The Kuznets swing and the market for labour and skills

You must have seen the headlines recently? British wages falling sharply in real terms versus our EU brethren…

We wrote about a particular economic phenomenon referred to in this post about economic cycles and particularly the Kuznets swing; which we find the most interesting and thought provoking cycle. The reason for this is that it is a generational cycle, only lasting or more accurately stated lasting anywhere between 15 – 25 years.

Image representing oDesk as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

So where are we on this cycle and what does it mean for me, should be the two most obvious questions to answer?

Lets address both separately below.

Firstly we believe we are now around seven years into a downward phase of the Kuznets cycle, therefore to some analysts it would mean that we are either almost half way or to others around a third of the way through this cycle.

Secondly, and more importantly, the impact it has on market participants like all of us:

We believe that the downward phase of a Kuznets swing is the ‘exuberance‘ correcting phase; when markets and other factors of productions contributing to mostly normal market clearing activity ‘got slightly out of kilter’. The Kuznets swing is always there to bring these factors of production into alignment. It is a consolidation phase of the cycle and interestingly for this particular phase, it coincides with disruptive technological advances around Cloud Computing, dis-aggregation of intermediaries, especially in labour markets with labour or skills exchanges appearing everywhere.  Examples include, Elance, oDesk, PeoplePerHour, etc..

English: Cloud Computing
English: Cloud Computing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Furthermore, and this is the most import action point for our readers to understand and appreciate, this consolidation and technological advance has a severe impact of wages levels and the distribution of where actual ‘work’ is being performed.

Hence headlines like the one we spotted this morning regarding real wages in Britain declining relative to other (very unproductive EU cousins) are not helpful without the pundit exploring and engaging n deeper analysis of the underlying drivers for the pressure.

The Income and Substitution effects of a wage ...
The Income and Substitution effects of a wage increase (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our recommendation:

Understand that the world of work is changing much faster than we had ever become used to in previous generations. As active able and willing participants in this market for labour and skills we have clear choices: Up-skill, be competitive appreciate and plan for volatility in the labour supply market, by ensuring flexibility in location, skills and prices. It is especially painful to suffer real wage declines, but remember this is the market’s subtle way of signalling a problem or challenge in that particular market and a way of adjusting in order to restore the natural balance and clearing prices.

We believe every interfering politician and educating commentator should always bear this in mind.

theMarketSoul ©2013


Do we value everything and understand nothing?

On reflection, the ‘mechanism’ established to rescue or save the Euro is indicative of the fact that we still understand very little and can control and short-circuit systems to some extent, yet we think we value everything.

Inflation, and dare we state it openly, serious inflation of double-digit proportions must now surely be back on the cards?

We realise that we are not the only and first publication to come up with this analysis.

Bloomberg reported on 30 September 2011 that European Inflation had unexpectedly jumped to 3%, up from 2.5% in August.  Yet, this is still a long way off a double digit scenario, however, the factors mentioned in the Bloomberg report included, the Greek Default (possibility) and the ECB actions still possible in terms of containing European wide inflation.

Although most economists predict that inflation will start to wane next year, we believe that actions like the Greek Debt haircut and the increase in the EFSF’s bailout fund to €1tr sends signals to the market that the value of money is now seriously ‘delinked’ from operational reality.

We will not comment here in depth on monetary policy, as it is currently applied, however, we are beginning to get the impression that inflation as ‘the silent and stealth’ taxation it really is, is now firmly (yet behind closed committee room doors) on the agenda to help “manage” the size of the European Debt mountain.

It is worth keeping an eye on the real drivers of inflation and then there is some value in keeping an open mind.

theMarketSoul ©2011

QE – Our take on the Bell Curve effect

Making sense of the distribution and lag effects

Let us explain the problem or rather challenge of choosing between Quantitative Easing (QE) and an Interest Rate reduction to stimulate economic activity, with reference to the Bell Curve diagramme above:

There are two major factors at play here:

  1. Distribution
  2. Time

With a bout of QE, the effect feeds into the margins of theBellcurve and it takes time for the distribution network (money supply chain) to filter the new enhanced supply into the economy at large.  So there is both a distribution and time lag effect with QE.

On the other hand, with an immediate Interest Rate reduction, the effect is to cover the larger middle ground of the Bellc urve more instantly.  Yes, it does depend on your wealth and debt holder structure too, but both borrowers and savers feel the effect more immediately.

But, with Interest Rates currently so low, this option is not really that feasible. With inflation running at between 2 – 5% depending on which side of the pond you are, effectively savers are paying an additional ‘tax contribution’ to the Treasury by this stealth means.

So we are back to the scenario of a tax on the stock (or wealth) of the economy, as most flows have dried up.

Therefore, join the happy queue over here.

 Image from:

 theMarketSoul ©2011