Antonin Bergeaud, Gilbert Cette, Rémy Lecat, 05 December 2019

In most advanced economies, both real long-term interest rates and productivity growth have decreased since the early 1990s. The column demonstrates how a circular relationship links these two indicators. Until there is a technology shock, the relationship will converge to an equilibrium in which growth and interest rates are both low.

Marco Buti, Philipp Jaeger, Karl Pichelmann, 03 December 2019

A full understanding of the political economy roots of the major economic, social, and political divides that have emerged in our societies is essential to devise the right policy responses and to properly calibrate them in an environment of possibly protracted economic weakness. This column summarises the proceedings of DG ECFIN’s Annual Research Conference 2019, which zoomed in on some of the most pertinent challenges economic policymakers face today: (i) bringing productivity to people and places; (ii) making markets work for all, not just the few; (iii) future-proofing fiscal policies when going green and digital; and (iv) safeguarding Europe’s role in the global economy.

Ufuk Akcigit, Yusuf Emre Akgündüz, Seyit Mümin Cilasun, Elif Ozcan-Tok, Fatih Yılmaz, 27 November 2019

Numerous empirical studies have shown a decrease in business dynamism in the US and other high-income countries in the last decades. This column investigates the case of the Turkish manufacturing sector. Results indicate that business dynamism in the sector has declined since 2012. Market concentration and exit rates have risen, and new business creation, the labour share in output and economic activities of young firms have fallen. Using an endogenous growth framework, it argues that the inability of follower firms to credibly challenge market leaders is a likely reason, brought on by a lack of access to finance.

Tsutomu Miyagawa, Takayuki Ishikawa, 13 November 2019

Following the Global Crisis, some countries increased expenditures on research and development (R&D) to address secular stagnation. This column investigates how successful this rise in R&D scale was in supporting productivity growth in Japan and other advanced economies. It argues that R&D efficiency has declined in many of these countries in the past decade, compared to the preceding ten years. This suggests that increasing R&D spending is not enough to foster growth, and that countries need to do more to support innovation and collaboration in carefully chosen sectors.

Sotiris Blanas, Gino Gancia, Tim Lee, 10 October 2019

Since the early 1980s, technology has reduced the demand for low and medium-skill workers, the young, and women, especially in manufacturing industries. The column investigates which technologies have had the largest effect, and on which types of worker. It finds that robots and software raised the demand for high-skill workers, older workers, and men, especially in service industries. 

Fabiano Schivardi, Tom Schmitz, 01 October 2019

Productivity growth in southern Europe has been lower than in other developed countries. The column argues that this has in large part been caused by slow adoption of information technology, compounded by inefficient management. Without improvements in management practices, increased IT spending will not close the productivity gap.

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. 

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