Irish workers are most productive in world when measured by GDP

OECD says employees here add $109.6 to value of economy every hour they work

Irish workers are the most productive in the world, adding an average of $109.6 (€92.4) to the value of the economy every hour they work, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

This was highest of any advanced economy ahead of Luxembourg ($107.1), Norway ($93.2), the United States ($77.1) and the UK ($64.3) and nearly twice the OECD average of $56.5.

However, the agency’s figures - which are derived from 2019 data - come with a health warning as they measure the rise in GDP (gross domestic product) per hour of work, which is heavily distorted by multinationals here.

When using GNI (gross national income), which strips out some of the effects of multinationals, Irish workers were shown to add $84.7 to the value of the economy per hour of work, which was more in line with other countries.


However, even GNI exaggerates the true level of productivity. Studies by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) have shown that workers in the domestic sector here, which excludes multinationals, have levels of productivity much closer to the OECD average and in some cases even below it.

Separate figures supplied by the CSO - using its own bespoke measure of national income GNI* - put the hourly value added to the economy by Irish workers in 2019 at $65, which was above the OECD average but considerably below the headline GDP equivalent.


Labour productivity typically measures the value of work done in a given economy over time with higher value-added jobs generating the greatest productivity increases.

“In most countries labour productivity measures based on GDP and GNI are similar, as the underlying income flows are relatively small or offset each other,” the OECD said.

" In Ireland and Luxembourg, however, significant differences arise between labour productivity measures based on GDP and GNI reflecting the significant role played by multinationals in output and income transfers. In such cases, labour productivity measures based on GNI are more meaningful," it added.

The agency said productivity was a key source of economic growth and competitiveness and that country-by-country indicators of productivity are central for assessing economic performance.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times