That Day, On The River


Protests against a measure to raise the retirement age in France and news of China’s population decline have prompted discussion around aging populations and implications for social policy. 

In a classic 2004 study, ROBIN BLACKBURN studies how an aging demographic affects systems of pension provision around the globe. 

From the book:

“The term ageing society should be taken literally. The median age of the world’s population was 23.6 years in 1950; it rose to 26.4 in 2000 and is expected to reach 36.8 by 2050 in the UN’s 2002 medium projection. The ageing effect is proceeding most rapidly in Europe where 29.2 was the median age in 1950, rising to 35.4 in 2000 and where it is expected to reach 47.7 by 2050. If the over 65s are to comprise between a fifth and a quarter of the population, then they are going to need a big chunk of GDP. Overall those over pension age currently receive an income that is 70 to 75 percent of average income. This is income from all sources: the state pension, private pensions, earnings and other savings. To maintain the relative income of those past retirement age it is generally necessary for these sources to supply between 15 and 22 percent of GDP, depending on the dimensions of ageing in that society. In nearly all advanced countries today there is a likelihood, with current programmes, of an income shortfall amounting to between 3 and 6 percent of GDP showing up between 2030 and 2050.”

+  “In 30 OECD nations, the labor force participation of older men and women has grown significantly since 1993.” Teresa Ghilarducci on the distribution of retirement and older working time in OECD countries Link

+  “I examine three of the world’s demographically oldest democracies and ask whether or not an older electorate leads political parties to increasingly seek the support of older voters through their political party messages and to avoid policy measures that might harm older workers.” Jennifer Dabbs Sciubba on Germany, Italy, and Japan. Link

+  “Approximately 70% of the total 60+ population receives no pension at all.” Charan Singh, Kanchan Bharati, and Ayanendu Sanyal call for a universal pension scheme in India. Link. And Michael Kpsessa and Daniel Béland on the ILO’s influence on pension schemes in sub-Saharan Africa. Link


Electricity capital

LUCY BAKER is a Senior Research Fellow in Science Policy Research at the University of Sussex Business School. In a recent paper, she studies the off-grid solar electricity market in in sub-Saharan Africa. 

From the text

“Standalone solar home systems using pay as you go (PAYGO) mobile money have been proposed as a key solution to meeting the target of universal access to energy under Sustainable Development Goal 7. I investigate how through PAYGO, off-grid solar electricity in sub-Saharan Africa is being transformed into a cash flow, a financial asset and a conduit for consumer debt. In so doing I analyse evolving relationships between some of the key actors and institutions involved in this process, including mobile banking platforms such as MPesa, ‘next generation utilities’ such as M-KOPA and BBOXX, and powerful mobile network operators such as Safaricom and MTN. Theoretically I conceptualise energy access as a new frontier of ‘electricity capital,’ a developing field from political economy and energy geography, which is concerned with the way in which technological developments in the electricity sector are reconfiguring relationships between different institutions of the state, industry, finance, and users.”

+ + +

+   “China produces more than half the world’s steel and cement, and those two sectors alone account for about 14 percent of global CO2 emissions.” New on the Polycrisis, Jeremy Wallace on China’s troubled real estate sector and climate. Link.

+   “Contractionary fiscal shocks larger than 1.5 percent of GDP are associated, on average, with a negative effect of more than 3 percent on GDP, even after fifteen years.” New on PW, Guilherme Klein Martins on the long-run impacts of austerity. Link

+   “Europe may be more intentional than the US in its energy transition policies, but it is also backward-looking.” This week’s Polycrisis newsletter, by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay, on the EU and the Inflation Reduction Act. Link

+   Read highlights from last year’s second seminar of the Brasilian Sovereign Funds Forum, a partnership led by JFI and Fluminense Federal University. Link.  

+   In Next City, JFI Vice President Halah Ahmad, Steve Nuñez, and Hope Wollensack argue that the future of guaranteed income is at the community level. Link

+   Three on Adani: Aswath Damodaran on the stock meltdown, John Hyatton on how the fallout affects other investment funds, and Nikhil Agarwal and Ritesh Presswalla on impacts to the Life Insurance Corporation of India. Linklink, and link.

+   “The Algerian financial system conceals two time bombs: an insane mass of subsidies which weigh a good quarter of the GDP and a constantly expanding budget deficit of almost the same dimensions.” By Jean-Pierre Sereni. Link.

+   Paul Lasley and David Ostendorf on the American Farm Crisis of the 1980s. Link

+   The Economist notes that “the US government is spending lavishly to revive green manufacturing.” Link. And see a talk with Ted Fertik and the Polycrisis’s Tim Sahay on climate and the Inflation Reduction Act. Link

+   “Although some considerable distance lies between the emergent household specialization and the fullblown Aztec tortilla seller, the development of one into another can be explained by the opportunities afforded by the Aztec urban economy. The breadth of the tortilla seller’s inventory clearly is not aimed at poor households and minimal subsistence but at a wealthier status and luxury conscious clientele. Similar specialists entered households and organized the preparation of fancy maize foods for celebrations. In the broader economy, the volume of goods flowing into Aztec urban centers meant numerous visitors— merchants, load-bearers, itinerant craftspeople, and others distant from their own households—also created a demand for tortilla sellers. Other Aztec institutions fostered large-scale maize preparation. The large households and palaces of the elites were well suited to this practice. Similarly, the work of specialists attached to elite-sponsored craft workshops might have been subsidized with tortillas and other food.” By Martin Biskowski. Link

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations:

Subscribe to PW Sources