your answer.
Share in top social networks!

Asia’s moderate boom

Many developing Asian countries have experienced rapid and yet relatively stable economic growth over a number of years. In other words, this has not been a short-term unsustainable boom associated with the expansionary phase of the business cycle – with aggregate demand expanding more rapidly than aggregate supply. Rather it is the result of a rapid growth in aggregate supply.

Over the period from 2000 to 2011, several Asian countries experienced average annual growth rates of over 4% and some, such as China and India, much more than that, as the following table shows. The table also shows forecasts for the period from 2012 to 2017. The high forecast growth rates are based on a continuing rapid growth in aggregate supply as the countries invest in infrastructure and adopt technologies, many of which have already been developed elsewhere.

Average annual economic growth rates

2000–11 2012–17
China 10.2 8.4
India 7.2 6.3
Lao 7.1 7.9
Vietnam 7.1 6.5
Indonesia 5.2 6.5
Malaysia 5.0 4.9
Philippines 4.7 4.9
Thailand 4.0 5.1

Source: World Economic Outlook Database IMF (October 2012)

But for aggregate supply to continue growing rapidly there must also be a stable growth in aggregate demand. With the recession in the developed world, some of the more open economies of Asia, such as South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore themselves suffered a slowdown or recession as demand for their exports fell. The Malaysian economy, for example, contracted by 1.5% in 2009.

Given the continuing macroeconomic problems in the developed world, many Asian countries are seeing the need to rebalance their economies away from a heavy reliance on exports. China, for example, is putting more emphasis on domestic-led demand growth. Others, such as Indonesia, have already embarked on this route. As The Economist article states:

Household consumption contributed half of the growth of just over 6% Indonesia enjoyed in the year to the third quarter (its eighth consecutive quarter of growth at that pace). Exports have fallen from about 35% of GDP ten years ago to less than a quarter in 2011. Developing Asia’s combined current-account surplus, which reflects its dependence on foreign demand, more than halved from 2008 to 2011 and is expected to fall further this year.

The continuing success story of many developing Asian economies thus lies in a balance of supply-side policies that foster continuing rapid investment and demand-side policies that create a stable monetary and fiscal environment. A crucial question here is whether they can emulate the ‘Great Moderation’ experienced by the Western economies from the mid-1990s to 2007, without creating the conditions for a crash in a few years time – a crash caused by excessive credit and an excessively deregulated financial system that was building up greater and greater systemic risk.

Articles
Asia’s great moderation The Economist (10/11/12)
Asia Seen Nearing End of Slowdown on China Recovery: Economy Bloomberg, Karl Lester M. Yap and Michael J. Munoz (15/11/12)
An Insider’s China M&A Notes: What Economic Slowdown? CFO Innovation, Peter Hall and Yuan Peng, The Valence Group (31/10/12)
Building a stronger Asia The Star (Malaysia), Cecilia Kok (24/11/12)

Data and reports
World Economic Outlook Database IMF (October 2012)
OECD: south-east Asian economic outlook to return to pre-crisis levels Guardian datablog, Nick Mead (18/11/12)
Southeast Asian Economic Outlook 2013, Executive Summary OECD (18/11/12)
Asia Economic Outlook BBVA Research (Q3 2012)

Questions

  1. Why have developing Asian countries experienced much more rapid rates of economic growth than developed countries?
  2. In what ways are the structures of developing Asian economies likely to change in the coming years?
  3. What factors would support their continuing to achieve both rapid and stable economic growth in the coming years?
  4. What factors might prevent them from achieving both rapid and stable economic growth in the coming years?
  5. What structural policies are likely to enhance productivity?
  6. What is the Asean Economic Community? How will this benefit its member countries?
Share in top social networks!