Productivity Level Across the World

Labour productivity is a revealing indicator of several economic indicators as it offers a dynamic measure of economic growth, competitiveness, and living standards within an economy. It is the measure of labour productivity which helps explain the principal economic foundations that are necessary for both economic growth and social development.

Labour productivity = Volume measure of output / Measure of labour input use

Activia Training, a UK-based corporate training provider, has recently conducted the following study and built a very interesting interactive map that compares 4 different factors:

  • Annual hours worked per worker
  • Labour productivity per person employed
  • Labour productivity per hour worked
  • Percentage of growth of Labour Productivity per hour worked

The volume measure of output reflects the goods and services produced by the workforce. Numerator of the ratio of labour productivity, the volume measure of output is measured by gross domestic product (GDP), which represents the value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a year. The GDP per capita indicates the average share of the economy per person, if every single individual was working.

If we divide by the average number of hours worked in the country, we get the productivity per worker per hour. Labour productivity per hour worked is calculated as real output (deflated GDP measured in chain-linked volumes) per unit of labour input (measured by the total number of hours worked). Measuring labour productivity per hour worked provides a better picture of productivity developments in the economy than labour productivity per person employed, as it eliminates differences in the full time/part time composition of the workforce across countries and years.

Another way to calculate it is to take the GDP (PPP) per capita per hour and divide it by the employment rate, which should give exactly the same result, if the stats used are the same. We have put together some interesting data about productivity across the world.

Country 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Austria 355,631 365,617 368,386 369,569 370,875 374,123
Belgium 434,035 441,834 442,502 442,575 448,543 454,691
Canada 1,395,865 1,437,184 1,464,819 1,494,166 1,530,614 1,548,598
Denmark 285,552 288,842 288,630 287,927 291,560 294,996
Finland 229,510 235,410 232,053 230,293 228,685 229,934
France 2,321,857 2,370,133 2,374,463 2,390,051 2,394,343 2,422,021
Germany 3,109,563 3,223,373 3,236,433 3,246,072 3,298,002 3,353,663
Greece 238,535 216,751 200,927 194,501 195,773 195,320
Ireland 201,383 206,595 206,908 209,875 220,787 238,034
Italy 1,882,979 1,893,837 1,840,450 1,808,275 1,802,070 1,815,757
Luxembourg 49,746 51,022 50,590 52,789 54,937 57,601
Netherlands 716,550 728,471 720,771 717,200 724,452 738,873
Norway 358,054 361,523 371,461 375,170 383,480 389,482
Portugal 208,719 204,906 196,652 194,429 196,190 199,055
Spain 1,209,783 1,197,684 1,166,301 1,146,801 1,162,405 1,199,768
Sweden 446,496 458,392 457,080 462,753 473,244 492,617
Switzerland 616,397 627,521 634,578 645,803 658,005 663,991
United Kingdom 2,570,506 2,621,207 2,652,112 2,709,395 2,786,690 2,851,597
United States 16,228,912 16,488,859 16,855,507 17,106,563 17,521,951 17,947,000


The United Kingdom showed a strong improvement in GDP growth (up from 1.7% in 2013 to 2.8% in 2014), but this did not translate into labour productivity growth as the economic recovery in the UK was primarily fuelled by the creation of more jobs and longer working hours. Growth in total hours in 2014 increased significantly from 1.8% to 2.7%, resulting in only negligible improvement in labour productivity growth of 0.1% after a substantial contraction in 2012 and 2013. One of the concerns is that many of the UK companies are comparatively unproductive. In fact, UK’s level of output per hour remains well below that of its main continental counterparts, France and Germany.

So why do France and Belgium have similar GDP per capita to less productive countries like the UK, Germany or the Netherlands? This can be explained by the very high percentage of fairly recent (last 3 generations) immigrants from developing countries, who are usually poorly educated and have much higher unemployment rates.

In comparison, foreign residents in the UK tend to be much better educated, as the UK has attracts more intellectual job-seekers (in IT, finance, and even medicine), as well as more skilled workers (e.g. from Eastern Europe). It is not a new phenomenon; many Indian immigrants in the 1950’s were medical doctors or lawyers.

Portugal and Greece seem to be the least productive countries, while Luxembourg and Norway are leading the way.

Marco SaccaAuthor: Marco Saccà is an Italian journalist based in London, where he works as a digital marketing executive and freelance writer. He loves writing about business, entrepreneurship and startups.

For further information, please contact Marco Saccà at or 020 8344 2057.