Showing all posts tagged: economics

Teleportation: the superpower of choice of superheroes

2 July 2024

Given the choice, a regular person, like you or me, who decides they’d like to become a superhero, will choose teleportation as their superhero superpower. In preference to three other choices they could have made: mind-control, flight, or supernatural physical strength. This is the long-story-short conclusion of some recent research into the subject, by Julian J. Hwang and Dongso Lee.

I’m not so sure about teleportation as a superpower though. It would certainly be useful for travel, but for a superhero? I’d go for mind-control, or supernatural physical strength, instead. Wouldn’t either of those be more useful in subduing your foes?



Burritos power Guzman Y Gomez to hot sharemarket debut

21 June 2024

Shares in Australian founded Mexican food restaurant Guzman Y Gomez (GYG: it’s not only an initialism, it’s a ticker code) had a stellar debut on their first day of trading on the ASX, with one market pundit describing the launch as “the hottest float on the stock market in years“:

Its shares opened at $30, a premium of more than 36 per cent to what investors paid ahead of the blockbuster initial public offering under the ticker “GYG”.

The float price for GYG shares was $22, and as of the close on trading, yesterday afternoon, were priced at $30 a piece. GYG’s burritos sure are hot, as I’ve said before.


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Well-built furniture should last centuries, not a couple of years

12 June 2024

Tim Bray:

When Lauren was pregnant with a child who’s now turning 25, we purchased a comfy dark-brown leather sofa which fits our living room nicely. What with kids and relatives and employees and cats and Standards Comittees and friends and book clubs and socials, the butt-support cushions had, a quarter century later, worn out. So we had them replaced, at a fair price, by a small local business. Which is something that modern capitalism is trying to make impossible.

An old neighbour runs a furniture recycling business. His speciality is something called mid-twentieth-century furniture, sometimes mid-century furniture. It has a darker, wood stain/grain look, and really isn’t my thing. But it’s sturdy, well-built furniture, and will still be here long after the self-assembly particle-board stuff, this is presently so popular, has crumbled into ruin.

Short wonder my neighbour can’t keep up with demand for furniture that’s seventy-years old.


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Guzman y Gomez goes to IPO, eyes burrito world domination

3 June 2024

I’m not exactly a fan of large-chain food and beverage outlets. But Sydney based Mexican cuisine fast food restaurant Guzman y Gomez, AKA GYG (to me, anyway) is not quite large-chain. Not at the moment, though there are near to two-hundred stores in Australia, sixteen in Singapore, and a handful in Japan, and the United States.

But a successful IPO might see them coming to a location near you, should you currently not reside in any of their catchment areas. At this stage, it is anticipated they will commence trading on the Australian Securities Exchange, on 20 June 2024. Of their burritos, my favourite items on their menu, I will say they make for a fulfilling meal.

I couldn’t say the same for the offering from all large-chain fast food restaurants though.


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Only one in five Australian musicians earn a full time income

4 April 2024

The latest Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) survey of the pay and work conditions of Australian musicians makes for grim reading. In particular, the stand-out finding that half of local musos earned less than six thousand dollars last year.

Six thousand dollars.

The adult minimum annual wage in Australia, based on earnings of $882 per week, and assuming payment covers fifty-two weeks of the year, is a shade under forty-six thousand Australian dollars. Only twenty percent of musicians said they made a full time income from their work.

Many musicians needed to work several jobs, often perform at shows unpaid, and seldom receive superannuation payments. In 2022, the NSW Labor party promised to pass laws ensuring musicians performing at publicly funded events, receive a minimum payment of two-hundred-and-fifty dollars.

At least it’s a start, but I think the findings of the MEAA survey make it glaringly obvious: more support is needed for the performing arts in Australia.


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Workers using cafes as offices may reduce their profitability

3 April 2024

Malcolm Knox, writing for The Sydney Morning Herald:

Then there are rents, insurance, equipment and other fixed costs. In a Sydney suburb near me, a new cafe is paying $5000 a week in rent. At $1000 per 7am-to-1pm shift, they need to be selling 300 coffees a day to make it worth their while. That’s nearly one a minute. They don’t often make money on food, which requires more infrastructure such as cooking, storing, plates and so on. It’s all down to their coffee price.

Cafes are a great stand-by for the WFH crowd, an office away from the home office. They’re somewhere to work, be in the company of others, while enjoying a coffee. Or two. Or three. In fact, the more the merrier, so far as the cafe is concerned.

But as much as I love the idea of working in a cafe, I do so infrequently. And then in short bursts — an hour tops — and I will buy at least one coffee and a cake — valued at maybe a little more than ten dollars — to make my stay at least partially worthwhile for the cafe. But even then, I’m short-changing the owners, as they’re hoping to earn closer to forty dollars an hour on the table I occupy.

Running a cafe you see, is an expensive undertaking, and WFH workers who buy a single cup of coffee, and expect to have the same table to themselves all day, are doing the cafe a distinct disservice. I’m fortunate to have a couple of hot-desk options if I don’t want to work at home, virtually negating the need to use a cafe, something I’m sure owners are grateful for. Instead, I’ll come by for a take-out coffee, and be on my way.


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Libraries, co-working spaces lending out sewing machines, iPads, and more

1 September 2023

Australian libraries are no longer quiet places to study or borrow books, writes Bec Zhuang for The Guardian. Today they are community hubs offering working spaces, meeting rooms, film screenings, art shows, and study courses, among other things. And in some places, libraries loan out more than books. Musical instruments, gaming consoles, sewing machines, bike repair tool kits, and, in the case of Waverley library, in Sydney’s east, iPads, are now potentially on offer:

In fact, libraries are transforming into “community hubs” to work, play or access outreach services — at no cost to visitors. The Australian Library and Information Association says forthcoming data from Public Libraries Victoria’s annual survey suggests that, with Covid restrictions now over, participation in free library programs increased by 95% this year.

Up until the pandemic I used to work semi-regularly at a nearby library. Looking around, I’d frequently see the same people each time, and it was apparent many were operating small businesses, or working there. Of these regulars, one often conducted meetings with clients in the library’s foyer, as there were, at the time, no dedicated meeting rooms.


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The perils of a cashless Australian society

23 August 2023

Australian dollar bills and coin, image by Squirrel photos

Image courtesy of Squirrel photos.

Just seven percent of Australians are “high cash” users according to Australia’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia. Tap-to-pay contactless payment methods, which are simple and convenient to use, have dispensed with the need to carry wads of money in our bags and pockets.

In addition, the amount of cash in circulation is at an all-time low, down by a billion dollars in the last financial year, as people use other payment methods. That has some pundits already predicting Australia will become a cashless society sooner rather than later. That’s welcome news for those who don’t feel safe carrying cash, and means less cash handling hassle for people like shop-owners.

But a completely cashless Australia does not suit all. Not everyone has a smartphone, rendering tap-to-pay useless to them. Some people — including newly arrived immigrants — don’t even have a bank account. One or two people are still paid cash for their work, and would be put out if retailers refused to accept cash. Or, for that matter, should banks stop handling cash, as is the case in some places in Sweden, which is seen as one of the world’s most cashless societies.

These factors aside though, some don’t like the idea of government agencies, the tax office in particular, knowing exactly how much they earn. Other people meanwhile crave privacy. They don’t want all their spending recorded on a bank statement, that unwanted eyes might peruse. Mortgage applicants, for instance, may not want prospective lenders knowing how much they spend on, say, coffee, something that’s certainly open to scrutiny when using tap-to-pay.

Despite the gloomy outlook for cash, Australia certainly won’t become cashless overnight, and if there are plans to do away with cash, there would be plenty of warning. The future of cheques makes for a good road map here. According to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, cheques, which will be phased out in 2030, account for 0.2% of financial transactions.

That’s far less than cash, and there’s a generous seven year warning ahead of their demise. Implementing infrastructure allowing everyone to transact without cash is a process that could take decades. While I can’t see cash being around forever, it’s not going anywhere soon.



Australian cafes feel brunt of rising inflation, interest rates

17 July 2023

Australian cafes are among those bearing the brunt of the cost of living crisis. Many are dealing with rising overheads, and reduced revenue, as their customers — who are negotiating increased rent or mortgage payments, among other things — feel compelled to reduce discretionary spending.

As a result, many cafes are going out of business:

About one-sixth of cafes advertised for sale now will close down before finding a buyer. In May, ASIC data showed business insolvencies were at the highest monthly rate in eight years. So far the insolvencies have been dominated by construction firms, but hospitality is expected to overtake it in 2024, credit reporting agency CreditorWatch said.

At a large shopping centre I visit in Sydney’s east, I’ve seen about half a dozen coffee shops close in perhaps the last twelve months. While myriad factors could account for this, including a noticeable decline in foot traffic in the centre, rising interest rates and inflation are surely also to blame.

It’s sad to see. For many people, operating a cafe is one way of realising the dream of owning a small business and being self-employed, together with creating work opportunities, both direct and indirect, for other people.


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WikiHouse a possible solution to affordable housing shortages?

25 June 2023

Housing shortages, along with rising interest rates and mortgage repayments, are presently driving up rents and homelessness. To alleviate the problem, the supply of affordable accommodation needs to be increased. But planning and constructing safe, well-built dwellings, takes time.

The WikiHouse project, based in Britain, are designers of sustainable, open-source, modular housing, and may be part of the solution. Long story short, component blocks of durable plywood can be made, which bolt together, in a similar fashion to self-assembly furniture, to create a house.

Perhaps this is something worth looking at?


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