Productivity and efficiency analysis

Using data to investigate relative performance and productivity change in the agricultural, manufacturing and service industries

Productivity is the single most important factor determining profitability and living standards in the long run.

Estimating its level and rate of growth is thus key to improving farm/firm performance and to designing better policies for research and development as well as for the efficient regulation of agricultural, manufacturing and service industries.

This project combines data on inputs and outputs with modelling frameworks rooted in the economic theory of production to generate estimates of efficiency and productivity change.

The level of analysis can be at the farm or firm level. It can also be conducted at the industry or state/country levels of aggregation. Methods employed can be non-parametric (such as Data Envelopment Analysis [DEA] and index numbers) or parametric (such as production, cost, profit and radial/directional distance functions).

If price data are available, the analysis can generate not just technical measures of efficiency and productivity but also estimates of allocative and overall economic efficiency providing a broader basis for policy recommendations. And if undesirable outputs are incorporated into the analysis, one is able to derive estimates of pollution abatement costs that are relevant for environmental policy (for example agri-environmental schemes).

Students can collect their own data through surveys or from secondary data sources such as government or international agency databases (for example the Food and Agriculture Organisation [FAO], the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD]). Some of our students have done field trips in Africa (for example Ghana, Malawi and Ethiopia).

Currently, there are several research projects underway in this area, including rice production in Ghana, maize-legume systems in Malawi, conservation agriculture in Ethiopia, carbon mitigation in Western Australia, and carbon abatement cost estimates for China (province level).

For more background information, see the suggested readings below.

Suggested readings

Research team leader: Associate Professor Atakelty Hailu

I am an agricultural and resource economist with research interests in several areas: efficiency and productivity analysis; agriculture and land use policy; recreational fishing; water and environmental policy; bushfire and natural hazards management; and auction design. My research tools include econometric analysis, stochastic frontier models, data envelopment analysis (DEA), whole-farm and other bio-economic models, and agent-based simulations of economic behaviour.

How to apply

Interested in becoming part of this project? Complete the following steps to submit your expression of interest:

Step 1 - Check criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

Requirements specific to this project:

  • Good background training in production economics or microeconomic theory as well as some knowledge of statistical/econometric software. The School provides courses in production economics, statistics and occasional training in STATA, R and GAMS. The range of software used by researchers in the School is broader and includes SPSS, SHAZAM, GAUSS, and Mathematica.

Step 2 - Submit enquiry to research team leader

Step 3 - Lodge application

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, you should be in a position to proceed to the next step of the UWA application process: Lodge an application. Different application procedures apply to domestic and international students.


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Prestigious postgraduate research scholarships

Prestigious postgraduate research scholarships support graduate research training by enabling students of exceptional research promise to undertake higher degrees by research at the University.

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