12 May 2003
Social Protection and Growth
Public social expenditure accounts for 25 per cent of GDP, or even more in some countries. That expenditure on this scale has some effect on growth seems very likely, but the direction of the effect is disputed by different schools of thought. Using new data sources and panel data econometric techniques, this paper sheds new light on the issue. Evidence is found in favour of the proposition that more social expenditure reduces growth. However, "active" social spending, including active labour market policies, make work pay policies and spending on family services, appears to have the opposite effect and may be growth-enhancing.
12 May 2003
Production and Use of ICT
This paper examines the roles of the ICT-producing sector and of key ICT-using industries in overall productivity growth in OECD countries. The ICT manufacturing sector, in particular, has been characterised by very high rates of productivity growth in many countries and provides a large contribution to labour productivity growth in Finland, Ireland and Korea. In a few countries, notably the United States and Australia, certain ICT-using services have also experienced an above-average pick-up in productivity growth in the second half of the 1990s. Further structural reform may be needed before ICT use will also show up in the productivity statistics of other OECD countries. Differences in the measurement of productivity in ICT-producing and -using industries across countries complicate the cross-country analysis.
12 May 2003
Competition and Efficiency in Publicly Funded Services
OECD countries gradually open the provision of publicly funded services to competition. This article sets out an analytical framework focusing on incentives and information asymmetries between government as a principal and the agents supplying publicly funded services, and reviews how these issues are addressed by different forms of competition. Taking a wide perspective across different publicly funded services, the article reviews to what extent and how OECD countries have introduced competition, and it seeks to compare and explain the differences based on service characteristics. This review covers education, childcare, long-term care for elderly and employment services. In such services used by individuals there can be benefits from letting users chooseamong alternative suppliers, but developing appropriate regulation shaping the incentives of users and suppliers is essential. Alternatively, competitive tendering and contracting can be used, as is frequently done in OECD countries in technical and support services, including in areas where the final services are supplied via a public monopoly. Private finance of infrastructure investment plays a minor role so far.
12 May 2003
Tax Ratios on Labour and Capital Income and on Consumption
This paper presents revised tax ratios based on more realistic assumptions than those used in a previous study applying the same approach (based on tax revenue statistics and national accounts data) to measuring the effective tax burden. Although the levels of the revised tax ratios are sometimes quite different from those previously found, the two data sets are generally highly correlated. The paper also presents a sensitivity analysis of relaxing some remaining unrealistic assumptions for countries and periods where that is possible. It is found that this often has a large effect on the tax ratios, especially for capital, and the two data sets are sometimes no longer highly correlated. This highlights the need to use these ratios in conjunction with other indicators, such as average effective tax rates, to corroborate the story they tell.
12 May 2003
The Stock Market, the Housing Market and Consumer Behaviour
After the buoyancy of stock markets in the late nineties, share prices have generally trended downwards since 2001. By contrast, house prices have continued to increase, rising more rapidly than the general price level in several countries. These developments have led to renewed interest in the impact of asset prices on consumption and overall demand. This paper analyses the roles of household financial wealth and housing wealth across G7 countries (with the exception of Germany), in determining private consumption. It provides some estimates of the sensitivity of consumption to various forms of wealth and tests whether these sensitivities have changed over time. The impacts of recent financial and housing market developments on consumption are also quantified. The main results are, first, that for all countries, wealth channels are identified, second, that these effects vary significantly across countries, and third that for some countries, their importance has tended to rise markedly over the recent past.