Italien – die wahre schwäbische Hausfrau Europas

Die Debatte über die Schaffung europäischer Anleihen zur Bekämpfung der Coronakrise ist von Vorurteilen geprägt, die nicht der Realität entsprechen. Italien wird oft als zu verschwenderisch dargestellt, hat aber tatsächlich in den letzten 30 Jahren äußerst sparsam gewirtschaftet. Es zahlt heute allerdings immer noch für politische Fehler, die in den 1970er und 1980er Jahren gemacht wurden.

Die Verhandlungen um eine europäische Lösung der Corona-bedingten Wirtschaftskrise hat die Euroländer erneut gespalten. Auf der einen Seite befürworten die von den Niederlanden angeführten Nordländer eine einmalige finanzielle Unterstützung in Form einmaliger Hilfskredite.  Auf der anderen Seite streben  die von der Epidemie besonders betroffenen Südländer, wie Italien oder Spanien,  eine grundlegende Reform an, welche insbesondere die Bündelung der Staatsverschuldung, d.h. die Emission europäischer Anleihen (Eurobonds),mit  einschließen würde. Derzeit können Deutschland oder die Niederlande Kredite zu negativen Zinssätzen aufnehmen – was bedeutet, dass Anleger für das “Privileg” zahlen ihnen Geld zu leihen – während Italien oder Griechenland Zinsen von jeweils  1,6 und 1,7% zahlen müssen. Eurobonds  würden es dem Süden einerseits ermöglichen von niedrigeren Zinssätzen zu profitieren, während sie andererseits sicherlich die Zinskosten der Nordländer erhöhen würde.

Trotz der drohenden Gefahr eines beispiellosen wirtschaftlichen Zusammenbruchs, der eine schnelle Gegenreaktion erfordern würde, waren die Verhandlungen von erbitterten Konflikten zwischen den Mitgliedstaaten geprägt. In einer Videokonferenz der europäischen Finanzminister soll der niederländische Minister Wopke Hoekstra um eine Untersuchung gebeten haben, warum einige Mitgliedstaaten (im Süden) in den letzten Jahren keine finanziellen Puffer geschaffen hätten, während andere (im Norden) Reserven aufbauen konnten. Der portugiesische Premierminister Antonio Costa bezeichnete diese Forderung, mit Verweis auf die gesundheitliche Notlage, wenig später als “abstoßend” und hinterfragte in diesem Kontext die Ernsthaftigkeit des europapolitischen Engagements der Niederlande. 

Das Hauptargument der Länder des Nordens war, dass Länder wie die Niederlande sparsam seien, während die südlichen EU-Staaten über ihre Verhältnisse leben würden. In diesem Zusammenhang würde eine Vergemeinschaftung der Schulden es den Südländern ermöglichen, von der Genügsamkeit der Nordländer zu profitieren ohne selbst ausreichende Anstrengungen zur Haushaltskonsolidierung unternommen zu haben. Italien mit seiner Staatsschuldenquote von 134% des Bruttoinlandsproduktes(BIP) und permanenten  Haushaltsdefiziten ist das Hauptziel der niederländischen Kritiker. Diese treten in die Fußstapfen des früheren niederländischen Finanzministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem, der den Süden Europas 2017 beschuldigte, zu viel für “Schnaps und  Frauen” auszugeben.

Primärsaldo in Italien (blau) und in den Niederlanden (rot), 1960-2018

Das Problem dieser Interpretation der  italienischen und niederländischen Haushaltspolitik der vergangenen 30 Jahre ist, dass sie sich bei genauerer Betrachtung nicht in den Zahlen widerspiegelt. Im Gegenteil, wenn wir die massiven Zinsen, die Italien jedes Jahr für seine Schulden zahlen muss, beiseite lassen und den Primärsaldo, also lediglich die Differenz zwischen Einnahmen und Ausgaben(für Gesundheit,Bildung, Infrastruktur usw.) betrachten, scheint Italien, zumindest seit Anfang der neunziger Jahre, sogar besser gewirtschaftet zu haben als die Niederlande. Mit  Ausnahme der Finanzkrise hat Italien in dieser Zeit  stets Primärüberschüsse erzielt, während die Niederlande regelmäßig Primärdefizite verzeichneten, allerdings  Kredite zu niedrigen Zinssätzen aufnehmen konnten. Tatsächlich leidet Italien nachwievor unter dem Gewicht eines 40 Jahre alten Schuldenberges. Dieser wurde unter der Ägide der christdemokratischen Partei Italiens angehäuft, die Anfang der neunziger Jahre im Zuge der Antikorruptionsaktion ”Saubere Hände” zerfiel . Die italienische Haushaltspolitik war seitdem sogar zu sparsam und konnte dem anämischen Wachstum und dem Zerfall der Infrastruktur wenig entgegensetzen.  

Die Ursprünge der italienischen Schulden

Italien ist eines der Industrieländer mit der höchsten Staatsverschuldung und wird in dieser Hinsicht nur von Griechenland und Japan übertroffen. Im Jahr 2015 entsprach die italienische Staatsverschuldung dem anderthalbfachen des Bruttoinlandsproduktes(BIP). Italiens Schulden explodierten in den 1980er Jahren buchstäblich von 60% des BIP im Jahr 1980 auf 120% in den frühen 1990er Jahren. Diese Schuldenexplosion war das Ergebnis verschiedener politischer Entscheidungen, die zusammengenommen bis heute katastrophale Auswirkungen haben. 1981 wurde die italienische Zentralbank vom  Finanzministerium “getrennt”. Damit endete eine implizite Vereinbarung, unter der die Bank von Italien den Kauf italienischer Schatzwechsel  garantierte. Die Zentralbank fungierte daher als ein “Käufer der letzten Instanz”, der es dem italienischen Staat ermöglichte, Kredite zu moderaten Zinssätzen aufzunehmen, indem die Staatsschulden, trotz schwindelerregender Primärdefizite, auf Kosten einer erheblichen Inflation monetarisiert wurden.

Ende der 1970er Jahre änderte sich die Geldpolitik in Europa und den Vereinigten Staaten radikal, Ziel war nun nicht mehr primär die Vollbeschäftigung, sondern die Bekämpfung der Inflation. Mit der Schaffung des europäischen Währungssystems wurde zudem ein System fester Wechselkurse eingeführt. Um den Wert der Lira gegenüber der D-Mark zu verteidigen sah sich Italien daher zunehmend gezwungen die Zinsen anzuheben um die hohe Inflation in den Griff zu bekommen. Die Inflation ging zurück,  da aber die italienische Zentralbank  den Kauf von Schatzwechseln nicht mehr garantierte, war die Folge, dass auch die Zinssätze für Staatsanleihen stiegen und sich die Staatsverschuldung verdoppelte. Zwischen Anfang der neunziger Jahre und der Eurokrise blieb die Verschuldung dank erheblicher Haushaltsanstrengungen und konstanten Primärüberschüssen stabil. Die Zinslast blieb allerdings  zu hoch und das Wachstum zu gering um die hohe Verschuldung abzubauen. Noch in den neunziger Jahren musste der italienische Staat  jedes Jahr 9,5% des BIP für Zinszahlungen aufbringen.

Dies hat sich auch seit dem Jahr 2000 nicht grundlegende geändert, die Zinskosten Italiens sind seitdem zwar auf durchschnittlich 4,4% des BIP gesunken liegen damit aber immer noch deutlich höher als etwa in Deutschland (1,84%) oder den Niederlanden (1,33%). Seitdem befindet sich die italienische Wirtschaft zudem in einer Abwärtsspirale: Kürzungen bei den Ausgaben zum Schuldenabbau drücken auf die Wirtschaft, was die Steuereinnahmen senkt, die nicht ausreichen, um die Zinsen für Schulden und laufende Ausgaben zu decken. Hinzu kommen aufgrund der alternde Bevölkerung auch steigende Renten- und Gesundheitskosten, die wiederum zu höheren Defiziten und mehr Schulden führen.  Trotz eines seit 1992 fast immer positiven Primärsaldos hat die Verschuldung daher sogar zugenommen, und Italien muss  immer noch Kredite zu höheren Zinssätzen aufnehmen als die meisten europäischen Länder. 

Anämisches Wachstum und Schuldendienst haben auch zu massiven Kürzungen bei den öffentlichen Investitionen geführt, die das Wachstum ankurbeln könnten. Seit den neunziger Jahren sind die öffentlichen Investitionen Italiens (etwa in Bildung und Infrastruktur) weniger stark gestiegen als in den meisten EU- Staaten und  reichen nicht einmal mehr aus um den Verfall der Infrastruktur zu verhindern[4]. Der Einsturz einer Brücke in Genua, bei dem 2018 43 Menschen ums Leben kamen, kann daher als symbolisch für den desolaten Zustand der Infrastruktur auf der Halbinsel betrachtet werden.[5] 

Europäische Zinsen: ein Nullsummenspiel

In den letzten Jahrzehnten befanden sich die Niederlande in einer günstigeren Haushaltslage als Italien. Das Land hat zuletzt sogar vermehrt Haushaltsüberschüsse erwirtschaftet. Lässt man  die für die Staatsschulden anfallenden Zinsen aber wieder außen vor und betrachtet den Primärsaldo, so waren die Niederlande in den letzten Jahrzehnten viel weniger diszipliniert als Italien. Dass die Niederlande,trotz wiederkehrender Primärdefizite, insgesamt eine bessere Haushaltslage hatten, ergibt sich daraus, dass die Niederlande  Kredite zu deutlich besseren Konditionen aufnehmen konnten bzw. können also viel geringere Zinsen zahlen müssen als Italien.

Auf den ersten Blick würde man denken, dass die niederländische und italienische Situation nicht viel miteinander zu tun haben: Italien gilt am Markt als weniger zuverlässig und muss Anlegern deshalb höhere Zinsen anbieten um sie zum Anleihenkauf zu bewegen. Dies ist vermutlich tatsächlich  ein Teil der Erklärung. Der Ökonom Paul de Grauwe hat aber auch gezeigt, dass die  Zinssätze der Euroländer voneinander abhängen, da ihre Anleihen allesamt auf die gleiche Währung lauten. In einer Krisensituation können sich Anleger daher aus einem Land, welches möglicherweise nicht in der Lage ist seine Schulden zu begleichen(wie Italien) zurückziehen und stattdessen in sichere Länder  (wie die Niederlande oder Deutschland)  investieren und damit deren Zinssätze senken. Dies ist genau das, was in der Eurokrise geschah bevor Mario Draghi  mit der Aussage  “Whatever it takes” klar stellte, dass die EZB bereit sei alles zu tun um den Euro zu retten.[7] Das gleiche geschah auch, als das Coronavirus Italien traf und  Investoren italienische Schulden verkauften, um deutsche oder französische Schulden zu kaufen.[8]Dieser Umstand  ist eines der Argumente für eine Bündelung der Schulde: denn derzeit kommt das Unglück der Südländer den Ländern des Nordens zugute.

Alexandre Afonso ist Associate Professor für politische Ökonomie an der Universität Leiden in den Niederlanden

Dieses Artikel wurde ursprünglich auf französich im Le Grand Continent veröffentlicht. Ich danke Maximilian Kiecker für seine Hilfe bei der Übersetzung


[1] https://www.politico.eu/article/netherlands-try-to-calm-storm-over-repugnant-finance-ministers-comments/

[2] https://www.politico.eu/article/portugal-antonio-costa-questions-dutch-commitment-to-eu-coronavirus-covid19/amp/

[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/22/dijsselbloem-under-fire-after-saying-southern-europe-wasted-money-on-drinks-and-women.html

[4] https://www.bruegel.org/2018/06/understanding-the-lack-of-german-public-investment/

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/feb/26/what-caused-the-genoa-morandi-bridge-collapse-and-the-end-of-an-italian-national-myth

[6] https://www.ceps.eu/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/WD%20346%20De%20Grauwe%20on%20Eurozone%20Governance.pdf

[7] https://www.lesechos.fr/2017/07/il-y-a-cinq-ans-draghi-sauvait-leuro-en-une-phrase-176926

[8] https://www.wsj.com/articles/investors-drop-italian-bonds-seeking-safety-in-german-and-french-debt-11582825743

Do Southern Europeans work less than Northern Europeans?

Elsevier Weekblad

Recently, the Dutch right-wing magazine Elsevier used this cover to illustrate its stance on the rescue package devised by European governments to tackle the corona crisis. The header reads “not a cent more for Southern Europe”. The drawing is quite explicit: at the top, blond hard-working Northern Europeans. At the bottom, a hairy South European sitting at a café, a dark-haired woman tapping on her phone by the pool.

Is this picture of lazy southerners and industrious northerners actually true? First, it’s important to say that this exercise is quite irrelevant for the issue of the rescue packages, debt mutualisation and other ways to tackle the crisis: Italy and Spain are so large that it doesn’t really matter if they “deserve” to be helped or not: if they face a liquidity crisis and go bankrupt, the damage will be so large for the Eurozone as a whole that Northern countries cannot do nothing. The question is whether there is some mechanism of conditionality or not. But if we still consider this question relevant for the political debate, a question would be: how many hours do people in different countries work throughout their life?

There are two indicators that are relevant to measure this: the number of hours workers put in per week or year, and the duration of their working life: how many years they spend in paid employment in-between their education and their retirement.

It seems that Northern countries generally have a longer working life, and retire later than Southern European countries. This map below was tweeted at me repeatedly by Dutch people to show that the Dutch have the longest working life in Europe. Why should Dutch people, so the argument goes, pay for Spaniards while they work 5 years longer?

Estimated duration of working life (Eurostat)

However, if you look at the number of hours worked each year, its is quite clear that Southern countries work more hours. The graph below shows the total number of hours worked per worker in a year in OECD countries. Workers in Germany (blue) and the Netherlands (purple) are at the bottom with about 1400 hours worked per worker per year, while Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece usually work many more hours each year, ranging from 1700 for Spain to almost 2000 hours for Greece. On average, the average Greek in employment works 36% more hours each year than the average employed Dutch person. “In employment” is important here though because a higher share of Dutch people are in employment than in Greece.

Hours worked per worker/year (OECD)

Looking at these two things together, there is a negative relationship between the number of hours worked each year and the expected duration of working life: countries (in the South) that work more hours each year usually have shorter working lives, while countries (in the North) with shorter hours tend to work more years and retire later. This surely has something to do with the structure of the economy: there are more low-skilled jobs in the South that tend to have longer hours but are more difficult to perform when you’re old (think of factory or construction workers) while there are more high-skilled jobs in the North that have shorter weekly hours but can be performed even when you’re old (think of tax advisors or business controllers).

Relationship between hours worked per year and expected duration of working life (in years)

So in theory it could be possible that these two things could balance each other: some countries could work more intensively for a shorter number of years while other could work fewer hours for a longer number of years, but in total they could have put in the same number of hours. How does it look like if you multiply the total number of hours worked per year by the duration of working life? It looks like this:

Estimated total number of hours worked over a working life

Workers that would have worked the highest number of hours over a working life would be Estonians, with more than 68’000 hours worked, and those with the lowest number of hours would be in Luxembourg, with 51’000 hours. There is absolutely no North-South divide: Greek, Portuguese and Spanish workers worked a higher estimated number of hours over their working life than Dutch or German workers. In fact, if you balance the duration of working life and the yearly hours worked, hard-working Germans actually work less than all Southern countries. And they can afford it, because labour productivity in Germany (and in the North) is higher in general.

It’s important to say that I only look at people in employment and don’t look at the population as a whole. These numbers show the number of hours worked per worker and not per inhabitant, or per working-age inhabitant. In countries with a lower employment rate (usually in the South), work is concentrated on a smaller portion of the population and the average number of hours for the whole working-age population will be smaller than if the employment rate was high. I leave this question aside because people who are not part of the labour force may actually be working and doing important things (caring for children or the elderly) but they’re simply not counted. For instance, women in Italy are more likely to stay at home when they have children than Swedish or Dutch women, and Swedish kids are more likely to be placed in childcare. All of these women work, but the hours of Italian women caring for their kids at home are not counted. This caveat is actually also valid for the number of weekly hours in general: what you can measure is quite different from the effort required for or the value of the work. But even if you look at the part that can be measured, the reality does not conform to stereotypes.

The Coronacrisis and Southern European Welfare States

Alexandre Afonso, Leiden University

Written for The Future is Blue Newsletter

The corona-crisis and the measures to slow the spread of the virus have led governments to put their economies in an “induced coma”. A large proportion of workers are either asked to work from home, or to put their economic activity on hold. The contraction in both demand and supply demands massive government intervention to support companies and workers. In Southern Europe, the crisis has revealed the fragilities of systems of income protection, but it could also constitute an opportunity to close longstanding gaps in social safety nets.

Southern European economies are the ones that will likely be the most negatively affected by the corona crisis. The European commission’s economic forecast for 2020 projects a decline of -9.5% of GDP in Italy, -9.7% in Greece, -9.4% in Spain and -6.8% in Portugal. In contrast, the projection for Germany is -6.5% and -5.5% for Austria. Northern Europe has a higher proportion of skilled, service-based jobs that are easier to perform from home (e.g business consultants and financial advisers), while jobs in Southern Europe tend to be less skilled (e.g shop assistants) and more difficult to perform remotely. In 2017, more than a third of Dutch workers worked sometimes or usually at home. This proportion was less than 5% in Italy. Prof. Pedro Martins of Queen Mary, University of London, estimated that only 9% of Portuguese workers could perform their job remotely.

The problem is that all these workers that cannot perform their job remotely need extensive government support, and Southern European safety nets have notoriously struggled to reach people at the periphery of the labour market. This is because they often privileged the protection of jobs over the protection of people. There are two ways to protect workers from unemployment: one can provide income support if they lose their jobs, or make it more difficult for them to lose their jobs in the first place. While employment protection has been relatively high (emphasising the latter), the social safety net had many gaps (to the detriment of the former). One simple way to measure this is to compare the number of people receiving unemployment benefits and the number of unemployed: the OECD shows that the discrepancy between these two numbers is much greater in Mediterranean countries than in Northern Europe. These gaps in coverage – due to restrictive entitlement rules such long minimum contribution periods, or a sizable informal sector – have particularly affected younger people, families and women without long and stable contributory periods.

In this context, reaching effectively those in need of government assistance has been a challenge in Southern Europe. “Layoff” or income protection programs have been able to reach those that could justify formal employment, but Southern Europe’s shadow workers, for instance the female carers and childminders that take care of the young and old in Italy, have struggled to access assistance while their economic activity had to be interrupted. The crisis could and should be an opportunity to improve this safety net.

Mapping the international mobility of political scientists

Pippa Norris was kind enough to share an advance version of the dataset she collected on academic political scientists around the world, which will be presented for the 50th anniversary of the European Consortium for Political Research. The datasets contains lots of variables about the education, place of work and career of political scientists employed at universities around the world. Because it includes information on the country where political scientists were born, where they got their degrees and where they work at the time of the survey, it is also suitable to visualise the international mobility of political scientists.

International mobility of political scientists

The first graph shows a network of political scientists who work in another country as the one where they were born: current country is the target, and country of birth is the source. I have restricted the data to individuals who hold a PhD, which results in a network of 445 individuals (the full dataset, which of course includes individuals who work in their country of birth, has 2446 entries). This variable is not able to differentiate whether people have grown up/studied in the country where they were born or not (we can gain some more information with the country of PhD as the source below). Moreover, the representativeness of this sample is not clear because of relatively low response rates for some countries, so we should be careful about generalisations.

Some interesting trends which correspond to intuition emerge, however. The United Kingdom appears as a central node in the network, mostly as a receiver of academics born elsewhere. The biggest exporters of political scientists to the UK are the United States and Germany, which has a negative migration saldo possibly due to the structure of the German academic job market (however, as mentioned below, the absence of academics with a German PhD working in the UK in the sample leaves a few doubts about the representativeness of the sample). The United States sends much more political scientists to Britain than the other way round; in contrast, the migration saldo between the UK and Australia is negative. Germany also sends a significant number of political scientists to the Netherlands, Switzerland and Scandinavia. What also comes out of the network is the centrality of Europe, North America and Australia in the mobility network.

Inflows and outflows of political scientists (country of birth-country of employment)

The data presented above uses country of birth as the origin of individuals. A different picture emerges if we take the country where they did their PhD as the origin, and the current country of employment as the target. This is what the second graph below shows. The nodes here are sized by out-degree: they are proportional to the number of outgoing PhDs . We can clearly see the dominance of the UK and the US in the network as the largest suppliers of PhDs for export. If we related this to the pattern presented in the previous network, this seems to involve essentially non-Brits obtaining their PhD in Britain and going elsewhere to work, possibly their country of birth. Italy occupies an interesting position in the network as a major exporter of PhDs, which can probably be accounted for by the European University Institute. There are some puzzling things in the data, however: strangely, there are only 3 political scientists in the dataset with a German PhD working in Britain, and none with a Dutch PhD. As mentioned before, the data should be taken with a pinch of salt; Ideally, this type of data could be collected from websites for completeness, as relying on surveys with variable response rates is bound to have a few problems.

Mobility of political scientists by where they got their PhD

Um mapa das relações familiares no Governo de Antonio Costa

Um mapa das relações familiares no Governo de Antonio Costa

Nas ultimas semanas, os jornais relataram um numero impressionante de relações familiares no governo de António Costa: casais, primos, irmãos a assumir cargos públicos em vários ministérios e secretariados de estado. Este artigo no Jornal Economico aponto a existência de uma rede de 50 pessoas e 20 famílias, todas elas ligadas ao governo e ao partido socialista.

Mesmo se o artigo do Jornal Economico é muito detalhado, é difícil ter uma vista global de esta rede. Isto é matéria ideal para uma análise de rede social (SNA). O mapa acima mostra a
rede de relações familiares no governo de António Costa usando o artigo do Jornal Economico. O que fiz concretamente: fiz uma lista de indivíduos e entidades governativas mencionadas no artigo e o tipo de ligações entre elas. As ligações familiares (e em certos casos amigáveis) estão indicadas em vermelho. Os indivíduos estão em vermelho e as entidades em cinzento. E possível aceder uma versão alta resolução se clicar na imagem.

Os dados utilizados para construir esta rede estão aqui. E possível eu ter esquecido algumas ligações, por isso é possível comentar na lista para adicionar indivíduos e entidades.

É importante clarificar que todas as relações no mapa não são necessariamente ilegais ou mesmo relacionadas com nepotismo. Acontece que quando se está envolvido na política, há uma grande probabilidade de este fato estruturar o resto das relações sociais (incluindo a escolha de cônjuge). Também é normal pessoas das mesmas famílias partilharem as mesmas ideias políticas. O que se torna problemático (para a democracia) é se ter ligações familiares torna-se uma condição para aceder certos cargos públicos. Finalmente, este mapa não implica que não há práticas semelhantes em outros partidos que estiveram no poder ( ver aqui.

Mapping Preferences over Brexit in the House of Commons

In the graph above (zoomable version here), I have mapped the votes of British MPs in the 8 options given to them on March 27 (a couple of hours ago) in indicative votes. This is a 2-mode network linking MPs and options for Brexit. The network graph shows how different options are related to each other: they are closer if a greater number of MPs have voted for them. Their size shows the number of favourable votes for each option (none of them obtained a majority. The graph show the high level of polarisation over these different options, with two clear poles: the “Hard Brexit” pole with a number of MPs for whom the only option is No Deal, or a preferential trade arrangement, and the Soft Brexit-No Brexit pole, linking the Customs Union, Labour’s Plan and a Second Referendum/Revocation of article 50. The EFTA/EEA and Common Market 2.0 options link the two poles, but there seems to be very few MPS that could be rallied in the middle.

Visualising the world’s 20 richest countries, 1800-2016 in one minute.

I made this animation using John Burn-Murdoch’s code and data from the Maddison Project Database.

Academic hierarchies in US political science

In a number of recent projects (see e.g here), I have been interested in the structure of the academic job market, how it is organised in different countries, and how it may shape the ideas that it produces (see here for a comparison of economists in the US and Germany). Something that we highlight in the latter paper is how concentrated and hierarchical the field of US economists is compared to Europe. Most top US economists are affiliated with a pretty small number of elite universities (Harvard, MIT, etc.). Is it different for other disciplines, for instance in political science? My hunch was that it isn’t.

I have just come across this paper by Kim and Grofman published in January 2019 on the “Political Science 400”, looking at the top-cited political scientists currently employed in US universities. The online appendix has some interesting data on these 400 top US political scientists, especially where they work now and where (and when) they got their PhD. This can give some interesting insights into the structure and hierarchies in US political science.

In the graph below, I have used this data to build a network of universities where each arrow represents a flow of political scientists in the top 400 linking the institution where they obtained their PhD (the source) and the institution where they worked in 2017 (the target). The size of the nodes represents the out-degree (the number of individuals who got their PhD from that institution) and the size of the arrows represents the number of academics

Network of US political scientists, 2017

What does the data show? First, we can see a “core” of prestigious universities who are fairly closely connected with each other: Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Princeton, Columbia, University of Chigago, Yale. In fact the top-5 granting institutions alone (Harvard, Berkeley, Michigan, Yale and Stanford) account for 40% of all the political scientists in the top-400. Harvard alone supplies 49 of the 400 top political scientists. The structures that comes out is indeed hierarchical: the “inner circle” of universities at the top mostly recruit from within the top-circle, other universities outside the circle recruit from the top, but there is fairly little “upward” mobility: few top universities recruit people from outside the top circle. Finally, access to the upper tier of US political science (and probably the whole field) is not very open to academics with a foreign PhD: only 22 (5.5%) of the top-400 have a PhD from a foreign institution.

Assigning podcasts as assignments to students

In my course on Global Challenges, I ask students to submit a policy podcast. Here are the guidelines that I give to students, and an example of what students have done.

Purpose of the assignment

The purpose of this assignment is for you to demonstrate the ability to use the theoretical tools provided in the course by a) analysing a concrete global challenge, and b) formulating policy proposals drawing on the theories discussed in the module. We ask you to put together a policy proposal podcast dealing with one out of three policy problems. You are expected to carry out some level of research on the problem at hand and collect the relevant data, analyse the causes of the problem, and formulate policy proposals to deal with the problem, by drawing on the lectures, the seminar discussions, and the readings of the module. The policy proposals should be grounded in the theories discussed in the module, but the language should be directed to a lay, informed audience.  

Three policy problems

You need to answer one of the following three questions:

1. Recently, the Italian government had decided to refuse entry to boats crossing the Mediterranean with migrants. How could we imagine a system where migrants seeking asylum are allocated fairly across European countries, in a way that is accepted by local citizens?

2. Donald Trump has announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accords signed in 2015. What kind of mechanism should we adopt so that large economies accept to reduce their carbon emissions?

3. How should we address the backlash against democracy and democratic norms in many parts of the world, including Europe? 

Format

You are asked to submit 1 audio file and the script of your audio.

Your audio podcast should contain the following sections:

(1) an introduction presenting the problem

(2) an analysis of the problem which makes use of frameworks discussed in the module,

 (3) a policy recommendation proposing concrete measures to solve this problem, and a discussion of the main alternatives,

(4) a brief analysis of the pros/cons of the measure proposed

(5) a conclusion/opening

The podcast should be last no more than 10 minutes. This should correspond to ca. 1800 words of script (https://www.thevoicerealm.com/count-script.php)

Data and evidence

Someone reading your script should know your sources of data (literature or people) and the alternatives you considered as well as your final recommendation. However, you do not need to reference explicitly in spoken word. The reader should also learn enough about how you did your work to make an informed judgment on how seriously to take its recommendations. Ask yourself “Is this credible?” “Why would they take my advice seriously?” This also relates to the use of sources: make sure that you use reputable sources. While there is a wealth of information on blogs and websites, a policy recommendation relying only on this type of sources may not appear totally reliable. 

Audience

The podcast should be written in the style of a real piece of policy advice designed to influence a (busy) policy-maker, so it should be clear, concrete and to the point, but without jargon.

Assessment criteria

The assignments will be assessed by drawing on the elements in the table below. Use concise, clear language. Note that writing for the document should be readable, so please keep margins and font sizes reasonable. Make sure that the document has a narrative flow: the policy analysis tells a story, and should not just be a shopping list of points under a series of headings. This should be something that a policy-maker can read and understand fairly easily, and which will aid him/her in the decision-making process. In the real world, overly dense, jargon-filled, poorly researched, sloppily written and badly presented documents would be handed right back to you to be fixed (at best).

Assessment criteria

  1. Clarity, coherence and feasibility of policy proposal
  2. Link to concepts & issues handled in class
  3. Creativity (effort to make podcast interesting, fun, entertaining; evidence of creative thinking)
  4. Format & Quality (delivery)

A note on the format

You are allowed to use music or effects in the podcast, but you do not have to. You will not be assessed on the technical aspects of the podcast as such (audio quality, etc), but making it exciting and interesting will enhance the appeal of your policy proposal.

Resources for making podcasts & examples

Migrant Workers or Working Women? Comparing Labour Supply Policies in Post-War Europe

Forthcoming in Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis (access article)

Abstract

Why did some European countries choose migrant labour to expand their labour force in the decades that followed World War II, while others opted for measures to expand female employment via welfare expansion? The paper argues that gender norms and left power resources were important structuring factors in these choices. Female employment required a substantial expansion of state intervention (e.g childcare; paid maternity leave). Meanwhile, migrant recruitment required minimal public investments, at least in the short term, and preserved traditional gender roles. Using the contrasting cases of Sweden and Switzerland, I argue that the combination of a weak left (labour unions and social-democratic parties) and conservative gender norms fostered the massive expansion of foreign labour and a late development of female labour force participation in Switzerland. In contrast, more progressive gender norms and a strong labour movement put an early end to guest worker programs in Sweden, and paved the way for policies to promote female labour force participation.

Keywords: labour migration; female employment; Sweden; Switzerland; comparative public policy