Column “Clarified & enlightened” – controversial topic of prosperity
Are we now richer or poorer?
Economists disagree: are things getting better for us now – or is the economy growing because of immigration? According to René Scheu, there are now tendencies – they are not encouraging.
Published: 10 minutes ago
Economist Reiner Eichenberger has been warning for a long time: GDP is growing, but not GDP per capita.
René ScheuPhilosopher and Managing Director of the Institute for Swiss Economic Policy (IWP)
At the moment it’s about the question of all questions: Has the prosperity of Mr. and Mrs. Swiss actually increased in the last few decades? Or was it just immigration, i.e. the population and, at the same time, the gross domestic product (GDP) that increased?
Every practitioner makes a silent decision for himself by taking stock of the assets and liabilities of his life. He looks at whether there is more cash left over at the end of the year – or, if this is not the case, whether he has at least been able to noticeably improve his standard of living. And at the same time, he intuitively keeps a record of SBB delays, stress, traffic chaos and the size of his children’s classes. Is the balance of the last few years positive – or are we going where we are?
What will the 10 million Switzerland bring?
If you look at the voting results of the last few years (keyword mass immigration initiative), the majority of citizens are likely to be rather skeptical. The vision of a 10 million Switzerland has long been on the horizon. Also here: Does that bring prosperity or does it only cost the individual?
The dispute is also raging among economists. For years, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) praised the mantra: immigration is GDP growth, is increased prosperity. Reiner Eichenberger, Professor of Economics in Freiburg, countered that GDP had grown, but not GDP per capita.
If we work, then all the more productive
Boris Zürcher, head of the Directorate for Labor at Seco, has now reported. He speaks openly and partly agrees with Eichenberger: GDP per capita growth remains manageable. Round victory for Eichenberger.
But at the same time, Zürcher is introducing a new indicator: productivity growth. The idea goes like this: The total volume of work has grown significantly less than the working population and GDP – so we work less and less or more and more part-time per capita. But when we work, then all the more productive. Ergo, Zürcher concludes, everything is fine after all.
defeat on points
stop, save. First of all, one thing is clear: the labor market is reacting to immigration. Either Mr. and Mrs. Swiss want to work less and less voluntarily – that’s why immigration into the labor market is needed. Then we would now have ancient Greek conditions in the Confederation: more contemplative life for the locals, more dirty work for the immigrants. Or the immigrant workers actually displace previous employees or force their workload reduction.
Both would be a defeat on points for Mr. and Mrs. Schweizer.
René Scheu is a philosopher and director of the Institute for Swiss Economic Policy (IWP) in Lucerne.