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)
- What are the expected costs and benefits of technological change?
- Which factors are discussed as being the main obstacles to upwards mobility? Why have these become more prevalent in recent decades?
- Using a diagram, explain how technology can improve economic growth. To what extent is the multiplier effect important here?
- 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.
- What is meant by the idea that the benefits of new technology are likely to be felt in the long run?
- How important is education in creating equal opportunities?
- What is meant by secular stagnation? Is it seen as being a problem?
When you look at the linked articles below, I’m sure many of you will be thinking that this is an odd choice for an economics blog! However, part of the economic relevance of ‘cyber-crime fighters’ relates to the relative skills of workers and the gap that exists between the most and least skilled workers in the UK.
Crime has always existed, but as technology has developed the types of crime committed have grown along with the complexity of them. For certain crimes, a very skilled individual is needed. With this emergence of technologically advanced crimes, those fighting crimes have also had to improve their skills and techniques. Thus crime-fighters have become more technologically advanced as well.
The problem is that the number of skilled workers able to deal with things like cyber crime has not kept pace with the demand for them and thus we have a skills gap. Usage of the Internet has continued to grow, creating more and more opportunities for cyber crime. However, the UK supply of IT and cyber-security professionals has not been able to keep pace. Therefore, we have a shortage of skilled labour in this area.
More investment into research and education is occurring, with the aim of addressing this shortage, but it is expected to take many years before supply catches up to demand. In particular, more investment is needed in the sciences and technology subjects at school to create the supply at university level. The NAO said that:
‘The current pipeline of graduates and practitioners are unable to meet demand.’
A second area of relevance to economics is the cost of cyber crime. The NAO estimated that the cost is somewhere between £18bn and £27bn per annum. However, on the other side, is there a case that crime actually benefits the macroeconomy by requiring government investment. As cyber crime has grown, so has the demand for cyber-crime fighters and this has created more jobs. With more jobs comes increased spending and the benefits of the multiplier. The following articles consider cyber crime and the impact it is having.
National Audit Office warns UK needs more skilled cyber crime fighters BBC News (12/2/13)
IT staff shortages raise cyber crime risk Sky News (12/2/13)
UK planning ‘Cyber Reserve’ defence force BBC News (3/12/12)
Britain vulnerable from cyber attacks for at least 20 years The Telegraph, Tom Whitehead (12/2/13)
Britain targeted by 120,000 every DAY with cost to country thought to total £27billion Mail Online, Jack Doyle (12/2/13)
- Illustrate the demand for and supply of labour curves in the market for cyber crime fighters. How is the equilibrium wage determined?
- If there is increased investment in education, how would this affect the shape and position of the MRP curve and what impact would this have on your diagram?
- If there is a shortage of cyber crime fighters, what does that suggest about the position of the two curves? Illustrate this situation and explain why it is a problem.
- Which factors would be considered by NAO in estimating the costs of cyber crime?
- Explain why crime can pay.
- How does the macroeconomy benefit from increased crime? Illustrate this on a diagram.
- Does your answer to question 5 above suggest anything about the effectiveness of using GDP as a measure of welfare?
- How is the multiplier effect relevant?