Something of equal moment is occurring today. As we settle into a “new normal” catalyzed by the global financial crisis, the ensuing recession, and an uneven global recovery, traditional arbitrage models seem increasingly outmoded.For some products, low labor costs still furnish a decisive competitive edge, of course. But as wages and purchasing power rise in emerging markets, their relative importance as centers of demand, not just supply, is growing.
But these are far from the only implications of rising wages. Just as Henry Ford’s $5 day helped create a new consuming class, so higher wages in China are increasing local demand, thus reinforcing the local-investment choices of OEMs and suppliers. At the same time, there is little evidence of a zero-sum game between China and advanced economies, such as the United States. Rather, the narrowing labor-cost gap reinforces the importance of local demand factors in driving manufacturing employment. Indeed, factor costs often have the greatest impact on location decisions within a region—for example, Airbus moving to Alabama instead of Texas or North Carolina. These costs interact with policy factors, such as infrastructure spending and tax incentives, to shape a region’s overall economic attractiveness.
A related challenge is the need for new management muscle. As it gets harder to hide behind labor-cost arbitrage, regional manufacturing executives and midlevel managers will need to become both better at running a tight operational ship. They should be able to grasp the productivity potential of a range of new technologies and have enough ground-level knowledge of local markets to influence product strategies and investment trade-offs. The ability to build external relationships—with suppliers, education partners, and local-government officials who can influence the development of vibrant, sophisticated supply ecosystems—will also be a source of competitive advantage.
Since the start of 2008, government consumption at the global level has risen by 20% in real terms, whereas private consumption and fixed investment have risen just 8% and 5%, respectively. In other words, despite talk of austerity, government spending continues to run ahead of private-sector spending. That has two important implications – one structural, and one cyclical.Structurally, government debt, government spending, and the share of government within the economy must be sustainable. Government consumption’s share of global GDP has risen from 11% to 14% over the past 15 years. In 2013, it reached its highest level since 1980. At the same time, government debt-to-GDP ratios have hit record highs in many countries.In the long run, such elevated levels of expenditure (and corresponding levels of debt and deficit) are probably not sustainable, in particular, given other structural changes underway. For instance, demographic trends in many advanced economies pose challenges. Working age populations are growing more slowly, or in some countries, such as Japan, beginning to decline. Accordingly, the window of opportunity for mature economies to bring government debt levels down to sustainable levels is gradually narrowing, owing to inexorable demographic shifts.
However, fiscal restraint has also played a role in preventing economies from enjoying more robust growth and the virtuous circles that typically ensue in recovery. Equally, a form of “silent austerity” is to be found in the banking sector: increased financial regulation and associated restraint on private-sector credit supply.Weak bank lending has been somewhat offset by capital markets activity. In the Eurozone, where the credit crunch has been the most protracted, banks have been disinter mediated as large companies have gone directly to the markets to access funding. Eurozone banks’ lending to corporates is down 4% year on year, but issuance of corporate debt is up 10% year on year.
However, the problem is that bank lending still makes up80% of the total loans to corporates. So, while the burden shouldered by corporate bond markets is increasing, it is doing so slowly.
These new technologies can make the world economy more inclusive and more efficient, but they may also lead to significant dislocations. Mobile communications technology has the potential to bring 2–3 billion people into the world economy in the coming decade.
Additive manufacturing, known as “3D printing”, could remove up to 90% of the waste from some manufacturing processes. At the same time, advanced robots, which can work for as little as USD 4 per hour, may eventually displace existing employment in manufacturing.A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute finds that these new technologies have the potential to generate a direct global economic impact in the order of USD 14–33 trillion per year in 2025. Our own simulations and estimates suggest that trend global growth could be 0.5 to 0.7 percentage points higher than in the absence of technological change, implying productivity gains comparable to those unleashed by the advent of the personal computer and internet revolutions of the 1990s.They include innovations in a number of areas, but three sectors stand out: information and communications technology (ICT), manufacturing processes, and energy extraction.In manufacturing, efficiency gains include the deployment of more advanced robotics alongside recent advances making it more practical and profitable to substitute capital for human labor. Low-cost robots can change manufacturing by increasing precision and productivity without incurring higher costs. Further efficiencies can be exploited with the use of 3D printing, which reduces waste in manufacturing, improves precision of design, and shortens complex supply chains.
The US Department of Energy anticipates that 3D printing could save more than 50% of energy use compared to today’s existing manufacturing processes. The shale revolution will exert further downward pressure on oil and natural gas prices, particularly if the technology is exported worldwide.
Labor markets in manufacturing could be materially affected as capital in the form of robotics and 3D printing replace low and semi-skilled jobs. For some economies on the cusp of joining the global manufacturing and trading system (for example in South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and parts of Latin America), development could be threatened by the substitution of cheaper and more efficient capital for labor, and by the shortening of global supply chains.Intermediary business models, including financial services, face significant challenges as a result of technology improving connectivity and increasing the opportunities for disintermediation.
The trend is worrying the country’s policy makers and business executives. Norwegians work the third fewest hours in the developed world, according to the OECD. The hourly wage in manufacturing is the highest in the world, 40 per cent above Germany’s and about double that of the US, Japan, Italy or UK, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Kristin Skogen Lund, head of national employers’ organisation the NHO and a former executive at Telenor, the Norwegian telecoms group, says: “It’s almost inevitable when things are going well for so long. My own children, 14 and 11, have never grown up with anything other than affluence. Of course it does something to us.”“When politicians say everything is OK, that is a sign of a bubble situation.”
17. O nasilnoj podlozi marksizma.
18. Jedan od niza tekstova Banka.hr o 2. mirovinskom stupu.
19. Cronomy o Liniću.