Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 809: Can Investment in Intangibles Explain the Swedish Productivity Boom in the 1990s?

Harald Edquist ()
Additional contact information
Harald Edquist: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Postal: P.O. Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: After a severe crisis in the early 1990s, the Swedish economy experienced a boom in productivity growth. According to economists there have been primarily three explanations for the fast productivity growth in 1995–2004: Market reforms, recovery from the crisis and the impact of information and communication technology (ICT). This paper offers an alternative view by recognizing that firms make substantial investment in intangible assets such as R&D, design, advertising etc. These investments are not classified as investment in the National Accounts, where only tangible assets are defined as investment. This paper provides estimates of investment in intangible assets and uses the growth accounting framework to analyze the Swedish productivity boom. The results show that investment in intangibles was approximately 246 bn SEK in 2004 or 9 percent of GDP. Moreover, intangible capital accounted for almost 50 percent of labor productivity growth in the Swedish business sector 1995–2004. Thus, investment in intangibles was an important source to the Swedish productivity boom in 1995–2004.

Keywords: Intangibles; Investment; Economic growth

JEL-codes: O15; O16; O47; O52

42 pages, September 23, 2009

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