Philippe Aghion, Antonin Bergeaud, Gilbert Cette, Rémy Lecat, Helene Maghin, 13 September 2019

The impact of access to credit on productivity is not as straightforward as it seems.This column introduces a model that emphasises the coexistence of two opposing effects. Tighter access to credit makes it more difficult for entrepreneurs to invest and innovate, with detrimental long-run effects on productivity. But it also drives less efficient incumbent firms out of the market, easing the entry of new and potentially more efficient innovators. Combining these two opposite effects, the overall relationship between credit access and productivity takes the shape of an inverted-U.

James Bessen, 12 September 2019

Do industries shed or create jobs when they adopt new labour-saving technologies? This column shows that manufacturing employment grew along with productivity for a century or more, and only later decreased. It argues that the changing nature of demand was behind this pattern, which led to market saturation. This implies that the main impact of automation in the near future may be a major reallocation of jobs, not necessarily massive job losses.

Nicholas Bloom, Philip Bunn, Scarlet Chen, Paul Mizen, Pawel Smietanka, Gregory Thwaites, 04 September 2019

The UK’s decision to leave the EU in the June 2016 referendum was a largely unexpected event that has generated a large, broad, and long-lasting increase in uncertainty. It has also affected some firms more than others depending on the strength of their links to Continental Europe. This column exploits these features and uses a major new survey of UK firms to show that the anticipation of Brexit has already made its mark on the UK economy. It has gradually reduced investment by about 11% and decreased productivity by about 2% to 5% over the three years since the referendum.

Robert J. Gordon, Hassan Sayed, 29 August 2019

Since 2005, productivity growth in the US and Europe has dipped below 1%. Using new industry-level from the US and ten EU countries, this column shows that that the industrial composition of the slowdown was similar in Europe and the US. Falling multifactor productivity growth explains both the magnitude and composition of falling productivity growth on both sides of the Atlantic. Decelerating technical change, rather than slowing investment, was the primary driving force in the transatlantic slowdown. 

Maria Chiara Cavalleri, Alice Eliet, Peter McAdam, Filippos Petroulakis, Ana Soares, Isabel Vansteenkiste, 24 August 2019

Recent evidence suggests that competitive intensity has been declining in the US. This column aims to contribute to our understanding of these trends in the euro area. It finds that, in contrast to the situation in the US, market power metrics have been relatively stable over recent years and mark-ups have marginally been trending down since the late 1990s. It suggests that more research on the sectoral level and with better data is necessary to analyse the complex welfare and policy implications of these developments.

Achyuta Adhvaryu, Sadish D, Anant Nyshadham, Jorge Tamayo, 19 August 2019

Managerial quality remains low in firms in developing countries. In the context of the Indian garment industry, this column shows that manager characteristics matter for productivity. It argues that firms might not know what constitutes good management or how valuable it is, and that they could benefit from screening and management training in these qualities.

Çağatay Bircan, Ralph De Haas, 10 August 2019

Recent debates about the global productivity slowdown point to a large and increasing productivity gap between firms operating at the global technological frontier and those trailing behind. This column analyses whether better access to bank credit can accelerate technological diffusion and narrow the productivity gap between leading and lagging firms. Using data from a large emerging market – Russia – it shows that while bank loans can encourage firms to adopt new technologies and become more productive, long-run benefits vary substantially across industries and regions.

Benjamin Friedrich, Lisa Laun, Costas Meghir, Luigi Pistaferri, 08 August 2019

We know little about how much fluctuations in a firm’s fortunes are passed on in wages. The column uses Swedish data from 1997 to 2008 that identifies individual workers to show that shocks to firm productivity are passed on as variation in worker wages. The variation is high for high-skilled workers. Unskilled workers, perhaps due to union or minimum wage protection, experience smaller fluctuations.

Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, Olivier Blanchard, Laurence Boone, Gilbert Cette, Chiara Criscuolo, Anne Epaulard, Sébastien Jean, Margaret Kyle, Philippe Martin, Xavier Ragot, Alexandra Roulet, David Thesmar, 24 July 2019

In September 2016, the European Council invited all euro area members to set up a National Productivity Board to focus on productivity and competitiveness. This column summarises the main findings of the first report of the Conseil National de Productivité, which analyses the causes of the French productivity slowdown that are common to other OECD countries and those that are specific to France. It also proposes a definition of competitiveness that should be useful for euro area macroeconomic policy debates and explains why current account imbalances in the euro area are both a sign of deficient adjustment mechanisms and a cause of concern.

Lene Kromann, Anders Sørensen, 15 July 2019

The automation of production processes is an important topic on the policy agenda in high-wage countries, but evidence of the economic effects of automation at the firm level is limited. This column presents insights on automation from new survey data for Denmark. The findings reveal that variation in the adoption of automation technologies is high, the change in adoption over time is slow, and almost half of Danish manufacturing firms relied greatly on manual production processes in 2010. Increasing international competition from China is a driver for investments in automation.

Maarten de Ridder, 02 July 2019

The slowdown of productivity growth, the decline of business dynamism, and the rise of market power and firm concentration are three trends that have attracted a lot of attention in academic and policy debates. This column points to the rising use of intangible inputs as a unified explanation for these trends. Firms with high intangible adoption disrupt sectors and initially boost productivity, but negatively affect the entry of new firms and suppress the effect of R&D on innovation and growth in the long run.

Alberto Bailin Rivares, Peter Gal, Valentine Millot, Stéphane Sorbe, 19 June 2019

While the innovative features of online platforms offer the potential to improve the performance of service sectors, they raise many new challenges for policymakers. Using Google search data on service industries in ten OECD countries, this column shows that platforms generally stimulate the productivity of incumbent service firms, but the impact crucially depends on the type of platform considered. Productivity gains tend to be lower when a platform is persistently dominant on its market, suggesting that the contestability of platform markets should be promoted in order to maximise their economic benefits.

Łukasz Rachel, 24 May 2019

How we spend our time is changing rapidly. This column argues that an important driver is leisure-enhancing innovation, aimed at capturing our time, attention, and data. Leisure-enhancing technologies can help account for both the rise in leisure hours and the decline in productivity observed across the industrialised world. Their nature carries important implications for the long-run viability of the platforms’ business models, for measurement of economic activity, and for welfare. 

Leonardo Baccini, Giammario Impullitti, Edmund Malesky, 17 May 2019

The recent success of China and Vietnam over the past three decades has triggered a debate over ‘state capitalism’ as a viable growth and development model. This column studies the effect of the 2007 WTO accession on the productivity, profitability, and survival rates of state-owned and private Vietnamese firms. The findings reveal that state-owned enterprises have hampered the efficiency gains brought about by globalisation. An analysis suggests that productivity gains from trade five years after WTO entry might have been 66% higher in the absence of state-owned firms.

Richard Freeman, Wei Huang, Teng Li, 07 May 2019

Incentive systems that pay workers bonuses based on performance targets are widely used to increase productivity, but they can incur costs to firms from workers gaming the system. This column studies the introduction of one such non-linear incentive system by a major Chinese insurance firm. It finds that the system increased productivity and lowered turnover rates sufficiently to outweigh the gaming costs, and appears to have benefitted both workers and the firm.

Diane Coyle, 03 May 2019

The reliance on GDP as a measure of economics fails to take into account the shift to a service economy. Diane Coyle of Cambridge University proposes a better metric built around how people use their time.

Cheng Chen, Claudia Steinwender, 30 April 2019

Firms around the world are facing increased import competition, especially from low-wage countries like China, but the effect on the productivity of impacted firms remains unclear. Using data from Spain, this column studies how firms under different types of management respond to an increase in competition, and shows that less-productive firms that are both family owned and managed see the greatest improvement in productivity. Their managers care more about the long-term survival of their firm, prompting additional effort when faced with an increased bankruptcy risk.

Alan Benson, Danielle Li, Kelly Shue, 24 April 2019

The Peter Principle states that organisations promote people who are good at their jobs until they reach their ‘level of incompetence’, implying that all managers are incompetent. This column examines data on worker- and manager-level performance for almost 40,000 sales workers across 131 firms and finds evidence that firms systematically promote the best salespeople, even though these workers end up becoming worse managers, and even though there are other observable dimensions of sales worker performance that better predict managerial quality. 

Christian Krekel, George Ward, Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, 21 April 2019

A growing number of companies place a high priority on the wellbeing of their workers, assuming that happier workers will lead to improved productivity. This column examines this link based on a meta-analysis of independent studies accumulated by Gallup, covering the wellbeing and productivity of nearly 2 million employees and the performance of over 80,000 business units, originating from 230 independent organisations across 49 industries in 73 countries. The results suggest a strong positive correlation between employee wellbeing, productivity, and firm performance.

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