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The Centre for the Study of Living Standards is a non-profit, national, independent organization that seeks to contribute to a better understanding of trends in and determinants of productivity, living standards and economic and social well-being through research.
Announcements & Recent Releases
On July 18, 2017, the Centre for the Study of Living Standards released a report entitled “The Inclusion of Natural Resource Wealth in
the Index of Economic Well-Being: Results for OECD Countries, 1980-2013” The objective of the report is to present augmented estimates of the Index of Economic Well-being (IEWB) for 14 OECD countries for the 1980-2013 period. The new estimates account for the inclusion of an
internationally comparable measure of natural resource wealth which had been absent from
previous IEWB reports. It finds that in 2013 Norway had the highest level of economic wellbeing
and Spain the lowest. Despite being a resource rich country, Canada ranked eleventh among the fourteen countries for economic well-being.
On July 13, 2017 the Centre for the Study of Living Standards released a study done for Global Affairs Canada entitled “The Effect of Import Competition on Employment in Canada: Evidence from the China Shock.” The federal government has called for a “progressive trade agenda” for Canada, an agenda which responses to the concerns of those harmed by the liberalization of international trade and ensures that trade contributes to broad-based prosperity for all Canadians. The objective of the report is to contribute to the development of such an agenda by measuring the impact on Canadian employment of a recent shock to Canada’s import supply. The report finds that the direct effect of rising Chinese import competition on Canadian manufacturing was a net loss of 105 thousand jobs over the 2001-2011 period, equivalent to 21 per cent of the actual observed decline in manufacturing employment. A press release is available for this issue.
The Centre for the Study of Living Standards (CSLS) on July 6, 2017 released a special issue of its flagship publication,the International Productivity Monitor, done in partnership with the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The issue is based on selected papers from the First OECD Global Forum on Productivity held in Lisbon in July 2016. The issue contains 11 articles featuring the most recent research on a wide range of productivity topics from the OECD and other organizations which undertake productivity research. Topics addressed include the decoupling of wage and productivity growth, the productivity implications of global value chains, productivity insights from firm-level data, public sector productivity issues, the role of urban agglomerations in productivity growth, and development of pro-productivity institutions. The key findings of the articles are highlighted in the Editors' Overview. Particularly relevant from a Canadian perspective are two articles on the decoupling of wage growth from productivity growth in OECD countries. Both articles show that the gap between median wage and labour productivity growth in Canada in recent decades has been significant, and greater than experienced in most other OECD countries. A press release is available for this issue.
On April 19, 2017, the Centre for the Study of Living Standards released a report entitled “Are Trends in Patenting Reflective of Innovative Activity in Canada?". The objective of the report is to shed light on trends in Canadian innovation as indicated by patenting. Central to these recent trends is an apparent paradox: the number of patents granted to Canadians, an output indicator of innovative activity, has increased substantially between 2000 and 2014 despite decreased business sector expenditures on R&D, a crucial input to innovation, in the same period. The report provides several potential explanations as to why this is the case, the strongest being that the divergence between trends in patenting and R&D expenditures is caused by greater efficiency of research processes and an increase in the filings of patents for strategic reasons. The report also documents recent trends in patenting activity in Canada from several sources and compares trends across different technologies. Patenting trends are also used to give a regional perspective on innovation by tracking the level of innovative activity occurring in provinces and census metropolitan areas. A press release is available for this issue.
The Centre for the Study of Living Standards has organized four sessions for this year's Canadian Economic Association Annual Conference at St Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia from June 2 to June 4. The titles of the CSLS sessions are:
International Productivity Developments
Productivity Developments in Canada
Trends in Well-being in Canada
Investment in Children: Driver of the Future Living Standards of Canadians (Panel joint with PEF)
A full program of the Centre's sessions can be found here.
Details about the CEA 50th Annual Conference can be found on the CEA website.
On April 13, 2017, the Centre for the Study of Living Standards released a report entitled “The Gap Year: An Overview of the Issues.” The report was prepared at the request of the Youth Secretariat of the Privy Council Office. Taking a gap year between high school and post-secondary education appears to be an increasingly popular option for youth. The report reviews the literature on issues related to a gap year, with a focus on the Canadian context. Overall, taking a gap year appears to be a beneficial choice for many Canadian youth, although the impact of a gap year is often dependent on the youth’s socioeconomic background and the activities they participate during their gap year. Based on these findings in the literature, a number of options for public policy are proposed.
On December 21, 2016, the CSLS released the Fall 2016 issue of the International Productivity Monitor. The issue features eight articles on a range of productivity issues: the productivity paradox in the New Digital Economy; the industry origins of Canada's weaker productivity growth; the factors behind the gap between productivity and median wage growth in Canada; a review of Robert J. Gordon's new book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, with a response by the author; and a symposium on issues related to total factor productivity growth, including its sources, industry decompositions, and relationship to partial productivity measures, A press release is available for this issue.
On December 21, 2016, the Centre for the Study of Living Standards released a report entitled “Decomposing Multifactor Productivity Growth in Canada by Industry and Province, 1997-2014" by Matthew Calver and Alexander Murray decompose MFP growth in Canada over the 1997-2014 period by industry and by province. Their results are methodology-dependent. The decomposition technique that includes relative price changes as contributing to aggregate MFP finds that the mining and oil and gas sector, and the provinces where this sector is concentrated, made by far the largest contribution to aggregate MFP growth because of the large increases in output prices over the period. In contrast, the technique that excludes relative price movements finds that manufacturing and Ontario (the province where manufacturing is concentrated) made the largest contribution.
On December 21, 2016, the Centre for the Study of Living Standards released a report prepared for the Smart Prosperity Institute entitled “Partial versus Total Factor Productivity (TFP) Measures: An Assessment of their Strengths and Weaknesses” by Alexander Murray and Andrew Sharpe. The report points out that partial productivity measures provide an incomplete picture of the efficiency with which all inputs are being employed. However, TFP suffers from a number of weaknesses, including burdensome data requirements, and complex methodological choices about which there is no expert consensus. This results in a lack of transparency and difficulty for non-experts to understand. The report concludes that productivity analysts should adopt a balanced, context- appropriate approach that incorporates both types of productivity measure.
On December 15, 2016 the Centre for the Study of Living Standards released the report “Developing an Inclusive Innovation Agenda for Canada" prepared for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. An inclusive innovation system is one which opportunities to participate in innovation are broadly available to all and the dividends of innovation are broadly shared by all. The policy discussion aims to demonstrate how policies for innovation can be analyzed through the lens of economic inclusiveness without sacrificing the goal of promoting innovation and provides indicators to compare Canada's performance against peer countries and to measure progress over time. The report suggests that regulatory reforms, education initiatives and more support for growth-oriented businesses are keys to enhancing inclusive innovation in Canada. A press release is available for this report. A Globe and Mail article is also available.
On December 5, 2016 the Centre for the Study of Living Standards released the report “New Evidence on the Canada-US ICT Investment Gap, 1976-2014” prepared for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. The report finds that ICT investment in Canada has performed poorly since 2008, with nominal ICT investment per job falling from 68.4 per cent of the U.S. level in 2008 to 56.3 per cent in 2014. One half of the gap in ICT investment per job between Canada and the United States in 2014 was accounted for by the information and communication industry. Professional, scientific and technical activities, and manufacturing and wholesale and retail trade accounted for almost all of the remaining gap. A press release is available for this report. The database for this report is available here. A column in the Financial Post is also available.
On November 14, 2016, the Centre for the Study of Living Standards released two reports on the disconnect between growth in labour productivity and median real hourly earnings in Canada and in 11 OECD countries. Canadian labour is more productive than ever before, but there is a pervasive sense among Canadians that the living standards of the 'middle class' have been stagnating. Indeed, over the 1976-2014 period, labour productivity in Canada grew by 1.1 per cent per year while median real hourly earnings grew by only 0.1 per cent per year. Rising earnings inequality, as proxied by faster growth in average wages than median wages, accounted for one half of the gap, and the declining share of labour in national income accounted for 30 per cent. Among OECD countries covered in the study the United States had by far the largest productivity/median earnings gap at 1.6 percentage points. This failure of the gains from productivity to flow to the middle class likely explains much of the angst expressed by U.S. voters during the course of the recent election. The experience should serve as a warning to governments in other countries. A press release is available for these reports. A Globe and Mail article is also available. An op-ed in the Financial Post is also available.
The Board of Directors of the Centre for the Study of Living Standards is pleased to announce the appointment of Don Drummond as the new chair of the organization, following the passing of Alan Nymark in May 2016. Don is one of Canada’s best known economists. He served as Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at the TD Bank from 2000 to 2010 and as Associate Deputy Minister of Finance from 2008 to 2010. He is currently the Stauffer-Dunning Fellow in Global Public Policy and Adjunct Professor at the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University. In 2011-12, he served as Chair for the Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services.
On July 28, 2016, the CSLS released a report entitled The Human Development Index in Canada: Ranking the Provinces and Territories Internationally, 2000-2014 by James Uguccioni. This report provides internationally comparable estimates of the Human Development Index (HDI) for the Canadian provinces and territories from 2000 to 2014. The report explores a wide variation in the quality of life enjoyed by Canadians. It shows that while Albertans enjoy a quality of life similar to that of Switzerland or Denmark, residents of Nunavut face a quality of life similar to that of Latvia or Croatia. A press release is available for this report.
On July 18, 2016, the CSLS released a report entitled Further Evidence on the Contribution of Services Outsourcing to the Decline in Manufacturing’s Employment Share in Canada by Matthew Calver and Evan Capeluck. This report revisits the results of an earlier CSLS report to further examine how outsourcing of work from the manufacturing sector to the services sector contributed to the recorded decline in Canadian manufacturing employment over the past four decades. Utilizing new custom data products provided by Statistics Canada, the report finds that the contribution of services outsourcing to the decline of manufacturing’s employment share was quite small, explaining no more than 8.3 per cent.
On July 13, 2016, the CSLS released a report entitled Trends in Low Wage Employment in Canada: Incidence, Gap and Intensity, 1997-2014 by Jasmin Thomas. Using micro-data from the Labour Force Survey, the report provides a comprehensive analysis of the trends in low-wage incidence, gap and intensity. Low wage incidence is defined as the proportion of workers aged 20 to 64 earning less than two-thirds of the median hourly wage of full-time workers. The low-wage gap reflects the depth of low-wage employment. A measure of low-wage employment is arguably most the important component of job quality because an individual’s labour market earnings largely determine their living standards. In 2014, slightly more than one in four employees aged 20 to 64 years (27.6 per cent) were considered low-wage. A press release is available for this report. A Globe and Mail article is also available.
On July 5, 2016, the CSLS released a report entitled Slower Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being in the Canadian Context: A Discussion Paper by Mike Pennock from the B.C. Ministry of Health. The report investigates how slower economic growth will affect Canadian levels of well-being, arguing that the most serious threat to well-being that is associated with the slow-growth scenario is an expected increase in income inequality and household debt. Canada may be particularly vulnerable to these effects because it is entering a slow growth era with relatively high levels of inequality and household debt, relative to most other mature nations. A press release is available for this issue. A Hill Times Article is available.
On June 29, 2016, the CSLS released the Spring 2016 issue of the International Productivity Monitor. The issue features eight articles on a range of productivity issues: the challenges of measuring productivity in the digital economy; productivity trends and policies in Mexico; a comparison of Australian and Canadian productivity growth; productivity growth in U.S. agriculture; productivity in Canadian freight railways; global productivity growth; productivity convergence; and productivity strategies. A press release is available for this issue.
On June 28, 2016, the Centre for the Study of Living Standards released a report entitled “Firm-level Total Factor Productivity: Canadian Freight Railways, 1986-2009" by James Uguccioni. This report estimates various productivity measures for Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP). Productivity growth at both railways significantly outperformed the Canadian economy throughout the period of study. Although CN's level of productivity was well below CP in the mid-1980s, it had become the leading firm by early 2000s.
On June 24, 2016, the Centre for the Study of Living Standards released a report entitled “A Comparison of Australian and Canadian Productivity Performance: Lessons for Canada." This report examines the impact of public policy on Australia's productivity performance and discusses possible lessons for Canada from this experience. To do this, the report conducts a comprehensive analysis of the productivity performance of both countries, with particular interest in determining which underlying factors can explain Australia's superior productivity growth in recent years. In addition, the report discusses literature on the effects of public policy on Australian productivity performance since the 1990s. A press release is available here.
On May 15, 2016 CSLS Chair Alan Nymark passed away after a brief illness. The Board of Directors of the Centre for the Study of Living Standards extends its deepest sympathy to Alan’s family at this very difficult time. Alan’s passing is a massive loss to the CSLS. His leadership of the organization will be greatly missed. A celebration of Alan’s life will be held on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at the Westin Hotel at 1 PM. The obituary that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen on May 17 is available here.
The Centre for the Study of Living Standards has organized six sessions for this year's Canadian Economic Association Annual Conference at the University of Ottawa in Ottawa, Ontario from June 3 to June 5. The titles of the CSLS sessions are:
Aboriginal Governance and Economic Development Issues (joint with CD Howe)
Full Employment in the 21st Century: Relevant Policy? Attainable Goal?" - A Mike McCracken Memorial Panel (joint with PEF and CABE)
Is the Canadian Labour Market Generating High-Quality Jobs? (joint with PEF)
Perspectives on Productivity Issues
Is Effective Governance Feasible for All First Nations? (joint with CD Howe)
Perspectives on the Measurement of Economic Well-Being
A full program of the Centre's sessions can be found here.
Details about the CEA 50th Annual Conference can be found on the CEA website.
On April 6, 2016, the Centre for the Study of Living Standards released a report entitled “Productivity Trends in the Canadian Transport Sector: An Overview” by Fanny McKellips and Matthew Calver. This report documents recent trends in productivity and related variables in Canada’s rail, air, trucking, and urban transit industries. Productivity growth has been quite strong in the trucking, air, and rails sectors due to technological advances, competitive pressures, deregulation, improved fuel efficiency, and capital investment. In contrast, productivity has fallen in the urban transit sector due in part to expansion of services. The report suggests several policy options to enhance transportation productivity going forward. A press release is available here.
On March 30, 2016, the Centre for the Study of Living Standards released a new st