Is it Fair Enough?

Client: The Australian Business Foundation

Fair Enough? A study of Australia’s productivity performance and the Fair Work system

ThinkEvans has been retained by the Australian Business Foundation to investigate and report on Australia’s productivity performance.

The particular focus of this independent study is the extent to which characteristics of the Fair Work System may promote or inhibit the determinants of productivity and, therefore, productivity growth in Australia.  In keeping with the Foundation’s purpose of being an activist and thought leader, however, the study will probe beyond the obvious issues of legislative mechanics and procedural detail of the Fair Work system that have been much re-hashed in the current media debate on productivity.

Instead, we will be considering the causal relationships that link the determinants of productivity in three broad groupings:

– immediate determinants, that lie within the control of businesses and other producers of income (such as work practice, managerial skill, use of technology, etc), and which may accelerate or decelerate productivity growth in a given workplace;

– underlying determinants, that provide the environment of operations for business and other productive activities (such as the labour market, sources and availability of other inputs/materials, the regulatory environment, etc), and which may facilitate or impede production of goods and services; and

– fundamental determinants, that encompass the broadest economic, social and geographical context that sets the basic level of productivity for a nation, the influence of which may need to be ameliorated to ensure sustainable prosperity can flow from the productive capacity of the nation.

Given that context, we note that in a special report on Australia in May 2011, The Economist said

“Australia is rich, tranquil and mostly overlooked, yet it has a story to tell. … Over a period of 20 years, from 1983 to 2003, governments of the left and of the right carried out the reforms that have made Australia one of the most open and flexible economies in the world. That description would not have accurately described the country at any other stage in its history.”

The article concluded by saying:

“Nonetheless, this era of prosperity and self-confidence should be a good time for Australians to take stock and confront any problems. On the face of it, their troubles are few: in 20 years of radical change all the obvious economic issues have been dealt with. Things are good, and the beach beckons. Certainly, the politicians seem unworried. Though they talk of reform, they spend most of their time scrapping about issues like climate change. A slight whiff of complacency pervades the groves of the capital, Canberra. That in itself should be a warning.”

To develop a well-informed and independent view on relevant issues, involving a broad range of commentators to inform the study is central to our approach.

In addition to business owners, senior executives and board members, we are seeking participation from a cross section of businesses of various sizes, ages, business models and product/service industries, as part of testing the impact that these determinants are said to have in the overall productivity result.

Please note that we define business as including government and academic enterprise as well as those that make significant use of volunteers in their workforce; it is by no means limited to the commercial business model.

To participate in this study, or nominate another person to participate, send an email to

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