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How Does Higher Labor Productivity Impact Current Account Surplus?

Analyse how an increase in labour productivity in a country can increase a surplus on the current account of its balance of payments.


CIE May/June 2023



Title: The Impact of Labour Productivity on the Current Account Balance


Labour productivity is a crucial factor in determining the economic performance of a country. The current account of the balance of payments represents the trade balance, including exports and imports of goods and services. This essay explores how an increase in labour productivity can lead to a surplus on the current account of a country's balance of payments. By analyzing the relationship between labour productivity and the current account balance, we can understand the mechanisms through which productivity improvements affect a nation's international trade position.


1. Increase in Output per Worker: When labour productivity increases, output per worker rises, leading to higher levels of production within the economy. This increase in output can reduce the average cost of production, making domestically produced goods more competitive in the global market. As a result, lower production costs can translate into lower prices for exported goods, making them more attractive to foreign buyers.

2. Quality Enhancement of Exports: Higher labour productivity can also contribute to improvements in the quality of goods and services produced. Enhanced quality can enhance the reputation of a country's exports in international markets, leading to increased demand from foreign consumers. The increased competitiveness of exports due to higher quality can help drive up export revenues and contribute to a surplus on the current account.

3. Impact on Import Competitiveness: On the other hand, improvements in labour productivity can affect the relative competitiveness of imports. With higher productivity levels, domestically produced goods may become more competitive compared to imported products. This shift can lead to lower demand for imports, as consumers prefer cheaper and higher-quality domestic alternatives. As a result, import expenditure may decrease, helping to reduce the trade deficit and contribute to a surplus on the current account.

4. Expansion of Output: Overall, the increase in labour productivity can lead to an expansion in output, allowing for more goods and services to be produced for export. At the same time, the improved competitiveness of domestic production can lead to a decrease in the demand for imports. These combined effects can result in a surplus on the current account as the country exports more than it imports, leading to a positive balance of trade.


In conclusion, the relationship between labour productivity and the current account balance is crucial in understanding how productivity improvements can impact a country's trade performance. By increasing output per worker, enhancing the quality of exports, and affecting import competitiveness, higher labour productivity can contribute to a surplus on the current account. Through these mechanisms, countries can improve their international competitiveness, boost export revenues, and achieve a more favorable trade balance. It is evident that labour productivity plays a significant role in shaping a nation's economic outlook and trade position in the global market.






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