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

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The economics of Gap (Interim) or Freelance Management

We thought it about time to write an opinion piece on the dynamics (economics) around the Interim Management market, delivered from a UK perspective.

This is a purely thought piece and opinion, not support by empirical research, but grounded in economic theory and an observation of the ‘state of the current market’.

The inspiration for this is an article we published last year entitled “Increased Friction Costs“. For background on the meaning and usage of Friction Costs, please refer to the definitions used in the original article.

Let’s face facts. Interim Management was borne out of the margins of Friction Costs. Filling the gap that naturally exists where ‘full employment’ is just never possible. Highly skilled and mobile individuals. However, this is also exactly where the rub sits. IM was borne on the ‘margins’ of the bell curve and not in the middle of that curve. Whether it is natural friction or crisis friction that drives it, the fundamental principle of IM is scarcity, flexibility and mobility. Items that typically cannot be addressed in rigid Labour Market framework and market conditions.

So what has changed?

Well, that scarcity has become mainstream. Evidence for this is the IIM survey results, listing at least 600 ‘claimed’ Interim Service Providers in the REC Directory. Or, maybe the definitions have become blurred. Plenty of anecdotal evidence for this exists on and in discussions in this forum.

Too many Interim Service Providers (ISPs) and too many would be Interim Managers (IMs) have flocked to the margins of the bell curve and confused the message, for both would be clients, ISPs and IM themselves.

Calls for the EIM (Executive Interim Management) label are attempts to create another differentiator. Accreditation itself is another differentiator and this is something the IIM supports and is seeking to grow, particularly with the Agency Workers Regulations in mind.

Basically, in order to add value, we need to realise that there is a ‘natural market’ for IMs, but at the moment that natural market is flooded with confused messages, symbols, participants, etc.

Any comments and opposing views are welcomed.

theMarketSoul ©1999 – 2011