The World Bank Productivity Project

Productivity accounts for half of the differences in GDP per capita across countries. Identifying policies to stimulate it is thus critical to alleviating poverty and fulfilling the rising aspirations of global citizens. Yet, productivity growth has slowed globally over recent decades, and the lagging productivity performance in developing countries constitutes a major barrier to convergence with advanced-country levels of income. 

The World Bank Productivity Project seeks to bring frontier thinking on the measurement and determinants of productivity to global policy makers. Each conference and volume in the series explores a different aspect of the topic through dialogue with academics and policy makers, and through sponsored empirical work in our client countries. The Productivity Project is an initiative of the Vice Presidency for Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions led by its Chief Economist, William Maloney.

Productivity Project Series
  • Cover of report Bridging the Technological Divide

    Technology Adoption by Firms in Developing Countries

    Around the world, there is a large technological divide across firms. This divide is reflected in low productivity levels and a lack of better-quality jobs—particularly in developing countries, where the number of enterprises per worker relatively close to the forefront of technology sophistication (the technological frontier) is quite low and where firms are often confined to more rudimentary and less automated technologies. The seventh volume in the World Bank Productivity Project looks at what countries can do to bridge the technological divide.
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    Place, Productivity, and Prosperity: Spatially Targeted Policies for Regional Development

    There are ways to boost productivity and incomes in economically lagging regions of developing economies—and this book offers an important new roadmap and encourages policymakers to consider, where appropriate, alternatives to place-based policies—such as policies that facilitate migration, skills development, social transfers, and safety nets.
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    At Your Service? The Promise of Services-Led Development

    As manufacturing’s share of economies across the development spectrum recedes, can the services sector help low- and middle-income countries catch up with high-income countries, while expanding good job opportunities? At Your Service? The Promise of Services-Led Development assesses the prospects for services-led development. For policy makers, it isn’t a question of whether to support manufacturing or services, but rather a recognition that the potential for services to contribute to productivity and jobs is growing—and they should act to take advantage of it.
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    Harvesting Prosperity: Technology and Productivity Growth in Agriculture

    This book documents frontier knowledge on the drivers of agriculture productivity to derive pragmatic policy advice for governments and development partners on reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity. The analysis describes global trends and long-term sources of total factor productivity growth, along with broad trends in partial factor productivity for land and labor, revisiting the question of scale economies in farming. This book is the fourth volume of the World Bank Productivity Project, which seeks to bring frontier thinking on the measurement and determinants of productivity to global policy makers.
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    High-Growth Firms : Facts, Fiction, and Policy Options for Emerging Economies

    This book presents new evidence on the incidence, characteristics, and drivers of high-growth firms based on in-depth studies of firm dynamics in Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, Tunisia, and Turkey. Its findings reveal that high-growth firms are not only powerful engines of job and output growth but also create positive spillovers for other businesses along the value chain. At the same time, the book debunks several myths about policies to support firm dynamism that focus on outward characteristics, such as firm size, sector, location, or past performance. Its findings show that most firms struggle to sustain rapid rates of expansion and that the relationship between high growth and productivity is often weak. Consequently, the book calls for a shift toward policies that improve the quality of firm growth by supporting innovation, managerial skills, and firms’ ability to leverage global linkages and agglomeration. This book is the third volume of the World Bank Productivity Project.
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    Productivity Revisited : Shifting Paradigms in Analysis and Policy

    The stagnation of productivity across the globe over the last two decades dictates a rethinking of productivity measurement, analysis, and policy. This volume presents a 'second wave' of thinking in three key areas of productivity analysis and its implications for productivity policies. It calls into question the measurement and relevance of distortions as the primary barrier to productivity growth; urges a broader concept of firm performance that goes beyond efficiency to quality upgrading and demand expansion; and explores what it takes to generate an experimental and innovative society where entrepreneurs have the personal characteristics to identify new technologies and manage risk. It also reviews arguments surrounding industrial policies.
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    The Innovation Paradox: Developing-Country Capabilities and the Unrealized Promise of Technological Catch-Up

    This first volume in the series focuses on the roughly half of overall productivity growth that is driven by firms adopting new technologies, products, and processes. In particular, it examines an under-researched “innovation paradox” -- returns on technological adoption are thought to be extremely high, yet countries appear to invest little, implying that this critical channel of productivity growth is underexploited. The analysis sheds light on how to address this paradox and leads to rethinking around government policies that are intended to support innovation at the firm level.


William Maloney

Chief Economist