The Office for National Statistics has just released new figures comparing productivity for the UK with other G7 nations in 2014. For us, they are the worst figures since the ONS began collecting these stats back in 1991.
Productivity – basically how much stuff we produce or get done for each hour we work – is probably the most important determinant of economic prosperity for working people. The more we produce, the more we can get paid.
Britain is now the second least productive economy in the G7, behind only Japan, whose economy has been stagnating for more than 25 years. On average, other G7 countries produce 20% more than we do, the biggest gap since these records began. The leaders — Germany, France and America — produce a third more than the UK for each hour of work.
Far from powering ahead with a “march of the makers“, under austerity chancellor George Osborne British productivity has actually been falling in recent years and has yet to recover from the steep falls suffered after the 2008 crash.
Economists can’t agree on the reasons for Britain’s poor productivity performance, particularly in respect to France, which most mainstream economists regard as an economic basket case. Whether it’s lack of investment, decaying infrastructure or too many low-paid, insecure jobs, right-wing economics seems to have no answer.
Whatever the cause, it’s a very sorry state of affairs. And, judging by his complacent interview on the Today programme this morning, one for which Osborne has no plan at all, long-term or otherwise.