Laurence Boone, Céline Renucci, Ruben Segura-Cayuela, 25 March 2013

What happens after the crisis ends? This column estimates the long-term effects of the current cyclical downturn on Eurozone economies. In the absence of any real impetus for bold reform, estimates show that the damage will indeed be long lasting, permanently impairing growth for an ageing population that requires higher growth capacity more than ever before.

Allan Collard-Wexler, Jan De Loecker, 03 February 2013

This paper measures the impact of the minimill, a drastic new technology for producing steel. The authors find that the sharp increase in the industry's productivity is linked to this new technology, and operates through two distinct mechanisms. First, minimills displaced the older technology, called vertically integrated production, and this reallocation of output was responsible for a third of the increase in the industry's productivity. Second, increased competition, due to the expansion of minimills, drove a substantial reallocation process within the group of vertically integrated producers, driving a resurgence in their productivity, and consequently of the industry's productivity as a whole.

Amit Khandelwal, Shang-Jin Wei, Peter Schott, 02 December 2012

If trade barriers are managed by inefficient institutions, trade liberalization can lead to greater-than-expected gains. This paper examines Chinese textile and clothing exports before and after the removal of externally imposed quotas. Both the surge in export volumes and the decline in prices after the quota removal are driven by net entry, implying that the pre-liberalisation quota allocation is not based on firm productivity. Removing this misallocation accounts for a substantial share of the overall productivity gains associated with the quota removal.

Abigail Hughes, Jumana Saleheen, 19 August 2012

Worker productivity in the UK and a number of other countries has been persistently weak since the onset of the global crisis. This column argues that, in the UK at least, the weakness in service sector productivity is the biggest puzzle. In most other countries the weakness is more obvious in manufacturing.

Andreas Moxnes, Karen-Helene Ulltveit-Moe, Esther Ann Bøler, 18 July 2012

With trade barriers rising, the time is right to refresh the evidence that openness to trade comes with substantial benefits. This column focuses on the complementarity between R&D and foreign sourcing. Looking at Norwegian firms from 1997 to 2005, it argues that one fifth of productivity growth came from sourcing more foreign products, while the remaining four fifths came from technical change.

Marga Peeters, Ard den Reijer, 03 January 2012

While EU leaders are drafting a fiscal compact, the problem of intra-European real exchange-rate misalignments remains. This column argues that reducing imbalances implies a focus on competitiveness, and hence on the alignment of nominal-wage growth with labour-productivity growth.

Dani Rodrik, 09 November 2011

Poor countries have access to world markets and rich countries’ technologies. In principle, they should catch up. Yet the record belies this expectation. But this column argues labour productivity in manufacturing displays a clear tendency towards convergence, unconditional on the countries’ institutions or policies. The policies that matter for growth are thus those that bear on the reallocation of labour from nonconvergence to convergence activities.

Dani Rodrik, 31 October 2011

If rich and poor countries have access to the same technology, shouldn't their productivity levels eventually converge? This would imply that poor countries should grow more quickly until they catch up – but such a tendency has never been proven. CEPR DP8631 shows that this convergence in output does in fact occur – but within manufacturing sectors rather than in economies as a whole.

Serguey Braguinsky, Lee Branstetter, André Regateiro, 10 September 2011

Portugal was the third member to join the unenviable club of bailed-out Eurozone countries. This column explores one of the central weaknesses of the Portuguese economy – its low productivity. It finds that this is in part the result of the shrinking size of Portugal’s companies, which is in turn caused by distortions in its labour market that need to be fixed.

Uri Dadush, William Shaw, 28 June 2011

American policy discourse is notoriously preoccupied with the country's loss of competitiveness. This column argues that these fears are misplaced. Instead, faulty fiscal policies are to blame for the perception that the US has lost its edge.

Nicholas Crafts, 05 June 2011

Britain’s relative economic decline throughout the 20th century – the so-called “British disease” – was a national embarrassment that only went away in the 1980s. This column presents new research showing that competition provided the cure. Only when Britain returned to a regime of competition and openness similar to that which had prevailed before World War I did productivity growth resume.

Anne Murphy, 22 May 2011

Working 9 to 5, Monday to Friday is the typical grind in Anglo-Saxon economies. In some professions, longer hours and low pay for junior workers is justified by the end reward of much better pay and a better work-life balance as they gain seniority. This column examines the workings of the Bank of England in 1783 to show the beginnings of this working culture.

Ann Harrison, Leslie Martin, Shanthi Nataraj, 22 March 2011

It is broadly agreed that trade liberalisation can increase productivity. The question is how. Earlier literature emphasises the role of firms “learning” to be more productive, whereas recent studies suggest that more productive firms are “stealing” market share from less productive ones, thus raising overall productivity. Presenting evidence from India’s trade liberalisation since 1991, this column finds evidence for both but argues that learning outweighs stealing.

Nicholas Bloom, Mirko Draca, John Van Reenen, 03 February 2011

Chinese exports are often blamed for job losses and firm closures in developed economies. This column tracks the performance of more than half a million manufacturing firms in 12 European countries over the past decade. It finds that competition with Chinese exports is directly responsible for around 15% of technical change and an annual benefit of almost €10 billion in these countries – the wider productivity effects may well be larger.

Jan Luiten van Zanden, 26 January 2011

China has been one of the world’s most dynamic economies in recent decades, but how did it fall so far behind? This column argues that the industrial revolution occurred in Europe rather than China because European entrepreneurs were eager to adopt machines to cut down on high labour costs. China didn’t “miss” the industrial revolution – it didn’t need it.

Nicholas Bloom, Rebecca Homkes, Raffaella Sadun, John Van Reenen, 17 December 2010

Governments globally face a healthcare bill of around $7 trillion – and set to rise. This column argues that the need to focus on productivity has never been greater. With data from 1,200 hospitals across seven of the world’s wealthiest countries, it suggests that improvements in hospital management practices can help bring about improvements in hospital productivity as well.

Donato De Rosa, Nishaal Gooroochurn, Holger Görg, 30 August 2010

Does it pay to be corrupt? This column presents evidence from 22 emerging economies in Europe and the former Soviet Union on the effects of corruption on firm productivity. It finds that in a highly corrupt country, bribing officials actually has a negative effect on productivity, whereas in countries with strong institutions, it can open doors that competitors dare not touch.

Daniel Sgroi, 26 July 2010

Happiness economics typically looks at how macro-level variables such as economic growth affect happiness. This column turns such thinking on its head and asks whether a rise in happiness might change behaviour at the micro-level, looking specifically at productivity. Experiments suggest that happiness raises productivity by increase workers' effort. Economists may need to take the emotional state of economic agents seriously.

Ann Harrison, Andres Rodríguez-Clare, 27 June 2010

Does industrial policy – policies to encourage exports, attract foreign direct investment, promote innovation, and pick winners – work? This column recommends developing countries pursue “soft” industrial policies, which aim to develop a process whereby government, industry, and cluster-level private organisations can collaborate on interventions that can directly increase productivity.

Chad Syverson, 25 June 2010

This column summarises a wealth of literature that tries to understand what determines productivity, which is often referred to as a measure of our ignorance. It concludes with a call for more data – including currently unmeasured aspects of business’s production practices such as producer-level prices. While collecting more data is costly, this column argues that there is much to be gained in exchange.

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