Attilio Di Battista
Margareta Drzeniek Hanouz
World Economic Forum
Seven years after the global financial crisis, the world economy is evolving against the background of the “new normal” of lower economic growth, lower productivity growth, and high unemployment. Although overall prospects remain positive, growth is expected to remain below the levels recorded in previous decades in most developed economies and in many emerging markets.1 Growth prospects could still be derailed by the uncertainty fueled by a slowdown in emerging markets, geopolitical tensions and conflicts around the world, as well as by the unfolding humanitarian crisis. At the same time, some positive developments—such as the rapid diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICTs) giving rise to new business models and revolutionizing industries—bear great promise for a future wave of innovations that could drive longer-term growth.
Geographical patterns of growth also continue to shift, with advanced economies gaining ground on emerging markets. In 2013 emerging markets grew almost four times as quickly as advanced economies (5 percent versus 1.3 percent); in 2015 they are projected to be growing less than twice as quickly (4.2 percent versus 2.1 percent).2 In particular, the United States is recovering, despite moves toward the normalization of monetary policy and the strengthening of the dollar. The country’s unemployment rate is at its lowest level since 2008.3 In Europe, more sluggish growth prospects are somewhat counterbalanced by lower energy prices and a weakened euro, though doubts remain about the future of the eurozone following the bailout of Greece. In Japan, monetary policy and a weaker yen are supporting growth, although it remains subdued. Among emerging markets, meanwhile, oil and commodity exporters need to adjust to lower commodity price levels. In China, the move toward a more sustainable, less investment-driven growth model is expected to result in more moderate growth (see Box 4).
Rather than adjusting to this new normal, countries must step up their efforts to re-accelerate economic growth. There is evidence that, in addition to lower capital accumulation that results from reduced investments, productivity over the past decade has been stagnating and even declining, which could have contributed to the current situation. As a growing body of empirical literature shows, differences in productivity are the main determinants of cross-country prosperity levels.4 Increasing productivity therefore needs to be at the core of the policy agendas of governments and international organizations. This makes the World Economic Forum’s annual assessment of the drivers of productivity, the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), particularly relevant for policymakers seeking to identify priority areas for reforms.
At the same time, it should be acknowledged that the economic crisis has led to growth and productivity being increasingly seen less as ultimate goals and more as contributors to a larger goal of broad-based rises in living standards. Developing and advanced economies alike are subscribing more and more to the notion of inclusive growth, and there is growing debate about the relationship between competitiveness and inclusiveness. The World Economic Forum’s first Inclusive Growth and Development Report, published in September 2015, further explores these issues and provides a first attempt at benchmarking the drivers of inclusive growth to complement our work on competitiveness (see Box 1).
The Global Competitiveness Report 2015–2016, the 36th edition in the series, presents the results of the latest iteration of the GCI. This chapter distills the key messages, analyzes the main global and regional results and recent trends, and briefly discusses the competitiveness performance of selected economies. Chapter 1.2 introduces the planned updates to the GCI, which we expect will replace the current methodology in the next edition of the Report. Chapter 1.3 describes the workings of the Executive Opinion Survey, the results of which feed into the GCI and other research by the Forum and various organizations.