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Australia's Productivity Performance

Productivity growth has been one of the primary drivers of increasing living standards for Australians. The more goods and services a society can produce with a given set of inputs, the greater the material standard of living of that society.

We’ve unpacked the latest ABS productivity data to enable you to learn about and keep up to date with the trends and new developments underlying Australia's recent productivity performance.

On this page you will find the productivity performance dashboard, a visual summary of Australia’s productivity over 2019-20, a primer on why productivity matters, as well as access to other relevant Commission research.

Read our latest Productivity Insights

Productivity performance dashboard

Multifactor productivity performance

  • Below average
  • Typical
  • Above average

Labour productivity performance

  • Below average
  • Typical
  • Above average

Productivity performance dashboard (text version of above images)

Multifactor productivity performance

Multifactor productivity 2019-20 -0.68%

Five year average +0.12%

Below average range -1.02% to -0.38%

Typical range -0.38% to 1.97%

Above average range 1.97% to 3.35%

Labour productivity performance

Labour productivity 2019-20 0.56%

Five year average 0.83%

Below average range -0.06% to 0.56%

Typical range 0.56% to 3.49%

Above average range 3.49% to 4.97%

Visual summary of Australia’s productivity in 2019-20

  • Output, MFP and hours worked fell significantly during 2019-20 …

    Contributions to market sector value added growth from hours worked, capital services, and MFP between 2009-10 and 2019‑20

    This figure shows that output fell about 1 per cent in 2019-20 after increasing in the previous 10 years. This was due to falls in both multifactor productivity and hours worked which more than offset a small increase in capital services.
  • … and while the fall in employment was more severe the recovery was quicker than previous recessions

    Percentage fall in employment (seasonally adjusted) from peak employment levels and the number of months since employment peaked

    This figure plots the months since peak employment during Australia's most recent 3 recessions. The recession in 1982 saw a fall in employment that peaked at about 3.5 per cent and the economy took 28 weeks before fully recovering. The recession in 1990 saw a peak fall in employment of about 4 per cent and the economy took about 48 weeks to return to previous levels of employment. By contrast the economy only took 11 weeks to return to previous employment during the COVID-19 associated recession but saw a peak fall in employment of about 7 per cent.
  • This was, in part, due to government spending during the pandemic

    Australian Government underlying cash balance as a proportion of GDP

    This figure plots the Australian Government's underlying cash balance  as a proportion of GDP between 1970 and 2025, with the last four years being forecasts. It can be seen that the deficit forecasted for 2020-21 is going to be larger than the deficits the Australian Government ran in the past two recessions as well as the GFC. It can also be seen that the size of the deficit for 2020-21 has been revised down in the most recent budget.
  • Working from home and an accelerated transition to online retail were among several structural changes due to the pandemic

    Proportion of people working from home (LHS) and Proportion of retail sales (seasonally adjusted) that are made online, by food and non-food components by month between January 2015 and January 2021 (RHS)

    The chart on the left shows that the proportion of individuals working from home increased substantially in 2020 and 2021. Before 2020 the proportion of individuals working from home never exceeded 10 per cent (in 2020 and 2021 it was about 40 per cent). The chart on the right shows that online sales as a proportion of total retail sales increased in food, non-food and all retail after March 2020. Online sales spiked in March as the pandemic started before falling a little in subsequent quarters (but remaining higher than before COVID).
  • Slower productivity growth has contributed to the slowest growth in output and incomes in 60 years …

    Annual average growth in gross domestic product per capita and gross national income per capita by decade

    This chart shows that both GNI and GDP per capita was well below the long run average (60 year average ) in the 2010s (about 1 per cent compared to the long run average of about 2.2 per cent). In fact the 2010s have been the worst decade of income growth in the last 60 years even excluding 2019-20.
  • … which is due to slow labour productivity growth along with a declining terms of trade and labour utilisation

    Five year lagged average growth in gross domestic income and labour productivity, and the contributions from labour utilisation, the terms of trade and the net inflow of foreign income

    This figure plots the 5-year lagged average growth in gross domestic income and the contributions from labour utilisation, labour productivity, the terms of trade and the net inflow of foreign income. The figure shows that slow income growth in last decade has been caused by a declining terms of trade along with slow labour productivity growth and falling labour utilisation. Prior to this, 5-year lagged income growth was relatively strong especially between the period 1995 to 2010.

Dig deeper into the detail with our latest Productivity Insights

Learn more about productivity

Select Commission works on Productivity

For those that share an interest in understanding and improving Australia's productivity performance, we have a broad range of publications for further research and analysis: