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Work harder, Singapore beancounters told

Productivity in Singapore’s manufacturing industry is falling. To help compensate nationally, Singapore’s accountants – who aren’t particularly productive compared to their international counterparts – could try working harder.

In the last quarter of 2012, productivity growth dropped 3.5% compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the latest quarterly research produced by The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and CEBR.

Labour output has been lagging in negative growth territory for more than a year, after reaching peaks of about 16% growth in mid-2010 during a robust recovery from the 2008 financial crisis crash.

The main culprit for the latest figures is manufacturing, but the good news is that productivity in the financial services sector – measured, in basic terms, by wages plus net profit – trimmed the extent of the decline.

ICAEW Economic Advisor and CEBR Head of Macroeconomics, Charles Davis, says the slowdown in productivity growth is largely a function of Singapore increasing economic maturity. “This means that it needs to go through a structural shift to higher value added sectors, such as financial services.” This would promote economic growth and productivity per capita.

Mark Billington, ICAEW’s regional director for South East Asia, says the recent output numbers underscore the need for more skills development and training, with a focus on accounting professionals. Current productivity in the accounting field in Singapore lags other nations. Described as nominal value add (VA) per employee, the Singaporean profession comes in at SGD$91,800. This compares unfavourably to the UK, where VA is SGD$114,300 per employee and Australia’s SGD$122,800.

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