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Capital Shallowness: A Problem for New Zealand?

Author

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  • Julia Hall
  • Grant Scobie

    () (The Treasury)

Abstract

There is now substantial evidence that New Zealand’s overall rate of economic growth relative to Australia’s has been lower in part because of lower levels and slower growth in our labour productivity. This then requires us to explore why the labour productivity is lower in New Zealand. This paper explores the extent to which a lower level of capital per hour worked (or lower capital intensity) is associated with less output per hour worked in New Zealand. We find that the capital intensity in New Zealand has not been increasing as fast as in Australia for nearly 25 years. Between 1995 and 2002, lower capital intensity explains 70 percent of the difference in output per hour worked. Whereas the cost of labour relative to capital has been rising in Australia, it has fallen by 20 percent in New Zealand between 1987 and 2002. The relative price of labour to capital in New Zealand fell to 60 percent of the Australian value in 2002 after being comparable in the late 1980’s. It is to be expected that New Zealand enterprises would therefore tend to adopt less capital intensive production methods. Differences in capital intensity could also have arisen because the underlying production technologies are different even if the relative prices of labour and capital in the two economies had been similar. We explore this issue and find a similar response of capital intensity to changes in the wage rate relative to the return on capital for the economies as a whole. However when we exclude the mining sector we find that the responsiveness in New Zealand is about one half that of Australia. Whether there are impediments or greater uncertainty in New Zealand that limit the ability of firms to respond to economic signals as much as their Australian counterparts remain as possible explanations requiring further investigation.

Suggested Citation

  • Julia Hall & Grant Scobie, 2005. "Capital Shallowness: A Problem for New Zealand?," Treasury Working Paper Series 05/05, New Zealand Treasury.
  • Handle: RePEc:nzt:nztwps:05/05
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    File URL: http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/research-policy/wp/2005/05-05/twp05-05.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Edda Claus & Iris Claus, 2007. "Transmitting Shocks To The Economy: The Contribution Of Interest And Exchange Rates And The Credit Channel," CAMA Working Papers 2007-03, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
    2. Geoff Mason & Matthew Osborne, 2007. "Productivity, Capital-Intensity and Labour Quality at Sector Level in New Zealand and the UK," Treasury Working Paper Series 07/01, New Zealand Treasury.
    3. Iris Claus, 2006. "Taxation And Finance Constrained Firms," CAMA Working Papers 2006-20, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
    4. Laabas, Belkacem & Weshah, Razzak, 2011. "Economic Growth and The Quality of Human Capital," MPRA Paper 28727, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Claus, Iris, 2011. "Inside the black box: How important is the credit channel relative to the interest and exchange rate channels?," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 28(1-2), pages 1-12, January.
    6. Krawczyk, Jacek B & Townsend, Wilbur, 2015. "Basic understanding of social inequality dynamics," Working Paper Series 4154, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance.
    7. Stephenson, John & Yang, Qing, 2011. "Industry productivity and the Australia-New Zealand income gap," NZIER Working Paper 2011/3, New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.
    8. Laabas, Belkacem & Razzak, Weshah, 2010. "A Contribution Towards New Zealand’s Tax Reform," MPRA Paper 25810, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Oct 2010.
    9. Razzak, Weshah, 2008. "On The dynamic of search, matching and productivity in New Zealand and Australia," MPRA Paper 8262, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. George R. Zodrow, 2010. "International Taxation and Company Tax Policy in Small Open Economies," Chapters,in: Tax Reform in Open Economies, chapter 6 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    11. Richard Dion & Robert Fay, 2008. "Understanding Productivity: A Review of Recent Technical Research," Discussion Papers 08-3, Bank of Canada.
    12. Iris Claus & Kunhong Kim, 2006. "Credit Market Frictions In An Open Economy," CAMA Working Papers 2006-04, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
    13. Iris Claus & Brandon Sloan, 2008. "VARIABLE GSTl A TOOL FOR MONETARY POLICY IN NEW ZEALAND?," CAMA Working Papers 2008-30, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
    14. Claus, Iris, 2011. "The effects of asymmetric information between borrowers and lenders in an open economy," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 796-816, September.
    15. Aaron Drew, 2007. "New Zealand's productivity performance and prospects," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Bulletin, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, vol. 70, March.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    New Zealand; Australia; Capital-labour ratios; relative factor prices;

    JEL classification:

    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • O49 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Other

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