China’s growth potential has become a hotly debated topic as the economy has reached an income level susceptible to the “middle-income trap” and financial vulnerabilities are mounting after years of rapid credit expansion. However, the existing literature has largely focused on macro level aggregates, which are ill suited to understanding China’s significant structural transformation and its impact on economic growth. To fill the gap, this paper takes a deep dive into China’s convergence progress in 38 industrial sectors and 11 services sectors, examines past sectoral transitions, and predicts future shifts. We find that China’s productivity convergence remains at an early stage, with the industrial sector more advanced than services. Large variations exist among subsectors, with high-tech industrial sectors, in particular the ICT sector, lagging low-tech sectors. Going forward, ample room remains for further convergence, but the shrinking distance to the frontier, the structural shift from industry to services, and demographic changes will put sustained downward pressure on growth, which could slow to 5 percent by 2025 and 4 percent by 2030. Digitalization, SOE reform, and services sector opening up could be three major forces boosting future growth, while the risks of a financial crisis and a reversal in global integration in trade and technology could slow the pace of convergence.
Ms. Era Dabla-Norris, Mr. Alun H. Thomas, Mr. Rodrigo Garcia-Verdu, and Ms. Yingyuan Chen
This paper documents stylized facts on the process of structural transformation around the world and empirically analyzes its determinants using data on real value added by sector of economic activity (agriculture, manufacturing and services) for a panel of 168 countries over the period 1970-2010. The analysis points to large differences in sector shares both across and within regions as well as for countries at similar levels of economic development. Using both linear and quantile regression methods, it finds that a large proportion of the cross-country variation in sector shares can be accounted for by country characteristics, such as real GDP per capita, demographic structure, and population size. It also finds that policy and insitutional variables, such as product market reforms, openness to trade, human and physical capital, and finance improve the baseline model’s ability to account for the variation in sectoral shares across countries.
This paper finds a negative relationship between the employment share of the service sector and the volatility of aggregate output in the OECD—after controlling for the level of financial development. This result reflects volatility differentials across sectors: labor productivity is more volatile in agriculture and manufacturing than in services. Aggregate output would therefore become less volatile as labor moves away from agriculture and manufacturing and toward the service sector. I examine the quantitative role of these labor shifts—termed structural transformation—on the volatility of aggregate output in OECD countries. I first calibrate to the U.S. economy an indivisible labor model in which the reallocation of labor across sectors emerges endogenously from sectoral labor productivity growth differentials. The setup is then used to generate the time path of labor shares in agriculture, manufacturing and services in individual countries. Finally, I perform a set of counterfactual analyzes in which the reallocation of labor across sectors is constrained endogenously. I find that the secular shift of labor towards the service sector was volatility-reducing in OECD countries during 1970–2006.
Ensuring stable growth in the postcrisis world economy will require a rebalancing of economic activity in several countries. In Asia’s export-dependent economies, this entails relying more on private domestic demand as a driver of growth. While some countries need to raise consumption, several need to raise investment or reorient it from tradable to nontradable sectors. These changes in investment could be facilitated by financial reforms that enhance domestically oriented firms’ access to credit, stronger incentives for corporate restructuring, policies to bolster the business climate and reduce uncertainty, and by improvements in infrastructure that raise the returns to private investment.
This paper gauges the key determinants of China's private consumption in relation to GDP using data on the Chinese economy and evidence from other countries' experiences. The results suggest there is nothing "special" about consumption in China. Rather, the challenge is to explain why the conditioning variables-notably a low level of service sector employment, the level of financial sector development, and low real interest rates-are so different in China relative to other countries' historical experience. The results suggest, in particular, that efforts to further raise household income and the share of employment in the services sector, as well as to develop capital markets, including liberalizing interest rates and creating alternative savings instruments are likely to have the biggest impact on consumption. Other mechanisms to raise household income and mitigate household-specific risk (such as by improving the healthcare and pension systems) also have a role to play.
This paper gauges the potential effects on employment of rebalancing China's exportoriented growth model toward domestic demand, particularly private consumption. Shifting to a private consumption-led growth likely means more demand for existing and new services as well as reorienting the production of tradable goods toward domestic markets. In China's case, this would also imply moving a large number of less skilled labor from the tradable sector to the nontradable sector. The paper shows that while rebalancing China's growth toward a domestic-demand-led economy would likely raise aggregate employment and employment opportunities in the longer term, there could be employment losses in the short run as the economy moves away from the tradable sector toward the nontradable sector. Mitigating these costs will require active labor market policies to cushion the employment impact in the transition, particularly in meeting the skills gap of associated with this transition.
Ms. Natalia T. Tamirisa, Mr. Alexander Lehmann, and Mr. Jaroslaw Wieczorek
This paper reviews the characteristics of international trade in services and of the World Trade Organization’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) framework, which was established to regulate it. Further liberalization of services trade in developing countries, as currently envisaged in the context of the WTO Doha Development Agenda, holds a number of potential benefits, such as underpinning the liberalization of goods trade, but it is also being resisted due to its potential adjustment costs. Two implications for IMF activities are examined: coherence among the three principal international economic institutions and sequencing with macroeconomic stabilization and regulatory reforms.
Norman Loayza, J. Humberto Lopez, and Mr. Angel J. Ubide
This paper analyzes common economic patterns across countries and economic sectors in Latin America, East Asia and Europe for the period 1970–94 by means of an error-components model that decomposes real value added growth in each country into common international effects, sector-specific effects and country-specific effects. We find significant comovements in the European and East Asian samples. In the Latin American sample, however, we find country-specific components to be more important than common patterns. These results are robust to different sub-sample time spans and different sub-sample country groups.