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Australia’s current expansion is its longest boom. GDP growth has been continuous for 26 years, with no ‘technical recession’ during that period.
By some measures, Australia’s is the longest boom of any developed economy, although there is some debate about that. What it means can also be disputed. For example, Australia has had contractions in per capita GDP, so part of the boom is due to strong population growth. Although the cycle is not dead, its amplitude has been tamed, at least for now. It is also important to understand how it happened. Luck and good management have both played a role. There may also be lessons that can help sustain growth in the future, as well as for other countries. Fiscal reform is a priority if the longest boom is to continue.
Recessions are nasty. They usually result in a rise in unemployment, which is highly positively correlated with ill-health, high crime rates, and other negative social and political outcomes. Recessions can also have lasting effects. Long-term unemployment can lead to skill atrophy, making it harder to find a job even once the economy recovers. Deep and long recessions, like the Great Recession, have had a lasting negative effect on a generation of workers.
Although not recent, examples from Australia’s recessions are still powerful and worth recalling. The impact of Australia’s early 1990s recession (1991) on the labour market was deep and damaging. The unemployment rate rose significantly and did not return to its pre-recession level for 14 years. It caused significant harm. For example, many middle-aged workers who lost their jobs in Victoria’s manufacturing industry, which was hard hit, never worked again. Designing policy to avoid recessions has been the macroeconomist’s ‘Holy Grail’.
Read the full report by Paul Bloxham here.
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