On the productive efficiency of Australian businesses: firm size and age class effects

Marc Cowling, George Tanewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


After 26 years of growth, the Australian economy is beginning to show signs of stress and declining productivity. In this paper we consider aspects of productive efficiency using an Australian business population dataset. Using a production function approach several key findings are uncovered. Firstly, decreasing-returns-to-scale are identified as a significant feature of the Australian business sector. This implies that not all firm growth will lead to productivity gains. Secondly, there are significant differences in the way value added is created between small and large firms. In the largest 25% of firms the capital contribution to value added is four times that of the smallest 25% of firms. Thirdly, efficiency follows an inverted ‘U’ shaped in firm age with the youngest (0-2 years) and oldest (>9 years) firms’ being less productive than the middle 50% of firms. Fourthly, there are also huge industry sector variations in productivity. In particular, financial services appears to be the most productively efficient sector in the Australian economy and mining the least efficient.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739–752
JournalSmall Business Economics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Small Business Economics. The final authenticated version is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11187-018-0070-0


  • Productivity
  • Firm size
  • Firm age
  • Capital and labour effects
  • Technology


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