Freitag, 6. März 2009

Journalistic quality control (or rather: lack thereof)

I like the FT. All in all, I think they are doing a good job.

Having said that, sometimes there are articles that make you wonder: Do they have no quality control whatsoever?

Today's FTD had a special section devoted to real estate". One particular article caught my attention:

The writer started off by saying that China's economy is barely touched by the global crisis and will grow by 8.5 % in 2009.

Never mind that even the Chinese government is only targetting 8.0 %, that nobody believes that official forecast, and that another FT article published that same day shows a table with an estimated GDP growth of roughly 6 %. That's just statistics, and a somewhat higher or somewhat lower projection doesn't really matter.

But then it gets bizarre:

The writer argues that China's high GDP growth is bad news for China's real estate market.

Why does he think so?

Well, the argument goes like this: High GDP growth has led to high wage growth. Therefore, companies are abandoning China in droves, and shifting production to cheaper countries. Therefore, offices and factories all over China are now idle and empty.

In other words: Because China's GDP is growing fast, it needs fewer offices and factories.

Yeah, right.

But at least the article ends on a positive note:

Because China will keep growing, it needs to build additional "several billion square meters of office-space" during the next 30 years.

(I could ask why China's fast growth suddenly does lead to more demand for offices, as opposed to less demand, as argued by the same author a few lines further up, but let's not go there...)

Let's see:

China has a working-age population of 700 m, which is projected to be slightly lower 30 years from now than it is at the moment (one-child policy, remember?).

Assuming 10 m2 office-space per worker (pretty generously-sized for a cubicle), and interpreting "several billion" to be on the low end, i.e. 3 billion, we arrive at 300 m office workers.

Not total number of office-workers. Additional office-workers on top of today's number of office-workers.

Considering that China already has its fair share of office workers, the implication would be that considerably more than half of all working-age Chinese will have their personal 10 m2 of floor-space in an office building.

Which might lead to the question: Who will work in factories, teach in schools, make up hotel rooms, grow rice, drive cabs, serve meals, cut hair, fly planes, etc.?

(OK, I suppose we don't need to list the factory workers, because we were told earlier on that all factory jobs are already in the process of being moved to lower-cost countries...)

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