Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Scare Story

The front page of today’s Gazeta Wyborcza – apart from the strange claim that a 46.7% voter share for the left wing candidate in France’s presidential elections is a “crushing” defeat – re-runs the pensions time bomb scare story. The story is expanded on in the economics section and commented on by Witold Gadomski on page two, so it’s obviously Quite Serious. To recap: people aren’t screwing each other enough and they’re living too long so in a few years there will be no one left to support all the old folk. Poland’s population is predicted to fall to 30 million by 2030.

Unusually, the newspaper does mention the small matter of economic growth (or “increasing wealth”). However, rapid economic growth will not last and anyway it means that in a few years time there will be a shortage of workers in certain sectors. Are you following this? I amn’t. Something called the Institute for Structural Research says that increasing the length of time people spend with their noses to the grindstone is essential: the alternative is to raise taxes to pay for pensions. Given the choice, I’d pay more tax myself, but what the article does not mention is that it takes ever fewer workers to generate the same amount of wealth.

A trade union you may have heard of (Solidarity) commissioned a report sometime back from a French company. The report was titled “Niskie płace barierą rozwoju Polski” (Low pay is a barrier to Poland’s development). It is not referred to in GW. No trade union or anyone that might be reasonably said to represent working people is quoted in the article. The report found that from 1995 to 2000 “wydajność pracy” (literally, “work output”) increased by 58.3%. From 2000 to 2005 it increased by 19.5% (Nie 17-18/2007). That’s a lot of extra revenue to splash around on – oh, I don’t know – say, pensions for people who live longer than economists would like them to.

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