Economic Policy Reforms

1813-2723 (online)
1813-2715 (print)
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OECD’s annual report highlighting developments in structural policies in OECD countries. Closely related to the OECD Economic Outlook and OECD Economic Surveys, each issue of Economic Policy Reforms gives an overview of structural policy developments in OECD countries followed by a set of indicators that reflect structural policy evolution. A set of Country Notes summarises priorities suggested by the indicators with actions taken and recommendations suggested. The Country Notes section also includes a set of indicators tables and graphs for each country. Each issue also has several thematic studies.

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Economic Policy Reforms 2015

Economic Policy Reforms 2015

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09 Feb 2015
9789264211704 (EPUB) ; 9789264220461 (PDF) ;9789264220447(print)

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This publication is the OECD’s annual report highlighting developments in structural policies in OECD countries and the key emerging economies. It identifies structural reform priorities to boost real income for each OECD country and Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa. The analysis also regularly takes stock of reform implementation in all the countries covered. This report also provides internationally comparable indicators that enable countries to assess their economic performance and structural policies in a wide range of areas.

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  • Editorial: Breaking the vicious circle

    More than six years after the onset of the financial and economic crisis, a return to the pre-crisis growth path remains elusive for a majority of OECD countries. In most advanced economies, potential growth has been revised down and, in some cases, there are growing concerns that persistently weak demand is pulling potential growth down further, resulting in a protracted period of stagnation. Risks of persistent stagnation concern mainly the euro area and Japan, but many of the underlying challenges such as slowing productivity, high long-term unemployment and falling labour force participation are common to other advanced economies. In major emerging-market economies, growth has become far less impressive in the last year or two, owing to a varying extent to infrastructure bottlenecks, financial sector vulnerabilities and resource misallocation. The slowdown has been particularly sharp in countries most exposed to commodity price developments.

  • Executive summary

    The financial crisis and continued subdued recovery have resulted in lower growth potential for most advanced countries, while many emerging-market economies are facing a slowdown. In the near term, policy challenges include persistently high unemployment, slowing productivity, high public-sector budget deficit and debt, as well as remaining fragilities in the financial sector. The crisis has also increased social distress, as lower‑income households were hit hard, with young people suffering the most severe income losses and facing increasing poverty risk. Longer-term challenges include coping with population ageing as well as with the effect of skill-biased technical change on income inequality and the impact of environmental degradation on health and future growth. Robust structural policies are needed to address many of the short- and medium-term challenges faced by both advanced and emerging-market countries.

  • Taking stock of reform action and identifying priorities in 2015

    This chapter assesses progress that countries have made in responding to Going for Growth policy recommendations since 2013. Against this background, it identifies and discusses new priority areas where structural reforms are needed to lift growth across OECD and partner countries.

  • The effect of pro-growth structural reforms on income inequality

    This chapter reviews the evidence on the potential effect of pro-growth structural reforms on wage dispersion and household income inequality and examines whether specific policies driving GDP growth over the past decades may have also contributed to widening inequalities. In doing so, it distinguishes between the main channels via which policies affect growth and income distribution and identifies policy packages to make growth more inclusive.

  • Pro-growth structural reforms, the environment and environmental policies

    This chapter examines the environmental pressures related to economic growth, and how these may feed back to future growth and wellbeing. It discusses the role of structural reforms and environmental policies in this respect, and presents recent evidence on the importance of adequate design of environmental policies as well as on their impact on productivity growth.

  • Going for Growth ten years after: Taking a longer perspective on reform action

    This chapter provides an overview of reform activity since the early 2000s in the policy areas covered by the regular set of indicators featured in Going for Growth. It examines how policy priorities have evolved since the start of Going for Growth in response to actions taken as well as to shifts in challenges. It also gives an idea of the extent to which reforms in these areas have contributed to economic performance over that period.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Country notes

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    • Australia

      Over the past decade, per capita income surpassed the average of the most advanced OECD countries, helped by high terms of trade and employment rates. However, productivity gains have been weak and the economy faces a period of adjustment in the wake of the mining boom.

    • Austria

      The narrowing of GDP per capita gap vis-à-vis leading OECD economies has recently stalled as labour productivity growth slowed. Unemployment remains low and labour force participation improved especially among older workers and women.

    • Belgium

      The gap in GDP per capita vis-à-vis the upper half of the OECD has recently widened as the limited growth in the labour force participation rate, which remains low by international standards, could not offset the decline in the positive labour productivity differential.

    • Brazil

      The narrowing of significant GDP per capita gap with OECD countries has stagnated mainly due to comparatively weak labour productivity performance.

    • Canada

      GDP per capita remains above the average of the upper half of OECD countries while labour productivity gap persists. Higher terms of trade have pushed GDI per capita above the average.

    • Chile

      The income gap vis-à-vis the OECD economies has continued to narrow, reflecting strong growth in employment and physical capital, but it remains significant as a result of low growth in productivity.

    • China

      GDP per capita continued to catch up with that of the upper half of OECD over 2008-13, although it grew at a slower pace than in the preceding five years. The income gap is attributable to lower output per worker as participation rates are above those in OECD countries.

    • Colombia

      The gap in GDP per capita against high-income OECD economies has started to narrow but remains large. Labour productivity improvements have been positive but modest given the large gap.

    • Czech Republic

      The income gap vis-à-vis leading OECD economies has remained unchanged since 2007, reflecting a marked deceleration of labour productivity that more than overshadowed higher capital intensity.

    • Denmark

      The income gap relative to the upper half of OECD economies has continued to widen over the past few years, mostly due to weaker labour utilisation. Employment rates are high, but hours worked are below the OECD average.

    • Estonia

      The GDP per capita gap vis-à-vis the upper half of OECD countries is substantial. This gap in living standards reflects a shortfall in productivity, where convergence has slowed. Labour market participation is high, but structural unemployment remains elevated.

    • European Union

      The income gap vis-à-vis leading OECD economies has remained essentially unchanged, and reflects lower productivity and especially weaker labour utilisation. In most EU countries, unemployment rates have remained at unacceptably high levels.

    • Finland

      The GDP per capita gap relative to leading OECD economies has widened since 2007 as productivity and hours worked have fallen. The continued deterioration in the terms of trade further weighs on GDI per capita.

    • France

      The gap in GDP per capita relative to the leading OECD countries remains sizeable, reflecting low employment rates of young and older people as well as low hours worked.

    • Germany

      The GDP per capita gap has continued to narrow relative to the upper half of the OECD. Labour utilisation has improved on account of rising labour market participation among older workers and women as well as immigration. However hours worked remain low, reflecting the low incidence of full-time female employment.

    • Greece

      After narrowing steadily until 2008, the gap in GDP per capita relative to best performing OECD countries has since steadily widened as labour productivity and labour utilisation have sharply declined.

    • Hungary

      The large gap in GDP per capita relative to the upper half of OECD countries, essentially due to lower productivity, has remained broadly unchanged in the past decade. Overall labour utilisation is comparable to the most prosperous OECD countries, as above-average hours per worker offset a low participation rate.

    • Iceland

      The income gap with the upper half of OECD countries widened following the crisis, largely driven by adverse developments in labour force participation and employment, though labour utilisation remains comparatively high. Labour productivity growth has slowed down markedly with deterioration in capital deepening.

    • India

      The income gap vis-à-vis OECD countries has continued to narrow but remains large. It mainly stems from a productivity shortfall. Structural bottlenecks have increasingly weighed on the growth of economic activity.

    • Indonesia

      While large, Indonesia’s GDP per capita gap relative to the upper half of the OECD is continuing to narrow, reflecting strong labour productivity growth as the economy continues to shift away from low‑productivity primary sectors to services and manufacturing. Labour utilisation is already relatively high in Indonesia but has also continued to contribute to rising GDP per capita.

    • Ireland

      GDP per capita has remained steady at close to the average of the upper half of the OECD in recent years. A fall in labour utilisation has been offset by a rise in labour productivity.

    • Israel

      The income gap with leading OECD economies continues to narrow gradually, mainly reflecting a rising employment rate among Ultra-Orthodox and Arab-Israeli population. Productivity convergence with the most advanced countries, however, remains slow.

    • Italy

      The lack of recovery from recession is leading Italy’s income per capita to fall further behind the leading OECD economies. The productivity performance continues to lag and labour force participation remains weak.

    • Japan

      The GDP per capita gap relative to the upper half of the OECD remains large, as a decline in labour inputs has offset relative productivity gains. Nevertheless, average labour productivity remains nearly a quarter below the leading OECD economies, while labour utilisation is slightly above.

    • Korea

      Sustained rapid growth has brought GDP per capita to within a quarter of the upper half of the OECD countries. However, productivity in Korea is only about half as high, while working hours are among the longest in the OECD.

    • Latvia

      Latvia has experienced a significant catch-up over the past ten years in terms of GDP per capita. Following a big hit during the crisis, convergence has resumed. Yet, the income gap remains substantial, at about a half compared with advanced OECD countries. Both hours worked and productivity lag significantly behind the OECD average. In addition, the share of long-term unemployment remains high.

    • Luxembourg

      Income per capita remains significantly above the level of other OECD countries but is diminishing, owing to declining labour productivity. Employment is also comparatively high. Labour force participation is weaker, although it has recently increased.

    • Mexico

      The persistently wide gap in GDP per capita relative to the upper half of the OECD is driven primarily by a low level and growth rate of labour productivity.

    • Netherlands

      Since 2009, the advantage in GDP per capita against the upper half of OECD countries has been reduced, mainly due to a declining trend in hourly productivity.

    • New Zealand

      GDP per capita remains well below levels in leading OECD economies owing to a significant shortfall in labour productivity. However, favourable terms-of-trade developments have somewhat narrowed the income gap.

    • Norway

      GDP per capita remains high relative to leading OECD countries (in terms of both total and mainland GDP). Growth in GDP per capita has declined, however, with a weaker contribution of both labour productivity and labour utilisation over the past five years. Multifactor productivity is the single most important factor explaining this decline.

    • Poland

      GDP per capita has been converging steadily towards leading OECD countries due to strong labour productivity growth. However, the shortfall relative to the best performing countries remains substantial, notably because of the low employment rate of women and older workers.

    • Portugal

      GDP per capita relative to the upper half of the OECD has declined over the past decade, mainly due to falling labour utilisation. However, lower productivity alone continues to explain the large gap in income levels.

    • Russian Federation

      While the GDP per capita gap relative to the upper half of OECD narrowed rapidly until the crisis, the convergence process slowed down afterwards, due both to a decline in potential growth and cyclical factors. The per capita GDP gap is mainly driven by the productivity gap while the employment rate remains above the OECD average.

    • Slovak Republic

      The rapid catch-up relative to the upper half of OECD countries has continued thanks to strong labour productivity. However, labour utilisation is still lagging behind and potential employment growth stalled.

    • Slovenia

      After having narrowed steadily prior to the crisis, the gap in GDP per capita vis-à-vis the upper half of OECD countries has widened since 2008, reflecting a decline in labour utilisation and slowdown in labour productivity growth.

    • South Africa

      The narrowing of the income gap vis-à-vis leading OECD economies has almost halted since 2007, reflecting a sharp drop in labour utilisation and a minor slowdown in productivity growth.

    • Spain

      The income gap vis-à-vis leading OECD economies continues to widen, reflecting persistently high unemployment. Productivity has improved but this reflects large employment losses.

    • Sweden

      GDP per capita is lower than in leading OECD economies due to lower productivity, but the gap continues to narrow. Labour force participation and employment grow at healthy rates despite an ageing population, while labour productivity growth has slowed.

    • Switzerland

      Since 2008, real GDP per capita and productivity have been growing at a pace similar to the upper half of OECD countries. Income per capita remains above the average of advanced economies but productivity is lagging.

    • Turkey

      The income gap vis-à-vis the upper half of OECD countries continues to narrow but remains large. The convergence achieved over the past decade has been driven by productivity gains, and more recently by strong job creation outside agriculture.

    • United Kingdom

      The GDP per capita gap relative to best performing OECD countries, which started to widen in the early 2000s, shows signs of stabilising, or even narrowing. Productivity remains below its pre-crisis level.

    • United States

      The advantage in GDP per capita relative to the upper half of the OECD has been persistent while narrowing somewhat during the financial crisis. In large part the positive gap has been driven by strengthening labour productivity whereas falls in labour force participation have been acting on the opposite direction.

    • Methodological details on the calculation of household incomes across the distribution

      Household incomes across the distribution are measured by a specific range of income standards, defined formally as follows:

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  • Structural policy indicators

    This chapter contains a comprehensive set of quantitative indicators that allow for a comparison of policy settings across countries. The indicators cover areas of taxation and income support systems and how they affect work incentives, as well as product and labour market regulations, education and training, trade and investment rules and innovation policies. The indicators are presented in the form of figures showing for all countries the most recent available observation and the change relative to the previous observation.

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