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Winners and Losers

Posted by: Michael Mandel on October 11

As regular readers of this blog know, I think that total factor productivity growth is the best measure of an economy’s health. A new paper from the BIS calculates TFP growth for most of the large industrial countries over the past 40 years, and comes up with some surprising conclusions (Thanks to the very sharp New Economist for pointing out the paper).

Here are the winners and losers, ranked by two criteria—current level of TFP growth, and change in TFP growth over the past forty years.

Big Winners:

Doing okay but not great:
New Zealand

Disaster areas:

The big surprises are the decent performance of France, and the terrible performance of the UK, Netherlands, and Spain, especially since the UK and Spain are thought of as success stories. France has maintained roughly a 1% growth rate of TFP for the past 40 years, which is not bad but not terrible either, especially when compared to the 0.3% clocked by Japan. I have actually begun to worry more about the UK than France.

Here is the full data table. I ranked the countries on current TFP growth, and the amount of change in TFP growth, and then averaged the rankings.

Total Factor Productivity Growth
US 0.8 2
Australia 1.5 1.4
Ireland -0.7 4
France 0.1 1
Norway -1.3 2.2
Sweden -0.8 1.8
Canada -0.5 1.2
Denmark 0 1
NZ 0.7 0.8
Iceland -1.5 1.6
Switzerland 0.5 0.2
Japan -0.1 0.3
Germany -1.6 0.9
UK -1.1 0.8
Belgium -1.9 0.9
Netherlands -1.9 0.6
Spain -1.7 0.2
Italy -3.2 -0.3
Column A= Difference between TFP growth 
      in 1996-2004 and TFP growth in 1966-75
Column B = TFP growth rate in 1996-2004
Data:  Les Skoczylas and Bruno Tissot

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Reader Comments


October 11, 2005 06:42 PM

Prof Mandell,

I am confused about a point. How are we taking this as a good criteria to judge the economy ?

Productivity will obviously increase if we move all manufacturing jobs to OEM and keep only hi tech work....but what about the produce as such ?

what about unemployment ?


October 11, 2005 07:06 PM


I still have the following question :

You recently wrote that the MFP for the last 3 years in the US was the best since 1967 or something. The MFP growth from 2002-04 was much better than 1996-1999.

If MFP is the best measure of the health of an economy, :

1) Does this mean that the economy today is the best in the last 37 years?
2) Does it mean that the economy today is much healthier than in the late 1990s, despite the better GDP, job growth, consumer confidence, etc. of that time? How so?

Mike Mandel

October 12, 2005 08:48 AM

Hi Kartik

Productivity data tends to bounce around a lot, so it's best averaged over a decade or so. And yes, I would say that the economy over the past decade is the best that it's been since the 1960s.

And addressing USD's point. Productivity gains with rising unemployment is not a good thing...however, the current level of unemployment is relatively low, and the U.S. seems to have done a better job of generating new jobs than countries like Germany, which have a much lower productivity growth rate.


September 2, 2007 11:01 PM

hi i am doing a report in my society and environment class about economics and would like to know a few things like; how the performance of our economy today compares to its past performance?, who are the winners and losers in the economy today, and what can the government do to help people disadvantaged by our current economic situation?. if you could please write back a.s.a.p for my assignment is due on the 4th of september

yours sincearly courtney.

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.



Michael Mandel, BW's award-winning chief economist, provides his unique perspective on the hot economic issues of the day. From globalization to the future of work to the ups and downs of the financial markets, Mandel-named 2006 economic journalist of the year by the World Leadership Forum-offers cutting edge analysis and commentary.

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