By Jaya Ramachandran
The economies of China and India are poised to outshine those of the United States and Western Europe over the next half century, though an overwhelming majority of the Chinese and Indians are unlikely to attain the living standards of citizens in the rich industrial countries, predicts a new study.
Titled Looking to 2060: A Global Vision of Long-term Growth, the report expects the United States to cede its place as the world’s largest economy to China, as early as 2016. India’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is also projected to exceed that of the U.S. over the long term.
“Combined, the two Asian giants will soon surpass the collective economy of the G7 industrial nations – Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, USA and Japan. Fast-ageing economic heavyweights, such as Japan and the euro area, will gradually lose ground on the global GDP table to countries with a younger population, like Indonesia and Brazil,” says the study by the 34-nation Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Using a new model for projecting growth in the 34 OECD members and 8 major non-OECD G20 economies over the next 50 years, the report forecasts global economic growth of 3 percent annually, with sharp differences between the emerging-market economies, which are expected to grow at a much faster pace, and the advanced countries, which will likely grow at slower and often declining rates. Cross-country GDP per capita differences mainly reflect differences in technology levels, capital intensity, human capital and skills.
“The economic crisis we have been living with for the past five years will eventually be overcome, but the world our children and grandchildren inherit may be starkly different from ours,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “As the largest and fastest-growing emerging countries fully assume a more prominent place in the global economy, we will face new challenges to ensure a prosperous and sustainable world for all. Education and productivity will be the main drivers of future growth, and should be policy priorities worldwide.”
The report expects that the shifting balance of long-term global output will lead to corresponding improvements in living standards, with income per capita expected to more than quadruple in the poorest countries by 2060. The increase could even be seven-fold in China and India, it says. Subsequently, the gap that currently exists in living standards between emerging-markets and advanced economies will have narrowed by 2060.
“But large cross-country differences will persist. China will see more than a seven-fold increase in per capita income over the coming half century, but living standards will still only be 60% of that in the leading countries in 2060. India will experience similar growth, but its per capita income will only be about 25% of that in advanced countries,” predicts the study.
“None of these forecasts are set in stone,” Gurría said. “We know that bold structural reforms can boost long-term growth and living standards in advanced and emerging-market economies alike.”
Thus, OECD research shows that wide-ranging labour and product market reforms could raise long-term living standards by an average of 16% over the next 50 years relative to the baseline scenario, which only assumes moderate policy improvements.
The report forecasts major changes in the composition of world GDP – taken as sum of GDP for 34 OECD and 8 non-OECD G20 countries. On the basis of 2005 purchasing power parities (PPPs), China is projected to surpass the Euro Area in a year or so and the United States in a few more years, to become the largest economy in the world, and India is projected to surpass Japan in the next year or two and the Euro area in about 20 years.
The faster growth rates of China and India imply that their combined GDP will exceed that of the major seven (G7) OECD economies by around 2025 and by 2060 it will be more than 1½ times larger, whereas in 2010 China and India accounted for less than one half of G7 GDP. Strikingly, the combined GDP of these two countries will be larger than that of the entire OECD area, based on today’s membership, in 2060, while it currently amounts to only one-third of it.
“Such changes in shares of world GDP will be matched by a tendency of GDP per capita to converge across countries, which however will still leave significant gaps in living standards between advanced and emerging economies,” explains the report.
Over the next half century, the unweighted average of GDP per capita (in 2005 PPP terms), is predicted to grow by roughly 3% annually in the non-OECD area, as against 1.7% in the OECD area. As a result, GDP per capita in the poorest economies will (in 2011) more than quadruple (in 2005 PPP terms), whereas it will only double in the richest economies.
China and India will experience more than a seven-fold increase of their income per capita by 2060. The extent of the catch-up is more pronounced in China reflecting the momentum of particularly strong productivity growth and rising capital intensity over the last decade. This will bring China 25% above the current (2011) income level of the United States, while income per capita in India will reach only around half the current US level.
Despite this fast growth among “catching-up” countries, the rankings of GDP per capita in 2011 and 2060 are projected to remain very similar. Even though differences in productivity and skills are reduced, remaining differences in these factors still explain a significant share of gaps in living standards in 2060.
Additionally, in a few European OECD countries and some emerging economies differences in labour input will also continue to explain a sizeable share of the remaining income gaps. Indeed, for some European countries, where ageing is more pronounced and/or older-age participation rates are low, these factors are enough to cause a widening in the income gap with the United States, despite continued convergence in productivity and skills levels.