Productivity growth is slowing around the world. The question is what lies behind this trend and whether it can be arrested. This column takes a historical perspective on total factor productivity growth slowdowns. International factors that heighten the risk of TFP slumps include global interest rate shocks, global oil price shocks and rising global risk aversion. Country-specific factors working in the same direction include low educational attainment, weak political systems, and overly high levels of investment. Investing in education, political development and rebalancing can mitigate the risk of TFP slumps but are unlikely to eliminate them entirely.