Aussie workforce: Economically successful, but not so productive

by Cameron Edmond29 Oct 2013

Australia has ranked in the top 20 countries in the Human Capital Report, which measures workforces across 51 categories, including education; health and wellness; workforce and employment; and enabling environment. In the report, compiled by Mercer and the World Economic Forum, Australia placed  19th out of 122 countries.

Switzerland came in at 1st place, followed by Finland, Singapore, Netherlands and Sweden.

Australia was found to lead globally in regards to gender education parity, as well as ranking high in regards to education.

However, Australia didn’t come out on top in all areas. The report found the country ranked low in regards to keeping older workers employed, as well as coming 96th regarding pay related productivity.

These productivity findings are echoed in Ernst & Young’s Australian Productivity Pulse, which found that while the national productivity average may be growing, public sector productivity is lagging.

E&Y measured productivity by surveying Australian employees on innovation, technology, people management issues and organisational structure, design and operating models.

Twenty per cent of public sector workers in Australia feel they are operating at their best, contrasted with 29% of private sector workers, despite sharing comparable capabilities, skills and remuneration.

Neil Plumridge, advisory leader at EY Oceania, stated that government organisations are responsible for these results.

“This is not about the skills and capability of the public sector workforce, which is comparable with the private sector. Nor is it about remuneration, which can be higher in the public sector. We can only conclude that the productivity of public sector workers is being held back by government organisations themselves,” he said.

A low level of job security is a driving factor impacting productivity, with 53% of government workers having experienced cost cutting or redundancies over the last six months. Many also doubt the effectiveness of outsourcing, with only a third of public sector workers stating it delivered high quality outcomes.

In order to drive back up productivity, Plumridge suggested that public sector employers acknowledge they have different priorities to the private sector, and then work to fulfill their community service and transparency obligations.

However, Plumridge said that public sector employers must ensure they have the management capabilities and employment practices required to support a productive work force. “The next big wave of productivity change in the public sector will come, not through redundancies, but through improvements to the way workers are managed and motivated,” he added.


  • by Anonymous 29/10/2013 3:56:51 PM

    I believe the reason Australian companies don't employ as many older workers is due to the WHS rules and workers comp.
    Unfortunately as we age, we naturally will become more susceptible to injuries or could aggravate an injury that already existed prior to employment.
    I would say it's accurate (and a reasonable assumption) that companies want to minimise those risks and financial complications.

  • by Anne Sayles 29/10/2013 5:27:36 PM

    Would disagree with the above comment. Having worked in HR and Workers Compensation for many years, I find the older worker is more reliable and very much less likely to make a claim because they have ethics. All of the difficult claims I have had are in relation to workers between 25 and 40.

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