A country’s ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker. That’s why Nobel laureate Paul Krugman concluded that productivity isn’t everything – but in the long run it is almost everything.
Instead of wasting the nation’s time focusing on the non-existent threat of the deficit, the chancellor, Philip Hammond, this week conceded the “everything” that Mr Krugman had identified: British productivity has stalled and as a result workers’ real wages will be lower than when the recession began. Before the crash, we would have expected living standards to double every 40 years. Now that will take 80. That means lost decades for millions of ordinary people.
It’s easy to become overly pessimistic. The epoch of enormous economic progress that characterised the 20th century is not over.