Saturday, 30 June 2007

What works?

At a recent seminar, Dr. Guy Blaise Nkamleu, IITA Yam Economist, suggested that the single most important factor creating economic growth in the agricultural sector in Africa was the use of improved fertilisers.

There is a certain irony as this happens at a time when the developed world is moving to 'organic' crops - created without fertilisers - and commanding a premium price.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Migrant success

This morning, the UK newspapers report that a study has shown that migrant workers (and there are evidently about 1.5 million of them - mainly from Eastern Europe) have a very significant and very positive impact on the UK economy.

They do not seem to have unduly affected employment levels of UK citizens, largely filling new, part-time, seasonal and 'dirty' jobs.

Of course there are fears that some of them are exploited, even being paid less than the statutory minimum wage.

I don't know that their productivity levels are, or those of the industries using them but its good to have a positive message about what has been a feared class of the UK population. Only time will tell if their presence is beneficial in the longer-term but for now let's welcome the impetus they have given to economic growth.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Innovation Moos

Technology continues to surprise – not such the technology itself, but the ways in which innovative and enterprising humans discover new ways to use it. Someone in Australia (I think) has developed a prototype of a ‘virtual field’. Cattle are not fenced in (fencing is expensive to set up – and maintain). Each wears a GPS receiver. The farmer sets the co-ordinates for ‘the field’ (the area in which the cattle are allowed to wander) and when a cow gets within 5 meters of the invisible boundary, the device emits a hum which warns the cow. If the cow strays the 5 meters further they get a mild shock (as they would from a conventional electric fence). Research shows that within a few days – and presumably a few shocks – the cows learn to ‘back off’ when they hear the hum. Now, that’s innovation – the technology has been around for a while but someone has exploited it in a novel way!

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Tools, Techniques ... and tosh

I see lots of claims made for productivity tools. Sometimes I take these at face value. ..... especially where the problem/area is bounded and small. Obviously, a scripting tool makes it easier to write computer code. However when it comes to BIG tools that promise to transform an organisation's productivity, I get wary. Changing organisational productivity is usually a 'system issue', not a technical issue. It requires diagnosis, understanding and change management.

This is not to say that tools are not useful .. they can be very useful - for parts of the overall process. There is, sadly, no magic, silver, productivity bullet.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Who's sharing with who?

You will see from my profile that I am President of the World Confederation of Productivity Science. We have a very 'grand' but very important mission of bringing about "peace & prosperity through productivity". We firmly believe that the benefits of increased productivity have to be shared equitably.

However, something is going wrong. In the USA:

between 1947 and 1974 productivity doubled and so did median family incomes
between 1974 and 2000 productivity rose 56% while median incomes rose 29%
between 2000 and 2005 productivity rose 16% while median incomes fell 2%
(Source: Economic Mobility Project)

so, who's realising all the benefits?

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Win-win-win ... it can be done!

The wage bill in India in private sector, commercial companies has been rising fast - by about 35% in 2006-07 compared to about 3.5% for the public sector. What about productivity? Can these wages be paid for?

Well, firstly, much of the wage rise is due to increased numbers in work (especially in the software industry); some due to higher wages.... but again this is due to a general upskilling of the workforce ... and higher level skills command higher wages.

When one compares output levels to these wage levels, there is good news. To produce one rupee worth of output, the average firm in India now spends eight paise on wages against 12 paise in 2005-06.

Higher labour productivity has provided a win-win-win situation.... more output for companies, higher wages for the workforce, more jobs for the population.