Unlike NZ, Canada can’t blame size, distance nor remoteness for low productivity

The golden age of manufacturing employment coincided with the Lost Decades in NZ GDP growth

New Zealand employment by sector

..

Once were Sweden! New Zealand, Swedish and Australian general government expenditure as % of GDP since 1986

I came across this data showing that New Zealand and Sweden had the same sized public sectors in the mid-1980s some years ago. The data could not be found again for a long time in the OECD statistical databases. One reason was the OECD changed its name to general disbursements.

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Data extracted on 12 Feb 2016 08:45 UTC (GMT) from OECD.Stat.

The size of the public sector in Australia has not changed much for 30 odd years. The public sector has been in a long decline in Sweden and New Zealand since peaks  as a percentage of nominal GDP in the late 1980s  and early 1990s respectively.

I know of no comments on the large size of the New Zealand public sector as measured by general government expenditure in the late 1980s. Its contribution to the stagnant economic growth of that time is worth exploring.

Labour productivity growth in New Zealand since 1951

https://www.facebook.com/FigureNZ/photos/pb.374053709279073.-2207520000.1449201572./1070843926266711/?type=3&theater

@JohnQuiggin on “How New Zealand fell further behind” @FairnessNZ

Leading Australian academic economist John Quiggin has just published an article arguing that New Zealand should not be a policy role model for anything. To quote Quiggin:

For most of the twentieth century, the New Zealand and Australian economies performed almost identically. New Zealand took a somewhat larger hit when Britain entered the European Common Market in the 1970s, but that impact has long since washed out. The real divergence came in the 1980s. Since then, New Zealand’s income per person has fallen 35 per cent behind Australia’s

He used Reserve Bank of New Zealand data going back to 1990, which is common starting point for most Reserve Bank data.

Source: John Quiggin “How New Zealand fell further behind”. Inside Story, 11 November 2015.

If he had taken that chart back to the 1970s and earlier using the Conference Board Total Database, Quiggin would have found that New Zealand economy diverged from Australia in the 1970s, not in the 1980s. His data from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand started at the low point in 1990 – at the end of that divergence that started in 1974. The New Zealand economy was depressed between 1974 and 1992. I label this Great Depression in New Zealand as New Zealand’s Lost Decades.

Source: Computed from OECD Stat Extract and The Conference Board. 2015. The Conference Board Total Economy Database™, May 2015, http://www.conference-board.org/data/economydatabase/

Real GDP PPP per working age New Zealander fell rapidly after 1974 (a 34% drop against trend) when that economy was a heavily regulated, highly taxed economy. This heavily regulated, highly taxed, economically stagnant New Zealand is the good old days in the eyes of the Twitter Left.

Source: Computed from OECD Stat Extract and The Conference Board. 2015. The Conference Board Total Economy Database™, May 2015, http://www.conference-board.org/data/economydatabase/

In the chart above, the base is 1974 which equals 100. A flat-line means annual growth equal to the trend rate of growth in the 20th century for the USA. A falling line means below trend growth; a rising line means above trend rate economic growth per working age Australian or New Zealander.

With the election of a National Party government in 1990 and a massive fiscal consolidation, New Zealand growth rate returned to the previous trend rate of 1.9% in 1992. Ruth Richardson’s horror budget of 1991 was so bad that the what became the Twitter Left called it the “Mother of All Budgets“.

What followed this massive fiscal consolidation where welfare benefits for cut severely was an economic boom that lasted until the GFC.

Source: Income Gap | New Zealand Council of Trade Unions – Te Kauae Kaimahi.

As shown in the chart conveniently compiled by the New Zealand Council of Trade Union, there was 20 years of real wage stagnation until the passage of the Employment Contracts Act in 1991.

Source: Income Gap | New Zealand Council of Trade Unions – Te Kauae Kaimahi with annotations.

What followed the passage of that Act was sustained real wages growth for the first time in two decades and the end of growing inequality under the previously highly taxed, heavy regulated economy that was good old days New Zealand if the Twitter Left is to be believed.

To do this, to paint pre-1984 New Zealand, pre-neoliberal New Zealand as a fairly egalitarian paradise, Max Rashbrooke is an example of that is had to ignore two thirds of the population and the inequalities they suffered:

“New Zealand up until the 1980s was fairly egalitarian, apart from Maori and women, our increasing income gap started in the late 1980s and early 1990s,” says Rashbrooke. “These young club members are the first generation to grow up in a New Zealand really starkly divided by income.”

Racism and patriarchy can sit comfortably with a fairly egalitarian society if you are to believe the vision of the Twitter Left as to their good old days. John Quiggin refers to the period in Australia known as the Menzies Era as part of his golden age of the mixed economy. The Menzies Era was most of the 23 years of uninterrupted conservative party rule between 1949 and 1972. The actual Menzies Era was the period up to 1966 when Liberal Party Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies retired

The reforms of the 1980s known as Rogernomics stopped the long-term stagnation in real wages that started in about 1974. The reforms of the early 1990s under a National Party government including a massive fiscal consolidation and the passing of the Employment Contracts Act was followed by the resumption of sustained growth in real wages with little interruption since.

This boom after two decades of minimal real economic growth per working age New Zealander benefited everyone. The unemployment rate fell to a record low of 3.5% about 2005. Maori unemployment was at a 20-year low of 8% in 2008. Maori labour force participation rates increased from 45% in the late 1980s to about 62% by the eve of the Global Financial Crisis.

The increase in percentage terms of Maori and Pasifika real household income is much larger than for Pakeha since the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s. As Bryan Perry (2015, p. 67) explains when commenting on table D6 sourced by Closer Together Whakatata Mai:

From a longer-term perspective, all groups showed a strong rise from the low point in the mid 1990s through to 2010. In real terms, overall median household income rose 47% from 1994 to 2010: for Maori, the rise was even stronger at 68%, and for Pacific, 77%. These findings for longer- term trends are robust, even though some year on year changes may be less certain. For 2004 to 2010, the respective growth figures were 21%, 31% and 14%.

 

The great divergence in average and marginal tax rates in New Zealand since 2000

21% would have been a good guess of the average and marginal tax rates of the New Zealand single earner or couple including with children and even a second earner in 2001. New Zealand average and marginal tax rates have been on a wild ride since the year 2000.

Sources: OECD StatExtract and OECD Taxing Wages.

As the above chart shows, while the average tax rate of a single earner with no children is pretty much unchanged at about 20%, he now faces a marginal tax rate of 30% or more rather than 21% in 2001.

For a married couple with one income, as the above chart shows, their average tax rate has been about zero for a good 10 years now but their net marginal tax rate is a good 50% or more because of abatement rates on family tax credits, which is a skewed incentive situation. A large income effect from the family tax credit encourages the consumption of leisure but a high marginal tax rate discourages working more.

Sources: OECD StatExtract and OECD Taxing Wages.

For two earner couples, their average tax rates have fallen because of family tax credits but their marginal tax rates have gone through the roof as the above chart shows. A tax system that discourages quite severely any further work or investment in human capital by average earners may have adverse effects on the long-term trend growth rate of New Zealand.

Marginal tax rates of New Zealand average households since 2000

In 2000 in New Zealand, the marginal tax rates of single earners, married couples and dual income couples were 21%.

image

Sources: OECD StatExtract.and OECD Taxing Wages.

Net personal marginal income tax rates increased:

  • to 51% for one earner couples with two children in 2001 and stayed up above 50% until 2014; and
  • to 33% for single earners with no children in 2004 because income growth pushed them into the next tax rate bracket which then dropped down to 30% in 2011.

image

Sources: OECD StatExtract.and OECD Taxing Wages.

Net personal marginal income tax rates increased:

  • to 33% in 2004 for two earner couples with the second earner earning 33% of average earnings and then increased to 53% in 2006 and stayed high thereafter;
  • to 33% in 2004 for a two earner couple with the second earner earning 67% of average earnings and then increased further to 53% in 2006 and stayed high until 2014 when their marginal income tax rate dropped to 30%; and

image

Sources: OECD StatExtract.and OECD Taxing Wages.

These large increases in marginal tax rates on single earners and families coincided with a slowing of the economy in about 2005. The economy started to pick up again when there were tax cuts introduced by the incoming National Party Government. Is that more than a coincidence?

image

Sources: Computed from OECD StatExtract and The Conference Board. 2015. The Conference Board Total Economy Database™, May 2015, http://www.conference-board.org/data/economydatabase/.

A flat line in the above figure is growth at the trend growth rate of 1.9% of the USA in the 20th century. A rising line is above trend growth for that year while a falling lined is below trend rate in GDP per working age person.

In the lost decades of New Zealand growth between 1974 In 1992, New Zealand lost 34% against trend growth which was never recovered. There was about 13 years of sustained growth at about the trend rate or slightly above that between 1992 and 2005. The entire income gap between Australia and New Zealand open up during these lost decades of growth between 1974 and 1992.

image

Sources: Computed from OECD StatExtract and The Conference Board. 2015. The Conference Board Total Economy Database™, May 2015, http://www.conference-board.org/data/economydatabase/.

Australia grew pretty much in its trend rate of growth since the 1950s. The so-called resources boom is not visible such as showing up as above trend rate growth.

Feuding with the Left over Left again @gtiso @helenkellyCTU

https://twitter.com/gtiso/status/627937738658942976

@Income_Equality there’s an Internet you know – was there next to no unemployment prior to the mid-1980s in New Zealand?

Today, Closing The Gap – The Income Inequality Project boldly claimed today that there was next to no unemployment in New Zealand prior to the onset of the curse of neoliberalism.

image

There is an Internet on computers now where it is easy to find data showing that the unemployment rate was rising rapidly in New Zealand in the 1970s and in double digits by the end of the 1980s – see figure 1.

Figure 1: harmonised unemployment rates, Australia and New Zealand, 1956-2014

image

Source: OECD StatExtract.

Figure 1 shows unemployment was rising rapidly in the 1970s and wasn’t much different by the end of the 1970s to the unemployment rates recorded after about 2000 in New Zealand.

One of the reasons that Sir Roger Douglas wrote There’s Got To Be A Better Way was the rapidly rising unemployment in New Zealand and the stagnant economic growth in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

New Zealand was one of the most regulated economies, so much so that Prime Minister David Lange said:

We ended up being run very similarly to a Polish shipyard.

As for those jobs on the railways, the then Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash said in 1996:

Railways cut its freight rates by 50 percent in real terms between 1983 and 1990, reduced its staff by 60 percent, and made an operating profit in 1989/90, the first for six years.

The Quantity and Quality of Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, American and English & Welsh Lives, 1965 to 1995

Figure 1: increase in real GDP and increase in real GDP plus life expectancy GDP increase equivalent, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and England & Wales, 1965 to 1995

image

Source: Becker, Gary S., Tomas J. Philipson, and Rodrigo R. Soares. The Quantity and Quality of Life and the Evolution of World Inequality, NBER Working Paper No. 9765 (June 2003).

GDP per capita is usually used to proxy for the quality of life of individuals living in different countries. Becker and his co-authors computed a "full" growth rate that incorporates the gains in health and life expectancy.

Figure 1 shows that New Zealand was way behind the other countries in improvements in the quantity and quality of life between 1965 and 1995. This brings new meaning to the two decades of lost growth between 1973 and 1995. Canada should refer to 1965 to 1995 as its golden era.

New Zealand does go on about how remote it is

via 40 maps that explain the world – The Washington Post.

Is Canada diverging from Australia in labour productivity to become like New Zealand?

Figure 1 shows that Canada has been diverging from Australia in real GDP per working age person since the mid-1990s particularly since the global financial crisis.

Figure 1: Real GDP per New Zealander, Canadian and Australian aged 15-64, converted to 2013 price level with updated 2005 EKS purchasing power parities, 1956-2013

image

Source: Computed from OECD StatExtract and The Conference Board, Total Database, January 2014, http://www.conference-board.org/economics

In common with New Zealand, Figure 2 shows that Canadian productivity has been in a pretty much along declines is about 1974, rarely catching up with any lost ground. Figure 1 shows that Canada used to be richer than Australia but is now poorer than Australia. Figure 2 is real GDP growth data detrended by the growth rate of the USA in the 20th century. A flat line in figure 2 is annual real GDP growth at 1.9%; a rising line is growth above 1.9%; a falling line is annual growth below 1.9% a year.

Figure 2: Real GDP per New Zealander, Canadian and Australian aged 15-64, converted to 2013 price level with updated 2005 EKS purchasing power parities, 1.9 per cent detrended, 1956-2013

image

Source: Computed from OECD StatExtract and The Conference Board, Total Database, January 2014, http://www.conference-board.org/economics

Figure 2 shows that Canadian productivity has been below trend for perhaps 30 years. There has been the  occasional recovery but followed by a further decline. If Canadian labour productivity had grown at the same rate as the USA since 1974, labour productivity in Canada is something like 18% better.

Australia, as shown in figure 2, has neither caught up nor falling behind the USA in labour productivity for the entire post-war period since 1956. Canada has been falling behind its neighbour most markedly since the mid-1970s.

  • Canada fell 10 percentage points further behind the USA in relative labour productivity between the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s.
  • Canada stopped falling further behind the USA after 1995 to 2005 but, in common with New Zealand, Canadian labour productivity did not rebound to recover the prior lost ground.

The proximate causes of the Canadian productivity gap with the USA have a familiar echo to New Zealand ears. Relative to the USA, Rao et al. (2006) and Sharp (2003) attributed the gap to less capital per worker, an innovation gap as shown by lower R&D expenditure, a smaller and less dynamic high technology sector, less developed human capital at the top end of the labour market, and more limited scale and scope economies.

These factors have been put forward, at one time or another, as the proximate causes of the New Zealand productivity gap with the USA. Identifying the barriers to higher Canadian productivity may offer fresh insights into removing similar productivity barriers in New Zealand.

Canada, New Zealand and Australia should be catching-up with the USA in productivity per capita because copying the global leader is cheaper than innovation. Canada, New Zealand and Australia all have the basics to do this: a market economy, the rule of law and openness to foreign technology and international trade.

Instead of asking why New Zealand is not catching-up with Australian productivity, further study of the lack of productivity catch-up of Australia and Canada with the USA may uncover subtle barriers to productivity growth with similarities in New Zealand.

The productivity decline in Canada is of interest in New Zealand because Canada certainly cannot blame remoteness because it borders the USA. Canada cannot blame lack of size because it is noticeably larger than Australia and certainly New Zealand.

@WJRosenbergCTU How the unions argued for the Employment Contracts Act when arguing strongly against it

The Council of Trade Unions scored something of an own goal in the 2014 election campaign when it was denouncing the Employment Contracts Act 1991 as the reason for wages growth have not kept up with GDP per capita growth since its passage in 1991. Its evidence in chief against the deregulation of the New Zealand labour market is in the snapshot below showing their graph of real GDP per capita and average real wages from 1965 to 2014.

image

Source: Low Wage Economy | New Zealand Council of Trade Unions – Te Kauae Kaimahi.

The chart selected by the Council of Trade Unions shows several distinct trends in wages growth and real GDP growth  per capita in New Zealand. None of these trends nor breaks in trends support the hypothesis that the days prior to the Employment Contracts Act 1991 were the good old days where workers shared generally in gains from economic growth.

From about 1970 to 1975 in the snapshot below of the Council of Trade Unions chart there was rapid real wages growth, well in excess of real growth in per capita GDP. This wages breakout was followed by some ups and downs but essentially wages in 1995 were no different from what they were in 1975. Real wages were about $24 per hour in real terms in New Zealand for about 20 years – from 1975 to 1995.

image

These are the good old days in the eyes of the Council of Trade Unions. No real wages growth for 20 years. There was no real GDP per capita growth from 1975 until 1979 nor in the five years leading up to the passage of the Employment Contracts Act 1991 in the chart selected by the Council of Trade Unions in the snapshot above.

The period leading up to 1975  in the preceding wages breakout was the zenith of union membership with nearly 70% of all workers belonging to a union – see figure 1. What followed from 1975 was a long declining in trade union membership that did not end until just after the Employment Contracts Act in 1991 – see figure 1.

Figure 1: Trade union densities, New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom and United States, 1970–2013

image

Source:  OECD StatExtract.

Whatever happened to union power in New Zealand happened before the passage of the Employment Contracts Act 1991 and with it the deregulation of the New Zealand labour market. 20 years of no real wages growth and economic stagnation may explain part of the decline of unions in New Zealand.

Real GDP per capita growth was pretty stagnant after 1975 to 1994 in the chart of data selected by the  Council of Trade Unions, which is why I have previously referred to 1974 to 1992 as New Zealand’s Lost Decades – see figures 2 and 3.

Figure 2: Real GDP per New Zealander and Australian aged 15-64, converted to 2013 price level with updated 2005 EKS purchasing power parities, 1956-2013, $US

Source: Computed from OECD Stat Extract and The Conference Board, Total Database, January 2014, http://www.conference-board.org/economics

Figure 2 shows that New Zealand lost two decades of productivity growth between 1974 and 1992 after level pegging with Australia for the preceding two decades.

These lost decades of growth are the unions’ good old days but workers cannot share in the general gains of economic growth when there isn’t any economic growth as the chart selected by the Council of Trade Unions and figure 2 both show.

New Zealand returned to trend growth  in real GDP per working age New Zealander between 1992 and 2007, which is straight after the passage of the Employment Contracts Act 1991 – see figure 2. Coincidence?

Figure 3: Real GDP per New Zealander and Australian aged 15-64, converted to 2013 price level with updated 2005 EKS purchasing power parities, 1.9 per cent detrended, base 100 = 1974, 1956-2013, $US

Source: Computed from OECD Stat Extract and The Conference Board, Total Database, January 2014, http://www.conference-board.org/economics

In Figure 3, a flat line equates to a 1.9% annual growth rate in real GDP per working age person; a falling line is a below trend growth rate; a rising line is an above 1.9% growth rate of real GDP per working age person. The trend growth rate of 1.9% per working age person is the 20th century trend growth rate that Edward Prescott currently estimates for the global industrial leader, which is the United States of America.

Figure 3 shows that there was a 34% drop against trend growth in real GDP per working age New Zealander between 1974 and 1992; a return to trend growth between 1992 and 2007; and a recession to 2010. this 34% drop against trend productivity growth is looked upon by the Council of Trade Unions as some sort of good old days.

A long period of no labour productivity growth and little real GDP per capita growth are pretty good reasons to rethink New Zealand’s economic policies at a fundamental level, which is exactly what happened after 1984 with the election of a Labour Government.

The unions have conveniently provided another explanation for the Lost Decades of growth in New Zealand from 1974 to 1992. That is the rapid growth of real wages ahead of real GDP per capita in the seven years before growth stalled in New Zealand in 1974 in the snapshot above. This real wages breakout was followed by two decades of lost growth.

Most ironically of all, steady growth in real wages in New Zealand did not return until after the passage of the Employment Contracts Act in 1991! After nearly 20 years of no real wages growth, real wages growth returned at long last in 1995.

After staying at about $24 per hour for 20 years from 1975 in the good old days of union power and collective bargaining, average wages in New Zealand have increased from $24 an hour to about $28 per hour by 2014 in one of the most deregulated labour markets in the world.

The Council of Trade Unions regards the return of real wages growth after a 20 year hiatus as an unwelcome development or something to complain about.

New Zealand’s Experience with Territorial Taxation | Tax Foundation

New Zealand is one of only two developed countries, the other being Finland, that switched from a territorial tax system to a worldwide system.Both eventually returned to a territorial tax system for competitiveness reasons. New Zealand went one step further in their experiment with worldwide taxation by ending deferral.

This resulted in a twenty year stagnation in foreign investment at a time when foreign investment was growing dramatically in the rest of the developed world.

This coincided with an economic decline in New Zealand relative to Australia and the rest of the developed world. Because foreign investment is key to accessing the world’s consumers, it is not surprising that less foreign investment translated to less economic prosperity at home.

The New Zealand experience shows that ending or limiting deferral in the United States, as President Obama and others have proposed, would likely have severe economic downsides. Instead, as New Zealand eventually did in 2009, the U.S. should implement a territorial system that exempts foreign earnings.

via New Zealand’s Experience with Territorial Taxation | Tax Foundation.

When did Down Under overtake the Mother Country? Real GDP Britain, Australia and New Zealand 1820–2010

Pretty quickly according to figure 1. Britain, Australia and New Zealand quickly had similar standards of living in the middle of the 19th century until about 1880. Australia was richer for about 20 years until the great Federation drought took the wind out of its sails.

Figure 1:  British, Australian and New Zealand GDP per capita (1990 Int. GK$PPP), 1820 – 2010

image

Source: The Maddison-Project, http://www.ggdc.net/maddison/maddison-project/home.htm 2013 version.

New Zealand then broke away at the end of the Second World War from both Australia and UK. In the mid-1960s circumstances changed with Australia drifting ahead of the UK and New Zealand drifting away to a lower standard of living.

Figure 2:  British and Australian GDP per capita (1990 Int. GK$PPP), 1820 – 2010

image

Source: The Maddison-Project, http://www.ggdc.net/maddison/maddison-project/home.htm 2013 version.

Figure 2 shows that from about 1960 until 1990 Australia was richer than the UK. After that, the growth dividend of Thatchernomics allowed the British to catch up again to the Australians.

Figure 3:  British and New Zealand GDP per capita (1990 Int. GK$PPP), 1820 – 2010

image

Source: The Maddison-Project, http://www.ggdc.net/maddison/maddison-project/home.htm 2013 version.

Figure 3 shows that New Zealand was richer than the UK in the mid-20th century. The lost decades in New Zealand from 1974 to 1992 let the sick man of Europe overtake New Zealand before Thatchernomics caused a growth spurt in the UK to take the British well ahead.

Figure 4: Australian and New Zealand GDP per capita (1990 Int. GK$PPP), 1820 – 2010

image

Source: The Maddison-Project, http://www.ggdc.net/maddison/maddison-project/home.htm 2013 version.

Figure 4 shows that New Zealand was richer than Australian in the first part of the post-war period. The divergence started with the onset of the lost decades in New Zealand in the early 1970s.

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