London Daily

Focus on the big picture.

'Greedflation' explored: Are businesses making inflation worse through excessive profits?

'Greedflation' explored: Are businesses making inflation worse through excessive profits?

Sky's economics & data editor examines whether there is a case to answer on the accusation that UK firms are ripping us off and making the cost of living crisis worse in the process.

It's an ugly word for an ugly phenomenon. 'Greedflation' is the new buzzword in economics.

The thesis is quite simple. While a certain chunk of the inflation we're currently living through can undoubtedly be put down to higher energy prices and a chunk put down to higher wages as employers pass those costs onto their workers, there's a sizeable chunk that comes back to something else: profits.

Some economists argue that businesses are using the cost of living crisis as an opportunity to generate excessive profits.

This isn't just an idle theory. Economists at the European Central Bank (ECB) actually have some statistical evidence to back it up.

You can only learn so much by breaking down the consumer price index, the traditional measure of rising prices (inflation, let's not forget, is simply the rate at which the prices of the average goods and services we spend most of our money on change each year).

That might tell you how much is down to food price inflation but it can't give you a sense of how much of that given increase in food prices is benefiting workers versus their employers.

But there is another way of skinning the numbers. You can look instead at another measure of prices, something called the gross domestic product deflator.

Looking at prices this way, via another dataset, allows you to work out how much of the pricing pressure we're currently seeing can be put down to profits and how much down to wages (or indeed other factors like taxes).

And the ECB chart is pretty stark:

The key thing to look at are the red slices of the bar. That's showing you how much of the rise in prices in the past few years can be attributed to profits.

And it's pretty clear that profits have been a considerable chunk of the recent increases in prices. Indeed, in the most recent couple of quarters of data, for late 2022, profits accounted for more of the rise in prices than wages (the green slices).

Now, some would argue that this isn't necessarily profiteering. It's simply businesses doing what they always do when there's lots of demand for goods and raising their prices.

Without that response, the market as we know it simply wouldn't function. Nonetheless, some say it underlines that a good chunk of the price squeeze is due to the greed of businesses.

So that's the eurozone. How about the UK?

Well in the past few days we at Sky News have done a similar exercise to the ECB, using our own GDP deflator data to create our own 'greedflation' chart. And here's what it shows:

A few obvious things leap out. The first is that enormous spike in prices and then the fall during COVID and its aftermath.

As far as I can tell this was in large part a function of the fact that wider measures of the economy were all over the shop.

It's quite hard to know how much to read into anything going on during this yo-yo as for all we know it could be a statistical aberration (perhaps worthy of some further study).

But now look at the red slices. While the slice is certainly pretty big in the very latest quarter for which we have data (the final quarter of 2022), even in that quarter profits were still slightly smaller as a component part of the GDP deflator than wages.

And look a little further back and actually the contribution of profits to prices was far, far smaller than in the eurozone.

In other words, if this is our best statistical measure of 'greedflation' - and it seems to be - then we have considerably less of it here in the UK than there is on the other side of the Channel.

Tempting as it is to blame businesses for what we're suffering through, there's not an enormous amount of evidence from these figures that they are the main culprit. Actually, taxes (in other words the government) contributed much more to inflation in 2021 and into 2022 than business profits.

Now, with Britain facing double-digit inflation, a miserable cost of living crisis and rising interest rates, the above might not be of much consolation. And it's quite possible the numbers may well shift - note that these figures are a little slow to be updated, so we don't know the picture as of the early part of this year.

Even so, it's a reminder that the data sometimes tells a subtly different story to the mainstream narrative.


Related Articles

London Daily
Hello and welcome back. Here we are with your latest news update from around the world.
Hello and welcome back. Here are today's top stories from around the world, you don't want to miss:
UK PM Sunak and the Election Betting Scandal
Climate Activists Target Taylor Swift's Private Jet in UK
United States Bans Kaspersky Antivirus
US to Supply Taiwan with Suicide Drones Amid Rising Tensions with China
Bodyguard of UK Prime Minister Arrested for Alleged Election Betting
Global Displacement Crisis: Record Numbers in 2023
Muslim Community Leader Criticizes Nigel Farage for Undermining Muslims
Melinda Gates Discusses 'Horrible' Divorce from Bill Gates
Child Obesity Surge in England: A Deep Concern
U.S. Sues Adobe Over Hard-to-Cancel Subscriptions
Deadly Heat Wave Claims Dozens of Lives During Hajj Pilgrimage in Mecca
Here are today's top worldwide stories you don’t want to miss:.
World’s Largest Pilot Union Calls to Eliminate Terms Like ‘Cockpit’ and ‘Manpower’ for Equity
Woman Suing UK Intel Services Denies China Spy Allegations
Iran Sentences Nobel Laureate Narges Mohammadi to 1-Year Prison Term for Propaganda
News roundup
Good day, everyone! We've got some gripping stories for you today, spanning from the Middle East to Europe, and even a touch of Hollywood.
Britain’s Refugee Visa Rules Stranding Children in War Zones
UK Elections Predict ‘Electoral Extinction’ for PM Sunak’s Conservative Party
Italian Activist Ilaria Salis Returns Home After Election to European Parliament
Good morning!
England Faces Serbia in Euro Opener with Defensive Concerns
Dermatologist Warns Against Sunbed Usage
Fake Pro-Reform UK Social Accounts and Their Influence on Elections
UK Man Jailed for Non-Consensual Condom Removal
Reform UK Surpasses Conservatives in Historic Poll
US, Britain, Canada Accuse Russia of Interference in Moldova’s Election
Taylor Swift Fans Create Seismic Activity in Edinburgh
Sunak Aide Under Investigation for Election Bet
Labour Leader Starmer Focuses on Wealth Creation for Upcoming UK Elections
G7 to Use Frozen Russian Assets for $50 Billion Ukraine Aid
Anti-Israel Irish MEP Clare Daly LOST her seat in the EU Election
Johnson & Johnson Settles Talc Safety Claims for $700 Million
EU Urged to Welcome Skilled Russians to Weaken Putin
EU Elections Overview: Far-Right Gains and Major Political Shifts
Israel Rescues Four Hostages from Gaza
Emmanuel Macron Calls for Snap Election
Jordan Bardella: Young Far-Right Leader Poised for Future Political Influence in France
World's Oldest Privately Owned Book Auctioned for $3.8 Million
Animal Rights Activists Deface King Charles' Portrait in Protest
Dutch Military Intel Uncovers Extensive Chinese Cyber Espionage
Turkish Student Arrested for Using AI to Cheat in University Exam
Rise in Dengue and Other Mosquito-Borne Diseases in Europe Due to Climate Change
EU Elections Overview: Far-Right Gains and Major Political Shifts
Far-Right National Rally Dominates France's EU Vote
Macron Calls Snap Legislative Elections After Far-Right Victory
Far-Right Gains Significantly in EU Election
UK Job Market Shows Signs of Recovery