Staff Discussion Notes showcase the latest policy-related analysis and research being developed by individual IMF staff members and are published to elicit comment and to encourage debate. These papers are generally brief and written in nontechnical language, and so are aimed at a broad audience interested in economic policy issues. This Web-only series replaced Staff Position Notes in January 2011
Productivity growth-the key driver of living standards-fell sharply following the global financial crisis and has remained sluggish since, adding to a slowdown already in train before. Building on new research, this note finds that the productivity slowdown reflects both crisis legacies and structural headwinds. In advanced economies, the global financial crisis has led to 'productivity hysteresis'-persistent productivity losses from a seemingly temporary shock. Behind this are balance sheet vulnerabilities, protracted weak demand and elevated uncertainty, which jointly triggered an adverse feedback loop of weak investment, weak productivity and bleak income prospects. Structural headwinds-already blowing before the crisis-include a waning ICT boom and slowing technology diffusion, partly reflecting an aging workforce, slowing global trade and weaker human capital accumulation. Reviving productivity growth requires addressing remaining crisis legacies in the short run while pressing ahead with structural reforms to tackle longer-term headwinds.