Sunday, September 19, 2010

Economics 19/9/10: What's human capital got to do with our policies?

Having spent last week giving three presentations in Ireland on our IBV paper (link here) concerning the role of human capital in urban and regional development, and having spent a week before given another five presentations/briefings on the same topic in Russia, I should probably take a break from the topic.

So here is a quick note: I finally came about to read an interesting study from McKinsey & Co on the importance of talent as a driver of competition between firms, published back in February 2008. It is a very insightful piece.

Here's an interesting quote, referring to two McKinsey Quarterly global surveys (emphasis is mine). "The first, in 2006, indicated that the respondents regarded finding talented people as likely to be the single most important managerial preoccupation for the rest of this decade. The second, conducted in November 2007, revealed that nearly half of the respondents expect intensifying competition for talent—and the increasingly global nature of that competition—to have a major effect on their companies over the next five years. No other global trend was considered nearly as significant."

Furthermore, "Three external factors—demographic change, globalization, and the rise of the knowledge worker—are forcing organizations to take talent more seriously."

Amazingly, there is little evidence to-date that policymakers have any idea the process of global competition for talent is underway in their economies. With exception of the US and Switzerland, every OECD economy puts the heaviest burden of taxation onto shoulders of the very same talent for which companies in these countries compete.

Ireland is the case study here. After a decade and a half of aggressively incentivising foreign investment into the country (not a bad thing in my books), Irish leadership has left human capital - and especially internationally mobile human capital - bearing more than 3/4 of the total tax burden in the country. Now, this proportion is rapidly increasing (see chart), having risen from 75.31% in Q2 2007 to 80.42% in Q2 2010.
This process is accelerating per table below:
Unbeknown to our policymakers (it appears), labour, especially skilled labour in the sectors the Government promotes as the future of Ireland Inc (e.g. the 'knowledge' economy) is the largest cost input for firms. Yet, through the crisis, the Government has elected a two-path approach to resolving our fiscal difficulties:
  • massive cuts in capital investment, and
  • disturbingly high increases in income tax burden and other tax burden on disposable income by households.
Anyone to spot a contradiction here?
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