Over the past 50 years, the global economy expanded sixfold as the world’s population and per capita income each grew at unprecedented speed. The global population more than doubled while average per capita income almost tripled to about $13,000 at 2012 purchasing power parity. However, there are significant doubts that this growth bonanza will continue in the long term given that the demographic tailwinds of the past half century are now waning. Hundreds of millions of people were lifted out of poverty. Yet without significantly boosting the one engine the world economy still has—productivity growth—this period may prove to be a historic anomaly.
Unless we can dramatically improve productivity, the next half century will look very different. The rapid expansion of the past five decades will be seen as an aberration of history, and the world economy will slide back toward its relatively sluggish long-term growth rate.
Over this time, two factors powered exceptionally fast GDP growth