Friday, 25 February 2011

Its not a choice

I have seen a couple of recent debates about whether improving fuel efficiencies is more effective (at reducing climate change) than moving to alternative energy sources.

This is not a choice. We need both.

Even those who deny climate change (or deny that it is caused by man's activities) must accept that fossil fuels are in limited supply. We have to make stocks last while we determine what our longer-term strategy should be.

So, let's ask the media to stop fuelling the debate about improved efficiency OR alternative energy. Let's ask them to make the case for improved efficiency AND alternative energy.

Friday, 18 February 2011

The gaps appear

China and India top yet another global league table, this time for growth in labour productivity. The findings by the New York-based think tank, The Conference Board, show that China and India are the most dynamic economies with 8.7% and 5.4% growth in labour productivity in 2010.

However, when one looks at total factor productivity - taking account of all factors of production - the two diverge. China has shown a rising pattern since 1995, whereas India started to slow in 2005. "China has shown strong output growth since 2005, while India's transition to a higher growth path has been more resource-consuming and more constrained by a continuing need for reforms," the report says, adding that a lot of potential for efficiency gains still needs to be realised.

Friday, 11 February 2011

What is the problem?

I come across 'productivity' news all the time. Like a recent report from the Australian Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism which suggests that significant investment is needed to improve the productivity of the Australian tourism industry.

The report entitled Tourism Productivity in Australia goes on to say that while gross domestic product statistics reveal tourism has outperformed the economy as a whole in the past year, the productivity of the industry has lagged behind the economy-wide average over the long-term.

But does the industry need new investment, better marketing, less news about floods and cyclones or ...

I'm a productivity guy. But I don't automatically think that because a sector isn't 'pulling its weight', there must be a productivity problem.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Keep on truckin

Proposed new rules for US truckers (announced by the Transportation Department in December) could cut an hour of driving time per day for the nation’s 1.6 million long-haul truck drivers. Truckers would also have to take breaks after driving seven consecutive hours and wouldn’t be allowed to work as many consecutive days of long shifts as they may now. 

As you can imagine, there is vocal oppostion to the proposals calling them anti-productive.

Here is where debate starts. Do we prioritise economic productivty at the risk of safety or driver well-being? Is there any evidence that these proposals will reduce accidents (involving truckers and others) ... or improve the health & well-being of truckers.

I don't have answers. I'm just pointing out that decisions we take have both intended and unintended consequences ... and that productivity is a complex issue, moderated by a host of other factors.

Of course I would feel diffferently depending on whether I was a trucker (and especially the wife of a trucker) or an employer of truckers. So, let the debate run .... perhaps Amercia is moving to tougher legislation .... bringing it in line with the EU.

Is it also moving to lower productivity. Its too early to tell ... people find all sorts of ways to improve productivity. The direct productivity of drivers may go down (though tired drivers are probably not all that productive) but what matters is the productivity of trucking operations ... and that can be affected by all sorts of other factors ... including technology ... and innovation. So, let's see how the trucking operators solve the conundrum ... and move to a state of higher productivity AND safer trucking.