National Economic Panel



ESA National Economic Panel Polls





Got an Idea?

Author's Name: Jeff Borland
Date: Tue 12 Feb 2019

Jeff Borland

Professor Jeff Borland

Jeff Borland is Truby Williams Professor of Economics at the University of Melbourne. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and in 2010 was Visiting Professor of Australian Studies at Harvard University. He is currently a member of the Board of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. You can read his monthly ‘Snapshot’ on the Australian labour market here.

Subject Area Expertise

Labour economics; Program evaluation; Economic history; Sports economics; Applied microeconomics.


Responses (17)

Promoting vaccination uptake in Australia

Poll 49

"What measures should Australian governments adopt to promote demand for vaccination once supply is no longer a constraint?"

Photo credit "Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND"


Mandatory vaccination for higher risk occupations;Cash incentives for vaccination;Vaccine passports for higher-risk settings (eg. flights, restaurants, major events);National advertising campaigns

Cash incentives and advertising both seem to have the potential to speed up vaccination (of course, with both policies, getting the details right will determine whether the policies are effectiv ? compare for example the Commonwealth ads with the much more effective ads done by the Victorian Council of Social Service. Other items in the list would seem to be better decided on using the expertise of epidemiologists ? but I have ticked mandatory vaccination for high risk occupations and vaccine passports on the basis that, in the short run while we are still bringing COVID under control and learning about it, it is best to adopt an approach that is as controlling as possible.

Policies to deliver higher wage growth

Poll 48

Our panellists were asked

"Higher wages growth is now a top priority of the RBA in its efforts to sustain stronger economic growth. Please identify the three of these government policies you think would best help deliver higher wages growth".  

Photo credit "Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND"



Measures to boost productivity growth;Maintaining high government spending in order to boost aggrega

Productivity growth is the best way to get long-run real wage growth. Maintaining a more stimulatory fiscal stance, via spending, will push us closer to the level of labour under-utilisation needed for wage growth. I prefer spending rather than tax cuts for equity reasons. I would like to see substantial improvements to wages and conditions (and on-going wage growth) for workers in low-pay occupations such as caring jobs (for equity reasons as well as considerations of overall wage growth) I have ticked the box to boost trade union power because that may be part of the way to achieve that outcome, via stronger representation with employers; but other changes, such as legislative reforms to make it easier to make the case for gender pay equity in female-dominated occupations would also be necessary, I think.

Top economists want JobSeeker boosted by $100+ per week and tied to wages

Poll 44

"Ahead of a decision about any permanent increase expected early next year, The Conversation and the Economic Society of Australia asked 45 of Australia’s leading economists where they thought JobSeeker should settle."

Photo credit : Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND


Be indexed in line with wages

The current level of JobSeeker (without the COVID supplement) means that individuals and families who rely on that payment do not have a standard of living that a rich country like Australia should regard as the minimum acceptable standard. The main argument that is being raised at present against an increase in JobSeeker is that it would have an adverse impact on incentives for recipients to search for and accept paid work. This argument is either totally unsupported by evidence; or supported by anecdote (a businessperson in my electorate said they were having trouble filling a vacancy...'). There is no evidence I know of that a rise in JobSeeker of the amount being advocated (say $125 per week) would have a large-scale appreciable impact on incentives for work. There is not enough space here to cite all the evidence available, but a few pieces: First, were JobSeeker to be increased to $407.85 a week, that would still just be at the first percentile of the distribution of weekly earnings of full-time adult employees. In other words, there is a huge financial incentive to obtain employment. Second, it is well-known that a substantial incentive for work (in some studies of equal importance to the financial incentive) comes from the social and psychological benefits - which will be unaffected by an increase in JobSeeker. Third, there is no evidence that the higher rate of JobSeeker (with the COVID supplement) has caused an increased vacancy rate or reduced flows from unemployment to employment (either in aggregate or for the young). Labour market dynamics are, however, likely being affected by other structural issues, such as the large reduction in temporary visa holders to Australia. To anyone who argues that a substantial increase in JobSeeker would cause an appreciable increase in the disincentive to work, the question has to be asked: What is your evidence? For that evidence to be policy-relevant it must demonstrate that appreciable Australia-wide effects would follow from the increase in JobSeeker fro its current level.

October Budget 2020 - preferred four programs

Poll 42 

"The October budget will see the government announce additional policies to support recovery.  Please nominate the four programs you think would be the most effective (for an intervention of a given size) over the next two years"

Photo Credit: Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND 


Wage subsidies or hiring bonuses (beyond JobKeeper), Permanently boosting JobSeeker (Newstart) beyond December 31, 2020, Social housing, Funding higher quality aged care

Many (most) of these policy options would be worth doing. I have chosen my 4 options with two considerations in mind: (i) Programs that will best promote immediate job creation (and jobs of a type that will have most benefit given the likely characteristics of jobseekers - eg., hiring credits targeted at young jobseekers) (ii) Programs that will also achieve important social objectives where urgent progress is needed - ie., improving quality of aged care, increase in access to social housing, raising living standards of JobSeeker recipients. (Addressing climate change is also urgent - But since I can only choose four options from the list I'll suggest that it can instead be responded to by removing/not introducing new government support for non-renewable energy sources.)

Government Debt during the COVID19 Crisis

Poll 40

"Governments should provide ongoing fiscal support to boost aggregate demand during the economic crisis and recovery, even if it means a substantial increase in public debt"

Photo Credit: Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND 


Strongly agree


Australia's situation is that - even if the current outbreak of COVID-19 in Melbourne is quickly resolved and reopening of economic activities within Australia then proceeds smoothly - by the end of September I believe that the labour market will only have returned to about the worst points of the 1980s and 1990s recessions.?

Social Distancing Measures, May 2020

Poll 38

"The benefits to Australian society of maintaining social distancing measures sufficient to keep R<1 for COVID-19 are likely to exceed the costs"


Strongly agree


The policy priority should be to choose the right time to remove business restrictions put in place to ensure social distancing. For as long as economic activity is restricted by shut-downs, the scope for economic recovery will be limited. This doesn?t mean, however, that we should be racing to remove restrictions. Of course at the moment there is a trade-off between business restrictions and employment - with serious adverse consequences for well-being. But the time horizon we should have in mind is the next 12 to 18 months. The policy objective for government should be to achieve the highest average level of employment over that whole time period. We can only meet this objective if we ensure that relaxing business restrictions does not create an upsurge in COVID-19 cases. Because every time there is an upsurge (due to R>1), economic activity will need to be shut down again. Every time that happens we will be back to losing 10 to 15 per cent of jobs. Likely more as the effects of reduced income and wealth on consumer spending (and then business investment) gradually accumulate.

CGT deductions - March 2017

Poll 16

"Capital gains tax deductions for housing investment should be removed because they overstimulate the housing market, contributing to rising house prices."




Gender diversity in the workplace - role of government? - June 2017

Poll 19

"The recent Parliamentary Inquiry into "Gender segregation in the workplace and its impact on women's economic equality" was asked to examine measures to encourage women?s participation in male-dominated occupations and industries. Although there is growing awareness of the productivity gains of gender diversity, the private market alone is unlikely to steer the Australian labour market toward gender equality in male-dominated industries. Breaking down gender segregation in the labour market can only be achieved with some degree of government intervention."


Strongly agree


Changes to social attitudes and what would appear to be strong economic/performance incentives for organisations to achieve gender equality have not caused a sufficient degree of change in gender segregation in the workforce. Hence, further government action to address this issue seems valuable to increase the pace of change. Of course, it has to be thought that the government action would be effective in order for it to be worth implementing. It does not seem difficult though to envisage multiple ways in which this could happen - for example, government departments and agencies going further in implementing best-practice in gender neutral hiring; continued promotion of the productivity benefits of equal access to employment and of cultural change in social attitudes to female employment; and being pro-active in seeking to achieve change in key areas (for example, such as regulating company Board composition; or tying government funding to progress on gender equality in areas of employment that are publicly funded).

Economics teaching - micro before macro - February 2017

Poll 15

"It is more effective to teach an introductory course in micro-economics first before an introductory course in macro-economics."


Strongly agree


So many concepts that are integral to micro also these days seem to provide the underpinning for macro (such as optimal choice and equilibrium).  Beginning with the study of single decision-making units and markets, and then proceeding to study the national economy, is a logical and building block structure that I think students find it easy to grasp.  Sometimes it is said that starting with macro makes it easier to engage students, but I think there are at least as many interesting and relevant examples/applications in micro that can make students enthusiastic about studying economics.

Social costs of gambling - December 2016

Poll 14

"The social costs of gambling exceed the benefits (including consumer surplus from recreational gambling and tax revenue for governments)."




I am interpreting agreeing with this statement to mean that the socially optimal level of gambling is zero - and therefore I have disagreed because I don't think that is correct. But there is overwhelming evidence that there is a group (perhaps increasing) of 'problem' gamblers for whom (at their current levels of gambling) the cost to society outweighs the benefit. The major policy issue is therefore to reduce problem gambling while allowing gambling activity to continue. It is a policy issue where there seem to be some clear solutions (that at least could be trialled - see for example recent Productivity Commission reports); but it is another example of an area where most politicians are running scared of lobby groups (sports clubs, licensed clubs and casinos) and also where State governments are clearly concerned about the effect on their revenue. The decision by the previous Abbott government to return decision-making rights over regulating gambling matters such as poker machines to the States was terrible - giving the decision-making rights to the level of government that is most conflicted.

Part 1: 'Behavioural economics provides new and useful insights into individual behaviour.' Part 2: 'It is unethical for governments to use behavioural economics to

The total benefit of current levels* of migration to Australia will outweigh the total costs to Australia's economy.




Definitely a valuable addition to the tools that economists have for understanding human behaviour and social interaction. But sometimes it is oversold as being an alternative to the approach neoclassical economics, whereas in my opinion it's a way of enriching that approach.

Behavioural economics - September 2016

Poll 11

Part 1: 'Behavioural economics provides new and useful insights into individual behaviour.'

Part 2: 'It is unethical for governments to use behavioural economics to "nudge" citizens.'


PART 1 - Strongly disagree


Just another way for governments to work out how to design policy to achieve social objectives taking into account how people will respond to those policies - so no different than, for example, using the idea that people respond to incentives.

PART 2 - Strongly disagree


Just another way for governments to work out how to design policy to achieve social objectives taking into account how people will respond to those policies - so no different than, for example, using the idea that people respond to incentives.

The Brexit - impact on UK citizens - July 2016

Poll 9

"Assuming it is implemented, Brexit will deliver net economic benefits, on average, to UK citizens within its first 5 years."




At present many of the details of the exit are unknown, so it isn't possible to be too definite. However, outcomes that seem likely to result such as reductions in trade flows and the exit of some types of businesses from the UK to move to Continental Europe make it difficult to think that there would be net economic benefits (although of course there may be some winners in the UK).

China services boom for Australia? - April 2016

Poll 6

"As the Chinese economy makes its transition from investment-led to consumption led growth, the Australian service sector which currently accounts for around 20% of total exports, will produce a second 'Chinese economic windfall' for Australians."


No opinion


Efficiency of tax incentives - February 2016

Poll 4

"New tax incentives for investments in technology and innovation businesses and start-ups are likely to be inefficient."


No opinion


Not a topic I have ever considered or have the background to answer.

Bah Humbug Australia - December 2015

Poll 3

"Giving specific presents as holiday gifts is inefficient, because recipients could satisfy their preferences much better with cash."




That might be nice textbook economic theory. But it ignores the benefit that the buyer can get from putting thought and effort into buying a personal gift; and the benefit that the receiver gets from knowing that the buyer put in thought and effort. It also ignores the possibility that the buyer has a knowledge of available gifts that means that they can buy something that the receiver did not know existed.