‘Mediocrity beckons’: Stark warning from productivity review

‘Mediocrity beckons’: Stark warning from productivity review

Australia risks falling into ingrained “mediocrity” if radical new approaches to taxation, innovation, education and urban planning are not implemented, the Productivity Commission has cautioned.

The commission’s five-year productivity review suggested that investment is unlikely to drive considerable growth moving forward, given that “investment to GDP rates are already at historically high levels”.

Labour participation rates are also not the magic answer, it said, given the nation’s ageing population.

Instead, Australia must become much more acutely focused on learning and change, and supporting individuals to contribute to maximium effect.

“Getting better outcomes involves new agendas involving the non-market economy (mainly education and healthcare), the innovation system, using data, creating well-functioning cities, and rebuilding confidence in institutions,” the report said.

Central to achieving change, it argued, is an overhaul of our healthcare system to reduce the burden of illness on the economy.

“Australia is beset by a rising wave of complex chronic health conditions that will lead to many years of life spent in ill health, lower involvement in work and rising costs for the health care system. Suppliers rather than patients are the centre of the current system,” it said.

“Change can be orchestrated locally if the Australian state and territory governments move away from centralised control. It is time to move to full adoption of patient-centred care, where the outcomes for, and experiences of, people are the key focus, but getting buy-in from clinicians is a critical part of this.”

The report added that “reform of Australia’s health care system will not just be better for patients, but may save up to $140 billion over the next 20 years.”

SMEs have also previously bemoaned the state of Australian university graduates, and they appear to have found a staunch ally in the Productivity Commission.

“Slipping school results and concerns about teaching quality raise questions about how Australians will adapt to the wave of changes in the economy over the coming decades,” the report noted, adding that “the vocational education and training system is in disarray”.

“It will not be too long before universities will be the key vehicle for skill formation, yet their teaching function plays a subordinate role to their research role, and the outcomes for many graduates are poor.”

Key findings:

  • Between FY2003-04 and FY2015-16, market sector GDP gains from ‘doing things better’ are virtually zero
  • More than 10 million Australians suffer from three or more long-term health problems
  • Australia has the highest rate of ill-health in the OECD, with average years of life spent in ill-health coming in at just under 11 years
  • Obesity alone affects close to 30 per cent of the adult population
  • The cost to Australians of time spent waiting in doctor’s surgeries amounts to around $1 billion each year
  • 20 per cent of university graduates were underemployed in 2016, more than doubling the 9 per cent figure of 2008
  • Outstanding HELP debt has risen from $12.4 billion to almost $50 billion in the decade to 2016
  • Population growth in Melbourne in 2015 was so strong that it grew by more people every five days than Hobart grew by in the entire year
‘Mediocrity beckons’: Stark warning from productivity review
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