For some years now, prospects for the development of productivity – and, by extension, for increased economic growth – have been much debated, particularly among economists. While there has never been so much talk of the rise of digital technologies and the upheavals they could bring, in a large number of so-called advanced countries we actually find a trend in recent times towards lower productivity growth. Now if such a trend were to become established, it might go along with an era of lasting economic stagnation. This is why, in this issue, Futuribles is initiating discussion on this question of the slowdown in productivity gains and its consequences on the economy of the countries concerned, as well as on the future state of jobs and employment.
Antonin Bergeaud, Gilbert Cette and Rémy Lecat, who have been working on this subject for several years, launch our inquiry with a conspectus of long-term labour productivity trends in the main developed countries, focusing particularly on the slowdown witnessed in the last two decades. Examining the published studies, they identify the possible origins of this and outline the longer term prospects for productivity growth (downturn or rally?) that might be anticipated. Lastly, in view of the divergences observed between the developed nations (particularly vis-à-vis the United States), they show how much ground Europe currently has to make up in terms of productivity.