Productivity and Innovation

Hal Varian, 30 March 2020

Several recent studies have considered the impact of automation on labour demand in the coming decades. But demand is only one side of the labour market – the supply of labour will also change dramatically in the next 50 years due to demographic effects. This column discusses how the net outcome for wages and employment will depend on the relative magnitude of these shifts in demand and supply. The supply-side effects due to demographic forces appear likely to be somewhat greater than the demand-side changes due to automation for at least the next decade, and possibly longer.

David Martínez Turégano, 30 March 2020

The large differences in labour productivity across EU countries go a long way towards explaining their divergent living standards. To help explain variations in labour productivity, this column focuses on firm size and finds an overall positive relation between firm size and labour productivity. Countries with a distribution skewed to smaller firms – particularly in Southern Europe – show significantly depressed productivity performance. Improving judicial and government efficiency could help stimulate productivity growth in these member states.

Ana Venâncio, Victor Barros, Clara Raposo, 29 March 2020

Corporate tax is often seen as a constraint to entrepreneurial activity. This column uses evidence from a tax reform in Portugal to study the relationship between corporate taxes and the behaviour of entrepreneurs. Lower corporate taxes improve both the quantity and quality of entrepreneurial activity, inducing larger and more productive firms to the market, which are more likely to survive in the long term. The study suggests that, on average, the entrepreneurs who were able to take advantage of the reform are mostly male, relatively older, and well-educated individuals.

Richard Baldwin, 22 March 2020

“Go big. Act fast. Keep the lights on” is good advice for governments trying to flatten the epidemiological and recession curves simultaneously. This column argues that the combination of containment policies that dampen production and stimulus policies that maintain spending will generate supply-side problems. Cost-push inflation may return, political pressures for price controls and rationing may be irresistible, and governments may find themselves engaged in thinking about production and logistics of the type not undertaken since the 1940s.

Debora Revoltella, Désirée Rückert, Christoph Weiss, 18 March 2020

European firms lag behind the US in R&D investment and the adoption of digital technologies. Using firm-level data from 2019, this column finds that larger firms have higher rates of digital adoption than do their smaller peers, and that digital firms have better management practices and show more dynamism. European policymakers looking to close the innovation gap should address structural barriers to investment in digitalisation, remove disincentives to grow, and reduce market fragmentation, particularly in the service sector.

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