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Labor Productivity in Brazil during the 1990s

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  • Regis Bonelli

Abstract

The Brazilian economy was characterized in the 1990s by marked changes from previous decades, many of which induced by economic policy: trade and financial liberalization, privatization, other State reform measures and the beginnings of economic stabilization with the implementation of the Real Plan in the 1990s. Although Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rates for the decade as a whole have been below long-term averages, several indicators of macroeconomic and microeconomic performance turned for the better, especially between 1992 and 1997-1998. But few were so well succeeded as productivity change, both in the aggregate and at the sector level. This paper explores the general issue of labor productivity growth in Brazil in the 1990s following a series of steps: first, adopting a long term view, by examining to what extent overall labor productivity in the 1990s progressed at rates different from those attained in all decades since the 1940s; second, by investigating productivity growth in the manufacturing industry in the long term as well; third, by concentrating the analysis on the 1990s to cover all sectors in the economy, not just the manufacturing industries; fourth, by exploring the issue of who benefited from productivity growth in the past decade; fifth, by evaluating the role of trade liberalization and rising import penetration and its association with productivity increases. In interpreting the data assembled for the research I find that some theoretical ideas and hypothesis are not fully confirmed by the empirical results. The many qualifications and conclusions allow us to reach a better understanding of the causes and effects of productivity change in Brazil during the 1990s. A década de 1990 foi um período caracterizado por mudanças fundamentais na economia brasileira, muitas das quais induzidas pela política econômica governamental. À liberalização comercial e financeira seguiram-se medidas visando à reforma do Estado, como a privatização, e a bem-sucedida tentativa de estabilização econômica com o Plano Real. Essas mudanças tiveram importantes implicações em relação a diversos aspectos do desempenho macroeconômico. Mas poucos desses aspectos foram tão bem-sucedidos quanto o que se refere ao aumento da produtividade. Este estudo analisa esse tema. Entre seus resultados destacam-se: a) na década de 1990 rompeu-se a trajetória de taxas decrescentes de aumento da produtividade; o ganho de produtividade havia chegado, inclusive, a ser negativo na década de 1980; b) o crescimento da produtividade agregada representou uma elevada parcela do crescimento do PIB real, invertendo tendência anterior; c) o sacrifício em termos de emprego foi aparentemente menor do que se supunha até a recente divulgação de resultados preliminares do Censo Demográfico de 2000; d) quanto à incidência setorial dos ganhos de produtividade, a indústria foi o destaque — mas taxas muito elevadas de crescimento da produtividade caracterizaram também os setores de comunicações e serviços industriais de utilidade pública; e) nesses últimos casos, como também em setores industriais como a siderurgia e a petroquímica, o desempenho esteve fortemente associado à privatização; f) os retardatários foram os setores de serviços, transportes e comércio, também caracterizados por elevadas proporções do emprego total; g) isso coloca um problema para a melhoria da produtividade agregada no futuro, caso não se consiga elevar a produtividade desses setores de elevado volume de emprego e baixa produtividade; h) o estudo explorou a questão de quem se beneficiou dos ganhos de produtividade; não foi possível obter respostas abrangentes, mas foram qualificadas diversas possibilidades; e i) finalmente, examinou-se a relação entre liberalização comercial e aumento da produtividade. Como no item anterior, não há uma resposta única para a associação esperada: diversos padrões foram identificados a partir da base de dados construída para a pesquisa.

Suggested Citation

  • Regis Bonelli, 2015. "Labor Productivity in Brazil during the 1990s," Discussion Papers 0117, Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada - IPEA.
  • Handle: RePEc:ipe:ipetds:0117
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Stephen D. Oliner & Daniel E. Sichel, 2000. "The Resurgence of Growth in the Late 1990s: Is Information Technology the Story?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 3-22, Fall.
    2. Robert J. Gordon, 2000. "Does the "New Economy" Measure Up to the Great Inventions of the Past?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 49-74, Fall.
    3. Moreira, Mauricio Mesquita & Correa, Paulo Guilherme, 1998. "A first look at the impacts of trade liberalization on Brazilian manufacturing industry," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(10), pages 1859-1874, October.
    4. Dale W. Jorgenson & Kevin J. Stiroh, 2000. "Raising the Speed Limit: U.S. Economic Growth in the Information Age," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 31(1), pages 125-236.
    5. Susanto Basu & John Fernald, 2001. "Why Is Productivity Procyclical? Why Do We Care?," NBER Chapters,in: New Developments in Productivity Analysis, pages 225-302 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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