By Zia Qureshi – Economic growth has been lackluster for more than a decade now. This has occurred at a time when economies have faced much unfolding change. What are the forces of change, how are they affecting the growth dynamics, and what are the implications for policy? A recently published book, “Growth in a Time of Change,” addresses these questions.
Three basic ingredients drive economic growth—productivity, capital, and labor. All three are facing new challenges in a changing context. Foremost among the drivers of change has been technology, spearheaded by digital transformation.
Productivity is the main long-term propeller of economic growth. Technology-enabled innovation is the major spur to productivity growth. Yet, paradoxically, productivity growth has slowed as digital technologies have boomed. Among advanced economies over the past 15 years or so, it has averaged less than half of the pace of the previous 15 years. Firms at the technological frontier have reaped major productivity gains, but the impact on productivity more widely across firms has been weak. The new technologies have tended to produce winners-take-most outcomes. Dominant firms have acquired more market power, market structures have become less competitive, and business dynamism has declined.
Investment also has been weak in most major economies. The persistent weakness of investment despite historically low interest rates has prompted concerns about the risk of “secular stagnation.” Weak productivity growth and investment have reinforced each other and are linked by similar shifts in market structures and dynamics.
Technology is having profound effects on labor markets. Automation and digital advances are shifting labor demand away from routine low- to middle-level skills to higher-level and more sophisticated analytical, technical, and managerial skills. On the supply side, however, equipping workers with skills that complement the new technologies has lagged, hindering the broader diffusion of innovation within economies. Education and training have been losing the race with technology. more>