How Did Japan Catch-Up on the West? A Sectoral Analysis of Anglo-Japanese Productivity Differences, 1885-2000

44 Pages Posted: 5 May 2015

See all articles by Stephen N. Broadberry

Stephen N. Broadberry

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

Kyoji Fukao

Hitotsubashi University - Institute of Economic Research

Nick Zammit

University of Warwick

Date Written: May 2015

Abstract

Although Japanese economic growth after the Meiji Restoration is often characterised as a gradual process of trend acceleration, comparison with the United States suggests that catching-up only really started after 1950, due to the unusually dynamic performance of the US economy before 1950. A comparison with the United Kingdom, still the world productivity leader in 1868, reveals an earlier period of Japanese catching up between the 1890s and the 1920s, with a pause between the 1920s and the 1940s. Furthermore, this earlier process of catching up was driven by the dynamic productivity performance of Japanese manufacturing, which is also obscured by a comparison with the United States. Japan overtook the UK as a major exporter of manufactured goods not simply by catching-up in labour productivity terms, but by holding the growth of real wages below the growth of labour productivity so as to enjoy a unit labour cost advantage. Accounting for levels differences in labour productivity between Japan and the United Kingdom reveals an important role for capital in the catching-up process, casting doubt on the characterisation of Japan as following a distinctive Asian path of labour intensive industrialisation.

Keywords: international comparison, labour productivity, sectoral disaggregation

JEL Classification: N10, N30, O47, O57

Suggested Citation

Broadberry, Stephen N. and Fukao, Kyoji and Zammit, Nick, How Did Japan Catch-Up on the West? A Sectoral Analysis of Anglo-Japanese Productivity Differences, 1885-2000 (May 2015). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP10570, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2602807

Stephen N. Broadberry (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

+44 0 24 7652 3446 (Phone)
+44 0 24 7652 3032 (Fax)

Kyoji Fukao

Hitotsubashi University - Institute of Economic Research ( email )

2-1 Naka Kunitachi-shi
Tokyo 186-8306
Japan

Nick Zammit

University of Warwick ( email )

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry, CV4 8UW
United Kingdom

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