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Analysis and Comment (57)

China needs to adopt a productivity reform agenda to avoid falling living standards. AAP

Look to China’s productivity gains, not headline growth figures

China’s economy grew by 7.3% during the third quarter of 2014, meeting market expectations. Polling by Reuters and the Wall Street Journal put the consensus forecast at 7.2-7.3%, the slowest pace in more…
A set of simple management practices can help manufacturing companies outperform. WorldSkills/Flickr

The secret to unlocking productivity in manufacturing

With major employers heading offshore and employment numbers decimated, what will emerge from the ashes of Australia’s manufacturing industry? And what role should manufacturing play in the federal government’s…
RBA Governor Glenn Stevens has cited an increase in labour productivity - but all isn’t as it appears. AAP/Dan Peled

Labour productivity has risen – but it’s not exactly a good news story

Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Glenn Stevens has ticked off on a major item on the “to do” list for Australian policy-makers: raise the rate of growth in labour productivity. In his keynote speech…
Australians should step away from a “story-telling approach” when it comes the economy. AAP/Garry Schafer

Look at the data to understand the risks for the Australian economy

What are the risks in the economic outlook for Australia? Typically, prognosticators take a scenario-based (aka “story-telling”) approach to answering this sort of question. And usually these scenarios…
The combination of social, mobile, cloud and data analytics is offering small firms new potential. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr

Small business is missing the mobile, social, cloud revolution

Most companies that live and breathe the online revolution are not tech startups, but smart smaller firms that use online tools to run their core business better: to cut costs, reach customers and suppliers…
The new Royal Adelaide Hospital, due for completion in 2016, is being built using BIM. RoboSparrow/Flickr

Explainer: what is BIM and is it the future of construction?

It is often argued that Australia’s construction sector productivity is lower than most other developed countries, such as the US. While there are many factors involved, Australia’s overall productivity…
It’s time we put the ‘p’ back into productivity. Vincent Talleu/AAP

In the Airbnb world we need a new productivity measure

The latest report on Australia’s productivity performance wasn’t good news. The annual update by the Productivity Commission confirmed Australia continues to lag most other developed economies, and has…
Australia’s next crisis: productivity. But wait, it’s a slippery topic. Image sourced from www.shutterstock.com

Why we should approach claims of a productivity crisis with caution

This week the Productivity Commission released its second Productivity Update. The Productivity Report reviews Australia’s “productivity performance” over the last year. It disaggregates the statistics…
Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey hosting the recent G20 finance ministers' meeting in Sydney, a lead-up event to November’s Brisbane Summit. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

Double or nothing: Australia’s G20 energy challenge

When Australia hosts the G20 Leaders' Summit in November, a top agenda item for its “Brisbane Action Plan” will be “practical actions to improve productivity and competitiveness”. So here’s a good place…
Australia’s poor leadership record must be addressed if we want to improve productivity. Image sourced from www.shutterstock.com

Why Australian workplaces need much better leaders

Over the last decade, Australia has experienced a productivity slump. Our long-term productivity growth ranks well below the OECD average, and significantly below that enjoyed by leading economies. However…
Workers with skills and motivation perform at a higher level, regardless of workplace reform. Salle-Ann/Flickr

Workplace deregulation won’t boost productivity

Arguments for reform of workplace relations never go away. The central claim made by numerous commentators is that reform aimed at “freeing up” the labour market and workplaces is the key to improving…
Emerging economies like India are pushing ahead on innovation measures, while advanced economies see productivity declines. World Bank/Flickr

Demystifying the global productivity puzzle

The Conference Board’s latest productivity measure shows efficiency remains a problem for the global economy - and interestingly that innovation, despite occurring, may not be helping. The business research…
Graeme Samuel retired from the ACCC in 2011, but says the watchdog is the only real oversight the government has over businesses like Australia Post, which he says should be privatised. AAP/Andrew Taylor

Don’t expect fast reform: Graeme Samuel

Australia’s reform agenda has stalled, according to former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chief Graeme Samuel, and we won’t see any serious reform attempts for some time. The election of…
Six-legged hexapod robots can navigate rugged terrain and access places human workers cannot. CSIRO

Beyond R2-D2: Australian manufacturing’s robotics wish-list

In 1977, George Lucas’ Star Wars introduced us to R2-D2, an intelligent bot that embodied modern assistive robotics: he could anticipate needs and perform a number of tasks with minimal instruction. Almost…
Prime minister Kevin Rudd, shaking hands with an employee of the Altona Toyota factory in 2008, sees economic productivity as an important issue. AAP

Election 2013 Issues: the way we work

Welcome to the The Conversation Election 2013 State of the Nation essays. These articles provide in-depth analyses of key policy challenges affecting Australia as the nation heads to the polls. Today…
Australia’s energy regulations need a clean up. Flickr/Looking Glass

Energy reform key to productivity, paves way for carbon action

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd ducked the question of changes to carbon pricing in his National Press Club address yesterday. But he put energy market reform at the top of his “New National Competitiveness…
Competitiveness and productivity are top priorities in Kevin Rudd’s economic policy agenda. AAP

Rudd’s economic blueprint is a timely election pitch to business

Yesterday, Kevin Rudd set about outlining the broad terrain of economic policy to be pursued in this his second stint as Prime Minister. In his speech to the Press Club, the PM highlighted seven core drivers…
Ignore the hype: the Coalition’s IR policy won’t boost productivity in Australia. Paul Miller/ AAP

Coalition’s productivity obsession makes for flawed IR policy

More than jobs, inflation, security or disputation, the Coalition’s just-released policy on industrial relations claims to be about productivity. The policy is replete with over 30 references to “productivity…
We agree Australia’s productivity has to improve: plotting the trajectory from the macro to the micro will be big future themes of debate in the coming year. AAP

The productivity conundrum: current thinking and future trends

Amid the emerging decline in Australia’s terms of trade and drop in commodity prices, there is general consensus among most commentators that improving Australia’s productivity is critical. Looking back…
Three recent reports into productivity highlight differing issues but agree that targeting industrial reform is not the key to lifting outputs. Image sourced from www.shutterstock.com

Changing work practices alone will not boost productivity

The Australian Government’s recently released white paper on Australia in the Asian Century identified productivity as one of five key areas for action, at a time when we are engaged in a major national…
There is little evidence to support the belief that Australia’s productivity declines are linked to the need for labour market reform. AAP

Australia’s choice: the ‘high road’ to productivity or a race to the bottom

It is not easy to devise a solution to Australia’s productivity slowdown when a shared understanding of the problem is so elusive. While there is recognition among policy-makers that productivity is a…
Industry partnerships can be critical to research outcomes and a country’s productivity. Flickr/RMTip21

Research funding uncertainty hurting industry partnerships

Uncertainty over research funding will cost jobs, hurt productivity and threaten the government’s plans to promote better linkages between industry and research, say sector leaders. The Australian Research…
There are vast opportunities for firms to improve productivity at the enterprise level. Image from www.shutterstock.com

How individual firms can solve the ‘productivity paradox’

Commentators are urging government and others to do whatever they can to improve productivity in Australia because it is a key driver of prosperity, living standards and national wealth. While recent reports…
Confronted with poor productivity growth and middling economic performance, it’s time for Australia’s managers to step up their game and skill up. Image from www.shutterstock.com

Productivity growth provides a reality check for the lucky country

As Australian economists and thought leaders continue to ponder what will happen when the resources boom ends, declining productivity levels are causing alarm. According to the global survey by the Economist…
A poor report card on Australia’s productivity carried some obvious flaws. Flickr

Gloomy productivity report hides some fatal flaws

This week’s global report ranking Australia’s productivity growth performance second-last on a list of 51 countries raised eyebrows and prompted calls for urgent action. The Australian Human Resources…
If the government is serious about maintaining its economic prosperity into the future, it needs to address Australia’s historically poor productivity growth. Ann Douglas

Australia’s productivity problem: why it matters

The majority of Australians would prefer higher living standards. This can take the form of better access to better healthcare services and education, better environmental outcomes, more time for friends…
There is no feasible set of adjustments around labour reform or productivity enhancements that will offset the loss of international competitiveness being experienced by the non-resources sector.

Ken Henry: why Australia’s non-mining sector will continue to struggle

A new approach to tackling the structural effects of Australia’s record terms of trade on non-mining industries is needed from both business and government, argues one of Australia’s most eminent economists…
Robert F Kennedy thought it a mistake to equate success with what we produce. RFK Wharehouse

There’s more to good policy than increasing GDP

Economists are regularly criticised for worrying about gross domestic product (GDP) and similar measures. The classic statement of the case was by Robert F Kennedy: “Too much and too long, we seem to have…
Increasing workforce participation of women and older people could increase Australia’s GDP by $50 billion. AAP

How can Australian governments change the game for economic growth?

If Australian governments are serious about raising rates of economic growth, they must reform the tax mix and increase the workforce participation rates of women and older people. Each of these reforms…
Australia’s global competitiveness has slipped, according to a global study: but it is worth exploring some of its assumptions. AAP

World competitiveness rankings: what do they tell us?

The IMD World Competitiveness Rankings released this week are worth reflecting on, not so much because of the relative positioning of various countries - including Australia - but rather because of the…
Young men with mental health problems take an average of 9.5 extra days off work each year. PixieClipx

Bottom line on young men’s mental health shows high cost of inaction

Mental illness in young men costs the Australian economy $3.27bn a year in lost productivity, according to a report released today by the Inspire Foundation and Ernst & Young. The report, titled Counting…
Improving the transparency and evaluation of major infrastructure projects is one way to increase productivity. AAP

Budget provides a chance to carve out the path to higher productivity

Productivity growth results in more valued output per unit of production input, or the same output for fewer inputs. Growth of productivity requires changes involving the adoption of new technology, better…
Graeme Samuel and Stephen King: two of Australia’s most senior regulators sit down together for The Conversation.

Graeme Samuel: We’ve lost principled, analytical debate in this country

What happens when two of Australia’s best known former competition regulators sit down together and talk about the world? A wide-ranging discussion on the state of Australia’s political debate, xenophobia…
The future of Australia’s manufacturing sector will be the focus of today’s Jobs Summit. AAP

Jobs Summit: making a future for manufacturing

Hot on the heels of the Tax Forum in Canberra is today’s Jobs Summit, which is expected to concentrate on the pressing issues facing manufacturing. Dean of UTS Business School Professor Roy Green, who…
Tony Abbott has tough decisions to make on workplace reform before the next election. AAP

A return to WorkChoices: Why is business trying to hammer it home?

In one of the most significant moments of the 2010 federal election campaign, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott declared the Coalition’s unpopular WorkChoices policy “dead, buried, cremated.” In an interview…
Record terms of trade have masked dropping productivity growth - until now. AAP

Australia’s productivity: what can be done?

What is to be done about Australia’s deteriorating productivity performance? It’s by no means inconceivable that the answer to this question could be “nothing”. Historical precedent strongly suggests Australians…
Cutting penalty rates and reviving individual workplace agreements will have no impact on productivity. AAP

Workplace ‘reform’ won’t cure our ailing productivity

Business leaders are insisting changes be made to the Fair Work Act to boost productivity. Retailers apparently face a crisis because of penalty rates, and an MP agrees that penalty rates stymie productivity…
Expansion is behind a transitory decline in the mining sector productivity growth: but what’s the picture for other sectors? AAP

Australia’s productivity: what is the true picture behind our lagging growth?

Official explanations of the deterioration in Australia’s productivity growth have tended to emphasise the especially sharp declines in three sectors – agriculture, mining, and utilities (such as electricity…
Don Argus’s focus on industrial relations overlooks the real issues behind slowing productivity growth. AAP

Don Argus blames IR for productivity slump - but are other factors at work?

Former BHP Billiton Chairman Don Argus has blamed inflexible industrial relations laws for Australia’s lagging productivity, describing the Gillard Government’s economic reform agenda as “lazy”. Argus…
Investment in Australia’s ports is one obvious priority to enhance growth - but let’s broaden our outlook.

With the NBN locked in, it’s time to bridge our infrastructure gaps

There has been much debate in the popular and political discourse on the state of our national infrastructure. The general consensus, despite Victoria’s Baillieu government’s failure to put forth any proposals…
Treasury Secretary Dr Martin Parkinson has said boosting Australia’s productivity is essential. AAP

Act on productivity now or see decades of reform go to waste

In his address to the Economic and Social Outlook Conference last week, Treasury Secretary Dr Martin Parkinson called for a renewed focus on boosting Australia’s falling productivity to ensure living standards…
Turning off the taps means we spend less, but is that bad? Flickr/siette

Economists want water conservation to dry up

The Productivity Commission’s recent report on Australia’s urban water sector sets out the economic case for reform. One reform they suggest: remove water conservation measures. In Melbourne, most people…
Significant: Ken Henry’s tax review deserves to be on the national agenda. AAP

Put Henry Review reforms back on political agenda

The Henry Review released in May last year provided the Commonwealth and state governments with a wealth of good ideas for reform, yet so far the political processes have failed to deliver reforms. Why…
Brisbane’s Clem7 tunnel - a PPP too far? AAP

Putting PPPs in their place

Recent reports that the Queensland government may build its $2B Sunshine Coast hospital by using a public-private partnership appear to indicate a continuing love affair with this form of funding. State…

Research and News (3)

Research Briefs (6)

Flat lenses could boost solar power

Micro-machining technology could be used to produce flat lenses which would boost the productivity of solar panels. The Fresnel…

Employees work harder in times of recession

Worker output has been found to increase during times of economic downturn, while employers and firms manage to do “more…

Mentoring increases productivity

Orientation and mentoring programs help incoming employees adjust to their new workplace quicker, according to researchers…