Gap in GDP per Australian, Canadian, French, German, Japanese, New Zealander and British hour worked with the USA

This data tells more of a story than I expected. Firstly, New Zealand has not been catching up with the USA. Japan stopped catching up with the USA in 1990. Canada has been drifting away from the USA for a good 30 years now in labour productivity.image

Data extracted on 28 May 2016 05:15 UTC (GMT) from OECD.Stat from OECD Compendium of Productivity Indicators 2016 – en – OECD.

Australia has not been catching up with the USA much at all since 1970. It has maintained a pretty consistent gap with New Zealand despite all the talk of a resource boom in the Australia; you cannot spot it in this date are here.

Germany and France caught up pretty much with the USA by 1990. Oddly, Eurosclerosis applied from then on terms of growth in income per capita.

European labour productivity data is hard to assess because their high taxes lead to a smaller services sector where the services can be do-it-yourself. This pumps up European labour productivity because of smaller sectors with low productivity growth.


@equitablegrowth @PaulHannon29 Eurosclerosis, Swedosclerosis, the British Disease and rising inequality harming economic growth

The Washington Centre for Equitable Growth have joined the Wall Street Journal in falling for that dodgy OECD hypothesis about rising inequality holding back economic growth.

The chart below shows stark differences between egalitarian Sweden and France, and the more unequal UK since 1970 in departures from a trend growth rate of 1.9% in real GDP per working age person, PPP.


Source: Computed from OECD Stat Extract and The Conference Board. 2015. The Conference Board Total Economy Database™, May 2015,

In the above chart, a flat line is growth at the same rate as the USA for the 20th century, which was 1.9%  for GDP per working age person on a purchasing power parity basis. The USA’s growth rate is taken as the trend rate of growth of the global technological frontier. A falling line in the above chart is growth in real GDP per working age person, PPP, at below this trend rate of 1.9%; a rising line is above trend rate growth for that year.

  • Sweden really had been the sick man of Europe until it turned its back on high taxing, welfare state socialism in the early 1990s.
  • France has been in a long decline so much so that the global financial crisis is hard to pick up in the acceleration in its long decline in the mid-1990s.

Britain did very well, both under the neoliberal horrors of Thatcherism and the betrayals by Tony Blair of a true Labour Party platform. The UK grew at above the trend annual growth to 1.9% for most of the period from the early 1980s to 2007.

Neither France or Sweden, despite their egalitarian economies, kept up with the US growth rate since 1970. Under the OECD’s hypothesis, if France and Sweden had been more unequal, their trend growth rates would have been even more appalling since 1970.

French, German, Italian and British equilibrium unemployment rates, 1968 – 2017

Unlike the USA, the German, Italian, British and French equilibrium unemployment rates all show fluctuations that reflect changes in their underlying economic circumstances and labour market reforms. The case of the British, the rise of the British disease and Thatchernomics. The case of German, its equilibrium unemployment rate rose after German unification and then fell after the labour market reforms of 2002 to 2005.


Source: OECD Economic Outlook November 2015 Data extracted on 10 Nov 2015 07:07 UTC (GMT) from OECD.Stat.

Union density rates in Germany, France and Italy

There are large differences in unionisation rates between the three countries. France has always had low levels of unionisation which halved since the 1970s. Italy had a sharp boost in union membership in the number of unions in the 1960s and 70s. This may have been associated with increased urbanisation. Union membership rate stayed pretty high in Italy ever since with a small taper downwards. Germany had stable unionisation rates prior to German unification after which the numbers about halved up in a slow taper.


Source: OECD Stat Extract.

How @equitablegrowth showed inequality helps growth when arguing inequality harms growth

The Washington Centre for Equitable Growth recently tweeted that inequality harms growth in the USA as compared to Sweden, France, Germany and the UK. It was relying on some dodgy OECD research.

The Washington Centre for Equitable Growth did not check their inequality ratios they tweeted against trends in economic growth and economic policy since 1970, which I have reproduced in figure 1. Germany is not included in figure 1 because German data on growth is thrown askew by German unification.

Figure 1: Real GDP per British, French and Swede aged 15-64,  2014 US$ (converted to 2014 price level with updated 2011 PPPs), 1.9 per cent detrended, 1970-2013


Source: Computed from OECD Stat Extract and The Conference Board. 2015. The Conference Board Total Economy Database™, May 2015,

Figure 1 shows that France has been in a long-term decline since the late 1970s despite the blessings of a more equal society than the USA as championed by the Washington Centre for Equitable Growth. In figure 1, a flat line is growth in real GDP per working age person, PPP, at the same rate as the USA for the 20th century, which was 1.9% per year. A falling line in figure 1 indicates growth of less than 1.9% while a rising line indicates growth in real GDP per working age person, PPP, in excess of 1.9%. In figure 1, France hardly ever grew at the trend rate of growth for the USA of 1.9% per year and was frequently well below that rate.

Sweden tells a slightly different story in figure 1 because of regime change in the early 1990s when Sweden adopted more liberal economic policies where taxes and government spending were reduced:

The rapid growth of the state in the late 1960s and 1970s led to a large decline in Sweden’s relative economic performance. In 1975, Sweden was the 4th richest industrialised country in terms of GDP per head. By 1993, it had fallen to 14th.

That regime change reversed a long economic decline since 1970 under the egalitarian policies of the Swedish Social Democratic Party. Under the Swedish Social Democratic Party, Sweden was almost always growing at less than the trend rate of growth of the USA, which was 1.9%. That position reversed only when there was a turn away from big government and high taxes.

Figure 1 tells a similar story for the British economy: a long economic decline in the 1970s when Britain was the sick man of Europe. Under Thatchernomics, Europe had a long economic boom for 20 years or more – see figure 1.

In the 1970s, under the high taxes of the Heath, Callaghan and Wilson administrations, as figure 1 shows, Britain was the sick man of Europe. With the election of the Thatcher Government, Britain soon grew at better than the US trend growth rate for nearly 20 years through few exceptions.

Swedosclerosis and Eurosclerosis compared