The Productivity Commission (PC) has a mandate to provide independent advice to government that promotes community wellbeing. Whilst it plays a significant role in social and economic reform, the underlying institutional values and norms of the PC that shape its advice have not been examined. This paper examines policy problematisations (Bacchi , ) across two PC 'inquiries' into childcare (2011, 2015) between Labor and Coalition governments, and the advice provided by the PC. In doing so, this research demonstrates that PC recommendations are imbued with economic values that are highly institutionalised. These values give preference to targeted social welfare and traditional gender norms, despite current evidence suggesting alternative approaches would have better social and long-term economic outcomes. Our findings raise questions over the conflict between the traditional economic values of the PC and providing social policy advice that reflects best practice, indicating that further investigation into the PC is urgently needed.