The productivity slowdown in the United Kingdom has been very limited, and in some smaller economies (Greece, Ireland, and the Netherlands) productivity growth even accelerated, at least in the market sector of those economies.
Productivity growth in most new member states of the European Union has been much faster as these countries have been catching up on the productivity levels of “old” EU-15, but this has often gone together with a sharp contraction in employment. These results are among those obtained from a new data source on measures of economic growth and productivity for the European Union which is also including corresponding data for the United States and Japan.
The EU KLEMS database, which also includes growth and productivity measures at a detailed industry level, identified the market services sector as the weakest point of the growth performance in many European countries. The strong productivity growth advantage of the United States over Europe can be largely traced to industries in the distribution services (trade and transport) and financial and business services sectors. But even some European countries, such as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, have performed much better in market services than other member states.
While most EU-15 countries have enjoyed faster employment growth over the past 10 years compared to the previous period, the contribution of improvements in labour composition to growth has stagnated. This holds for Finland as well. Schooling, for example, does not contribute to growth in the same way as it used to do in the past. Still the overall skill level of the workforce has continued to increase significantly. It also turns out that the shift towards intensive use of ICT capital (computer hardware, communication equipment and software) has been slower in Europe than, for example, in the United States. Given the large dependency on the ICTproducing sector, the ongoing outsourcing of ICT production to low wage countries provides a threat to productivity performance in the future. Finland may have to restructure its economy once again in the digital era.
It is difficult to predict which industries will be the most productive in the future, as technology and innovation trends are inherently difficult to forecast. But the consortium argues that the future of productivity growth in the EU will strongly depend on the capability to make more productive use of skilled labour, to instigate market reforms that facilitate the shift of capital and other resources to the most productive industries in the economy, and improvements in the innovative capacity of firms.”
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