William Huggins on Canada’s productivity problem

This week, we’re revisiting an older episode of Free Lunch by The Peak where William Huggins from the DeGroote School of Business breaks down everything about productivity. 

What is productivity and why is it important?

“The idea is that we can get more stuff out with less stuff in — that's productivity. You’re more productive if you can get more output for the same amount of output or inputs. One of the easy ways to measure is to look at what is the total amount of GDP generated for each hour of labour. And if we can add more value with the same hours of time, awesome.”

Why should anyone care about productivity?

“Broadly speaking, our population is getting older and we have a huge transition under way in our energy sector, so we have to rewire our economy for aging and sustainability. Where are the resources for this going to come from unless we make things more efficient? We need to grind out more output from each person and dollar that we have so we don’t come up short.”

Is Canada productive, relatively speaking? 

“We are about 10th out of almost 200 countries in terms of GDP per capita, a rough way of measuring the accumulated productivity of your economy over time. But it's been easy to win as Canada. We haven't had to try. And so if we don't start trying, other countries will catch up and even go past us. That's what's been happening the last 30 years. We've been coasting.”

This interview transcript has been edited for clarity and length. To listen to the full episode, subscribe to Free Lunch by The Peak.