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Groningen Growth and Development Centre
Faculty of Economics and Business
GGDC Productivity Related Projects


International Comparison of Output and Productivity by industry

Since 1983 a substantial research effort has been undertaken at the University of Groningen to carry out industry of origin comparisons of sectoral output and productivity across countries. The International Comparisons of Output and Productivity (ICOP) project was initiated by Angus Maddison. The ICOP project now covers about 30 countries in Asia, East and West Europe, and North and South America. Comparisons of manufacturing output and productivity, which are based on unit value ratio comparisons and disaggregated into 16 manufacturing branches, are available for almost all of these countries. Comparisons for agriculture, transport and communication and wholesale and retail trade are available for a smaller group of countries. Comparisons for all sectors of the economy, adding up to total GDP, are available for Brazil, Japan, Korea, Mexico and the United States.

Over the years the ICOP has extended cooperation with other universities and research institutes which carry out ICOP-type productivity studies. These include the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (London, the Centre d'Études Prospectives et d'Informations Internationales (Paris), and the Department of Business Studies at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Since 1997 the Economics Department of The Conference Board is sponsoring this programme, and makes use of its results for economic analysis.

A key characteristic of the ICOP is the use of industry-specific purchasing power parities (or unit value ratios) to convert output in national currencies to a common currency, e.g. US dollars. In contrast to other studies, these comparisons are therefore not based on exchange rates or PPPs for total GDP, but take into account differences in relative price levels between industries. In most cases countries are compared on a binary basis with the USA as the numéraire country. In some cases (for example East European countries) comparisons have been made with West Germany; in some other cases with the United Kingdom (Spain and Portugal); in some other cases with France (Morocco, Tunesia). ICOP has mostly focussed on comparisons of value added per person employed or per hour worked. For some countries, the ICOP data base not only provides labour productivity, but also estimates of total factor productivity and unit labour cost. The ICOP project has put out over 80 research reports, in which methods, procedures and basic data are given, so that methods can be replicated and revised (go to: List of publications and downloadable papers).

ICOP data for manufacturing, transport and communication and wholesale and retail trade are now also included in a regular publication of the International Labour Office (ILO), called Key Indicators of the Labour Market, 2001-2002. These estimates make use of ICOP's unit value ratios, but - in contrast to the estimates presented here - output and employment are directly taken from national accounts of individual countries instead of from industrial surveys and manufacturing censuses.

Downloadable database
Last modified:20 July 2022 12.51 p.m.