Policy brief

The productivity paradox: policy lessons from MICROPROD

The objective of MICROPROD, an EU-wide research project that runs until the end of 2021, is to understand what is driving the current productivity slo

Publishing date
06 January 2021

This Policy Contribution is an output from the MICROPROD project, which received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 822390.

Productivity growth in Europe has been on a downward trend for several decades. Given that productivity growth is a crucial source of output growth, particularly in an aging society like the European Union, it is crucial to understand what is driving this slowdown and what the potential consequences are for our economic model and for citizens’ welfare.

Some explanations for this trend are global in nature, but there are also significant differences in country structures in Europe that have led to different outcomes and that need to be accounted for before policy prescriptions can be made.

The objective of MICROPROD, an EU-wide research project that runs until the end of 2021, is to contribute to this research strand by using data from various European countries to study the microeconomic mechanisms behind this macroeconomic phenomenon.

In particular, the aim is to understand the challenges posed to Europe by the fourth industrial revolution and its impact on productivity in the context of globalisation and digitalisation, and to recommend policies to address these challenges.

MICROPROD researchers have so far delivered 20 papers on four broad issues relevant for today’s policy debates: the measurement and effects of intangible capital on productivity; the impact of globalisation, international trade and the integration of global value chains (GVCs) on productivity; factor allocation and allocative efficiency; and finally the social consequences of the two structural shocks Europe has faced in the last two decades: globalisation and technological progress.

This Policy Contribution reviews the main conclusions of these 20 MICROPROD papers and how they inform policy debates. However, the mid-point of the three-year MICROPROD project also coincided with the start of the COVID-19 crisis, which might have accelerated some trends or possibly reversed others. We therefore discuss how some of the messages of MICROPROD research may contribute to our understanding of the current crisis and its aftermath.


Claeys, G. and M. Demertzis (2021) ‘The productivity paradox: policy lessons from MICROPROD’, Policy Contribution 01/2021, Bruegel

About the authors

  • Grégory Claeys

    Grégory Claeys, a French and Spanish citizen, joined Bruegel as a research fellow in February 2014, before being appointed senior fellow in April 2020.

    Grégory Claeys is currently on leave for public service, serving as Director of the Economics Department of France Stratégie, the think tank and policy planning institution of the French government, since November 2023.

    Grégory’s research interests include international macroeconomics and finance, central banking and European governance. From 2006 to 2009 Grégory worked as a macroeconomist in the Economic Research Department of the French bank Crédit Agricole. Prior to joining Bruegel he also conducted research in several capacities, including as a visiting researcher in the Financial Research Department of the Central Bank of Chile in Santiago, and in the Economic Department of the French Embassy in Chicago. Grégory is also an Associate Professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers in Paris where he is teaching macroeconomics in the Master of Finance. He previously taught undergraduate macroeconomics at Sciences Po in Paris.

    He holds a PhD in Economics from the European University Institute (Florence), an MSc in economics from Paris X University and an MSc in management from HEC (Paris).

    Grégory is fluent in English, French and Spanish.


  • Maria Demertzis

    Maria Demertzis is a Senior fellow at Bruegel and part-time Professor of Economic Policy at the Florence School of Transnational Governance at the European University Institute. She was Bruegel’s Deputy Director until December 2022. She has previously worked at the European Commission and the research department of the Dutch Central Bank. She has also held academic positions at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in the USA and the University of Strathclyde in the UK, from where she holds a PhD in economics. She has published extensively in international academic journals and contributed regular policy inputs to both the European Commission's and the Dutch Central Bank's policy outlets. She contributes regularly to national and international press and has regular column that appears twice a month in various EU newspapers and on Bruegel’s opinion page.

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