American employees are 17 times more productive, says UN report

Robert Laing

Robert Laing

US workers are more than 17 times more productive than their South African counterparts, a United Nations (UN) report released yesterday found.

The UN's annual Key Indicators of the Labour Market report found US workers were the world's most productive, contributing $63885 each to the US's annual gross domestic product.

The average South African worker only produces $3716 a year, according to data gathered by the UN's International Labour Organisation.

The productivity figure is found by dividing the country's gross domestic product by the number of people employed.

Researchers used the most recent statistics available, which for the US were from 2006 and South Africa from 2005.

The data indicated US employees worked harder but not smarter than Norwegians. The average Norwegian produces $37,99 an hour versus US workers' $35,63. However, Norway did not make the top five as its citizens work less hours.

Ireland came a distant second with the average worker producing $55986 a year and Luxembourg third with $55641.

The report includes an index showing how labour productivity has improved or worsened since 1980 when the scale was set to 100 points.

South Africa scored 118,8 index points, beating Brazil whose productivity has declined to 97,1. China's productivity, on the other hand, has soared to 395,9 points and India's to 249,7.

Zimbabwe's productivity has slipped to 75,5percent of what it was in 1980, with $1598 gross domestic product per worker.

The study found that worldwide productivity was increasing as firms better combined capital, labour and technology.

It found that countries in East Asia were gradually gaining on industrial nations, while sub-Saharan Africa was slipping further behind.

"A lack of investment in people (training and skills) as well as equipment and technology can lead to an under-utilisation of the labour potential in the world," the report said.