01 Jul 2004

Why is there a Productivity Problem in the EU?

Francesco Daveri / Jørgen Mortensen

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Magazines and newspapers often refer to or even take for granted the economic decline of the EU, particularly when contrasting the EU data with US data. The first part of this paper poses the question of whether IT – as often alleged – is really the only cause for the EU’s productivity slowdown. The conclusion is that it is not. The non-IT part of the economy has not only contributed to the slowdown but appears to have crucially contributed to the EU-US growth gap as well. There is thus little reason for the EU to target IT-diffusion as an intermediate goal, as implied by the Lisbon strategy. The second part of the paper, after showing that the growth slowdown comes from the reduction of non-IT capital deepening and the lack of acceleration in total factor productivity growth, argues that the slowdown of capital deepening will continue. The scarce resources available for enhancing growth should concentrate on providing incentives to R&D and innovation at large, rather than financing traditional infrastructures. This is at odds with the goals pursued by the EU within the framework of the European Growth Initiative.