Why Productivity in Britain is the Worst in the World

Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc FRSA

Successive governments have spent years trying to work out why productivity in Britain is the worst in the world.

Productivity in Britain is 30% lower than that in the United States and more than 20% lower than productivity in Germany or France.

And thatís not the worst.

I find it almost unbelievable but Britain is even 8% less efficient than Italy, for heavenís sake.

Billions are now being spent on trying to improve our productivity.

The Government is spending zillions on boosting broadband (though why taxpayersí money should be spent helping rich telecom companies is something of a mystery to me), building houses and messing around with over-expensive changes to the railway network in a very belated attempt to counter some of the damage done half a century ago by the Beeching Report.

But itís all wasted money.

If anyone in the Government is genuinely interested in the answer to our productivity problem I can tell them what it is for free.

It is actually in several parts.

First, Britain gold plates every bit of red tape and pointless bureaucracy which is sent over from the European Union. The other EU member countries pick and choose when confronted with new legislation from Brussels. But British politicians and civil servants look hard at each new piece of legislative absurdity and do whatever they can to make things worse. They seem to take pride in wrapping the country in pointless and damaging red tape. Most of those who run small companies spend at least one and a half days a week dealing with nonsensical rules which help no one.

Second, we have become pointlessly obsessed with political correctness. No one, however dotty, must ever be offended. And so vast amounts of money and time are spent eradicating all possible cause of disappointment and disapproval.

Third, our roads are a mess. Now that our public transport systems are in a dire state, most people have to travel around the country by car. Unnecessary road works and changes are the main source of trouble. Every motorway in Britain is constantly being dug up so that pointless changes can be made to central reservations (in order to satisfy daft rules from the EU.) And the police close down motorways at the drop of a hat. If a car pulls onto the hard shoulder, the police will either close down one or two lanes or put up speed limit signs. And the restrictions will remain long after the problem has been dealt with. The result is that average speeds on most of our motorways are now well below 40 miles per hour. Thatís worse than average speeds half a century ago. And the cost to the economy in lost productivity must be measured in tens of billions.

Fourth, British workers insist on having tea and coffee breaks (usually one every morning and one in the afternoon) which foreign workers do not have. Moreover, the average British worker spends an additional 24 minutes a day fetching and drinking additional hot drinks. It really is hardly surprising that productivity in Britain is so appallingly low.

Finally, British workers spend far more of their work time messing with their Facebook and Twitter accounts than any other group anywhere in the world. Workers in other countries would be fired on the spot if they were found to be doing their shopping online when they were supposed to be working. But in Britain, no employer dare sack an employee for such an offence.

So, thatís it.

Those are the reasons for our appalling productivity.

And the Government is doing absolutely nothing to deal with any of them.

Copyright Vernon Coleman

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