A pensioner argues with an official as he tries to enter a National Bank branch to receive part of his pension in Athens, Greece, July 6, 2015.
Christian Hartmann / Reuters

It is well known that Western societies are aging and that the relative paucity of young workers will come with all sorts of budgetary challenges. But the real problem is worse than most people imagine: Grey societies are intrinsically less productive than green ones. What’s now at stake is the economic prosperity of the West and the ability of governments to provide for a growing share of inactive people. 

For years, a productivity slowdown has haunted the advanced economies. In the 1960s and 1970s, the G-7 economies saw, on average, a 4.4 percent increase in output per hour worked every year. Between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 2008 financial crisis, productivity growth decelerated to 1.8 percent. And now its pace of expansion is a mere 0.4 percent. It might be time to start worrying, as Angel Gurria, head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said, “We are now

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  • EDOARDO CAMPANELLA is a Eurozone economist at UniCredit Bank and a shortlisted author for the 2015 Bracken Bower Prize, awarded by the Financial Times and McKinsey. The views expressed are his own.
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