The Recession: Routes, Reach, Responses

By way of introduction …

In Macon City, Iowa, the McMillans are coping with some new realities. In late 2008, Dennis lost his job as a saw operator after almost 15 years with the same company. “It was October 30,” the 61-year-old told the Globe Gazette newspaper. “Some dates you never forget.” Eight months later it was his wife’s turn: After working for 20 years in a hospital, Melody was let go. Today, she’s still looking for work: “I really thought I’d get a position. But I’m overqualified for some jobs because of being a specialist and underqualified for other jobs …”

In Dublin, Kelly Lynch is coming to terms with the sudden death of the “Celtic Tiger” – the booming economy that transformed Irish expectations. “Our generation never experienced anything but the Celtic Tiger. We heard about the [recession of the] 1980s, but it was all just whispers and ghost stories. Now it’s come back and, yeah, it’s a bit of a shock,” the 24-year-old told The Irish Times.

In Bangkok, Witaya Rakswong is learning to live on less. He used to work as a sous chef in a luxury hotel in Thailand. Then he worked in a bar in Bangkok until its customers stopped coming. Now he’s cooking in a cafe on the outskirts of the Thai capital, earning 60% of his hotel salary. “If you spend it wisely, you’d be able to get by,” the 37-year-old told World Bank researchers. “Getting by” has meant cutting his mother’s allowance by a fifth. “It hurts everybody,” he said. “Even if you’re not laid off, you’re still affected by the crisis, because you’re stuck with more work to do for the same or less money. It stresses me out sometimes … ”

Different stories, different cities, but all united by one thing: The recession. After the financial crisis of 2008 came an economic downturn that saw world GDP fall by an estimated 2.2% in 2009 – the first contraction in the global economy since 1945. Even more striking was how it hit so many of the world’s economies. While the extent to which economies slowed varied, most suffered some sort of setback, making this truly a global crisis, perhaps the first of its kind.

►              This chapter looks first at some of the routes the recession took through economies and then at its global reach: The recession may have its roots in the financial centres of developed countries, but its impact stretched far beyond to include emerging and developing countries. Finally, we’ll look at how governments moved to tackle the crisis.

Brian Keeley

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