In recent years, evaluations of national elections have tended to focus on regional differences in the way people vote, particularly on the number of ‘protest voters’. This has led to the term ‘the geography of discontent’; the geographical distribution of discontent in a country. On 28 March Bart Los will present his inaugural lecture on regional
inequality in times of globalization .
Income inequality between regions has always played an important role in the extent to which people express their discontent during elections or referenda. This disparity is often directly related to differences in economic specialization patterns in the regions. Economic shocks (such as the current rapid pace of computerization and the globalization of production processes) are turning some regions into ‘winners’, while other areas are left to deal with the negative effects. Recent research has shown that the development of China as ‘a global factory’ is having a largely positive impact on many regions in the USA (particularly as a consequence of lower commodity prices), while other regions (with significant industrial activity) are suffering,
because of lower employment and wage levels.
The vast majority of research into the phenomena described above assumes regions to be separate, independent entities. But in his inaugural lecture, Prof. Bart Los claims that in reality, they are highly interdependent and that developments in one region have definite implications for other regions. This type of interdependence and the globalization of production processes can be studied in a consistent framework using what are referred to as ‘world input-output tables’, as
recently co-developed by researchers from the University of Groningen. The tables make it possible to calculate the part played by regions in global value chains (internationally fragmented production processes, organized by major multinationals), as they have evolved since around 2000.
The role a region plays in global value chains is not necessarily constant in the long term. Innovation can lead to contributions that generate more added value, which would help to reduce regional disparity in income. Los will conclude his speech with a brief look at government policies that could promote this type of innovation.
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