Sunday, September 16, 2007

The UN Says America is the Most Productive Nation

According to a report issued in early September, Americans work harder, produce more, and get more done in an hour than do the citizens of other countries. Well, almost: the only ones who surpass us are in the third category. Norwegians have a higher per-hour output than Americans.

The average U.S. worker produces $63,885 of wealth per year, more than their counterparts in all other countries, the International Labor Organization said in its report. Ireland comes in second at $55,986, followed by Luxembourg at $55,641, Belgium at $55,235 and France at $54,609.


Only part of the U.S. productivity growth, which has outpaced that of many other developed economies, can be explained by the longer hours Americans are putting in, the ILO said.

The U.S., according to the report, also beats all 27 nations in the European Union, Japan and Switzerland in the amount of wealth created per hour of work -- a second key measure of productivity.

Norway, which is not an EU member, generates the most output per working hour, $37.99, a figure inflated by the country’s billions of dollars in oil exports and high prices for goods at home. The U.S. is second at $35.63, about a half dollar ahead of third-place France.

What is the reason for the US lead? According to the ILO, it hinges on information technology:

America’s increased productivity “has to do with the ICT (information and communication technologies) revolution, with the way the U.S. organizes companies, with the high level of competition in the country, with the extension of trade and investment abroad,” said Jose Manuel Salazar, the ILO’s head of employment.

The ILO report warned that the widening of the gap between leaders such as the U.S. and poorer nations has been even more dramatic.

Laborers from regions such as southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East have the potential to create more wealth but are being held back by a lack of investment in training, equipment and technology, the agency said.

The report fails to mention that “lack of investment in training, etc.” is a top-down decision in many states that are run by oligarchies whose main interest in holding onto power. It is impossible to build an entrepreneurial middle class while immersed in a sea of corruption and lack of accountability by government.

The report also omits two frequent drawbacks to high productivity: endless bureaucratic regulatory red tape and government corruption.

The fact that the US has managed to keep its head above water does not mean it will continue to do so. Given the ever-increasing bloat of federal, state, and local government workers(estimated by some at forty per cent of all jobs), and the heightened pressure of lobbyists, we may well fall behind in the coming years.

But how about those Norwegians, huh?

[ends here]


Steven Luotto said...

We are automatically trained to cheer at such news and why not? More moohla = better. But how good is all this growth for our cultures, for child rearing, families, and the need to import more and more foreign labor?

Marcin Gomulka said...

According to previous reports of the OECD, France was more productive per hour than the US by 5%.

This report is by the UN so the methodology might differ or the situation might have changed.

David Foster said...

"America’s increased productivity “has to do with the ICT (information and communication technologies) revolution, with the way the U.S. organizes companies, with the high level of competition in the country, with the extension of trade and investment abroad" also has plenty to do with the relative ease of starting new enterprises and with the social acceptance of risk-taking.

hank_F_M said...


Western Europe had recovered from WWII to an equivelant level with the US in the 70's. About then the left got more de facto input and even control than they had had previously and Europe has been losing ground comparitily since then. But fear not, Mrs. Clinton will get us on the same program as Europe.

PS I know the Baron is covering some important items, and doing it well, but a change of pace is nice. Thanks

Dymphna said...

hank f_m:

You make a good point. Remember Nevil Shute's books after WWII? I've found a few in used book shops...he used his stories to compare the strengths of Australian economic decisions vs. Britian's turn to statism. He made a good case for the Australian view.

David M said...

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Conservative Swede said...

Marcin Gomulka,

The result will be very different depending on whether the productivity measure is spread out over the whole population, or only among the people who are actually working.

Arles said...

Norwegians have always been hard working people. If you leave out all the lazy tossers who're on the dole, and all the immigrants living on welfare hand-outs you'll find that the average Norwegian has a good work ethic.

I'm a construction worker and I often put in 12 hour days, pluss weekends.

Don't make the mistake of labeling all Norwegians as soft and lazy just because our country is in the grips of the feminin socialist.

I'd like to see you guys spend 12 hours outdoors when the temperature drops below 20 and there's blizzard whipping your face into ice.