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The Rise of Pro-Productivity Institutions: A Review of Analysis and Policy Recommendations

This paper reviews the recent analytical work and policy recommendations of ten national productivity commissions, i.e., Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand and Portugal, and makes some comparisons with the work of the UK Productivity Commission. The paper finds considerable diversity in the work of the productivity commissions, reflecting differences in mandates, degree of independence and available resources, amongst others. The boards have much more in common in their analytical and policy work. This likely reflects common challenges, such as the overall slowdown in productivity and the recent COVID-19 crisis; broader underlying trends affecting productivity such as digitalisation and structural change; as well as a shared understanding of the main drivers of productivity, notably investment, skills and human capital, as well as innovation, digitalisation and creative destruction.

The work by the UK Productivity Commission differs somewhat from that by the ten productivity boards. The UK Productivity Commission is essentially an independent, primarily academic effort linked to the work of The Productivity Institute, with a more indirect link to the UK government and policy making than the other commissions. Substantively, the work has much in common with that undertaken abroad, however, with many issues covered by foreign productivity commissions also addressed in the UK. Some differences emerge with the UK work thus far, however, with a greater focus on digitalisation, business dynamics and competition in the work of the foreign productivity commissions than in the UK. On the other hand, the UK Productivity Commission has thus far had a stronger focus on regional issues, governance and institutional factors than most of the foreign productivity commissions.

National contexts and priorities differ and what may be considered important in one country is not necessarily central to discussions in another. Comparing experiences with work in other countries can help provide context and generate ideas for further reflection in the work of the UK Productivity Commission and that of other commissions. The rise of productivity commissions across the OECD area provides a rich source of analysis and policy learning that should be drawn on by academics, policy makers and others interested in productivity.

Author Dirk Pilat (The University of Manchester)



  • Productivity Studies




D. Pilat (2023) The Rise of Pro-Productivity Institutions: A Review of Analysis and Policy Recommendations. Productivity Insights Paper No. 015, The Productivity Institute.