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Recovery or Renewal? Time for an economic rethink

Recovery or Renewal? Time for an economic rethink

A recent study of long-term fluctuations in economic growth published in Nature Scientific Reports suggests both danger and opportunity in the emerging debate about post Covid-19 economic recovery. In this blog, Craig D. Rye and Tim Jackson outline their findings.


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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the global economy to contract by 5% this year alone, making it the largest downturn since the Great Depression in the 1930s. Advanced economies are likely to see a 10% decline in output and even the emerging economies of south-east Asia are unlikely to escape a recession.

Unprecedented though this is in the modern era, its real impact lies in the wider tapestry within which this uncomfortable economic portrait is drawn. Rates of economic growth across the OECD have been in decline since the 1970s, a phenomenon known as ‘secular stagnation’. The average growth in GDP per capita across the rich economies fell from over 4% in the mid-1960s to little more than 1% in the pre-pandemic years. The decline is related to an underlying stagnation in labour productivity growth.

In a recent study, published in Nature Scientific Reports, we’ve been exploring an even longer story about the ups and downs of economic growth and recession. Critical Slowing Down (CSD) theory is most commonly used to understand the oscillations (waves) in physical systems. In our study, we used the same techniques to analyse long-term trends in the gross domestic product (GDP) in datasets from as far back as the 1820s.

Imagine a pendulum or swing which is held in its equilibrium position by gravity. A push or a shove in one direction or another will shift the pendulum away from the central position or a random gust of wind might move the swing, but gravity pulls it back again.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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