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The ICOP Manufacturing Database: International Comparisons of Productivity Levels


  • Bart van Ark


  • Marcel Timmer


International productivity comparisons have traditionally focused on productivity growth rates. International productivity level comparisons are much more complex, requiring comparable industry data and estimates of purchasing power at a detailed industry level. The International Comparisons of Output and Productivity (ICOP) project established at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands in 1983 has pioneered the development of international estimates of productivity levels by industry. In this article Bart van Ark and Marcel Timmer, two economists from the University of Groningen, provide an overview of the ICOP manufacturing database. They note that the novelty of the ICOP approach is the derivation and use of industry-specific purchasing power parities based on producer output data instead of final expenditure information. A key finding that emerges from their research is the difference between labour productivity levels measured in terms of output per person employed and per hour. By the former measure, the United States has by a wide margin the highest level of labour productivity in manufacturing. But when the more appropriate output per hour measure of productivity is used, the United States is no longer the manufacturing productivity leader, being surpassed by the Netherlands and Belgium. The much greater number of annual hours worked in the United States accounts for this discrepancy.

Suggested Citation

  • Bart van Ark & Marcel Timmer, 2001. "The ICOP Manufacturing Database: International Comparisons of Productivity Levels," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 3, pages 44-51, Fall.
  • Handle: RePEc:sls:ipmsls:v:3:y:2001:4

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:dgr:rugggd:200047 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Stefano Scarpetta & Andrea Bassanini & Dirk Pilat & Paul Schreyer, 2000. "Economic Growth in the OECD Area: Recent Trends at the Aggregate and Sectoral Level," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 248, OECD Publishing.
    3. Rao, D.S.P. & Timmer, M., 2000. "Multilateralisation of Manufacturing Sector Comparisons: Issues, Methods and Empirical Results," Papers 47, Groningen State, Institute of Economic Research-.
    4. repec:dgr:rugggd:199627 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Maddison, A. & Prasada Rao, D.S., 1996. "A generalized approach to international comparison of agricultural output and productivity," GGDC Research Memorandum 199627, Groningen Growth and Development Centre, University of Groningen.
    6. Maddison, Angus & van Ark, Bart, 1989. "International Comparison of Purchasing Power, Real Output and Labour Productivity: A Case Study of Brazilian, Mexican and U.S. Manufacturing, 1975," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 35(1), pages 31-55, March.
    7. Pilat, Dirk & Rao, D S Prasada, 1996. "Multilateral Comparisons of Output, Productivity, and Purchasing Power Parities in Manufacturing," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 42(2), pages 113-130, June.
    8. Prasada Rao, D.S. & Timmer, M., 2000. "Multilateral comparisons in the ICOP project : issues, methods and empirical results," Research Report 00C61, University of Groningen, Research Institute SOM (Systems, Organisations and Management).
    9. Bart van Ark & Erik Monnikhof & Nanno Mulder, 1999. "Productivity in services: an international comparative perspective," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 32(2), pages 471-499, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Renato Perim Colistete, 2011. "Revisiting Import-Substitutingindustrialisation In Post-War Brazil," Anais do XXXVIII Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 38th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 203, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pós-Graduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
    2. Fousekis, Panos, 2007. "Cost Competitiveness in the Food, Beverages and Tobacco Manufacturing of the EU and the USA: A Convergence Analysis," Agricultural Economics Review, Greek Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 8(2), June.

    More about this item


    Comparisons; International; Productivity; ICOP; Output; Database; Industry-Specific; Industry; Labor; Labour; Labor Productivity; Employment; Measurement; Manufacturing; PPP; Purchasing Power Parity; Data; Methodology; Unit Value Ratio; Value Added;

    JEL classification:

    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries
    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • L60 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - General


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