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Global Productivity: Trends, Drivers, and Policies


The COVID-19 pandemic struck the global economy after a decade that featured a broad-based slowdown in productivity growth. Global Productivity: Trends, Drivers, and Policies (PDF, 28.2 MB) presents the first comprehensive analysis of the evolution and drivers of productivity growth, examines the effects of COVID-19 on productivity, and discusses a wide-range of policies needed to rekindle productivity growth. The book also provides a far-reaching dataset of multiple measures of productivity for up to 164 advanced economies and emerging market and developing economies and introduces a new sectoral database of productivity.


"The World Bank has created an extraordinary book on productivity, covering a large group of countries and using a wide variety of data sources. There is an emphasis on emerging and developing economies, whereas the prior literature has concentrated on developed economies. The book seeks to understand growth patterns and quantify the role of (among other things) the reallocation of factors, technological change and the impact of natural disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic. This book is a must read for specialists in emerging economies, but also provides deep insights for anyone interested in economic growth and productivity."
-- Martin Neil Baily, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution, former Chairman U.S. President’s Council of Economic Advisers

"This is an important book at a critical time. As the book notes global productivity growth had already been slowing in the run on to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and collapses with the pandemic. If we want an effective recovery, we have to understand what was driving these long-run trends. The book examines and presents a novel global approach to examining the levels, growth rates and drivers of productivity growth. For anyone wanting to understand or influence productivity growth this is an essential read."
-- Nicholas Bloom, William D. Eberle Professor of Economics, Stanford University

"The COVID-19 pandemic hit a global economy that was already struggling with an adverse pre-existing condition—slow productivity growth. This extraordinarily valuable and timely book brings considerable new evidence that shows the broad-based, long-standing nature of the slowdown. The book is comprehensive, with an exceptional focus on emerging market and developing economies. Importantly, it shows how severe disasters (of which COVID-19 is just the latest) typically harm productivity. There are no silver bullets, but the book suggests sensible strategies to improve growth prospects."
-- John Fernald, Schroders Chair in European Competitiveness and Reform and Professor of Economics, INSEAD

"The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy is yet to be fully comprehended. This timely and comprehensive book explores the experience of productivity growth across countries, across sectors and across time. Key issues explored include what drives productivity growth, what harms productivity growth, what is the experience of productivity convergence across countries and what policies can enhance productivity performance. Importantly in the context of the current crisis, the book explores the impact of natural disasters and economic disruptions on productivity growth. With its focus on data and empirical evidence organized through a historical lens for a wide range of countries, this book is a valuable resource for researchers and policymakers who are interested in the changing nature of productivity growth."
-- Warwick Mckibbin, Professor and Director of the Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Australian National University

"This study is valuable in providing a very timely overview of recent developments in productivity growth around the world. The global shock of COVID-19 is placed in the context of pre-existing trends, with the slowdown in productivity growth across all groups of countries as the dominant development. The perspective on emerging market and developing economies is likewise valuable as their convergence to living standards seen in advanced economies today is conditional on (strong) productivity growth. This study provides several useful perspectives on these crucial topics with policy-relevant findings, including on the importance of stimulating structural transformation in emerging market and developing economies."
-- Robert Inklaar, Professor, University of Groningen

"This book is possibly the most comprehensive and global empirical analysis of the drivers of long-term productivity growth. By using a variety of datasets and methodologies, it provides the reader with a variety of novel insights. This is particularly true for emerging markets as previous studies have been too focused on advanced economies. A must read for academics and policy makers interested in designing growth-friendly policies."
-- Antonio Fatas, Portuguese Council Chaired Professor of European Studies and Professor of Economics, INSEAD

"This is a very comprehensive assessment on the global slowing of productivity growth that now extends over a full decade. It is a book of unusual breadth examining recent developments in both advanced and emerging market economies together with an extensive amount of sectoral and firm-level analysis. It highlights many of the common causes including a near universal slowing of capital accumulation and markedly lower rates of total factor productivity in countries at widely differing stages of economic development. Many researchers will also be drawn to very up-to-date appraisal of the empirical literature."
-- Barry Bosworth, Senior Fellow, Robert V. Roosa Chair in International Economics, Brookings Institution

"This study is a must read for policy makers, academics, and those in industry who are interested in the drivers and challenges of low productivity growth and its policy implications, including the impact of technological change. The comprehensive look at productivity drivers in emerging markets and developing economies (EMDEs) is also a very welcome contribution and will inform policies that can foster sustainable economic growth."
-- Joshua Meltzer, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution

"Productivity growth is the key driver of sustainable income growth and poverty reduction. Its effects on human welfare are enormous. While economists agree on the importance of productivity, its measurement and drivers remain elusive. We sometime refer to productivity as a “residual” or even as a “measure of our ignorance.” This important book analyzes the trends and drivers of productivity growth, with a special focus on emerging and developing countries. It uses state-of-the-art econometric techniques and brings together the analysis of a wide range of productivity drivers which, so far, have been analyzed in isolation. It also discusses the impact of COVID-19 on productivity growth. Reading this book will help in reducing our ignorance on the most important driver of human wellbeing."
-- Ugo Panizza, Pictet Chair in Finance and Development, The Graduate Institute, Geneva, and Vice President, CEPR

"This book is one of the most comprehensive studies of recent trends in productivity. Especially in its research covering emerging and developing economies, it breaks new ground in analytical breadth and depth. Its analysis of the impact of shocks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, makes this work even more valuable and timely. With its emphasis on drawing implications for policy, the book is useful reading for researchers and practitioners alike."
-- Zia Qureshi, Visiting Fellow, Brookings Institution


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Global Economic Prospects, January 2022


The World Bank Productivity Project



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