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ANU Crawford School of Public Policy

Beginner’s guide to microeconomics for the public sector

One-day short course


4th May 2017


ANU Crawford School of Public Policy



Microeconomics focuses on the decision-making of consumers, households and firms. This course is designed to give economic beginners an introduction to key microeconomic principles.

Basic economic models of decision-making behaviour are introduced. The key insights that flow from these models are explored and developed. The role of markets and prices and the limitations of markets are explored. The role of government and the interaction between government and markets are key themes. The usefulness of economic models for successful policy design and implementation is highlighted throughout the course.

Course overview

Microeconomics analyses the behaviour of individual consumers, households and firms. It provides a framework for understanding decision-making by all of these agents in the economy. It examines motivations, incentives and decision-making processes. While its direct relevance to businesses is well understood, the insights and solutions that can be gained from microeconomics are equally important for the public sector. Successful policy design and implementation is greatly facilitated by a solid understanding of the responses and reactions of those influenced by policy.

This one-day course takes you through all the basic concepts of microeconomics including: trade-offs; marginal analysis; incentives; cost-benefit analysis; opportunity cost; market efficiency, inefficiency and failure; firm behaviour. The course uses role plays and case studies. Competing viewpoints will be presented.

The role of government, competition, monopolies and regulation, and state versus market decisions will also be explored in the course.

If you have ever wondered about what economists really mean when they talk about opportunity costs, externalities, comparative advantage and public goods, this course is for you.

This course is paired with a beginner’s course in macroeconomics. Because they are inter-related, it is recommended you attend both courses.

Course convenor

Professor Robert Breunig

Robert Breunig is Professor of Economics at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University. Professor Breunig is a highly respected academic with a strong research record and over 50 published journal articles. He has received funding from many grant programs including the Australian Research Council and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Professor Breunig’s recent research has examined the role of childcare subsidies in helping improve women’s work opportunities; an examination of the effect of immigration to Australia on the wages and working conditions of Australian citizens; an examination of spillovers in firm-level research and development expenditure and their role in innovation; and a study of the relative influences of inequality and severe poverty on economic growth around the world over the last 50 years.

Professor Breunig’s research agenda has led to many partnerships with government organisations in Australia and overseas. He is currently working with several agencies including the Department of Employment, the Australian Treasury, the Australian Taxation Office and the Productivity Commission.
Professor Breunig particularly enjoys interaction outside of typical academic circles and takes pleasure in helping those who don’t usually use economics or statistical analysis to better understand and make use of these tools in their work. He has an extensive track record of helping the public service to build research capacity which he views as a particularly important activity.

Course date: 
9.30am–4.30pm 4 May 2017
Venue: #132 Crawford Building, Lennox Crossing, ANU
Cost: A$1,350 GST incl; Group discounts applicable

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