Labour productivity developments in the euro area
This paper provides a description and a discussion of some important aspects relating to recent productivity developments in the euro area. Following decades of stronger gains in the euro area than in the US, labour productivity growth has fallen behind that in the US in recent years. This reflects a decline in average labour productivity growth observed in the euro area since the mid-1990s, which stands in sharp contrast with opposite developments in the US. The decline in labour productivity growth experienced in the euro area since the mid-1990s resulted from both lower capital deepening and lower total factor productivity growth. From a sectoral perspective, industries not producing or using intensively information and communication technology (ICT) would appear mostly responsible for the decline in average labour productivity growth since the mid-1990s. These developments were broadly experienced by most euro area countries. A comparison with developments in the US suggests that the euro area economy seems to have benefited much less from increased production and use of ICT technologies, in particular in the services sector. Diverging trends in labour productivity growth between the euro area and the US in recent years mainly reflect developments in a number of specific ICT-using services such as retail, wholesale and some financial services where strong gains were registered in the US. The evidence presented in this paper suggests that, in order to support economic growth in the euro area, emphasis should be given to both policy measures that directly address the determinants of productivity and, given the interactions among the various factors of growth, to policies that raise labour utilisation.
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