The UK workforce is the biggest in four decades but we're doing less

16 August 2017 -

productivity clock

The Office for National Statistics flash estimate shows productivity fell for the second quarter in a row

Guest blogger Gabrielle Lane

How much of your to-do list did you get done today? And what commercial impact did it have? According to the Office for National Statistics, our teams are growing but our collective output isn’t. 

Official figures released today show that productivity of the UK workforce declined by 0.1% in the three months to June 2017. While this is less severe than the 0.5% fall seen in the first three months of the year, we’re still experiencing the worst run of productivity declines in five years. 

The efficiency of the UK workforce is frequently expressed as a figure reflecting output per hour. The UK economy grew by 0.3% in Q2 of this year, but not as much as the number of total hours worked. 

According to Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, this is a real cause for concern. She says: “We still lag well behind our G7 peers in this area. UK productivity per hour is now 35% below the German level, and 30% below the US, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that decisive action is needed if we are to end this downward trend.”

While 75.1% of the UK population is now employed, business leaders such as Francke are calling for better training and development of these individuals, in order to improve work rate. Countries with strong labour productivity growth usually benefit from increased GDP and low inflation.

“Most people still don’t realise that the largest drag on productivity is poor management and leadership skills, estimated to account for almost half of the productivity gap,” adds Francke. “Investing in apprenticeships to boost management talent, as well as technical skills, is therefore vital. Not only will doing so help solve our productivity problem, it will be crucial to building a globally competitive UK plc.”

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