Update from Annie Tubadji, Senior Lecturer in Economics

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Senior Lecturer in Economics, Annie Tubadji is currently a Specially Appointed Lecturer at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan.

As part of her visiting scholar activities, Annie will deliver an undergraduate and postgraduate course on the “Economics of Happiness” at Center for Regional Economic and Business Networks (REBN) Summer School Institute.

As part of my Visiting Scholar activities, I will deliver here two courses (undergraduate and graduate ones) on economics of happiness at their Center for Regional Economic and Business Networks (REBN) Summer School Institute.

As part of her visit, Annie will also be delivering two specially invited lectures.

More on the Summer School Institute can be found here

Pro-environmental employee and consumer behaviour conference 2019

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The Bristol Centre for Economics and Finance’s first conference on Pro-environmental employee and consumer behaviour was held on the 29th of April 2019.

The day was a major success with around 80 registered participants and 14 presenters with many attending organisations and academics.   The event was highly energised, with many thought provoking questions for speakers and an atmosphere full of interest. 

Bristol Green Capital introduced the day,  the afternoon session was opened by the Future Economy Group and the closing of the conference was led by Dr Peter Bradley. We would like to thank again everyone who participated.  The event will run again next year.  The slides from the day, for those who are further interested in the conference and would like to find out more, can be found here.

Autonomy launch new policy report on a shorter working week

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BCEF member Dr Danielle Guizzo Archela is an associate researcher of Autonomy, an independent, progressive think tank which aims to address the uncertainty of work in the modern era.

Autonomy is comprised from a multidisciplinary array of researchers and experts in political economy and critical theory. On Friday 1st February 2019 Autonomy launched a new policy report on a shorter working week. “The shorter working week: a radical and pragmatic proposal” outlines the case for a shorter working week and shows that there is no positive correlation between productivity and the amount of hours worked per day. The report has received praise from a number of politicians and academics.

“This is a vital contribution to the growing debate around free time and reducing the working week. With millions saying they would like to work shorter hours, and millions of others without a job or wanting more hours, it’s essential that we consider how we address the problems in the labour market as well as preparing for the future challenges of automation.” John McDonnell, Labour Shadow Chancellor

Our conventional working week and the idea of a compromising work-life balance in the UK has been debated in the media for some time. Last year in New Zealand a landmark trial of a four-day working week concluded it an unmitigated success and the discussion on how a four-day work week could be implemented long-term was opened up.

The Autonomy report has already been making headlines, and the idea of working “part-time” being standard, rather than just an option for those who can afford it, has been very popular. Below are just a few of the recent articles on the report.

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/economy/2019/02/how-idea-four-day-week-went-mainstream
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/feb/01/bring-on-the-four-day-working-week-for-teachers
https://metro.co.uk/2019/02/01/boss-needs-know-productive-shorter-working-week-8423713/
https://www.redpepper.org.uk/less-work-more-play-a-solution-to-britains-economic-woes/

Autonomy have also produced a short YouTube video to accompany the report launch.

The Shorter Working Week launch video

Please see the Autonomy website to read more and to download the full report.

UWE Bristol Economics student briefs for the Bristol Festival of Economics

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The Festival of Economics 2018 will make Bristol a hub for debating and answering some of the key economic questions of our time.

The seventh running of the festival is programmed by Diane Coyle (University of Cambridge and Enlightenment Economics) and will take place at We The Curious. Economists and other key experts from around the world will be on hand to add their expertise to the programme.

The festival will feature keynote speakers and talks on unelected power (led by Paul Tucker), the rise and fall of higher education (chaired by Andy Westwood from the University of Manchester), growth in the Brexit era (Rain Newton-Smith), central banks in the past, present and future (Andy Haldane) and also sessions for schools.

The Festival of Economics 2018 is part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas. UWE Bristol have been actively involved with the Festival of Ideas throughout the year. In the run up to this week’s Festival of Economics events, UWE Bristol economics students have been working on briefs for the official events.

Thusday 8 November, 20:00-21:30

Does Economics Care About the Future?

With Chair Mirabelle Muûls (Imperial College/London School of Economics), Aditi Sahni (Vivid Economics), Alex Teytelboym (University of Oxford), Kees Vendrik (Triodos Bank), Dimitri Zenghelis (London School of Economics)

Brief written by the students of MSc Global Political Economy. 

This brief discusses whether economics, as an academic discipline and a profession, cares about the future. The essential question is whether the assumptions and methods of mainstream economics are fit for purpose.

Friday 9 November, 18:30-19:30

Andy Haldane: Central Banks, Past, Present and Future

The chief economist at the Bank of England in conversation with Festival of Economics director Diane Coyle.

Two briefs were written for this event:

Jamie Fallon, Shail Patel, Kieran Green,  and Reece Robertson (BA Economics) discuss the key issues as the trade-off between democratic accountability and effectiveness of monetary policy, geopolitical issues and growing pressure on banks to aid in the fight against climate change.

Jainni Patel & Luisana Toner (BA Economics) ask what were central banks thinking before the crisis? Was Quantitative Easing the best way for central banks to target inflation? And will machine learning save central banks from failing models?

 

Saturday 10 November, 16:00-17:30

Forecasts: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

With Chair Tom Clark, Jonathan Athow (ONS), Roger Farmer (University of Warwick), Rebecca Harding (Coriolis Technologies), Vicky Pryce, Andrew Sentance (PwC)

Brief written by Scott Angell, Iman Gaspard and Dominik Palejczuk (BA/BSc Economics) discusses whether economists should make predictions and forecasts. Economic forecasting is misunderstood by the public for a variety of reasons, including how those predictions are presented to the public. This brief weighs up probabilistic forecasting and the OBR’s productivity forecasts.

 

 

Pro-environmental employee and consumer behaviour conference with Dr Peter Bradley

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Current world population is just over seven billion and expected to reach nine billion before 2050. Increasing affluence in the developing and transition countries where population is growing most is now resulting in a wave of “new consumers”. This is important as in the developed world the main drivers for the level and growth of environmental pressures are said to be final consumption and affluence. Technology on its own will not adequately ensure that society stays within environmental limits. Therefore there is a need for serious consideration and research into consumer, employee and entrepreneur behaviours.

In this vain, the Bristol Centre for Economics and Finance (BCEF) is hosting a one day inter-disciplinary conference, organised by Dr Peter Bradley, leader of BCEF’s Sustainability Research Cluster and an expert in sustainability research. Peter’s research explores environmental and energy challenges and governance using empirical evidence based research as well as conceptual and theory based research. The “Pro-environmental employee and consumer behaviour conference” is taking place on 29 April 2019 and registration to attend is now open. Keynote speakers include Jes Rutter from JRP solutions and Dr Mark Everard (Associate Professor of Ecosystem Services, UWE Bristol). For more information and online registration, please see our event page.

 

Call for papers

We invite abstracts from PhD students, researchers and practitioners across the social and natural sciences to present on topics related to ‘pro-environmental consumer and employee behaviour’. Please send a 500 word abstract about your topic and contribution to bcef@uwe.ac.uk by Wednesday 19 December 2018 to be considered for presentations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

UWE Bristol Economics at the 9th IIPPE Annual Conference in Political Economy

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By Sara Stevano, Susan Newman and Lotta Takala-Greenish.

On 12-14th September 2018, the 9th IIPPE Annual Conference in Political Economy took place at Juraj Dobrila University of Pula, Croatia. Keeping up with recent years’ record, UWE Economics was very well represented at the conference! The conference was organised around the overarching theme of ‘The State of Capitalism and the State of Political Economy’ and over 300 scholars and activists from across the world discussed their political economy research, touching upon various facets of capitalist transformations and pushing the frontiers of political economy. The conference organisers reported that many participants thought that this was the best IIPPE conference so far!

Among the keynote speeches were a panel shared by Professor Lena Lavinas, Professor of Welfare Economics at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and Professor Fiona Tregenna, University of Johannesburg South African Research Chair in Industrialisation stood out for their original content. Professor Lavinas highlighted the shifts in social programmes to increase financial inclusion. She commented on the contribution of social service programmes to GDP, 1.5% for developing and 2.7% of GDP for OECD countries, and connected these to the accumulation of debt among low-income households (see the excellent twitter feed by Ingrid H. Kvangraven). Professor Spread of income transfer programs across Global South have facilitated mass ‘financial inclusion’. The state and international financial institutions also play important role here. Result: Low-income households have accumulated huge amounts of debtSpread of income transfer programs across Global South have facilitated mass ‘financial inclusion’. The state and international financial institutions also play important role here. Result: Low-income households have accumulated huge amounts of debtTregenna focused on the need to unpack different forms of de-industrialisation and to explore the perspective that Marx’s analysis can offer to understanding industrialisation. In particular, her insights included an expanded focus on the heterogeneity within sectors and the inseparability of production and consumption (see also this blog post for further insights on the IIPPE2018 conference).

Spread of income transfer programs across Global South have facilitated mass ‘financial inclusion’. The state and international financial institutions also play important role here. Result: Low-income households have accumulated huge amounts of debtSpread of income transfer programs across Global South have facilitated mass ‘financial inclusion’. The state and international financial institutions also play important role here. Result: Low-income households have accumulated huge amounts of debtReflections on the state of capitalism are very relevant and timely in the context of shifting geographies of production, global relations of power and political discourse. Thus, it is all the more important to discuss how political economy research can help us understand and shape the economic, social and political transformations that mark our time. Critical political economy has an important role to play in transforming and revitalising economics, making it an inclusive and relevant area of study.

The three UWE Economics researchers who were in attendance this year intervened in panels on neoliberalism, the political economy of work, social reproduction and commodity studies. Dr Lotta Takala-Greenish presented her research on Exploring formal/informal work structures in South African waste collection (slides available here) in a panel that was described by the audience as one of the most interesting of the conference. This panel shared with Professor Stephanie Allais of the University of Witwatersrand, put forward important questions about the role of training and learning (both on and off the job) and the connections between education and labour markets. It also provided a forum to discuss and develop future collaborations with the South African Research Chair for Skills Development at the Centre for Researching Education and Labour. Dr Susan Newman presented her joint paper with Sam Ashman on New Patterns in Capital Flight from South Africa and discussed the preliminary findings of her joint paper with Dr Sara Stevano on The neoliberal restructuring of UK Overseas Development Assistance (slides available here), both papers were very appreciated by the audience who thought them revealing and timely. Sara Stevano presented her paper on Women’s work in Mozambique: Gender, social differentiation and social reproduction (slides available here) in a great all-women panel on social reproduction and the political economy of work.

Across several sessions, there was much discussion of the future of pluralist economics and education where UWE economics was highlighted as a leading institution. UWE Economics is now considered as an established centre for critical political economy, with possibly the largest concentration of critical political economists in a UK university. UWE’s recent recruitment of pluralist economists has been noted widely and was reflected in questions about future recruitment plans. Participation of UWE Economics in IIPPE continues to reaffirm the presence of our group in current political economy debates and generates opportunities for collaboration with colleagues in the UK and beyond. UWE Economics academics are involved with IIPPE in various capacities. Susan Newman oversees the content published on the IIPPE website and coordinates the working group on commodities studies; Sara Stevano coordinates the social reproduction working group with Hannah Bargawi (SOAS); Lotta Takala-Greenish set up and previously coordinated the working group on Minerals Energy Complex and Comparative Industrialisation.

One of the key aims of IIPPE is to provide a platform for early career researchers to interact with more established and senior scholars in political economy. The conference provided an opportunity benchmark and share information about postgraduate training in political economy. The UWE MSc in Global Political Economy was mentioned as one of only a handful degrees providing an interdisciplinary political economy approach housed within an economics department. The first intake of UWE’s MSc Global Political Economy students will be submitting their dissertations end of September and are being encouraged to submit their research to present at the next IIPPE conference in July 2019. We are also welcoming our new 2018-2019 MSc students who will no doubt contribute to the active research environment that we have here at UWE Bristol.

 

Review of “Cents and Sensibility- What economics can learn from the humanities”

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By Sebastian Berger.

CENTS AND SENSIBILITY – WHAT ECONOMICS CAN LEARN FROM THE HUMANITIES, by Gary Saul Morson and Morton Schapiro, Princeton University Press: 2017, pp. 307; ISBN 978-0-691-17668-0

The title expresses the main argument of the book under review, which grew out of an interdisciplinary undergraduate course at Northwestern University dealing with the subject matter of “choice”. Its authors are professors of economics (Schapiro) and of Slavic languages and literature (Morson) who think that economics is “too narrow”, which undermines its usefulness for “policy-making”, for “understanding human behaviour”, and for “predicting the future”. The intention is explicitly not to attack economists but to help to expand its “scope and power” via a dialogue-not a fusion-between economics and the humanities. This vision is called “humanomics”, that is, an economics improved through an understanding of story-telling.

The main take-away is that great literature is a great source of wisdom for understanding human beings, which serves to help us make wiser decisions in varying situations. The argument is that great novelists are better at this understanding than social scientists.

The main concerns of the authors are near and dear to many heterodox economists: narrowness of economics and openness to insights from the humanities. Those who are particularly concerned with saving economics from science, in the sense of a mechanism, biologism, or cyborgism, find the basic argument of the book attractive. It is a missed opportunity, however, that the authors do not engage more with the existing literature on modes of intellection in economics, such as story-telling, rhetoric, poetry, metaphors, hermeneutics (the brief mentioning of works by McCloskey and Bronk is unsatisfactory). The entire literature on the role of history, philosophy, and ethics in economics is likewise absent, which is slightly worrying in a book that is concerned with these matters.

The authors do not provide criteria for what they consider valid narratives, while they seem to have no fundamental problems with the capitalist development model. In fact, they continuously refer to development indicators of GDP growth, development of markets, and legal property rights. The comparison between South Korea and Ghana is especially revealing as GDP-growth is taken as the main indicator for economic development. Sustainability, happiness, and inequality indicators are curiously absent from the discussion.

What is missing from the book is a discussion of the social-psychological dimension of economics that would highlight the challenges of implementing “humanomics”. The profession of economics has deep vested interests in its approach, which is thoroughly institutionalized and exhibits psychological barriers to change. (Berger 2016) The suppression of heterodox economists speaks volumes about how the economics profession handles challenges to its ontological and methodological core. (Lee 2009)

What is missing also from the discussion is a mention of those approaches to economics that are actually compatible with the humanities, which are today gathered under the umbrella of heterodox economics. The chapter on alternative foundations for economics provides a critique of behavioural economics for its lack of cultural analysis and calls for a grounding of economics in cultural and institutional inquiry as developed by Adam Smith. The introductory chapter vaguely alludes to a recent turn towards culture in development economics. (p. 9, fn. 11) Heterodox economists would ask why there is no mention of institutional and social economics, and economic anthropology which have developed this approach in detail since Adam Smith. The project of incorporating culture and institutions in economic analysis continued in the works of Karl Marx, the German Historical School, Thorstein Veblen, John M. Keynes, amongst others. Omitting these contributions and their contemporary followers is a severe limitation. Ironically, the chapter outlining the potential contribution of the humanities (ch. 6) proposes the incorporation of the history of ideas as a remedy to the narrowness of economics. (p. 237) I would have loved to see the authors make a start with an appropriate history and evaluation of the fate of those contributions to economics that were actually open to the humanities. This could have informed the readers of this book of the great wealth of existing contributions to this project of grounding economics in the humanities. (cf. Berger 2017)

The full book review has been published by the Heterodox Ecomonics Newsletter is available to read online here.

 

Australia’s bold proposals for government data sharing

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By Felix Ritchie.

In August I spent a week in Australia working with the new Office of the National Data Commissioner (ONDC). The ONDC, set up at the beginning of July, is barely two months old but has been charged with the objective of getting a whole-of-government approach to data sharing ready for legislation early in 2019.

This is a mammoth undertaking, not least because the approach set out in the ONDC’s Issues Paper proposes a new way of regulating data management. Rather than the traditional approach of trying to specify in legislation exactly what may or may not be allowed, the ONDC is proposing a principles-based approach: this focuses on setting out the objectives of any data sharing and the appropriate mechanisms by which access is governed and regulated.

In this model, the function of legislation is to provide the ground rules for data sharing and management within which operational decisions can be made efficiently. This places the onus on data managers and those wanting to share data to ensure that their solutions are demonstrably ethical, fair, appropriate and sensible. On the other hand, it also frees up planners to respond to changing circumstances: new technologies, new demands, shifts in attitudes, the unexpected…

The broad idea of this is not completely novel. In recent years, the principles-based approach to data management in government has increasingly come to be seen as operational best practice, allowing as it does for flexibility and efficiency in response to local conditions. It has even been brought into some legislation, including the UK’s Digital Economy Act 2017 and the European General Data Protection Regulation. Finally, the monumental Australian Productivity Commission report of 2017  laid out much of the groundwork, by providing an authoritative evidence base and a detailed analysis of core concepts and options.

In pulling these strands together, the ONDC proposals move well beyond current legislation but into territory which is well supported by evidence. Because of the unfamiliarity with some of the concepts, the ONDC has been carrying out an extensive consultation, some of which I was able to observe and participate in.

A key proposal is to develop five ‘Data Sharing Principles’, based on the Five Safes framework (why, who, how, with what detail, with what outcomes) as the overarching structure. The Five Safes is the most widely used model for government data access but has only been used twice before to frame legislation, in the South Australia Public Sector (Data Sharing) Act 2016 and the  UK Digital Economy Act 2017.

The most difficult issues facing the ONDC arise from the ‘why’ domain: what is the public benefit in sharing data and the concomitant risk to an individual’s privacy? How will ‘need-to-know’ for data detail be assessed? What are the mechanisms to prevent unauthorised on-sharing of data? How will shared data be managed over its lifecycle, including disposal? To what uses can shared data be put? Can data be shared for compliance purposes? How can proposals be challenged?

These are all good questions, but they are not new: any ethics or approvals board worth its salt asks similar questions, and would expect good answers before it allows data collection, sharing or analysis to proceed. A good ethics board also knows that this is not a checklist: ethical approval should be a constructive conversation to ensure a rock-solid understanding of what you’re trying to achieve and the risks you’re accepting to do so.

This is the also the crux of the principles-based approach being taken by the ONDC: it is not for the law to specify how things should be done, nor to specify what data sources can be shared. But the law does provide the mechanisms to ensure that any proposals put forward can be assessed against a clear purpose test around when data may and may not be shared and that appropriate safeguards are in place…

Finally, the law will require transparency; this has to be done in sunlight. A public body, using public money and resources for the public benefit, should be able to answer the hard questions in the public arena; otherwise, where is the accountability? The ONDC will require data sharing agreements to be publicly available, so people can see for what purpose (and with what associated protections) their data are being used.

To some, this need to justify activities on a case-by-case basis, rather than having a black-and-white yes/no rule, might seem like an extra burden. The aim of the consultation is to ensure that this isn’t the case. In fact, a transparent, multi-dimensional assessment is any project’s best friend: it provides critical input at the design stage and helps to spot gaps in planning or potential problems, as well as giving opponents a clear opportunity to raise objections.

Of course, even if the legislation is put in place, there is still no guarantee that it will turn out as planned. As I have written many times (for example in 2016), attitudes are what matter. The best legislation or regulation in the world can be derailed by individuals unwilling to accept the process. This is why the consultation process is so important. This is also why the ONDC has been charged with the broader role of changing the Australian public sector culture around data sharing, which tends to be risk-averse. The ONDC also has a role to build and maintain trust with the public through better engagement to hear their concerns.

From my perspective, this is a fascinating time. The ONDC’s proposals are bold but built on a solid foundation of evidence. In theory, they propose a ground-breaking way to offer a holy trinity of flexibility, accountability, and responsibility. If the legislation ultimately reflects the initial proposals, then I suspect many other governments will be beating a path to Australia’s door.

All opinions expressed are those of the author.

First speaker announced for 2018/19 BCEF Economic Research Seminar Series

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On Thursday, 27th September, we will have the pleasure to hear the presentation by our dear guest Steven Bosworth (University of Reading).

Steven will present his joint paper with Dennis J. Snower (Kiel) on the topic: “Organizational Ethics, Narratives and Social Dysfunctions”.

Paper Abstract:

All organisations are characterised by some degree of conflict between its members’ private interests and the organisation’s mission. This may manifest in corruption, fraud, or more banally, shirking. In response leaders can try to mould the identities of workers to make them more sensitive to the social costs of their actions.

We explicitly model the social interactions and constraints giving rise to this process, deriving an endogenous profile of wages, monitoring, and organisational culture. In this way we provide a theory of organisational dysfunction, and show how such dysfunctions might be mitigated through changes in government policies or social norms. These changes become particularly effective if they encourage both managers and workers to adopt more ethical narratives – organisational culture change is in this case self-reinforcing. Ineffective narratives on the other hand can cause pushback from employees when managers adopt a more ethically ‘strict’ stance. We derive the conditions under which beneficial or countervailing feedback effects can occur.

Dr Steven Bosworth is a behavioural economist working as a Lecturer at the University of Reading. His research uses microeconomic theory and controlled laboratory experiments to investigate how context, motivation and the social environment influence human cooperation. He has published on the topics of uncertainty and coordinated decisions, the distribution of prosocial dispositions in the society and competition, and the consequences of social fragmentation on wellbeing.

Before joining the University of Reading in 2017, Steven was a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for the World Economy in Kiel, Germany, where he maintains an affiliation.

More information about Steve and his list of publications can be found here.

 

 

Beyond pay gaps: Inequality at work

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By the researchers of the “Earnings gaps and inequality at work” project, Bristol Business School.

On 25 May 2018, UWE Economics hosted an expert workshop on ‘Beyond Pay Gaps: Inequality at Work’. Six experts were invited to share their reflections, based on their own research, on two questions:

1) What is the nature of inequality at work?

2) Is the pay gap an adequate indicator? If not, how can we improve our assessments of inequality at work?

The key aim was to foster a discussion on how to conceptualise and study inequality at work. In an earlier blog entry the workshop organisers’ provided a response to UWE’s reporting on the gender pay gap, which highlighted the fact that some progression on the gender pay gap is not in itself a sign of overall success. There are aspects of inequality at work that are captured by pay indicators and nonetheless merit our attention.

The morning session of the workshop focused on conceptualisations of inequality at work and featured the presentations of three distinguished scholars of labour and inequality. Dr Alessandra Mezzadri (SOAS University of London) drew on her long-standing research on the garment industry in India to highlight patterns of inequality and gender exploitation. Professor Bridget O’Laughlin (Institute of Social Studies) reflected on the concepts of Marx’s political economy framework as well as its conceptual gaps to study inequality at work. Professor Harriet Bradley (UWE Bristol) illustrated how a three-part conceptual framework based on production, reproduction and consumption can be used to conceptualise gender inequality at work.

In the afternoon session, three distinguished academics on gender, organisation and inequality presented on methodological approaches to study inequality at work. Dr Hannah Bargawi (SOAS University of London) discussed how a pyramid-shaped understanding of inequality at work can guide us through moving our focus between different levels of inequality. Dr Olivier Ratle (UWE Bristol) presented the qualitative methods used to study early career academics’ experience of work. Dr Vanda Papafilippou (UWE Bristol) described a range of methods from the field of sociology of education to study the workplace.

The presentations generated rich discussions on the conceptualisations of social reproduction, the complexity of inequality and the relations between the material and the cultural. The participants agreed that research on these themes is both timely and needed. Furthermore, a podcast series on ‘Feminism, Gender and the Economy’ featuring two interviews with workshop speakers will be launched in 2018/2019 academic year. Watch this space for the upcoming podcast series!

This workshop was funded by UWE Bristol. The workshop’s organisers are grateful to all participants for their thoughtful contributions and productive discussions.