Archive for November, 2007

Nov 30 2007

Shanghai American School and the imperfectly competitive market for international teachers

Shanghai American School Employment – Available Positions

No article here, just some food for though about a meeting all SAS teachers attended today during lunch. Our director, Dennis Larkin, announced the changes being made to teachers’ salary and compensation packages for next school year. As anyone in international education knows, the market for teachers is a very competitive one these days. When I say competitive, I mean schools are forced to compete with one another for a rather scarce supply of teachers who are out there looking for work.

SAS has set as a goal to rank among the top five international schools in Asia with regards to compensation for teachers. It dawned on me during the meeting today that Dr. Larkin’s presentation illustrated a clear example of an imperfectly competitive labor market, the characteristics of which are a few large firms (in this cases schools) competing with one another to attract workers (teachers) to their firm, in order to meet a growing demand for the product being provided (students’ education). In East Asia, where schools all over China, Korea, and Japan continue to grow as more and more employees sent by foreign firms to oversee company operations in the region arrive with their families in tow, demand for more international school seats leads to demand for more international school teachers (remember, resource demand is derived demand). Rising tuition fees (price of the product) cause the marginal revenue product of teachers to increase (remember, MRP = PxMP), and since MRP is synonymous with demand, schools’ demand for labor also increases. Continue Reading »

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Nov 27 2007

Welker’s Wikinomics nominated “Best Educational Wiki 2007″! – go cast your vote!

Best WikiRecently our AP Economics class wiki (located at http://welkerswikinomics.wetpaint.com and http://welkerswikinomics.wiki.zoho.com) was nominated for a “Best Educational Wiki” award by the Edublog Awards. For this honor I am very proud of our econ students here at SAS, both this year’s and those from last year who helped get the wiki off the ground and build it into what it has become: a comprehensive online, student created study guide for the entire AP Micro and Macro course. If we wish to win this prestigious award, we need YOUR votes! Follow the link to the left and vote for Welker’s Wikinomics for the “Best Wiki 2007″ Award!

If you’re in China, click here to vote.

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Nov 26 2007

Black Friday sales data: what does it tell us about American consumers?

Holiday weekend retail sees big crowds, but no splurging – Nov. 25, 2007

Black Friday; a most interesting phenomenon of American culture. A day when consumer demand in retail product markets is at its strongest, the day after Thanksgiving when, still lightheaded from excess tryptophan and mashed potato intakes and an NFL overdose from the previous day, millions of Americans stumble full-bellied from their beds and flock to the malls and big box retail outlets of suburban America to give thanks to the gods of consumerism: Wal-mart, Target, JCPenny, Nordstroms, Macey’s… all the holy temples of our sacred religion open their golden gates to the hoards of consumption-crazed pilgrims, all hoping to pay tribute to their beloved deities with their almighty dollars.

Although deep discounts brought out much bigger crowds of holiday bargain hunters, a major retail trade group said Sunday that shoppers actually spent less money this year over the crucial Thanksgiving weekend.

The National Retail Foundation’s (NRF’s) 2007 Black Friday Weekend Survey said more than 147 million shoppers hit the stores over the Black Friday weekend, up 4.8 percent from last year.

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Nov 20 2007

Exports, good – Imports, ALSO GOOD!

Foreign Policy: Why We Trade

Professor Russ Roberts, host of the EconTalk podcast, has an essay in the latest issues of Foreign Policy journal titled “Why We Trade”. In this piece, Roberts defends the benefits of trade from a broad perspective, beyond the popular political view of trade, usually along the lines of exports, good – imports, bad”. Roberts compares this line of thinking (characteristic of presidential candidates of both the Republican and Democratic parties), to the 14th century, pre-Adam Smith view of world trade, known as mercantilism.

Mercantilism was a view of global economic interaction that placed emphasis on the accumulation of gold and other precious metals from abroad in exchange for your country’s exports. The doctrine failed to recognize the importance of imports from abroad, as this was viewed as a loss of wealth to foreigners. Mercantilists viewed wealth in terms of bullion or the amount of precious metals a country owned. Today, of course, our understanding of wealth has evolved to account for the amount of output, or products (goods and services), we are able to consume. Herein lies the flaw in the rhetoric of modern politicians who, “are always talking about the necessity of other countries’ opening their markets to American products. They never mention the virtues of opening U.S. markets to foreign products.”

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Nov 17 2007

Does Apple stand a chance?

China Mobile negotiating with Apple to carry iPhone

Try try as he might, Steve Jobs and Apple can barely launch their hottest new product, the iPhone, before the Chinese have copied it and put a knockoff on the market as quickly as you can say “can you hear me now?” But what is Apple doing making a cell phone anyway? Isn’t the mobile phone market pretty much dominated by a few big name companies already? How will apple ever survive in a market with such well established firms as Nokia, Samsung, and Motorola?

The answer is through product differentiation. The iPhone is truly an innovative little gadget. More than an MP3 player, more than a cell phone, the iPhone has features that differentiate it from most products available from the established firms in the mobile phone market. Like any firm, Apple advertises its iPod through commercials and other media in order to inform consumers about what makes its product special. What message does the following advertisement send about the iPhone?

YouTube Preview Image

The table below shows the market shares of the larges mobile phone makers as of late last year (before the release of the iPhone). A simple calculation finds that the four firm concentration ratio in the mobile market was 75.6%, clearly putting the market in the realm of an oligopoly (a market in which the four firm concentration ration is 40%).

source: http://www.swivel.com/graphs/show/5071535?per_page=50

With 75% of the market being controlled by Nokia, Motorola, Samsung and Sony Ericsson, the question arises whether Apple will be able to overcome the barriers to entry in the mobile market and establish itself as one of the big boys. Apple’s strategy for profits and market penetration certainly leverages the power of product differentiation and non-price competition, both firm behaviors common among firms in oligopolistic markets.

To make matters worse for Apple, only months after the iPhones release, and in the midst of negotiations between Apple and China Mobile to officially launch the product in China, a cheap, 4 GB knock-off of the fancy device comes along to entice Chinese consumers away from the 5,000 RMB (nearly $700) real deal. Check this thing out… would you be able to tell the difference?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What barriers to entry exist in the market for mobile phones?
  2. Why do you think so few firms produce mobile phones?
  3. Do you think Apple will be able to successfully penetrate the mobile market?
  4. What threat do cheaper “knock-offs” of the Apple iPhone pose to Apples attempts to compete in China’s mobile market?

165 responses so far

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