As more companies adopt and learn through digital solutions, and as new forms of employment and investment opportunities strengthen the demand recovery, we expect productivity growth to recover, write James Manyika and Myron Scholes in Project Syndicate.
For years, one of the big puzzles in economics has been accounting for declining productivity growth in the United States and other advanced economies. Economists have proposed a wide variety of explanations, ranging from inaccurate measurement to “secular stagnation” to questioning whether recent technological innovations are productive.
But the solution to the puzzle seems to lie in understanding economic interactions, rather than identifying a single culprit. And on that score, we may be getting to the bottom of why productivity growth has slowed.
Examining the decade since the 2008 financial crisis – a period remarkable for the sharp deterioration in productivity growth across many advanced economies – we identify three outstanding features: historically low growth in capital intensity, digitization, and a weak demand recovery. Together these features help explain why annual productivity growth dropped 80%, on average, between 2010 and 2014, to 0.5%, from 2.4% a decade earlier.
Start with historically weak capital-intensity growth, an indication of the access labor has to machinery, tools, and equipment. Growth in this average toolkit for workers has slowed – and has even turned negative in the US.
In the 2000-2004 period, capital intensity in the US grew at a compound annual rate of 3.6%. In the 2010-2014 period, it declined at a compound annual rate of 0.4%, the weakest performance in the postwar period. A breakdown of the components of labor productivity shows that slowing capital-intensity growth contributed about half or more of the decline in productivity growth in many countries, including the US.
Growth in capital intensity has been weakened by a substantial slowdown in investment in equipment and structures. Making matters worse, public investment has also been in decline. For example, the US, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom experienced a long-term decline of 0.5-1 percentage point in public investment between the 1980s and early 2000s, and the figure has been roughly flat or decreasing since then, creating significant infrastructure gaps.
Intangible investment, in areas such as software and research and development, recovered far more quickly from a brief and smaller post-crisis dip in 2009. Continued growth in such investment reflects the wave of digitization – the second outstanding feature of this period of anemic productivity growth – that is now sweeping across industries.
By digitization, we mean digital technology – such as cloud computing, e-commerce, mobile Internet, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT) – that is moving beyond process optimization and transforming business models, altering value chains, and blurring lines across industries. What differentiates this latest wave from the 1990s boom in information and communications technology (ICT) is the breadth and diversity of innovations: new products and features (for example, digital books and live location tracking), new ways to deliver them (for example, streaming video), and new business models (for example, Uber and TaskRabbit).
However, there are also similarities, particularly regarding the effect on productivity growth. The ICT revolution was visible everywhere, the economist Robert Solow famously noted, except in the productivity statistics. The Solow Paradox, as it was known (after the economist), was eventually resolved when a few sectors – technology, retail, and wholesale – ignited a productivity boom in the US. Today, we may be in round two of the Solow Paradox: while digital technologies can be seen everywhere, they have yet to fuel productivity growth.
MGI research has shown that sectors that are highly digitized in terms of assets, usage, and worker enablement – such as the tech sector, media, and financial services – have high productivity. But these sectors are relatively small in terms of share of GDP and employment, whereas large sectors such as health care and retail are much less digitized and also tend to have low productivity.
MGI research also suggests that while digitization promises significant productivity-boosting opportunities, the benefits have not yet materialized at scale. In a recent McKinsey survey, global firms reported that less than a third of their core operations, products, and services were automated or digitized.
This may reflect adoption barriers and lag effects, as well as transition costs. For example, in the same survey, companies with digital transformations under way said that 17% of their market share in core products or services was cannibalized by their own digital products or services. Moreover, less than 10% of the information generated and that flows through corporations is digitized and available for analysis. As these data become more readily available through blockchains, cloud computing, or IoT connections, new models and artificial intelligence will enable corporations to innovate and add value through previously unseen investment opportunities.
The last feature that stands out in this period of historically slow productivity growth is weak demand. We know from corporate decision-makers that demand is crucial for investment. For example, an MGI survey conducted last year found that 47% of companies increasing their investment budgets were doing so because of an increase in demand or demand expectations.
Across industries, the slow recovery in demand following the financial crisis was a key factor holding back investment. The crisis increased uncertainty about the future direction in consumer and investment demand. The decision to invest and boost productivity was correctly deferred. When demand started to recover, many industries had excess capacity and room to expand and hire without needing to invest in new equipment or structures. That led to historically low capital-intensity growth – the single biggest factor behind anemic productivity growth – in the 2010-2014 period.
But, as more companies adopt and learn through digital solutions, and as new forms of employment and investment opportunities strengthen the demand recovery, we expect productivity growth to recover. Myriad factors contribute to productivity gains, but it is the twenty-first century’s steam engine – digitization, data, and its analysis – that will power and transform economic activity, add value, and enable income-boosting and welfare-enhancing productivity gains.
Source: Project Syndicate
Samsung to invest $115 billion in its foundry business by 2030
Samsung is earmarking $9.5 billion a year for Samsung LSI and Samsung Foundry.
Samsung Electronics is one of the largest semiconductor players around, and the manufacturer is investing $115 billion (133 trillion won) over the next 12 years to take on Qualcomm and Intel. Samsung says its goal is to become the world leader in semiconductors and logic chips, and the company will invest $9.5 billion a year from now through 2030.
Samsung will invest $63.4 billion (73 trillion won) toward domestic R&D — where it is looking to add 15,000 jobs to “bolster its technological prowess” — and spend $52 billion (60 trillion won) toward production facilities that will make the logic chips. Samsung has long been the dominant player in the memory business, but with that market shrinking the South Korean manufacturer will be looking to diversify.
While the $115 billion seems like a staggering amount at first, it’s in line with what Samsung has been spending in recent years. Just last year alone Samsung invested over $15 billion in R&D, and Intel also spent over $10 billion toward developing new products.
LG V50 ThinQ 5G launch in South Korea delayed
The delay is due to LG wanting to further optimize the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset and Qualcomm X50 5G modem inside of the V50. LG also said it’s working with Qualcomm and South Korean carriers to improve 5G service and phone interoperability.
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LG didn’t say when the V50 will be available in South Korea. Android Authority reached out to LG for comment on a new release date and whether the delayed launch in South Korea will affect the U.S. launch, but did not receive a response by press time.
The delay comes at a bad time for LG, which saw rival Samsung launch its first 5G smartphone April 5 in South Korea. LG likely had hoped to use the Galaxy S10 5G’s launch momentum for its own 5G smartphone, but now we don’t know when the V50 will debut.
That said, LG might have dodged a very big bullet by delaying the V50’s launch. Business Koreareported last week that Galaxy S10 5G owners have struggled with poor 5G connectivity and an inability to switch to 4G LTE. Samsung pushed out an update that supposedly addressed the issues, but the update didn’t help much.
Samsung snubs Apple on 5G modem supply, leaving few good options for the 2020 iPhones
Thanks to the patent war with Qualcomm reaching a crescendo mode, last year Apple’s iPhones shipped exclusively with “Intel inside” as far as cellular connectivity is concerned. That, however, is not an ideal solution for Apple, as Intel’s modems are behind the curve when it comes to features, so it has been shopping around for other options.
Apple could go with Samsung, Huawei or MediaTek’s 5G modems, but each of those choices comes with severe drawbacks. Samsung will likely charge an arm and a leg for its 5G brainchild, America’s homeland security institutions would balk at Huawei’s involvement due to geopolitical considerations, while MediaTek simply isn’t up to par yet.
SAMSUNG’S 5G MODEM OPTION IS OUT FOR APPLE, BUT WHOSE IS IN?
Surprise, surprise, even those unpalatable options have now become harder to pick from, as Korean media is reporting today that Samsung has declined Apple’s advances for its Exynos 5100 5G modem. Not only does the company need its production for the Galaxy S10 5G that will be shipping tomorrow in Korea but it could very well need it for the Note 10, too.
Samsung, it turns out, is simply unable to churn out 5G modems in the quality and quantity that Apple would demand, or so it claims. According to one “electronics industry official” there:
Apple inquired about the supply of 5G modem chip from Samsung Electronics System LSI division. However, we know that Samsung Electronics System LSI answered that the supply volume of its smartphone 5G modem chip is insufficient.
There you have it – unless Apple resolves the bad blood between the companies, Qualcomm is likely to sit its 5G push out, so the last remaining option is for Apple to go it alone, either by acquiring Intel’s wireless modem assets or starting from scratch (highly unlikely). All of these options mean either a lot of extra expenses for Apple in order to deliver a 5G iPhone in 2020, or falling behind the competition by launching one that is a cycle or two behind.
Last summer, insiders claimed that they have seen internal Intel communication regarding a memo that Apple sent Chipzilla. In it, Apple warns that it might no longer need Intel’s wireless modem designs, including the 5G ones, starting with the 2020 iPhone crop. Intel reportedly halted research in this area and might disband the whole 5G modem undertaking, as Apple was its largest and perhaps sole customer.
5G gets going and Apple’s 2020 iPhones can’t go FOMO
South Korea just launched its nationwide 5G network, with the Galaxy S10 5G being its poster child. Upon the phone’s release there tomorrow, Korea will have all of its largest networks offering 5G plans. In fact, Korea Telecom announced three 5G price tiers. Among those, there is a “Super Plan” that offers truly unlimited 5G data without speed caps, and this one will go for the equivalent of $70, a pretty good price no matter how you slice it. In fact, the Super 5G Plan is somewhat cheaper than the current unlimited 4G LTE plans in Korea, so the 5G future seems bright, and we are expecting more and more 5G handsets to enter the fray this year, especially towards the tail end of 2019.
A true nationwide shift to 5G networks is not happening this year in the US anyway, so iPhone users won’t be missing all that much until then. Next year, however, most of the flagship phones of the spring season will probably have some sort of 5G connectivity support, be it with a Qualcomm, Samsung or Huawei modem, and Apple could feel the pinch in that regard. If in the fall of 2020 Apple hasn’t solved its 5G modem supply options, however, there might be image and perception consequences. As virtually all of Apple’s 5G avenues have dried up and will incur extra expenses, patching thing up with Qualcomm would be a smart solution so we’ll keep our eyes on the patent lawsuit as it moves through the court system.
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