Working Paper
The Theoretical, Conceptual and Empirical Impact of the Service Economy

A Critical Review

This paper offers a critical review of the conventional economic classification, measurement and valuation of output, and related performance indicators, for the service sector. The paper also explores and contrasts long-standing views on the service knowledge base and service innovations, as well as the global aspects of many services. A problem arises when historical industrial classification schemes treat services as being ‘immaterial’ (i.e. everything that is not manufacturing and agriculture), while ignoring that the activities of services in the economy, as well as the corporate structures of firms, transcend such classification schemes at any level of aggregation. Other problems arise when associated traditional analytical methods measure services input and output and related performance indicators using the same conceptual framework and indicators as those that are applied for problem solving for agriculture and manufacturing. Such entanglements have other and wider consequences for understanding the impact of the new economy and for designing appropriate policy.