2 Understanding the new economy
Reflecting upon the economic activities mentioned in ‘10 p.m. Friday evening’ suggests three possible ways of understanding what is actually happening to the economy, how it is changing. First, it is widely believed that we live in an increasingly globalised economy in the sense that economic activity in different countries is more interdependent and more integrated than it used to be. Second, this interdependence is connected to the fact that ICT plays a greater role in economic activity nowadays. For example, as Sunil in India and Claire in England demonstrate, the internet brings people closer together in space and time and has created new ways of organising business transactions. Third, the nature of work has changed, with new jobs in high-income countries tending to be in the service sector rather than in manufacturing. These changes – globalisation, greater role of ICT and the shift from manufacturing to services in industrialised economies – have been linked together to characterise the new economy. In examining these changes we will discover that working patterns have also undergone significant change, adding a fourth dimension to the new economy. The typical worker is now as likely to be female as male and to work with a computer whether they are gas boiler engineers or travel agents. They are also much less likely to work a standard working week than even ten years ago. In Sections 2.2–2.4 we examine these three changes in turn and in Section 2.5 reflect on their implications.