People of interest

Central bankers around the world have long pondered why productivity growth is slowing. Even as the latest global economic upswing has boosted employment across the rich world, output has remained sluggish. But might central banks themselves, with their armies of employees, be part of the problem?

Central banks’ output is admittedly difficult to define, let alone measure, but even so many central banks in Europe look flabby. Although the euro area’s 19 national central banks have ceded many of their monetary-policymaking responsibilities to the European Central Bank (ECB)—they no longer set monetary policy by themselves, for instance—they still retain thousands of employees who issue banknotes, manage payments systems, supervise banks and analyse the economy. According to Central Bank Directory, a trade publication, the Banque de France and the Bundesbank each employ more than 10,000 people, twice as many as the Bank of England or the Bank of Japan. The Bank of Italy employs 6,700. All told, the ECB and the euro zone’s national central banks boast a headcount of nearly 50,000.

This article is from our Graphic detail section.