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L'innovation contre la productivité ?

NEW-YORK – Au vu de l'évolution de la productivité mondiale, il est difficile d'être optimiste quant à l'avenir. En 2014, la productivité totale des facteurs (PTF) qui mesure la productivité combinée du capital et du travail était pratiquement nulle pour la troisième année consécutive, alors qu'elle était de 1% durant la période 1996-2006 et de 0,5% durant les années de crise 2007-2012. Et la situation ne semble aucunement s'améliorer en 2015. Aux USA, selon les derniers chiffres de début décembre, la productivité n'a augmenté que de 0,6% entre le 3° trimestre 2014 et le 3° trimestre 2015.

Le taux de croissance sous-jacent de la PTF ayant chuté de sa valeur habituelle de 1,5% par an à presque zéro dans des pays comme les USA, le niveau de vie des jeunes adultes va sans doute croître plus lentement que celui de leurs parents. Sa progression dépendra exclusivement des améliorations apportées dans l'éducation et la formation professionnelle qui ne figurent pas dans les données dont  nous disposons, et des investissements en faveur des infrastructures qui sont eux aussi très inférieurs aux valeurs habituelles.

Selon des économistes tels que Robert Gordon de l'université Northwestern prés de Chicago, la diminution de la PTF traduit la stagnation de l'évolution technique. Gordon estime que toutes les découvertes de dimension historique - de l'eau courante à l'électricité en passant par le moteur à combustion interne et les moteurs d'avion - sont derrière nous. En comparaison, les progrès dus aux messageries instantanées et aux jeux vidéo ne représentent pas grand chose en termes de gain de productivité et d'amélioration du niveau de vie.

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