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Journal of Management History ; 28(3):341-362, 2021.
Article in English | ProQuest Central | ID: covidwho-1831704


Purpose>Management history has long acknowledged the existence of unproductive labour. Despite becoming unfashionable in modern times, the growth of unproductive labour within the economic composition of Australia’s labour force, witnessed since the late 1980s, brings to the fore old debates with a modern resonance, debates as to how and when labour contributes to economic growth. Using Australia as a case study, this paper aims to explore the economic cost increasing rates of unproductive labour, typically associated with government-imposed regulation, may have upon an organisation, and more broadly society.Design/methodology/approach>This paper explores the theoretical frameworks developed by classical and neoclassical economists on the subject of productive and unproductive labour and uses key elements to explain the economic consequences of the current labour economy and regulatory environment that exists within modern Australia.Findings>It is the growth of unproductive roles within the Australian economy since the late 1980s that contributes not only to the rising cost of employing domestically and the rising cost of living, but furthermore, to the fragility of Australia’s long-term economic security.Originality/value>Australia’s economy is bound by chains of regulation. No longer does productivity fuel a growing economy, but rather, economies are powered by the rein of unproductive labour – labour that does not produce value but rather, consumes it. Unproductive labour is not a “dusty museum piece”. Rather, it is a defining characteristic of modern Australia, one that impacts immensely the cost of domestic business, and ultimately, society and the cost of living.