Yesterday Australians learnt the bad news that our industrial relations system is holding us back, according to the World Economic Forum’s annual global competitiveness report. Inconveniently, however, more data emerged within hours showing how strongly labour productivity has been growing over the last three years.

Crikey has previously explored in detail exactly what a load of rubbish this index is, based as it is on a survey of a handful of business executives about their perceptions of politics. But this year’s iteration reached new heights of absurdity.

According to the report, “public trust in politicians” in Australia has fallen significantly — from 4.5 to 3.76 on a scale of 1 to 7 — since 2011-12, while “public trust in politicians” in such robust democracies as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei has increased. All of those countries are way ahead of Australia on that indicator, along with Rwanda (where human rights activists are murdered) Malaysia (where opposition protests are banned), Kazakhstan and even China.

Yes, according to the good folk of the WEF, China’s government is more trusted than Australia’s. At least, that’s what business leaders whose thought bubbles provide the basis for the index claim. Saudi Arabia, where the courts behead people for “sorcery”, is rated 26 places higher than Australia on “judicial independence”. And Australia ranks below Saudi Arabia and the oil sheikdoms on “favoritism in decisions of government officials” — never mind that all of them rank well below Australia in Transparency International’s internationally respected Corruption Perceptions Index.

The whole survey demonstrates what you get when instead of investing time and money in benchmarking and comparing different countries — a process that requires hard work and careful thought — you just do a lazy poll at the local version of the chairman’s lounge in airports round the world.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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