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"The Spectre of Stagnation? Europe in the World Economy", 22.10-24.10.2015, Berlin, Deutschland

The economic conference ‘The Spectre of Stagnation? Europe in the World Economy’ was organized by the Macroeconomic Policy Institute (IMK) at the Hans-Boeckler-Foundation and the Research Network Macroeconomics and Macroeconomic Policies (FMM). During the three days of the conference that took place from 22-24 October 2015 in Berlin, more than 350 participants engaged in the discussions with the presenters of about 140 selected papers in parallel sessions and 9 keynote presentations.
The main focus of the conference was the Great Financial Crisis and its consequences for the world economy. Europe, in particular, still suffers a prolonged slump with mass unemployment and outright deflation posing a threat to political and social stability of the European Union. The conference participants tried to shed light on the fact that some parts of the world recovered faster after the crisis, while others did not. The concern was raised if the stagnation was the new normal for Europe. The conference discussed theoretical and empirical aspects as well as policy options. It also dealt with the implications of these developments for the economics curriculum.

Keynote speakers discussed various topics related to secular stagnation, crisis and inequality. Roger Backhouse put the ongoing discussion on secular stagnation into historical perspective. Eckhard Hein criticized the mainstream's view of secular stagnation as the result of a negative real equilibrium interest rate. In his keynote speech, Peter Skott discussed the role of fiscal policy and public debt with respect to secular stagnation. He rejected the standard claim that there is a clear causal direction from high public debt to slow growth. Rather high public debt results from slow growth, austerity and rising inequality. However, the keynote speaker that got the most attention was Professor Mark Blyth. Mark Blyth criticized the political inability to solve the persistent economic crisis in Europe against the background of a deflationary environment. Ideological blockades and impotent institutions are the mutually reinforcing causes of European stagnation. The deeper roots lie in the structural change of the economic system since the 1980s, when neoliberalism emerged as hegemonic ideology. This ideology prepared the ground for austerity and resulting deflationary pressures and a strategy of all seeking to export their way out of trouble. Worryingly this is breeding populist and nationalist resentments in Europe.
In eight parallel sessions, a big range of up to date economic topics were covered: Inequality, Distribution, Stagnation, European, Economic Policy, Money and Credit, Finance and Crisis, Exchange Rate Policy, Austerity in Europe, Post-Keynesian models, Current Account Imbalances, Innovation and Growth, Labor Markets, Fiscal Policy etc. It was a great chance to hear some remarkable presentations with very innovative methods, conclusions and policy recommendations. At the same time, plenary sessions offered a great platform to raise questions, open new debates and challenge standard macro-economics.

It was my pleasure to get a chance to present my paper titled ‘Wage Inequality, Skill Inequality and Employment: Evidence from PIAAC’ in the session Distribution and Growth. I was talking about the relationship between skill compression and wage compression as well as labor market outcomes in terms of employment. I am sure that the feedback I got from the colleagues will help me improve my work and contribute to the higher quality of my PhD thesis.