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Workers 'waste $109bn'

Date

Mark Hawthorne

AUSTRALIAN workers are among the hardest-working in the developed world, notching an average 44-hour week, but they also rank among the least productive, amassing $109 billion of wasted wages each year.

A third of Australian employees plan to quit in the next year, more than half say poor management has the biggest impact on their productivity, and 18 per cent of the average working day is spent on ''work that wasted time and effort''.

They are among the key findings of a comprehensive study of almost 2500 Australian workers and their bosses, conducted by accounting firm Ernst & Young.

''What we found is a highly motivated Australian workforce,'' said Ernst & Young partner Neil Plumridge, who led the survey team.

''We are not a nation of slackers.''

We worked harder than other developed countries in terms of labour hours, and were highly motivated to work, he said.

More than 70 per cent of us came to work every day with the best of intentions, which was something to be proud of.

''The problem is the productivity of our workforce,'' he said. ''The hours are good and the intentions are good, but we found an incredible wastage once we all get to work.''

The total wages bill for Australian workers is estimated at $606 billion a year.

''Given that 18 per cent of our time at work is wasteful, ineffective and not valued, that's $109 billion waste in annual wages,'' Mr Plumridge said. ''Even if we can get a 10 per cent improvement, that's worth more than $10 billion a year to the national economy.''

The inaugural Australian Productivity Pulse survey found that management issues (54 per cent), organisation structure (23 per cent), a lack of innovation (15 per cent) and outdated technology (8 per cent) were cited by employees as the drains on productivity.

According to Mr Plumridge, productivity in Australia has been on a 10-year decline.

That view is supported by Graham Bradley, the departing chief of the Business Council of Australia, who last week said the nation had endured decades of ''mediocre growth and declining opportunity'' because of a productivity slump.

In a speech in Sydney, Mr Bradley called on employers and workers to ''strike adult agreements with each other to embrace technology, improve productivity and share the benefits''.

Despite the backdrop of slumping productivity, Australians are generally happy at work, with 68 per cent saying they were ''proud to work for their employer'' and 68 per cent believing their work was valued.

The survey found that older workers were more motivated to perform - and less interested in pay - than their younger counterparts.

More than a quarter of workers aged under 20 listed salary as the top motivator for going to work, and salary topped the list for workers up until the age of 35.

In contrast, less than 10 per cent of workers aged 45 and over cited pay as their key motivator for working. ''One of our key findings is that older workers are much more motivated by the satisfaction of simply doing a good job,'' Mr Plumridge said.

The report found that 32 per cent of Australian workers planned to leave their employer in the next 12 months. The figure was highest in the retail sector, where 44 per cent planned to quit inside a year, and lowest in the public sector, at 27 per cent.

With CLANCY YEATES

107 comments

  • So, who's reading this article on "office time"?

    Commenter
    Fred
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    October 17, 2011, 6:09AM
    • The underlying reason that our output has dropped is that people have got better at grovelling. Time after time the people who socialise with the boss get promoted. In companies I've worked in over the years the people who are no threat to the senior management usually get promoted. More people are being exposed during the GFC. In companies where people get promoted on their merit the financial results usually follow.

      Commenter
      Rod
      Location
      The Coast
      Date and time
      October 17, 2011, 6:19AM
      • Rod - Time after time the people who socialise with the boss get promoted.

        There's absolutely truth in this!

        Commenter
        Reality
        Location
        Melb
        Date and time
        October 17, 2011, 6:43AM
        • The headline isn't supported by the narrative. Over half the workers' "wasted" time was wasted by bosses, not by the workers themselves.

          And I don't post when I'm at work.

          Commenter
          Greg Platt
          Location
          Brunswick
          Date and time
          October 17, 2011, 7:00AM
          • I find reading The Age is the biggest waste of my working time. I am addicted to it and spend about an hour a day doing so. I'm also partial to writing comments and further wasting time. It's all your fault, Fairfax Media.

            Commenter
            poppinj
            Location
            ballarat
            Date and time
            October 17, 2011, 7:15AM
            • Australians can afford these productivity rates. But when income has been rising and productivity has been lagging the real problem is down the road. In worse case we can wake up one day with a big cut on our income to bring it back in line with productivity. I wish there would be more warning on this, specially from RBA and other regulation authorities

              Commenter
              boz
              Location
              Elwood
              Date and time
              October 17, 2011, 7:41AM
              • Spot on @Fred!
                Computers and internet access at work are, paradoxically, the biggest waste of time in a "working" environment.Email and net surfing are the culprits.

                Commenter
                The Other Guy
                Location
                Geelong
                Date and time
                October 17, 2011, 7:41AM
                • The decline of unionism and the creation of a "supply-side" mentality has led to a domination of the workplace by managers, hence, as mentioned above, those workers who grovel tend to get on more so than those with genuine aptitude for their job, hence a loss of productivity. Look at the job application process itself: It has become a serial grovel-fest and an industry in itself, spouting hundreds of firms that specialise in teaching job application methods and the art of grovelling and snivelling to get into just about any kind of job.
                  ...
                  What's needed is a workplace where the rights of employees are respected and where employers or managers are not elevated to the status of royalty. Furthermore, the job application process itself should be brief, to the point and focused solely on the qualifications of applicants, not on their capacity to stoop to a series of mortifying, self-assessment platitudes over an absurdly drawn-out process that can take several months before they get a letter (if they're lucky) saying you just missed out on the job (usually).

                  Commenter
                  Michael J.
                  Date and time
                  October 17, 2011, 7:51AM
                  • Hard working. Complete rubbish.
                    Travel over seas see how hard Asian world is working.

                    Stop congratulating your self and work.

                    Commenter
                    Vadim
                    Location
                    Sydney
                    Date and time
                    October 17, 2011, 8:01AM
                    • The free market in action! How about a survey on how "efficient" most company boards are with innumerable meetings resulting in nothing whatsoever that improves profitability or performance?

                      Commenter
                      DC
                      Location
                      Melbourne
                      Date and time
                      October 17, 2011, 8:07AM

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