Originally published in The Guardian on November 10, 2022

The current tightening of monetary policy is undoubtedly having an impact. While it may take some time for the slowing of inflation to flow through to the official CPI figures – especially given the level of inflation that is being imported – the economy is set to slow drastically.

As Labor Market and Fiscal Policy Director Greg Jericho notes in his Guardian Australia column the Reserve Bank in last week’s Statement on Monetary Policy, has forecast GDP growth to slow to levels normally associated with recessions – even if the RBA is not actually forecasting a recession.

However, in one area the RBA is not hedging at all – that of real household disposable income. This measure, which essentially examines the living standards of the average household, is forecast to decline at a pace as bad as any experienced in the past 60 years.

While a fall in household incomes was always expected given the abnormal level of stimulus that occurred during the pandemic, the fall is predicted to be much greater than just going back to where we were. The Reserve Bank predict incomes will fall well below the pre-pandemic trend level.

That such a drastic fall has received little coverage highlights that the orthodox commentary and debate around the economy largely focuses on aspects that minimise workers and households in place of corporations and the “broader” economy of GDP.

The cost of taming inflation is too often discussed in terms of whether it will send the economy into a recession, without examining if that measure misses the real-life experience of most people.

If the RBA forecast comes true, inflation will have been brought back to the RBA target, GDP will have kept growing, but household living standards will have plunged.

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