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Productivity in Australia's Wholesale and Retail Trade

Staff research paper

This paper by Alan Johnston, Darell Porter, Trevor Cobbold and Robert Dolamore was released on 4 October 2000. The paper examines the productivity performance of the wholesale and retail trade sectors in light of their significant contribution to Australia's record productivity performance in the 1990s. It aims to improve understanding of productivity trends in wholesale and retail trade and, in particular, examine the plausibility of measured productivity trends; and offer some reasonable explanations for the identified trends.

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This Staff Research Paper by Alan Johnston, Darrell Porter, Trevor Cobbold and Robert Dolamore examines the productivity performance of the wholesale and retail trade sectors in light of their significant contribution to Australia's record productivity performance in the 1990s.

Fundamental changes in the nature and operations of wholesale trade, in particular, have brought marked improvements in productivity performance over the 1990s. The paper examines the main sources of the improved productivity growth in wholesale and retail trade including the adoption of productivity-enhancing and labour saving technologies, the role of increased competition as a catalyst for rationalisation, institutional reforms such as changes to industrial relations legislation, and factors specific to particular sub-industries, such as underlying demand conditions.

The paper is part of a stream of ongoing work at the Productivity Commission on microeconomic reform, productivity growth and adjustment.

Background information

Leonora Nicol, Media and Publications 02 6240 3239 / 0417 665 443

Preliminaries
Cover, Copyright, Foreword, Contents, Acknowledgements, Abbreviations, Key messages, Overview

1 Introduction
1.1 Objectives and scope
1.2 Approach and structure of the paper

2 Nature of distributive trades
2.1 Role of the distributive trades
2.2 A snapshot of the Australian distribution sector
2.3 The changing role of the distribution sector
2.4 Assessing productivity

3 Overview of productivity trends
3.1 Measurement of sectoral productivity
3.2 Multifactor productivity growth in the wholesale and retail trade sectors
3.3 Wholesale trade productivity growth
3.4 Retail trade productivity growth

4 Wholesale
4.1 Industry trends
4.2 Technology and the transformation of wholesaling
4.3 Underlying influences on productivity
4.4 Fundamental influences on productivity
4.5 Conclusion

5 Retail
5.1 Industry trends
5.2 The productivity slowdown in the 1980s
5.3 Productivity growth in the 1990s
5.4 Conclusion

A Data sources
A.1 Sources
A.2 Compatibility
A.3 Concordance

B Measuring wholesale and retail productivity
B.1 Concept and measurement of productivity
B.2 Wholesale and retail trade output
B.3 Measurement in practice
B.4 Measuring inputs
B.5 Summing up

C Industry Snapshots
C.1 The petroleum wholesaling and retailing industry
C.2 Motor vehicle wholesaling and retailing

D Industry consultation

References