As we emerge slowly from the first global recession since World War II, many governments have taken a more proactive approach to boost growth and competitiveness, and many business leaders support these efforts. Given the fragility of the business and economic climate—and strained public coffers—the responsibility to get policy right is acute.
Experience shows that governments have, at best, a mixed record in this regard. An important reason why public intervention in markets has been hit or miss is that action has tended to be based on academic and policy research that has looked through an economy-wide lens to understand competitiveness—in other words, whether one country is "more competitive" than another. This approach has all too often failed to capture the fact that the conditions that promote competitiveness differ significantly from sector to sector—and so, therefore, do the most effective potential regulations and policies.
In this report, the McKinsey Global Institute offers policy makers a pragmatic guide to help them make the right decisions and trade-offs, drawing on a bottom-up, sector-based approach. The research is based not only on McKinsey’s industry expertise but on nearly two decades of MGI sector-level analysis in more than 20 countries and 28 industrial sectors. In the latest research, MGI studied competitiveness and growth in six industries (retail, software and IT services, tourism, semiconductors, automotive, and steel) across eight or more countries in each case, including both emerging and high-income economies. The lessons that emerge from the case studies are applicable to other sectors, both existing and emerging, and across countries at different income levels.
By analyzing competitiveness at the sector level, MGI reaches conclusions that run counter to the way many policy makers think about the task in hand.