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Just like R&D, researchers are vulnerable to economic downturns. R&D in industry is closely linked to creating new products and production techniques and to a country’s innovation effort. In 2006, before the current recession hit the global economy, around 2.6 million researchers, or about 65% of all researchers, including those in the government and education sectors, were employed by businesses in the OECD area.

However, whereas four out of five researchers work in businesses in the US and two out of three in Japan, only one out of two do so in the EU. Business researchers exceed 10 per 1,000 employees in Finland, Sweden, Japan and the US; they number six per 1,000 in France and Germany, and four per 1,000 in the UK. Mexico, Turkey, Poland and the Slovak Republic have fewer than one researcher per 1,000 employees in industry.

A few countries reported growth in the number of business researchers in recent years. Greece, Portugal and Turkey reported annual growth rates of more than 12% between 1997 and 2007, while China and South Africa reported rates of 15% and 19%, respectively, during the early 2000s. The trouble is, these numbers date from before the economic slump. Any decline, if not reversed, would augur badly for strengthening long-term growth.

OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2009, available at, ISBN 978-92-64-06371-6

©OECD Observer No 276-277 December 2009-January 2010

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q1 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% May 2019 annual
Trade: +0.4% exp, -1.2% imp, Q1 2019
Unemployment: 5.2% July 2019
Last update: 9 September 2019

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