Productivity in the UK. Time to change

In UK productivity on March 1, 2010 by Tim Aikens

Welcome to MORE4less

I am passionate about all things to do with productivity and helping people to get MORE for less! I want to stimulate discussion, learning and growth about the topic.  So, let’s get started by looking at the state of productivity in the UK.

At present the UK is some 20% behind the USA and 16% behind France and Germany in terms of GDP per hour (latest 2008 data).  Interestingly, manufacturing productivity appears to be almost as good as the USA, but still a lot behind other countries such as Korea, Japan and Sweden.  The problem is that the UK has been behind for many years and seems to be unable – or unwilling to make the big effort to catch up.  This puts the UK, its products and services at a competitive disadvantage.  We have all seen and felt the consequences of this over the last 20 years!

If UK plc does not do something dramatic in the whole area of doing more with less – in other words being more productive, the nation is destined for second best with a lower standard of living than most of Europe.

Successive governments have attempted to address the issue, with a singular lack of success. The gap is lower than it was in the ’80’s but still huge. A recent report into construction productivity noted the gap between the UK and the US (11%) and Western Europe (6%), with all sorts of ideas to address the issue. However, in my view, unless managers and directors of the businesses themselves get passionate about doing something differently, nothing a government will do will make any difference to productivity growth.

So to start my blog rolling here is the key question.

Why does UK plc seem to ignore the productivity issue?

Is it about investment, taxation, rewards and incentives, management competence, trades unions or what? One thing is for sure, the answer is neither simple nor trivial.  Failure to address this issue will leave the UK  in the group of also ran economies of the 21st century, stumbling from crisis to crisis and seeing our standard and quality of life falling steadily behind.

I look forward to engaging with you!


One Response to “Productivity in the UK. Time to change”

  1. Two references you made. First, that everyone wants to do a good job – effort, efficiency etc, and secondly, you refer to that huge intangible, “the quality of life”. If one could quantify the expectations of most individuals for their quality of life, including(non-taxable)family time etc, vs the amount of effort needed to improve production – with top management taking the big bonus, integrated with “life is too short to…” etc… tough for the average person to stay motivated. Perhaps value in social democracy or just random, rambling thoughts? Also, very telling semantics with two of the worst statements in the vernacular: “Mr X WORKS FOR Mr So&So” instead of them BOTH working for the company, and “So&So is WORTH Y million pounds” – no one is “worth” more than someone else due to income, and it artificially enforces a class system, potentially stifling creativity from people not expected to be creative.

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