PM's 2pc productivity boost call 'easier said than done'

Investment in skills, training and infrastructure needed to meet Rudd's 2 percent productivity boost demand

January 19, 2009

Major investment in skills, training and infrastructure will be needed if Australia is to respond to the challenge of lifting productivity growth, say unions.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has called for a 2 percent productivity boost to combat an aging population tipped to hit 36 million by 2050. Treasury modelling from the soon-to-be released Intergenerational Report says Australians would be $16,000 better off by 2050 if productivity was hiked a couple of percent.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott says it's a "confession of failure", criticising the Prime Minister for not doing enough to boost productivity levels and failing to outline how the country should go about it.

Unions blame the former Government led by John Howard, saying it failed to invest in productivity-making reforms.

Workers will "rise to the challenge", Australian Council of Trade Unions President Sharan Burrow says, but business will also have to adopt better staff management practices through collective bargaining.

"The Prime Minister has described in stark terms the risks to the national economy if we fail to lift productivity," she says. "But with the right policies, this challenge can be met.

"Improving productivity is a shared objective of business, the labour movement and the government, and we are keen to be part of the dialogue. This is a dialogue we have been encouraging for several years, but fell on deaf ears under the previous Government."

She says only investment in education and training, research and development, and upskilling of the existing workforce can sustain productivity growth.

"Business has a responsibility here to invest in a skilled, modern workforce, rather than rely on the easy and unsustainable option of temporary skilled migration," she says.

Heather Ridout from the Australian Industry Group says raising productivity will be a "test of the maturity of the political debate"

"Raising productivity is not for the faint-hearted. It is easy to say and hard to do and involves taking tough decisions with often medium to long term payback," she says.

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