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People argue about the veracity of these rankings in the same way as they argue about global economy rankings in exercises like the Global Competitiveness Index produced by the World Economic Forum.
That is because competitiveness, once you scratch and burrow into it, proves to be surprisingly slippery to define and measure. First, it is a relative concept.
You might improve but your opponents might improve more. Second, factors beyond your own control matter. On a cricket field it might be the pitch, for an economy it might be the exchange rate.
Third, the playing environment—the rules of the game—affects incentives and behaviour. Test and one-day games require different tactics to succeed. Poor rules can hinder and hold back an economy by favouring incumbents over start-ups.
Fourth, a cricket team is made up of individuals of varying capabilities, some stars, some newly emerging talents and some whose best days are behind them. Similarly, an economy is made up of industries of varying strengths which are themselves made up of businesses that differ tremendously in their attributes, in their risk appetite and in their performance.
In this report we scratch and burrow into the competitiveness of Australian industries, looking at it from a range of angles, covering the impact of rising energy costs, whether exporters out-perform other businesses and how far along the path Australian business is towards digital maturity.
Competitive economies are ones that are open to the world, attracting investment and people. They have high levels of innovation and business start-ups, and a diverse industry base and export profile and workforce. Competitiveness can wither and atrophy, and there is some evidence that this has been the case in Australia in recent years, notwithstanding 25 years of economic growth.
Should that be sustained over the longer run it will be detrimental to living standards. It requires constant vigilance on the part of all players—industry, government, education providers, and the science and research community—to renew themselves and strive to lift their game.
Mark Cully Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Executive summary Executive summary Australia has just recorded its 25th consecutive year of continuous economic growth — a remarkable achievement.
But what should be done to ensure we remain competitive on the world stage? Our ranking on international measures of competitiveness has slipped, real GDP per capita trends show signs of weakening, and keeping up with both technological advances and ongoing globalisation pose constant challenges.
The Australian Industry Report sheds lights on competitiveness — a multifaceted and elusive concept that can be measured in different ways. The report supports decision making through nine short chapters on important topics related to the competitiveness of Australian industries and the economy in general.
It points to competitiveness challenges such as falling productivity growth, falling business investment, and low collaboration between businesses and research institutions. Chapter 3 takes a closer look at cost competitiveness.
Modelling shows that while reducing each of six key business costs can generate overall economic benefits, the outcomes of these cost reductions vary widely by industry.
Results show that rising energy costs have a negative impact on the international competitiveness of Manufacturing industries, but there is no discernible impact on less energy intensive sectors.
Chapter 5 looks at exporting as an indicator of international competitiveness.
New Australian firm-level results point to the characteristics of exporters and the consistent outperformance of continuous exporters vs.
Chapter 6 reveals another important factor of business performance, namely digital maturity. It argues that Australia is not fully tapping into its potential to drive competition, innovation and productivity.
Using new experimental estimates of Gross Regional Product per capita, Chapter 7 shows that the benefits of growth across Australia have been uneven, benefiting some regions more than others. Agglomeration population density and mineral resources are identified as two key determinants of regional performance.
Chapter 8 discusses common issues affecting further growth in industry growth sectors, and acknowledges the work being undertaken by the Growth Centres to overcome these issues. Ultimately, success depends on getting sectors working smarter and more collaboratively with each other. The final chapter showcases a feature article by Martin Baily from the US Brookings Institution that examines the role of industry policy in managing the process of creative destruction.
The key finding of each chapter is summarised on the next page. Chapter 1 Australia's competitiveness Examining the importance of competitiveness, alternative ways of measuring it, and analysing how Australia is performing Competitiveness is a broad concept that can be applied at the business, sector and national level.
This chapter examines options for measuring competitiveness, assessing a range of possible indicators and approaches from an outcomes-focused perspective. These indicators are then grouped into a set of identified characteristics that a competitive economy would be expected to display.
Having defined these indicators, the chapter then analyse how Australia is currently performing and, where possible, how it is performing against international comparators.
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