Firms dynamics, labour force growth, and productivity: The curious case of NZ

In this post I am going to discuss how a change in labour force growth can explain firms’ entry/ exit rates. Recent findings by Hopenhayn et al (2018) for the US motivated me to think about this relationship in a NZ context.

Furthermore, the authors linked these entry and exit rates to “dynamism” and therefore productivity growth – a link I wanted to think about a bit more carefully.

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Tweet of the day: Growth, productivity, resources

Economic growth is a much bemoaned topic, but what this tweet nicely illustrates is that the type of growth economists often talk about differs from the type of growth that concerns a number of people. Here we’ll briefly consider how we can understand this tweet.

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A New GDP measure (GDP-B) in a digital economy

Although GDP is a good measure of what it is supposed to measure, there are always questions about whether it is the right measure when asking a given policy question. This was the driving motivation behind the Living Standard’s Framework and the development of a suite of measures to inform our views on wellbeing, as I’ve previously written (with Anita King and Nairn MacGibbon).

The focus of this post is on digitization. In an era of digitization, economists have become more and more concerned about whether the conventional way of calculating GDP is appropriate for asking questions about changes in consumer welfare (surplus) through time.

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Work smarter, not harder

Do old people hurt growth?

A new paper (PDF) claims that ageing populations will hinder growth by both dis-saving and dragging down innovation, thus reducing productivity. Using a VAR model, they relate the age structure to measures of growth, saving, investment, and other macroeconomic variables over the 1990-2007 period. They use those coefficients to predict the effect of demographic change on growth rates in the current decade. The results are dramatic, predicting that an ageing population will knock over a percentage point off some countries’ growth rates.

In a ray of light, this morning’s FT (£) reported a study of over 15,000 German employees that examined the relationship between ageing and productivity. One of the authors is quoted saying:

As workforces age, employers are concerned that productivity will decrease. That is not so. What matters is not chronological age but subjective age.

The research suggests that older people are systematically excluded from training activities, and are relegated to less creative and meaningful work, which renders them less productive. As the workforce ages, that may begin to change. As it changes, the relationship between growth and age structures is likely to weaken.

Performance pay for the public sector?

In December last year The Work Foundation released a comprehensive review of performance-related pay in the public sector:

PRP schemes can be effective in improving outcomes across the three public services for which evidence is available (health, education and the civil service), although the central conclusion is that the outcomes from PRP are mixed, which much dependent upon organisational and occupational context and scheme design and implementation. Where positive effects have been found, effect sizes are sometimes small and may also be short-lived. As well as evidence gaps across much of the public services, the weight of evidence also varies, with the more robust evidence coming from education and health rather than the civil service. Cost-effectiveness data to assess the value for money of PRP interventions is also rare.

The implication is that performance-related pay isn’t a quick fix: it requires careful development to fit it to the context, and organisations might take a while to adapt to it and see benefits. Without more examples in the public sector it isn’t possible to say whether it will prove cost-effective.