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Author's Name: Alison Booth
Date: Tue 12 Feb 2019

Alison Booth

Professor Alison Booth

Alison Booth is Professor of Economics at the Australian National University. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, and a Research Fellow of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), London and of the IZA Bonn. Booth was President of the European Association of Labour Economists from 2006-2008 and was Editor-in-chief of Labour Economics for five years. The recipient of numerous research grants, Booth obtained her PhD from the London School of Economics. She received the ESA’s Distinguished Fellow Award in 2017 and in 2019 was elected Fellow of the Econometric Society.

Subject Area Expertise

Labour economics, experimental economics, behavioural economics, the economics of gender.

Website

https://researchers.anu.edu.au/researchers/booth-al

 


Responses (20)


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

10


Wage freeze for economic recovery

Poll 39

"A freeze in the minimum wage will support Australia's economic recovery"

Photo credit: Wes Mountain/The ConversationCC BY-ND 

 

Disagree

7

It is not a good time to freeze the pay of employees covered by the minimum wage (the majority of whom are female), and many of whom contributed to helping keep the economy ticking over during lockdown (think health-care workers, school and hospital cleaners, supermarket staff, distribution etc., all vital to our society during the pandemic). At a minimum the minimum wage should be maintained in real terms in order to allow covered workers to maintain their usual consumption bundles. This will also help the economy. This is one of those partial equilibrium questions that are impossible to answer definitively, since the effects will also depend on what is happening elsewhere in the economy.


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

9

It is vital to relax social distancing slowly in order to monitor infection rates, gain more information about the pandemic and its behaviour, avoid the costs of having to reimpose tighter restrictions, make sure we have plentiful supplies of protective equipment, target research to vaccination development and also treatments so we are prepared in case (as is likely based on other countries? experiences) R starts growing again. At the same time, policy should be directed towards cushioning the impact on the less well-off of this major shock to our economy. For example, we should think about an intergenerational compact - which is to say how the winners of continued lockdown (the older folk, typically) might compensate the losers (the younger folk, particularly those in insecure employment whose prospects are so poor). Policy should also be working to restructure our economy in imaginative - and social-welfare enhancing - ways, as has sometimes occurred in postwar reconstruction. This could be done to take into account the goal of reducing climate change, which could well be our next big shock to the economy.


Motherhood, caring and the careers of Australian women - April 2019

Poll 37

Proposition 1: "Without changes to existing public policy or private sector practice in Australia, motherhood will always negatively affect a woman's career."

Proposition 2: "In Australia, fathers are more restricted than mothers in fulfilling a caring role while in employment."

 

Part 1 - Strongly agree

9

Part 2 - Disagree

7


Professional Accreditation of Economists - March 2019

Poll 36

Proposition 1: "Professional accreditation for the economics profession would attract more people to economics as a career."

Proposition 2: "The benefits of professional accreditation for current and prospective economists would exceed any possible costs"

 

Part 1 - Disagree

10

Part 2 - Disagree

9


Banking Royal Commission and the Credit Crunch - October 2018

Poll 33

Proposition 1: "There is a significant risk that, either as a result of the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry or as a result of the financial institutions' response to those findings, credit will become less readily available to Australian households or businesses."

Proposition 2: "Assuming credit becomes less readily available to Australian households or businesses, this will in turn have adverse consequences for the performance of the Australian economy."

 

1 - Disagree

2 - No opinion

1 -

2 - I strongly dislike the wording of these propositions. Clearly the RC was important and showed how much banking requires reform. How this reform can be achieved is what we should be focusing on next.


Waste Policy - August 2018

Poll 32

"There are clear net benefits for Australians from (further) increasing the diversion of waste from Australian landfills."

 

Strongly agree

10

While I agree with the proposition, I would have preferred to see some discussion of what alternative policies might be. The waste sector is an environmental sector, and this is one in which the federal government has shown itself  to be very weak. Managing waste is important for productivity, and the environment – and through the latter, the welfare of future generations. Firms and individuals are unlikely to take into account the externalities associated with waste, and this is a clear example an an area in which there are externalities that government needs to manage. (There are some rare examples of companies shifting towards more environmentally friendly packaging, for example, and a decent government could use fiscal incentives to encourage thistrend. Unfortunately our government is not that imaginative.) A further problem is that waste  management  affects all levels of government, so there is also a coordination problem.  Moreover, Australia will not be able to continue exporting some of our waste overseas, as other countries are now showing more enlightened policies towards management of the environment and waste than we are. Taking action to manage waste is needed now to mitigate risks to long-term sustainable growth and to contribute to emissions reductions.


Sugar sweetened beverage tax for Australia - July 2018

Poll 31

Proposition 1: "The best economic policy instrument available to policy makers seeking to address obesity and related health issues in Australia is the introduction of a tax on sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs)."

Proposition 2: "The health and non-health benefits from a tax on SSBs are likely to outweigh the possible costs felt elsewhere in the economy."

 

1 - Agree

2 - Agree

1 - Australia is one of the highest soft drink consuming countries in the world.  It also has a growing proportion of the population that is obese and suffering from diabetes and heart disease. Better  than taxing only soft drinks would be to tax companies according to the sugar content of their products – any products, not just soft drinks. So ideally one would tax not only soft drinks but also all sweets and confectionary.  Taxes  on sugar  are a great incentive for producers to reduce the sugar content of their products.  An argument  for taxing only sugary drinks is that they are easy to tax. It’s more complicated administratively to tax every sugary food, it is argued. However, I do not see why it is any more difficult to tax confectionary than it is to tax sugary drinks. The evidence from Mexico for example on the effects of taxing sugary drinks indicates that the policy is working. Britain has introduced the tax earlier this year. Australia should follow. If we have managed to tax successfully cigarettes, I don’t see why we shouldn’t tax sugary products since the health disadvantages  of sugar consumption are so well documented. Diabetes and heart disease are very costly both individually and to society and there is no doubt that sugar Is associated with these diseases.

2 - See previous comment


Will building more homes make housing cheaper? - May 2018

Poll 29

"A sustained increase in the number of new homes constructed each year, all else equal, will make housing cheaper than otherwise."

 

Uncertain (neither agree nor disagree)

2

Homes are heterogeneous- they can come in all different shapes and sizes and qualities . So without knowing the type of houses that would be built (supply) and if they are designed and marketed to attract investors in second homes or to attract those on lower incomes, it is hard to say whether or not they will be affordable by potential purchasers (demand).


Gig economy and worker welfare - February 2018

Poll 26

"The wages and conditions of Australian workers providing services in sectors affected by the rapid growth of digital on-demand subcontracting platforms will, on average, be expected to fall without further government intervention."

 

Disagree

5

The proposition is rather imprecise. The answer surely depends on whether the workers’ services are complements or substitutes for the digital on-demand subcontracting platforms, and we are not given this information.


Journalism as a public good - January 2018

Poll 25

Proposition 1: "The modern phenomena of information overload and social-media-fuelled 'fake news' bring into focus the value of quality journalism. Quality journalism has a public-good dimension that warrants public support."

Proposition 2: "The Australian government presently provides funding for the ABC and SBS, Australia's independent public broadcasters. The Australian government should increase its financial support of quality journalism."

 

1 - Agree

2 - Agree

1 - While news undeniably has a public good aspect, any government support needs to be provided in such a fashion that the news media are guaranteed independence. There should be no room for governments to intervene in any way if they happen not to like the news that independent news media are providing.

2 - Same caveat as before.


Robots, artificial intelligence and the 'future of work' - October 2017

Poll 23

Question A: "Holding labor market institutions and job training fixed, rising use of robots and artificial intelligence is likely to increase substantially the number of workers in Australia who are unemployed for long periods."

Question B: "Rising use of robots and artificial intelligence in Australia is likely to create benefits large enough that they could be used to compensate those workers who are substantially negatively affected for their lost wages."

 

A - Disagree

B - Agree


Public borrowing for infrastructure investment - September 2017

Poll 22

"As interest rates are at low levels by historical standards, federal and state governments, despite their public debt levels, should be borrowing more than they currently are to invest in infrastructure"

 

Agree

7

However there is considerable heterogeneity across states and territories in their debt levels, so as far as the states and territories are concerned they should be – and would be – considered on a case by case basis.


The Finkel Review - August 2017

Poll 21

"The Finkel Review has recommended a mandatory certificate scheme that obliges electricity retailers to purchase a certain proportion of the electricity they sell from sources of electricity whose emission intensity is below a defined level. This is preferable to conventional approaches to the pricing of externalities, such as an emission tax or cap and trade scheme."

 

Disagree

8

Where the goal is to limit or reduce carbon emissions, the mandatory certificate scheme is a second best alternative to an emissions tax or a cap and trade scheme, both of which are far superior solutions to the problems of  how to reduce carbon emissions. However, the politics of the situation in Australia are  unfortunately currently  unfavourable to either the emissions tax or the cap and trade scheme. In this situation, it may well be desirable to have the mandatory certificate scheme rather than the short-sighted situation of no scheme.


Does privatisation of human services hurt outcomes? - July 2017

Poll 20

"For-profit provision of human services like health and education leads to poor client outcomes and high costs to government."

 

Agree

6


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

10

There are a number of policy initiatives that have been shown to improve outcomes. These include imposing quotas, as well as introducing/subsidising initiatives to encourage women to enter - and to stay in - the STEM fields and in Economics (also disproportionately male), and also to enter the male-dominated trades. (There are too many candidate initiatives to list here.) These policies are best managed by government intervention. Other initiatives to improve the lot of women and of children are good quality childcare for all, and again this requires some government intervention to maintain standards and to avoid the likelihood that some families will slip through the net. There should also be pressure by non-governmental organisations (WEN is a good example of such a group that is developing a strong voice) to ensure that women are not passed by, and a government concerned about gender equity might think of how these groups could be supported and encouraged. Moreover, while great improvements have been made in the position of women in the public sector, there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equity, although not as far as in the private sector. It would be fair to say that, with regard to gender equity, the extent of government failure is smaller than the extent of market failure, and it therefore makes sense to have government intervention.


Australian Federal Budget 2017 - Outsourcing Economic Forecasting - May 2017

Poll 18

"Given the Commonwealth Treasury?s ongoing difficulty in making accurate forecasts of some of the key economic variables underpinning the Budget ? in particular nominal GDP growth ? the Government should ?outsource? the economic forecasts used in framing the Budget to an independent agency (such as the Parliamentary Budget Office), as now happens in the United Kingdom."

 

Strongly agree

6


Energy shortages - reserving Australian gas - April 2017

Poll 17

"In response to energy shortages around Australia, government policies requiring gas producers to reserve some production for domestic consumption are a good way to ensure that Australian consumers have access to sufficient gas supplies while still allowing for gas exports."

 

Agree

7

How much is 'some'?