Some Comparisons of Productivity
With these considerations in mind, one may turn to some recent attempts to compare the productivities of labour in different countries, and attempt to account for the differences revealed. The subject is treated at some length by Mr. Colin Clark in the chapter of his book, The Conditions of Economic Progress, on " The Productivity of Secondary Industry," and a comparison of productivity in Great Britain, Germany, and the United States for years shortly before the war has been made by Mr. Rostas in the Economic Journal of April 1943. Mr. Rostas' results may be summarised first. Perhaps the most interesting of them are his comparisons of physical amounts of output per operative per annum in the three countries in various industries where outputs are susceptible of comparison in this way. For 25 industries the weighted average of German productivity exceeded that of British by 1 or 7 per cent, (according as weights appropriate to the German or to the British industrial structure were used), while United States productivity exceeded British by 129 or 138 per cent, (again according to the choice of weights). Mr. Rostas also compared the net values of output per occupied person in all the factory trades of the three countries as revealed by the British Census of Production of 1935, the German census of 1936, and the United States census of 1937. Taking as the appropriate exchange rates 17-08 Rm. and $4*94 to the he finds that German per capita productivity exceeded British by 11 per cent., while the United States productivity exceeded British by 125 per cent. The range of industries covered here is not the same as that covered by the direct comparison of physical outputs per operative, and the relative importance of the various industries in the three countries was not the same ; both Germany and the United States had more, relative to Britain, of the industries in which their relative productivity was highest. All the evidence together seems to suggest, however, that British per capita productivity, industry for industry, was, on the average, perhaps slightly less than German, while the average per capita productivity in
manufacturing industry as a whole was appreciably less in Britain than in Germany. No doubt is left by it that British per capita output, both industry for industry (on the average) and in manufacturing as a whole, was less than half that in the United States.