Geerten Lengkeek at Radio New Zealand
The Dangers of Our Productivity Slide
July 4, 2023
graphs showing GDP per hours worked
It’s not (just) about Innovation – Myths and Hard Truths about New Zealand’s Low Productivity
July 17, 2023
Geerten Lengkeek at Radio New Zealand
The Dangers of Our Productivity Slide
July 4, 2023
graphs showing GDP per hours worked
It’s not (just) about Innovation – Myths and Hard Truths about New Zealand’s Low Productivity
July 17, 2023
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We’re only 68% Productive as the Rest of the OECD – Myths and Hard Truths about New Zealand’s Low Productivity

A blue map of New Zealand dripping south

Whenever new numbers are released about New Zealand’s productivity, we go through the motions of collective self-flagellation. “We’re behind the rest and we’re slipping further”. If we continue this, we’ll be just a puddle of misery.

It was no different when the New Zealand Productivity Commission / Te Kōmihana Whai Hua o Aotearoa released the latest numbers last week. In the press release, Commission Chair Dr Ganesh Nana notes, “the numbers show that the productivity record of Aotearoa New Zealand leaves a lot to be desired”.

The most disturbing number? Only 68% productive. That is, New Zealanders produce only 68% of the output per hour worked compared to the other (early) OECD countries.

It’s a startling number and so important that all Kiwi’s need to know about this. The Nobel laureate Paul Krugman said: “Productivity isn’t everything, but, in the long run, it is almost everything.” Productivity is the wellspring of national wealth, and national wealth is required to invest in the things we care about in New Zealand: healthcare, education, conservation, infrastructure, and the other important efforts that are funded from the public purse. This is the heritage of our future generations, and if we’re not careful, our own generation. Yes, it’s the link to ‘Wellbeing’, often misunderstood and ridiculed. The hard truth is that we need productivity improvement to safeguard the standard of living that we and our tamariki enjoy. There is nothing ‘woke’ about that.

In this series on the current state of New Zealand’s productivity, we will trawl through the new data for you to provide you with new insights. We are going to dispel some myths and provide further hard truths, as well as solutions – because there are plenty. This is not a series for cry-babies, but a call for action: New Zealand is only 68% productive, what can we do about it? Stay tuned!

If you would like to see the data for yourself, the Productivity Commission has provided access for everyone here: 2023 Productivity Data.

Next up in the series: it’s all about innovation! Or is it?

Disclaimer: ‘Productivity’ is measured here as GDP per FTE (or hour worked). It’s a crude and single-focus measure that does not even go near the discussion of staying within our planetary boundaries. That is a whole discussion on its own, and we have often argued that productivity improvement and saving our planet go hand in hand (see one of our articles in the series on climate action here).

About the author: Geerten Lengkeek is the Managing Director of Productivity People