Australian productivity trails world leaders

The productivity growth of Australia’s workforce between 1980 and 2006 lagged behind that of most of its competitors in the developed world, according to a new International Labour Organisation study.

Over the 16 years between 1980 and 2006, Australian workers increased productivity per hour worked by 1.6%, well behind world leaders such as Korea (5.4%), Taiwan (4.8%) and European tigers Ireland, Poland and Slovakia (3.8%).

To an extent, this reflects the fact that Australian workers were already quite productive by 1980, leaving less scope for new productivity gains. Among the most developed economies, Australia is in the middle of the pack, behind the US on 1.7%, France on 2.2% and the United Kingdom on 2.4%, but ahead of New Zealand on 1.5%, Italy on 1.4% and fellow resources giant Canada on 1%.

In absolute dollar terms, each US worker added the most economic value in 2006 with an average $US63,885 contribution, ahead of Irish workers on $US55,986 and the workers of Luxembourg with $US55,641.

However, it appears that this is partly because US employees are working harder rather than smarter. On a per-hour basis, Norway overtakes the US as the country with the most productive workers in the world, with each worker in the Scandinavian nation adding $US37.99 per hour, ahead of US workers on $US35.63 and French workers on $US35.08.


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