Abstract

We investigate the role of sectoral labor productivity in explaining the process of structural transformation—the secular reallocation of labor across sectors—and the time path of aggregate productivity across countries. We measure sectoral labor productivity across countries using a model of the structural transformation. Productivity differences across countries are large in agriculture and services and smaller in manufacturing. Over time, productivity gaps have been substantially reduced in agriculture and industry but not nearly as much in services. These sectoral productivity patterns generate implications in the model that are broadly consistent with the cross-country data. We find that productivity catch-up in industry explains about 50% of the gains in aggregate productivity across countries, whereas low productivity in services and the lack of catch-up explain all the experiences of slowdown, stagnation, and decline observed across countries.

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