John Heap (National Productivity Centre, Leeds, UK)

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management

ISSN: 1741-0401

Article publication date: 12 January 2015



Heap, J. (2015), "News", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 64 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Article Type: News From: International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Volume 64, Issue 1.

The only way is up

The journey towards higher productivity will take many years, said Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam recently. And yet, it is a journey that Singapore cannot avoid.

“Making the transition to a high-productivity economy is absolutely essential for Singapore”, he said.

“The fact that we face a tight labour market is a reality. We all know that, and it means that to sustain business competitiveness and continue to raise Singaporeans’ incomes, we have to make this major transition”.

Some countries manage to transform their economies quickly as a result of major or prolonged recessions. “But we are not operating in crisis, and that’s a good part of the reason why economic restructuring for higher productivity will take time in Singapore”, he said.

So far, it has been an uphill journey. The government has set a productivity target of 2-3 per cent growth a year by 2020. But labour productivity inched up just 0.2 per cent a year from 2010 to last year.

He pointed to three scenarios if Singapore does not manage to raise productivity. If wages go up, then competitiveness and jobs might be lost.

In the second scenario, prices would rise and hurt everyone.

In the third scenario, without productivity gains, firms would try to keep wages low.

Cooperative agriculture

The third phase of the Australia-Pakistan Agriculture Sector Linkages Programme (APASLP) will strengthen the agriculture and dairy sector to improve food security in Pakistan. Sandra Mustafa from the University of Canberra said work on various items including mangoes, citrus and dairy products had been carried out under the second phase of the programme to strengthen value chains, agricultural capability and effective policy formation. She said synergy between farmers and use of information technology could play a crucial role in facilitating the introduction of state-of-the-art agricultural techniques among the people. Mustafa said several universities would be participating in youth camps being organised by them in March in Islamabad.

Farming innovations

In Tanzania, as in many other developing countries, women tend to perform agriculture’s most time- and labour-intensive activities. Yet unfavourable regulations and sociocultural norms limit women’s decision-making power and reduce their access to the assets they need to improve food security and nutrition for their households.

That’s why Feed the Future is investing in smallholder women farmers in Tanzania through a programme funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development that trains farmers in community-centred technology design. The programme works with farmers to identify agriculture-related challenges – particularly those faced by women – and develop solutions-based prototypes that increase incomes and productivity while easing time and labour burdens.

“When you are a farmer, you are only a farmer. You will never think to yourself that you are an inventor”, says Julia Bwire, one of the programme participants.

But with assistance from the programme, Bwire’s design group developed a vegetable solar drier that reduced waste in the perishable produce the members grew in their gardens. Instead of having to throw out vegetables that didn’t sell at market during the peak season, the women could use the drier to preserve nutritious vegetables and use them to feed their families. Now, the group is generating additional household income by renting the drier to their neighbours at a small fee.

Young at heart

Saint Lucia observed Productivity Awareness Week last October. This was an initiative of the Government of Saint Lucia, in collaboration with the National Competitiveness and Productivity Council (NCPC).

The main objective of the week was to create a sense of urgency around the subject of productivity among St. Lucians. The theme for the week was “Enhancing Productivity is our responsibility”. Windward and Leeward Brewery Ltd (WLBL) felt compelled to actively participate in Productivity Awareness Week both for staff and other partners namely schools. The organisation in playing its part sought to engage and challenge students of primary schools. As a company, built on a strong manufacturing legacy, with products of international standards, WLBL felt that it was imperative to share their knowledge and experience with the young minds.

More power, please

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said recently at a working session with the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) that the power sector’s most serious problem is not the price of electricity, but low productivity of staff.

Dung asked the Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) to cut waste in its organisation after hearing a report that the average labour productivity was equal to 10 per cent of Singapore’s and 40 per cent of Thailand’s.

EVN’s managers admitted that labour productivity is too low. The HCM City Power Corporation, for example, has labour productivity of 2.9 million kwh per head. Meanwhile, the figure is 2.9 million kwh in Malaysia, and 7.5 million kwh in Japan.

Philippine’s innovates – freely

Secretary of Labour and Employment Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz recently said that the integrated, “ladderised” productivity toolbox of the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) will include a training programme on innovation and enterprise development.

“Greater productivity and enhanced competitiveness can only be realized if workers and employers are equipped with requisite knowledge, skills, and understanding and appreciation of innovation and enterprise development”, said Baldoz in drumming up public awareness on the productivity toolbox.

The course, “Innovation and Enterprise Development Training Program”, is a component of the NWPC’s productivity toolbox and targets enterprise owners, as well as labour representatives, as participant beneficiaries.

After the training, Baldoz said participants are expected to demonstrate different outcomes like value additions or development to existing products, services, projects and programmes; improved service delivery; and enhanced workforce skills to innovation.

“This training is a convenient tool for MSMEs (Micro Small Medium Enterprises). It only lasts for two days, but it is fully-equipped with helpful and enhanced modules and knowledge, as well as experience-sharing activities for participants”, said Baldoz.

“Also, don’t forget that this training is free, like the rest of the courses in the DOLE-NWPC productivity toolbox”, she added, promoting the use of the toolbox by MSMEs.


Governments worldwide have long recognised that new regulations can create benefits, but almost always at a cost. More than 30 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have institutionalised the process of evaluating this trade-off by assessing the prospective impact of new rules’ – their anticipated costs and benefits – prior to their promulgation.

Formal processes for retrospective analysis of specific rules — where a rule’s costs and benefits are assessed in hindsight — are much rarer. However, a third aspect of the regulatory process deserves attention: the cumulative impact of regulation.

Over time, as regulations accumulate, an increasing proportion of companies’ resources are devoted to compliance. This necessarily diverts resources away from things like the development of new technology or better training for workers. This diversion of resources may be further affected by the interaction of rules. The overlap of rules could potentially increase or decrease the regulatory burden faced by businesses.

A recent study by George Mason University in Washington, USA evaluated whether the levels of regulation faced by different industries were related to different rates of growth in labour productivity, finding that, from 1997 to 2010, labour productivity for the least-regulated industries grew about twice as quickly as the labour productivity of the most-regulated industries.

John Heap

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