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Trump Could Learn From Britain’s Lessons To Help Make America Great Again

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Donald Trump by Marc Nozell via flickr

Significant reform to close America’s 11 million jobs-gap with UK would boost incomes and reduce inequality

President Trump can learn from Britain’s strong employment record as he looks to make good on his promise to be “the greatest jobs producer that God ever created”, according to a new Resolution Foundation report published today (Monday) as the new President starts his first day on the job.

With the US and UK seemingly moving in step politically by rejecting the “establishment” and voting for significant change in elections last year, You’re hired! looks at the labour market performances of the two countries to see whether they share a similar economic story too.

The report finds that economic performance has been very different on the two sides of the Atlantic, both in the recent past and over the last few decades. While the US has outperformed the UK since the crisis on GDP growth and productivity, its record on converting that into rising living standards is much more mixed compared to the UK, despite neither having a strong recent record on incomes.

The reports finds that since 2008 US income growth has been primarily driven by pay. In contrast, the stronger and more equally shared income growth in the UK has been underpinned by rising employment, which is now at a record high of 74.5 per cent. Despite 75 months of continuous jobs growth under President Obama, employment remains 3 percentage points below pre-crisis levels.

The report finds that the poor employment performance in the US reflects a concerning long term trend of falling participation in the labour market among prime age (25-54) workers. Previous analysis by the Resolution Foundation found this played a role in last November’s election result.

The growing gap in employment performance between the countries now means that if the US had the same employment rate as the UK, 11 million more Americans would be in work.

The labour market participation rate (measuring those either in or looking for work) has been falling among men in the US for 60 years now and is an issue which President Trump correctly identified during his campaign. Even more surprising however, and less regularly focused on by the candidate Trump, has been the drop in participation among women since 2000. Over the same period, prime age female participation in the UK has risen by 4 percentage points, even during the downturn.

The Foundation says that President Trump’s focus on getting jobs back in traditionally male sectors such as manufacturing and mining risks missing a trick as there are even bigger job gains to be made by helping more women into work. And while the UK has long looked to the US for lessons on how to boost productivity, for example by trying to replicate its success in the digital economy, the US should be doing more to learn from the UK’s strong record on employment, and on increasing female participation in particular.

The Foundation points to three key mutually reinforcing UK policy successes over the last 20 years that the US should look to emulate (and that UK policy makers should not forget). These are:

• Raising the expectation of work: Tying unemployment benefits to actions such as job searching, combined with training and support to improve employment prospects, has encouraged more people to find work.

• Making work pay: More generous tax credits and a much higher minimum wage than in the US have boosted incentives to work in low and middle income households and helped drive worklessness down to a record low of 14.9 per cent.

• Boosting the support for work: Increases in maternity leave and support with childcare costs have enabled more women to return to work after having children. Recent research has found that the lack of US policy action on this accounts for a third of the divergence in female participation between the US and other advanced economies.

You’re Hired! shows that the countries’ contrasting labour market performances have also driven a big divergence on inequality, which has been broadly flat in the UK since the late 80s while continuing to rise in the US.

Torsten Bell, Director of the Resolution Foundation, said:

“President Trump wants to make America great again. Doing that requires one thing above all else – jobs. A country once envied around the globe for its employment performance now simply has too many people left out of the world of work, hitting incomes and driving up inequality.

“Despite far too widespread fatalism, there is nothing inevitable about these trends. The UK has plenty of its own living standards challenges but it has seen employment increase to record highs –and it is policy action that has made that happen. If Donald Trump wants to deliver on his promise to be ‘the greatest jobs producer that God ever created’, learning some of the lessons of the UK’s experience would pay more dividends than building walls or reducing trade.”

Daniel Tomlinson, Researcher at the Resolution Foundation, said:

“The anti-establishment votes for Brexit and Trump last year suggest that the US and UK are to some extent moving in step politically, as we have done for much of our post-war history. But there are striking differences between the UK and US economies, especially when it comes to getting people into work. Had the US matched our recent employment performance, 11 million more Americans would be in work. Similarly, had we experienced US-style pay growth we’d be £30 a week richer today.

“As President Trump starts his plan to Make American Great Again there are important lessons he can draw upon from the jobs success of Britain. These range from higher minimum wages and tax credits to make work pay, tochildcare support to boost female employment.

“These pro-employment policies have the added benefit of helping to tackle inequality – another pressing issue that the new President faces.”

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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