What are some of the main consequences of inflation?
Many government s have a target for a low but positive rate of inflation. They believe that persistently high inflation can have damaging economic and social consequences.
Income redistribution: One risk of higher inflation is that it has a regressive effect on lower-income families and older people in society. This happen when prices for food and domestic utilities such as water and heating rises at a rapid rate.
Falling real incomes: With millions of people facing a cut in their wages or at best a pay freeze, rising inflation leads to a fall in real incomes.
Negative real interest rates: If interest rates on savings accounts are lower than inflation, people who rely on interest from their savings will be poorer. Real interest rates for millions of savers have been negative for at least four years
Cost of borrowing: High inflation may also lead to higher interest rates for businesses and people needing loans and mortgages as financial markets protect themselves against rising prices and increase the cost of borrowing on short and longer-term debt. There is also pressure on the government to increase the value of the state pension and unemployment benefits and other welfare payments as the cost of living climbs higher.
Risks of wage inflation: High inflation can lead to an increase in pay claims as people look to protect their real incomes. This can lead to a rise in unit labour costs and lower profits for businesses
Business competitiveness:If one country has a much higher rate of inflation than others for a considerable period of time, this will make its exports less price competitive in world markets. Eventually this may show through in reduced export orders, lower profits and fewer jobs, and also in a worsening of a country’s trade balance. A fall in exports can trigger negative multiplier and accelerator effects on national income and employment.
Business uncertainty: High and volatile inflation is not good for business confidence partly because they cannot be sure of what their costs and prices are likely to be. This uncertainty might lead to a lower level of capital investment spending.
Geoff Riley FRSA has been teaching Economics for nearly thirty years. He has twenty years experience as Head of Economics at leading schools. He writes extensively and is a contributor and presenter on CPD conferences in the UK and overseas.
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