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Malaysians lag in productivity

Publication Date : 26-02-2013


Malaysians work longer hours than their counterparts in many benchmark countries, but produce less than them.

According to the Malaysian Productivity Corporation, our employee productivity levels are a lot lower than those of countries like the United States, Japan, United Kingdom, South Korea and Singapore.

MPC director-general Datuk Mohd Razali Hussain, citing the 2011 Productivity Report, said Malaysian workers had a productivity value of 43,952 ringgit (US$14,100) a year.

“But compared with Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and the United States, we are still far behind,” Razali said.

He added that the country was still recording an average productivity growth of 4.5 per cent annually, which was lower than that of Indonesia and India.

Labour productivity levels are measured by the real gross domestic product over the number of workers in the country.

“In other words, it is how many workers it takes to produce a profit,” said Razali.

According to the report, which analyses information from the Department of Statistics, workers in the top benchmark countries outperformed Malaysian workers almost six times over.

American workers topped the list with a productivity level of 285,558 ringgit a year, followed by employees in Japan (229,568 ringgit) and Hong Kong (201,485 ringgit).

In 2011, Malaysia had a productivity growth rate of 4.55 per cent, which MPC said was on track for the country in becoming a high-income nation by 2020 with a productivity level of 87,500 ringgit.

However, Malaysians lost out to several benchmark Asian countries like China, which had a growth rate of 8.7 per cent, Indonesia (5 per cent) and India (4.8 per cent).

“Even though we can see there is growth based on the data we have, Malaysian workers have not been creating enough with the resources that we have,” said Razali.

He clarified that an employee's productivity was not measured by the number of hours clocked in but rather by his or her overall output during working hours.

“Actually, most hours are not spent being productive. We have had foreign agencies complain that their Malaysian staff were taking very long tea breaks,” he said.

Razali said that working long hours could even be counter-productive.

“There is a lot of waste in productivity when you drag the hours ... The company would have to pay more for electricity and overtime,” he added.

Razali said management practices should be reviewed to boost productivity.

He stressed the need to reward employees for better productivity with gain sharing, and suggested project-based incentives, improving workplace conditions and providing more flexible time for employees to rest while on the job.

According to the report, productivity levels grew by 2.82 per cent with improvements in labour efficiency recorded in five key economic sectors.

Productivity levels in the services sector expanded by 4.9 per cent to 53,938 ringgit in 2011.

The agriculture sector grew by 6.23 per cent to 29,466 ringgit, while manufacturing increased by 1.97 per cent to 54,509 ringgit.

Construction productivity levels went up by 3.09 per cent to 24,635 ringgit in 2011, while the mining sector recorded a negative productivity growth of -6.14 per cent to 866,246 ringgit from 922,914 ringgit.

Asked why the mining sector had a negative productivity rate when its turnover was higher than other sectors, Razali said this was because the turnover did not correlate with the large workforce.

*US$1=3.1 ringgit


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