OTHER THINGS EQUAL:

DIVERSE ECONOMIES IN SIMILAR SOCIETIES

THE ECONOMIES OF

AUSTRIA AND CZECHOSLOVAKIA

Oldrich Kyn
Boston University

Presented at the joint session of the Association for Comparative Economic Studies and the American Economic Association, September 1976, Atlantic City.

I am indebted to Mrs. Ruth Polak for research and editorial help.

 


I.

 

 

One can hard1y find a better “laboratory test” for studying the impact of different economic systems than the comparison of the postwar development of Austria and Czechoslovakia. Both countries are rather smal1, with comparable population densities, although Czechoslovakia is larger both in area and population (see Table 1). Their location in the very center of Europe gives them very similar natural endowments and climatic conditions. They have good agricultural land but only modest natural sources of energy, minerals and ores. Mountains cover a larger part of Austria, so that it has more forests, less arable land and better resources of energy for hydro­electric power stations. It also possesses better sources of iron ore, magnesium and crude oil, Czechoslovakia, on the other hand, has much more coal and some uranium.

Table 1.  Basic Information

 

 

Czechoslovakia CS

Austria A

Ratio A/CS

Area (km2)

127877

83849

.66

1974 Population (million)

14.69

7.50

.51

Density

115

90

.78

Arable land (mil. ha)

5.0

1.5

.31

 

 

For at least three centuries prior to 1918, present-day Czechoslovakia and Austria had been parts of the same Empire. Their common historical experience and long-term cultural interaction is clearly one of the major sources of the economic and cultural similarities, which still exist between these two countries. We must not forget, however, that German-speaking Austrians were a dominating nation in the Empire, and that Czechs and Slovaks in their fight for national identity preserved not only their own 1anguage but also their own national character. Nevertheless at the time of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire both successor countries were at approximately same level of economic and cultural development. This situation has not changd much during the inter-war period of their separate national developments (1918-1939) nor during the Second World War, when they were again united under the Third Reich.
For three decades after World War II Czechoslovakia and Austria lived under very different economic and political systems. Although the Soviet army was present in a part of Austrian territory until 1955, Austria has preserved its basic character as a West European type of market economy with a pluralistic political democracy’. After 1948 with only a brief intermission of 1967-1968 -- Czechoslovakia has functioned under a very typical Soviet-type political and economic system.

 

 

II.

 

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was a huge conglomerate of various territories with ethnically diverse population speaking many different languages (German, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Hungarian, Slovenian, Serbian, and Croatian, Italian, Rumanian, Ukrainian and Ruthenian). Its population totaled about 35 million in the middle of the 19th century, and over 50 million by 1918. While the Austro-Hungarian Empire was backward in European terms, when measured by overall averages, its two most westerly-located parts, namely the Kingdom of Bohemia and present-day Austria, were reaching levels not too far behind the other West-and North-European countries. Mining, metallurgy and metal processing, wood processing, paper, textile and food industries were vigorously growing in these two parts of the Empire in the second half of the last century.
In Bohemia, the share of agricultural population declined from 52% in 1869 to 34% in 1910 and the share of the population employed in industry increased in the same period from 29%. to 39%. In 1910 the Kingdom of Bohemia comprised only 35% of the “Austrian” part of the Empire, (i.e. excluding the Kingdom of Hungary), but it contained over half of all people employed in industry, and produced 85% of coal, 54% of iron, 75% of chemicals, over 90% of glass and ceramics, 75-80% of textiles and 65% of paper.
Slovakia, which belonged to the “Hungarian” part of the Empire, was much less developed. In 1910 only about 20% of the people in Slovakia were employed in industry, while 62% were working in agriculture.
When the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved in 1918, Czechoslovakia appeared to be both by population and industrial power the largest successor state. However, because it combined more-developed Bohemia and Moravia with less—developed Slovakia and almost—undeveloped Ruthenia, the average economic level of Czechoslovakia was not much different than the level of the new Austria.
To show that the similarities in the level of economic development were complemented by similarities in the level of cultural development of German-speaking Austrians on the one hand, and Czechs and Slovaks on the other, it is sufficient here to show the literacy statistics for the different linguistic groups in the Austrian Empire.
 

 

  

Table 2.   Illiteracy in Adult Population of Austrian Empire

By Linguistic Groups, in 1900

(The Kingdom of Hungary Excluded)

 

 

Male

Female

Total

 

(percentages)

German

5

6

6

Czech and Slovak

2

4

3

Polish

45

42

40

Ruthenian

71

84

77

Slovenian

22

24

23

Serbo-Croatian

14

17

16

Romanian

71

80

75

Hungarian

50

63

56

 

Source: Carlo M Cipolla (1969), p. 17

 

III

 

 

For two countries of such similar size, climate, natural endowments, and historically achieved levels of economic and cultural development such as Czechoslovakia and Austria, most of the observed differences in their postwar development - if any - should be attributable to the differences in their economic systems.
From many empirical studies comparing various Western and Eastern European countries as well as from theoretical analysis of the operation of market and Soviet-type economies done by both West and East European economists, we already know what kind of differences to expect. It would be useful to formulate them here as seven basic hypotheses, which will be empirically tested in the next section.
(1)    Differences in Rates of Growth. Due to the effective central control over national resources, and a strong commitment to economic growth, the Soviet-type economy and in particular its industrial sector may be expected to grow faster than the comparable market economy. It should also grow more evenly, because central planning is capable of eliminating the main sources of cyclical fluctuations.
(2)    Differences in Industrial Structure. The specific mechanism of the Soviet-type economy and the prevailing planners’ preferences are expected to result in divergent structural development. The producer-goods industries—-particularly mining, metallurgy, heavy engineering, construction materials, etc.--would probably grow faster in a Soviet-type economy, while consumer—goods industries (textile, food. etc.) and services, may be expected to grow faster in a market economy.
(3)    Differences in the Development of Agriculture. Partly as a result of the previous point, and partly due to the adverse effects of collectivization the growth of the Soviet-type cooperative agricultural sector may be expected to lag behind the growth of the market economy private agricultural sector, both in terms of quantity and productivity.
(4)        Differences in Inflation and Unemployment. The administrative fixing of prices and the administrative allocation of scarce resources (including labor) in a Soviet-type economy are assumed to be effective enough to prevent major inflation and unemployment, both of which we expect in a market economy.
(5)        Differences in Economic Efficiency, While effective in achieving fast growth and in preventing inflation and unemployment, the Soviet-type administrative planning is not capable of achieving an efficient allocation of scarce resources or generating sufficient stimuli for technical progress. In the Soviet-type economy we can, therefore, expect a lower level of total factor productivity, a slower rate of technical progress, a higher share of investment in national income, and generally a lower quality of consumer--as well as producer--goods.
(6)        Differences in the Standard of Living. It follows from the above that we should expect personal material consumption in a Soviet-type economy to lag behind consumption in a market economy. The main gap should be observed in housing, in consumption of industrial consumer goods, and in services. On the other hand, the Soviet-type system may provide more education and health care and generally better Social security.
(7)               Differences in Personal Income Distribution. Because of the abolition of private property and consequently of “unearned” incomes, we can expect personal incomes to be distributed more equally in a Soviet-type economy than in a market economy.
These seven hypotheses do not exhaust all possible systemic differences, but they represent the maximum, which we can attempt to test in such a short paper. It is actually more than can possibly be tested here, so that most of the tests can be only partial or superficial. Some people may disagree with the formulation of one or another of the hypotheses. Some may argue that we should expect faster economic growth in the market economy, while some may believe that the Soviet-type economy should achieve a higher level of efficiency than the market economy. But regardless of whether the hypothesis is formulated in one way or the other, hopefully, all should agree that it is interesting to test which of the two systems is more efficient and which leads to faster growth.

 

 

IV.

 

In testing the hypotheses formulated above, we shall face the usual problems of questionable reliability and difficulties in the comparability of data. We shall mostly use the official data published in national or U.N. Statistical yearbooks, but the national accounting systems and the statistical methodologies of Austria and Czechoslovakia are quite different, and this can make comparisons difficult, if not impossible. Sometimes western estimates of economic indicators for Czechoslovakia can be used, whereas sometimes we have to make our own rough adjustments to correct for methodological differences. Comparisons of selected physical indicators can also be helpful because these are least distorted by methodological discrepancies.

 

  

(1)    Rates of Growth Hypothesis

According to official publications the average annual rates of growth of the Austrian (net national product) and Czechoslovak (national income) economies for the years 1953 - l970 were 5.5% and 5.4%  respectively, which are very similar indeed. However, these figures are not fully comparable because of the methodological difficulties mentioned above. According to the western estimates (Alton), the Czechoslovak GNP grew between 1950 and 1965 by an annual rate of 3.9%, compared to the 5.7% growth rate of the official Czechoslovak national income and the 5.1% rate of growth of the Austria net national product.
The long run average rates of growth of industry were very high in both countries. (see Table 3) The official Czechoslovak index based on the gross value of industrial output is slightly higher while Alton’s data based on estimated net product of industry is lower than the Austrian index of industrial output, It is interesting to see that the rates of growth of both countries are quite unstable--they even exhibit a similar pattern of cyclical fluctuations.

Table 3 Average Annual Rates of Growth in Industry

 AustriaCzechoslovakia
  officialWest. est.
1949-1960

10.011.46.6
1961-19665.26.04.0
1967-19746.56.6n.a.
    
1949-195121.614.75.2
1952-19545.44.52.1
1955-19578.610.110.3
1958-19605.110.59.2
1961-19634.94.32.1
1964-19665.67.76.0
1967-19696.46.0n.a.
1970-19727.67.2n.a.
1973-19745.06.5n.a.
Using the available data, which are not fully comparable, we cannot conclude unambiguously which of the two countries grew faster. The official data shows that it was Czechoslovakia, while Alton’s data would suggest that Austria grew faster. However the largest discrepancies were at the beginning of the period, while recently the differences in the rates of growth have been diminishing.
It seems therefore, that we should reject the first hypothesis. Both countries have grown very fast and no systematic differences are clearly discernible. This conclusion may be extended to the fluctuations in the rates of growth. Definitely, judged by the rates of growth the Czechoslovak planned economy did not appear to be more stable than the Austrian market economy.

 


(2)        Industrial Structure Hypothesis

Table 4 shows the shares of five basic sectors in the Czechoslovak and Austrian economies. These shares were obtained by the fo1lowing rough adjustment from the official national income (Czechoslovakia) and net national product (Austria) statistics: (a) the so-called ”non-productive sectors” which are not included in the Czechoslovak national income were also excluded from the Austrian net national product; (b) the contribution of the Czechoslovak sector of transportation and communication was doubled, to correct for the exclusion of the so-called “non-productive part” of this sector from the national income; (c) In the years 1950 and 1960, the contribution of Czechoslovak agriculture was increased by 20% to correct for the systematically lower prices, and therefore also lower incomes in agriculture, which are known to have existed at that time.

Table 4. Share of Sectors in National Income (adjusted)

 1950196019671972
 CSACSACSACSA
Industry5752585557516048
Agriculture192118151412108
Construction88101111151315
Transport67789968
Trade91171012121121
Table 4 shows a surprising similarity between the structures of the Czechoslovak and Austrian economies. The main differences appear to be a somewhat lower share of industry, faster decline of the share of agriculture and faster growth of the share of construction and trade in the Austrian economy.
What about the branch structure of industry? Even here we can find surprising similarities. In the period between 1951-1974 the average rates of growth of individual industrial branches were in Austria and Czechoslovakia respectively 7-8% and 7.5-9% in metallurgy, 4.2% and 5.3% in the textile industry, 5.5% and 5.5% in the ready-made clothing industry, 4.7% and 4.6% in the food industry, 5.1% and 6.1% in the leather and shoe industry. Czechoslovakia showed considerably faster growth in the following three branches: chemicals, engineering and coal mining; Austria had considerably faster growth in paper and wood processing industries and in oil extraction.
These figures, as well as the se1ected physical output statistics in Table 5, suggest the existence of some structural differences which could be attributed to differences in economic systems, but they seem to be rather small. Part of the structural differences at least, can be clearly attributed to different national endowments, such as the faster growth of wood processing, and paper industries in Austria, and the faster growth of coal mining in Czechoslovakia. The crucial fact to note, is that the empirical data do not show that Czechoslovakia gives much greater preference to basic producer-goods industries such as metallurgy, or that it has considerably slower growth in such traditional consumer-goods industries such as textiles, ready-made clothing and food. It seems that we have very little support for the “industrial structure” hypothesis.

 

Electric Power

Coal

Crude Oil

Pig Iron

Steel

Cement

 

billion kwh

Million tons

thousand tons

million tons

million tons

million tons

 

CS

A

CS

A

 CS

A

  CS

A

CS

A

CS

 A

1937

4.12

2.89

34.67

3.47

18

33

  1.68

.39

2.3

.65

1.27

.43

1974

56.07

33.88

110.68

3.64

149

2244

  9.03

3.14

13.64

5.18

8.97

6.43

Index l974/1957

1360

1172

319

105

828

6800

538

889

  593

797

706

1495

Per Capacity

kwh

kilogr.

kilogr.

kilogr.

kilogr.

kilogr.

1974

3818

4487

7536

482

10

297

615

456

929

687

611

852

 

 

(3)        Agricultural Lag Hypothesis
It is a well-known fact that for several years following collectivization in the early 1950’s, Czechoslovak agriculture stagnated. This trend however, was reversed in the 1960’s and in recent years the increases in agricultural output and productivity in Czechoslovakia have been quite remarkable. In 1973-1974, Czechoslovakia produced almost 5 times more wheat, 3 times more barley, twice the amount of potatoes and sugar beet, but only 65% of corn and 40% of wine when compared with Austria.
The larger absolute size of the harvest in Czechoslovakia is not surprising, because it has 3 times as much arable land as Austria, and it has about one and a half as many people working in agriculture. Generally, both countries have achieved about the same level of yield per hectare (except for potatoes). (See table 7)

Table 7.  Per Hectare Yields

 

 WheatBarleyPotatoes
 CSACSACSA
1934-193817.116.717.017.6135137
1948-195219.017.117.316.5116130
1973-197438.838.236.636.5166247
In both countries, the increased productivity in agriculture was achieved mostly by mechanization and the increased use of fertilizer. Austria apparently has a larger absolute number of tractors and combined harvester-threshers (and therefore even more so on a per hectare basis) than Czechoslovakia, but the latter uses more fertilizers of all kinds per hectare of arable land.
In animal husbandry; Czechoslovakia ranks ahead of Austria in absolute terms, but  it does not hold true on a per capita basis. Czechoslovakia has an approximately 70% larger stock of cattle, twice as many pigs and almost 5 times more sheep than Austria, and produces 2,4 times as many eggs, 1.7 times as much milk, 2.8 times as much butter, and 2.5 times more meat.
To sum up, there would seem to be no evidence to support the third hypothesis, i.e. that in the long run Czechoslovak agriculture would lag behind that of Austria.

 

 

 

(4)        Inflation and Unemployment Hypothesis

Here we find that the systemic difference is indisputable. The existence of centrally-fixed and for the long run frozen, or even in some cases declining, prices in Czechoslovakia can be easily contrasted with the recent quite rapid inflation in Austria. (see Table 8). The unemployment rate for Austria is rather low; and. has been declining in recent years. No unemployment statistics are available for Czechoslovakia.

  Table 8. 

Consumer Price Index and the Rate of Unemployment

 

 

Price Index
 Cs

Price Index

A

Unemp.Rate
A

1954

100

100

5.1*

1960

84

114

3.5

1965

87

139

2.7

1970

95

163

2.4

1974

95

214

l.6**

*1956

**1973

 

 

 

 

(5)      Efficiency Hypothesis

Comparison of absolute levels of total factor productivity is very difficult. Due to methodological difficulties. We can, however, use GNP per capita as an approximate substitute in comparisons. Such an approach is sensitive to the choice of exchange rate. Maurice Ernst gives two sets of estimates of 1964 GNP per capita in 1963 U.S. dollars. The first one, based on the official exchange rate, shows $1280 for Czechoslovakia and $1120 for Austria. His second set of estimates was based on specially recalculated exchange rates and showed $1470 for Czechoslovakia and $1290 for Austria. In both cases Czechoslovakia is slightly ahead of Austria. A separate attempt to estimate 1960 GNP per capita was made by a group of U.N. experts using E. Ehrlich’s methodology. In the course of several alternative calculations they arrived at the following figures: $790 - 950 for Czechoslovakia and $830 - 943 for Austria (both in 1960 U.S. dollars).
The rates of change of total factor productivity can be estimated as parameters of a macroeconomic production function. Table 9 shows estimates of several variants of the following basic production function

Y = Aexp(rot + r1½t2)KbLg

The variants were obtained by imposing the restriction of constant returns to scale and/or by eliminating the trend r1½t2   from the technical progress” term. The production function was estimated from pooled cross-section and time-series data. For Czechoslovakia we used the official data (gross values of output, undepreciated stock of fixed capital and number of employees) for 15 branches of industry and 3 to 5 non-industrial sectors, In terms of time, they covered the period 1948-1967. For Austria we had similar data on 18 industrial branches for the period 1960-1973. The difference in time periods covered has to be taken into account in interpreting the regression results.

Table 9 Production Functions

Austria

 

b

g

ro

r1

R2

F

(1)

.358

(6.020)

 

.0418

(9.242)

 

.978

490.5

(2)

.356

(5.389)
.641
(9.391)

.0418

(9.242)

 

.993

1578.3

(3)

.420

(7.013)

 

.0127

(1.457)

.00353

(3.825)

.979

496.4

(4)

 

.417

(6.315)

577

(8.463)

.0218

(1.457)

00353

(3.817)

.994

1599.6

Czechoslovakia

 

(5)

.186

(4.718)

--

.0569
(27.095)

.978

399.8

(6)

.234

(6.716)

.1003
(22.289)

-.0043

.968

501.0

(7)

.238

(4.893)

--

.0570
(15.218)

--

.077

11.9

(8)

.227

(3.851)

.848
(12.660)

.0573
(12.556)

--

.437

73.6

(9)

.256

(5.796)

--

.1004
(15.499)

-.0040
(7.885)

.242

30.3

(10)

.242

(4.506)

.813
(13.328)

.1016
(14.458)

-.0041
(7.810)

.536

82.0

All the equations for Austria, and equations (5) and (6) for Czechoslovakia were estimated in logarithmic form. Equations (7) to (10) for Czechoslovakia, were estimated in the form of rates of growth, which explains the much smaller R2.
The comparison of the results is quite interesting. First, we see a considerable difference between the capital elasticity (b) of the two countries. The smaller Czechoslovak capital elasticity indicates/higher capital-output ratio and/or a lower marginal productivity of capital. Clearly this may be a “systemic” difference. It also implies that Czechoslovakia needs larger investments to support the same growth rate.
The most interesting result is that Austria shows a very high (4.2%), but Czechoslovakia even a higher (5.7%), growth rate of total factor productivity. However, we have to consider the possibility that the Czechoslovak rate was “blown up” by the “inflation of constant prices” and by the increase in the material cost per unit of output. A large part of the difference can probably be explained by the fact that the Czechoslovak data relates to the earlier period, when the growth rate of total factor productivity may have been higher than in later years. The validity of this conclusion is documented by the fact that equations (6), (9), and (10) show a significant declining trend in the growth rate of total factor productivity of almost half a percent yearly.
This means that in the middle sixties the growth rate of total factor productivity was only around 2-3 per cent in Czechoslovakia. The Austrian estimates (3) and (4) show the opposite tendency: the growth rate of total factor productivity increases from 1,3 percent in the early sixties to over 5 per cent in the seventies.
It is not clear that these diverging trends in the growth of factor productivity should be attributed fully to systemic differences between the Czechoslovak and Austrian economic systems. It is most likely that the growth rate of Czechoslovak factor productivity also increased at the end of the sixties and in the early seventies.

                   

 

 

(6)     Standard of Living Hypothesis

In 1967 the Economic Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences published a detailed and very carefully executed analytical study comparing the standards of living in Czechoslovakia, Austria and Germany. It reached the following conclusions (a) The rate of growth of both money and real wages was higher in Austria than in Czechoslovakia; (b) in 1965 the Czechoslovak worker had to work relatively longer in order to buy the same amount of food, textiles and industrial goods, but relatively less for services and rent; (c) in 1960, the real wages in Austria and Czechoslovakia were almost identical, but by 1965 Austria was about 12% ahead; (d) the per capita consumption of food as well as industrial consumer goods was not very different, although Czechoslovakia was lagging behind Austria in the quality and composition of consumer goods, and especially in services; (e) the length of the legal working time was about the same in both countries, but the number of hours actually worked per week may have been smaller in Austria; (f) Czechoslovakia lagged behind Austria in housing. Both the number of apartments per 1000 inhabitants and the average size was larger and the equipment of apartments was better in Austria; (g) Czechoslovakia had a better system of health insurance but Austria provided better social security and a higher standard of living for retired people.
It is not likely that this situation would have been radically changed in the decade following the above-mentioned study. However, that study was done at the end of a period, which was most unfavorable in postwar Czechoslovak economic history. The years following 1965 showed not only an overall increase in the rates of economic growth, but also above-normal improvements in the standard of living and in the quality of consumer goods and services.
Real wages continued to grow faster in Austria. According to official statistics the average annual growth rate of real wages in the manufacturing industry in the period 1965 to 1974 was 3.4% in Czechoslovakia and 5.6% in Austria.
Due to the improved supply of agricultural products the per capita consumption of food in Czechoslovakia and Austria reached comparable levels.

           Table 10  Food Consumption Per Capita                                              gm/day

 

 

CS

A

1964/66

1965/66

Meat

167

>175

Eggs

25

38

Milk

356

570

Vegetables

224

198

Fruits

155

291

Sugar

103

100

Fats

44

55

Calories *

3030

2970

                     * per day per capita

Similar levels were also reached in equipping the population with basic industrial goods. In 1972 there were 226 television receivers, 288 radio receivers and 226 telephones per 1000 inhabitants in Austria. The respective numbers for Czechoslovakia were 228 (television), 263 (radio), but only 154 (telephone).

In housing, Czechoslovakia remained slightly behind Austria as can be seen in Table 11.

Table 11           Housing Conditions

 

Austria

Czechoslovakia

 (1972)

(1971)

People per one apartment

3.03

3.38

Rooms per one apartment

4.1

<2.1

People per one room

.9

1.6

percentages

Share of apartments with:

 

 

Running water

87.8

74.7

Gas

35.2

30.3

Electric Power

98.3

98.6

Bathroom or Shower

54.5

57.2

Washing Machine

n.a.

69.3

Refrigerator

n.a.

60.6

Television set

n.a.

73.2

Table 12 shows that the gap in housing has been quickly diminishing in recent years.

 

Table 12  Construction of New Apartments Per Thousand of Inhabitants

 

 

1953

1960

1970

1973

Austria

5.5

6.0

6.1

5.8

Czechoslovakia

3.0

6.1

8.6

8.4

In health care, Czechoslovakia probably remained slightly ahead of Austria. In 1971 the number of people per one physician was 461 in Czechoslovakia. and 535 in Austria. In the same years the number of people per one hospital bed was 99 in Czechoslovakia and 92 in Austria. The long-run impact of improved health care on mortality rates has been similar in both countries, (Table 13).

Table 13  Basic Population Statistics

(ratios per 1000 inhabitants)

 

1937

1945-1969

1960

1968

1974

 

CS

A

CS

A

CS

A

CS

A

CS

A

Birth

16.3

12.8

22.4

16.7

15.9

17.8

14.9

17.2

19.8

12.8

Death

13.1

13.3

13.6

15.3

9.2

12.7

10.7

13.1

11.7

12.5

Natural Incr.

3.2

-.5

8.8

1.3

6.7

5.1

4.2

4.1

8.1

.3

Infant Mortality

117

92

100

92

23

38

22

25

21*

29*

*1973


 

 

 

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