Productivity Concepts, Trends And Prospects: An Overview
In: The Review of Economic Performance and Social Progress 2002: Towards a Social Understanding of Productivity
In this chapter, Andrew Sharpe provides a comprehensive non-technical introduction to the productivity issue, including discussion of productivity concepts, measurement issues, trends and prospects. He begins by noting that productivity is the relationship between the output of goods and services and the inputs of resources, both human and non-human used in their production. The measurement of productivity is fraught with conceptual and empirical issues, meaning that there can be a significant margin of error associated with productivity growth rates, even at the aggregate level. Sharpe identifies two particularly important measurement problems, namely the estimation of real output in the non-market sector where output is not measured independently of inputs and the estimation of price indices (which are needed to calculate real output) for products where quality has improved significantly or for new products (e.g. computers). According to Sharpe, the most important productivity trends that the general public should be aware of are: the post-1973 productivity slowdown; the postwar convergence in OECD productivity levels toward the US level; the post-1995 acceleration in labour productivity growth in the United States; the decline in Canada's relative international productivity ranking; and the widening of the Canada-US manufacturing productivity gap.
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