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We moeten de productiviteitspuzzel oplossen

LONDEN – In alle grote economieën blijft de zogenoemde productiviteitspuzzel economen en beleidsmakers verbazen: de productie per uur is aanzienlijk lager dan zij zou zijn geweest als de trend van vóór 2008 zou hebben aangehouden. De cijfers zijn grimmig, vooral in Groot-Brittannië, maar ook in de hele OESO. En hoewel het voor zich spreekt dat economen veel ingenieuze verklaringen kunnen bieden, is geen daarvan tot nu toe overtuigend genoeg gebleken om tot een consensus te leiden.

Volgens het Britse Bureau voor de Statistiek was de productie per uur in Frankrijk in 2015 14% lager dan zij zou zijn geweest als het voorheen gebruikelijke groeitempo was volgehouden. De productie was 9% lager in de Verenigde Staten en 8% lager in Duitsland, dat onder de ontwikkelde economieën een top-presteerder is gebleven, zij het louter in relatieve termen. Als dit nieuwe, lagere groeitempo blijft voorbestaan zullen de gemiddelde inkomens in de VS tegen 2021 16% lager zijn dan zij zouden zijn geweest als de VS de jaarlijkse productiviteitsgroei van grofweg 2% hadden gehandhaafd die zij sinds 1945 hebben ervaren.

Groot-Brittanië toont een bijzonder chronisch geval van het bovenstaande syndroom. De Britse productiviteit was in 2007 9% lager dan het OESO-gemiddelde; in 2015 had de kloof zich verbreed tot 18%. Opvallend genoeg is de Britse productiviteit per uur maar liefst 35% lager dan die in Duitsland, en 30% lager dan die in de VS. Zelfs de Fransen konden per week net zoveel produceren als de gemiddelde Britse werknemer en op vrijdag toch nog steeds een vrije dag nemen. Het lijkt erop dat Groot-Brittannië last heeft van een bijzonder zwak management, naast de factoren die voor alle ontwikkelde economieën gelden.

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