S’poreans cannot multi-task?/ Low productivity is PAP myth?

In Uncategorized on 07/01/2018 at 11:19 am

Low productivity is a global problem and yesterday I read in the FT an article suggesting whether a small part of the productivity loss could be blamed on smartphones and computers. Not just time spent on social media, but by making all staff generalists who have to do their own typing, presentations and bookings, despite lacking the specialist skills.

Well the latter could be one reason why

Office workers in Singapore are the least productive among 11 countries polled by enterprise software firm Unit4.

The study found that Singapore workers spend only 60 per cent of their time on their main work duties, compared with a poll average of 72 per cent.

Roughly 380 hours a year are spent on completing administrative or repetitive tasks. This is equivalent to 47.5 work days or two months of the working year.

This loss of productivity is costing the Singapore service industry more than S$36.5 billion annually, said Unit4.

Its survey comes amid studies that show labour productivity in Singapore is decreasing due to significant challenges from structural transformation and ageing demographics.

Singapore office workers said the specific daily administrative tasks that prevent them from focusing on their primary duties include manually collating and entering data, tracking their project status, handling invoices as well as submitting their expenses and planning travel.

Whatever, hopefully in 2o18, we will find out that productivity in 2017 improved just like it did in 2016:

Singapore’s productivity could improve a little bit more this year, having achieved 1 per cent growth in 2016, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (Aug 12).

Speaking at a National Day dinner at his ward in Teck Ghee, Mr Lee pointed out that 2016 was the first time in several years that a positive productivity figure had been achieved.

“Productivity is important because it means each worker is able to produce more and therefore we can earn more, therefore the company can do better, therefore Singapore can progress,” said Mr Lee.

“This year, our productivity may do a little bit better still and that’s an encouraging sign,” he added. “It shows that our policies are working, we are able to upgrade our economy and we are able steadily to improve everybody’s lives.”


All up to the PM, Tharman and the other ministers? Juz really cut the flow of FTs to the A320 load from the A380 cargo load. To be fair to the ministers, FTs were coming in by the cattle truck load until recently.

After all, the official productivity figures account for the cash value of output produced, divided by the number of workers. And with “a preference among businesses to use extra labour when wages are low”, mathematically so long as cheap FTs are let in, our productivity numbers will be low, giving the PAPpies and other fat cats the excuse not to raise wages: “Productivity is bad, how to give pay rises?”

But what if productivity isn’t low?

One of the great economic puzzles of recent years has been the slowdown in productivity growth across Western nations. There are many potential explanations for this: the continued survival of zombie companies in a low-rate era; mismeasurement of the gains from technology; new tech being less significant than older innovations (the Robert Gordon thesis); a preference among businesses to use extra labour when wages are low. And so on.

FT (my emphasis)

And what if the PAP knows it, but isn’t telling us because it wants to keep on suppressing wages?

Seriously, mismeasurement of productivity (and GDP) is something that is troubling economists:





  1. An important caveat – the west’s productivity slowdown is a relatively recent problem, say 10-15 years. Singapore’s has been ongoing since the 1990s. Basically we have not reach the productivity level of the west and are already suffering from productivity growth problems.

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