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Poor productivity cost the global economy R8.2 trillion last year… as small businesses seek to tackle burdensome admin

  • Sage research reveals that the global productivity deficit – the economic value lost by business to administrative tasks – rose 2.6 % last year, to R8.2 trillion 
  • South African companies lost R7.2 billion in economic value to admin over the past year
  • Productivity losses caused by unnecessary admin are costing South African businesses R229 every second of the day

Johannesburg, South Africa,  20 August 2019Sage, the market leader in cloud business management solutions, today launched its second annual Productivity Tracker, which investigates the amount of time lost to administrative tasks. Launched in South Africa ahead of World Entrepreneurs' Day (21 August), the study reveals that the South African ‘Productivity Puzzle’ is far from solved.  

The total amount of economic value lost to admin in South Africa in the last 12 months totalled R7.2 billion. Productivity losses caused by unnecessary admin are costing South African businesses R229 every second of the day – a slight improvement from the R231 per second reflected in the 2018 Productivity Tracker. 

Sage commissioned its second annual Productivity Tracker study to YouGov, an international internet-based market research and data analytics firm, headquartered in the United Kingdom. The Productivity Tracker surveyed small and medium-sized businesses across 12 countries, uncovering the percentage of time spent during an average working week on unproductive administrative tasks ; time that could be reduced by using technology and digital tools. 

The admin burden continues to hold back the productivity of small and medium businesses :

  • Across the 12 countries surveyed by YouGov, the average time lost to admin, which includes tasks such as chasing late payments, processing invoices and HR tasks, is 5.2 %. 
  • South African businesses lost an average of 3.6 % of their time to admin tasks. 
  • The analysis reveals that Spain reported the highest percentage of business working hours spent on these tasks, at 10.5 %. 
  • The nation reporting the lowest amount of time dedicated to these tasks is Canada, where only 1.7 % of business time is allocated to tasks per year.  

“The amount of time South African businesses spend on admin compares favourably to international benchmarks, but there is still more we could do to reduce the time businesses spend on routine tasks like generating invoices, paying taxes, chasing payments and issuing payslips,” says Pieter Bensch, Executive Vice-President at Sage Africa & Middle East.

“Transitioning to a digital business model and automating more business processes can enable businesses to unlock significant value. On World Entrepreneurs’ Day, government and big business should also ask how they can help smaller businesses to boost productivity through reducing procurement paperwork, paying them on time, and subsidising new technologies.”   

Global Snapshot : We Power the Nation – Productivity Tracker Insights 

Country Currency 2019 % time lost to 'admin' 2019 implied productivity loss (bn)
UK GBP 5.6 40.0
USA USD 4.9 346.0
Canada CAD 1.7 18.2
Australia AUD 4.8 31.8
Ireland EUR 3.6 2.4
Germany EUR 3.9 30.0
Spain EUR 10.5 32.7
France EUR 7.5 43.2
Brazil BRL 6.2 77.1
South Africa ZAR 3.6 7.2
Switzerland CHF 7.0 48.2
Malaysia MYR 3.7 56.6