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Working Smarter: Education and Productivity

In: The Review of Economic Performance and Social Progress 2002: Towards a Social Understanding of Productivity


  • Arthur Sweetman

    (Assistant Professor, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University)


Skills, innovation and human capital as they feature prominently on the policy agenda of industrialized countries concerned with productivity and competitiveness issues. Not surprisingly, formal education is the preferred and most conventional policy instrument of governments in pursuing these objectives. Indeed, "more is better" is often the guiding principle here. The actual linkages, however, are not as straightforward as they may appear. Certainly, there are gains to be achieved through a better understanding of the relationship between the skills developed through formal education and their causal impact on productivity, as well as a more nuanced approach to policy in this area. In this chapter, Arthur Sweetman points out, "the issue is not whether education has benefits but, rather, the magnitude of its 'true' benefits, the benefits relative to costs, and the distribution of costs and benefits. Sweetman examines three different sets of evidence, focusing on the impact of education on earnings at the individual level and on productivity at the macroeconomic level, and on issues related to the operation of the Canadian educational system.

Suggested Citation

  • Arthur Sweetman, 2002. "Working Smarter: Education and Productivity," The Review of Economic Performance and Social Progress,in: Andrew Sharpe, Executive Director & France St-Hilaire, Vice-President , Research & Keith Banting, Di (ed.), The Review of Economic Performance and Social Progress 2002: Towards a Social Understanding of Productivity, volume 2 Centre for the Study of Living Standards;The Institutute for Research on Public Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:sls:repsls:v:2:y:2002:asweet

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    Cited by:

    1. Andrew Sharpe & Ricardo de Avillez, 2012. "A Detailed Analysis of Nova Soctia;s Productivty Performance, 1997-2010," CSLS Research Reports 2012-05, Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
    2. Ricardo de Avillez, 2011. "A Detailed Analysis of the Productivity Performance of the Canadian Primary Agriculture Sector," CSLS Research Reports 2011-06, Centre for the Study of Living Standards.

    More about this item


    Education; Skills; Growth; Productivity; Labour Productivity; Labor Productivity; Educational Attainment; Human Capital; Knowledge; Quality; Education Quality; Private Benefit; Social Benefit; Value; Investment;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy


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